Sustainability defined, and defining agriculture

By Dave White, Ohio Livestock Coalition

A couple of months ago I attended two professional conferences about animal agriculture where they used the “S” word and the “T” word throughout both of them, the “S word being “sustainability” and the “T” word being transparency.

When you hear the term “sustainability” being used in agricultural circles, what comes to mind? Is there a definition that we can all agree upon? Are we all talking about the same thing?

When I “searched” for a definition for sustainable agriculture, I came across this: a practice of farming that uses the principles of ecology, the study of relationships between organisms and their environment, an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will last over the long term to:

  • Satisfy human food and fiber needs,
  • Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends,
  • Make the most efficient use of non-renewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls,
  • Sustain the economic viability of farm operations, and
  • Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.
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Establish high reproduction standards for heifers

Livestock farmers, who are now in the midst of breeding season, might find that selling heifers that aren’t meeting breeding expectations could make better financial sense than keeping an animal that isn’t achieving satisfactory conception rates, an Ohio State University Extension expert says.

Heifers that become pregnant and ultimately produce calves offer livestock farmers more financial benefit, so producers might want to consider replacing those heifers that aren’t meeting their breeding demands, said John Grimes, OSU Extension beef coordinator.

“Given the current prices seen in today’s cattle markets, culling heifers with poor reproductive performance shouldn’t be a difficult decision,” he said. “In today’s cattle economy, the bottom line is, if we don’t get cows pregnant, we don’t get live calves. And having live calves to sell gives us the ability to pay the bills.”

Livestock producers can weed out under-performing yearling heifers by selling them as heavy feeder cattle or by feeding them a finishing ration for a short period and then selling them as market heifers.… Continue reading

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Ohio Sheep Day to be held at Buckeye Acres Farm

By Roger A. High, State Sheep Extension Associate

The 2012 Ohio Sheep Day is scheduled for Sat., July 14, 2012. It will be held at Buckeye Acres Farm, home farm of the Ron and Carla Young family. The farm is located in scenic Van Wert County, at 12282 Harrison-Willshire Rd., Van Wert, Ohio 45891.

Buckeye Acres Farm is a purebred oriented sheep operation, historically concentrating on Purebred Suffolk’s, but now concentrating on the Katahdin breed of sheep. The farm is located in Western Ohio where the terrain is very flat, making it an ideal location for grain crop production, but also an exceptional place to grow forages for sheep production.

This year’s Ohio Sheep Day will focus on programming which will increase and improve the profitability of sheep operations. Daryl Clark, Vice-President, Ohio Sheep Improvement Association and Retired, OSU Extension Agriculture Agent, will be the keynote speaker.

Programming for the day will also include EQIP programming, internal parasite control, manure management, farm tours, forage demonstrations, grazing management and many other topics.… Continue reading

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Grazing management in dry conditions

By Jeff McCutcheon, Extension Educator, Morrow County

Talk about extremes. Last year we were still talking about planting at this time. This year, first cutting hay is in the barn and we are wondering if there will be any more. According to the information in the Ohio Pasture Measurement Project (weekly reports can be found at forage growth has not been what we have come to expect the last few years. With no rain in the forecast what is a grazier to do? Relax. Remember, we have been here before — dry periods are expected, but not enjoyed. Of course, if you just started managing grazing in the last two wet years, consider this a crucial part of your education. Many experienced graziers refer to it as the school of hard knocks.

Rotations need to slow down. Grass is growing slower, it takes longer to start regrowth after being grazed and it takes longer to reach optimum grazing mass (height) for the next grazing.… Continue reading

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Management can maximize wool income

By Matt Reese

Whether managing more for wool or for meat, sheep producers that maximize the production from their flock are better prepared to capitalize on the strong prices in today’s market.

