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Drainage ditches help clean up field runoff

Drainage ditches help clean up field runoff

VEGETATED drainage ditches can help capture pesticide and nutrient loads in field runoff, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS).

These ditches -- as common in the countryside as the fields they drain -- give farmers a low-cost alternative for managing agricultural pollutants and protecting natural resources.

ARS ecologist Matt Moore at the agency's National Sedimentation Laboratory in Oxford, Miss., and his colleagues conducted the research.

Until recently, the primary function of many edge-of-field ditches was to provide a passage for channeling excess water from crop fields, ARS explained, and many farmers controlled ditch vegetation with trimming or dredging to eliminate plant barriers that could impede the flow of runoff.

However, in one of Moore's first studies, he evaluated the transport and capture of the herbicide atrazine and the insecticide lambda-cyhalothrin for 28 days in a 160 ft. section of a vegetated agricultural drainage ditch in Mississippi.

One hour after he started a simulated runoff event, 61% of the atrazine and 87% of the lambda-cyhalothrin had transferred from the water to the ditch vegetation. At the end of the ditch, runoff pesticide concentrations had decreased to levels that were generally nontoxic to downstream aquatic fauna, ARS reported.

Moore also conducted work in California and determined that vegetated drainage ditches helped mitigate pesticide runoff from tomato and alfalfa fields.

As a result, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) state office in California included vegetated agricultural drainage in its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), meaning that farmers who installed the ditches could be reimbursed for up to 50% of the cost.

Moore's research also contributed to the decision by NRCS managers in Mississippi to include vegetated agricultural drainage ditches in the state's EQIP.

The ARS research was published in Ecological Engineering, Environmental Pollution, Journal of Environmental Quality and elsewhere.

Volume:85 Issue:02

Penn State dairy app keeps tabs on feed costs

Penn State dairy app keeps tabs on feed costs

THE Pennsylvania State University Extension dairy team announced that its DairyCents app, which already is in use on iPhones, is available for download on Android mobile devices, too.

"We've received quite a few requests for the Android-compatible version of DairyCents," said Virginia Ishler, one of the app's creators. "We're very excited to have this now available to reach even more users."

Launched via Apple's iTunes Store last August, the app features a number of tools to help dairy producers and nutritionists keep tabs on feed costs and track how a ration compares to the Penn State ingredient database.

Users are able to download feed prices for more than 40 of the 90 feed ingredients tracked by the dairy team.

The first of two key features of DairyCents is a standardized income over feed cost (IOFC) calculation. By entering a ZIP code, the app calculates IOFC based on the user's state-specific milk and alfalfa prices and corn and soybean meal prices based on the Chicago Board of Trade settlement.

Users can make IOFC calculations based on 65, 75 or 85 lb. of milk produced per cow per day, with results given in both per hundredweight and per cow. The app will graph the IOFC, feed cost and milk price dating back to January 2012.

Penn State said its dairy team has tracked IOFC for the university herd since 2004, with actual feed ingredients used measured against the monthly Penn State feed price list for the market prices of home-raised feeds, along with the purchase prices of other relevant commodities. Using the actual milk price, the team calculates milk income minus the feed cost to track IOFC per cow per day.

In addition to the income calculator, the DairyCents app allows users to compare their own purchased feed price to Penn State's feed price list, as well as to other users in the database who purchased the same feed. Users can track price trends over time using this second feature.

Volume:85 Issue:02

Disaster aid provisions undecided

Disaster aid provisions undecided

ONE of the biggest disappointments from extending the 2008 farm bill was that Congress failed to deal with disaster assistance, which was included in the 2012 farm bill proposals and was sought by the agriculture industry.

Livestock producers especially were caught in the crosshairs after a devastating 2012, and row-crop producers went without the added assurance of crop insurance.

In the weeks ahead, there is some hope that those provisions could find their way into other bills, potentially one to help those who suffered harm from Hurricane Sandy.

Max Baucus (D., Mont.) told Montana's Billings Gazette that he would begin the year by working on a separate bill to address the livestock disaster programs that were left out of the farm bill extension.

