Category: Ag, Natural Resources, and Horticulture

You can’t afford to have sore feet

Dollar losses due to lameness are not easily detected on dairy farms.  That also means that there is a cost to not maintaining health hooves in your dairy herd.  Dr. Chuck Guard, DVM, Cornell University recently updated his cost analysis for lameness at around $545.00 per incident. This disease is one of the highest costs with loss in milk production of 750 pounds and reproduction. It takes 28 more days to get a 2 year old cow pregnant as an example. This is not to mention the long term consequences of having sore feet.

The best policy is to develop a no lameness tolerance.  It is better to have a prevention plan rather than have a reaction plan to sore feet.

Here are some steps to take to accomplish a prevention plan.

  • Locomotion observation. Locomotion Scoring information and charts are available on the CCE Delaware website.  There are even videos online that show cows with sore feet walking with head bobs and arched backs.  Observing cows as they stand will not always reveal when sore feet are present.
  • Early intervention with weekly observation of heifers starting at 10 months of age and by following a Veterinarian approved/ prescribed practice of spraying or better yet a foot bath would decrease the prevalence of having Digital Dermatitis also known as “Hairy Foot Wart” in the whole herd. Hairy Foot Wart manifests in an anaerobic (no oxygen), dirty, moist environment and can easily be spread to herdmates.  Once the skin gets weakened the causative bacteria can penetrate and cause the lesion.   Keeping feet clean by scraping stalls often, providing dry stalls or areas to lay down is important. Wallowing in manure and mud is the environment that is a brewing place for trouble.
  • Karl Burgi with the Dairyland Hoof Care Institute recommends a foot bath system with side walls and a 20 to 22” wide bath that is 2 and ½” deep and 10 to 12’ long. This system prevents cows from defecating as they walk through it and prevent weakening the footbath solution giving the needed 6 second contact.
  • Hoof trimming should be scheduled so that first calf heifers have functional healthy feet prior to freshening and cows are looked at in the early part of the dry period to decrease any stressor in the transition period at the very least.
  • Plan on a 24 hour turn around treatment for cows with sore foot that are early in the transition period to early lactation since this is a stressful time period.
  • Hoof trimming does not mean that the trimmer needs to have a pile of hoof shavings to have done a good job. Cleaning off the foot and taking a look is all that may need to be done. Dr. Karl Burgi’s comment is that 85% of cows are over trimmed.
  • Groves in flooring should be done in the direction of cattle traffic and should be ¾” wide, ½ “deep, and ¾ “center to center. The reasoning for this is that would prevent cows from sliding and when cleaning the barn it moves the manure out of the grooves more efficiently than if cross grooving.
  • New “green” concrete or rough surfaces where cows walk will make hooves wear quicker and cause potential sole ulcerations. Taking the time to smooth out surfaces are vital for good hoof health.  Grooved concrete that has just cured needs to have smoothing done by some method.  Examples of that usually involve another heavy concrete block dragged across the surface enough times so that you can walk across it comfortably in bare feet.
  • Pay attention to broken stall dividers as the break near the concrete could provide a hazard to feet. Walkways that have sharp gravel can be an issue as well.  Talk to your dairy nutritionist about a good zinc source to help strengthen hooves.
  • Keep good records from the hoof trimmer. Cows that have had permanent damage from prolonged inflammatory situations may need to be on your cull list if they are chronically sore footed.
  • Don’t keep wraps on longer than 24 hours. The purpose for wraps are to hold any medication or treatment on the foot or protect a wound for a short time from having manure etc. entering it directly. Having a wrap more than 24 hours actually promotes more filth being closer to the foot.
  • Cows need 12 hours of lying time for rest and rumination. Cows that are standing for prolonged periods of time are telling you something. They could be heat stressed and standing to gain more air circulation to cool off or they may not have a clean, dry, and comfortable bed to lay down in such as an overcrowded free stall. Also ally scrapers can be a source of pooled manure.
  • When purchasing cattle, quarantine them if possible check for hairy foot wart and treat them immediately and aggressively.

