Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday March 17 Ag News

UNL Hosts Innovative Youth Corn Challenge

Today’s agricultural world faces several challenges, one of them being the decline of our most valuable resource, the future workforce. Keeping youth in rural communities and involved in production agriculture is important to the agricultural industry. With the global population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, there is and will be the need for more young people to engage in agricultural careers to feed the world.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension and the Nebraska Corn Board have teamed up to offer the 3rd Innovative Youth Corn Challenge contest. This contest, open to 4-H members (age 10 & older as of Jan. 1st) or FFA members (in-school members), will guide youth through all aspects of corn production, as well as agricultural careers related to corn production.  As a team, youth will be challenged to implement a production practice different than normal to determine if they increased their yield. Economics and sustainability of the practice will also be considered. Yields, cropping history, and production information will be collected in the Corn Yield Challenge management summary.

Goals of the contest are: achieve new, innovative, and economically feasible crop production methods to improve yields; provide research data for producers to implement in their operations; distribute data to corn producers, researchers, and agri-businesses for decision making purposes; introduce youth to a variety of agronomic professionals, including corn producers.

As a team, youth will work with an adult mentor throughout the process. Mentors can be extension faculty, ag teachers, or other qualified agronomy professionals.

Cash prizes and plaques will be given to the first, second, and third place teams. First place will receive $1,000, second place will receive $500, and third place will receive $250.  A data completion and innovation award will also be given. Faced with a persistent drought, there will also be a “limited resource” award, which will be based on participants achieving a higher yield with limited inputs.

To participate, youth must complete and return an entry form by March 15th to the Fillmore County Extension Office in Geneva, NE. Forms can be downloaded at For more information, contact Brandy VanDeWalle at, Aaron Nygren or Amy Timmerman at


Larger global crop harvests in 2013 have contributed to a major reversal of fortunes in agricultural markets, causing grain prices and crop producer income to drop sharply and prices for cattle to reach record levels, noted the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) its baseline report.

According to FAPRI's results, projected corn prices over the next ten years are about $4 per bushel and soybeans prices are about $10 per bushel. Also, net farm income in 2014 is projected to decline by more than $30 billion (24 percent) from the 2013 record.

Meanwhile, cattle prices and returns to cow-calf operators are likely to remain high until herds have a chance to rebuild, which will take time, the report noted.

FAPRI presented its baseline projections for agricultural and biofuel markets to the House and Senate Agriculture Committee staff this morning. In its baseline report, FAPRI incorporated key provisions of the new farm bill, the Agricultural Act of 2014, which required making assumptions about how the bill will be implemented.

The figures represent the average of 500 alternative outcomes based on different assumptions about the weather, oil prices and other factors. In some of the 500 outcomes, prices, quantities and values are much higher or much lower than the reported averages, FAPRI noted.

Key results include:

*Prices for most crops are likely to remain below recent peaks. Under average market conditions, projected corn prices over the next ten years are about $4 per bushel and soybeans prices are about $10 per bushel.

*In 2014, projected corn area planted declines by 4 million acres, while the area devoted to soybeans and several other crops increases. Lower prices discourage production on marginal acres, but more normal weather conditions this spring may allow some land that could not be planted in 2013 to return to crop production.

*The current policy baseline assumes that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal to modify the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) will be adopted and that a similar approach will be used to set biofuel use mandates in subsequent years. Projected growth in ethanol production over the next several years is limited.

*Reduced cattle numbers, caused in part by multiple years of drought, limit beef production in 2014 and result in record cattle prices. Cattle prices and returns to cow-calf operators are likely to remain high until herds have a chance to rebuild, which will take time.

*Lower projected feed costs help improve the profitability of livestock production. One uncertainty is the effect of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus on the pork sector.

*New farm bill provisions include programs that pay farmers only when crop prices or per-acre revenues are below trigger levels. Unlike the old direct payment program that made constant annual payments, the new programs could make no payments in some years and very large payments to producers in other years.