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 2,245 counties in 39 states, or 71% of the U.S., as disaster areas due to drought.

Collin Woodall, vice president of government affairs at the National Cattlemen's Beef Assn., added that more than 70% of cattle country remains in drought conditions.

Troy Dumler, an agricultural economist at Kansas State University, noted that there is a chance that Congress will still address livestock disaster aid early this year.

Both farm bill proposals out of the Senate and the House Agriculture Committee included significant improvements to and expansion of disaster aid.

In addition, the House passed a stand-alone disaster aid bill last fall, although it was never taken up by the Senate because of a desire to try to pass a full five-year farm bill.

Dumler said payments could end up being retroactive for 2012, but the fate of disaster assistance is all tied to further discussions about budgetary issues and sequestrations.

Senate Agriculture Committee chair Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) criticized the farm bill extension that was included in the fiscal cliff deal because it didn't keep the previously debated commitment on disaster assistance.

Stabenow, along with House Agriculture Committee chair Frank Lucas (R., Okla.), proposed a tailored extension that would have ensured that livestock and fruit growers had the more robust disaster assistance in 2012 and 2013 that the Senate had approved earlier.

"I don't see agriculture being the priority it needs to be, either on disaster assistance (or) help for those who have been hit so hard by drought or by an early warmth and then a freeze in the orchards," Stabenow said on the Senate floor ahead of the fiscal cliff vote. "Where is the willingness to stand up and support farmers and ranchers across the country?"

The Senate passed its own bill during the 112th Congress to aid Hurricane Sandy victims, but again, agriculture was left out of that bill. Because a new Congress has been sworn in, any legislation will have to be reintroduced.

Volume:85 Issue:02

Weight not tied to ag policies

Weight not tied to ag policies

MANY observers -- from prominent economists, journalists, nutritionists and elected officials -- have suggested that agricultural policies that support the production of certain commodities contribute to increased rates of excess weight and obesity among consumers by making those commodities more accessible (i.e., abundant and cheap), according to Abigail Okrent, an economist at the U.S. Economic Research Service (ERS).

For instance, these critics say farm program subsidies that lower production costs and prices of corn and wheat lead to greater consumption of fattening foods made from corn and wheat and, therefore, to growing waistlines, she said in an article in the monthly ERS magazine Amber Waves.

However, a recent study by researchers at ERS, Cornell University and the University of California-Davis found results to the contrary, Okrent said.

The research determined that farm subsidies -- by themselves as well as combined with additional agricultural policies that restrict supplies such as acreage set-asides or import restrictions -- have little impact on the amount of calories consumed and weight gained by American adults, she said.

Okrent reported that the researchers used a model to simulate the effect on consumption of foods and weight gain/loss if all subsidies on food grains and oilseeds were removed. The model used three baselines -- 1992, 1997 and 2002 -- and seven at-home food groups, away-from-home foods and alcoholic beverages.

Results showed that removing subsidies would, indeed, lead to a decrease in production of food grains and oilseeds and an increase in the prices of the foods and beverages made from them, Okrent said.

However, given how little agricultural commodities contribute to food prices, especially highly processed products, she emphasized that the price increases would be minimal.

Accordingly, Okrent said calorie consumption would also decrease minimally -- about 1,000-1,800 calories per person per year, or between one-third to one-half a pound in bodyweight for an adult over a five-year period (Table).

She noted that the greatest decreases in calorie consumption would be in bakery and cereal products and away-from-home foods, which would more than offset increases in calories consumed from dairy products and fruits and vegetables.

Okrent said the model then removed all farm program subsidies, including subsidies for aquaculture production, and all indirect subsidies such as import restrictions and found similar inconsequential results.

In this case, she said, calorie consumption would increase 3,100-3,900 calories per person per year, or about 1 lb. in bodyweight over a five-year period.

Removing all subsidies would decrease calorie consumption in six of the nine categories, but this would, again, be more than offset by increases in calorie consumption from dairy products, fruits and vegetables as well as from away-from-home foods, she said.