Sources:

Locomotion Scoring: https://www.zinpro.com/lameness/dairy/locomotion-scoring (Photo Credit)

Karl Burgi: http://comforthoofcare.com/

Hoards Dairymen Webinars: https://hoards.com/flex-309-Webinars.html

By April Wright Lucas, Community Educator

Armyworms Found in Delaware County Cropfields; Scout Fields Now!

This week there have been a couple reports of corn fields in Delaware County with significant armyworm damage.  In one case the fields were later planted corn after sod.  A few fields have been sprayed for control.

Armyworms (also known as True Armyworms) are a pest of grass, corn and small grains.    Moths and caterpillars are both nocturnal. Caterpillars are smooth and marked with two orange, white-bordered strips on each side.  They vary in color from dark greenish-brown to black and are marked with two orange, white-bordered strips on each side. Caterpillars start out ⅛ inch and grow to approximately 1½ inches long, then pupate just below the soil surface. The caterpillar stage lasts about 3 weeks, but they are usually 10 to 14 days old before damage is noticed.

Damage in corn fields appears as ragged holes chewed from the leaf margins and pellet-like droppings (frass) in the whorls and scattered on the ground. The caterpillars will be found in the leaf whorls or at the surface of the soil. In grass hay fields, caterpillars will begin feeding during the night time on lower parts of the plant and spend the daylight hours in plant debris on the ground surface.  As caterpillars grow in size, they spend more time feeding during daylight hours and feeding on the upper parts of the plant.

Recommended economic spray thresholds for corn:

  • Seedling: 10 percent or more plants show damage and larvae are still present.
  • whorl-stage: apply an insecticide when there are three or more larvae per plant.
  • Tall corn seldom needs treatment unless the leaves above the ear are also damaged.

NOTE: When larvae are larger than 1.25”, control is not as effective, and most damage is already done.

Recommended economic thresholds for small grains:

  • Wheat/small grains – 5 or more larvae per linear ft of row, larvae less than 1.25 inches and not parasitized, watch for flag leaf reduction or if grain heads clipped off – yield losses, a spray before soft dough to save the remaining 3 upper leaves is generally beneficial since these tissues are still important to grain filling.

Recommended economic thresholds for grasses:

  • Grasses – no specific guidelines available, need for treatment based on the level of damage observed in relation to the expected value of grass harvest

REMEMBER… if you have a true armyworm infestation in a mixed alfalfa – grass stand, alfalfa and grass BOTH NEED to be on the LABEL!!!

For more on True Armyworm click here

True Armyworm larvae and feeding damage on corn.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Fencing how they all can Intertwine

By Ben Hepler, Community Educator

Fencing, it’s a necessity, unless all of your neighbors in your area are into living like the Native Americans when herds of wild bison roamed the land free to poop and trample where ever. In this article we will cover a few products that you may encounter on your farm that you could re-purpose to build or repair your fences, whether they be electric or barb wire.

We will start with the corner and end posts because without a good end, you will never be able to keep your fence tight. Now there are a few different designs for corners and end posts but we will focus on the style below.

Related image

Photo obtained at http://glahome.pw/detail/62477/wire-fence-building-tips-texags.html

For me the biggest issue was finding a decent horizontal brace to use in my corner or end post design. I have found that the heavy black plastic cores that are left after wrapping your baleage work very well when pieced together with 3in PVC couplings. Below is an image of the finished product at my farm. What’s nice is that there is no need to line up a pin to a drilled hole on the horizontal wood piece. Now you can put the pin in a 3in hole and they are lighter than their wooden counterpart.

On our farm I have re-purposed old coated copper wire to jump electric fence across the road. I have also used left over 3/4in PVC pipe to bury the electric fence line in a gate opening. That way both sides of the fence stay electrified even if the electric gate is down or disconnected. Finally, I have used old garden hose as electric fence insulators in a pinch. On the barb wire front I used to get pretty creative at piecing old rusty wire together that if you sneezed wrong it would break. I have found that it is easier on my time to just put a new strand up, take the old strand off, roll it up into a wreath shape, and use them as Christmas decorations.

In closing, when it’s 10:30 at night and normal businesses are closed and the 9-5ers are asleep dreaming, cows get out, and farmers get really good at practicing the 3 R’s when it comes to fencing. Better yet, put them in the barn, go back to sleep, and deal with it in the morning. Happy Grazing!

