Saturday, May 16, 2015

Quality Forage Makes A Difference

High quality forage is essential to beef cattle’s nutrition and beef producers’ bottom lines. Focusing on forage quality helps farmers keep overall costs low.

That means two things:

First, it doesn't cost as much to supplement and provide enough energy and nutrition to the animals that you're trying to feed.

Secondly, and more importantly, it ensures those animals are getting all of their nutritional demands met and have high reproductive efficiency.

Growing high quality forage requires proper management on the beef producer's part. Timely harvest is crucial, as the maturity of the crop is the primary factor affecting the forage's fiber content and digestibility.

The amount of fiber in the forage determines how much of the forage can be consumed. The digestibility of the forage determines how much energy is available to the animal.

Beef producers should sample their forage periodically. This allows the beef producers to decide what quality of forage can be fed to each class of livestock.

Lower quality hay should be reserved for dry cows, while higher quality hay should be set aside for cows with calves. Sampling allows the beef producer to determine the different quality of feed being fed to his or her cattle.

A dry cow doesn't need nearly as much energy as a lactating cow. It doesn't make financial and management sense to feed the same forage to both. One animal is being overfed, while the other is being underfed.

Unfortunately, there's a mentality that all hay is hay, that there's not any differences. In reality, there are a lot of differences.

Source: Dennis Hancock, forage specialist, University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Artwork: Cattle Grazing
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Monday, February 9, 2015

Grazing Livestock on Wheat.

If livestock need extra forage, grazing wheat and taking animals off before the joint stage should be considered.

When you remove livestock from wheat before the joint stage, wheat can still be used for a grain crop. Grazed wheat will usually mature one to four days later than ungrazed wheat. But, studies show that lodging is reduced by grazing wheat.

Wheat can provide excellent quality to meet grazing animal requirements. Wheat produces more leaves and tillers than needed for maximum grain production, making grazing possible. In the vegetative stage, wheat is high in minerals and vitamins, crude protein content can be 20 to 30 percent, and TDN- 80 percent.

When grazing wheat, nitrogen should be split-applied, with half applied at planting and the remainder in late winter or early spring prior to grazing.

Grazing can begin when pastures are 4 to 10 inches tall. Due to the high quality of wheat, time grazing can be used, allowing animals to graze for only a short period. For example, graze wheat four hours per day, then turn animals on to a perennial grass pasture for water and mineral to reduce trampling and damage to plants and to improve the use. Avoid grazing during wet weather and extremely cold weather, (< 15 F) as this can damage plants.

Do not turn hungry animals onto cereal grain pastures, high protein in wheat can cause bloat. If producers are worried about grass tetany, supplement with magnesium and calcium mineral. Supplementing with dry hay can help meet dry matter intake needs as well.

Normally, one acre of cornstalks will feed a cow for 30 days. If conditions are wet and rainy, at least two to three acres will be needed due to faster degradation and more trampling of the residue. Strip grazing will limit trampling if the supply of available cornstalks is low.

Source: Jill Scheidt, agronomy specialist, University of Missouri Extension. (417) 682-3579

Artwork: Brown and White Dairy Cattle Grazing in Wheat Fields
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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Grazing Cornstalks

Grazing cornstalks is a valuable tool for cattlemen looking to hold costs in place. The cost of grazing cornstalks is low. First, because the cows graze and harvest their own feed, and second,  because all costs of producing the plant for grain production are attributed to the row-crop operation.

Even with the cost of a temporary fencec and water, the use of grazing cornstalks is more economical than feeding higher-priced hay.

There will be lower palatability when cornstalks are wet and damp, but cattle will eat the more digestible and higher-protein portions first. Therefore, a good mineral is probably the only supplementation needed for the first few weeks unless the herd includes fall-calving cows or stocker calves. For them, a supplement will be  necessary to meet nutrient demands of lactation and growth, respectively.

Normally, one acre of cornstalks will feed a cow for 30 days. If conditions are wet and rainy, at least two to three acres will be needed due to faster degradation and more trampling of the residue. Strip grazing will limit trampling if the supply of available cornstalks is low.

Source: Travis Meteer, University of Illinois Extension beef educator

Artwork: A Field of Mature Cornstalks
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Monday, August 11, 2014

Insecticides Weakening Honeybees

New research demonstrates how the insecticides fipronil and imidacloprid are depleting the cell energy of honeybees and contributing to colony collapse disorder.

Scientists worldwide are urgently trying to determine the causes of colony collapse disorder and the alarming population declines of honeybees, whose pollination services are critical to 80 percent of all flowering plants, and a third of all agricultural food production.

