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.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Worry of Worming

The thought of worms, especially intestinal worms, is enough to make your skin crawl. But pet owners need to know about these parasites in order to keep their animals, and their family, healthy.

The most common parasitic worms are roundworms, while the most visible are the tapeworms. Both cause problems, but there are safe and effective treatments for keeping these worms at

When it comes to roundworms, every dog has his day: it is estimated that all dogs will be infected by roundworms at some point in their lives. In fact, puppies can be born with roundworms if their mother is infected.

Roundworm eggs are found everywhere in the environment. Dogs become infected by consuming 100 of these eggs or less, which is pretty easy for a dog to do given that the species tends to eat or lick just about anything they find outdoors.

Cats, on the other hand, are much less likely to eat all sorts of mysterious objects found on the ground, but the species of roundworm that infects cats is transmitted when the cat eats a mouse or other wild prey animal. Kittens can get roundworms from their mother's milk, if the mother is infected.

People with pets in the household can get roundworms too. They become infected with the dog roundworm, Toxocara canis, if they accidentally swallow some worm eggs. This can happen when children playing with a puppy touch their face before washing their hands.

The best way to prevent human infections is by hand washing and making sure the family dog or cat is not infected.

Signs that a pet is infected with roundworms include weight loss, dull hair coat, a pot-bellied appearance and just being generally unwell. Young animals with a heavy infection may even vomit up worms. Other infected pets may show no signs at all, while still spreading the eggs into the environment.

The certain sign that a pet has tapeworms is finding segments of worms shed in a pet's poop. These segments are actually packets of
eggs. Cats and dogs get tapeworms by eating infected fleas or wild animals.

If a pet appears to have worms, seek the help of a veterinarian. There are many effective, safe and affordable prescription medications.

Dr. Allan Paul, Veterinary Parasitologist, University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Probiotics for Pets

Probitics foods and supplements appear to improve health the health of humans; there is good evidence to suggest that some animal may benefit in the same way.

In the 1960s, researchers coined the term probiotic, which means "for life" in Greek. Today, probiotics are defined as "live microorganisms that when given in adequate amounts, improve the microbial balance of the host's intestines."

The stomach and intestines of all mammals are lined with specialized tissues that together represent the largest immune organ in the body. Hundreds of types of bacteria normally occupy the digestive system and assist in maintaining the quality and function of its inner membranes, known as GALT (gut-associated lymphoid tissue). This lining provides protection from foreign
bacteria and viruses.

Good bacteria are essential to the health of the gut. These microbes are thought to exclude disease-causing bacteria by directly competing with them for nutrients and space in the intestinal system. When the gut is dysfunctional or out of balance, the immune system cannot do its job properly and illness can result.

A large study in Denmark using probiotics in children in day care centers revealed that probiotics reduced the incidence of diarrhea. But, more surprisingly, researchers found that the kids who received probiotics also had much lower rates of upper respiratory infections, such as colds and flu. This suggests that the probiotics not only boosted the health of the gastrointestinal system, but strengthened the entire immune system, protecting the children from getting other types of illnesses.

In addition, some debilitating conditions, including Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome, are alleviated with the use of probiotics in humans.

Pets suffering similar conditions are likely to benefit from using probiotics as well and products designed specifically for pets are available on the market. But keep in mind that the bacterial strains that are native to each species of animal differ, and one that is beneficial for dogs might not be safe for people and vice versa. Follow the advice of their veterinarian and make sure to use a product that is intended for the specific type of pet,
whether horse, rabbit, dog, cat, or other.

Although large-scale studies have yet to be conducted in animals to confirm the efficacy of probiotics, the Association for American Feed Control Officials and the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine have established basic classification and labeling requirements for pet animal probiotics. Consequently, probiotics that are designed and labeled for pets should be safe to use and may have a positive effect on their health.

Dr. Maureen McMichael, University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine

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Monday, May 6, 2013

Fermented Soybean Meal Boosts Pigs' Phosphorous

Fermented soybean meal helps pigs digest the phosphorous in the meal better than conventional soybean meal, University of Illinois researchers have discovered.

The fermented meal is considered a promising substitute for fish meal in weanling pig diets because of its protein content, lower cost, and lack of anti-nutritional factors.

"Most of the phosphorus in soybean meal is bound to phytate, so it's not available to pigs,” explained animal sciences professor Hans Stein. "Fermentation releases phosphorus from the phytate molecule."

Previous research by Stein’s group found that pigs digest the phosphorous in fermented corn more easily than that in non-fermented corn.

"If swine producers use fermented soybean meal without phytase, they can use a greater digestibility value for phosphorus than if they use conventional soybean meal. Therefore, they need less supplemental phosphorus from other  sources in the diets to meet the pig’s requirements.”

Hans Stein 217.333.0013

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