Absorbency of Alternative Livestock Bedding Sources

Reggie Voyles, undergraduate research intern, Department of Animal Science, Iowa State University
Mark Honeyman, professor, Department of Animal Science, Iowa State University
Iowa State University, Northwest Research Farms and Allee Demonstration Farm ISRF05-29, 31
(previously published on Talking Sheep – Sheep Education and Information: March 28, 2018)

Introduction:
As the demand for niche-marketed meats increases, so does need for research in this area. One niche market that is being examined is pork raised in deep-bedded systems. There is also a call for alternative bedding materials. Farm produced bedding sources such as cornstalks and various types of straws are commonly used. However, this study looked at other possible materials. Products were tested to see if they could be equal substitutes based on their absorbency. A ground lumber product and a ground lumber with drywall product with a ratio of 8:1 lumber-to-drywall were tested. These products were produced from demolished buildings. They had different performance qualities than wood shavings and were compared to cornstalks, recycled paper, oat straw, and triticale straw.

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Backyard Chickens 101 Workshop

Spring and Easter bring baby chicks to the farm supply stores, before you purchase some do you know the basics? Which breed should you purchase? How big of a coop will you need? These questions and more will be answered during the April 25th Backyard Chickens 101 Workshop. 

2018 Livestock Outlooks

By-Mildred Haley – United States Department of Agriculture

The Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook for February 2018 analyzes economic impacts of month-to-month changes in USDA’s World Agricultural Supply and Use Estimates Report on domestic and international markets for beef, pork, lamb, poultry, eggs, and dairy products.

Click here to find the reports: https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=87427

 

 

 

Livestock Water is Essential, Even in Winter

Ted Wiseman, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Perry County

(Image Source: Catskill Merino Sheep)

Water is essential for all livestock regardless of the time of year. So far this year we have certainly had our share of chopping ice, thawing water lines and troughs. With recent temperatures many of us often focus on keeping livestock well fed and with adequate shelter. However, often times we forget about the most important nutrient which is water. Water consumed by livestock is required for a variety of physiological functions. Some of these include proper digestion, nutrient transportation, enzymatic and chemical reactions, and regulation of body temperature.

Although water is the cheapest nutrient we may purchase or provide, it is the one we provide the most of on a per pound basis. For example, every pound of dry matter consumed, cattle will need to drink about seven pounds of water. Consumption of water varies depending upon temperature, size of the animal, feed intake, mineral intake and stage of production. Lack of water consumption will affect animal performance. With colder temperatures feed intake is increased to generate body heat. Decreased water availability reduces feed intake which results in decreased body condition. This is especially important if your newborns arrive in the spring, following reduced water and feed intake which leads to poor fetal growth rates and lactation levels.

To ensure adequate water intake, reports have indicated that water temperature should be 37 to 65 degrees. The rumen operates at 101-102 degrees; ingesting extremely cold water can decrease digestion until the water warms to body temperature. Be sure to monitor waterers regularly, for temperature and cleanliness. Stray voltage is another issue that should be monitored for new installations as well as established watering devises. An electrical AC current above three to four volts is enough to decrease water intake. Tank heaters can be an option, but keeping electrical cords away from any contact with livestock can be an issue.

For many grazing operations ponds, streams and developed springs are the primary sources of water. These may limit the areas to be grazed and where winter feeding is done depending upon how far livestock need to travel to the water source. Producers over the years have utilized technologies by installing pipelines, storage tanks and more recently the use of solar power to move water to various locations. There are numerous styles of watering designs, each have advantages and disadvantages, especially during the winter.

Which style to choose depends upon many factors and you need to spend some time looking at various types and speaking with producers in your area for advice. Just a few things to consider, first what type(s) of livestock do you have or plan to add and how many animals can the waterer handle? Where do you need to place it and how is water going to be delivered? Are you going to need external heat source during the winter? How much maintenance is required and how easy is it to clean? Will your livestock need to be trained to use the system? What is the life expectancy of the waterer? And lastly of course price, but this should not be the deciding factor. A cheaper waterer that doesn’t last as long and requires more of your time to maintain will be much more expensive in the long run.

If given a choice of water sources cattle do prefer to drink from a tank instead of streams or ponds. In a few studies that looked at this, cattle where given access to both with no restriction to stream or pond access. In both studies cattle preferred to drink from tanks 75 to 90 percent of the time. When cattle drink from a pond or stream the second cow normally travels farther into the water source for a cleaner drink.

