Foxtail barley (Hordeum jubatum) receives its common name from its unique bushy inflorescence, or flower, which is similar in shape to the tail of a fox. This flower averages about two to five inches long and is soft and greenish or purplish. Its fluffy appearance comes from the awns, which can measure up to three inches long. Each yellowish-brown seed typically has four to eight awns, and it is also armed with tiny barbs along the edges. Read More
Heritage chicken breeds may not reach the egg or meat production levels of commercial hybrids, but they are often healthier and hardier, not to mention more attractive. For a free-range situation, heritage breeds can’t be beat.
The Livestock Conservancy has a very helpful and accurate chart to assist new poultry keepers in choosing the best breed for their circumstances. This chart displays key characteristics of each breed in an at-a-glance format: Read More
So what are the components of milk? There are three main categories:
- Other solids.
When a cow’s rumen digests fiber, it produces fatty acids. Some of these fatty acids are processed in the udder and released in the milk, accounting for about half of the fat naturally found in milk. The other half of the fat enters the milk from the bloodstream, often coming from the cow’s liver or backfat, or directly from fats absorbed in the diet.
Because fiber is important to producing milk fat, cows generally have higher levels of fat in their milk when fed diets high in natural forages of good quality. Cows are sometimes fed low-fiber, high-energy diets to increase total milk production. Needless to say, this extra production comes at the expense of the fat component.
Fat content is generally expressed as a percentage. This is important because a high-producing cow like a Holstein may yield more pounds of fat per lactation than a Jersey. However, a gallon of Holstein milk contains a higher percentage of water than a gallon of Jersey milk does. Total milk yield and percentage of components are usually inversely related.
Protein makes its way into milk thanks to the action of rumen microbes that start the process of breaking proteins down into amino acids. Mammary glands later reconstruct the amino acids back into proteins with the aid of glucose. Also, small amounts of albumin and immunoglobulin proteins enter milk directly through the bloodstream.
It is interesting to note that the chemical makeup of the protein component can vary from cow to cow. Casein is the main type of protein found in cow’s milk, but it can come in two forms, known as A1 and A2. The latter type is considered easier for humans to digest.
A deficiency of dietary protein will indeed reduce the amount of protein in a cow’s milk. However, once the cow’s protein needs are met, feeding additional protein will not further increase amount of protein in the milk. Beyond this point, protein content is strongly influenced by genetics.
Like fat, the protein content of a cow’s milk is expressed as a percentage.
Many times, when milk components are under discussion, fat and protein are the main solids of interest. However, there are many other solids that make milk:
- Lactose: A type of sugar; the carbohydrate component of milk.
- Minerals: Including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and selenium.
- Vitamins: Particularly vitamins A and B complex.
Why Components Matter
- Components indicate cow health. A healthy, well-fed cow with minimal stress will have plenty of fat, protein, and other nutrients to spare for her milk. On the other hand, a cow suffering from mastitis or from rumen acidosis will show a considerable drop in fat and protein components.
- Components are important for human nutrition. Two glasses of milk from two different cows are vastly different. A glass of milk from a cow bred and fed for high total milk production is mostly water. A glass of milk from a cow bred and fed with an eye to components contains more of the proteins, vitamins, and minerals necessary for good health. Even the fats are beneficial to humans, as they are important for building cells.
- Components offer value-added opportunities. Fat and protein are necessary to the manufacture of butter, cream, and cheese, among other dairy products.
- Components give rich flavor and texture to dairy products. Milk fat and other solids are what make ice cream creamy. In fact, one of the factors that separates gourmet ice cream from just plain old ice cream is a higher percentage of fat.
Many a dog lover has watched a good Border Collie at work and gone home with a passion for herding. But if you haven’t grown up with working stockdogs, training one for the first time can seem daunting.
While no book can replace experience as a way to master the nuances of handling livestock, with or without a dog, Stockdog Savvy by husband-and-wife team Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor and Ty Taylor offers an excellent introduction.
The book proceeds logically, starting right at the beginning with choosing a breed and continuing with training techniques that build on each other:
- Preparing a puppy to respond to commands without livestock.
- Laying a solid foundation of obedience.
- Starting a dog on stock.
- Teaching the dog how to make use of his natural talent.
- Developing a dog that can be useful in basic livestock handling.
- Training the correct approach to the stock.
- Training the dog how to drive a herd.
- Training the dog to pen livestock.
- Training the dog to sort livestock.
- Teaching boundaries to a tending dog.
- Learning how to work large flocks and herds.
- Introducing your dog to the real world of daily ranch work.
- Getting ready for a herding trial.
