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Articles from 2010 In November

Pick ’em right!


This year’s corn crop is made, or close to it, and most corn silage is packed away. And now comes corn picking — hybrid selection — for 2011.

Curtis and Eugene Lapp of Kinzers, Pa., have gleaned much from their test plots over the last 13 years. And the benefits have carried beyond Lapp Brothers LLC’s own 600-acre operation to a number of its custom planting and harvesting customers.

Striving for the best yields in the balance of narrower rows and higher populations can be tricky, says Eugene. Hybrid improvements make it “a moving target,” he adds. “Corn is being bred to withstand higher populations.”

Key Points

• The Lapp Brothers’ plots found twin-row corn better than 30-inch rows.

• Reduced plant competition boosted silage yields by 2.4 tons.

• Increased silage digestibility was an unexpected surprise.


The Lapp brothers select mostly for silage corn. They’re committed to twin rows — 8 inches between twin rows, 22 inches between each set. That way, corn can be harvested with a row-independent chopper head or a 30-inch row combine.

Staggered plant spacing reduces competition for nutrients, water and sunlight. “Within the same hybrids and plant populations, we’ve found a fairly consistent 2.4-ton-per-acre silage yield advantage for twin rows over 30-inch rows,” Eugene adds.

“That’s about 10%. This year, we expect differences in hybrid heat tolerances to be a bigger factor.”

Six years ago, the brothers started testing 32,000, 35,000 and 38,000 plant populations. “That year was a little dry, and the 32,000 plant stand was best,” reports Curtis. “So the next year, we went to 29,000, 32,000 and 35,000 plants per acre in a more normal season. Again, the 32,000 stand was best.”

The big surprise

Today, the Lapps shoot for silage corn populations of about 33,000 plants per acre. The twin rows, plus an April 20 optimum planting date, “will give us a bigger stalk,” suggests Eugene.

Decreasing in-row plant competition helps build a larger stalk. “Doing so reduces the proportion of outside rind [lignin] and increases silage digestibility. That was a surprise,” he adds.

The Lapps’ planter setup also plays a role in growing that bigger stalk. Their Great Plains YP1225 planter injects a maximum rate of 30 gallons of liquid nitrogen between the twin rows. It also places row support, or pop-up (not starter), in-furrow. The latter product consists of 4 gallons of 3-18-18 plus 2 quarts of Side-Kick (0-0-25-17S) and 10 ounces of Soil X-Cyto.

“This program has shown a 2.7-ton advantage per acre over the last 12 years,” notes Eugene. “Those nutrients are there when the corn sends out that first root shoot.”


This article published in the October, 2010 edition of AMERICAN AGRICULTURIST.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.


Producer knows how to store WDGS


Jim Goggins of Springview knows the value of wet distillers grain with solubles, or WDGS, in his operation. WDGS has been long touted by cattle feeders, and now cow-calf producers like Jim and Shelly Goggins and their son, Coy, are also noticing the advantages, particularly when the cost is 75% to 85% of corn in the summer months.

It works well as a protein supplement for the cow herd or young feeders during the winter because it typically has 110% to 140% of the energy value of dry rolled corn on a dry matter basis. But storage is a concern for some producers.

At a glance

• Springview rancher Jim Goggins has been feeding WDGS for four years.

• Goggins adds 15% rough hay so he can pack the pile with his tractor.

• Spoilage has been minimal under nearly all storage conditions.


For the past four years, Goggins has been feeding nearly 200 tons of WDGS through the winter months to his 200-head cow herd, developing heifers and newly weaned purebred Red Angus bull calves, which are being raised for sale as 2-year-old breeding bulls.

Over that time, in field demonstrations conducted with University of Nebraska Extension educator Dennis Bauer, Goggins has found that storage is not a concern. “It is readily available, and it is easy to handle,” says Goggins. “If we can do this, anyone can. You don’t need any fancy machinery or equipment.”

“These products [wet, modified wet or dried] can be stored very successfully with a little planning and preparation,” says Bauer, who serves Brown, Keya Paha and Rock counties. “The hardest part is to think about buying your winter protein and energy needs for the cow herd in July or August.”