Managing Some Pasture Weeds Found in Marginal Pastures

By Ben Hepler, Community Educator

As I was looking out at my pasture behind the barn I thought to myself, “boy it would be nice to do a better job of controlling buttercup, swamp grass, and yellow nutsedge”. The pasture lays nice but in my area, often the flat field at the base of the hill slope is also the somewhat poorly drained field.  The vegetation that I call swamp grass is actually slender rush here in the northeast. In this article we will cover how these plants spread, their habitat preference, how to identify them, and how to control them.

I am an aspiring grazier and I have been going to grazing conferences since I was in 8th grade. Believe me, the teachers had a field day when I would tell them I was going to a grass conference. So I try to maximize the pasture’s ability to produce quality forage the best I can with the time and funds I have at my disposal. However, even the best laid plans fall short sometimes and I find buttercup, slender rush and yellow nutsedge sneaking their way in. They creep in over the years with their spreading rhizomes and seed. They call home in seasonally wet areas, high traffic spots, and areas that have been selectively grazed from time to time without action taken to keep the grasses and legumes competitive against unpalatable forbs. To identify, they say sedges have edges, rushes are round, but grasses have knees. The take away here is that rushes have continuous round stems with a hollow pith or center, sedge stems are angular and almost triangular on the flowering stem, and grasses have knees because their stems are round or flat but have joints along them.  I have always found that the slender rush looks like a spiked bunch grass and yellow nutsedge has a lighter pale green hue to it than grasses and the plant feels different in terms of texture. Buttercup on the other hand has a distinct leaf and once blooming is very easy to identify.

To control the spread of these sneaky weeds start with making sure your pasture fertility is where it should be to produce high quality grasses and legumes. Once fertility is where it should be move onto eradication. Mowing before flowers form will stop the spread of the plants via seed and slow the spread of the rhizomes because frequent mowing will drain the energy reserves in the root system. You could try increased animal pressure in a rotational grazing system. I have seen my cows eat these three weeds when very young. Mechanical tillage and replanting might work in areas that can take machinery later in the year when things dry up. Artificially lowing the water table with drainage tile could also help improve the competitiveness of your grasses and legumes compared to these sneaky weeds. Finally, you could use herbicides to combat these weeds. One of the options would be to spray-kill the pasture and no-till in your new pasture mix. The other option could be to use a herbicide such as Permit or Yukon. These herbicides kill broadleaf weeds which includes buttercup, sedges and rushes. Permit and Yukon have also had hay and pasture applications added to their labels with no risk to lactating or non-lactating cattle. However, be sure to read the labels on the herbicide to properly apply it if you have a license or have a professional do it. Though these weeds aren’t as obnoxious as thistle or multifloral rose, once established they have the potential to limit the productivity of your pastures and can be hard to eradicate because of their growth habit and preferred habitat. Happy Grazing! and remember to concentrate on pastures that are vital to your operation first then branch out.

Oh! one last fun fact for the craft person in your life, if you want to try and make a few extra dollars from slender rush you could try making and selling rush candle sets to homesteaders, off the grid folks, or living history museums.

 

 

Related image

Yellow Nutsedge

Image result for common rush in a pasture

Slender Rush in a Pasture

Image result for meadow buttercup leaves

Meadow Buttercup

 

Rush Candle with iron stand

References:

  1. Anderson G. Weed Control Options for Pasture. Cooperative Extension: Garden & Yard. 2014 May 29 [accessed 2018 Jun 20]. https://extension.umaine.edu/livestock/home/pasture-course/lesson-4/weed-control-options-for-pasture/
  2. Jacobs, J., M. Graves, and J. Mangold. 2010. Plant guide
    for tall buttercup (Ranunculus acris L.). USDA-Natural
    Resources Conservation Service, Montana State Office.
    Bozeman, Montana 59715.
  3. O’Neil K, Hunter M. Sneaky Pasture Weeds- Sedges and Rushes. Cornell Field Crops News. 2014 Jul 15 [accessed 2018 Jun 20]. http://blogs.cornell.edu/ccefieldcropnews/2014/07/15/sneaky-pasture-weeds-sedges-and-rushes/
  4. Plant Database. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center – The University of Texas at Austin. [accessed 2018 Jun 20]. https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=RAAC3
  5. Sellers B, Ferrell J. Soft Rush (Juncus effusus) Control in Pastures. Range Cattle Research & Education Center. 2009 [accessed 2018 Jun 20]. http://rcrec-ona.ifas.ufl.edu/in-focus/IF4-1-09.shtml
  6. Yukon (http://www.gowanco.com/products/yukon.aspx) and Permit (http://www.gowanco.com/products/permit.aspx) herbicides, Gowan Company.

