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Thinking Outside the Nestbox ─ Getting Started with Alternative Poultry

ducks

by Kelly Klober

A few times in my life I have found myself on a very old homestead. When visiting them I am nearly always impressed at how they are laid out in such a thoughtful and efficient manner. On nearly every one a section of the farmyard was given over to poultry care, a poultry yard. Not a chicken yard, but a segment of the all-important farmyard given over to brooding, rearing and maintaining all manner of poultry that were kept for meat and eggs.

Yes, large fowl chickens were generally the primary birds kept, but turkeys, ducks, geese, guineas and more were also often kept — first for the needs of the family and then for sale into local markets where regional favorites developed. One such item is fried young guinea that is a late-summer and fall favorite here in eastern Missouri. A short time back our local farmers’ market did a survey of poultry producers as part of a SARE grant-funded project. The group surveyed included attendees at one of the Acres U.S.A. conferences.
One of the more telling things that the survey revealed is that while most kept large fowl chickens, over half kept one or two more varieties of poultry. A good many actually kept as many as four different poultry species. Continue Reading →

Practical Pork ─ Heritage Breed Selection Considerations

Duroc Piglets

Duroc Piglets

by Kelly Klober

I’ve been around the hog business for 50-plus years, saw the Ohio Improved Chester breed go extinct and the Mulefoot come close and the demand for heritage pork arise. I was on the auction seats when boars sold for five figures and had butcher hogs to sell when the price per pound was first a zero and then a single digit to the right of the decimal point.

It seems that pork producers most often fall onto hard times when they move too far from the traditional roles for hogs and the keeping of them in modest numbers. Hogs were once but one part of a number of livestock ventures kept on a farm, kept in quite modest numbers often following rather seasonal patterns of production, and the resulting pig crops were marketed in any number of ways as the markets might dictate. Continue Reading →

Pigs on Probiotics

Probiotics may help fight antimicrobial resistance.

Piglets fed probiotic Enterococcus faecium showed reduced numbers of potentially pathogenic Escherichia coli strains in their intestines, according to a team of German researchers. The research is important, because in 2006 the European Union prohibited the feeding of antibiotics to livestock as growth promoters. Therefore, the research team sought to investigate whether probiotics could substitute for antibiotics, by reducing pathogen populations in the intestines, says Carmen Bednorz of Freie Universitat Berlin, Germany. The study was published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. Antimicrobials are thought to promote growth in industrially grown livestock because without them, the rationale goes, in such close quarters, a surfeit of pathogens would slow growth. “Our data suggest that the feeding of probiotics could substitute for antimicrobials as growth promoters,” says Bednorz. “This could help to reduce the burden of antimicrobial resistance.

This article appears in the January 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Blood Calcium in Dairy Cows

 

Photo by USDA NRCS

Photo by USDA NRCS

The health of dairy cows after giving birth is a major factor in the quantity and quality of the milk the cows produce. Researchers at the University of Missouri have found that subclinical hypocalcemia, which is the condition of having low levels of calcium in the blood and occurs in many cows after giving birth, is related to higher levels of fat in the liver. John Middleton, a professor in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, says these higher levels of fat are often precursors to future health problems in cows. “We found that about 50 percent of dairy cows suffered subclinical hypocalcemia and subsequent higher levels of fat in the liver after giving birth to their calves,” Middleton said. “These higher levels of fat in the liver are often tied to health problems in dairy cows, including increased risk for uterus and mammary infections as well as ketosis, which is a condition that results in the cows expending more energy than they are taking in through their diet. All of these conditions can decrease the amount of milk these dairy cows will produce.”

This article appears in the January 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Forages Affect Cattle Weight, Taste

forages d3382-1Clemson University Experiment Station, Extension Service and College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences conducted a two-year experiment feeding Angus steers various forages, each enclosed in five-acre lots planted with alfalfa, bermuda grass, chicory, cowpea or pearl millet. They reported their findings in the Journal of the American Society of Animal Science. The report revealed that finishing steers on alfalfa and chicory during summer increased steer performance. The report also stated that finishing on legumes (alfalfa and cowpea) increased carcass quality, and in taste tests consumers preferred the flavor of the meat. Finishing on bermuda grass and pearl millet improved the levels of healthy fatty acids.
This article appears in the November 2013 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Raw Milk as Pasture Biostimulant

raw-milkAs reported in the May 2013 issue of NODPA News (www.nodpa.com), a raw milk as pasture biostimulant research study performed on fields and in greenhouses in Vermont revealed mixed results. The raw milk stimulated grass tillering and slightly increased forage above-ground biomass under greenhouse conditions, but “the positive benefits attributed to the milk were short-lived and did not appear after the initial cutting.” Also the farmers found “no effect of milk on pasture growth or yield within the first 60 days of application in the field,” but, they say, “… despite the inconclusive results, spraying milk on pasture is still a great way to dispose of waste milk,” and they “recommend that those wishing to experiment with raw milk on their own farm should spray the solution immediately before a rainstorm and after the forage was grazed to maximize the amount of milk reaching the soil. Although you probably shouldn’t expect a substantial change in forage production and quality, it may positively affect your pastures in ways not measured during this experiment.”

This article appears in the September 2013 issue of Acres U.S.A.