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Friday, August 22,2008

USDA-NRCS announces ranch economics conference

by WLJ
USDA-NRCS announces ranch economics conference Landowners, ranchers and producers are invited to attend the Blackland Prairie Ranch Economics Conference which will be held at the Fletcher-Warren Civic Center located in Greenville, TX, on Sept. 19, 2008. The cost of the conference is $5 per person. Registration starts at 8:00 a.m. and the workshop will be held from 8:00 a.m. through 3:30 p.m. at the civic center. Lunch is planned for all registered attendees. All attendees will receive valuable information about ranch economics and profitability from presentations by conservation professionals. Additionally, three hours of pesticide applicator’s license continuing education units will be offered during the conference. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will present discussions regarding getting started with stocking rates, economical alternatives to inorganic fertilizers, and federal assistance through Farm Bill programs. Other conservation presentations include maintaining profitability in forage-based production systems, economics of forage fertilization and hay production, and adding value and marketing beef cattle. "The goal of the conference will be to address very timely issues and provide Blackland Prairie ranchers and landowners with the economic tools to help make ecologically sound decisions while remaining economically feasible," said Jeff Goodwin, NRCS rangeland management specialist in Corsicana, TX. To end the conference, a rancher’s panel will discuss staying profitable in your ranch operation. The panel will include Chip Merrill, who operates the XXX Ranch in Tarrant County, Kenneth Braddock, manager for Rosewood Ranches in Navarro County, and Jim Russell, owner of Jim Russell Hay and Sprig Farm in Hopkins County. Sponsors for the Blackland Prairie Ranch Economics Conference include NRCS, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Texas AgriLife Extension, Texas GLCI, Blackland Prairie GLCI, Upper Sabine Soil and Water Conservation District, and Hunt County Farm Supply. For those who plan on attending the conference, please RSVP by Sept. 12, 2008, at 903/455-6212 Ext.3. For more information, please contact Jeff Goodwin at 903/874-5131 Ext.3, or Randy Henry at 817/467-3867. GLCI information can be obtained at www.glci.org and www.tx.usda.nrcs.gov or contact your local NRCS service center for details. — WLJ

