Adverse weather conditions like drought present dairy producers with major challenges. The largest problem is having enough forage available to feed all animal groups. The second significant problem is forage quality. The obvious questions to ask during drought situations are 1) should hay or other forage be purchased; 2) should forage intakes be kept at the minimum level recommended; 3) should more high-fiber feeds be used?
The economics of the situation, including effects on cash flow and interest charges, should receive top priority. The palatability of the items being evaluated and their suitability for use in the feeding system should also be considered. In addition to the aforementioned items, there are other risk factors that occur during a drought that can have a substantial impact on animal performance. Nitrates, prussic acid and other poisons can jeopardize both production and health of animals. Poisonous plants and weeds can be an issue and should not be overlooked.
Drought-stricken corn can make nutritious silage. Absence of ears does not imply that corn silage lacks fermentable energy. Forage portions should contain reasonably high levels of soluble sugars. As corn approaches maturity, the energy level and dry matter yield increase. It is recommended to allow corn to develop as fully as possible, even if ears and grain are lacking. There are wide variations in the nutritive content of drought-stressed corn silage. It may have an energy value 85 to 100 percent of normal corn silage, or it may be quite different. Very young corn prior to tasseling may contain as much as 14 to 16 percent crude protein. A standard forage analysis is highly recommended, along with testing for levels of nitrates.
If it becomes necessary to harvest very short immature corn, it is not prudent to add a non-protein nitrogen source like ammonia or urea at the time of ensiling. Preferably, the dry matter content of droughty silage should be in the range of 30 to 40 percent to make satisfactory silage. If the corn did not set ears and is green, or if the ears are all brown, the moisture content may be too high, but hot, dry weather can cause rapid moisture drops—careful observations of moisture changes are needed to determine the best time to harvest.
Immature plants that are killed will likely contain too much moisture for immediate ensiling. These plants will dry slowly and dry matter losses will increase as the dead plants drop their leaves. The best option is to leave the crop in the field until it reaches the appropriate dry matter level, unless losses appear too high or harvesting losses will increase dramatically.
Drought or immature soybean plants can be used as a forage crop. Plants should be allowed to mature as much as possible before harvesting. Some pod or bean development enhances feeding value of plants harvested either as hay or silage. Soybean forage is high in calcium and should be avoided as the major forage source for dry cows.
If the plants are going to be ensiled, it is recommended to do so before plant moisture drops below 60 to 65 percent. If possible, mix soybeans with other forages, preferably during ensiling to enhance palatability. If plants are high in moisture and lack pod or bean development, it is suggested to add 100 to 200 pounds of a ground grain per ton when direct-cutting rather than wilting to 60 to 65 percent moisture. The stems of soybean plants are not very palatable, and animals will sort them out if given the opportunity. Chopping soybean hay and feeding if in a total mixed ration will help prevent sorting.
If soybean forage contains substantial amounts of developed beans, you may need to reduce the amount of other fats and oils in the ration for lactating cows based on the analyzed fat content of the soybeans. It may be difficult to dry down pods for hay if beans are too well-developed. As with any forage, soybeans should be analyzed for their nutrient content. It is also advisable to check the label of any herbicide used for possible restrictions on feeding soybean forage to livestock.
Drought conditions may increase nitrate levels in forages to the point of possible toxicity. Drought-stricken fields of corn, sorghum and Sudan grass are most apt to contain harmful levels of nitrate, particularly those that have been heavily fertilized with manure or nitrogen. Numerous weeds such as pigweed and lambsquarter are nitrate accumulators. Any forage that is suspected of containing high levels of nitrates should not be fed as green chop.
Although nitrate levels in drought-stricken corn may be high, ensiling usually reduces more than half the nitrates. For this reason, nitrate toxicity rarely occurs when feeding ensiled drought corn. However, if drought damage was extreme and high levels of nitrogen were applied to the soil, a nitrate test on the silage should be conducted. Rate of nitrate intake is the most critical factor influencing possible toxicity. This is affected by rate of forage dry matter intake in a given period of time and its nitrate content. Forages containing under 1,000 parts per million nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) on a dry matter basis may be fed free-choice or with no restriction on meal size. That's provided the total level of NO3-N in the total ration, including water, is kept at a safe or low-risk level.