Bale bunker

Goggins typically makes a bunker from round bales. He has pushed WDGS into the makeshift bunker silo alone or has mixed 15% low-quality rough hay made from cattails and rushes with WDGS and packed it with his tractor. He has tried covering WDGS under plastic, but in the cases when he has packed it into the silo, spoilage hasn’t been an issue even when he didn’t cover the pile.

“Handling a wet or liquid product does have some challenges such as hauling a lot of water and sometimes freezing in the winter,” Bauer says. “These problems can be minimized or eliminated with proper planning and management.”

Mixing rough hay that cows would normally find nonpalatable with WDGS makes it a feed of choice for cows. “They love anything you mix with it,” Goggins says. “You can utilize some pretty tough feed sources, and it keeps them happy and full.”

For more information, contact Bauer at 402-387-2213 or e-mail

Flexible feeding schedule for cows

UNL Extension educator Dennis Bauer says that a producer can feed WDGS every day as a protein supplement to the cow herd, or even every third day, with no problems.

For example, if feeding 2 pounds on a dry matter basis as a protein source, the producer could feed 4 pounds on a dry matter basis every other day or even 6 pounds on a dry matter basis every third day.

“Beef animals have the ability to recycle excess protein as ammonia in the bloodstream,” Bauer says. “When fed as an energy source in backgrounding operations or to growing replacement heifers [400 to 600 pounds], these products are recommended to be fed on a daily basis.”

UNL research has shown less weight gain when distillers grain was fed every other day compared to every day, he says.


This article published in the October, 2010 edition of NEBRASKA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.


Use plant oil to fight ticks


July’s American Agriculturist reported that the Northeast is crawling with deer ticks. Consequently, it’s America’s hotbed for Lyme disease. New York is the No. 1 state in the nation for confirmed cases of Lyme disease. Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland fill out the top six states.

Aside from watching for the distinctive “bull’s-eye” rash signaling infection, there’s a new way to reduce risks. The Northeast Integrated Pest Management Center has funded projects aimed at protecting human health.

One is to use a food-grade blend of plant oils called IC2, containing mostly rosemary oil. “There’s nothing to prevent cattle or horses from grazing in a pasture sprayed with IC2,” assures Peter Rand, project leader at the Maine Medical Research Institute in South Portland. On the other hand, areas treated with many synthetic pesticides are off-limits to livestock for at least 12 hours. Applied at the height of tick season in 2008, IC2 was nearly as effective at controlling adult deer ticks as bifenthrin, Rand reports. And the decrease in ticks lasted into the following spring. IC2 is commercially available as EcoExempt IC2, a product of EcoSmart Technologies, Alpharetta, Ga.

“Our current research is addressing the question about non-target arthropods,” adds Rand. “That data is still being analyzed.

At this point, the Northeast IPM Center advice is that IC2, as applied to flowering plants, has no adverse immediate effect on bee abundance. But that’s only a preliminary conclusion, he cautions.

This article published in the October, 2010 edition of AMERICAN AGRICULTURIST.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.


UNL program sprouts wheats

A new wheat variety coming out of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s breeding program stands to heighten interest in irrigated wheat.

NIO4421, the first irrigated wheat to be released from that program, offers superior performance not only under irrigation, but also under dryland conditions in western Nebraska, says Steve Baenziger, small grains breeding geneticist at UNL.

While NIO4421 is the variety identification number, it will be marketed for commercial use as Husker Genetics Brand Robidoux, after French trader Antoine Robidoux who had a trading post on one of the passes between Nebraska and Wyoming, Baenziger says. The variety was developed jointly by UNL researchers, the University of Wyoming Experiment Station and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.

Baenziger says a comparable wheat to NIO4421 is Wesley, but the former has a white shaft compared to Wesley’s bronze shaft. Wesley still performs well under irrigation, but NIO4421 seems to yield better in hot and drier climates.

“Overall, it did better than Wesley by 4 bushels in irrigated trials, but performed better with a little drought stress,” he says. “It is a very good irrigated wheat if you are shooting for 100 to 110 bushels per acre. If you are shooting for 125 bushels per acre, there are wheats that will do better. However, this one has less risk.”

McGill wheat

NIO4421 is one of two new hard red winter wheat releases for Nebraska producers. The other is NEO1481. It was released this year and will be marketed as Husker Genetics McGill, in honor of Dave McGill, former genetics professor at UNL.