“The meat and the wool are not bringing the prices that they were a year ago, but you have to go back a long way to find total lamb value where it is at right now. There is money to be made here,” said Dave Rowe, General Manager for Mid-States Wool Growers Cooperative Association based in Fairfield County. “Many producers review their breeding programs this time of year and wool quality should factor into determining the rams used for the upcoming year. While we focus on lamb production, focusing on wool quality as well is something that can make a positive impact to an operation’s bottom line.”

Unfortunately, though, wool management is not often a priority.

“The U.S… Continue reading

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BEST Program wraps up for 2012

BEST is a youth program of the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) that recognizes Ohio’s junior beef exhibitors through a series of shows. Juniors who participate in these sanctioned shows earn points for their placing at each show. The OCA BEST program promotes educating Ohio’s juniors about the beef industry’s issues and rewards the successful accomplishments and hard work of those junior beef producers.

The 2011-2012 OCA BEST (Beef Exhibitor Show Total) Program wrapped up on June 2 with its annual awards banquet held at the Ohio Expo Center in Columbus.

“The banquet is a time to celebrate with family, friends and BEST supporters the many achievements of our BEST participants,” said Stephanie Sindel, BEST coordinator. “Each participant is recognized for their hard work that goes above and beyond the show ring.”

Several representatives from program sponsors Bob Evans Farms, Farm Credit Services of Mid-America, Green Oak Farms, M.H. Eby, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and Burroughs Frazier Farms were on hand to help present awards totaling more than $32,000 in belt buckles, furniture, jackets, show materials and other awards.… Continue reading

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NCBA concerned about animal care component in farm bill

Tom Talbot, chairman of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Cattle Health and Well-Being Committee, is appalled that animal care could be taken out of the hands of experts and placed in the control of the federal government. Talbot, who is a veterinarian and California cattle rancher, specifically is referring to amendment 2252 to the 2012 Farm Bill offered by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). The amendment, which would mandate on-farm production practices, was also introduced as legislation, Egg Inspection Act Amendments of 2012 (S. 3239 and H.R. 3298), by Sen. Feinstein and Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.).

“The U.S. beef community has changed through the years, but the one thing that remains the same is our commitment to raising healthy cattle and providing our animals the best care possible,” Talbot said. “NCBA’s Cattle Health and Wellbeing Committee relies on the latest information from government officials, veterinarians and cattle health experts to ensure our policies reflect the latest science and ensure effective cattle care practices on cattle operations throughout the country.”… Continue reading

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Wool prices remain strong

By Matt Reese

During the decades of dismal wool prices, Ohio shepherds have largely focused on meat production, but that dynamic has been changing recently. Higher wool prices mean more potential for extra income and greater penalties for not managing for a clean wool clip.

“Prices have risen over the past couple of years, strictly on the back of short supply. We’ve had low world numbers on sheep and low world numbers in wool. Also, the cotton market exploded a couple of years ago and went to all time highs, which made wool more competitive in the world market,” said Dave Rowe, General Manager for Mid-States Wool Growers Cooperative Association based in Fairfield County. “Last May was the recent high price for wool. The fine wools have come down maybe $1 and the medium type wools we have around here are down maybe 20 or 25 cents from where we were at last year, but the prices are still good.… Continue reading

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Rapidly cooling eggs can double shelf life and decrease risk of illness

Taking just a few seconds to cool freshly laid eggs would add weeks to their shelf life, according to a Purdue University study.

The rapid-cooling process, developed by Kevin Keener, a professor of food science, uses liquid carbon dioxide to stabilize the proteins in egg whites so much that they could be rated AA — the highest grade for eggs — for 12 weeks. Earlier research showed that the same cooling technology could significantly reduce occurrences of salmonella illnesses.

Eggs cooled under current methods lose the AA grade in about six weeks, Keener said.

“There is no statistical difference in quality between eggs as measured by Haugh units just after laying and rapidly cooled eggs at 12 weeks,” he said. “This rapid-cooling process can provide a significant extension in the shelf life of eggs compared to traditional processing.”