Each chapter on training includes suggestions for dealing with specific problems that may arise, from lack of interest to aggression toward livestock.
Along the way, you as a handler will progressively build expertise with new insights on reading both your dog and your livestock. Chapters on basic dog and livestock care are included, as are chapters on different livestock breeds:
To round out the book, an excellent appendix is provided that condenses the key characteristics of many herding breeds, common and uncommon:
- Working style.
A must for all beginning stockdog trainers!
Scurs are horny growths that give some livestock owners concern. When a scurred animal is young, it may look for all the world like it will grow up to have horns. Fortunately, this is not the case.
Cattle, sheep, and goats can all develop scurs. In goats, however, scurs are actually true horns that have been damaged in a bad disbudding job. In cattle and sheep, scurs are merely inherited growths. The difference can be felt in mature animals; horns are firmly attached to the skull, while scurs are fairly loose.
Sheep and cattle have a pair of genes that control scurs, represented as Sc for scurs and sc for no scurs. Scur genes interact with the genes for polling or hornlessness (represented by P for polled and p for horned). Horned animals with two p genes cannot display scurs, simply because they are horned. In animals with one P gene and one p gene, males will be scurred if they have at least one Sc gene, while females will only display scurs if they have two Sc genes. Animals with two P genes will only display scurs if they have two Sc genes.
In addition to the Sc gene, Rambouillet sheep have a similar scurring gene called Sr. In this breed, both rams and ewes have scurs if they have at least one copy of the Sr gene.
Finally, Suffolk sheep, normally polled, may appear to have scurs. In this breed, the scurs are actually true horns that have been stunted by interaction with other genes.
There is no definitive evidence that goats inherit scurs. Instead, scurs on goats appear to be the result of incompletely removing horn buds during disbudding. If any horn tissue is left alive and in place, it will grow back in the form of a scur. Bucks, in particular, are prone to scurs due to the influence of hormones.
To avoid this problem, make sure the disbudding iron is thoroughly heated before use. Disbudding should be done at a young age, while the iron can easily fit around the horn buds.
While not all scurs are a problem, some certainly do cause difficulties for both the animal and the owner:
- In sheep and goats, scurs can curl around and dig their way into the skull if left unchecked.
- Male animals with scurs tend to break them off while fighting, creating an ugly, bloody mess that is prone to infection.
- In cattle, scurs reduce the value of an animal, based on the partly erroneous belief that a scurred animal always carries the gene for horned offspring.
- Scurs may disqualify an animal from the show ring.
Scurs can be banded to cut off the blood supply. They will eventually fall off, only causing discomfort the last few days.
Small scurs can also be cut off. This can be painful, however, and care must be taken to seal off the blood vessels with a hot iron.
If you don’t mind routinely trimming scurs, you can also settle for a temporary solution. Use a wire saw to remove a small part of the scur, making sure that you do not remove enough to cause bleeding. Goats with small scurs may keep them ground down themselves if provided with a rough, sturdy surface to rub on. Just bear in mind that the scurs will continue to grow back.
In sheep and cattle, the prevalence of scurs can be reduced in the flock or herd through selective breeding. This is done by culling all scurred animals. If the scurred animal is a female, both of her parents can safely be culled, as well, since they both carry the gene. Note, however, that the culling process will be more complex in Rambouillet sheep, as both the Sc and the Sr genes must be eliminated. Also, not all Rambouillet sheep that have produced a scurred ewe can be culled, since the ewe might have inherited the Sr gene from only one parent.
Of course, breeders must keep in mind that they may be sacrificing more valuable traits by eliminating scurred livestock.
The Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) was developed to reduce the use of antibiotics in livestock production, primarily to fend off antibiotic-resistant diseases in humans. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 2 million people in the United States are infected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year. The concern is that extensive use of antibiotics in the food supply will increase the prevalence of drug-resistant bacteria.
The VFD is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2017.
Complying With the VFD
Once the VFD goes into effect, antibiotics for use in or on livestock feed and water will no longer be available to producers over the counter. To obtain antibiotic additives, farmers will have to obtain a prescription from a veterinarian and periodically have that prescription renewed.
Any medications prescribed must be used to treat or prevent disease as directed on the label. A veterinarian may not prescribe a regulated drug for any use not specified on the label, such as to enhance performance.
Not all drugs are covered by the new VFD rules. Only antimicrobials classified as “medically important” and administered orally are regulated, and the directive only applies to food animals. A drug is classified as “medically important” if it is associated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria or is a medication of key importance in treating human disease, particularly food-borne disease.
Drugs covered by the VFD include:
Feed mills and any veterinarians and producers they work with can expect random inspections from the FDA to ensure compliance.
