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Articles from 2010 In September

Bloodsucking flies can reduce cattle gains

Bloodsucking flies can reduce cattle gains

When it comes to pesky livestock flies, the biggest rascal is the stable fly.

So Bill Clymer, Spalding Laboratories senior technical consultant for the California fly control business, is working hard to design an effective control program targeting these menaces.

It’s larvae can develop in decaying organic matter — old bedding, rotting hay, seaweed, etc. — when temperature and moisture conditions are right.

“In extremely hot weather with low humidity and no rain, flies are less a problem because it’s too hot and dry for reproduction. If sun is beating down on compost or manure, it can be too hot for larvae and pupae to develop,” he says.

Key Points

• Stable flies are the predominant cattle pest in all regions.

• Cattle bothered by flies don’t eat well; livestock performance can be reduced.

• Stable and horn flies easier to control than horse, deer or black flies.

Stable flies don’t breed in straight cow manure. They prefer decaying plant matter such as wet hay. “Texas A&M did a study and found that, if you don’t clean up, where you feed big bales is an ideal breeding ground. Researchers estimated that the area around one big round feeder produces more than a million stable flies,” says Clymer.

“On my own cattle operation, we unroll round bales in the pasture, but in corrals we put bales in feeders. One of the first things we do in spring is move the feeders and spread the wasted hay around with a front-end loader so it will dry out. Otherwise, this material stays wet almost all summer and provides breeding sites for stable flies.”

If you can keep flies from proliferating in spring, you may not have to do much for control during the hottest part of summer.

“But if you get a big rain, about 10 days afterward, you can expect a tremendous increase in emergence of stable flies,” he says.

Control measures

Clymer’s favorite comment is that there are three ways to control flies: sanitation, sanitation and sanitation.

“I also advise using parasitic wasps. They’re an environmentally friendly way to control flies, but they’re only one tool. Not any one thing will do it; we need an integrated program to control the flies migrating in,” explains Clymer.

Horse flies and deer flies are hard to control because they develop in wet areas that may be miles from your cattle. Horn flies are easier to control because they breed in cow manure, and adults spend most of their time on cattle. Black flies attack in swarms but are almost impossible to control because they breed in water. These small flies attack any animal and transmit a number of diseases.

Fly control tactics have changed in the past decades. “At first it was just a matter of when to start spraying and how long. Then because of pesticide resistance issues and concern for the environment, we’ve changed strategies,” says Clymer.

Most feedlots try to get rid of breeding sites, such as wet spots from leaking water troughs, and clean pens when there aren’t enough animals to trample the manure.

Get a pooper-scooper

“Pick up manure at least once a week. Under optimum conditions, flies will breed and hatch in seven to 10 days,” he says. Many feedyards also use parasitic wasps to help control fly development.

Other control measures include feed-trough larvicide products and feed-trough hormones that keep larvae from maturing.

“I advise ranchers to maximize sanitation, and consider using parasitic wasps. If you need to spray, just spot spray specific areas, since about 95% of fly breeding takes place in 5% of the area — where conditions are most ideal. But remember that using larvicide spray [applied to manure to kill immature flies] is a fast way to develop resistance issues. You also kill most of the beneficial insects,” he says.

Smith Thomas writes from Salmon, Idaho.

This article published in the April, 2010 edition of WESTERN FARMER-STOCKMAN.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.

Still going strong

Still going strong

The annual corn yield trials conducted by Iowa State University and the Iowa Crop Improvement Association reached a milestone in 2009: They’re 90 years old. Since 1920, the tests have offered unbiased information to farmers on the adaptation and performance of corn hybrids.

The 2009 test results are available to help farmers select the best hybrids for their needs. Like the rest of Iowa’s crop in 2009, harvesting the plots, which are grown on farms around the state, was delayed due to the cool growing season and unusually wet fall.

When Wallaces Farmer caught up with Bill Vinson and Bill Fjelland, they were harvesting plots on the Craig Hill farm near Milo in Warren County. It was Nov. 11, Veterans Day, and this was the latest Vinson had experienced; he’s been doing this since 1986.

Vinson and Fjelland are ISU employees, as is Chad Arnold who helps harvest the trials. Both the corn and soybean trials are held in six districts in the state, with three locations per district. There are 18 locations for corn and 18 for the soybean trials in Iowa. After Vinson and Fjelland finished at Hill’s farm in south-central Iowa, they loaded the two plot combines on trailers pulled by pickup trucks and headed back to Ames. The next trials to harvest were in northeast Iowa.

