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There’s Money In Testing Your Stalks And Hay

If you want to get the most value from your winter-feeding program, knowing what you’re feeding is the first place to start, says Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension forage specialist.

Take corn-stalk bales and hay, for instance.

Anderson often encourages corn growers to bale excess corn stalks to help supply feed for cattle during winter, a great pinch-hitting feed if winter forage runs short. But before those bales are fed, he suggests finding out what they offer nutritionally.

He suggests sampling and testing bales as soon as possible so that when snow gets deep or other feeds run out you’ll already know how to best feed your corn-stalk bales.

Anderson says he’s seen protein in corn-stalk bales range from 2-7%. “Since dry pregnant cows need 7-8% protein in their diet, those high-protein bales need only a little protein to adequately care for the cows. But those 2% bales will need quite a bit of supplement to keep cows in good condition,” he says.

He suggests choosing a protein supplement that’s nearly all natural and mostly rumen degradable, as maintenance-level forage diets need degradable protein for the rumen microbes. “But remember that urea and other non-protein nitrogen sources aren’t used quite as well,” he adds.

He says most bales often contain 60% total digestible nutrients (TDN). Thus, cows fed such bales should do very well up until calving with just corn stalk bales and adequate protein supplement.

However, he has seen some stalks rained on before baling test below 50% TDN. Cows fed these lower quality bales will need some extra energy, too.

Where hay is concerned, Anderson says correct sampling techniques, followed by lab tests of forage quality, are necessary for cattle producers who want to get the most value from their hay and profit from their animals.

The most important step in sampling hay, and sometimes the most difficult, is deciding which bales and stacks should be included in each sample. Ideally, each sample should include only bales produced under nearly identical conditions.

Obviously, the place to start grouping is to separate different types of hay, like alfalfa or cane or meadow hay. But each cutting probably is different from other cuttings also, so there’s another separation. And no two fields or meadows are ever exactly the same, especially if they were cut more than two days apart, so that makes another grouping. And what if part of the field was rained on before it was baled? It’s very likely that hay made without rain damage will be different from hay with rain damage.

After you’ve made all these separations, which could result in quite a few groups of similar bales, then you are ready to sample, Anderson says.

From each group, gather 12-20 cores from different bales or stacks and combine them into one sample. Be sure to use a good hay probe that can core at least 1 ft. into the bale.

Finally, send these samples to a certified lab for tests of protein and energy content and any other nutrients of interest to you. “Then use this info to feed your cattle as profitably as possible,” he says.
-- Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension forage specialist


2008 International Pioneer Breeder Award

Barnesville, OH—Dickinson Cattle Co. (DCCI) General Manager, Darol Dickinson was presented the International Texas Longhorn Assn.'s coveted Pioneer Breeder Award for the year 2008. The award stated, "In recognition and appreciation of your dedication as an active member of the ITLA. You have made a noticeable impact in the preservation and promotion of Texas Longhorn Cattle."

The DCCI family ranch was also awarded the Certificate of Appreciation for registering and transferring the most Texas Longhorn cattle for the year.

DCCI is a registered cattle producing ranch located in Belmont county, Ohio near Barnesville. The ranch specializes in Texas Longhorns, Dutch BueLingo and African Watusi breeding stock. DCCI is known for extensive exporting of semen and embryos beyond the USA.

The ITLA is the breed registry for Texas Longhorn cattle doing documentation and recording genetics for all countries. The headquarters of ITLA is at Glen Rose, Texas. The awards presentation was held during the annual Convention and Championship Show with attendees from numerous states and 3 Canadian Provinces.


High Res

Caption for attached graphic: Dickinson Cattle Co. Gen. Mgr. Darol Dickinson of Barnesville, Ohio was awarded the coveted Pioneer Breeder Award during the International Texas Longhorn Assn. 2008 Convention and Championship Show. L to R. Darol Dickinson and ITLA President Larry P Smith II, Glen Rose, Texas.

