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Articles from 2016 In August

Look inside a wind tunnel


Look inside a wind tunnel 

The starting point of designing a livestock or poultry ventilation system is to select fans with known air deliveries expressed as cubic ft. per minute (CFM), at normal static pressures developed in livestock buildings.  This data allows us to create systems that regulate air speed for tunnel ventilation systems, determine the proper amount of evaporative cooling pads, establish the number of inlets, and calculate the minimum amount of air needed for moisture removal in the winter.

Look inside a wind tunnel

We rely on fan manufacturers to develop performance data based on standardized testing to optimize environments for our livestock and poultry.  Fan companies produce this information by using a device known as Airflow Performance Test Chamber, or as it is more commonly known, a Wind Tunnel.

Look inside a wind tunnel

A Wind Tunnel consists of four separate chambers pressurized by a larger blower fan. 

Look inside a wind tunnel

As air enters the first chamber, it meets a set of mesh straighteners that remove its turbulence.  In the second chamber, it is forced through a nozzle wall consisting of metal cones that can be opened and closed to change the amount of square inches available according to the size of the test fan.

The air passes through the second wall of mesh straighteners before reaching the fourth chamber where the test fan is mounted. 

Look inside a wind tunnel

Two devices, called Differential Pressure Transmitters, measure and record the static pressure differential on each side of the nozzle wall.   The transmitters are calibrated monthly to maintain precise accuracy and are also returned to the manufacturer for a factory re-calibration once per year.

Look inside a wind tunnel

The testing begins by activating the test fan and adjusting the blower fan to achieve .0 inches of static pressure.  The blower fan speed is then reduced to typical negative pressures such as .05, .10, .15 and the fan delivery is recorded.  Engineers can test different combinations of motors, blades, pulleys and housing designs to achieve the most efficient design for a particular fan.

Although most fan manufacturers maintain a wind tunnel for in-house testing, the final authority for agricultural fans is BESS Laboratory at the University of Illinois.  BESS Labs publishes a test booklet of fan performance data that includes air-moving capacity (cfm), efficiency ratings (cfm/watt) and air flow ratio that measures the ability of the fan to operate at high static pressure.  More information can be found on online at http://bess.illinois.edu/ 

Ag equipment exports continue to decline

Exports of U.S.-made agricultural equipment at midyear 2016 dropped 12% overall compared to the first half of 2015, for a total of $3.54 billion shipped to global markets.

Europe and Central America continued to show growth, with double-digit declines in other world regions led by Asia and South America, according to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), citing U.S. Department of Commerce data it uses in global market reports for members.

“Midyear 2016, U.S. agricultural equipment exports to the world continue to decline, though lower than in previous quarters. Looking at the (second-quarter) results of our 'North American Agricultural Equipment Industry Conditions Trends Survey,' which tracks the perceptions of member manufacturers, of those that exported goods, 33% of respondents indicated falling exports, and 40% indicated stability,” said Benjamin Duyck, director of market intelligence at AEM.

“It is important to note that while ag equipment exports might suffer double due to the overall ag downturn, a deterioration in export levels is a nationwide problem. With the global economic malaise, the slowdown in emerging markets and the negative interest rates in several economies’ bond markets, investment is flowing to the U.S. and U.S. stocks, driving up demand for the U.S. dollar, inadvertently affecting our competitiveness abroad,” Duyck added.

Exports by world region

January-to-June 2016 U.S. agricultural equipment exports by major world regions compared to the year-ago level were:

  • Canada, $1.05 billion, down 17%.
  • Europe, $933 million, up 12%.
  • Central America, $620 million, up 12%.
  • Asia, $314 million, down 38%.
  • Australia/Oceania, $261 million, down 26%.
  • South America, $249 million, down 32%.
  • Africa, $109 million, down 17%.

Exports by top 10 countries

The top countries buying the most U.S.-made agricultural machinery during the first half of 2016 (by dollar volume) were:

  • Canada, $1.05 billion, down 17%.
  • Mexico, $557 million, up 14%.
  • Australia, $234 million, down 26%.
  • Germany, $145 million, up 10%.
  • China, $128 million, down 55%.
  • France, $105 million, down 1%.
  • Ukraine, $85 million, up 212%.
  • Brazil, $79 million, down 37%.
  • U.K., $69 million, down 28%.
  • Belgium, $67 million, down 29%.

