Old forage gets a new life

A forgotten forage grass imported from Europe in the 1800s could soon be helping to boost cattle and dairy production. The grass, which has adapted well to parts of the Upper Midwest, has been released by U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Resarch Service scientists in Madison, Wisconsin.

The forage grass was discovered on a farmer’s shaded hilltop in a long-time pasture that had never been seeded with commercial forages. Cattle thrived on it and it gradually spread from the hilltop grove into gullies and open areas, possibly because cattle eating the ripe seed spread it in their manure. The farmer fed hay made from it to more cattle, to spread it further. He also eventually began consulting with ARS plant geneticist Michael Casler and his colleagues at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center.

Casler and his colleagues have since spent more than a decade evaluating the grass, named Hidden Valley for the farm where it was discovered.… Continue reading

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OCA members to offer over 115 consignments in Replacement Female Sale

Several members of the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) will sell over 115 consignments in the OCA Replacement Female Sale on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, at 6 p.m. at the Muskingum Livestock Auction Company facility in Zanesville, Ohio. Consignments include approximately 30 mature cows, less than five years of age, and approximately 85 bred heifers.

Breeds represented will include Angus, Angus x Red Angus, Polled Hereford, Red Angus, Simmental, Simmental x Angus, Simmental x Red Angus, and crossbred. Service sires represented include Angus, Hereford, Maine-Anjou, Red Angus and Simmental.

“Now is an excellent time for producers to add quality replacement heifers to their herds,” says John Grimes, OSU Extension Beef Coordinator. “The economic forecast for the cow-calf segment of the beef industry is very good for the next few years. Feeder calf prices remain strong from a historical perspective and the future looks positive as well. This sale represents an excellent opportunity for cow-calf producers to add quality bred heifers to their herds and potentially take advantage of the positive economic outlook for the beef industry.”… Continue reading

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Nov. 20 MPP deadline approaching quickly for dairy producers

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Val Dolcini today announced that almost half of all dairy farms in America have made their annual elections for 2016 coverage under the Margin Protection Program, and reminded producers who have not yet enrolled that they have until Nov. 20, to select coverage.

Established by the 2014 Farm Bill, the program provides financial assistance to dairy producers when the margin — the difference between feed costs and the price of milk — falls below the coverage level selected by the applicant.

“This safety net is not automatic, so producers must visit their local FSA office to enroll before Nov. 20,” said Dolcini. “Despite the best forecasts, the dairy industry is cyclical and markets can change quickly. This program is like any insurance product, where investing in a policy today will protect against catastrophic economic consequences tomorrow.”

FSA estimates that based on current participation rates, had the program existed before the 2014 Farm Bill, producers in 2009 would have invested $73 million in premiums and received $1.44 billion in financial protection during that historically weak market period.… Continue reading

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Pork exports up, beef exports struggling

U.S. pork exports showed modest improvement in September while beef exports endured the most difficult month in some time, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

September pork export volume was up 6% from a year ago to 172,012 metric tons (mt). Export value was $456.1 million, down 11% year-over-year but the highest since May. Pork exports through the first nine months of the year declined 4% in volume (1.58 million mt) and 17% in value ($4.21 billion) compared to January-September 2014.

Beef export volume fell 21% from a year ago in September to 79,474 metric tons (mt) and value was down 28% to $456.6 million — the lowest since January. For the first nine months of 2015, exports were down 12% in volume (782,705 mt) and 8% in value ($4.8 billion).

Pork export value per head slaughtered was $46.90 in September, down $11.21 from last year.… Continue reading

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Are your farm’s defenses up for PEDv?

Although the number of new PEDv infections has greatly decreased in recent months, PEDv is still a threat to the U.S. pork industry, and cooler months raise the potential for new cases to emerge.

“In 2013, PEDv was a severe epidemic on a large number of the country’s sow farms and in 2014, we saw more breakouts on finishing sites,” said Dr. Rick Swalla, senior veterinarian for Zoetis, who supported veterinary practices and production systems in the Midwest to help manage PEDv outbreaks. “So far this year, the number of outbreaks has been lower, but as the weather does start to get colder there is a greater risk of the virus becoming epidemic again so farmers have to stay vigilant with their biosecurity efforts.”