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Friday, August 22,2008

Research paves the way for improved animal health and productivity

by WLJ
Research paves the way for improved animal health and productivity The Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) genomics and phenomics research is laying the foundation for future livestock production improvements. Understanding how inherited characteristics relate to specific genomes will eventually allow researchers to develop tools that can be used to guide animal breeding, selection, and management decisions. Throughout the U.S., ongoing ARS research projects are changing the way industry members breed, raise, and produce our nation’s most valuable agricultural animals. Identifying DNA markers and traits ARS scientists at Clay Center, NE, and Miles City, MT, joined an international consortium in sequencing the bovine genome in 2002. Today, ARS scientists throughout the country are using this information to improve beef cattle management and production. Some ARS researchers are using genomic research to improve animal health. This is particularly useful in situations with infected but asymptomatic cattle, says Mohammad Koohmaraie, former director of the Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) at Clay Center. For example, cattle can carry diseases like bovine respiratory disease (BRD) without having symptoms. This complicates attempts to assess their genetic resistance. Having ways to identify asymptomatic cattle or those at higher risk of illness would allow scientists to more accurately gauge how genes affect resistance. To improve their assessments, USMARC researchers led by geneticist Larry Kuehn are working with scientists at the ARS National Animal Disease Center in Ames, IA, to develop large collections of cattle phenotypes, or observable traits. These include traits such as general immune-system functionality, body temperature, respiratory rate, and feeding behavior. The phenotypes will be drawn from populations representing prominent breeds in the U.S. beef industry. "By examining a larger group of traits, we can more accurately classify animals into categories according to their potential disease risk or resilience," Koohmaraie says. This will enable researchers to identify traits that are most indicative of potential BRD risk and determine how those traits relate to genetic resistance to it. One tool that could help scientists in this and other projects is the Illumina Bovine SNP50 BeadChip—a glass slide containing thousands of DNA markers called "single nucleotide polymorphisms," or SNPs, which are used to find relationships between DNA markers and traits of economic importance. The BeadChip has research applications for both beef and dairy cattle. Design was led by ARS researchers at Beltsville, MD, in collaboration with scientists at Clay Center, the University of Missouri, and the University of Alberta in Canada. The chip is being used at all those locations and many others—a total of at least 23 locations in 11 countries. A single chip generates about 53,000 genotypes for each of 12 individual animals. DNA samples from the animals are applied to the BeadChip, chemically labeled, and scanned to produce genotypes. Statistical analyses of genotypes can identify relationships between DNA markers and economically relevant production traits. "Genomic tools like the 50K SNP chip will provide the greatest opportunity to transfer our genomic discoveries in a usable form to the industry," Koohmaraie says. Beef cattle: Fat and feed efficiency One project using the BeadChip technology is a USMARC investigation into the influence of genetics on feed efficiency. Research leader Cal Ferrell, geneticist Mark Allan, and their colleagues are identifying phenotypes that relate to postweaning feed efficiency and lifetime productivity in beef cattle. "One objective of the study is to determine the genetic variation in feed efficiency among individuals and breeds using quantitative and genomic technologies," Ferrell says. The researchers are also using the genotypes generated from the chip to find relationships between DNA markers and phenotypes that can be used to enhance genetic selection in beef cattle. "These studies could lead to development of genomic tools that could enhance the accuracy of breeding and management decisions," Allan says. "Genetic markers provide opportunities to improve selection for traits that are difficult to measure in an industry setting." ARS scientists are also using genomic research to improve beef cattle production at the Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory in Miles City. There, they have identified genetically significant areas called "quantitative trait loci" (QTLs) related to production traits such as beef quality and composition, feed efficiency, and reproductive success. "Our work has led us to loci with significant effects on beef quality and composition which have potential implications for human health," says geneticist Mike MacNeil. MacNeil, geneticist Lee Alexander, and physiologist Tom Geary have collaborated with USMARC geneticist Warren Snelling to analyze whole-genome scans of 328 cattle bred by crossing Wagyu and Limousin parents. Wagyu is a Japanese breed with substantially more marbling than the more muscular French breed, Limousin. In all, the team has identified seven QTLs related to tenderness, palatability, and fat composition. They found a region on chromosome 2 that influences the concentration of monounsaturated fat—believed to be healthier than saturated fat—in beef. With further research, in collaboration with USMARC chemist Tim Smith, they hope to develop genetic markers associated with the variation in this trait. That could ultimately lead to identification of the gene or genes responsible and allow for marker-assisted selection in other cattle breeds to alter the fatty acid content of the meat. — WLJ

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Friday, August 22,2008

Some weeds can be used as emergency forage

by WLJ
Some weeds can be used as emergency forage This year’s drought conditions in western North Dakota and eastern Montana have producers evaluating alternative forages they normally wouldn’t think of feeding their cow herd. Russian thistle, pigeon grass and kochia are some plants normally considered weeds that can be used as a source of emergency forage, according to Greg Lardy, North Dakota State University Extension Service beef cattle specialist and associate professor in the Animal Sciences Department. The best time to cut Russian thistles for hay is when they are in bloom, before the spines form or harden, Lardy says. Hay from thistles cut after the spines harden has very little feeding value and may prove harmful due to the irritation from the sharp spines. Russian thistles, cut in the blossom stage and carefully cured as hay, contain about the same amounts of protein as alfalfa. The total digestible nutrients (TDN) typically are 10 percent to 15 percent less than in alfalfa hay. Russian thistles also contain about twice as much ash as alfalfa or prairie hay, which results in the Russian thistle hay having a laxative effect. Lardy has these tips for feeding thistles: Do not feed Russian thistle hay as the only roughage. Blend it with other hays or silages; Limit Russian thistle hay to one-third or one-half of the roughage in the ration; Due to the laxative effect, feed Russian thistle hay with nonlaxative feeds, such as straw, corn silage or prairie hay. Management skills used to produce good quality alfalfa should be adequate to produce good quality kochia hay, Lardy says. Kochia’s long, narrow leaves are resistant to shattering in the haying operation. Kochia also can be harvested as a silage crop. Producers should follow good silage-making practices (for example, maintaining an anaerobic environment, harvesting at the proper moisture) to ensure good silage quality with kochia. Kochia hay is similar in nutritive value to alfalfa hay, but it has higher ash content than alfalfa. Ideally, kochia should be cut for hay or silage when it’s 20 to 26 inches tall and before it has produced seed. Protein content ranges from 11 percent to 22 percent, while yield ranges from 1 to 3 tons of hay per acre. Pigeon grass has a forage value similar to millet when harvested before maturity. When mature, it is relatively low in energy and protein. Pigeon grass can be difficult to windrow and harvest due to its relatively short growing height. One disadvantage of using kochia, Russian thistle and pigeon grass as forage is they accumulate nitrate. Ruminant animals, such as cattle and sheep, are susceptible to nitrate poisoning because their digestive process converts nitrate to nitrite, which in turn is converted to ammonia. Lardy urges producers to be sure to have these forages tested for nitrates before feeding them to livestock. — WLJ