The Perfect Pair: 10 common-sense tips for matching horse and rider

There are some duos who seem like a match made in heaven. Think about singers Brooks & Dunn or icons Mickey and Minnie Mouse – you just can’t think of one without the other. Then, there are those not so compatible matches who come to mind – since it’s a political year, we’ll just mention John McCain and Barrack Obama.

What does this have to do with you and your horse? Well, how well do you get along? Is it a loving relationship or more of a love-hate connection?

Brad Lange of Lange Ranch Quarter Horses near Oglala, SD, grew up ranching and loving horses. Today, he and his wife Stacia ranch with his parents and brother and sister-in-law, while also training horses, teaching clinics, and offering private lessons. Stacia specializes in training barrel horses, while Brad focuses on ranch and team roping horses.

From their experiences, Brad has amassed a list of do’s and don’ts for riders as they seek out the perfect horse. Here, he shares 10 points to ponder before you make your next purchase.

1. Mismatched Experience. Lange says among the biggest mistakes he sees made in buying a new horse is that often inexperienced or beginning riders (or their parents) think they should buy a young horse for the new rider and the two can learn together. “That’s usually a mistake,” says Lange. “Instead, the best match for an inexperienced rider is usually an older experienced horse to learn on,” he suggests.

2. Don’t Get Sidetracked By Beauty. As the saying goes, beauty is often only skin deep – or as Lange likes to say “Pretty is; is pretty does.” To explain, Lange says people often set out to buy a horse that matches some perfect, pretty picture in their head – and as a result, they forget to evaluate the more important riding characteristics. Hence, they may end up with a pretty looking horse, that doesn’t do what they want it to.

Thus, Lange says focus more on the horse’s abilities. “If he’s good and you can learn from him, don’t put so much emphasis on pretty. Start with a solid horse and down the road you can always upgrade to something else,” says Lange.

3. Shop Around. Here, Lange simply says, “Don’t buy the first horse you see.” He advises doing your homework and evaluating several horses to find the right match. If you like one during the “shopping” process, Lange says it will most likely be there when you go back..

He adds, “If you are truly interested in buying a horse, most people will let you try riding it several times before you make the purchase.”

4. Watch Them Show. Along with doing your homework, Lange advises watching a horse show – especially if you plan to use him as a show horse. Lange says, “Some horses are great at home and fall apart at the show and vice versa. So it is important to watch them both at home and at the show. A lot of their ability depends on the individual horse and how they were trained.”

5. Be Willing To Pay A Little Extra. When it comes to horses, Lange is a firm believer that “you get what you pay for.” Specifically he says, “You don’t have to spend ridiculous amounts of money, but if you want a safe, reliable horse, be willing to spend a little more for it.”

Along with that, he adds, “Not getting hurt can be worth a little extra money in the end.”

6. Avoid The “Fixer Upper.” Of this, Lange says, “Some horses can’t be fixed – even if you are a good rider – and, it’s certainly not the way to learn. He cites buckers as horses to avoid, as well as horses that maybe haven’t been treated the best or get scared in certain situations. “Absolute kindness won’t fix everything,” says Lange, and he adds that it’s often not worth the risk of getting hurt.

7. Consider Personal Preferences. In making your horse selection, Lange says to recognize your personal preferences – much of which will hinge on your riding and training experiences. For instance, consider how the horse’s disposition suits your own personality. Sometimes a laid back horse is better for a person with a high-strung personality – sometimes it’s not.

Likewise, consider the size of horse you feel most comfortable on. If you are a tall person you may want to be matched to a large horse. Again, this will depend on personal choice. Lange says, “I’m 6’3” and I’ve road both big and small horses. It all depends on what your comfortable with.”

That said, Lange emphasizes that these should not be limitations, only considerations as you select the right horse for you.

8. Never Stop Learning. Lange says lessons for you and your new horse are almost always a good idea. He says, “If you think you know everything you’ve stopped learning. I always ask questions because that’s how you get better and continue to learn.”

9. Listen. When you are shopping for the right horse, Lange says it is important to be willing to listen to the advice of others. From his experience he says, “Do not be offended if an owner or someone else says they don’t think a particular horse is right for you. They are just trying to do what’s best for you and the horse.”