The FDA expects to handle minor or unintentional violations with warning letters. Major or flagrant violations could be met with injunctions, seizures, fines, or up to three years in prison.
Implications for Small Farmers
Small producers who rely on medicated feeds on a regular basis will no longer be able to purchase feeds containing medically important drugs. However, feed mills are already looking into formulating medicated feeds with antibiotics not classified as “medically important” and therefore not regulated by the VFD.
While most large operations already have a working relationship with a veterinarian, many small producers prefer to treat animals on their own whenever possible. This will make obtaining oral antimicrobial medications far more difficult on a small scale. While some small farmers may decide to establish a relationship with a veterinarian, they should be aware that the cost of VFD-regulated medication and medicated feeds may rise in the near future as a result of the new regulations and their associated paperwork.
Note that sending photos or videos of a sick animal to a veterinarian to receive a prescription is not considered adequate under the new VFD. The veterinarian is required to establish a relationship with both the producer and the livestock in question. A hands-on examination or a farm call is a must. The veterinarians themselves are likely to insist on this, as the VFD makes them responsible for violations. Vets would be taking a risk by prescribing antibiotics to farmers that they do not have a relationship with.
Once a producer obtains a VFD-regulated medication, he must keep the paperwork on file for at least two years, according to the new rules. These records will be necessary in case of inspection.
Of course, those who raise their livestock naturally will be minimally affected by the VFD.
Just getting started?
Whether you are still in the early planning stage or are trying to overcome your first obstacle, one of the best things you can do is to read extensively. Many others have walked the path before you. Why not smooth your own learning curve and take advantage of their experience?
While there are many excellent books we could recommend (just check out our bookshelf), we have picked out 10 must-reads to get you going.
Need to identify a plant in your pasture? Start here. Although a little technical, it is well organized and supplied with a glossary and illustrations for ease of use. The plant descriptions include useful notes on suitability for livestock where applicable. (Not from Kansas? Search Amazon for a guide tailored to your state or region.) Read our full review.
To solve problems with insect pests, you must first be able to identify the culprit. This guide offers descriptions of 850 species, liberally illustrated with color photos. Bonus: It includes a section on beekeeping! (Not from Kansas? Search Amazon for a guide tailored to your state or region.) Read our full review.
How to start a farm business in 10 steps. This is a concise introduction to the questions you will have to answer as you get started. Learn how to write a business plan, find funding, choose venues, price products, meet legal requirements, market effectively, and more. Helpful resources are provided each step of the way. Read our full review.
Need equipment for your farm? See if you can build what you need before you buy something. This book offers ideas for projects useful around the farm, the garden, and the house alike. Whether you need a fence, a compost bin, a simple animal shelter, or just an easy way to bale hay on a small scale, you’ll find plenty of inspiration here. Read our full review.
Great starting point for animal health research. Covers the basic care of cattle, horses, goats, sheep, swine, poultry, rabbits, dogs, and cats. Each chapter begins with the basics of animal housing and feeding specific to the species in question, and then moves to a discussion of the symptoms and treatment of the most common health problems. Advice on home vet care basics, such as first aid and administering medication, is also provided. Read our full review.
Is a garden or orchard part of your plan? Make sure you have this encyclopedia on your shelf. If you have a question, whether about the needs of a specific plant or about implementing a sustainable gardening practice, you will find a concise answer here. No wonder this book has stood the test of time! Read our full review.
4. Stocking Up
Whatever type of food you need to preserve, it is almost certain that you will find directions in one of the editions of this classic. The original edition offers good old down-home cooking, while the third edition was made for the health-conscious crowd. Both include substantial information on making the most of your harvest, whether it be fruit, vegetables, eggs, milk, or meat. Read our full review.
If you intend to grow field crops in Kansas, this one is not optional. (Good news—it’s free!) Multiple charts tell you when to plant and at what rate. (Not from Kansas? Check your local extension service to see if they offer a similar resource.)
This one is a must! Even if farming is your hobby, you can still benefit from the valuable planning tools provided in this book. In five straightforward steps, learn how to write a business plan that you will actually use. Identify your values, recognize your current position, develop your vision, examine your options, and choose your path. Worksheets and examples help you through the process. Highly recommended—and it’s free! Read our full review.
1. You Can Farm
Need inspiration or ideas? Give this one a try. Joel Salatin shares valuable tips for successful and profitable farming, drawing from his experience along the way. Learn how to choose enterprises that will work for you, then develop your farming philosophy and dive into direct marketing. You don’t need a large land base or a well-filled wallet to get started. Salatin demonstrates that it is your mindset that makes the difference. A must for all beginning farmers! Read our full review.
