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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fly Control for Livestock

By: Mike Boersma, Extension Educator & 4-H Program Director, Murray & Pipestone Counties

I am sure you have noticed the abnormally high insect populations this summer. High populations of biting insects are not only a nuisance-and sometimes a health risk-for humans, they can also lead to reduced weight gain and feed efficiency and increased incidence of diseases like pinkeye in livestock.

There are a variety of fly control options available and the preferred method will vary from one producer to the next. The most effective method depends on livestock species, livestock numbers, facility design/pasture size, availability of working facilities, and a variety of other factors. Often, finding a combination of control measures that work well for your management system will be the most effective way to control flies.

Insecticide-impregnated eartags are a popular option for cattle producers looking for season-long control. While these eartags can work well, it is important that producers insert tags in early summer and remove them by early fall to help avoid insect resistance to the insecticide. Also, varying the brand of tag and insecticide used will help to reduce insect resistance.

Back rubbers and dust bags also work well but they must be placed in an area that the livestock will pass through on a regular basis. This could be an open gate, doorway, or some other structure that animals must pass through. Locations adjacent to feed, water, or other areas that livestock visit regularly are the most effective.

There is a long list of pour-on insecticides for producers to choose from as well and these can be very successful. However, their effectiveness on outdoor livestock can be short-term, especially during rainy periods.

Finally, many feed companies offer mineral supplements or lick tubs that can also aid in fly control. Many of these are designed to control fly larvae in manure but may not be effective against adult insects.

Any of these options, as well as many more, can be effective in certain situations and it is important for producers to evaluate the management system that will work best for them. Regardless of which option is chosen, producers should remember to wear gloves and other protective clothing when handling pesticides.

Also, some insecticides may have a withdrawal time for certain livestock. Finally, remember that variation among different control options and different insecticides will help minimize insect resistance and will lead to continued effectiveness in future years.

Monday, June 23, 2014

On Farm Food Safety Workshop

By Jake Overgaard
Extension Educator, Winona County

We've seen the headlines linking spinach, sprouts, melons, or what-have-you with an e. coli outbreak. The impact of an outbreak on an individual farm and the industry in general is significant. Also, with the recent Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) legislation, and more scrutiny from buyers and the public, addressing food safety risks on the farm is becoming more important. This is especially true as more local producers are selling to co-ops, restaurants, grocery stores, farmers markets, and through CSAs. As a grower you might be wondering...

  • When would I need a certification to sell fresh produce?

  • How will FSMA affect my operation?

  • How can I create a food safety plan for my farm?

To address these questions and provide more information regarding on-farm food safety, the UMN On-Farm GAPs Program and UMN Extension - Winona County, have put together a workshop for commercial produce growers. At this workshop, you will...

  • Learn about GAPs, GAP Certification, and FSMA.

  • See how Whitewater Gardens implements GAPs on their farm

  • Practice writing risk assessment statements and standard operating procedures.

  • Learn about additional resources available to you.

Location: Whitewater Gardens, Altura, MN
Date/Time: June 26th, 9 am to 4 pm
Cost: $15 (Includes lunch and refreshments)

For more info and to register, visit the registration page: 

We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Creep Feeding Calves: When Does it Pay?

By: Mike Boersma, Extension Educator & 4-H Program Director, Murray & Pipestone Counties

Creep feeding can be a good way to provide supplemental nutrients to calves in a time when their demands are growing rapidly. The process usually involves allowing calves access to feed or additional high quality forage with fences that exclude the rest of the cow herd. When done correctly, creep feeding provides an extra boost of nutrition for the calves without adding stress to the pasture or additional nutritional demands on the cows.

Creep feeding can be a controversial topic among beef producers, as some feel that the effects of creep feeding are not economical and can even be detrimental to the future of the calves, while other producers feel that creep-fed calves will be heavier, healthier, and transition better to the feedlot setting. Both of these views are correct in certain circumstances.

First, creep feeding isn't always economical. In years when feed prices are high relative to calf prices, it may not make sense to spend the extra money on feed if the returns are low. Also, if you have high-milking cows with enough available forage, it is not usually economical to creep feed because the added calf weight can be gained through healthy cows.

Therefore, creep feeding spring-born calves in May and early June will not have much benefit for the average producer, since forage is usually plentiful and cows should still have adequate milk production to raise their calves. Creep feeding becomes more advantageous for spring-born calves later in the summer when forage growth and milk production decline or in early summer for producers who calve in January and February since these calves are older and their mothers' milk production is declining.

Finally, it is not advisable to creep feed early-maturing, smaller framed calves, especially on a high energy diet. This will cause the calves to gain unwanted fat and will result in low performing cattle in a feedlot situation. This is especially true for heifer calves to be kept for replacement. There are many research studies that prove high fat levels on future replacement heifers at a young age could severely hinder their ability to become productive, functional cows in the future.

On the other hand, creep feeding is a definite advantage when feed prices are low relative to calf prices. Also, in dry years when pasture production is low or when cows are not producing much milk, it is a good idea to provide supplemental nutrition to the calves. This will not only benefit the calves, but also the cows since the calves will likely be eating creep feed instead of grazing on the limited grass the cows desperately need. The pasture will also benefit through reduced grazing pressure.