 

Effects of removing agricultural subsidies on Americans' caloric intake

 

-Food grains/oilseeds-

-All policies-

 

1992

1997

2002

1992

1997

2002

Food category

-Annual change in per capita caloric intake-

At-home food

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bakery/cereals

-810

-1,472

-927

-3,663

-4,183

-3,624

Meat

8

21

19

-1,320

-1,338

-1,207

Dairy

150

213

264

7,274

10,050

7,853

Eggs

-7

-7

-27

-436

-722

-584

Fruits/vegetables

49

79

28

1,857

1,967

1,674

Other foods

-106

-58

-313

-1,222

-2,407

-1,458

Nonalcoholic beverages

0

-9

25

-1,420

-2,332

-2,068

Away-from-home food

-264

-580

-425

2,355

3,521

2,509

Alcoholic beverages

-13

-32

-62

-15

-65

-35

Total

-995

-1,846

-1,419

3,410

3,860

3,061

Weight change (lb.)

-0.3

-0.5

-0.4

1.0

1.1

0.9

Note: Weight change is in per capita body weight over five years.

Source: U.S. Economic Research Service.

 

Volume:85 Issue:02

Westway sells liquid feed business

Westway sells liquid feed business

WESTWAY Group announced Jan. 7 that it had completed the divestiture of its liquid feed supplement business and several liquid storage terminals to ED&F Man Holdings for $112 billion.

Westway announced the proposed sale of the liquid feed business to ED&F Man, Westway's largest stockholder, last June (Feedstuffs, June 18, 2012). As part of the transaction, ED&F Man will acquire storage terminals in Ireland, Denmark, South Korea and the U.K.

The liquid feed business, known as Westway Feed Products, is the largest producer of liquid feed supplements in North America, reporting a 2011 volume of 1.8 million tons. In addition to its U.S. and Canadian business, the division operates in 31 locations around the globe.

Westway announced in late 2011 that it would explore possible strategic alternatives for the company as a whole because it felt that its businesses were "undervalued;" those alternatives included the sale of the liquid feed business, as well as the possible sale of its foreign terminals (Feedstuffs, Dec. 26, 2011).

Volume:85 Issue:02

APHIS publishes traceability rule

APHIS publishes traceability rule

THE U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) published its final animal disease traceability (ADT) rule in the Jan. 9 Federal Register.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack first announced the intent to publish the final rule last month (Feedstuffs, Dec. 24, 2012). Now that it has been published, the rule becomes effective March 11, 2013.

The final ADT rule establishes general regulations for improving the traceability of U.S. livestock moving interstate. Under the rule, unless specifically exempted, livestock moved interstate must be officially identified and accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection (ICVI) or other documentation, such as owner-shipper statements or brand certificates.

The final rule allows the use of brands, tattoos and brand registration as official identification when accepted by the shipping and receiving states or tribes. Back tags will be accepted as an alternative to official ear tags for cattle and bison moved directly to slaughter.

It was welcomed by the agricultural community as a flexible approach without burdening livestock producers.

Many major livestock-producing countries, including Canada, the European Union and Japan, have implemented or are implementing animal traceability systems, and most importing countries require such a system as a condition for importing meat, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) pointed out.

"An effective traceability system is critical to our nation's animal health infrastructure and is one of the components the World Organization for Animal Health considers essential for an effective veterinary services program," said NPPC president R.C. Hunt, a pork producer from Wilson, N.C. "The goal of a traceability system is traceback of an animal to its farm of origin within 48 hours of the discovery of a disease. That would allow a disease to be brought under control and eradicated more quickly, saving animals -- and taxpayer dollars -- and keeping foreign markets open to our exports."

National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. chief veterinarian Dr. Kathy Simmons said many of cattle producers' priorities were included in the final ADT rule.

"USDA APHIS listened to the voices of livestock producers when drafting this rule, and the final product is one that will help reduce the number of animals involved in an investigation, reduce the time needed to respond and decrease the cost to producers," Simmons said.

