Get goat nutrition right

Written by Dr. Jim White on .

The great goat rush slowed last year with numbers in the Midwest reaching a plateau of sorts. In Missouri goat inventory hit about 92,300 head in 2011, down a bit from the year before. Of those, meat goats accounted for some 80,000 head and milk goats, 11,000 head. Throw in a few angora and you match the total. But prices still show demand, and so we should revisit some of the challenges you’ll find in feeding small ruminants.
Abrupt Ration Changes

One recurring cause of health problems in small ruminants is the abrupt change in amounts, ratios or ingredients of rations. By nature, goats consume a wide variety of forages and browse. Goats have faster metabolisms than cattle, and they tend to eat more often than cattle. Therefore, in theory, a large concentrate meal once or twice daily is unnatural and makes smaller ruminants more susceptible to metabolic diseases. However, in practice I see less incidence of bloat and founder in goats than I see with cattle. Any ruminant is sensitive to ration changes—because any ruminant can change intake faster than the rumen microbial population can change. Thus, we need to change rations no faster than the rumen microflora can change.

A rapid shift to a high-grain ration may cause enterotoxemia, cause animals to refuse feed, or induce diarrhea or other digestive upset. As a rough rule, one can increase grain feeding by 5 percent a day.

Enterotoxemia, or overeating disease, is one of the most commonly occurring and most costly diseases. Enterotoxemia is best prevented by making ration changes slowly and gradually. While toxins produced from bacteria that are inherent to the ruminant digestive tract cause the disease, the disease is associated with high concentrate feeding and abrupt dietary changes. Changes in the rumen environment cause type C and D to reproduce rapidly. When this happens, the bugs “bloom”. Often, the faster growing, better-doing, most aggressive eating animals are affected. Hence the name “overeating disease.” In addition to making ration changes slowly, you should follow the vaccination schedule of the herd veterinarian.

While forages often provide the base for small ruminant production systems, hay and pasture quality and quantity will vary greatly from year to year and even from field to field. Forage species, fertilization program, dates of harvest and storage method have a great influence on forage quality. It is nearly always advisable to test conserved forages to determine the nutrient content. Grass samples will range from 4 percent protein to 24 percent. TDN can vary from 25 percent to 75 percent. Given the variability, it is a shot in the dark to develop supplementation programs without forage analyses.

Accumulation occurs in forages when the uptake of soil nitrates continues even as plant photosynthesis, carbohydrate and protein synthesis cease. Factors that contribute to the accumulation of nitrates in plants include drought, frost, low light intensities, low temperatures, soil nutrient deficiencies, excess nitrogen fertilization and some plant diseases. Nitrates will accumulate to varying levels within the plant with the lower stalk containing the highest concentrations. When conditions exist that may lead to accumulations of nitrates in forages, forages should be tested for nitrate concentrations. Testing should be performed before the first use of the forage to avoid potential problems. Plants use the nitrate as a nitrogen source, so plants will always have some nitrates. The goal is to ensure that there are not too many nitrates. Nitrates in the entire diet lower that 0.4 percent are considered safe.

Lack of a proper mineral/vitamin supplementation program is a fundamental challenge. Salt, or sodium chloride, is still offered as the only mineral supplement in countless situations. The mineral content of forages varies greatly by season, by year and area. Forages will always be short of iodine and sodium. They will likely be short in selenium, copper and zinc. In dormant forages, phosphorous will be short, and in early growth forage will be magnesium-short. A complete mineral is a good means of providing vitamins A, D and E. Offering white salt as the only source of mineral supplementation tends to make a herd susceptible to nutritional deficiencies. These nutritional deficiencies are often subclinical; they tend to go unnoticed and unrectified.

Water Belly
Mineral deposits form in the urinary tract and are referred to as uroliths or urinary calculi. These deposits occur in all animals. But, a blockage of urine flow occurs most often in wethers and to a lesser degree, intact males. The blockage and subsequent build up of urine will cause the animal to strain and gaze skyward. The bladder might burst, aside from being unpleasant and fatal for the animal, this dents your profitability. The condition is more common in feedlot conditions where the phosphorous level is high while salt and calcium levels are low. In range conditions, the situation is common where the silica content of the diet is high. Using a balanced ration, ensuring adequate water and using a balanced goat feed will help prevent incidence of urinary calculi.