10. Be Smart. Lastly, Lange says when it’s time to make a decision try not to make an emotional one. He says, “Don’t buy with your heart, buy with your brain; think the situation over.”

And, if you just don’t know what do do, Lange suggests hiring a professional to go with you to look the horse over. “That can be money well spent,” he concludes.

Winter Wonderland

The year was 1997. Christmas was right around the corner, and I was ten years old. I was in the house with my mom and two sisters. As tradition, we would spend a whole weekend decorating the house for the holiday season. We decked out the tree, wrapped garland around the railings, hung lights on the porch, and wrapped gifts for family and friends. Mom gave all of us girls jobs to keep us busy decorating while she made holiday treats. Later, we would all gather in the kitchen to decorate sugar cookies.

There was only one damper on this holiday spirit—Dad always knocked on the door needing chore help, and I was usually the prime target. That meant putting the last of the decorations on hold, donning double socks, snow pants, coat, warm boots, mittens, and a hat and heading outside to help my dad. Together, we would feed hay, grind feed, check water tanks, and take care of the calves before the next big snow hit.

In 1997, a big snow certainly did hit the state of South Dakota. This winter is so infamous in our state’s history that people still wear baseball caps with the slogan, “I survived the Blizzard of ‘97”. For my family, we were snowed in our house for seven days. As a result, my sisters and I had to skip a full week of school. Most kids would have rejoiced at the thought of missing out on so much school to play in the snow, but my reality was much different than snow angels and snowball fights.

Instead of a warm, inviting holiday season, we had no electricity and no heat. We warmed up soup over a makeshift stove of candles and a cookie sheet, and my sisters and I slept in the same bed at night to stay warm. The worst part of this experience was the chores. My little sisters were too young to handle the weather conditions, so Mom, Dad and I would hold hands and trudge down our long driveway to the farm to do the chores. We rose before dark to start scooping out the bunks that had drifted in from the night before. Snow banks as tall as the fences themselves, our job took until noon just to complete the morning chores. As soon as morning duties were done, we would head to the house to put on warm gloves and go outside only a few short hours later to scoop out the feed bunks once more.

I remember being so cold that I buried myself into a hay feeder and cried because my fingers and toes hurt so badly. It was there, in that hay feeder, that I learned a very important lesson about agriculture. My mom gave me a hug as we rested for a moment from scooping the heavy, wet snow.

She chipped off the frozen tears from my rosy cheeks, and she said, “Mandy, this is what animal welfare is. So often, activists try to ruin our way of life because they want to protect the animals. What they don’t see is you and me, out in the cold, risking our lives to protect our cattle. We have to sacrifice our needs for the needs of our livestock. Don’t ever forget how special you are for doing that.”

I’ll never forget that winter. The blizzard of 1997 killed hundreds of thousands of cattle in its wake. Later, as I watched the news with my parents and heard the reports of more cattle deaths in South Dakota, I was so proud that my family had saved every single animal on our farm. That is the greatest sense accomplishment I have ever felt, and I have held onto the lessons learned during that blizzard my entire life.

As the holiday season approaches, be thankful for your many precious gifts. More importantly, be reminded of the good work you do as a person in agriculture. We make great sacrifices in order to feed God’s children. As animal rights activists push legislation down our throats to change the face of food production, let’s not ever forget the producers that know the true meaning of animal welfare and proper animal husbandry practices.

Monitor corn stalk quality

Rain in the fall usually is welcomed despite the delays it causes with crop harvest. Pastures and alfalfa benefit from extra growth and winterizing capabilities. Wheat and other small grains get well established as do any new fields of alfalfa or pasture. And the reserve moisture stored in the soil will get good use during next year’s growing season.

But rain does reduce the feed value of corn stalks in fields already combined, points out University of Nebraska Extension forage specialist Bruce Anderson. And this fall many fields have had some pretty heavy rain on the stalks.

Rain reduces corn stalk quality several ways. Most easily noticed is how fast stalks get soiled or trampled into the ground when fields are muddy, says Anderson.