AEM is the North American-based international business group representing the off-road equipment manufacturing industry.

Researchers to pursue novel Zika solution

A team of researchers from the University of Notre Dame’s Eck Institute for Global Health (EIGH) has received a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to pursue a novel solution to the Zika outbreak.

The team — led by Molly Duman Scheel, an associate professor of medical and molecular genetics at the Indiana University School of Medicine-South Bend (IUSM-SB), associate adjunct professor of biological sciences at Notre Dame and member of EIGH — is developing an insecticide to destroy Aedes aegypti larvae before the mosquitoes are able to hatch and transmit Zika.

Scheel’s lab has been developing a novel class of larvicides known as "yeast interfering larvicides" that kill nearly 100% of larvae in a laboratory setting.

According to Scheel, the larvicides are designed to specifically target mosquito genes that do not correspond to genes in humans or other non-target species. The USAID grant will enable the researchers to conduct a field evaluation of the approach at a Notre Dame-affiliated center in Belize.

The members of Scheel’s research team, including Keshava Mysore, Limb Haparai and Kathy Eggleson, will work with their EIGH colleagues, including Scheel’s longtime collaborator David Severson of Notre Dame’s department of biological sciences, and Na Wei, a yeast genetics expert from Notre Dame’s College of Engineering who is helping develop the technology.

Biologists John Grieco and Nicole Achee, EIGH researchers who manage the Belize Vector & Ecology Center, have a 20-year relationship working on mosquito-borne diseases in collaboration with the Ministry of Health in Belize. They will work with Scheel and the ministry to test the larvicides in the field.

Scheel’s research on the development of interfering RNA technology to target vector mosquitoes has been funded previously by the National Institutes of Health and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Scheel indicated that her collaboration with Wei enabled them to develop a safe and affordable natural yeast delivery system for their interfering RNA pesticides. Yeasts have been cultivated worldwide for thousands of years, and this technology can be adapted to resource-limited countries with constrained infrastructure, the announcement said.

Notre Dame has a long history of mosquito research, studying both Aedes aegypti and Anopheles gambiae species and vector control and using mathematical models to better understand the dynamics of infectious disease transmission and control.

EIGH, a Notre Dame-wide enterprise, recognizes health as a fundamental human right and endeavors to promote research, training and service to advance health standards for all people, especially those in low- and middle-income countries who are disproportionately affected by preventable diseases.

Soil Health Partnership receives $4m boost

A revolutionary effort to support on-farm conservation has added a new partner representing major agricultural companies, food companies and environmental groups. The new collaboration will accelerate the Soil Health Partnership’s leadership in helping farmers adopt practices that protect natural resources while potentially increasing profits.

At the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa, the industry-leading companies and environmental organizations announced the launch of the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative. Its goal is to support, enhance and accelerate the use of environmentally preferable agricultural practices.

The Midwest Row Crop Collaborative’s founding members include Cargill, the Environmental Defense Fund, General Mills, Kellogg Co., Monsanto, PepsiCo, The Nature Conservancy, Walmart and World Wildlife Fund. The overall shared goal is to help achieve a 45% nutrient loss reduction by 2035 across the Upper Mississippi River Basin — chiefly for nitrogen and phosphorus.

As part of this effort, the collaborative has committed to raising $4 million over five years to augment the Soil Health Partnership, a farmer-led initiative of the National Corn Growers Assn. (NCGA) established in 2014.

With more than 65 farm sites already enrolled in nine Midwest states, the new funding commitment recognizes the Soil Health Partnership as the leader in field-scale testing and measuring of management practices that improve soil health. These practices include:

  • Growing cover crops to prevent erosion and nutrient losses;
  • Implementing conservation tillage like no-till or strip-till, and
  • Using advanced, science-based nutrient management techniques to reduce nutrient loss.

“Through healthy soil, farmers can play a major role protecting water quality and the environment while also optimizing their crop yields and economic returns,” said Nick Goeser, director of the Soil Health Partnership. “We’re honored to welcome the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative to our program. Their support will amplify our research and communications efforts in helping farmers find practices that work best for them.”

The new alliance will help Soil Health Partnership achieve the goal of enrolling 100 farms a full two years earlier than planned and also underscores its key milestones and early vision — a vision advanced by initial and continuing funding from Monsanto, Walton Family Foundation, NCGA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These early supporters helped form the Soil Health Partnership’s operating and data collection structure while recognizing common goals.