Though the final rule mainly focuses on cattle, it leaves in place existing poultry-related traceability regimes and requires records to be retained for poultry for two years.

Although generally supportive of agency efforts to implement traceability programs, the National Chicken Council (NCC), in comments on the proposed rule, voiced concern with APHIS's decision to apply a one-size-fits-all, cattle-based traceability system to poultry and also specifically with the proposed requirement that records be kept for five years for all species.

The preamble to the final rule recognizes the effectiveness of the existing poultry traceability program under the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) and leaves that program largely in place, NCC said in a statement.

NCC vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs Dr. Ashley Peterson said APHIS took some of the group's comments into account in the formulation of the final rule, including reducing the recordkeeping requirements for poultry to two years.

Unless an exception applies, poultry moved interstate must be identified using sealed and numbered leg bands per NPIP, marked with a group/lot identification (when such numbering is appropriate) or by an alternative method recognized by the states or tribes shipping or receiving the birds.

Poultry moving interstate must be accompanied by an ICVI unless the birds meet certain conditions.

Poultry moved to a custom slaughter facility are exempt from the traceability regulations. Additionally, poultry belonging to growers who are not part of NPIP are exempt from official identification requirements, but the person responsible for the birds received from the hatchery or redistributor must maintain a record of where the birds were obtained.

In 1988, the U.S. pork industry established a swine identification system, which helped eradicate pseudorabies from the commercial herd. It since has enhanced the system by registering more than 99% of the premises of the nation's 67,000 pork producers and asking pork packers to require premises registration as a condition of sale.

Volume:85 Issue:02

Illinois researchers look for urban food gardens

Illinois researchers look for urban food gardens

URBAN agriculture is promoted as a strategy for dealing with food insecurity, stimulating economic development and combating diet-related health problems in cities, but until now, no one has known how much gardening takes place in urban areas.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign developed a methodology that they used to quantify urban agriculture in Chicago, Ill., according to a news release.

John Taylor, a University of Illinois doctoral candidate working with crop sciences researcher Sarah Taylor Lovell, was skeptical about the lists of urban gardens provided to him by local non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

"Various lists were circulating," he said. "One of them had almost 700 gardens on it."

On closer inspection, however, many of these "gardens" turned out to be planter boxes or landscaping and were not producing food. On the other hand, Taylor suspected that there were unnoticed gardens in back yards or vacant lots.

"There has been such a focus on community gardens and urban farms but not a lot of interest in looking at backyard gardens as an area of research," Lovell said.

An accurate map of these sites would be helpful for advocacy groups and community planners, according to the news release.

Taylor uploaded the lists from the NGOs into Google Earth, which automatically geocoded the sites by street address. He used a set of reference images of community gardens, vacant lot gardens, urban farms, school gardens and home food gardens to determine visual indicators of food gardens (Figure). Using these indicators and Google Earth images, he then examined the documented sites.

Of the 1,236 "community gardens," only 160, or 13%, were actually producing food.

Taylor then looked at Google Earth images of Chicago to locate food production sites. He identified 4,493 possible sites, most of which were residential gardens of 50 sq. m or less, and visited a representative sample of gardens on vacant land to confirm that they were really producing food.

All of the large sites and a sample of the small sites were digitized as shape files in Google Earth and imported into a geographic information system (GIS) mapping tool to calculate the total area.

The final estimate was 4,648 urban agricultural sites with a production area of 264,181 sq. m. Residential gardens and single-plot gardens on vacant lots accounted for almost three-fourths of the total, according to the university.

Lovell said, in some communities, more than half of the lots are vacant, and making use of them could be a huge opportunity. Chicago has a program that allows people living next to a vacant lot to purchase it at a fraction of what it would normally cost.

The results of this study suggest that both backyard gardens and vacant lot gardens contribute substantially to Chicago's total food production, according to the university.

"Home gardens actually contribute to food security," Taylor said. "They're underappreciated and unsupported."