Picture citations:

  1. Brown G. Menu. Country Diary of a 21st Century Woman. [accessed 2018 Jun 20]. https://gillyotter.wordpress.com/page/2/
  2. Nutsedge. Bucks Country Gardens. [accessed 2018 Jun 20]. http://www.buckscountrygardens.com/whats-deal-nutsedge-2/nutsedge/
  3. Ranunculus acris. Wikipedia. 2018 Jun 19 [accessed 2018 Jun 20]. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranunculus_acris
  4. What is Rushlight? Rushlight Events. [accessed 2018 Jun 20]. https://www.rushlightevents.com/rushlight-awards/background/what-is-rushlight/

Scissors Cut Report 5/24/2018

Mow, Mow as Fast as You Can

Hay has continued to grow rapidly this week and grass fields are at target NDF.  Legume/grass stands have also reached their target NDF as of this sampling.  Harvest of grass and mixed stands should progress as rapidly as possible.  Legume fields are 5 to 7 days away from target NDF.

Grasses and legumes grew an average of 7 inches this week and increased by an average of 1 point of NDF per day this past week.  NDF digestibility is still above 70%, but as grasses mature digestibility decreases rapidly as stem elongation advances.  We recommend pausing corn planting and completing harvest of core acres as soon as possible.

Table 1 has each sample location, listed by Town and elevation, and lists the species sampled, average height, and neutral detergent fiber (aNDFom).  NDF is the best predictor for forage harvest timing, we recommend harvest of grasses starting about 50% NDF and Alfalfa about 40% NDF, with mixed stands between 40 and 50 based on the alfalfa content.

We have included 24 hour Neutral Detergent Fiber Digestibility (NDFD), a measure of how quickly and completely forage can be digested in a cow’s rumen, larger numbers are better.  Also is a column for un-digestible fiber (uNDF240), is correlated with how much of a forage a cow can eat, determining dry matter intake potential. Lower uNDF240 is better.

Haylage in a Day

As is often the case, we had a one day weather window this week, and several farms were able to take advantage and get a field or two done.  The key is mowing in a wide swath (80% + of mower width if possible), even tedding after a couple hours of drying.  Rapid dry down preserves more sugar in the forage aiding in better fermentation and more digestible nutrients.  More days available for harvest and more nutrients per pound of forage are a winning combination.  Click here for a web page with a good description of the concept.

A timely first cut is the essential first step to an adequate inventory of high quality feed.  It’s our goal to provide this weekly crop progress report to support you in planning for a successful hay harvest season.

Click Delaware County Scissor Cut 5_24_18 for a printable pdf of this report.

Scissor Cut Results 5/17/18

Grass Is a Go, Time to Mow

Hay has grown rapidly during the past week and many grass fields have reached target NDF. A few grass fields are slightlybelow target but we would expect most to reach the target within the week. Several mixed stands with less than 50% legume are also near target NDF as of this sampling. We recommend starting grass harvest as soon as is practical. Mixed stands with less than 50% legume content should be considered for harvest soon. Mixed stand with more than 50% Legume content look to be at least a week away from target NDF.
The most advanced grass fields tested around 50% NDF this week, right at the recommend harvesting stage. Grass fields increased about 1.5 point of NDF per day this past week, which is greater than average, but not unprecedented. The first early orchardgrass heads appeared this week and grasses will continue to mature rapidly.
Table 1 has each sample location, listed by Town and elevation, and lists the species sampled, average height, and neutral detergent fiber (aNDFom). NDF is the best predictor for forage harvest timing, we recommend grasses be harvested starting about 50% NDF and Alfalfa about 40% NDF, with mixed stands between 40 and 50 based on the alfalfa content.
We have included 24 hour Neutral Detergent Fiber Digestibility (NDFD), a measure of how quickly and completely forage can be digested in a cow’s rumen, larger numbers are better. Also is a column for un-digestible Fiber (uNDF240), this is a measure of the fiber that will never be digested, and is correlated with how much of a forage a cow can eat, determining dry matter intake potential. Lower uNDF240 is better.
A timely first cut is the essential first step to an adequate inventory of high quality feed. It’s our goal to provide this weekly crop progress report to support you in planning for a successful hay harvest season.
It’s time for the 2018 harvest season to begin.
We will sample again on the May 22 and send results on or about May 24.