“As a farmer, I am committed to soil health because I know we have to constantly improve how we care for our land and how we farm it,” said Roger Zylstra, a Lynnville, Iowa, farmer enrolled in the Soil Health Partnership. “This funding commitment is significant to me because now we have more support from the large food and ag companies as well as environmental groups pushing for change. They’re showing us we don’t have to do it alone.”

The Soil Health Partnership brings together diverse partner organizations, including commodity groups, federal agencies, universities and environmental groups, to work toward the common goal of improving soil health. Over a period of at least 10 years, the partnership will identify, test and measure farm management practices that improve soil health and benefit farmers. The results of this farmer-led project aim to provide a platform for sharing peer-to-peer information and lend resources to benefit agricultural sustainability and profitability. As an initiative of NCGA, the Soil Health Partnership provides the spark for greater understanding and implementation of agricultural best practices to protect resources for future generations. For more information, visit soilhealthpartnership.org.

The Midwest Row Crop Collaborative is a diverse partnership working to scale agricultural solutions that protect air and water quality and enhance soil health while remaining committed to producing enough food to feed the growing global population. These leading companies and conservation groups are all committed to building a broad partnership in three pilot states: Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. This group will measure and deliver improved environmental outcomes through cross-sector collaboration and continuous improvement throughout the Upper Mississippi River Basin.

USPOULTRY issues guide on incident response planning

During the outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in 2015, many poultry companies recognized the need to better prepare and implement response plans to such incidents as well as improve collaboration with federal response agencies.

All government agencies are mandated to use a standardized, all-hazards approach and organizational structure when responding to natural disasters, disease outbreaks or other crises. This approach is called the "Incident Command System" (ICS). Although the private sector is not required to use the ICS structure, companies that are at least familiar with the system are in a better position to anticipate the response and coordinate with responding agencies.

The U.S. Poultry & Egg Assn. (USPOULTRY) is releasing a CD-based guide explaining the purpose of incident response planning, providing a general outline of ICS and including a comprehensive template to build an incident management team, helping plan and track actions during an emergency situation. The materials were developed by the Georgia Tech Research Institute with input and review by USPOULTRY and the United Egg Producers.

The CD is available free of charge to USPOULTRY member companies and may be purchased for $200 by non-members. Copies of the CD may be ordered online by clicking here.

USPOULTRY is the all-feather organization representing the complete spectrum of today’s poultry industry. Its mission is to progressively serve member companies through research, education, communication and technical assistance. USPOULTRY was founded in 1947 and is based in Tucker, Ga.

Crop markets try to stabilize as August winds down: Podcast

Corn and wheat were holding nearly unchanged and soybeans were a little lower near midday on the final day of August. Weather remains favorable for the corn and soybean crops.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced three export sales on Wednesday that included soybeans to China, corn to Mexico and hard red winter wheat to unknown destinations.

Bob Burgdorfer of Farm Futures reporting. Farm Futures is a sister publication of Feedstuffs.


USDA to measure small grain production

During the first two weeks of September, farmers around the country will receive the Sept. 1 "Agricultural Survey" from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). NASS is taking a comprehensive look into the 2016 production and supply of small grains — which include wheat, oats, barley and rye — as well as collecting information about grains and oilseeds stored on farms.

“The information provided by this survey will be critical to farmers, analysts and others to assess supply and demand, develop marketing strategies, promote exports and educate consumers,” NASS Minnesota state statistician Dan Lofthus said. “The data collected from this survey will also help set small grain acreage and production estimates at the county level that will be used by the Farm Service Agency to determine 2016 farm program payments for producers enrolled in the Agricultural Risk Coverage-County (ARC-CO) program.”

As an alternative to mailing back the survey, and to help save both time and money, farmers selected to participate will have the option to respond to the survey securely online. Farmers who have not responded will be contacted by a NASS representative who will collect the data.

Survey results will be published in the annual "Small Grains Summary" and the quarterly "Grain Stocks" report, both of which will be released on Sept. 30.

Expanded access could boost U.S. beef exports to Indonesia: Podcast

With its large population and expanding economy, Indonesia has long been a market that held significant promise for U.S. beef exports. While the U.S. industry has achieved some success in Indonesia, however, restrictive import policies have made it difficult for U.S. exports to reach their full potential.