*On average, the projected cost of major commodity programs under the new farm bill is about $5 billion per year, and crop insurance costs average a little over $8 billion per year.

*Net farm income in 2014 is projected to decline by more than $30 billion (24 percent) from the 2013 record, as sharply lower crop prices and reduced government payments more than offset the impact of strong cattle and milk prices and a slight reduction in production costs.

*Food price inflation was less than expected in 2013. Food prices are projected to increase by 2 percent in 2014.

FAPRI said its baseline projections were prepared based on market information available in January 2014. Macroeconomic assumptions are based on forecasts by IHS Global Insight and suggest moderate growth in the U.S. and global economies.

Animal Feeding, Water Project on IA EPC's March 18 Agenda

Solid waste projects, the state revolving fund plan, rulemaking for animal feeding operations and a project to improve Easter Lake in Des Moines are on the March 18 agenda for Iowa's Environmental Protection Commission. Commissioners will meet at 10 the DNR's Air Quality office, 7900 Hickman Road in Windsor Heights.

Commissioners will be asked to approve opening public comment on proposed rules regarding concentrated animal feeding operations. The proposed rules would adopt federal discharge permit requirements for confinement operations and manure application setback requirements for all concentrated animal feeding operations that have federal discharge permits.

In other action, commissioners will be asked to approve a three-year contract with the city of Des Moines to reduce sediment entering Easter Lake from Yeader Creek. This is phase one in a project that aims to improve water clarity, reduce sediment and algal blooms in the lake, increase oxygen levels and improve the fishery.

The meeting is open to the public and public comments are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. At 1 p.m., commissioners will hear a referral to the attorney general on a wastewater issue in Scott County.

Checkoff Helps Bring "Schmacon" to Market

Beef product offers great taste with less fat and sodium

Global food industry leaders recently pronounced Schmacon™ smoked and cured glazed beef slices, an award recipient of the prestigious 2014 Food and Beverage Innovations Award (FABI) presented by the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show.

Schmacon, one of the latest checkoff-funded Beef Innovations Group projects, looks and smells as tantalizing as bacon; crisps up like bacon; cooks like bacon (in only a fraction of the time); and fully satisfies with delicious all-beef flavor, but is a much healthier alternative. A serving of Schmacon contains 30 calories, 2 g fat, and 60 mg sodium, whereas a serving of pork bacon averages 60-90 calories, 4.5-7 g fat, and 190-360 mg sodium.

As a 2014 FABI Award recipient, Schmacon is heralded as a product with “bold imagination” and “great potential to help [restaurant] operators capitalize on consumer trends and drive operator success.” The whole muscle beef slices use a patent-pending process and a proprietary spice blend to deliver a smoky, slightly sweet flavor. They are pre-cooked and ready for crisping in an oven, microwave or on a flat-top griddle. As a revolutionary new menu item, Schmacon helps operators deliver flavorful, innovative, signature items for breakfast, burgers, sandwiches, salads and beyond.

“As a payer of the checkoff, it’s been exciting to have been involved in new products for several years," said Jennifer Houston, cattle producer and auction market owner from Sweetwater, Tenn. "Things take a while to come to fruition, and they don’t all pan out, but we’ve had some great wins -- like ‘the seven-year overnight sensation’ a.k.a the flat iron -- and for me it’s exciting to see something else come to market besides the steaks and roasts we love.

“The new audience of millennials and, for that matter, all consumers, want choices," Houston continued. "They want different taste sensations, spices, ethnic food, dish sizes and as an industry we need to stay fresh and innovative.”

“Schmacon is beef’s answer to bacon,” said Howard Bender, the Hyde Park Culinary Institute of America chef and Chicago deli owner who created the product. “It opens up so many opportunities for those who love traditional bacon, but for one reason or another, limit intake or avoid it altogether. We’ve been testing the product for months in our deli -- serving it on sandwiches, as a topping for soups and hot dishes and, of course, alongside our breakfast entrees,” Bender said. “Our customers are crazy about the flavor, and we’re excited FABI judges agree that Schmacon is primed to be a big hit.”