He noted that people grow food not only for themselves but for their neighbors as well, which is particularly important in food deserts, where fresh produce is in short supply.

"There is also potential for empowering people because they are using their own space to deal with their own food security concerns," Lovell added.

The study, "Mapping Public & Private Spaces of Urban Agriculture in Chicago through the Analysis of High-Resolution Aerial Images in Google Earth," was published in Landscape & Urban Planning and is available online at www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016920461200237X.

Volume:85 Issue:02

Livestock & poultry cash market comparisons, 1/14/13

Livestock & poultry cash market comparisons, 1/14/13

Livestock and meat ($)

Jan. 9

Jan. 2

6 months ago

Year ago

Steers, Choice, carcass, 550-700 lb., cwt., Omaha

193.55

193.94

187.81

197.00A

Steers, Choice, 1,050-1,200 lb., cwt. Okla/Texas

128.00

N/A

117.00

120.50A

Feeder Steers, 600-700 lb., cwt., Oklahoma City

159.25A

N/A

149.75A

154.12A

Lean Hogs, Carcass, Iowa-Minn. 167-187 lb.*

81.54

78.19

96.58

81.74

Feeder Pigs, 40 lb. National Direct Delivered**1

70.87

70.90

42.78

70.24

SEW Pigs, 10 lb., National direct delivered**

59.82

59.49

24.55

57.58

Choice Beef, cutout, cwt.

193.08

194.91

186.03

186.75

Pork Loin, 185 lb. 51-52% lean, cutout, cwt.

86.41

87.85

99.64

91.61

Hog Corn Ratio

11.5

11.4

12.7

13.8

Steer Corn Ratio

17.5

17.7

15.4

20.0

Poultry and eggs (cents)

 

 

 

 

Chickens, Grade A, Fresh lb. Chicago

103.14a

101.48a

78.21a

74.71a

Hen Turkeys, Grade A, Frozen, lb., Chicago

96.00Aa

96.50Aa

106.00Aa

96.00Aa

Young Tom Turkeys, Grade A. Frozen lb. Chicago

96.00Aa

98.00Aa

106.50Aa

96.00Aa

Eggs, Grade A, Large, doz., Chicago

105.50

109.50

92.50

107.50

N/A: not available

A: average

 

 

 

*Replaces live hogs; live hogs are 0.74 of quote.
**Price quoted is per head.
**1Replaces Sioux Falls, 50-60 lbs.  2/26/07
Livestock, meat, poultry and egg prices from USDA.

 

Volume:85 Issue:02

In 60 seconds: 1/14/13

In 60 seconds: 1/14/13

FAO Food Price Index down 7%: The U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced that its Food Price Index dropped for the third consecutive month in December 2012, edging down 1.1% to 209 points. The decline was led by reductions in the international prices of major cereals, oils and fats. The index set a previous low in 2012 at 200 points in June. For 2012 as a whole, the index averaged 212 -- 7.0% less than in 2011 -- with the sharpest year-over-year declines registered in sugar (-17.1%), dairy products (-14.5%) and oils (-10.7%). Price declines were much more modest for cereals (-2.4%) and meat (-1.1%). "The result marks a reversal from the situation last July, when sharply rising prices prompted fears of a new food crisis, but international coordination, ... as well as flagging demand in a stagnant international economy, helped ensure that the price spike was short-lived and calmed markets so that 2012 prices ended up below the previous year's levels," said FAO assistant director-general Jomo Sundaram.