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Friday, August 22,2008

Angus influence affects efficiency, carcass merit

by WLJ
Angus influence affects efficiency, carcass merit Successful producers have always tried to raise high-quality, high-performing cattle, but may have felt compelled to choose one ideal over the other. That’s not necessary, according to a recent analysis of data from the Iowa Tri-County Steer Carcass Futurity (TCSCF). What is the effect of percent Angus genetics on performance in the feedlot and on carcass merit? Mark McCully, supply development director for Certified Angus Beef LLC (CAB), worked with colleagues Larry Corah and Mike King at CAB, and Iowa Extension beef specialist Darrell Busby to present a research summary. The data came from 18,250 steers and heifers consigned to TCSCF from 2002 to 2007, and categorized into quartiles by their degree of Angus influence: Low, Half, Three-quarter, or Straightbred Angus (Table 1). After a minimum 28-day preconditioning period before arrival at any of 10 TSCSF feedlots, cattle were weighed and given initial implants, vaccinations and body scores within their first four days on feed. All were given similar implants and health treatments and fed the same energy level. McCully presented and discussed the data earlier this year at the Southern Section, American Society of Animal Science meetings in Dallas, TX. The results may have revealed the solution to producers’ dilemma. Research showed that Angus influence had a positive effect on a number of performance and carcass factors. "For years, breed composition has been recorded on cattle enrolled in the futurity," McCully says. "These data are now some of the most comprehensive available where genetics are quantified." Straightbred Angus cattle showed better feedlot health and lower treatment costs than cattle with less Angus influence. The straightbred average treatment cost of $4.60 per head was $3 less than that for the lowest-Angus-influence cattle. Moreover, that was less than the treatment costs for the typical crossbreds in the middle quartiles. Overall health significantly improved with increased Angus influence. Straight Angus cattle had a sickness rate of 14.8 percent, while cattle with low influence had a rate of 22.8 percent. "This is one of the most interesting findings in the analysis, but one we don’t have a thorough explanation for," McCully says. "The data showed less sickness and reduced treatment cost as the percent Angus increased, but pre-feedlot health protocols were prescribed to be the same for all cattle. So, this appears to be a genetic effect." Some of the earliest data on breed-type effect on health came from a 1984 doctoral dissertation on the effects of pre- and post-transit potassium levels, receiving diets and deworming on highly stressed calves, by Frank Brazle at Kansas State University. The published table referred to "Breed Combination," but the four descriptions noted only color, not uncommon for public research. "We can safely assume that the medium-frame solid blacks we noted back then were predominantly Angus," Brazle says now. In that study, the 2.79 percent mortality rate in groups of straight blacks compared to 18.39 percent in black baldies of the same frame size, 12.93 percent in all black baldies, and 6.34 percent in mixed-color lots. McCully adds there has been recent data showing that respiratory disease is genetically influenced. He says it is possible that an unintentional selection for respiratory disease resistance may have occurred through popular Angus sire lines. "It is certainly an area that needs more research," he says. The TCSCF study also noted relatively fewer days on feed for straight Angus, and the highest average daily gain of all groups. Finally, ability to earn premiums for carcass merit increased with Angus influence. Marbling scores trended higher in a direct correlation with percentage Angus influence. While nearly a third of straight Angus cattle achieved CAB acceptance or USDA Prime, the low-influence cattle made only 9.3 percent CAB and only 0.3 percent qualified for Prime. On the other hand, less than 1 percent of the straight Angus cattle were discounted as USDA Standard, compared to more than 5 percent of the low Angus. "Angus cattle are known for their carcass merit and marbling ability, specifically, so the improvement in quality grade due to increased Angus genetics came as no surprise," McCully says. Whether the data reinforced knowledge or revealed something new, he says, "We hope it will benefit producers when they are making genetic selections for their next calf crop." He notes that the numbers say producers can expect both higher performance and quality grades from straight Angus cattle. "Wise cattlemen will make sure they are looking at all the facts when they make decisions on genetics," McCully says. For the complete abstract and slide show, see http://www.cabpartners.com/news/EducatorMailing/SSAbstractEffectPercentageAngus.doc and http://www.cabpartners.com/news/EducatorMailing/SSEffectAngusMcCully.