NEO1481 is well-adapted to dryland wheat production systems in eastern and west-central Nebraska and offers excellent resistance to wheat soilborne mosaic virus.

“NEO1481 is a high-quality wheat that gives us disease resistance we haven’t had in a long time, and it is adapted and does very well in the east and southeast,” Baenziger says. “This trait was needed in southeast and south-central Nebraska where the disease is present in early wheat plantings.”

Baenziger compares NEO1481 to Overland, which was superior for grain yields and had a tremendous disease-resistance package, but was susceptible to soilborne mosaic.

Compiled by staff and from information in the summer 2010 newsletter of the UNL Agricultural Research Division.

Settler CL popular

Settler CL is a wheat variety released two years ago that is creating excitement in western Nebraska and surrounding areas for its high yields.

“Settler CL seed was first available this year but was sold out in a relatively short time,” says Steve Baenziger, small grains breeding geneticist at UNL. “It’s a very good wheat that you should consider for 2011.”

Baenziger described it as probably the best wheat for western Nebraska.

Settler CL is a hard red winter wheat variety developed cooperatively by the Nebraska Agricultural Experiment Station and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and co-released with South Dakota State University and the University of Wyoming.

It is a wheat that may be used as a component of the BASF Clearfield Production System with Beyond herbicide for the selective control of jointed goatgrass, downy brome and feral rye.

It was released primarily for its superior adaptation to dryland wheat production in Nebraska, South Dakota and eastern Wyoming. It also performed well under irrigation in western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming.


This article published in the October, 2010 edition of NEBRASKA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.

California Crop Weather: grape harvest nears end

California Crop Weather: grape harvest nears end

The Nov. 28 California Crop Weather report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service in Sacramento, Calif.


Monday, Nov. 22, was wet and cold as a storm from the previous weekend continued to drop significant coastal and valley rains, and snow to the mountains across California. Snow levels in the Sierra Nevada dropped below the 5,000 foot level with several feet of snow falling above that level.

A cold and dry air mass originating from western Canada moved in behind the frontal passage on Tuesday. This cold air brought enough instability to generate scattered thunderstorms in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. One storm traversed eastern Sacramento and western El Dorado County dropping pea size hail and generating an EF1 tornado with winds estimated above 100 miles per hour.

The dominating feature for mid-week was record and near record cold temperatures which blanketed California Wednesday thru Friday. Freeze warnings were in effect for most of northern California. Low temperature records were set multiple days in a row from far northern coastal California at Crescent City to Southern California and locations inland.

A Gulf of Alaska storm moved onto the North Coast Friday eventually sagging south to bring light rain to the state and snow to the mountains as low as 2,000 feet. As the storm moved out, dense fog was reported in the Central Valley.

Field crops

Winter wheat, barley, and oat fields emerged with the aid of good soil moisture. Tillage, fertilizer applications, and planting continued as field conditions allowed.

The cotton harvest continued as fields were ready. Harvested cotton fields were shredded and plowed under. The rice harvest neared completion; harvested fields were disked, flooded, and rolled.

The corn harvest for grain was winding down while corn for silage was mostly complete. Garbanzo bean planting continued in the Sacramento Valley.

Alfalfa production for the season was mostly complete. New fields of alfalfa were planted.

Fruit crops

The last of the fall grapes were harvested. The wine grape harvest along the Central Coast was near completion. Grape vines and orchard trees were pruned.

The pomegranate harvest was complete in the southern San Joaquin Valley (SJV). The persimmon and kiwifruit harvests continued. The SJV Navel orange and mandarin harvests picked up. Lemons were picked in the desert region, along with Meyer lemons in Tulare County. Pummelos and grapefruit were harvested. Citrus growers took measures to guard against frost due to low temperatures.

The olive harvest continued. Blueberry and raspberry nursery plants were shipped from Tulare County.

Nut crops

The almond, pecan, walnut, and pistachio harvests were completed across California. As part of post-harvest maintenance, zinc, fertilizers, and herbicides were applied, plus some pruning occurred.

Vegetable crops

Good growing conditions were generally reported. Carrots and cabbage were harvested in Kern County along with some oriental vegetables.