Less noticeable are nutritional changes. Heavy rain soaks into dry corn stalk residue and leaches out some of the soluble nutrients. Most serious is the loss of sugars and other energy-dense nutrients, which lowers the TDN or energy value of the stalks, according to Anderson. These same nutrients also disappear if stalks begin to mold or rot in the field or especially in the bale. Then palatability and intake also decline.

There is little you can do to prevent these losses. What you can do, though, is begin to supplement a little earlier than usual, Anderson suggests. Since weathering by rain reduces TDN more than it reduces protein, consider the energy value of your supplements as well as protein content.

Anderson says the bottomline is that weathered corn stalks still are economical feeds – just supplement them accordingly.

If you are baling corn stalks to store as extra winter feed, Anderson says, “before you feed those bales, find out what they have to offer nutritionally. Sample and test your bales as soon as possible so when snow gets deep or other feeds run out you will already know how to best feed your corn stalk bales.”

From his experience, Anderson says it is surprising how variable the protein and energy content can be in corn stalk bales. He says, “I’ve seen protein as low as 2% and as high as 7%. Since dry pregnant cows need 7 to 8% protein in their diet, those high protein bales will need only a little protein to adequately care for the cows. But those 2% bales will need quite a bit of supplement to keep cows in good condition.”

He suggests choosing a protein supplement that is nearly all natural and is mostly rumen degradable. Maintenance-level forage diets need degradable protein for the rumen microbes, but remember that urea and other non-protein nitrogen sources aren’t used quite as well, he says.

As a final reminder, Anderson says it is a good idea to test all of your stored hay in order to get the most value from their hay and profit from their animals.

He emphasizes that the most important step, and sometimes the most difficult step, in sampling hay is deciding which bales and stacks should be included in each sample. Ideally, each sample should include only bales that were produced under nearly identical conditions.

Anderson says, “Obviously, the place to start grouping is to separate different types of hay, like alfalfa or cane or meadow hay. But each cutting of hay probably is different from the other cuttings also, so there is another separation. And no two fields or meadows are ever exactly the same, especially if they were cut more than two days apart, so that makes another grouping. And what if part of the field was rained on before it was baled? It is very likely that hay made without rain damage will be different from hay with rain damage.”

After you’ve made all these separations, which could result in quite a few groups of similar bales, then you are ready to sample. From each group gather twelve to twenty cores from different bales or stacks and combine them into one sample. Be sure to use a good hay probe that can core into at least one foot of the bale.

Finally, send these samples to a certified lab for tests of protein and energy content and any other nutrients of interest to you. Then use this information to feed your cattle as profitably as possible.

Dormant plant grasses and legumes now

Normally we plant grasses and legumes in early spring, but University of Nebraska Extension forage specialist Bruce Anderson says planting now during the dormant season can be nearly as successful.

Dormant plantings succeed as long as your soil is relatively dry and soil temperature is too cold for seeds to germinate, explains Anderson.

e emphasizes that the key is — too cold to germinate. When these conditions exist, seed just lies in the soil until conditions favorable for germination occur next spring. Then seeds begin to grow as if they had just been planted, says Anderson.

Warm-season grasses, like those used in CRP and range plantings, are especially well-suited to dormant planting. They won't germinate until soil temperature exceeds 45 degrees. Since soils generally remain colder than this for most of the winter, dormant plantings of these grasses can be made anytime between late November and March. In addition, the alternate warming and cooling of the soil in spring stimulates a natural process in these seeds that improves their germination.

Cool-season grasses and legumes, however, can germinate at soil temperatures as low as 35 degrees. Our soils often are warmer than 35 degrees for several days in a row during winter, so cool-season grass seeds occasionally germinate and then die when soils freeze again. As a result, dormant plantings of cool-season species are successful a little less often than warm-season grasses.

Gearing up for winter weather and keeping cattle healthy

Snow and high winds are a bad combination for previously unstressed calves waiting to be shipped or put on winter feed rations.

South Dakota State University Extension Range Livestock Production Specialist Eric Mousel says that to protect calves from the onset of respiratory problems, it's advisable to keep livestock dry and out of the wind as best as possible. Although many herds remain out on winter range and pasture with little protection from the wind, moving livestock into protected areas as soon as possible may reduce potential problems.