Calves out of young cows will also benefit from creep feed. These cows usually produce less milk and have a higher energy requirement themselves since they are still growing. Creep feeding these calves will also keep the young mothers in better condition which will help the cows to breed back sooner for the following year.

Finally, purebred cattle producers will likely experience more benefit from creep feeding. The added feed will increase weaning weights and overall bloom to the calves, which will generally bring a premium price when sold as young bulls or replacement females.

So, as you contemplate whether or not to creep feed your calves, keep in mind that there isn't always a simple answer. What is economical for your neighbor's herd may not benefit your own operation. Consider your goals and expectations before creep feeding and make sure the economics are in your favor. In order to spend the extra money on feed, there should be a plan to capture that value back when the calves are marketed.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

NC-SARE Farmer/Rancher Grant Project Presentation on Straw Based, Welfare Friendly Growing Unit For Hogs

Paul Sobocinski has a 240 acre diversified farming operation in Western Minnesota, near the town of Wabasso. He has a farrow to finish hog system that produces pigs for Niman Ranch, and a beef cow/calf herd using rotational grazing. Paul also raised corn, beans, alfalfa, grass hay, pasture, oats, wheat, and also has some land in the CRP program. In the 5th year of a CSP contract for rotational grazing, pasture watering system that includes wildlife escape, nitrogen management, resource conservation crop rotation, and cover crops to scavenge nitrogen.

After the hog market collapse of 1998, Paul remodeled an existing raised-crate farrowing barn into a deep-straw farrowing barn. In 2001, he modified an existing pole barn into a deep bedded sow and piglet nursery.

Paul had another older hog confinement facility that was originally slatted floors with liquid manure storage underneath the slats. With the help of a SARE grant and input from engineers, he remodeled the building into a friendlier, more enjoyable environment for both pigs and people. That process is described in this webinar. With the changes, Paul is now able to use the building to raise pigs for Niman Ranch Company. Paul sells pigs to Niman Ranch and is paid a premium for raising them without the use of antibiotics, and using straw bedding.

This presentation is about converting a nursery/ growing confinement building, with a pit, into a deep-bedded growing unit that meets Niman Ranch standards for improved animal welfare, while utilizing existing resources. Following is a link to the presentation:

Friday, May 9, 2014

Spring Farm Safety

By: Nathan Winter, University of Minnesota Extension Educator, McLeod & Meeker Counties

Spring time may have finally arrived. The late spring that we are seeing in 2014 can increase pressure on farmers and agricultural professionals to work longer hours.

Although agriculture is safer than it once was, it still ranks among the most dangerous industries. Those working on farms risk fatal and nonfatal injuries, work-related lung diseases, noise-induced hearing loss, skin diseases, and certain cancers from prolonged sun and chemical use. Many of the mechanical, chemical, and environmental hazards increase the risk of accidents. There were 476 farmers and farmworkers that died from work-related injuries in 2010. The leading cause of death for farmworkers is tractor overturns.

Unfortunately, we continue seeing injuries and fatalities in the agricultural area and often they can be prevented. Most everyone working in the agricultural area knows of someone that has been injured or has died as a direct result of a farming accident. Farm equipment is safer than it used to be, but there are still injuries and fatalities that can occur.

Often youth are utilized to help out with the farm work. Be sure to look out for their interests by keeping them safe. Always think of how to safely operate the machines and equipment you are running before you start and be sure to tell youth important information as well. In 2009, an estimated 16,100 youth were injured on farms and 3,400 of these injuries were due to farm work. On average, there are 113 youth less than 20 years of age that dies annually from farm-related injuries, with the most prevalent age group being those from 16 - 19 years of age. Of the leading sources of fatal injuries to youth, 23% involved machinery (including tractors), 19% involved motor vehicles (including ATVs), and 16% were due to drowning. Be sure that those working on your farm don't become one of these statistics!

Those using the roadways should also take extra precaution when driving because there will be numerous tractors and slow moving vehicles on the roadways. Often, older equipment does not have proper signaling equipment and larger new equipment takes up a large amount of the roadway. With the late spring expect to see more farm equipment movement at all hours of the day.

Exercise extra precaution when sharing the road with vehicles that have the slow moving vehicle sign on the back. Good luck with the spring planting and please remember to take things slowly and exercise safety in your daily work!

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Starting with Chickens

By: Mike Boersma, County Extension Educator & 4-H Program Director with the University of Minnesota Extension in Murray and Pipestone Counties

Many farm stores, elevators, and similar businesses are beginning the spring-time tradition of offering chicks for sale. Raising chickens on a small scale is a fun experience for young and old alike. It is a great way to teach youth (and adults) about food production. Also, while not a lucrative business venture, raising chickens is a hobby that will give you something in return for the time and money you invest in it.

Whether raising chickens for eggs, meat, or both, selecting the right breed is one important step to ensuring success. When choosing broiler chicks (those raised for meat production), the most popular breed is a Cornish cross. These chickens are fast growing and will grow from hatch to market weight in as little as six to eight weeks. This breed is known for their carcass characteristics and rapid growth but they can suffer from joint problems if not managed properly.