Winter vegetable crops were planted in Tulare County. The planting of winter vegetables continued in Fresno County. Sutter County reported emerging onions with continued field work and ground preparation. 

Whack these fall weeds now


This final 2010 Q&A series article targets what David Mortensen, a Penn State weed scientist, told members of a U.S. House Oversight Committee this summer was a weed resistance problem so serious that new strategies are needed to combat it. In fact, Mortensen proposed restrictions on use of herbicide-tolerant crops and a tax on biotech seeds to fund research and educational programs for farmers.

Key Points

• Perennial weed control is a make-or-break no-till issue.

• Perennials are easiest and cheapest to control during fall.

• Glyphosate-tolerant weeds may be bringing use restrictions.


Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance board member Russell McLucas and Penn State Extension grain crop specialist Del Voight also note the problem and worry about impending controls. But they stop short of such proposals. McLucas, past chairman of the Pennsylvania Corn Growers Association and a 30-year veteran no-tiller, farms near McConnellsburg, Pa.

Q: Why’s it so important not to let summer and fall weeds get out of control in no-till?

McLucas: With the absence of tillage, the weed spectrum changes markedly. Deep-rooted perennials become an issue around year three or four. Although there are multiple chemicals labeled for perennial control in growing crops, the best “cleanup” is still in a nonharvestable crop situation.

This removes many of the labeled restrictions. Rates can be increased.

Perennials are much better controlled if “hammered” between flowing to seed-set. And that’s normally after the growing crop passes the point of labeled application.

Many of today’s available chemicals have very interesting sidebars on the labels for early fall applications. Quackgrass, thistles, hemp dogbane, orchardgrass and alfalfa are all noted as “easier” (and cheaper) kills with fall application. It’s amazing what a 2-quart rate of generic glyphosate applied in early August can do to a nasty perennial weed problem.

Fall has been the best time to handle perennials. Translocating chemistries work much better when the plant translocates the chemical downward into the root. With this being said, I suspect we should look very hard at a more selective fall program, where the idea is to remove the more long-term perennials only, and not everything.

Here I tend to prefer to follow small grains with a legume cover crop. The postharvest, preplanting window gives a nice opening to go after various undesirables with nonselective chemistry. This has an interesting side benefit. Legumes will help “break” the grass root-disease cycle, fix nitrogen and add a taproot.

Voight: The reproductive potential and longevity of the weed seed affect your weed management. In general, perennials have few seeds compared to annual weeds. But to echo Russ, they can spread through their root structures and therefore require different tactics and timing. Canada thistle, for instance, produces about 680 seeds per plant. A common lambsquarters plant produces more than 72,000 seeds per plant.

Dandelions produce about 15,000 seeds per plant, while redroot pigweed produces more than 117,000 seeds per plant. You will begin to respect these weeds that produce a plethora of seed. Broadleaves tend to have more seeds than annual grasses. Black nightshade produces about 178,000 seeds per plant, versus about 34,000 for green foxtail.

Q: What weed uprisings really have to be hammered down — and why?

McLucas: [Regulatory] changes are coming in how we can control weeds. I’m very certain agriculture isn’t going to be pleasantly surprised. So let’s get the nasty perennials now, before the rules change.

Match label rates to target weed size and maturity through mid-October. Dandelions, thistles, quackgrass, orchardgrass, Italian ryegrass and hemp dogbane are all much more susceptible in this time frame.

But perennial control in a cover crop is a problem probably best left alone.

Voight: Perennials such as hemp dogbane, Canada thistle, quackgrass and wirestem muhly translocate or move sugars and carbohydrates from their leaves to their roots or underground storage structures. A higher percentage of a systemic herbicide such as glyphosate (Roundup or Touchdown or Glyphomax, etc.) will move with those sugars and carbohydrates to underground structures, where they can potentially kill these reproductive organs.

The most common herbicides used for this type of application, suggests Bill Curran, Penn State weed specialist, include glyphosate for grasses and 2,4-D or Banvel or Clarity, Status/Distinct for broadleaves. A combination of these products may be the best solution for a mixture of different perennial weeds.

Seed longevity brings in another factor. Dandelion seeds remain viable for only six years, while lambsquarters can last up to 40 years. That’s why you can’t let perennials establish a weed bank.