Happy Harvesting

(Click Delaware County Scissor Cut 5 17 18  for a pdf of this report)

Table 1: Forage Height and Fiber Content 5/15/2018

Farm Town Elevation Species Ht (in) aNDFom NDFD uNDF240
Darling Andes 2080 Clover(40%)/T Fesc 8/13 34.1 82 6.3
Evans Andes 2240 Orchardgrass 9 48.6 78 10.3
Weber Bovina 2060 Orchardgrass 16 49.2 77 8.5
Mattson Colchester 1070 Alfalfa(70%)/T Fesc 18/17 29.9 64 8.9
Keator Davenport 1770 Tall Fescue 14 46.5 74 10.5
Board Delhi 2120 Orchardgrass 18 43.6 83 8
Maxwell Delhi 1480 Alfalfa(40%)/grass 13/18 33.4 73 9.6
Mushkoday Delhi 1340 Alfalfa 17 27.7 60 10.6
Sherwood Delhi 1610 Mixed Grass 15 45.9 75 8.5
Schaefer Deposit 1320 Alfalfa 17 23.4 75 8.8
Grant Franklin 1660 Alfalfa(50%)/TFesc 12/18 42.7 68 9.9
Taggart Franklin 1750 Orchardgrass 12 51.4 68 9.3
Baldauf Hamden 1650 Clover(30%)/grass 10 38.8 83 9.8
Merrill Hamden 2050 Alfalfa(30%)/orch 12/14 36.5 74 9.9
Moody Hamden 2100 Meadow Fescue 15 47.5 79 9.4
Hillriegel Hardenburgh 1670 Mixed Grass 17 46.8 83 7
Bedford Harpersfield 1820 Alfalfa(50%)/orch 12/18 35.8 77 7.5
Bedford Harpersfield 1820 Tall Fescue 16 50.4 70 8.3
Hager Kortright 2000 Tall Fescue 12 47.2 73 8.6
Schmid Kortright 2270 Orchardgrass 12 47.9 76 8.1
Sebastian Kortright 1620 Orchardgrass 16 53.9 71 7.5
Bell Masonville 1170 Orchardgrass 15 52.2 75 8.1
DiBenedetto Middletown 1720 Clover(25%)/Orch 10/18 50.8 78 7.3
Gray Middletown 1910 Orchardgrass 15 48.5 74 10.6
Gockel Roxbury 1680 Clover(20%)/grass 7/14 44.2 77 10.3
Kuhn Roxbury 1980 Mixed Grass 18 45.4 81 9.4
Sanford Roxbury 1890 Orchardgrass 18 42.7 82 7.2
Johnson Sidney 1020 Alfalfa 18 29.4 77 12.8
Dai-Lil Farm Stamford 1820 Clover(25%)/TFesc 11/18 36.9 88 9.6
Deysenroth Stamford 1610 Orchardgrass 20 52.4 76 7.2
Hanselman Stamford 1500 Alfalfa*(75%)/MFesc 16/16 30 73 11.4
Hanselman Stamford 1500 Alfalfa(75%)/MFesc 13/15 29.2 83 10.1
Martin Stamford 1520 Alfalfa(60%)/orch 16/21 30 65 9.7
McClure Stamford 2010 Alfalfa(50%)/orch 12/15 39.2 74 8
Palmatier Stamford 2020 Orchardgrass 15 48.7 84 8.3
Reinshagen Stamford 1820 Mixed Grass 16 45.3 82 11.6
LaTourette Tompkins 1210 Alfalfa(25%)/grass 12/14 46.5 71 9
Shelton Tompkins 1340 Mixed Grass 14 48.9 77 7.3
Pieper Walton 1390 Orchardgrass 18 49.8 82 11.5
Pieper Walton 1230 Clover(50%)/TFesc 11/15 46.5 75 8.2
Wickham Walton 1280 Alfalfa(70%)/orch 15/21 37.7 68 9.5