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Friday, August 22,2008

Emerging clostridial disease targets calves

by WLJ
Emerging clostridial disease targets calves Clostridium perfringens "There are as many questions about this disease syndrome as there are answers," says David Van Metre, DVM, College of Veterinary Sciences, Colorado State University (CSU). "It’s a multifactorial disease. No one has found the complete set of factors that cause it." C. perfringens Type A is the most commonly isolated infectious agent in abomasitis cases, according to Van Metre, who presented to attendees during a symposium at the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas, NV. Abomasitis occurs with an acute onset of gas accumulation in the abomasum. It typically occurs in calves less than two weeks of age. Clinical signs can include rapid progressive bloat and shock, colic, hypersalivation and a distended abdomen. Treatments may include penicillin, antitoxin serum, fluid support, oral adsorbents and oral antibiotics. "Unfortunately, most calves die acutely," says Doug Scholz, director of veterinary services for Novartis Animal Health. "Most times, the calf appears fine in the morning. When you come back that evening, you find a dead bloated calf." Van Metre recommends focusing prevention measures on enhancing immunity and using feeding practices that inhibit proliferation of C. perfringens in the gut. He recommends using good colostrum and milk/milk replacer hygiene; keeping consistent feeding schedules for dairy calves and maintaining consistency in milk/milk replacer composition and temperature; and avoiding feeding long-stem forage too early. Whenever possible during severe weather, encourage calves and dams to stand up to limit milk engorgement by the calf after the weather passes. Make sure animals have adequate copper and selenium status. If you are experiencing significant calf losses, vaccination may be an option to consider. Van Metre shared results of a trial he conducted with Clostridium Perfringens Type A Toxoid in a commercial dairy herd. The CSU researchers randomly assigned cows and pregnant heifers to a control or vaccinate group. Vaccinates received two doses of Clostridium Perfringens Type A Toxoid in late pregnancy. The study goal was to measure C. perfringens Type A alpha toxin titers in vaccinated dams and the calves fed that colostrum. "The cows and heifers receiving two doses of the vaccine generated significantly higher antibody titers to alpha toxin one week after the second immunization than did controls," says Van Metre. "Additionally, the calves ingesting colostrum from vaccinated dams had significantly higher serum neutralizing antibody titers to alpha toxin than calves born to controls." Scholz adds that vaccination with Clostridium Perfringens Type A Toxoid is anticipated to work best when you vaccinate the dam and get antibody into the calf through the cow’s colostrum. "If you are experiencing an outbreak and have significant death loss, you may also want to vaccinate the calf," advises Scholz. "The important thing is to involve your veterinarian and call as soon as you suspect a problem. If you aren’t tuned in to watch for clinical cases, you will likely be calling for a necropsy rather than a treatment." — WLJ Type A continues to garner researchers’ attention as a potential emerging pathogen. It’s often associated with severe calf disease, such as abomasitis, with fatality rates varying from 5 percent to 50 percent.