Schmacon has Extremely Broad Appeal

Schmacon fits into healthy lifestyle trends and also meets dietary needs of those religious or ethnic groups prohibited from eating pork products. It also fits broadly into emerging, diverse restaurant trends, concepts and day-parts.

“Schmacon enables restaurant patrons to customize their meals in a very easy way,” said Bender. “Restaurants can offer a more personalized experience, such as an upgrade to beef or a healthier, great-tasting option that adds flavor and crunch to current food trends.”

Houston said the product fits well with checkoff goals: “Two of the key demand drivers the checkoff committee looks at are convenience and nutrition. This product meets both of those criteria for fitting in to people’s lifestyles and nutrition needs. People don’t expect beef at breakfast unless it’s steak and eggs, and now they have another great option.”

There is opportunity whether in a grab-and-go breakfast sandwich at quick service restaurants; as “Schmacon and eggs” at breakfast establishments; or at casual family restaurants, capitalizing on the “breakfast for dinner” or innovative burger crazes. With the growing popularity of upscale Middle Eastern and fusion menu items inspired from places like Turkey, Morocco, Egypt, Israel, Iraq and Iran, Schmacon or “Steakon” can bring differentiating flavor, texture and creativity to chefs’ creations.

“The beef checkoff immediately recognized the potential in Schmacon to be a successful new beef product in the breakfast daypart,” says Bender. “They have aided us throughout our development and launch process, providing credibility and exposure at a critical time. Beef checkoff support is helping tremendously, both in the foodservice and retail channels.”

Schmacon is now available commercially, and participants in the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, May 17 – 20 will have the opportunity to sample it. It will be sold into the retail market by the end of the year.


EPA announced this week that Allison Wiedeman has been asked to serve as the agency's Acting Agricultural Counselor to the Administrator, a position previously held by Sarah Bittleman.

Wiedeman comes to her new position from EPA's Office of Water, where she was in charge of the development of national water pollution regulations for energy related industries including coal mining and oil and gas drilling and production.

Prior to that, Wiedeman worked at the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program for 9 years, where she was in charge of directing activities to accelerate the restoration of the Bay through technological innovation and implementation related to both point sources and agriculture.

She also served as the Agriculture Advisor to the RA in Region 7.

CHS Inc. agrees to acquire selected Canadian assets from Agrium

CHS Inc., the leading U.S. farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, has agreed to acquire selected Canadian retail assets from Crop Production Services (Canada) Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Agrium, Inc., a major retail supplier of agricultural products and services in North America, South America and Australia.

Under the agreement, 16 retail agronomy locations in the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan become part of the Country Operations division of CHS. The transaction is expected to be completed on or about April 1, 2014. Financial terms are not disclosed.

"We look forward to expanding our ability to serve farmers and ranchers in Canada, and to being a strong partner in their communities," said John McEnroe, executive vice president, CHS Country Operations. "Our goal is always to add value for our customers through local experts with global connections."

The newly acquired business will be able to take advantage of a new 42,000-ton fertilizer plant outside Shelby, Mont. In its final stages of construction, the facility, with 110-car shuttle loader access to the BNSF line, is expected to open for the spring 2014 season.

Extreme Winter Weather May Not Knock Out Insects and Disease

Extreme cold and snow cover in many parts of the country have growers guessing about the weather’s impact on pest pressures in the upcoming planting and growing season. DuPont Pioneer researchers say this winter’s weather could have some impact on pest populations, but many pests are just lying in wait.

“We see pest problems every year, regardless of conditions,” reports Paula Davis, senior manager for insect and disease traits at DuPont Pioneer. “This year it is a question of survival for crop pests. Some stinkbug species will not survive in extreme cold, and bean leaf beetles get knocked back when winter temperatures fall below 14° F for sustained periods of time. However, most soil insects are buffered by the soil, crop residue and snow.”

Migrating insects are one category that may give growers a break in 2014. Freezing temperatures reached far enough south to potentially reduce the populations of some insects that move north during the growing season. For example, cold temperatures in the Deep South could knock out pests that move up into southern Missouri fields.