Good quality water is essential for livestock, regardless of the source you have. Rarely do many of us test our water on a regular basis, but it should be considered. Especially if you notice reduced water intake or refusal. Water analyses for livestock typically include total dissolved solids or salinity, pH (acid or alkaline value), nitrates, sulfates, and hardness. Bacteria can be a health concern, especially during summer months and during drought conditions. If you plan to test your water, consult your water testing lab for proper water sample collecting procedures.

Until spring arrives, keep those water sources opened up and clean.

Winter and Your Backyard Chickens

– Sabrina Schirtzinger, OSU Extension AgNR Educator, Knox County

Raising chickens during the winter has challenges; decreased egg production, frozen water, and possible frostbite. Winterizing your chicken coop will help to keep your flock healthy, happy and warm. There are several breeds of chickens that winter better than others. These chickens are: Ameraucanas, Ancona, Black Australorps, Black Giant, Brahma, Buff Orpingtons, Cochins, Delaware, Dominique, Langshan, New Hampshire, Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Red, Speckled Sussex and Wyandottes. Realizing that not everyone has these breeds; here is a list of possible strategies to be successful.

 

Block Drafts: Check the doors and windows for drafts. Simply locking the windows can help with drafts. Inspect your coop for holes. Turn the lights when it is dark, walk around the outside of the coop inspecting the structure for visible holes. If you have a store bought coop with several open fenced sides; consider purchasing heavy plastic, or a tarp to cover the fenced sides.

Increase Bedding: Add a large quantity of bedding for the winter. Check the moisture level in the coop daily; when adding large amounts of bedding you find yourself cleaning the coop more often.

Image result for winterizing your chicken coops

Feeding: Chickens eat more in the cold months to keep warm. Egg laying chickens need more carbohydrates for warmth and egg production. Providing cracked corn once a day, or increasing feed protein will help to increase egg production.

Egg Production: A decline or stop in egg production is natural. By providing 12-14 hours of light will help increase egg production. Put a light in your coop on a timer.

Frostbite: Occurs on feet, combs, and wattles. Gray/ blacken and brittle areas are indications of frostbite. Simply remove the snow from the chicken run (if possible), or straw areas to protect their feet when outdoors. Inside the coop make sure that all the chickens are able to roost up at night. Roosting allows the chicken to lie on their feet avoiding standing all night.

Image result for winterizing your chicken coops

Frozen Water: With winter weather frozen water is inevitable. Change the water once a day, be sure to change the water often on colder days to prevent freezing.  Heated water bowls or containers help to keep water from freezing. Be cautious as these devices have the ability to malfunction and cause a fire.

Even though your chickens may not be exposed to the harsh winter conditions with a little preparation they are very hardy animals.

Sources: Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, Tractor Supply Online Resources

Grazing Wind Damaged Corn Residue

Jeff McCutcheon, OSU Extension Educator, Southeast Regional Director

Although this information has been posted in the past, as harvest has come and gone, this opportunity may serve as a viable option for those looking for a cheap feed source to graze the mature ewe flock on. This strategy allows farmers to optimize on losses associated with harvest as well as serve as a means to save on winter feedings.

To survive the current feed economy livestock producers need to graze their livestock as long as they can.  Every day livestock are meeting their nutritional needs through grazing they are being fed as economically as possible.  Typically cattle producers utilize corn residue as a feed source but, in Ohio, sheep producers need to consider grazing corn residue as well.  When corn stalks become available for grazing livestock producers need to move to take advantage of this resource.

Because the feed is in contact with the ground and deteriorating in the field you should start grazing corn residue as soon as the combine pulls out of the field. The nutrient value of residue declines the longer it is exposed to weathering. Sixty days after harvest is the window for maximum feed value. After 60 days it may not meet the needs of your livestock and you will need to provide supplemental feed. Grazing residue right away will provide a better feed.

Wind damaged fields can have more grain left in the field after harvest than normal.  Check fields for excess grain before grazing. Too much corn left in the field can cause acidosis and founder. In these cases cattle need to be adapted to a higher grain ration before grazing. They should initially be turned into residue with their rumens full if a problem is expected.