Many involved in agriculture, commercial or entrepreneurial, feel that technology will shape the future.
The Internet continues to evolve into the driving force in agriculture. Cutting-edge agripreneurs rely on the Internet to market their produce, but even commodity markets are coming to accept this technology as the norm. Buying beef cattle through video auctions streamed online is a common practice nowadays.
Likewise, QR codes for smartphone users will increase in prevalence. Large food manufacturers hope to use these codes to set the minds of consumers at ease about the way their food is grown. Whether or not the QR code will become the primary method of tracking the progress of food from farm to table remains up in the air, however, since the tool has not gained universal acceptance among consumers.
Software will only increase in its capabilities to monitor all aspects of farming. Crop growers may use tracking software to follow the movements of their entire farm fleet. Pork growers suggest that artificial intelligence will be used to forestall production problems of all sorts, including disease outbreaks. Meanwhile, agripreneurs already use logistics software to enhance their competitive edge.
Massive amounts of data are collected in modern agriculture. As researchers and inventors find new ways to quantify conditions in the field, companies will process the data into a variety of charts, graphs, maps, and documents designed to help producers make smart decisions throughout the growing season. Because this work will be so resource-intensive, every farmer’s data will likely end up on the cloud.
Precision planting promises to be a continued focus in commodity farming. Every aspect of the planting process will be computerized to enhance the yield of each individual row in the field. The ability of planters to place seeds at the desired depth and spacing will continue to improve over the next few years. And as the planter moves through the field, it will be collecting a wealth of data that will be processed into decision-making tools to help the farmer push his yields ever higher.
Biotechnology still looks to have a major place in creating the food supply of the future. Pork producers predict that feed crops will be genetically engineered to meet the specific needs of specific animals. Cloning of livestock may become widespread to produce the uniform animals that commodity markets demand. Gene editing may reduce the use of chemical drugs for pest and parasite control. Crops of all types will continue to be engineered for increased yields. However, while biotechnology will continue to bring commodities closer and closer to conventional market specifications, it will increasingly place commercial agriculture at odds with consumers.
Meanwhile, continuing advancements in LED lighting are making growing food indoors possible. LED lights are highly efficient, but they can also be tuned to specific wavelengths to promote better plant growth.
Research and Development
Sustainable farming practices are increasingly getting a share of the research money.
Major cities across the country, and even the world, are turning to intensive farming techniques to grow quality foods efficiently. Hydroponics, aeroponics, vertical farming, and indoor gardening are offering ways to grow more in less space. Hoop houses and tunnels are currently hot topics in agricultural research due to their potential to make local food available year-round, even sparking an interest in states that are typically slow to accept alternative farming practices.
Crop scientists will continue to breed new plant varieties. Whereas in the past they have focused on breeding plants for resistance to insects and disease, the future may see them breeding plants that can cope with nonliving threats, such as drought and extreme heat.
Since much of modern conventional agriculture is geared toward growing ethanol, any breakthroughs in biofuel research will be extremely significant. Current research is examining the use of switchgrass as fuel, raising the possibility of converting countless acres of farmland back to grassland. Another energy alternative is that of harvesting crops twice—once for the grain and a second time for stubble to be used as biofuel.
And, one of these days, the man driving the tractor may be a thing of the past, according to grain research experts. He may be replaced with a fleet of fully automated precision farm vehicles. This equipment will be able to navigate using satellites and will even identify and spray weeds with minimal human interference. Currently, the major challenge is designing machinery that can recognize and avoid hitting people, animals, and other objects in the field.
How Vermont’s GMO Labeling Law Affects You
Includes information on the pros and cons of various food labeling methods, as well as public sentiment on biotechnology.
Are you ready for fall? Spend a little time watching the birds, caring for the animals, and stocking the pantry.
- Invest in a dog owner’s home veterinary handbook.
- Feed your backyard birds.
- Discover why people built round barns.
- Stock up for the winter.
- Learn about pH.
- Weigh the pros and cons of draft animals.
- Explore the K-State weather data library.
- Open up the breeding toolbox.
- Find out how to raise chickens.
- Do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way.
Even when the afternoons are too hot for outdoor work, you can still make the most of the time with research and planning. Spend some time studying business, marketing, nutrition, animal health, and more.
- Consider new ways to direct market your beef.
- Find out how reproduction and animal health are related.
- Discover 96 horse breeds of North America.
- Build a sustainable business.
- Learn what kobe beef is.
- Ponder the relationship between the railroads and the homesteaders.
- Enjoy the wonderful art of drawing horses.
- Practice body condition scoring.
- Read about the Kansas climate.
- Study the roles and natural sources of vitamins.