“Most years, damage from early season pests depends on how quickly the soil warms up,” Davis says. “Deep frost in the ground, cool springs, reduced tillage and high residue result in cooler soil temperatures, which delays soil warm up, planting and emergence. These conditions make plants more susceptible to insects.”

Davis suggests that growers need to scout their fields after planting to see how well their seed treatments are working. She advises growers to watch for various species of wireworms, grubs and migratory pests—such as black cutworms—that won’t be affected by this winter’s cold temperatures.

William Dolezal, DuPont Pioneer research fellow, spends his time plotting defenses against plant diseases. He says the cold winter won’t have a big impact on disease organisms, but a cold spring will.

“Many of the pathogens that cause plant diseases are under a good blanket of snow cover and crop debris,” Dolezal says. “Disease organisms adapt to cold temperatures. As a result, the potential for plant diseases is present every spring. The key is to know what you have around you, and what you have on your farm.”

With that operation-specific knowledge, growers can select hybrids with the right disease-resistance packages, and support their choices by adding the protection of fungicide seed treatments.

Dolezal recommends rotating with non-host crops to break disease cycles. He also asserts that the best defense is to get corn and soybeans up and out of the ground quickly.

“Planting too early gives the advantage to soil organisms,” he says. “Good weather at planting sets up good emergence, so growers should plant when the soil is warming and the weather outlook is good. This hastens faster early growth, moving plants away from the soil surface and debris that harbors many foliar pathogens.”

Dolezal also advises growers to scout early so there is still time for foliar fungicide applications to address some disease problems, and to plan for disease-resistance packages in their seed selection for next year. During scouting, growers should look for seedling blight, gray leaf spot, leaf blight, and Goss’s bacterial wilt.

Even after a long, hard winter, growers can’t let their guard down when it comes to the battle against insects and disease.


Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt issued a consumer alert against the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) on Wednesday just hours before an organization with a history of antagonism toward the animal rights group launched a week-long advertising campaign in the state.

The Center for Consumer Freedom announced its advertising buy with a press release praising Pruitt and alleging "The Humane Society of the United States deceives donors with tear-jerking and manipulative images of dogs and cats, and then funnels the money to push a radical animal liberation agenda aimed at attacking farmers."

Pruitt said he had no advance knowledge of the ad campaign and that it is coincidental with his consumer alert. The alert says the attorney general's office has received complaints that HSUS misled donors after last year's Moore tornadoes by telling them their money would go to help local shelters and dislocated animals.

Cynthia Armstrong, HSUS' Oklahoma representative, said the allegations are not true and that she directed those wishing to help animals and shelters affected by the storms to local chapters, which operate independently of HSUS.

Armstrong said the society is cooperating with the attorney general.

Armstrong and HSUS President Wayne Pacelle said they suspect Wednesday's consumer alert is connected to other recent developments in Oklahoma, including Pruitt's decision to join a lawsuit against California over egg sales and a proposed state constitutional "right to farm" amendment approved Tuesday by the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

"Is all of that coincidental?" said Armstrong. "I don't believe it is."

Pruitt, however, said the events are not related. He pointed out that the California suit is over that state's right to restrict interstate trade - in this case, eggs not produced according to California's standards - and that it is his duty to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by charitable organizations.

The Center for Consumer Freedom, originally established to oppose smoking restrictions in restaurants, is associated with websites that claim some of the best-known animal welfare and nutrition groups are scams.

Russia, Ukraine Grain Exports Up on Year

Russia has exported 38.9% more grain so far this marketing year compared with the corresponding period the previous year, the agriculture ministry said Monday.

Grain exports between July 1 2013, the beginning of the marketing year, and March 12 totaled 19.355 million metric tons.

This included 14.293 million tons of wheat, 2.776 million tons of corn, 2.053 million tons of barley and 233,000 tons of other minor grains.