Strip grazing will also force the animals to eat leaves, cobs, and stalks instead of just gleaning the grain.  Giving animals only a few days or weeks worth of corn residue at a time utilizes the forage more efficiently.  Strip grazing provides a more uniform diet.  Leaving cattle in the entire field for a couple months or longer means the livestock will initially pick the grain and some of the leaves. Eventually they will only have the stalks, or the least nutritious plant part, left and will need to be supplemented.

Typically fence and water are the excuses used for not grazing corn residue.  There are several inexpensive, temporary options for both. Check out Rory’s article for fencing and “Watering Systems for Grazing Livestock”

(https://store.extension.iastate.edu/Product/pm1604-pdf)

Changes to Ohio’s Livestock Care Standards Take Effect Jan. 1

REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio (Nov. 13, 2017) – The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) wants to remind producers and livestock owners about upcoming changes to Ohio’s livestock care standards.

(Image Source: Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio Livestock Care Standards Guide)

Effective January 1, 2018, veal calves must be housed in group pens by ten weeks of age. Additionally, whether housed in individual stalls or group pens the calves must be allowed to turn around and cannot be tethered. Also effective January 1, tail docking on dairy cattle can only be performed by a licensed veterinarian and if only medically necessary.

The above changes were recommended by the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, a group of 13 members from farming, veterinary, academic, food safety, animal care and consumer interest back‐ grounds tasked with annually reviewing the standards and recommending any appropriate changes to ODA. The changes were submitted by ODA and ultimately approved by the Ohio legislature’s Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review.

Ohio’s livestock care standards were implemented after Ohioans overwhelmingly passed State Issue 2 in November 2009. The constitutional amendment required the state to establish comprehensive livestock care standards, established in rules by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

More details including educational guides to the approved Ohio Livestock Care Standards can be found linked here.

 

The Economic Value of Applying Fall Poultry Litter

by: Jordan Shockley, University of Kentucky Assistant Extension Professor

Spring application of poultry litter is ideal for maximizing the economic value of poultry litter but faces challenges that include wet soil conditions, lack of time to spread litter near planting, and availability of poultry litter in the spring. Therefore, it is a common practice in Kentucky to apply poultry litter in the fall. While not optimal from an economic, agronomic, or environmental perspective, producers still need to understand the economic value from applying poultry litter in the fall.

Poultry litter applied in the fall to fallow cropland will suffer from ammonium volatilization and leaching resulting in little to no nitrogen available to the crop come spring. This results in an economic value less than if applied in the spring. To evaluate the economic value of poultry litter applied in the fall, first assume that soil test recommendations indicate the need for phosphorus and potassium. Also, assume that “as received” poultry litter has a nutrient content of 50 lbs of nitrogen, 56 lbs of phosphorus, and 47 lbs of potassium (average for Kentucky). With current fertilizer prices of $399/ton for anhydrous ($0.24/lb N), $418/ton for DAP ($0.36/lb P2O5) and $316/ton for potash ($0.26/lb K2O), the expected value of poultry litter applied to fallow cropland in the fall is $29/ton. This value should cover the price paid for the poultry litter, transport, and application to compete with commercial fertilizer when applied in the fall. The value of poultry litter increases to $33/ton if it is spread in the fall to cropland that has a cover crop planted. Both fall poultry litter prices are lower compared to 2016. This is directly attributed to the decrease in nitrogen prices from $0.32/lb to $0.24/lb. This decrease value was slightly offset by small increases in both phosphorus and potassium prices.

If availability of poultry litter in the spring is a concern, stockpiling litter purchased in the fall can be an option if local, state and federal regulations allow. With the correct storage techniques and a properly staked litter pile, producers can expect minimum nutrient loss for spring application. If the same commercial fertilizer prices hold, the average poultry litter in Kentucky would have a value of $36/ton if properly stored and applied in the spring.

The value of poultry litter differs in the fall if applied to pastures or land for hay production. If applying poultry litter to an established stand of alfalfa with a legume mix of <25% of the stand, the average poultry litter in Kentucky at current commercial fertilizer prices has a value of $40/ton. The value of poultry litter will vary based on grass type, established stands vs. new seeding/renovation, and whether the land is used for hay, pasture, or silage.

Since the value of poultry litter is dynamic and always changing, decision tools have been developed so producers can enter soil test data, nutrient content of measured litter, commercial fertilizer prices, and management practices of poultry litter applied to determine the value. Tools for applying poultry litter to both grain crops and land in hay/pasture/silage are available and can be found on my website at the following link: http://www.uky.edu/Ag/AgEcon/shockley_jordan.php