Providing a continuous supply of fresh, clean water and adequate trough space will help assure performance and productivity. Many factors influence an animal’s water intake: stage of production, environmental temperature, salt consumption and ration moisture content. Figure on 0.75 to 1.5 gallons of water daily per goat as a rough rule. Inadequate water intake will result in decreased dry matter intake, reduced ADG, increased susceptibility to disease and a general lack of thrift.

Precision pays

Written by TF staff on .

A recently released USDA Economic Research Service report shows that yield monitors are a first-step into precision farming and were quickly adopted by farmers. Complementing yield monitors with further investment in GPS systems, variable-rate applicators and other technology hasn’t been as rapid, but those technologies tend to result in higher yield. The study relied on data from 2001 through 2009, focusing on corn, soybeans, wheat. Some of the summary points from the study include:
•    Corn and soybean yields were significantly higher for yield monitor adopters than for non-adopters nationally. This yield differential for corn grew from 2001 to 2005.
•    Corn and soybean farmers using yield monitors had lower per-acre fuel expenses. Average per-acre fertilizer expenses were slightly higher for corn farmers that adopted yield monitors, but were lower for soybean farmers.
•    In the Corn Belt, GPS maps and variable-rate technologies were used on 24 and 16 percent respectively of corn in 2005, and 17 and 12 percent of soybean acres in 2006, but nationally the adoption rates for variable-rate technologies were only 12 percent for corn and 8 percent for soybeans.
•    Average fuel expenses were lower, per acre, for farmers using variable-rate technologies for corn and soybean fertilizer application, as were soybean fuel expenses for guidance systems adopters.
•    Adopters of GPS mapping and variable-rate fertilizer equipment had higher yields for both corn and soybeans.
•    Adoption of guidance systems, which notify farm equipment operators as to their exact field position, is showing a strong upward trend, with 35 percent of wheat producers using it by 2009.

Not a seed cap in sight

Written by Mitch Jayne on .

Looks like the drought of farmer-presidents will persist

With the presidential election coming around all too soon, candidates are darting around like trout fry in shoal water. Being from Missouri, I am hoping one of them will Show Me a shiny side I can pick out and identify with. So far, if I were fishing for a farm-raised specimen, I’m out of luck.

Not for the first time, I should add. Out of 44 presidents, only five had any farming history, and George Washington, our first, called himself a “planter,” not a farmer. Meaning I guess that he didn’t mind planting cotton, but was way too busy to pick it, what with the British and all.
James Madison was the next one to farm, and he really worked at it, harvest and all, until the neighbors pestered him into politics. They said a land this big needed somebody who remembered it was mostly dirt, making him qualified to run the place.

We had to wait a bunch of years for the next farm-raised president, U.S. Grant, who, like Washington, only got the job because of his war sense, which unlike George’s didn’t help him much. He was noted for appreciating corn more than planting it.

The country had to wait a long time for another president who had actually put a plow in the ground; Harry Truman who came home from WWI to help his daddy farm for ten years before he opted for making a living instead. One of the many things Harry is remembered for was his plain speech, (probably learned from his years of reasoning with mules) and his farmer-direct way of dealing with first one crisis then another.

Washington D.C. held few surprises for a man accustomed to Missouri weather.

By the time we got to Jimmy Carter, our affable peanut farmer from Georgia, the country was beyond using his kind of expertise. Farming itself had to be explained to city children who thought cows were milk machines on Sesame Street, soybeans were grown in the land of Soy (where everyone has three eyes), and all vegetables, including corn, came from California, grown by a green giant.

Jimmy didn’t stand a chance. I firmly believe it’s because he refused to go on TV wearing a peanut suit, top hat and a monocle and twirling his cane, which would have impressed everybody. A real president in the show (and tell) biz.

Meanwhile, I’d still like to try another farmer. They deal with basic values, and are experienced with money problems. They are used to fence mending and have learned to cope with bureaucratic thinking and delays. They understand both pig and bull-headedness, and will (best of all) listen to advice when it's honest.

And it wouldn’t hurt a bit if, like George Washington, they’d take the time to listen to the hounds now and then. It would be handy to have critters around you who kept to the trail and mainly told you the truth.

