Cow Productivity Depends on Cow Comfort

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACow productivity and cow comfort is something that often is pointed at dairy cattle. Beef cattle, too, are more productive when comfortable. The comfort of cattle is of primary concern among producers who not only want to maximize the care of the cattle.

Modern dairy cows are often a focus due to confinement situations that are needed from a labor standpoint. Many modern confinement systems provide shade, fans and even misters for cows in hot weather. Feed that is easily available is important as well as clean water – both make for more milk. While concrete pens are usually used for reasons of ease of cleaning, it can be hard on a cow’s feet and legs. For this reason a comfortable, dry, clean place to lie down is important.

Free stalls are designed so that cows walk in and lie down, helping to insure that the manure deposited when she stands up is in the gutter or at least at the back of the stall where it is easily scraped into the gutter to be scraped out. Sand, shavings, rubber and cow mattresses are all options that are used in dairies around the US.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile the basics of feed, water, shelter are a great deal towards cow comfort that certainly isn’t all. Dairies that dry cattle off for a rest grass based dairies and beef facilities also make use of pasture. Ground is easier on feet and legs, but more difficult to keep dry and sanitary.

Dry areas to lie down reduce the chances of mastitis and other problems. Cows will lay down in many areas and some cows are just messy and don’t seem to mind laying in manure, but most given a choice will choose a dry stall over a wet one.

Cow comfort of course goes much further. Keeping feet properly trimmed and maintained makes it easier for cows to walk without pain. If they are hesitant to stand or walk they won’t be up eating and, pasture or confinement, can lose production and condition.

Pest control is another important part of cow comfort. Cows that spend their time fighting flies aren’t eating or resting – both essential activities of a cow’s productive day. There are also diseases such as pinkeye that can be transmitted with flies. Pest control also includes controlling mice and rats around the feed supplies.

When designing barns, shelters or even feeding areas in pastures keeping the focus on cow comfort pays off whether it’s 2 cows or 2,000. Observe cattle daily for signs of soreness or injury.

Keeping up on cow care basics is important but it also is important to think from a cow’s preference, not a human one. Don’t let dominant cows keep more submissive ones from the feed – make sure there is plenty of bunk space for all to eat without harassment or fear.

Plan well for cow care and productivity. Your cows depend on you as much as you depend on them, and a good cow is too expensive to replace in rotation before her time. Take care of your cows and they’ll take care of you.

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10 Awesome Farm and Home Sites

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAre you looking for information about farming online? Would you like a source for accurate information to learn more? Would you like to make your household more efficient? Read on!

The amount of websites that come up when you do a search for “agriculture” is staggering. Each has links to follow as well and there’s a wealth of information to be found.

1. agriculture.com – from classifieds to farming information to a forum this site has a great deal of information and links. There’s a section solely for women in agriculture, there’s forum sections for animals, crops, small business and many other things affecting modern agriculture families and residents.

2. progressivefarmer.com – another great farm orientated site. There is offers to subscribe to the magazine of the same name, as well as information on a wide variety of agriculture, from traditional farms to much more.

3. almanac.com – The Farmers Almanac has long been a resource for farmers and non-farmers alike. This site expands that – with a section on weather, natural information, cooking and baking and much more. There are so many links on this site for information it’s easy to get sidetracked – but much good information and a chance to share recipes with others.

4. AmericanLivestockBreedsConservancy – This organization is dedicated to fanciers of rare livestock breeds, some that are critically endangered. There’s many links to information, merchandise, books and much more for animals.

5. cattle.com – information, sales, breeding and much more information about cattle on this site. Heavy stress on beef breeds but dairy cattle included. There is some of the profiles still under construction – but a good site useful to those interested in cattle.

6. creativehomemaking.com – This is a site to bookmark – with much information and articles about home management, gardening, cooking and much more. Decorating on a budget has information of use to those even not on farms.

7. organizedchristmas.com – This site and the sister site have a great deal of information to make the holiday season enjoyable, with less stress. The organizedhome site also is extensive in information. Efficiency in planning and running the home can save money and frustration, and allow us to do more with less.

8. ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/ – Oklahoma State offers a wonderful complete site for livestock enthusiasts. There’s information, links, photos on common livestock breeds such as Hereford and Angus cattle as well as less common breeds such as Hereford hogs and many more. Look through rare breeds as well as get information on animals that might fit your farm or homestead.