Colder temperatures also raise nutrient requirements of both cows and calves. Extra, high quality feed may be necessary to help livestock maintain their core body temperatures and keep the immune system functioning properly.

Calves that are showing signs of respiratory problems should be treated with antibiotics as soon as possible. The sooner calves are treated after showing signs of sickness, the more effective the treatment will be. Continuous use of antibiotics as a preventative treatment for respiratory problems is discouraged as drug resistance can become a problem.

Another problem likely to arise following winter storm stress is bloody scours as a result of coccidiosis. Bovatec® and Deccox® are examples of feed additives that are effective against the pathogenic bovine coccidia. Deccox® however, also can be used as treatment to reduce the effects of an acute outbreak. The clinically affected animals should be treated with sulfa drugs, and then the coexistent cattle should receive Deccox® to prevent further cycling of the oocysts. Contact your veterinarian for additional treatment recommendations.

"Another concern producers may be experiencing is water availability for livestock as a result of freezing temperatures, no electric service, or both," Mousel said. "After a short adjustment period, cows will consume adequate amounts of snow to meet water requirements. Eating snow is a learned behavior rather than instinct, therefore an adjustment period is needed for the cows to learn how to eat snow. Generally it takes three days for cows to adapt to eating snow."

Cattle do well when snow is their only water source, as long as there is adequate snow present, and it is not hard or crusted over. It is important to monitor cow and snow condition on a daily or second day basis. A lack of water reduces feed intake, and cows can loose condition fairly rapidly when water is deficient. Studies in Canada have shown some cows have gone for extended periods with snow as the sole water source without significant adverse effects.

But Mousel cautiones that if snow hardens and crusts over due to drifting, rain, or thawing and freezing, animals will need to be provided with an alternative source of water. Substituting snow for water is not a cure-all, but it can buy some time until conditions improve.

Moore named new American Shorthorn Executive

During the 2008 ASA (American Shorthorn Association) Annual Banquet held in Louisville, KY, November 15, 2008 the ASA Board of Directors was proud to announce Bert L. Moore, PhD. as the new Executive Secretary/Treasurer for the association.

“I have known Bert Moore for more years than I care to admit. I have always admired what he has contributed to the breed and the opportunity to work with him in an association of this stature and a breed this exciting is more than an honor,” John Hagie, ASA Board of Directors President.

Moore will serve as the chief administrative officer of the ASA and will perform the duties outlined in the ASA Bylaws beginning January 2009. Reporting to the ASA Board of Directors, he will develop and recommend to the board policies, plans, and programs that will effectively meet the needs of the membership, enhancing the growth and reputation of the Shorthorn breed and the ASA.

Although ending his extensive career with the Department of Animal Science at North Dakota State University, Moore is eager to join the ASA staff as Shorthorn blood runs deep in his family. Moore is a third generation Shorthorn breeder and his parents were even honored as “Builders of the Breed,” the highest honor you can receive as a Shorthorn breeder. Moore has passion for the Shorthorn breed, still he says, “Passion without purpose or direction, however, can get lost in itself.”

Graduating with a Bachelor of Science from Iowa State University and a Master of Science and a Doctor of Philosophy both at North Dakota State University, Moore has been working as a professor and Livestock Judging Coach at North Dakota State University. He has earned the respect of both colleagues and students alike by being a past recipient of North Dakota State University Outstanding Advisor and Preferred Professor awards. He has judged all meat animal species in over 20 states and 4 Canadian provinces, is an avid researcher of pedigrees, and has worked with an extensive network of producers, judges, and researchers in the beef cattle, sheep and swine industries.

“It is not what you have, but what you are and this organization is about people. It is a privilege and honor to be given the opportunity to work for this association,” said Moore.

The mission of the ASA is to contribute to the profitability and quality of life of its members and their customers by maintaining, protecting the venerability and enhancing the value of the herd book and performance database for Shorthorn cattle. The ASA is headquartered in Omaha, Neb., and was founded in 1872 with herd book records going back to 1822. As one of the oldest American breed associations, the ASA provides services for more than 6,000 junior and senior members who register nearly 18,000 cattle annually. To learn more, contact the ASA office.