I also agree that cover-crop perennial issues are problematic. I think I’d get into some hot water if we began pushing fall-applied programs.

Don’t wait too long to treat

For most perennials, including hemp dogbane, horsenettle, common milkweed, pokeweed, hedge bindweed, multiflora rose, poison ivy and wild blackberry, make applications from Sept. 1 through Oct. 15, or before a hard frost.

Generally, applications by Oct. 1 may be more effective in Pennsylvania. In northern areas of Pennsylvania, consider making the application before Oct. 1.

An additional two-week application window can exist for Canada thistle and quackgrass. Make sure that the weed foliage appears relatively healthy and capable of absorbing the herbicide. Plants that have been damaged by insect feeding, drought, harvest equipment, frost or autumn leaf senescence aren’t good candidates for fall applications.

Del Voight


This article published in the October, 2010 edition of AMERICAN AGRICULTURIST.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.


Deer chew off more corn than you think

Estimating the corn yield stolen by insects, diseases and other problems is usually not that difficult for university specialists or crop consultants. But have you wondered about yields consumed by deer feeding in your corn? It might be something to think about with the population surge of these four-legged critters in parts of Nebraska.

Scott Hygnstrom, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension wildlife damage specialist, has some estimates based on studies of actual corn feeding damage as well as simulated deer feeding experiments, the latter at a research plot in Mead.

At a field day this summer, he laid out a scenario in which deer feed during the tasseling-silking stages, the roughly 14-day reproductive period when deer are most attracted to corn plants, especially newly forming ears.

At a glance

• The rising deer population has an impact on Nebraska crops.

• Deer pressure is highest in the Platte, Elkhorn and Missouri basins.

• Hunting seasons have been expanded to reduce deer numbers.


One deer, feeding twice a day, may devour up to 4 pounds of corn. Over the two-week period, that’s 56 pounds, or 1 bushel.

“Now, pick the number of deer that may be part of that feeding herd,” says Hygnstrom. “If it’s 50, for example, feeding in that field, that’s 50 bushels.”

It all depends on deer pressure. Nebraska’s deer population has mushroomed in recent years in parts of the state, especially in the Elkhorn, Platte and Missouri river basins, according to Hygnstrom. He cites as an extreme the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge along the Missouri River near Blair where he’s seen 200 deer feeding at a time in a field leased to an area farmer.

While Hygnstrom has not studied the extent of deer-feeding damage to soybeans, he demonstrated at a field day how the animals clip off blossoms during the reproductive stage, which eliminates formation of pods. He’s also heard reports of deer damage to sunflowers and alfalfa.

Other feeding periods

Deer damage at other corn stages was examined, either from actual feeding in a field near Valparaiso or simulated damage at Mead. Deer feeding at the six-leaf stage, in mid-June, had little impact on yield. The same was true later at the
V-12 stage July 1. “The corn plant can sustain damage at this time without a significant impact,” he says.

That changes at the reproductive stage when the corn plant is most susceptible to feeding. “Deer love corn at this stage. The ear is nutritious and highly palatable, attracting more deer to the field.”

Feeding drops off at the milk and dough stages, but can resume at maturity, especially if it’s a prolonged harvest, giving deer more time to feed on the mature ear.

What’s your deer tolerance level? Hygnstrom surveyed farmers in his home state of Wisconsin when he worked as coordinator of the state’s wildlife damage abatement and claims program.

“The tolerance level was 25 to 35 deer per square mile,” he says. “In that range, farmers surveyed indicated they could accept 10% to 15% damage to corn because they and their families hunted deer or perhaps they leased land for hunting. But, based on the survey answers, once damage exceeded 15% their tolerance level dropped to zero.”

Hygnstrom estimates the “social carrying capacity” for deer is 25 to 35 per square mile. “That’s what generally is tolerated in Nebraska.”

But in the Elkhorn, Platte and Missouri river basins, the numbers can be much higher — as high as 110 to 120 per square mile.

The impact of higher deer populations, beyond direct crop damage, is the rate of vehicle-deer accidents. He pegs the average cost of such an accident at $2,500 and, with 5,000 per year reported in Nebraska, that’s $12.5 million.

Expanded hunting

With mounting deer numbers and subsequent concerns from landowners, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has extended deer hunting seasons and liberalized some permit requirements.