Haugh units measure an egg white’s protein quality. Keener’s results, published in the journal Poultry Science, also show that membranes surrounding the eggs’ yolks were maintained for 12 weeks when eggs were rapidly cooled.… Continue reading

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Dry conditions increase need for grazing management

Heat and dry conditions are limiting forage supplies and emphasizing the need for livestock producers to plan and carefully manage their grazing strategies, a Purdue Extension beef specialist says.

If weather conditions remain dry throughout the remainder of spring and summer, pasture conditions could deteriorate and forages could be in short supply – a situation livestock producers need to plan for.

One way producers can be proactive is by caring for pastures through rotational grazing, Ron Lemenager said. With rotational grazing, herds are moved from one section of pasture to another to maximize quality and quantity of forage growth. Doing so helps prevent overgrazing.

“I think most of us realize that if cows are continuous grazing, they are going to always go for the lush, young plant, and that continuous grazing will reduce root growth and root reserves of that plant, and the regrowth is going to be significantly retarded,” Lemenager said.… Continue reading

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Kroger pushes for accelerated move away from gestation crates

The Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. announced that it has begun informing suppliers of a new policy statement regarding gestation crates that are used to house pregnant sows.

Kroger has science-based standards for animal welfare and works diligently to ensure that its suppliers treat animals humanely. Over the past few months, the Company has reviewed the opinions of animal welfare experts and other experts regarding the use of gestation crates for pregnant sows and has concluded that there are many ways to humanely house sows.

Kroger believes that a gestation crate-free environment is more humane and that the pork industry should work toward gestation crate-free housing for pregnant sows. The Company is encouraging its suppliers to accelerate this already-occurring transition in the Kroger supply-chain. Kroger also wants customers to know that this is a transition that may take many years.

“Kroger’s announcement comes on the heels of Safeway, the nation’s second-largest grocery chain, announcing in May that it’s eliminating gestation crates in its supply chain,” says Wayne Pacelle, chief executive officer of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).… Continue reading

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Farmers in for a tough June Dairy Month

A conversation with…Peter Vitaliano, with the National Milk Producers Federation

OCJ: This could be a tough Dairy Month for many dairy farmers due to their low income. How are the nation’s dairy farmers handling this challenge?

Peter: Dairy farmers are coming off a good year last year, but they are still recovering from the financial devastation of 2009. The current tough situation has certainly halted that recovery for the time being.


OCJ: How do current prices compare to recent months and years?

Peter: Since milk prices tend to have seasonal patterns, it’s useful to compare the average price U.S. dairy farmers have received during the past three months, March through May, to the range of prices they received during the same three months in recent years. By this measure, this year’s prices are about $3 per hundredweight (cwt.) lower than last year’s record high prices and about $5 per cwt.… Continue reading

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USDA targeting additional strains of E. coli in raw beef trim

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) began instituting a zero-tolerance policy for six additional strains of E. coli that are responsible for human illness. Beginning in early June, FSIS will routinely test raw beef manufacturing trim, which is a major component of ground beef, for the six additional strains of E. coli. Trim found to be contaminated with these pathogens will not be allowed into commerce and will be subject to recall.

Illnesses due to E. coli serogroups other than O157:H7, which caused a high-profile illness outbreak in 1993, outnumber those attributed to O157:H7. FSIS declared O157:H7 an adulterant in 1994.

“These strains of E. coli are an emerging threat to human health and the steps we are taking today are entirely focused on preventing Americans from suffering foodborne illnesses,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We cannot ignore the evidence that these pathogens are a threat in our nation’s food supply.”… Continue reading

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Attention to little details pays big dividends at Burky Dairy

By Connie Lechlieitner

In the rolling hills of Tuscarawas County, Chad Burky continues a family dairy operation that now spans 6 generations with the addition of his son, Clayton. The family-run dairy was recognized in 2011 as one of the top 5% in the state in milk production, an achievement they’ve reached each of the past 8 years.

The Burkys herd consists of 500 cows in milk with 400 heifers, and they do so with no herdsman, but 10 full-time and four part-time workers, running two shifts.