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Friday, August 22,2008

46BeefBits

by WLJ
FSIS releases new E. coli study USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has published a report titled "Results of Checklist and Reassessment of Control for Escherichia coli O157:H7 in Beef Operations," a study that stemmed primarily from an increase in the number of E. coli O157:H7 positives and recalls in 2007. This report details the results and analysis of information received in response to an FSIS notice that instructed FSIS inspectors to collect data about establishments’ reassessment of their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points plans. Inspectors also had to complete a checklist, collecting information about the practices at several types of raw beef operations. FSIS is seeking comments from stakeholders over a 30-day comment period. FSIS said it believes this report will help it develop additional risk mitigation actions to control for E. coli. Beef first choice of tailgaters One of the earliest stories about tailgating stems from the 1869 Rutgers-Princeton game when picnics were served from a carriage at the "tail end" of a horse. As pickups and other vehicles replaced horses around the football field, the term "tailgating" stuck. It’s now a fall phenomenon, with some 70 million Americans expected to host or attend at least one of these ultimate parking lot parties this fall. Beef was cited as the favorite food for al fresco stadium dining by 62 percent of avid tailgaters in a recent survey by Grill Freedom Inc. and www.tailgating.com. Steak reigns as king, chosen by 34.4 percent of tailgaters, while burgers ranked second, preferred by 27.7 percent of parking lot grill masters, according to the survey. Japanese officials visit U.S. beef plants Japan began inspection at U.S. meat packing plants recently after Washington concluded that human and computer error caused recent shipments of banned beef to Japan. The Japanese government was to send farm and welfare ministry officials to the U.S. for on-site inspections at 10 meat processing plants, according to ministry officials. The inspection will continue until Aug. 31 and reports indicate that Tokyo may lift a suspension of imports from the plants as early as mid-September, based on inspection results. Japan recently announced that USDA had sent reports to Tokyo on the cases, saying one of the two shipments of banned beef resulted from human error in the packing process in April. Brazilian beef exports to rise sharply Despite a loss of pastureland, Brazilian beef shipments will rise by 32 percent, to 2.9 million metric tons, by 2017, according to agribusiness consultancy Agra FNP. Higher Brazilian beef production will facilitate the rise in exports, Agra FNP said. It forecasts that cattle numbers will rise from 169.7 million head in 2008 to 183 million by 2017. However, during the same period, pastureland area is expected to fall by 42 million acres. Offsetting that loss, according to Agra FNP, will be gains in productivity due to improvements in feed practices (fattening time will fall from 30 months to 26 months within the next four to five years), expansion of feedlots (which will more than double to 6 million animals by 2017) and genetic improvements. Economy’s impact on meat purchases studied According to a study done by consumer products company Unilever using data from more than 47,000 Nielsen homes, a majority of shoppers are willing to pull frozen dinners from their grocery carts, but not fresh meat. The study showed that fresh meat and seafood ranked among the 12 categories that shoppers are least willing to abandon even in the face of a troubling economy. The only other food product to make the list of necessary grocery items was canned vegetables. Other priority items included deodorant, batteries and pet food. The study also found that more than 30 percent of consumers are eating at home more and dining out less, though when consumers are in the grocery store, they will continue to seek out trusted brands and will not switch to private labels to save money. Korean news agency apologizes for BSE snafu Seoul-based Munhwa Broadcasting Company (MBC) has issued a public apology over its erroneous report on the danger of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) which triggered massive protests against the government’s resumption of U.S. beef imports earlier this summer. MBC admitted it made six translation errors in the reporting of a story on the death of a young American woman. The story involved an interview of the girl’s mother who suspected, according to MBC’s translation, that her daughter succumbed to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, the human form of BSE. The network also conceded it mistakenly identified images of non-ambulatory cattle as animals infected with BSE. The apology followed an order by the Korea Communications Commission, the country’s communications watchdog.