Kit Hams, wildlife specialist at the commission, says that in 2010, for the second straight year, an October firearms season has been added for 60% of the state, running from Oct. 2-11. The permit fee is reduced from the normal firearms season. The permit is for two antlerless deer.

Increasing the harvest of anterless deer is a major goal of the commission and is part of several other permits allowed.

For more information, go to

“Our goal is to reduce the eastern Nebraska deer herd by 25% in the next three years,” Hams says.

Landowners can do their part, he adds, by requiring hunters who use their land to take two anterless deer before shooting a buck.




This article published in the October, 2010 edition of NEBRASKA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.


Bunk management isn’t just ‘bunk’!


How quickly would you adopt a practice that improves milk and component yields plus feed efficiency — without costing any money? “In a snap,” you say?

Then don’t overlook the mundane task of managing the feed bunk. While often overlooked, it’s where money’s to be made! It ensures your cows are actually taking in the balanced diet they’re receiving.

Key Points

• There’s “milk money” to be made in better feed bunk management.

• In-day and day-to-day intake variations erode rumen efficiency.

• Top-producing cows are often the best at sorting out the “goodies.”


I constantly preach about high forage diets and maximizing forage intake. Along with high forage diets comes maintaining a consistent forage-to-concentrate ratio of delivered feed.

Day-to-day variations in that ratio affect the rate of volatile fatty acid production in the rumen. That, in turn, affects rumen pH. And that, in turn, affects rumen bacteria species and population.

When populations and species change, rumen digestion also changes. The name of your rumen digestibility game is consistency!

‘Sorting’ disrupts your game

Cows “nose” through feed for the goodies. But this sorting alters your forage-to-concentrate ratio.

When they’re allowed to sort, and that ratio varies throughout the day, they lose and you lose. How? Let me list the ways:

• Decreased overall digestibility

• Increased acidosis

• Erratic feed intake

• Lower milk-fat tests

• Increased incidence of metabolic disease

Sorting can be caused by long particles, dry forages (greater than 60%), widely varying ingredient density, or too much dry hay. In each case, the physical attributes of the diet allow it to be easily separated by the cow.

Other factors may also be involved. They include:

• Feed bunk space per cow

• Amount of time that feed is available

• How many times a day that a total mixed ration is fed

• Number of times that feed is pushed up

High-producing cows, according to research, have the greatest ability to sort feed over other herd groups. Feeding high-producing cows is “riding the line” between adequate physically effective neutral detergent fiber, or peNDF, and sorting of higher NDF forages. Cows will sort out longer material if there’s too much of it.

Cows are adept sorters! They typically eat large particles last and sort against large particles, especially those with stems.

Dry alfalfa hay is easy for dairy cows to sort. But dry, coarsely chopped corn silage and long grass hay also can also be sorted.

How to reduce sorting

Feeding more frequently and pushing up feed more often will reduce sorting. So will feeding high-quality hay.

Processing dry hay and corn silage (especially if it’s dry) will reduce sorting without compromising peNDF. Double-check your chopper’s processor to make sure it’s functioning properly and that knives are sharp to avoid long pieces of cornstalks, leaves and cobs.

Feeding fibrous byproduct feeds like soy hulls, citrus pulp and beet pulp can help mitigate rumen pH by increasing diet NDF content without adding long particles. Avoid feeding diets having more than a third of the forage longer than 4 inches.

Also keep in mind that anything that increases competition at the feed bunk also increases the possibility for sorting. Grouping cows by body size will help even out competition for feed.

Carson and husband Steve partner in Harkdale Farms of Newbury, Vt. She’s also a professor at Vermont Technical College.


This article published in the October, 2010 edition of AMERICAN AGRICULTURIST.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.


Dear Uncle Sam: Wake up — now!


Uncle Sam, all niceties aside, it’s time you wake up and smell the manure! It’s your doing! America’s most taxing problem is your spending problem.

Normally, I reserve such pithy comments for my blog. But these aren’t normal times — not with America on the cusp of economic catastrophe.This is not about being Democrat or Republican. Both parties’ integrity is at an all-time low.

For the first time in my memory, U.S. citizens are more united than ever on two things:

1) You must regain budget control before the economy can recover. It’s crucial to restoring confidence in our system and to spark domestic job creation.