Key Points

• Iowa Corn Performance trials marked 90th year in 2009.

• ISU, Iowa Crop Improvement Association provide tests.

• Data helps growers select corn hybrids and soybean varieties.

Harvesting information

“These combines have an electronic scale on them to weigh the grain, and there’s a moisture meter,” said Vinson. The data is captured on a memory stick that goes back to Ames where it’s downloaded on a computer, the data analyzed, and results reported.

Vinson and Fjelland make maps of each field, writing notes to indicate reasons for variability in yield, including agronomic issues such as green snap damage and lodging.

Farmer Craig Hill and son Adam have had these corn plots on their farm for six years. Craig was contacted when ISU was looking for a farm for the trials. He is paid rent for the 5 acres. “It’s not a lot, but we get the crop,” said Hill. “ISU plants it. We spray it, provide the land and fertilizer. The seed companies provide the seed they want to enter. We farm it as we normally would, except ISU puts the seed in the ground and harvests it.”

These are mostly new, commercially available hybrids the companies want to get more data on. “I look at the results from these plots and also how the hybrids performed in other districts,” said Hill. “I zoom in on our soil type and the results in our area or as close to our location as possible.”

Objective, unbiased trials

Hill doesn’t make his final decision on hybrids to plant based solely on the plot performance. “We look at seed company data, too, and talk to dealers and company reps to get an idea if there’s a hybrid that really stands out,” he said. “We try to find out a little more about the hybrid.”

Hill likes the objective, unbiased way ISU conducts the tests. The plots are set up and managed carefully, and the data is statistically analyzed. “Even if I had my own on-farm trials or ran strip trials, it’s not a lot of value unless you replicate the trials,” he said. “ISU replicates their plots. Each entry is replicated four times.”

This article published in the January, 2010 edition of WALLACES FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.

‘D’ — the sunshine vitamin

‘D’ — the sunshine vitamin

Three of my recent journals contained articles on vitamin D, which we probably are all familiar with as the “sunshine vitamin.”

The articles suggested many of us might have insufficient amounts of active vitamin D. I looked further into the research behind those articles.

Here’s what I found.

Vitamin D is necessary for proper utilization of calcium in the body and is, therefore, essential for healthy bones.

It also is thought to be a factor in the function of the immune system, muscle strength and possibly some autoimmune diseases.

Humans acquire vitamin D either through sun exposure, food containing vitamin D, or use of supplements.

Vitamin D from food must be converted by chemical processes in the body to become its active form, vitamin D3, which is created by skin tissue upon exposure to sunlight. Supplements are either vitamin D2 or D3.

Vitamin D also is deposited in fat, which is not readily available for use.

Nutritionists are developing new recommendations in May for daily vitamin D requirements. That’s just after this column was written, but the new recommendations were expected to be for greater amounts than earlier, based on newer research.

A deficiency of vitamin D causes rickets and other poor bone development in children, muscle weakness and pain in adults, and osteomalacia (soft bones prone to fracture).

Insufficiency (less than desirable amounts, but not at the level of deficiency) may be a factor in a number of health problems under study, such as increased risk of some types of cancer and autoimmune diseases, elevated blood pressure, and diabetes.

Key Points

• Vitamin D is vital for the growth and health of children and adults.

• Daily vitamin D requirements increase with age after age 50.

• Sun exposure, foods and supplements are sources of vitamin D.

Farmers and ranchers

You might think that as a farmer or rancher you receive enough sun exposure to take care of your vitamin D needs, particularly if you live where the sun shines a lot.

Well, it all depends.

Some of us have a greater likelihood than others to have insufficient, or deficient, amounts of vitamin D. For example, the skin of older people does not “manufacture” as much vitamin D from sun exposure as those who are younger.

Those who are housebound or who seldom remain in the sun when they leave home may not get sufficient exposure. Darker skinned people synthesize less vitamin D than those with light colored skin. People who are obese have less of their vitamin D available for use than those of normal weight.

Those who take medications that limit fat absorption (cholestyramine, for example), or take medications that interact and decrease vitamin D levels (phenytoin, carbamazepine, Phenobarbital, for example) may lack the vitamin. People who have gastric bypass surgery do not absorb the fat in which vitamin D is available in foods.

Current recommendations for daily vitamin D for people who do not have conditions affecting vitamin D metabolism are 200 international units, or IU, for infants and children to 18 years; 200 IU for adults 19 to 50; 400 IU if 51 to 70; and 600 IU if 71 and older.

Who should take it?