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Friday, August 22,2008

Cargil reports quarterly profits

by WLJ
Cargil reports quarterly profits Cargill Inc. reported a 67 percent rise in fiscal fourth-quarter net income amid a divestiture as the firm survived "the most volatile agricultural and energy markets in decades." The world’s largest agribusiness company by sales, and one of the nation’s largest privately held companies, said high demand for crops has led to growth in multiple segments. A portion of the increase also comes from the firm’s grain business, an industry that has been reaping huge profits in recent months as the prices of corn, wheat and soybeans have all soared on the back of increased demand for grain and rising demand for biofuels made from food crops. But the soaring profits have not come without criticism, as many say a worldwide food crisis looms thanks to rapidly inflating prices and depleting stocks. Worldwide grain stocks sit at a 35-year low, Cargill said, blaming weather and low yields for the soaring prices. But it added the market should be allowed to fix itself. Meanwhile, the company reported net income for the quarter ended May 31 of $1.05 billion, compared to $628 million a year earlier. The latest quarter was boosted by a $310 million gain from selling some operations. Income from continuing operations rose 18 percent, to $744 million. The company did not report revenue for the quarter. Revenues for the full year, however, rose 36 percent, to $120.4 billion. Cargill’s wide range of businesses have a hand in almost every stage of food production, from farm feed to meat and poultry products, while providing financial services along the way. The latest quarter saw the firm’s fertilizer production soar as worldwide crop production increases. Other segments, including food and agriculture, also reported growth. Recent months have been turbulent for Cargill, as it shuttered an Arkansas meat plant in April after a March explosion and had to temporarily close some Midwest plants due to June floods. April also saw the Agriculture Department cite a California meat plant for violations in the slaughtering of cattle. And as higher grain prices have sent food prices soaring, riots and protests have broken out in places where many can no longer afford staple items. European antitrust enforcers have begun investigating the inflation, leading to a review of the Italian offices of Cargill in July. Cargill says it is cooperating fully with any investigations. Cargill Chairman and Chief Executive Greg Page said last Tuesday the world has the means to give agriculture the chance to catch up with demand. "If markets are allowed to work, today’s prices can spark a supply response from farmers. A rekindling of public and private investment in agriculture and in rural infrastructure will drive productivity gains." — WLJ

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Friday, August 22,2008

Sweet potato better than corn for ethanol production

by WLJ
Sweet potato better than corn for ethanol production In experiments, sweet potatoes grown in Maryland and Alabama yielded two to three times as much carbohydrate for fuel ethanol production as field corn grown in those states, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists report. The same was true of tropical cassava in Alabama. The sweet potato carbohydrate yields approached the lower limits of those produced by sugarcane, the highest-yielding ethanol crop. Another advantage for sweet potatoes and cassava is that they require much less fertilizer and pesticide than corn. Lew Ziska, a plant physiologist at the ARS Crop Systems and Global Change Laboratory in Beltsville, MD, and colleagues at Beltsville and at the ARS National Soil Dynamics Laboratory in Auburn, AL, performed the study. The research is unique in comparing the root crops to corn, and in growing all three crops simultaneously in two different regions of the country. The tests of corn, cassava and sweet potato were in the field at Beltsville and in large soil bins at Auburn. For the sweet potatoes, carbohydrate production was 4,692 tons an acre in Alabama and 6,353 tons an acre in Maryland. Carbohydrate production for cassava in Alabama was 4,940 tons an acre, compared to 1,434 tons an acre in Maryland. For corn, carbohydrate production was 1,692 tons an acre in Alabama and 2,760 tons an acre in Maryland. The disadvantages to cassava and sweet potato are higher start-up costs, particularly because of increased labor at planting and harvesting times. If economical harvesting and processing techniques could be developed, the data suggests that sweet potato in Maryland and sweet potato and cassava in Alabama have greater potential than corn as ethanol sources. Further studies are needed to get data on inputs of fertilizer, water, pesticides and estimates of energy efficiency. Overall, the data indicate it would be worthwhile to start pilot programs to study growing cassava and sweet potato for ethanol, especially on marginal lands. The additional research could help develop new biofuel sources without diverting field corn supplies from food and feed use to fuel. — WLJ