House Ag Committee members named: House Agriculture Committee chair Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) and ranking member Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) recently announced their appointments to the committee for the 113th Congress. Peterson's announcement included 11 new appointments and freshman members. The new members include: Reps. Ann Kuster (D., N.H.), Cheri Bustos (D., Ill.), Filemon Vela (D., Texas), Gloria Negrete McLeod (D., Cal.), Juan Vargas (D., Cal.), Michelle Lujan Grisham (D., N.M.), Pete Gallego (D., Texas), Rick Nolan (D., Minn.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D., N.Y.), Suzan DelBene (D., Wash.) and William Enyart (D., Ill.). Lucas' announcement included eight new appointments, five of whom are freshmen. These appointments include: Reps. Dan Benishek (R., Mich.), Jeff Denham (R., Cal.) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Ala.), along with incoming freshman Reps. Chris Collins (R., N.Y.), Rodney Davis (R., Ill.), Richard Hudson (R., N.C.), Doug LaMalfa (R., Cal.) and Ted Yoho (R., Fla.). Lucas also recently announced the creation of two new subcommittees: the livestock, rural development and credit subcommittee headed by Rep. Rick Crawford (R., Ark.) and the horticulture, research, biotechnology and foreign agriculture subcommittee to be led by Rep. Austin Scott (R., Ga.).

Indonesia import restrictions: U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk announced that the U.S. is requesting consultations with Indonesia under the dispute settlement provisions of the World Trade Organization concerning trade-restrictive measures applied to imports of horticultural products, animals and animal products. A USTR statement said Indonesia has created a complex web of import licensing requirements that, while perhaps designed to protect the domestic agriculture industry, have the effect of unfairly restricting imports from the U.S. Through its measures establishing and administering these non-automatic import licensing requirements, Indonesia appears to have acted inconsistently with several of its WTO obligations, according to USTR. Indonesia has long maintained a non-automatic import licensing and quota regime for beef and other animal product imports and recently announced drastic reductions in these quotas, further restricting access to the market, USTR reported.

Butterball buys Gusto: Butterball LLC announced the acquisition of Gusto Packing Co., a family-owned business that specializes in apple and hickory wood smoked bacon and a number of pork and turkey products. Butterball, the largest turkey company in the U.S., will add 325 million lb. of capacity to its operations and will be able to develop and manufacture innovative products for its brand, according to chief executive officer Rod Brenneman. Although expanding outside of turkey production, Butterball will remain focused on its core product, which is turkey, he said. Terms of the deal were not released, but the announcement said the Gusto leadership team and workforce are expected to remain in place in Montgomery, Ill.

Callicrate suit: Kansas cattle feeder Mike Callicrate has said he will continue his lawsuit seeking to enjoin the Cattlemen's Beef Board from contracting beef checkoff programs to the National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. (NCBA), even though his attorneys have withdrawn from the case. The attorneys from Polsinelli Shugart in Kansas City, Mo., who were handling the case pro bono, asked to withdraw last month due to conflicts of interest, and the judge has now granted that request. The attorneys said their firm had been meeting with one of the defendants, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on another matter before taking Callicrate's lawsuit. Callicrate said other attorneys have expressed a willingness to take the case without compensation. He filed the suit last year, naming the Beef Board, Beef Operating Committee, USDA, USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as defendants in the matter (Feedstuffs, Aug. 20, 2012). The lawsuit alleges that "hundreds of millions of dollars" have been channeled to NCBA, which has used the money for policy-making and public affairs to influence government action and policy, activities for which checkoff funds are expressly prohibited from being used. However, the examples cited in the suit stem from a dispute between the Beef Board and NCBA that the parties resolved two years ago (Feedstuffs, Aug. 8, 2011).

'Stall-free' pork: Williams Sausage Co. announced last week that it plans to ask its pork suppliers for schedules to transition to pork from "stall-free" production systems by 2017, with the understanding that such a transition is a long-term process that may take up to 10 years. Williams, based in Union City, Tenn., manufactures sausage and sausage-based products.

Automated teat dip: GEA Farm Technologies has introduced the ApolloMilkSystem, which utilizes innovative technology to automatically dispense teat dip from within the milking unit just prior to removal to ensure that post-dipping is performed completely and consistently, the announcement said. After removal, a sanitizing backflush solution neutralizes any remaining bacteria in the milking unit before it is attached to the next cow. The ApolloMilkSystem harvests milk safely through a patent-pending separation technology that includes a safety valve, constructed of tough Radel material, that guarantees that milk and teat dip always remain in separate channels, the company said. The "block-bleed-block" shutoff design provides redundant safety features. The ApolloMilkSytem is integrated into the IQ Milking Unit, a four-chamber milking unit that features a vacuum control system that blocks airflow just prior to unit attachment (or if the unit is kickedoff), which prevents manure, bedding or other contaminants from getting sucked into the milk line.