From November 2007. Mitch Jayne 1928-2010 was a celebrated Ozark author and long-time contributor to Today’s Farmer. We reprint this in his honor.

MFA participates in Safe Feed/Sage Food program

Written by stevefairchild on .

Certification program fine tunes feed manufacturing processes

MFA feed facilities are being recognized for the consistent, safe feed they deliver. One by one, MFA feed mills are achieving Safe Feed/Safe Food certification, a national quality and process standard.

Safe Feed/Safe Food is recognized across the country as a top standard for the feed industry. In some ways it’s similar to ISO certifications, which you’ve probably seen stamped on products or service vehicles. In the case of ISO, those numbers mean that a company has met and can verify that it has met a series of process quality benchmarks as set by the International Organization for Standardization. There are ISO certifications for various industries, including parts of agriculture.

The Safe Feed/Safe Food program is an approach to manufacturing and delivering feed that is similar to the ISO system in the sense that it lays out standardized procedures for the manufacture of feed from the ingredient stage to the safe transport, delivery and storage of the finished product.

MFA’s feed mill at Gerald, Mo., was the cooperative’s first Safe Feed/Safe Food certified facility. Earning the right to display the Safe Feed/Safe Food seal means devoting time and resources to developing a detailed plan of action, fulfilling specific requirements and demonstrating the ways in which facilities exceed industry standards. The processes include modern critical control point risk-management standards.

“Much of what Safe Feed/Safe Food certification requires are things that MFA feed mills were already doing,” said Tom Staudt, MFA director of feed manufacturing. “To get the Safe Feed/Safe Food certification, you need to meet certain criteria with the equipment you use to make feed, the practices and management you use to make feed and with training the employees who make feed. As licensed mills, we already have a set of standard good management practices, which cover a lot of Safe Feed/Safe Food requirements, but we always want to improve. Our goal is to develop protocol that makes us more efficient and helps us deliver high quality, safe feed to our customers.”

There is a strong trend for more societal scrutiny on food safety. And for the livestock industry’s contribution to the food supply, feed production and consumption can be a major factor in food safety. From regulators to consumers, people want to know what is in their livestock feed and where the constituent ingredients came from. Whether meeting high quality standards to deliver a premium product or simply tracking feedstuffs inventory, traceability is a huge concern both with governmental regulatory agencies as well as private enterprise. Safe Feed/Safe Food provides reliable traceability of feed and feed ingredients all the way through the manufacturing chain.

The program certifies facilities that produce feed, not the feed itself. It’s administered by The American Feed Industry Association, a century-old organization made up of members from across the spectrum of feed manufacturing. However, Safe Feed/Safe Food facilities are inspected by the Facility Certification Institute, an independent third party. And once certified, facilities are subject to ongoing inspections and audits to ensure they consistently comply with Safe Feed/Safe Food standards. 

“The feed industry, like most others, has been subject to increases in regulatory oversight,” said MFA Feed division vice president Dr. Alan Wessler. “Some regulations come as reaction to events that our industry has no control over, but as feed manufacturers, we want to be in the lead when it comes to product safety. Safe Feed/Safe Food gives us the opportunity to bring third-party inspectors to MFA locations to certify we’re meeting a set of stringent process standards. It allows companies like MFA an opportunity to lead with what we are already doing. We’ve made it our culture to continually improve our manufacturing process. Safe Feed/Safe Food allows us to move up one more notch and be recognized for our efforts.”

Because the Safe Feed/Safe Food program exceeds industry regulatory requirements and employs a modern risk-assessment approach, it has been embraced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Facilities that carry the Safe Feed/Safe Food seal are inspected every two years and audited annually by the Facility Certification Institute, which is more frequent than traditional official visits from FDA.

12 ways to be a better farm manager

Written by Nancy Jorgensen on .

Adopt Danny Klinefelter’s best farming practices

It’s a volatile world out there. Farm commodity prices may look good these days, but we recently faced flooding in Missouri, drought in Oklahoma, political threats to ethanol in corn states like Iowa, and relatively high input costs across the U.S. This might be a great time to take a look at Danny Klinefelter’s practical list of ways to become more efficient and enhance your bottom line.

“Most people farm or ranch because they love growing things, they love animals, they love being outside or they love being independent,” Klinefelter said. “Not as many enjoy the financial, marketing and people management sides of the business. But these days


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