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Friday, August 22,2008

Key sites aid in range management

by WLJ
Key sites aid in range management Monitoring can help range managers better understand rangeland ecology and health. "As a result, management decisions can be made to improve or maintain the productivity and sustainability of rangelands," says Chuck Lura, Extension rangeland specialist at the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Central Grasslands Research Extension Center near Streeter, ND. Because monitoring all the ecological sites and plant species in a management unit is not feasible, monitoring techniques may involve the selection of areas or species that are key to understanding what is happening to the entire unit. A key site is a portion of the range that serves to indicate the ecological condition, trend or degree of use for an entire pasture because of its location, grazing value and/or use. A key site is often on an extensive ecological site within a pasture that receives representative utilization. The specific location of a key site must be chosen carefully because the information gathered while monitoring these sites will be used to represent conditions on the entire management unit, Lura says. Selecting key areas away from water, salt/minerals, trails, corners of pastures or other areas that are not representative of the grazing pressure is important. Accessibility is also a consideration. Some range monitoring manuals recommend setting up two replications of two different key sites in each pasture. That may not be realistic for many managers, but it underscores the fact that the more managers monitor, the more likely they will have reliable information upon which to base their management decisions, according to Lura. Monitoring key sites can serve as valuable indicators of management effectiveness. Once key sites have been chosen for monitoring, managers can observe what is happening on them and use that information to infer what is happening to the entire pasture. When proper range management principles are applied, the entire pasture may be considered correctly used. The Central Grasslands Research Extension Center has established a program to assist producers to implement and maintain range monitoring procedures. This effort is made possible through funding from NDSU, the North Dakota Natural Resources Trust, and Ducks Unlimited. — WLJ

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Friday, August 22,2008

"Slick" gene helps cattle beat the heat

by WLJ
"Slick" gene helps cattle beat the heat Pinpointing the chromosomal location of the Aslick@ gene identified by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists could help breeders develop cattle with shorter, slick hair that helps keep them cool in the subtropical heat. In central Florida, excessive summer heat can take its toll on cattle, leading to reduced milk production from dairy cattle and higher death rates among beef cattle. But the discovery of the slick gene by scientists at the ARS Subtropical Agricultural Research Station (STARS) in Brooksville, FL, should help deal with these heat-related issues. Breeders could move the gene into other economically important breeds, such as Holstein or Angus, to improve their heat tolerance. The black-and-white Holstein is the world’s top-producing dairy animal. The typical Holstein herd produces more than 21,000 pounds of milk, 775 pounds of butterfat, and 683 pounds of protein per year. Angus is the most popular beef breed in the U.S., with more than 350,000 Angus cattle registered. They are hardy, undemanding and adaptable, and have a high carcass yield of marbled meat—the amount of intramuscular fat that gives the meat its marble pattern appearance—a highly sought trait in the meat industry. Studies at Brooksville led by animal scientist Chad Chase have shown slick-haired animals to have internal temperatures about 1 degree Fahrenheit lower during the summer than other cattle with normal hair coats. Mapping the gene’s location on the chromosome is the first step towards identifying the mutation responsible for the shorter, slick hair. Chase and his STARS team have found a strong association between at least two closely positioned markers on chromosome 20 and the slick-haired phenotype. Microsatellite markers were used in these studies. These results suggest a role for marker-assisted selection to identify bulls that will produce only slick-haired progeny. Some Senepol bulls were tested using these markers, and the results indicated excellent potential for identifying bulls that will produce only slick-haired offspring. The same gene also appears to be responsible for the slick hair coat in Romosinuano cattle. — WLJ

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