 

Controlling Bird Damage in Corn Fields

Crows, geese and other bird pests are a perennial problems for Delaware County corn growers.  Gravely soils near bird roosting and nesting areas are particularly vulnerable.  Cornell Cooperative Extension has been demonstrating the use of Avipel Shield bird repellent seed treatment to limit the damage birds cause to emerging corn.

Birds attack corn stands soon after the plants emerge by pulling the small plants to get at the corn seed still attached to the developing root system.  Planting corn more deeply (2 1/2 inches vs 1 1/2 inches) can help deter pulling, but achieving a uniform seeding depth in more gravely soils is not always possible.  Avipel treatment coats each kernel with a protective coating that causes birds immediate, yet temporary, digestive distress.  After attempting to eat newly planted seed, birds quickly look elsewhere, leaving newly planted fields

unharmed.  Avipel Shield’s active ingredient is an organic chemical found in a number of plant species, including aloe vera and rhubarb. While being a particularly effective agent for repelling birds, it is non-lethal to them.

Field scale demonstrations in Delaware County have shown sections of  corn fields planted with seed treated with the bird repellent had  more than 2500 more plants per acre greater than sections planted with untreated seed.

Demonstration Trials in Delaware County and across New York State will be continuing in the 2018 season.  (Thanks to NY Farm Viability Institute and New York Corn Growers for funding this project)

For more information email Dale Dewing [email protected]

Scissor Cut Results 5/10/18

Welcome to the first Forage Quality Scissors Cut report for 2018. This year we are sampling 41 sites in Delaware County and the NYC Watershed. The late, cold and snowy spring has delayed hay growth, but height measurements Chart of grass height measurements 2006-2018this week are surprisingly similar to other recent years.

The most advanced grass fields tested around 40% NDF this week, we recommend harvesting at 50% NDF. A rule of thumb is for grass to increase about 1 point of NDF per day, so with the forecast for the next couple weeks near average we would not expect any fields to reach target NDF in the next week. Grass maturity is behind average and we predict it will be ready for harvest a few days later than normal. Table 1 has each sample location, listed by Town and elevation, and lists the species sampled, average height, and neutral detergent fiber (aNDFom). NDF is the best predictor for forage harvest timing, we recommend grasses be harvested starting about 50% NDF and Alfalfa about 40% NDF, with mixed stands between 40 and 50 based on the alfalfa content. We have included 24 hour Neutral Detergent Fiber Digestibility (NDFD), a measure of how quickly and completely forage can be digested in a cow’s rumen, larger numbers are better. Also is a column for un-digestible Fiber (uNDF240), this is a measure of the fiber that will never be digested, and is correlated with how much of a forage a cow can eat, determining dry matter intake potential. Lower uNDF240 is better.  Click here for a printable version

Forage Quality Matters

A recent Hoard’s Dairyman article (Fight low milk prices with high-forage diets, April 25, 2018 page 278) highlights a feeding study at Virginia Tech comparing a 60% forage diet to a 40% forage diet. It concludes, “high-forage diets improved income over feed cost by $1.90 per hundredweight”. We know many Delaware County dairies currently achieve this level of forage feeding, and we know good yields of highly digestible forage is the key. A timely first cut is the essential first step to an adequate inventory of high quality feed. It’s our goal to provide this weekly crop progress report to support you in planning for a successful hay harvest season.

It looks like this week will be a good week to get corn planted, weather permitting, and to get harvest equipment shined up and ready. We will sample again on the May 15 and send results on or about May 17.

Signs of Clostridial Fermentation in Baleage Part I

It’s the wee hours of the morning and it’s time to feed the cows. You head on out to the skid steer and retrieve a bale of baleage. You’re now at the manger/TMR mixer and slice the bale open…. a rancid, putrid smell looms as the plastic is sliced away. You normally can’t miss the rancid smell but on this day your sinuses are quite full and you don’t detect the odor. As you slice through the baler twine the baleage has a tacky, sticky feel to it with some discoloration in the forage that’s not the norm but the light is dim as it’s the early hours of the morning and your gloves keep the sticky feel and rancid smell from your hands. You roll the bale on out and the cows go to town.