Spanish manual: The National Milk Producers Federation has released a revised version of its Spanish residue prevention manual "Prevencion de residuos de farmacos en la leche y la carne" for 2013, which is a translation of the revised 2013 "Milk & Dairy Beef Drug Residue Prevention Manual" that was released in the fall. The federation said additions to the 2013 version include a section on avoiding potential residue violations from extra-label drug use in an unapproved class of cattle, cephalosporin extra-label use prohibitions and an updated drug and test kit list.

Volume:85 Issue:02

Oilseed in dairy diet creates omega-3 milk

Oilseed in dairy diet creates omega-3 milk

*Krissa Welshans holds a bachelor's degree in animal science from Michigan State University and a master's degree in public policy from New England College. Welshans has long been involved in agriculture and has worked with numerous agricultural groups, including the Animal Agriculture Alliance.

FISH oil is commonly used to enhance food with omega-3 fatty acids. Some companies already offer omega-3-fortified milk, but ensuring that it still tastes like milk has proved difficult.

Researchers are making progress in eliminating the fishy taste associated with adding fish oil (Feedstuffs, Dec. 10, 2012), but a newer, naturally occurring method of enriching milk with omega-3 fatty acids without compromising milk's flavor has been discovered.

EXL Milling Ltd. of Saskatchewan has created an oilseed feed additive from a unique blend of canola and flaxseed that naturally increases the omega-3 content in milk (Figure).

According to a report from the Flax Council of Canada, ruminants digest their food in stages, which has presented challenges for dairy farmers, the main one being the process of biohydrogenation -- the chemical reactions in which microorganisms in the rumen transform the polyunsaturated fatty acids found in feed into saturated fatty acids.

To enrich milk with polyunsaturated fatty acids like alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the essential omega-3 fatty acid, and its long-chain metabolites, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the dietary supply of these fatty acids must be protected from rumen biohydrogenation.

EXL has created a proprietary process for canola and flaxseed that prevents this biohydrogenation. The company heat and steam processes the oilseed so the natural starch content is gelatinized to form an encapsulation around the lipid, and the hull remains intact but porous for digestion by the animal.

Dr. Robert Ovrebo, a large-animal veterinarian from Minnesota who has worked primarily with dairy animals for 38 years, has been researching ways to improve reproductive health in dairy cows and has found the EXL process to be the most beneficial for both producers and consumers.

He said the natural enrichment of omega-3 fatty acids in milk for human consumption and the reproductive benefits to the cow are a win-win.

According to Ovrebo, the processed oilseed has a large portion of its fat content rumen bypassed unchanged to the intestinal tract for absorption. From here, it enters the bloodstream and can flow to the mammary gland to be incorporated into the butterfat as an omega-3 fatty acid or enter the liver for conversion to EPA, DHA and other metabolites.

As for the reproductive benefits, Ovrebo said cows have better reproductive efficiency, reduced incidence of transition cow metabolic events, better support for their immune system, an earlier return to positive energy balance, increased milk production and improved body condition scores. Additionally, calves are in better health at birth and beyond.

Ovrebo explained that the processed oilseed helps reduce the omega-6:omega-3 ratio, which is important for all species. This, he said, results in a balance for proper biological functioning.

"In both animal and human diet nutrition, the omega-6 is much too high and promotes a deregulated inflammatory process," Ovrebo explained. "For food animal diets, the oilseed of flax or a blend of flax/canola gives the best source of omega fatty acids."

The Flax Council of Canada reported that a high dietary omega-6:omega-3 ratio has been linked to low-grade chronic inflammation that contributes to conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, cancer, coronary heart disease, metabolic syndrome, obesity, type-2 diabetes, osteoporosis and even dry eye syndrome. Reducing the omega-6:omega-3 ratio helps decrease inflammatory reactions and lowers the risk of chronic disease.