The statistics service said grain export between March 1 and March 12 totaled 523,000 tons, including 212,000 tons of wheat, 263,000 tons of corn, 44,000 tons of barley and 4,000 tons of other minor grains.

Russia harvested 89.3 million metric tons of grain in clean weight in 2013, 30% more than in 2012, when 68.7 million tons were harvested because crops were damaged by drought.

Russia's grain exports in the 2012-2013 marketing year fell to 15.69 million tons from 27.2 million tons in the previous marketing year. In the current marketing year, July 2013-June 2014, the agriculture ministry expects Russia's grain exports to rise to 22 million tons.

Ukraine's grain harvest for this year is bigger than last year's, with exports volumes rising by 37.5% despite the country's political unrest, the agriculture ministry said Monday.

The ministry said that between the beginning of the current marketing year July 1 2013 and March 14, Ukraine exported 25.66 million metric tons of grain, 37.5% more than in the corresponding period in the previous marketing year.

The total amount of grain exported to date included 7.44 million tons of wheat, of which 6.1 million tons was milling wheat; nearly 15.84 million tons of corn and 2.15 million tons of barley.

The agriculture ministry said earlier that Ukraine grain export in the July 2013-June 2014 marketing year was likely to rise to 32.5 million tons from about 23 million tons in the previous marketing year as this year's harvest was bigger.

The agriculture ministry also said earlier that Ukraine's 2013 grain harvest was over 63 million tons in bunker weight, up from 46.2 million tons in 2012 when crops were damaged by drought.

Ukraine is now the world's fifth-biggest exporter of wheat and third-largest exporter of corn and is expected to export about 16% of the world's corn this year.

Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef Invites Public Comment on the Draft Principles & Criteria for Global Sustainable Beef

(Overijssel, Netherlands) – The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) has released its draft Principles and Criteria for Global Sustainable Beef document for public comment. The document identifies the key areas in the beef value chain that must be addressed to ensure beef production around the globe is environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable. The draft was developed by GRSB members, including producers and producer associations, the processing sector, retail companies, civil society organizations, and regional roundtables.

“These principles and criteria establish a global framework for ensuring sustainable performance in beef production,” according to Ruaraidh Peter, GRSB Executive Director. “The definition covers all elements of the global beef value chain, including production, processing, distribution, sale and consumption. GRSB members believe sustainability is a journey of continuous improvement that requires the shared participation and responsibility among all actors – from producers to consumers. The GRSB definition provides a broad road map for this journey, allowing different regions to establish specific indicators, metrics or practices.”

The draft document, accessible at, is the product of more than a year’s work by members of the GRSB, as well as consultations with outside reviewers and beef sustainability subject matter experts around the globe. The public is invited to provide input and comments to the draft definition through May 16, 2014, after which the document will be updated to reflect the input received during the public comment period. Comments, along with any improvements to the draft definition, will be published for public review.

“GRSB defines sustainable beef as a socially responsible, environmentally sound and economically viable product that prioritizes our planet, people, the animals, and continuous progress,” said Cameron Bruett, President of the GRSB and Head of Corporate Affairs at JBS USA. “Our membership has worked in a collaborative fashion to boldly confront the challenges in every segment of the beef value chain. The core principles for global sustainable beef production seek to balance a broad range of issues including natural resources, community and individual development, animal well-being, food, efficiency and innovation.”

GRSB officially formed in 2012 and includes international members from across the beef value chain. The group is organized into five constituency groups, including cattlemen, ranchers and producer groups, commerce and processing, retail, civil societies (NGOs), and regional roundtables. It is through the efforts of the regional roundtables that the definition will be applied to accomplish on-the-ground improvements in specific areas of the world.

“Our diverse membership recognizes that the global beef industry plays an important role in the lives of the people and communities who produce and consume beef; the well-being of the animals under our care; the management of natural resources; and in meeting the growing global population’s demand for animal protein efficiently,” Bruett said. “We are confident that through leadership, collaboration and the promotion of a science-based approach, we can achieve our vision of a world where all aspects of the global beef value chain are environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable.”