“We average about 39,000 pounds of milk a day, milking most of the herd three times a day. A group of our top producers and fresh cows get milked four times per day,” Chad Burky said.

It is the details that have helped the farm become so successful. One of the first elements Burky mentioned in the farm’s success was cow comfort.

“Cows produce more when they are not stressed, so we do all we can to keep them happy and healthy,” Burky said.… Continue reading

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New video series offers livestock producers access to grazing school

A new video series produced by Ohio State University Educators offers livestock producers detailed information about a wide variety of grazing management techniques taught by OSU Extension livestock and forage experts.

The videos, which were produced this spring as part of OSU Extensions’ “Pastures for Profit” grazing school, offer an in-depth look at ways livestock producers can improve their management of their pastures, said Jeff McCutcheon, an OSU Extension educator.

“We’ve been offering these classes since 1994, but this is the first time we’ve recorded them and are offering access to the videos free online,” he said. “Producers can always improve the efficiencies of their land resources and forages.”

The videos offer instruction on some of the basic considerations of grazing systems, from fence and water set-up and how it impacts plant growth, to pasture layout and design, to forage species selection and alternatives, McCutcheon said.

“Produced by the OSU Extension Forage Team, the curriculum setup allows people to mix and match different parts of the videos for their own needs,” he said.… Continue reading

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Senate introduces egg inspection legislation

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the United Egg Producers (UEP) applaud the introduction of S. 3239, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012, in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., with Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Scott Brown, R-Mass., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., David Vitter, R-La., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore. joining as original cosponsors. This measure is the Senate companion to H.R. 3798, introduced in January by Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Jeff Denham, R-Calif.

Sen. Feinstein introduced the bill to push forward improvements in housing for 280 million hens used in U.S. egg production, while providing a stable future for egg farmers.

The legislation will require egg producers to essentially double the space allotted per hen and make other important animal welfare improvements during a tiered phase-in period that allows farmers time to make the investments in better housing, with the assurance that all will face the same requirements by the end of the phase-in period.… Continue reading

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Ohio foodbanks receive $1.5 million egg commitment from Ohio farmers

For the fifth year, the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks (OASHF) and the Ohio Poultry Association (OPA) have joined forces in the fight against hunger as the two organizations partner with Ohio’s egg farmers to provide wholesome, nutritious food to Ohioans in need. Representatives from OASHF and OPA, Ohio Department of Agriculture Director David T. Daniels, as well as egg farmers from across the state, gathered at an event held during National Egg Month in May at the Mid-Ohio Foodbank in Grove City to celebrate the milestone 1.5 million egg donation by Ohio farmers.

Eight Ohio egg farmers have committed the 1.5 million eggs to be provided to local hunger charities through OASHF’s network of 12 regional Feeding America foodbanks. The contribution has an estimated retail value of $168,750.

“Our partnership with the Ohio Poultry Association and Ohio’s egg farmers is integral in helping us meet our critical mission to provide food to hungry Ohio families,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, OASHF executive director.… Continue reading

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Prevent coccidiosis losses in cattle with preparation

Plan ahead to win the battle against this parasite

All producers — from cow/calf to feedlot — could be compromising cattle health and performance because of an intestinal, protozoan parasite called coccidia. Coccidiosis is a disease that affects most species of domestic livestock and poultry and results in significant economic losses due to mortality and, more important, decreased growth and feed efficiency due to the damage to the intestinal tract.

“The parasite that causes coccidiosis is virtually impossible to eliminate from the bovine species just because it is so abundant and, in most cases, is a normal inhabitant of the intestine,” says Matt Cravey, Ph.D., Pfizer Animal Health, Cattle and Equine Technical Services. “Out of the 16 species that are found in cattle, generally only two species (Eimeria bovis and Eimeria zuernii) will be responsible for causing much of the damage in the intestinal tract. However, in most cases, we don’t see or otherwise detect their presence in production situations like a feedlot until we see blood in the feces.”… Continue reading

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