2) You, our chosen leaders, must change your ways of doing business: return to century-old congressional protocols and away from political maneuvering, or our society will unravel. Please note: You aren’t good at recovering from disasters. Remember Katrina and the BP spill?

You, Uncle Sam, are America’s biggest problem. So take preventive action — now! You must prove you don’t deserve to be fired.

We want our country back. Most of us still believe in self-determination, hard work and the values of our founding fathers. We want that for our children, too.

My want list

Take pride in America’s heritage. It’s a sign of leadership, not weakness. Step back from the global economic community; don’t step down to be like it.

• Give us an unexpected surprise — a moratorium on all executive-, judicial- and congressional-branch pay raises and cost-of-living increases until the federal budget has been balanced for at least one year.

• Show us you’re feeling our pain. Overhaul that new federal health care program into one basic program with no exceptions — federal employees and members of Congress included.

• If the plan is good enough for me, it should be good enough even for you — without a “privileged package.” Then encourage insurance providers to compete nationally in our “free-market system”.

• Commit to a zero-growth federal budget for the next 10 years: no new taxes, programs or regulations without eliminating existing ones with comparable costs. Yes, this is seriously austere! This is what you’ve driven America to.

• Pour all federal retirement/social security funds into one pot — yours included. Social Security that’s good enough for me should also be good enough for you. That’s one piece of socialism that has merit.

• Require mandatory near-term and long-term financial impact statements for all legislation and agency regulations (including amendments and add-ons) prior to adoption.

• Foster business and industry policies (and taxes) that encourage domestic business growth and employment, and discourage off-shore development. Target core industries offering full-time jobs and benefits.

• Just one more thing, Uncle. Stop raiding Social Security and other federal funds to benefit those who are in America illegally, and who come here to bear children.

While you’re at it, finish the Mexican border fence. Then open the gates so immigrant workers can come here legally. And stop your frivolous, wasteful legal assaults on Arizona for doing the job that’s supposed to be yours!

This article published in the October, 2010 edition of AMERICAN AGRICULTURIST.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.


Wean beef calves with less stress


Most spring-calving herds will be weaning calves within the next 60 days. That usually means about three nights of poor sleep for human and beast while cows and calves bawl in protest.

In a Texas study, Stephen F. Austin State University researchers reported there are “behavioral and physiological responses [to abrupt separation weaning] indicative of distress that are unfavorable to beef production and animal welfare.” In other words, the cows are upset, the calves are upset the operator can’t sleep and it’s not good for anyone!

Key Points

• When cows and calves are upset, it’s not good for you, either.

• Calves weaned across the fence from mama performed better.

• A substantial fence is needed. An older “calf leader” is helpful.


In this study, four methods were compared in a crossbred beef herd. Four days before weaning, one calf group was fitted with antisuckling devices (2-stage system) while remaining with their mothers.

At weaning, devices were removed. Then half of those calves were moved to a remote location (two-stage abrupt weaning). The other half were placed in a pasture adjacent to their dams (two-stage fence-line weaning).

Calves not fitted with an antisuckling device before weaning were similarly split into two groups.

Half were moved to a remote location (traditional abrupt weaning). The other half were placed in a pasture adjacent to the dams (traditional fence-line weaning).

And the results were ...

Fence-line weaned calves had a highly significant increase in 28-day post-weaning average daily gain, compared to those abruptly weaned. Cow weights weren’t affected by weaning strategy.

Now, here’s where the practical becomes really important in making fence-line weaning work well. Remember three things:

• You must have a “substantial fence” between the cows and calves. Their urge to get back together is understandably very strong!

• Most cattle producers find it advantageous to move the cows to an adjacent pasture, not the calves. Leave calves in the pasture they’ll be in for at least a week before weaning. That gives them time to figure out the fence boundaries and water location before their mamas leave.

• It’s helpful to put a yearling or cow without a calf with the weaned calves. Having an older “leader” in the bunch seems to have a calming effect.

Calves experience less stress and better performance if they can see, hear, and smell their mamas during the weaning process. You just might sleep a little better, too!

Harpster is a Penn State animal scientist and a cow-calf producer.

This article published in the October, 2010 edition of AMERICAN AGRICULTURIST.

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