With domestic beef in short supply and prices rising, Indonesian officials recently announced an easing of beef import restrictions, which comes as welcome news for U.S. exporters.

Joel Haggard, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) senior vice president for the Asia Pacific, recently discussed the revised regulations, which will allow for imports of all beef muscle cuts and a range of beef variety meat items, including livers, hearts, lungs, tails, tongues and feet. Beef hearts are especially popular in this market because of their use in Indonesian meatballs, or bakso, he said.

Haggard is also hopeful that more U.S. processing plants will soon become eligible to serve Indonesia, which could further enhance U.S. beef’s presence in the market.

Even with multiple restrictions still in place, U.S. beef exports to Indonesia in the first half of 2016 were up more than 400% year over year, reaching 3,271 metric tons, and they more than doubled in value to just under $15 million.

Deere, Climate Corp. to contest DOJ effort to block acquisition

Deere & Co. and The Climate Corp. said they plan to contest legal action announced today by the U.S. Department of Justice that seeks to block Deere's acquisition of Precision Planting.

Deere and Climate Corp., a subsidiary of Monsanto Co., announced last November that they had signed a definitive agreement for Deere to acquire the Precision Planting LLC equipment business, and the companies cooperated fully with the DOJ antitrust review.

DOJ's antitrust lawsuit alleges that the transaction would combine the only two significant U.S. providers of high-speed precision planting systems and deny farmers throughout the country the benefit of competition that has spurred innovation, improved quality and lowered prices. The department filed its lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

“High-speed precision planting technology holds out the promise of improved yields for American farmers by enabling them to plant crops more accurately at higher speeds,” Renata Hesse, acting assistant attorney general of the DOJ Antitrust Division, said. “Precision Planting has been a key innovator in high-speed precision planting and Deere’s only significant competitor in developing and selling these technologies. If this deal were allowed to proceed, Deere would dominate the market for high-speed precision planting systems and be able to raise prices and slow innovation at the expense of American farmers who rely on these systems.”

Deere called the allegations “misguided” and said the companies intend to vigorously defend the transaction. “The proposed acquisition benefits farmers by accelerating the development and delivery of new precision equipment solutions that help farmers increase yield and productivity,” the company noted.

According to Deere, competition in precision agriculture is strong and growing in all of these channels as companies around the world continue developing new technologies.

“The acquisition will enable broader access to these advancements by ensuring farmers have the choice to either buy new machinery or retrofit older planting equipment with the latest new innovations," Deere said. "When the transaction is finalized, Deere will preserve Precision Planting's independence in order to ensure innovation and speed to market and will invest in additional innovation efforts at Precision Planting to benefit customers.”

Restaurant Performance Index ticks up slightly

Restaurant Performance Index ticks up slightly

Although same-store sales and customer traffic levels remain somewhat uneven, the National Restaurant Assn.’s Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) registered a modest increase in July. The RPI stood at 100.6 in July, up 0.3% from June.

“The primary driver of the modest RPI gain in July was positive capital expenditure levels,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the National Restaurant Assn.

“While there is some volatility among index components, especially when looking at the current situation, operators’ plans for capital expenditures six months out remain solid. This fits in with how operators’ outlook for the future remains overall positive despite general economic choppiness,” Riehle said.

The RPI, which tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry, consists of two components: the Current Situation Index (measuring current trends), and the Expectations Index (measuring restaurant operators' six-month outlook).

The Current Situation Index stood at 100.4 in July – up 0.5% from a level of 99.9 in June. July marked the fifth time in the last six months that the index stood above 100.

For the third consecutive month, restaurant operators’ reporting of same-store sales was a mixed bag, with 44% reporting a same-store sales increase between July 2015 and July 2016, while 45% reported a sales decline.

Restaurant operators also reported a net decline in customer traffic levels for the third consecutive month. Thirty-three percent of operators reported an increase in customer traffic between July 2015 and July 2016, while 46% reported a traffic decline.

Although sales and traffic results softened in recent months, restaurant operators continued to report positive capital spending activity. Sixty-four percent said they made a capital expenditure for equipment expansion or remodeling during the last three months, which marked the 22nd consecutive month in which a majority of operators reported making an expenditure.

The Expectations Index stood at 100.8 in June – up 0.1% from its June level. While operators’ outlook for sales growth dampened somewhat in recent months and they remain uncertain about the direction of the overall economy, the index remained above 100 – in expansion territory.