As an alternative to the Cornish, the Red Ranger and similar breeds tend to grow a little slower but will produce leaner meat with more texture and flavor. These breeds also produce a higher percentage of dark meat. They can be expected to reach market weight in ten to twelve weeks.
When considering breeds of laying hens, there are many more options and varieties to choose from. White Leghorns may be the most popular breed for egg production. They produce between 250-300 white eggs per year. They are a smaller breed, weighing 4.5 pounds when mature. They are good foragers but are not a docile breed; they can be high-strung.

Many small-scale producers prefer more of a "dual-purpose" breed. The females make good layers while the males can be fed for meat production. There is a trade-off with the dual purpose breeds; they won't lay as many eggs as the Leghorns and won't grow as fast as the Cornish. However, their larger mature size helps them be more hardy, more tolerant of our cold winters and they are often more mild-mannered as well.

Popular dual purpose breeds include the Wyandotte, Rhode Island Red, Ameraucana, Plymouth Rock and the Orpington. There are a number of hybrids that would be considered dual purpose breeds as well. These chickens come in a variety of shapes and colors and are commonly 6 to 7 pounds when mature. The Orpington is the largest of these and hens will reach about 8 pounds. Many of these breeds lay brown eggs, however, the Ameraucana's eggs are green.

Whatever the goals, choosing a breed that suits your needs will help ensure a successful and rewarding venture. If you are considering raising poultry on a small scale but live within city limits, check with local ordinances since these can vary considerably from one town to the next.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Small Farms U offers Lambing Management Practices Workshop

Source: Wayne Martin, Extension Educator, Alternative Livestock Systems

The Small Farms U Program at the University of Minnesota Extension is offering a workshop on basic lambing management practices that will be held on Tuesday evening, April 15, 2014, from 5:30-9:00 p.m. The workshop will be held at the Beef Cattle Barn on the St Paul Campus. The Beef Cattle Barn is located on the corner of Buford and Gortner Avenues.

This workshop is designed for the person who has little experience raising sheep, or is thinking about starting a flock, or who already has a few sheep but feels that more management skills would be a worthy investment. It will be taught by Kyle Rozeboom, Livestock Specialist in the Animal Science Department, Wayne Martin, Alternative Livestock Systems Specialist with Extension, and Sarah Easter Strayer, Veterinarian, UMN. Topics to be covered include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Ewe Care

  • Housing/facilities

  • Lamb Management Practices

  • Disease management/Vaccination program

Starts at 5:30 with registration and dinner that will include freshly roasted lamb, sliced for sandwiches, and other goodies to go with it. Pre-registration is strongly encouraged. Cost of the workshop is $20/adult, $30/couple or business partners, and $10/student. Please contact Wayne Martin at , or (612) 625-6224.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Tips for Successful Lambing

By: Mike Boersma, Extension Educator & 4-H Program Director, Murray & Pipestone Counties

Lambing season is quickly approaching for many sheep producers and this can be an exciting and challenging time of year. Adequate preparation is essential and will make lambing season more successful and less stressful. Here are a few points to keep in mind as lambing season approaches.

First, is the lambing barn ready? No two lambing barns will be identical and there is no "correct" set-up, since each operation will have slightly different needs and resources available. However, regardless of the type of facility, producers should make every effort to create a relatively warm environment free from cold air drafts on the animals. There is a fine line between creating a warm environment and creating a place with poor air exchange and high humidity. The lambing barn still needs to have a level of fresh air exchange-the key is to provide the fresh air without creating drafts directly on the animals.

Another consideration is to be sure the lambing pens are ready. Lambing pens should consist of a mostly enclosed area that provides about 25 square feet of space for the ewe and her lambs. These pens should be clean and free of manure and should have a heat lamp or other supplemental heat source in one corner for the newborn lambs. The ewes should be kept in these pens for 1-3 days, or until their lambs have nursed and are able to get up and going on their own.

Producers should also prepare themselves to deal with sick or weak lambs. Attentiveness is key here, as weak or chilled lambs can recover much sooner if caught early. The longer the lambs are cold and/or the longer they go without adequate colostrum (first milk) intake, the less likely they are to make a full recovery.

In an ideal situation, the lamb should nurse within the first hour after birth to receive the full benefits of the colostrum from the ewe. If the lamb is unable to nurse, it may be necessary to tube-feed the lamb, which can be done with a clean syringe and a small hose. However, tube-feeding should only be performed by skilled producers, since improperly inserting the tube could pose serious risks to the lamb. It is important that producers prepare ahead of time for weak lambs by having frozen colostrum and milk replacer on hand.

In addition to these simple practices, it is also important that sheep producers work with their veterinarian to develop a proper vaccination and lamb health program. Have the necessary vaccines and antibiotics on hand at lambing time, along with syringes and other equipment. If producers take the time to prepare these few things in advance, their foresight should be rewarded with a successful lambing season.


Mike Boersma is a County Extension Educator & 4-H Program Director with the University of Minnesota Extension in Murray and Pipestone Counties

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