The GRSB general assembly will vote on final adoption of the Global Beef Sustainability Principles and Criteria document later this year during the Global Conference for Sustainable Beef.

American Agri-Women Launches ‘Call to Power’ Membership Campaign on National Ag Day

American Agri-Women (AAW) will kick off its membership campaign, “Call to Power,” on March 25, National Agriculture Day. The campaign’s theme urges women to join the nation’s largest coalition of farm, ranch and agribusiness women, which includes more than 50 state, commodity and agribusiness affiliates.

“Since 1974, women across the country have banded together to network with each other, educate consumers and policy makers about agriculture and participate in leadership development opportunities. Our combined power has made a difference and we invite others to join us,” says Sue McCrum, AAW president.

The campaign runs through May 31 and includes these benefits:
-    Three new members will be selected to receive free second-year memberships.
-    The affiliate that signs up the most new members will receive an award to go toward their own advocacy efforts.

Go here to learn more:  Members of all segments of agriculture, agri-business and consumers interested in food production are encouraged to join their state or commodity affiliate as well as the national association. Dues for the national association are just $30 and affiliates also have affordable memberships.

The “Call to Power” theme is based on a paper developed by Sr. Thomas More Bertels (1918-2000). Sr. Bertels was a long-time advocate for women in agriculture. Sr. Bertels wrote, “The most important task facing farm entrepreneurs today is capturing a significant degree of influence over the policy-making function as it relates to food, feed, fiber, forest products and flora.”

More about AAW

AAW organized in 1974 and now includes more than 50 state, commodity and agribusiness affiliate. AAW provides leadership opportunities to members; coordinates agricultural education in the classroom; develops policy for commodity and natural resource committees on agriculture related issues; and more.

Its special events include a Mid-Year meeting, where position statements are developed, a Fly-In to Washington, D.C. in June and a national convention in November. In addition, affiliates are reaching out in many ways locally and regionally with events and activities that include leadership, networking and education opportunities.

Go to the AAW website for more information and to join, Or, contact Doris Mold, first Vice President of Resolutions & Vital Issues at:

Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica launches two PED initiatives for swine industry

In an effort to help swine veterinarians and producers find effective measures for managing porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED), Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. (BIVI), is launching two PED-focused initiatives. At the recent American Association of Swine Veterinarians Annual Meeting in Dallas, BIVI announced a commitment to PED applied research and sponsorship of a PED information-sharing service called “PED News,” both starting immediately.

According to Greg Cline, DVM, technical manager for swine enteric disease at BIVI, these two initiatives are designed to help discover, coordinate and share information related to PED that may be useful in helping vets and producers better prevent, manage and control this disease.

For 2014, the applied research commitment includes up to $50,000 in research funds supporting the development of knowledge and tools targeting the practical management of PED. “We will be focused on helping the industry to find answers to some of the most critical questions regarding PED,” explains Cline. “From our long research history with PRRS, Lawsonia intracellularis, PCV2 and other diseases, we continue our commitment to finding solutions through applicable research targeted toward the tough problems that plague the swine industry.”

In addition to the applied research commitment, BIVI is now sponsoring a PED News service to swine veterinarians. For years, the Center of Animal Disease Modeling and Surveillance (CADMS) at the University of California, Davis has offered a service called “FMD News.” BIVI has collaborated with CADMS to adapt this platform for PED. Similar to FMD News, PED News aggregates PED information from around the world, summarizes it in English, and sends the information to subscribers with a link to the original source. “We saw a need for this type of information-sharing service to help the North American swine industry stay as current as possible with the all the PED-related information,” notes Cline.

“Because this highly contagious disease is relatively new to the U.S. and its impact on producers can be so devastating, it’s critical that everyone work together to find effective solutions and share information,” Cline says. “These two initiatives should help us to better understand this highly contagious disease and how to more effectively manage PED.”

To sign up and view previous issues of the PED News, subscribers can go to

Calf management: A lesson in stress reduction

One of the many goals in raising calves is to provide a stress-free environment, which takes proactive management of the calves’ basic needs. These basic needs include: food and water, shelter, comfort, routines and health.