Improving the ratio, the council said, can be achieved by eating fewer omega-6 fats, eating more omega-3 fats or doing both. The recommended dietary omega-6:omega-3 ratio should be between 4:1 and 10:1, and buying milk and meat products with a low omega-6:omega-3 ratio helps improve the dietary mix of fatty acids in humans.

As far as comparing oilseeds to fish oil to provide omega-3 fatty acids, Ovrebo said the oilseed feed additive provides a more natural method that is also proving to be healthier than fish oil. He explained that fish oil is primarily two fatty acids referred to as EPA and DHA. These are not essential fatty acids since animals can make these from ALA, which is high in the oilseed of flax.

"The conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA is now thought to be more biologically active and beneficial than a fish oil source," Ovrebo noted. "Plus, the cold-water fish, which are the best source, are being depleted, and other (lower)-quality fish are being used for oil products."

The EXL product eliminates the step of manually fortifying milk with omega-3 fatty acids but also has more benefits for both consumers and producers. The product showcases the resourcefulness of agriculture and its commitment to using natural methods to improve both animal health and food products.

 

TB in Michigan herd

A dairy herd in Alpena County, Mich., has tested positive for bovine tuberculosis (TB), the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development reported.

Routine bovine TB surveillance testing confirmed the medium-size dairy herd as "bovine TB positive."

Bovine TB is an infectious bacterial disease that affects cattle and white-tailed deer in the northeastern Lower Peninsula of Michigan.

Since the bovine TB eradication effort began, all of Michigan's 14,000 cattle farms have undergone TB testing. Since 1998, the state agriculture department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have detected 55 TB-positive cattle herds and four privately owned cervid operations in the northern section of Michigan's Lower Peninsula.

 

Golden Guernsey files

OpenGate Capital LLC, a private investment and acquisition firm, recently announced that one of its portfolio companies, Waukesha, Wis.-based milk processor Golden Guernsey LLC, has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Delaware bankruptcy court.

The company, established in Milwaukee, Wis., in 1930, abruptly closed in early January, leaving more than 100 people unemployed.

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development is investigating complaints that the company did not follow the state's plant closure law, which requires a 60-day notice to be filed with the state and the affected municipality.

Golden Guernsey was previously owned by Dean Foods, but in September 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice required Dean to sell the business in order to resolve antitrust concerns that the company's share of the school milk supply business was too large.

When OpenGate acquired Golden Guernsey, the acquisition terms included an exclusive and fixed-price milk supply agreement and the assumption of a legacy union contract.

During the investment period, OpenGate said it successfully implemented new sales and operations strategies that created a seamless transition of Golden Guernsey from the former owner's organization and yielded a 20% increase in sales.

However, OpenGate said Golden Guernsey was suffering under the pressure of trying to provide lower-cost products and, therefore, was unable to successfully reduce its expenses in a way to achieve a state of financial viability given some of its legacy relationships.

Since being acquired by OpenGate, Golden Guernsey made efforts to reduce its expenses through discussions with its various suppliers, vendors and the labor union.

"The prospect of closing the plant and the potential for bankruptcy were raised on several occasions with these groups, all of which were provided with a clear picture of Golden Guernsey's fragile financial condition. Despite this, Golden Guernsey's efforts were rejected, leading to the closure of the business," OpenGate said in a press release.

Andrew Nikou, chief executive officer of OpenGate, said, "We have to make realistic decisions about our investments, and the reality is that the Golden Guernsey business was unable to achieve financial autonomy given the pressure to lower prices and seemingly non-negotiable operating expenses."

He added that it was a very difficult decision given the loss of jobs and disruption to milk delivery service but said the move had to be made.

"The closure of the plant is not a reflection of the hard work contributed by the Golden Guernsey family of employees. Unfortunately, when expenses overwhelm revenue for too long and we are unable to achieve cooperation from the people with whom we do business, the business cannot be sustained," Nikou concluded.

Volume:85 Issue:02