Should everyone take a vitamin D supplement daily?

No, not everyone, and not anyone who doesn’t seek the advice of their health care provider. Why?

Two reasons: The first is that it is possible to reach toxic levels from taking too large a continuing dose of supplemental vitamin D; the second is many people can assure sufficient vitamin D by eating vitamin D-containing foods and by selective exposure to sunlight.

You’ve been advised, and rightly so, that too much sun exposure can increase the risk of skin cancer. It won’t require too much sun to get enough vitamin D. Five to 30 minutes of exposure between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. twice weekly to skin not covered with sunscreen will provide an adequate weekly “dose” of sunshine for normal people.

The UVB rays are necessary to convert the chemical in the skin to vitamin D, so exposure through glass doesn’t count because UVB rays don’t penetrate glass.

But if you have any of the factors mentioned above, or are at an age requiring the higher intakes daily, it’s important to include foods containing vitamin D in your daily diet.

Good sources of vitamin D

Common foods that would do the trick for supplying vitamin D are:

• vitamin D fortified milk, 8 ounces, 98 IU

• salmon, canned, 3 ounces, 530 IU

• vitamin D fortified soy milk, 8 ounces, 100 IU

• canned sardines, 3 ounces, 231 IU

• vitamin D fortified orange juice, 8 ounces, 100 IU

• vitamin D fortified breakfast cereal, 1 cup, 40 to 50 IU

Because of symptoms of risk factors mentioned or you have skin cancer, if you wonder if you need supplementation, ask your health care provider.

The level can be measured with a blood test, and if you need a supplement, you can choose one with your provider’s guidance.

For more information on vitamin D, go online to ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD_pf.asp.

Jones is professor emeritus in the School of Nursing, Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, at Lubbock.

This article published in the June, 2010 edition of THE FARMER-STOCKMAN.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.

Cattle prices rally to tight supplies, consumer demand

Cattle prices rally to tight supplies, consumer demand

As fed cattle prices hit $1 a pound during April, it signaled strength in all facets of the cattle market, as well as improving consumer demand, says a Texas AgriLife Extension Service livestock and food products economist.

“In mid-February, prices were in the low-to-mid 80s, but now our supply situation has sent us back up to $1, and it appears it may be sustained for a little while,” says David Anderson, AgriLife Extension economist, College Station.

He notes a lot of movement on the demand side.

“Part of what we’re seeing is a seasonal increase in prices, but stronger,” Anderson says. “It’s lasting longer than normal.”

Fed cattle prices at $1 per pound, or $100 per cwt., historically “has been a relatively rare event,” he adds.

Anderson says there’s indication that consumer demand is picking up due to the activity in the wholesale market.

“We’re seeing consumers increasing purchases of middle cuts of beef, so we’re seeing a trading up of purchasing,” he says. “I think that’s an indication that consumers may be starting to feel somewhat more comfortable when it comes to grocery purchases, and so far, that seems to be sustaining from what we’re seeing with the wholesale market activity.”

Key Points

• Fed cattle prices reached $1 per pound this spring in April.

• Consumers are increasing purchases of middle cuts of beef.

• Later in 2010, the corn crop will be important to beef market.

Supply side

On the supply side, cattle producers have been reducing cow herds as a result of sharp input increases and the earlier Texas drought, Anderson says.

“Texas especially cut cow numbers due to the drought,” Anderson notes. “What we can expect is to see some producers think about restocking herds, as there is more talk about a rally in the calf market.”

Texas cattle auctions have been on a recent upswing. Anderson says 500-pound to 600-pound steer prices have been as high as $1.20 per pound.

“Higher calf prices encourage people to reinvest in their operations,” he says. “However, we continue to cull cows at a fast clip. Why?

“There’s been so much demand on the consumer side for ground beef purchases that the cull cow market has been very attractive.”

The biggest risk in the current market is the future of calf prices, and prices paid for corn, Anderson notes. If ample rains hit the corn-growing regions of the U.S., corn supplies will be able to fulfill both livestock and ethanol demands.

“We need good timely rains to produce a good crop,” Anderson says. “For several years now, we’ve had good growing conditions. Another thing is we need the economy to continue to recover to keep beef demand going up.”

Fannin is with Texas A&M Communications, College Station.


STRONG MARKET: Cattle prices reflected strength in all facets of the market this spring, rallying to consumer demand and tight cow-herd supplies. Texas cattle auctions have had a strong trade.

This article published in the June, 2010 edition of THE FARMER-STOCKMAN.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.