“Changes in any of these basic areas, even seemingly small changes, can make large differences in the overall health and wellbeing of the calves,” says Bethany Fisher, a calf and heifer specialist with Purina Animal Nutrition in Texas.

To evaluate how your operation is doing, Fisher suggests taking a step back and consider the following areas.

1.     Food and Water

Offer feed that meets the calves’ nutritional needs all year-long. During periods of heat or cold stress, calves need added energy to maintain efficient growth and to allow proper body function. This is important at every stage of life and includes colostrum, milk or seasonal milk replacer and calf starter, formulated for the season.

Milk or seasonal milk replacer needs to be fed at a sufficient quantity to allow the calf to maintain body temperature, double its birth weight, grow 4 to 5 inches in height by weaning and maintain proper immunity.

By day three, water and calf starter needs to be in plentiful supply. Especially in a growing heifer, feed should never be in short supply. Running out of feed or water for any length of time can result in slug feeding and even bloating when feed is finally offered. Neither condition is ideal for efficient gains or optimal health.

Fresh clean water is equally as important as feed. Even if the water freezes overnight, it is important that it is available for calves to drink. It is common for calves to consume more feed in the evening hours between milk feedings, but this will be reduced if sufficient water is not available.

2.     Shelter and comfort

The type of shelter calves’ have access to, does not have to be fancy or purchased from a catalog or special company. It just needs to provide the animal a place to get out of the elements and should be easy to clean. Use your best judgment to determine what type of shelter is needed for the age group.

Outside of the type of shelter offered other considerations that need to be made to ensure calf comfort include ventilation, bedding and weather.

Hot Weather
·        Ventilation ‒ depending on the type of shelter provided, it is always important to understand the air quality at the calf level. Even something as simple as propping up a corner of the hutch to allow air movement can decrease the heat stress seen by the calves.
·        Bedding ‒ sand is a good option in the summer heat. Bedding allows for added comfort to the calf and provides a barrier between the calf and the ground underneath, which can contain pathogens. It is important to make sure that bedding is always clean and dry, as moist bedding can harbor pathogens and attract flies, especially in warmer weather.
·        Calf hutch location - Watch the sunlight throughout the day to determine how to best position housing to reduce heat stress. Also, take advantage of prevailing winds as much as possible.

Cold Weather
·        Ventilation - Keeping calf hutch airflow in check during cooler weather help reduce the risk of respiratory problems, such as pneumonia.
·        Bedding ‒ calves should have a nesting score of three ‒ meaning that when lying down their hocks are not visible. Straw, cotton burs and wood shavings are all accepted bedding types. This bedding will provide added warmth, improved comfort and a barrier between the young calf and the ground below.
·        Calf jackets are also very handy in the colder climates. Keeping a calf warm and well bedded allows the calf to utilize the energy it gains from colostrum, milk and grain to grow and develop rather than merely maintain its body temperature.

3.     Routine changes

Even the smallest changes in a calf’s routine can cause stress, which can lead to health issues, loss of body condition or even death. Stressors include feed changes, weaning from milk, moving pens, weather or relocating from single housing to group pens.

Limiting the number of changes or transitions made at any given time can help reduce calf stress. For instance, if calves are changing pens, wait a few days after the move to change feed. The same idea can be applied when weaning calves from milk and moving into group settings; allow the calves a few days to adjust to not receiving milk before moving them. If vaccinations or dehorning are needed around the time of moving, work with your veterinarian to create a schedule that limits the stress on the animals.

“The overall health of the calves and heifers is greatly influenced by food, shelter, comfort and transitioning through the growth stages,” says Fisher. “When these components are addressed, health problems can be reduced greatly in both the heat of summer and the cold of winter.”

The next time you walk through your calf and heifer pens, stop and think about the basics. Are they comfortable? Do they have feed and clean, fresh water all of the time? How can I reduce my stress by reducing theirs? At the end of the day we all want the same thing: a healthy calf.

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