Improved biosecurity, and herd immunity from exposure and vaccination, have helped to reduce new outbreaks in 2014. However, there is potential for more PEDv outbreaks this winter, primarily due to the introduction of naive gilts into the sow herd.… Continue reading

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Avian influenza concerns loom large

While there is plenty of discussion in Ohio about the threat of avian influenza as Thanksgiving — and the colder winter weather — approaches, the most common conversations on the subject may be with God.

“We say our prayers every night. Avian influenza spreads easily and the amount that fits on a pinhead could wipe out an entire farm,” said Carl Bowman, of Bowman and Landes Turkeys, Inc. in Miami County. “When I go to these meetings I keep hearing it is not a matter of if we get it, it is a matter of when. We learned a lot this winter in terms of how you treat an outbreak, but it would be a total loss for our turkeys. We could lose 80% to 90% in one week and if you get it they have to destroy them all to stop the virus. I don’t ever remember having any kind of threat like this before.… Continue reading

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Grazing corn residue

Corn residue left over from harvesting can make an excellent source of supplemental feed for livestock, according to a forage expert from the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

This is especially true for producers who are facing lower hay crop inventories thanks to the excessive rains that impacted the region during the beginning of the growing season this year, said Rory Lewandowski, agriculture and natural resources educator for the college’s outreach arm, Ohio State University Extension.

Grazing cows on harvested corn acres within the first 30 to 60 days after harvesting can be a great way for producers to stretch their feed supplies, he said.

“This was a tough forage year for many livestock producers,” Lewandowski said. “Many producers are finding that they didn’t get enough hay harvested with all the rain that impacted the crops during the earlier part of the growing season.”… Continue reading

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Consider temperament when culling

Over the years, as I have worked with beef cattle owners I have asked them where temperament ranks as they make culling decisions and decide which animals and genetics to keep in the herd. I have heard replies ranging from “It’s a factor, something I keep in mind” to “It’s one of the top 3 factors in my decision.” Glenn Selk, Department of Animal Science at Oklahoma State University, recently presented the results of a couple of studies showing that wild and/or excitable cattle negatively affect profit in the cattle operation. Here are excerpts from that article:

Selk cited a Mississippi State University study published in 2006 that used a total of 210 feeder cattle consigned by 19 producers in a “farm to feedlot” program to evaluate the effect of temperament on performance and net profit. Temperament was scored on a 1 to 5 scale (1=nonaggressive, docile; 5=very aggressive, excitable). Three measurements were used: pen score, chute score, and exit velocity.… Continue reading

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Ohio ranch wins world championships

Dickinson Cattle Company (DCCI) of Barnesville, Ohio won the 2015 Longhorn World Championship in Oklahoma City, OK, ending with the fiercest of competition on Oct. 24.  The final calculations were in the Cox Convention Center in downtown OKC.  This event is the world’s largest and most versatile cattle competition.

The TLMA World Championship is a horn measuring event with careful detail to tip to tip measurement and total horn. Measurements are calculated to 1/16th of an inch by a team of experienced horn masters. This event has built momentum for many years and has great influence on Texas Longhorn market popularity.  In recent years Texas Longhorn cattle have sold for amounts above $150,000, and many were sporting record wide serpentined spreads.

Texas Longhorn cattle are bred for all the same virtues of other cattle breeds, yet serious  longevity of production, attractive colors, unassisted calving, large weaning weights and long twisty horns. … Continue reading

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2015 Buckeye Shepherd’s Symposium

The 2015 Buckeye Shepherd’s Symposium (BSS): “Profitability, productivity, nutrition, and sheep farm succession planning principles” will concentrate on several topics related to the success of the sheep operation both now and in the future. The Friday Dec. 11 afternoon portion of the event will include a “Productivity and profitability workshop” with Richard Ehrhardt, Michigan State University Small Ruminant Specialist and Dr. Robert Leder, Large Animal Veterinarian and Sheep Farmer, Bear Creek Sheep Station, Wisconsin. The two-day event will be held Dec. 12 at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), Shisler Conference Center, 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691.

The planning committee has put together a great program involving many factors and keeping the sheep industry in mind. The symposium program will begin with “Status and major issues of the American Sheep Industry” presented by Burton Pfliger, president of the American Sheep Industry (ASI).