If you’re looking for a quick getaway for the top of summer, check out the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers quarter-scale design competition in Peoria, Ill., next week. The event features 26 teams from universities across North America will vie for prizes and global recognition for their design innovations in ASABE's 15th Annual International ¼-Scale Tractor Student Design Competition. Competition is May 31 to June 3, at the Expo Gardens in Peoria. It is free and open to the public.
The teams have spent the 2011-2012 academic year designing and building utility or recreational pulling tractors that they will present and demonstrate at the competition. Each team is supplied one 31-hp Briggs & Stratton Vanguard Big Block Engine and a set of Titan tires; they are responsible for acquiring all other components of their machines. All tractors run on a 10% ethanol fuel blend.
The ¼-Scale Competition is unique among student engineering design contests in that it provides a realistic "360-degree" workplace experience. A panel of industry experts judge each design for innovation, manufacturability, serviceability, maneuverability, safety, sound level and ergonomics. Teams also submit a written design report in advance of the competition, and onsite they must "sell" their design, in a formal presentation to industry experts playing the role of a corporate management team. Finally, machines are put to the test in a performance demonstration comprising a series of tractor pulls. The pulls take place Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, and spectators are welcome.
“Each year, the organizing committee continues to be amazed with the students and the tractors they build with the challenges we present them,” said 2012 competition co-chair Mike Ciolino. “In 2011 we introduced a new design configuration change with the optional 31-hp engines and front-wheel assist. The configuration has not changed much this year, but we plan to see many new and innovative ideas as teams strive for the best overall design,” he added.
Last year, Kansas State University took home the championship trophy for an unprecedented eighth time. Rounding out the top five spots were, in order: the University of Kentucky, Purdue University, University of Saskatchewan, and the University of Manitoba.
The ¼-Scale Competition is a popular recruiting event for many sponsors. Most of the sponsor companies have hired engineers from among the teams, finding practiced, high-achieving candidates. Top teams will be honored Sunday, June 3, at an awards banquet held at The Grand Hotel in Peoria.
Corporate sponsors for the ASABE 15th Annual International ¼-Scale Tractor Student Design Competition are AGCO, Briggs & Stratton, Case IH, Caterpillar, Deere & Company, New Holland, SolidWorks, and Titan International. Additional support is provided by Campbell Scientific, Inc., GSI Grain Systems, Katie McDonald Photography, Precision Planting, Claas, RCI Engineering, Central City Scale, igus Inc., Miller Electric Manufacturing, and Star Equipment.
Students participating come from these schools:
California Polytechnic State University
Iowa State University
Kansas State University
North Carolina State University
North Dakota State University
The Ohio State University
Oklahoma State University
Penn State University
South Dakota State University
Southern Illinois University
Texas A & M University
University of Florida
University of Illinois
University of Kentucky
University of Manitoba
University of Missouri
University of Nebraska
University of Saskatchewan
University of Tennessee - Knoxville
University of Tennessee - Martin
University of Wisconsin - Madison
University of Wisconsin - Platteville
University of Wisconsin - River Falls
There recently has been considerable press about China's supposed monopoly on rare earth minerals. It's not so much a monopoly on the minerals as a monopoly on the mining techniques that retrieve the minerals (read: below U.S. environmental standards). In fact, the Obama administration is making WTO claims for Beijing's reluctance to export much of her rare earth.
As they contain many of the minerals required to make components for modern electronics, magnets for wind power, etc., Missouri's south east mineral deposits are accruing new value.
You can find plenty of green guilt if you do some innerwebs searching to see how the materials for your cell phone despoiled the Chinese countryside. But telescopic environmentalism never really considers the modern accoutrements we, errr, need for daily living such as cell phones and that thin new iPad (known by a certain branch of the tech press as "fondleslabs," a term we'd very much like to help popularize).
Some random digging yielded these links, some of which are not particularly new. I'll watch for additional headlines, and stand by for anti-mining-wind-proponent-pretzels if these mines get re-developed.
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