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)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Cornfields a Good Source for Low-Cost Cattle Feed

Despite what appears to be a more bountiful harvest compared to last year, cattle farmers are continuing to experience the pinch of elevated feed costs. Hay prices have remained at record levels, corn co-product feeds have been slow to lower in price, and land values and pasture rents are still elevated.

Hay prices have stayed at record levels because of depleted inventories due to last year’s drought, winter-kill issues in early 2013, and a slow start to the haying season due to a wet spring.

Competition for acreage from corn and soybeans has also contributed to expensive forage costs. It is evident that forage prices will remain elevated into 2014, and cattlemen need to be looking to alternative forages. Nearby cornfields can offer the most economical alternative to high-priced forage.

“The best way to use a harvested cornfield is to allow cattle to graze it,” says University of Illinois beef extension educator Travis Meteer. “Cattle graze selectively, looking for the more palatable feedstuffs. In the case of cornstalkgrazing, the more palatable   parts of the plant are also more nutritious. Cattle first eat the remaining corn grain, then husks, then leaves, and finally the stalk.”

The cost of grazing cornstalks is low first because the cows graze and harvest their own feed, and second, because all costs to produce the plant for grain production are attributed to the row-crop operation. Even with the cost of a temporary fence (which many farmers already have) and water, grazing cornstalks is more economical than feeding high-priced hay.

“Cattle will eat the more digestible and higher-protein portions first,” Meteer said. “Therefore, a good mineral is probably the only supplementation needed for the first month 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.”

Grazing stalks can also benefit subsequent crops. Cows grazing cornstalks for 60 days will remove approximately 30 to 40 percent of the residue, Meteer said. Residue buildup has been a well-documented problem in many corn-on-corn fields with new hybrids. Cows deposit nutrients in the form of manure back on the field. As they graze, they reduce volunteer corn, considered a weed and a yield robber in soybean fields.

Source: University of Illinois Extension

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Artwork: Cattle Grazing by Johannes-Hubertus-Leonardus De Haas

Friday, July 19, 2013

Essential Guide to Calving

Essential Guide to Calving: Giving Your Beef or Dairy Herd a Healthy Start by Heather Smith Thomas now available with Animal Husbandry and Livestock Books.

This book covers every routine situation likely to arise before, during, and after calving.