The following morning you retrace your same routine as you have everyday prior and head out to begin feeding the cows. As you pull up to the manger you notice a few cows are off. They seem uncomfortable. No cud chewing, no ambition to eat. Then you see that one of the cows has passed on to the green acres in the sky…

This is a farmers worse nightmare. A barn full of ill animals and only time and treatment will determine the outcome. The cause is an abnormal fermentation that took place during the harvesting/storage phase of the forage. Let’s start with what is “normal”. Normal fermentation takes place when anaerobic bacteria (those that live without air) convert sugars in the forage to lactic acid which in turn lowers the pH and preserves the forage as silage, with full fermentation completed within 6-8 weeks. This fermentation process is known as lactate fermentation.

One of the “abnormal fermentations” that could take place is clostridial fermentation resulting in botulism. Botulism is a disease caused by one of the most potent toxins known to man. This toxin is produced by Clostridium botulinum, a spore-forming anaerobic Gram positive rod. These spores are found everywhere in the soil and contaminate baleage during harvest, often by raking up dirt into the forage. In the absence of oxygen (as is found in wrapped hay ie: baleage) and a pH greater than 4.5 (poor fermentation), the spores enter a vegetative state, multiply and produce toxin.

There are seven types of botulinum toxins. Types A, B, E and F can infect humans. Types C and D are found in poultry, wild birds, mink and their excrement. Type E is related to fish and avian. In instances where an outbreak of a known strain of botulism is suspected, an antiserum can be used for treatment, but oftentimes it’s just too late. Even miniscule amounts of the botulinum toxin can decimate a barn full of livestock. It is not uncommon to read about situations where hundreds of cattle and horses have died within hours of eating contaminated feed. In fact, if you have ever heard the rumor that baleage is not safe to feed to horses, it’s probably because of this reason as horses tend to be much more sensitive to the botulism toxin.

 

Clostridial fermentation can wreck havoc if fed to your livestock. It’s not worth taking the risk if you believe you may have some questionable baleage. The initial signs that will be noticed out on the farm of a clostridial fermentation in baleage will rely on your senses and experience. First is the smell. The bale will have an odor far from pleasant. It may smell “fishy” or “spoiled” . It will not be a pleasant smell. Second is touch. As you handle the baleage it will have a tacky, sticky or slimy feel to it. Again the odor will definitely permeate your clothing and skin. Last is sight, often but not always a clostridial fermentation will change the color of the baleage to a black, dark green/black or dark brown/green.

If there is any question in your mind if the baleage properly fermented hold off on that bale and retrieve a bale that doesn’t contain these characteristics. It’s not worth taking the risk of possibly creating a barn of sick or dead animals.

Call one of our extension agents to come on out and take a sample to be sent off for a fermentation analysis. We will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have. You can also email me @ [email protected]

This blog post is first in a series. There will be follow up posts getting more in-depth on types and causes of clostridial fermentation, diagnosis of abnormal fermentation and the particular consequences it may have on livestock health once consumed and how to avoid this fermentation in the future.

Can’t wait and want to learn more now? Below you will find some helpful links:

https://u.osu.edu/beef/2017/04/26/baleage-mistakes-can-lead-to-major-health-consequences/

https://www.progressiveforage.com/forage-types/grasses-and-grazing/beware-of-botulinum-toxins-in-under-fermented-baleage

http://www2.dnr.cornell.edu/ext/EDEN/Flooded%20Crops%20for%20Silage%202011.pdf 

https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/50901500/dairyexpo/2006/WDE2006_butyric_acid.pdf

 

 

 

 

All Things Wool

Skirting Wool

CCE Delaware County and the Watershed Ag Council held an educational workshop on All Things Wool.  Nancy Meyers demonstrated how to shear a sheep so both the shearer and sheep are comfortable and safe.  Deb Dutcher demonstrated how to handle the fleece, including skirting and wool grading.  Participants had the opportunity to skirt fleeces and compare wool from different breeds of sheep.