9. farmshow.com – Another site sponsored by a magazine. For anyone who loves tinkering – making things from scraps and nothing, finding unique solutions to problems, this site and the magazine is a must read! Extra income opportunities are included as well as new products and reusing things. There’s a whole book on other uses for school busses, for example.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA10. gardeningbythemoon.com/signs.html – The moon affects tides and many other earthly things. With garden tips, moon phases and information on planting in those phases and signs, which many have done via various farmers almanacs for years, this is a site chock full of information.

While many abhor the internet as a source of information, and it’s true there is much misinformation on the internet as well, these sites have much information and it’s changing – there’s so often something new to see when looking a week later than what was there previously. The next rainy, dreary afternoon when there’s not much to do – or when it’s too hot to accomplish much outdoors, spend some time planning, organizing and making your household and farm more efficient. So often a few little changes can save so much!

Be An Unwelcome Home for Flies

Ebook excerpt from SlowMoneyFarm.

barnFlies aren’t welcome in barns, paddocks, homes and other areas we like to be. So why do so many provide for them? Take steps now to discourage and evict them!

There are many ways to kill and repel flies. Flies need – like all things – favorable conditions to live, food and water. And not much of the latter! They cause problems with hygiene and can harm production of animals. They’ll bite sores on dogs ears and infest live animals with maggots, given the right conditions. Flies get no mercy – and often a several prong approach is used in fighting them.

Livestock producers often offer “fly blocks” – in blocks like the familiar 50 pound salt block these blocks are fed to animals and discourage flies. Horse owners have daily supplements available to feed the animal as well with their regular food.

Some swear by a bag of water with a penny in it suspended in a doorway – and another method herd was suspending a bundle of stinging nettles from doorways. For those preferring not to bump into nettles there’s many other options. Some recommend adding apple cider vinegar to livestock tanks. Vanilla added to rabbit water bottles can help cut flies down.

There’s various assortments of sticky traps – fly ribbons as well as tubes and an assortment of other shapes to hang around the buildings and flies stick to the surface when they land there. There are electric fly zappers which can bother especially horses when a fly hits it and they hear the snap like an electric fencer.

There’s fly predators – which allow the flies to live but feed on the larvae. Reportedly this is the option at a place that could have a large swarm of flies – the Kentucky Horse Park. This is a place that must be fly free for comfort of horses and the guests visiting.

Another option for smaller barns is a gadget which hangs on the wall and periodically gives a spray of fly spray. A larger adaptation is automatic fly sprayers – where a large barrel has tubes running to each stall throughout the barn and with use of a timer sprays the barn several times a day. A mist is sprayed on each stall at a set time. This is convenient and when it works effortlessness. Some don’t like the idea of fly spray falling onto the ground and the feed that might be in the stall. A wide range of fly sprays are available also for use on individual animals.

Fly rubs – a large round cloth hung between two poles – can be soaked in fly chemicals where cattle go under it and treat themselves when it wipes some fly spray on them. Mixing up and applying fly spray to a group of animals is another means of fly control.

Still another means of flies involve the use of traps – generally a plastic gadget with foul smelling attractant in it and water – the fly gets in and can’t get out. Some are disposable “trap n toss” while others can be rinsed out, replacement attractant purchased and a fresh batch put out when the trap is full. These are effective but smell bad – effective for turnout paddocks (out of reach of horses) or loafing sheds.

Fly baits are another choice. Generally a bright blue or yellow these are spread around or set in some kind of container where flies can get into it. One that is cheap – take a 2 liter soda bottle. Cut several small holes in it for flies to get in/out of. Put your bait in it and hang up out of reach of pets, children and other animals. Small holes allow flies in/out but don’t allow birds access to it. Like any poisons great care should be taken handling this bait – it is foul smelling but in combination with other factors works!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere’s other means of fly control that take nothing but time. Wash horse and livestock water tanks on a weekly basis in warm weather. Not just filling – get a little $1 scrubber at a dollar store and scrub it out, dump it and rinse. Buckets in stalls should also be washed out. Rinse thoroughly and refill.

Pick up manure in paddocks and keep manure picked up around other species. The less manure standing around the less likely flies are to be around. Some recommend the use of lime under rabbit cages and other places that sometimes aren’t easily cleaned. Trays under rabbit cages should be emptied, rinsed and refilled often. Clean up old wet feed and hay – haul to the compost pile or mix in the manure pile. Move the manure pile further from the barn – something that helps not only with flies but as a fire issue also.

For animals that sweat give them an occasional hose down – removing dirt and sweat removes a reason for flies to pester your animals.