Other speakers for the Saturday program will include Kevin Burgoon, Honor Show Chow nutritionist, Purina Animal Nutrition; Peggy Kirk Hall, Asst.… Continue reading

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Still time to enroll in farm bill dairy program

Dairy producers still have time to enroll in the dairy Margin Protection Program for coverage in 2016 and can use an online tool developed by dairy economists with the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University to aid in their decision-making.

Cameron Thraen, emeritus professor and formerly an associate professor in the college’s Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics, and John Newton, formerly a Ph.D. graduate student working with Thraen and now senior director, Economic Research, National Milk Producers Federation, collaborated with members of the Dairy Markets and Policy (DMaP) team in 2014 to create the online decision tool.

Thraen and Newton, working with a team of dairy economists from the University of Wisconsin, the University of Minnesota, Michigan State University, Cornell University and The Pennsylvania State University developed the web-based decision support tool and the educational programming materials for the USDA Farm Services Agency Margin Protection Program (MPP).… Continue reading

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Poultry industry bracing for another winter threat of avian influenza

As cooler weather returns, so do heightened concerns about the poultry industry’s vulnerability to avian influenza. In September, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued their influenza preparedness and response plan to address the significant challenge to both large and small poultry flocks around the country. .

Since it was first identified in the United States in December 2014 in the Pacific Northwest, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been detected in commercial and backyard poultry flocks, wild birds, or captive wild birds in 21 States. With the last case of the spring outbreak identified in June, 2015, a total of 211 commercial and 21 backyard poultry premises had been affected. This resulted in the depopulation of 7.5 million turkeys and 42.1 million egg-layer and pullet chickens, with devastating effects on these businesses, and a cost to federal taxpayers of over $950 million.

Genetic analysis has shown that a comingling of migratory birds between northeast Asia and Alaska allowed for re-assortment of Asian HPAI strains with North American low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) viruses.… Continue reading

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Manage pastures to improve performance

As we strive to improve the performance of our beef operation, there are some simple things we can do to improve by managing our pastures.



Many of us mow our pastures to remove weeds and make the pasture look better, but there are more benefits. When we mow the weeds early in the season, we also remove seed heads from the grass, which will encourage new growth. Early in the season, the grass is in the reproductive stage, focusing more on seed development, but once this is accomplished and the seed heads are removed, the plant moves on to the vegetative stage, encouraging more leaf growth, improving quality and quantity.

In addition, removal of the weeds will reduce irritation to the eyes of cattle, decreasing the chances of pinkeye. If needed, an additional clipping of weeds later in the summer will also keep the pastures clean, weaken the root reserves of perennial weeds and possibly kill late summer annual weeds before seeds mature.… Continue reading

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Taiwan must address pork issue before it can join TPP

The Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Taiwan must address its U.S. pork issue if it wants to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Taiwan has banned U.S. pork because of the industry’s use of the feed additive ractopamine, which is widely used in U.S. pork production. Ironically, Taiwan dropped in 2012 its ban on U.S. beef from cattle fed ractopamine, which also is widely used in the U.S. beef industry.

Taiwan’s domestic beef industry is small in comparison to its powerful pork industry, which explains the country’s disparate treatment of the two U.S. meats. Ractopamine is approved for use in hogs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and by the food-safety agencies in 25 other countries. In 2012, the U.N.’s Codex Alimentarius Commission, which sets international standards for food safety, approved a maximum residue limit for ractopamine, which U.S. pork meets.

MOFA also warned that Taiwan needs to take steps to meet high international standards if it wants to join the TPP, including “scientific evidence as the basis for trade issues.”… Continue reading

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Prisons pull pork

The National Pork Producers Council asked the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) for more details on its decision to remove pork from the menu at its 122 facilities.

BOP pulled the pork beginning Oct. 1, the start of the new fiscal year. The move supposedly was made based on a survey of federal inmates and on costs, according to a BOP spokesman. In a letter sent in mid-October to BOP Director Charles Samuels Jr., NPPC expressed its dismay at the decision and requested a copy of the survey instrument and the results. It also questioned the cost factor, pointing out that pork prices are less than beef and nearly equal to chicken.

“Pork is a very economical, nutrient-dense protein that ought to be a food option for federal prisoners, and the U.S. pork industry has a variety of products that could meet BOP’s needs,” NPPC said in its letter.