Daniel Nicodemo, lead author of the new study, states that pyrazoles (e.g., fipronil) and neonicotinoids (e.g., imidacloprid) "affect the nervous system of pest and beneficial insects, often killing them. Sublethal effects related to insect behavior have been described in other studies; even a few nanograms of active ingredient disturbed the sense of taste, olfactory learning and motor activity of the bees."

A key characteristic of colony collapse disorder is the incapacity of the honeybees to return to their hives, and these disruptions have a direct impact on that ability.

As a result, there has been a flurry of research on honeybee parasitic mite infestations, viral diseases, and the direct and indirect impacts of pesticides.

In his study, Nicodemo and his colleagues. looked at the effects of fipronil and imidacloprid on the bioenergetics functioning of mitochondria isolated from the heads and thoraces of Africanized honeybees. Mitochondria are the power plants of a cell, generating most of a cell's supply of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), used as a source of chemical energy.

Honeybee flight muscles are strongly dependent on high levels of oxygen consumption and energy metabolism. Mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation drives ATP synthesis, which is required to contract the muscles during flight. "If something goes wrong, the energy production is impaired," explains Nicodemo. "Similar to a plane, honeybees require clean fuel in order to fly." Both fipronil and imidacloprid negatively affected the mitochondrial bioenergetics of the head and thorax of the honeybees.

While at sublethal levels, insecticide damage may not be evident, even such low level exposure clearly contributes to the inability of a honeybee to forage and return to the hive, which could result in declining bee populations.

source: Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry

Artwork: Pollination
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Monday, August 4, 2014

Extreme Dairy Farming

Researchers have found conclusive evidence that prehistoric people were dairy farming in the harsh climate of Finland, where there is snow for up to four months a year.

Research by the Universities of Bristol and Helsinki, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B [30 July, 2014], is the first of its kind to identify that dairying took place at a latitude – 60 degrees north of the equator - equally as far north as Canada's Northwestern territories, Anchorage in Alaska, Southern Greenland and near Yakutsk in Siberia.

The researchers compared the residues found in the walls of cooking pots from two separate eras and cultures, dating to circa 3900 BC to 3300 BC and circa 2500 BC, and found that the more recent pottery fragments showed evidence of milk fats.

This timing coincides with the transition from a culture of hunting and fishing – relying mainly on marine foods - to the arrival of 'Corded Ware' settlements which saw the introduction of animal domestication.

"This is remarkable evidence which proves that four and a half thousand years ago, Stone Age people must have been foddering and sheltering domesticated animals over harsh winters, in conditions that even nowadays we would find challenging," said lead author Dr. Lucy Cramp of the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at Bristol University.

Artwork: Friesian Cows, 2009
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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Foul-smelling Bee Hives

"Our first year of keeping bees, we freaked out when our hives started smelling like dirty socks. Did they have foulbrood disease? Our bee mentor, Tony, assured us the distinctive scent was ripening goldenrod honey and that it freaked him out his first year, too!
"Our first harvest ever was goldenrod honey, and it tasted like apples. Though goldenrod honey is quick to crystallize, and our turned solid within a week, we enjoyed it in our tea all winter long."

excerpted from
Homegrown Honey Bees
An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Beekeeping
by Alethea Morrison
Storey Publishing, 2013

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Deadly Piglet Virus Came From China

Veterinary researchers at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine have helped identify the origin of an emerging swine virus with high mortality rates that has spread to at least 17 U.S. states since it was first identified in May.

A team of researchers led by Dr. X.J. Meng, University Distinguished Professor of Molecular Virology traced the likely origin of the emergent porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) to a strain from the Anhui province in China.

“The virus typically only affects nursery pigs and has many similarities with transmissible gastroenteritis virus of swine,” said Meng. “There is currently no vaccine against porcine epidemic diarrhea virus in the United States. Although some vaccines are in use in Asia, we do not know whether they would work against the U.S. strains of the virus.”

The sudden emergence of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, which belongs to the coronavirus family, has caused economic and public health concerns in the United States.

Ongoing outbreaks of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus in humans from countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula and the historical deadly nature of the 2002 outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus make the emergence of PEDV in the United States a serious concern.

Researchers have found no evidence that the virus can spread to humans or pose a threat to food safety. They did, however, find evidence that the U.S. strains share several genetic features with a bat coronavirus — findings which point to an evolutionary origin from bats and the potential for cross-species transmission.

Though commonly accepted that the virus spreads through the fecal-oral route, scientists have not yet ruled out the possibility of other transmission routes. Symptoms include acute vomiting, anorexia, and watery diarrhea with high mortality rates in pigs less than 10 days old.

Sources: mBio, October 15, 2013. “Origin, Evolution, and Genotyping of Emergent Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus Strains in the United States”
Virginia Tech News

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Artwork: Pig (Getting Cozy)