A Return to the Good Ol’ Days?

Before I begin, I must blatantly state that I hardly count myself old enough to remember “the good ol’ days.” But, lately, I’ve been hearing many people reference this current economic crisis as a “wake-up” call for our country – a reminder that America’s spending habits and business principles have perhaps gotten out of hand. Or, put another way, have gotten “too big for their own britches” – as they might have said in the good ol’ days.

American businesses – the beef industry included – were on the fast track to bigger and better and, well, bigger. But the economic upheaval of the past few months seems to have put much of that on pause – and I find that refreshing.

Many of us are rethinking our spending, rethinking driving 100 miles to buy groceries when we can get many of the same items locally; and rethinking if bigger really is better. As an example on the corporate level, folks like Wal-Mart are re-evaluating their supercenters. I recently read an article that said they will build fewer of them – and smaller, more efficient stores – in 2009 and 2010.

To me, this says our current “wake up call” may be the chance for agriculture to grab the bull-by-the-horns and rebuild local support.

Let me explain: if rural America is to survive, and if agriculture is to thrive, there needs to be a reconnect. Producers and consumers need to find value in local, sustainable, safe, healthy products. Isn’t that what people love when they reminisce about “the good ol’ days?”

Certainly, this concept isn’t new. Some in agriculture have long been successful in tapping the local market. I recently heard of a dairy on the outskirts of Kansas City that was struggling – and to the point of going out of business after operating as a family business for 60 years. But, instead, this family operation made a bold move and reinvented themselves in June 2003 by switching to processing their own milk on the farm. They then deliver it to stores within about 12 hours – in glass bottles like the good ol’days – so that customers can enjoy the freshest milk possible.

What has the outcome been? Massive success. The milk sells at a premium and frequently sells out. The customers rave about the product – and most importantly, this family business has been preserved. For more about this success story.

Now certainly, this family had to experience naysayers as they contemplated a life-altering change in how they operated their business. And, I’m especially sure the idea of glass bottles was challenged. But, they made the local connection, and they’ve created their future.

I share this story because I think it can be an inspiring example to others in agriculture at this turning point in America’s economy. Wall Street will eventually get back on track – but I hope those of us in agriculture won’t simply return to business as usual. Re-evaluate how your ranch or agribusiness operates; reconnect with what is important to consumers; and then re-construct your business model for the future to take advantage of new opportunities.

I won’t deny that agriculture is a global market and that there aren’t countless opportunities on the large scale. But there are some equally big opportunities by looking local – and focusing on good ol’ fashioned values – as well.

USDA to Host Bovine TB Meeting

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will host a series of public meetings on its national bovine tuberculosis (TB) program. The meetings will take place next month in Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, California and Washington, D.C.

“We want to hear directly from producers and stakeholders on our TB program and are looking for innovative, realistic approaches to effectively addressing this disease in the United States,” said APHIS administrator Cindy Smith. “We can improve the TB program so that it can meet current challenges, but public participation is vital to reach that goal.”

APHIS will gather information and feedback from producers and stakeholders while also providing an opportunity for group discussions. These discussions will explore approaches to reducing the risk of disease transmission from affected herds, disease mitigation measures for wildlife and whether the program’s objective should be eradication or control of TB in domestic livestock. Other topics include budget concerns, import issues and indemnities. Meeting participants have the opportunity to pose questions and offer written and oral comments.

The public meetings will be from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. local time, with registration one hour prior to each meeting. The meetings will take place in the following locations:

  • Monday, Dec. 8: Holiday Inn South/Convention Center, 6820 S. Cedar St., Lansing, MI 48911
  • Wednesday, Dec. 10: Hilton Minneapolis, 1001 Marquette Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55403
  • Thursday, Dec. 11: Hilton Garden Inn Austin Downtown, 500 North IH 35, Austin, TX 78701
  • Friday, Dec. 12: Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel, 1230 J St., Sacramento,
    Calif. 95814.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 16: Renaissance M Street Hotel, 1143 New Hampshire Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037