Then after a week of controversy surrounding the abrupt removal of pork dishes from the national menu for federal inmates, the government put pork roast back on the prison menu.… Continue reading

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A 38 year, 30 million hog career

If you ask Dean Smith if he ever expected to have one job that lasted right out of college all the way to retirement, he’d say, “yes.”

“I always said I either liked what I was doing or I was too lazy to look for a new job,” Smith said. “I always liked what I did.”

Back in 1977, the J. H. Routh Packing Company of Sandusky, Ohio hired Smith as an assistant hog buyer. From his first day to almost four decades later, Smith would wake up at 4:30 every morning and head to the same building, walk in the same office and sit in the same chair, but many things have changed over the years in the hog industry.

“One of the things that I missed over the years was seeing somebody bring in a small load of 10 to 20 hogs from five or six counties away,” Smith said.… Continue reading

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Wheat and water quality

While more farmers are thinking less about wheat in Ohio than they have in a very long time, the winter crop could be a factor in the water quality debate worth a bit more discussion. One important benefit of wheat is the crop rotation is a broader window for nutrient applications.

“If you look at the evolution of manure and fertilizer application, 50 years ago there was much more wheat grown in northwest Ohio and that was when most of the fertilizer was applied. As we have lost our wheat acreage that shifted most of our fertilizer application time and we are setting ourselves up for more nutrients on top of the ground in the fall. We have also had a lot more two-inch plus rain events. That number has doubled in the last 16 years. If you are going to have large rain events you are going to lose more nutrients off of your fields,” said Glen Arnold, a manure specialist with Ohio State University Extension.… Continue reading

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Removal and recovery of phosphorus from animal manure

Phosphorus (P) is an essential macronutrient for crops. However, widespread use of phosphorus has unbalanced the global phosphorus cycle. High quality supplies of minable phosphate may be exhausted this century and many regions currently lack access to critical phosphorus resources, while others experience environmental problems associated with phosphorus pollution. The latter is the case in Ohio and the Great Lakes region, where widespread use of phosphorus in industry and agriculture has resulted in excess loading of phosphorus in lakes, impacting water quality.

Nutrient-rich animal manure is commonly applied to crops, typically in quantities to satisfy the nitrogen (N) requirement of the crop. However, due to low N:P ratios in typical manures, this practice results in application of phosphorus well in excess of crop needs, saturating agricultural soils with phosphorus over time. From the field, rain and erosion carry excess phosphorus to lakes and rivers, causing eutrophication and harmful algal blooms (HABs).… Continue reading

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Virtual field trips add a new twist to an educational staple

The Ohio Pork Council is taking a new look at an old elementary school staple — field trips.

There is certainly no shortage of school students interested in taking a field trip to a modern livestock farm but logistics, costs and biosecurity issues make this important educational tool and valuable agricultural outreach effort increasingly impractical. To address this challenge, the Ohio Pork Council has harnessed technology to develop a unique opportunity for teachers and students to participate in a live video-chat with farmers. Using Google Hangouts video chat technology, hog farmers can take students inside their barns and showcase the inner workings of modern production facilities and a variety of aspects of raising pigs from pregnancy through birth to market weight.

“We’ve established a way to open up our hog barns in the state of Ohio and make a connection with folks who may not be able to get out to farms to see where their food comes from.… Continue reading

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Cash flow, profits and marketing flexibility important to consider for beef herds

As summer turned to autumn, you faced familiar questions. Do I market calves at weaning or precondition them? Which heifers should I keep? Record prices made answers a bit easier last year, but with those on the decline you may want to consider alternatives.

The decision of when to market calves relative to weaning comes down to enterprise profitability along with feed, facilities and labor availability. Cash flow can play a role, too, but recent profits may give you more marketing flexibility.

Affordable feed and forage suggests a reasonable cost of gain for preconditioning. If you used profits to upgrade facilities, you’re ready to take advantage of reduced labor and management costs while trying to add value and weight in an uncertain market.

As calf supplies increases in this expansion phase, premiums for preconditioning tend to increase as buyers become more selective.

The value of gain during preconditioning is linked to improvements in health, reduction in shrink and weight gain.… Continue reading

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