Fly control can be expensive but in using preventative measures where possible it makes the maximum use of what you do have to buy. A combination works best for most – perhaps good management combined with sticky traps, traps and bait. For outdoor or sheltered situations this is the most effective option. Fly blocks are effective for those with larger animals.

Fly control need not be expensive – but needs to be done on small homesteads as well as larger farms.

Abuse on Farms

I became aware last night of a video shot by an animal rights group at a farm in Ohio. It has taken this long to simmer to stringing words together that made some type of sense rather than venting alone but may still appear as both.

The idea that it’s standard practice to abuse animals in agriculture is wrong. Does it happen? Sure it does. There are bad actors in any industry and ag is no exception. There are many who for a moment reprimand an animal harsher than intended or who in standard acceptable practice goes wrong and if captured on video perhaps could look much different. But sticking cattle with pitchforks in the milking parlor, hitting, slapping and throwing calves, beating cows with crowbars is absolutely unacceptable. Dairy cattle will not produce in an environment there is fear and cattle subjected to such practices will be fearful.

The mention on the video of a mastitis cow – perhaps a surge in them – can be an indication that should have been picked up by the owner. Slapping a cow to encourage to get up in some situations is needed – tieing her up and hitting her in the head with a crowbar is NOT.

The farming and dairy industry has condemned these actions easily found online. This is not a video that is easy to watch. I was livid at the images on the screen. But this wasn’t even at a full boil until I found out the “undercover” person continued filming and letting it go on for WEEKS – nearly a month! – so that they could put a ‘go vegan’ on the end and benefit HSUS in Ohio call for more regulation. The cameraman should also face charges and if involved so should the organizations funding it…standing by and letting such abuse continue in order to paint all dairy farmers as cruel shows these groups DO NOT care for animal welfare. If they did the video would not have been held onto for nearly a month.

Most people farm and have animals for the love of animals. Even animals raised for food. There is no excuse for the kind of behavior demonstrated in this situation. Presenting that as happening on farms everywhere is slanderous – it does NOT.

The people involved need to be punished. Whether directly or indirectly involved there is no excuse for letting it continue.

it takes all kinds of farmers

There  is such an unnecessary division in agriculture. It’s such a diverse industry there’s small vs large farmers and family vs industrial then there’s “only what we believe” vs “everyone else” – and consumers just want food.

Wendell Berry once made a comment about food being too important to be a weapon. Yet here we are decades later and that is exactly what it’s come to.

Advocate purists say only organic or local or small farm (without saying what a small farm is!). They actively rail against larger farms without regard to their customers are a totally different market. We all eat – that’s a no brainer.

In working to set up a farm that caters to what many Twitter consumers say they want it fits with many personal ideas already. It uses ‘responsible’ methods, heritage and heirloom seeds and livestock (many seeds are organic), it allows for knowing where the food was grown and, with web cam transmission and other videos it allows absolute transparency. There’s a price that comes with that and yet talking about money brought a furious attack of being money orientated over everything else. Actually it’s being realistic – land costs money! The bigger questions come up – in talking with several people they love the idea – but  can’t afford it. Feedback from out of the area brings the same comments – great idea…I can’t afford it but great idea!

Knowing full well this is a specialty market for under 40 people it doesn’t seem possible to deliver for what the market can afford no matter how much food is delivered. No matter the principles behind it – those who can’t afford it simply can’t afford it.

OK so we take out the large farms. We eliminate all who don’t think on this  level – what do those people eat? They can’t afford to buy food from custom places. There isn’t food (bulk produced) at the store so what is their option? This has not yet brought a single clear answer – it’s just seen as saying small farms don’t work. NOT what I said! They can and do work – and better as our nation is much more rural than city!

But the question remains – if they can’t afford $700 or $1500 or $5,000 for a custom raised situation what do they eat? Especially if not having room for year round raising of food themselves?

Options are wonderful! Many move to the country to raise what they can and barter for what they can’t. But what about  those who can’t afford it? It seems that even though maybe it’s not ideal by many standards that volume produced food, processed or HFCS or whatever, is better than going hungry.

When you go 3-4 days without eating because you  can’t afford food it changes a great deal of perspective. We need large farms and small. We need volume as well as choices. There is no excuse for anyone going hungry in America and yet due to legislation, regulation and fear of lawsuits produce and milk is better dumped than given to the hungry.

Things have to change. Forcing people to go hungry isn’t the way to do it. Those clamoring for change put the $$ up and make it change!