Source: National Hurricane Center
Farmers in Florida worry every fall about potential damage from a hurricane. Most of the media attention focuses on families in coastal communities, but not as much attention is provided for farmers and ranchers. Emergency responders are also likely to target their efforts immediately after the storm comes ashore on coastal areas hardest hit by storms. Every farm and ranch in Florida must have an emergency plan for the impact of a hurricane. The main thing is to prepare to be self sufficient for a more than a week. The following are ideas that may prove helpful as a checklist to prepare ahead of a major storm.
After a major storm large areas in the path are in chaos. It is important to have a good list of current contact information for important people. While most of us rely on the phone numbers loaded on a smart phone to do our daily business, it is a good idea to develop a printed list, just in case your cell phone becomes damaged. Make sure you have current phone numbers for:
- Extended family – Everyone will want to know you are ok after the storm, and you will want to do the same.
- Employees and their families – it is good to be able to
- Veterinarian – not just the office number but a cell phone number as well
- Neighbors – in rural areas neighbors helping neighbors are the first responders
- Farm Service Agency Office – Damages should be reported within 15 days after the storm.
- Insurance provider
- Utility Company – Report downed power lines and power outages so your farm can be added to their response list.
- County Extension Offices– Agricultural Extension Agents serve as the ESF 17 Coordinators for each county emergency team. It is their role to assist farm and livestock owners after the storm. Extension Agents are also part of the State Agriculture Response Team lead by the Florida Department of Agriculture, so they are your local contact in each county for assistance for farms and livestock owners following a disaster.
Loss of Power
At the very least, farmers in rural areas can expect power outages following a hurricane. In rural areas, power may not be restored for 1-2 weeks. This can cause some real problems for farmers.
- Order fuel to top off farm fuel tanks for tractors and equipment. Fuel deliveries may be disrupted following the storm.
- Fill farm and family vehicles with gas. Local gas stations may not be open for several days after the storm passes.
- Purchase batteries for flashlights and lanterns. Have enough flashlights ready for each employee.
- Stock up on feed for animals receiving supplemental feeds. Don’t forget the cats and dog food. Have enough hay, feed and health care supplies on hand for 1-2 weeks. Feed stores may not be open for business for a week or more after a storm.
- Move animals to pastures with ponds so well filled water troughs are not the only source of water.
- Dairy farms should have enough generator power so that cows can be milked each day.
- For operations that rely on electric fencing, have a generator ready to keep the fence hot, or at least move animals to interior pastures so they have multiple fences to help keep them in.
Coastal areas normally receive the highest winds as a hurricane comes ashore, but even 50-70 mile per hour winds can create some real problems for livestock producers. Barns and fences are very susceptible to fallen trees and limbs from even tropical storm force winds. Tornadoes are also common in rural areas as storms move through.
- Make sure chainsaws are in good working order and stock up on mixed fuel.
- Locate chains and come-a-long for limb and tree movement off of fences and buildings.
- Stock up on fence repair materials: wire, posts, and staples for repairing fences damaged by limbs and trees.
- Move animals and valuable equipment out of barns. Most agricultural barns are not made to withstand more than 75-100 mile per hour winds with out some damage. Metal roofing material falling and flying around can be deadly. Normally open fields or pastures are much safer for both animals and equipment. Animals out in the open have a way of avoiding danger most of the time.
- Move animals to interior pastures so there are multiple fences between animals and the highway or neighbors.
- Identify cattle and horses so that if they do wander out of your property, you can be notified of their whereabouts. Halters or collars and luggage tags can be used for horses. If nothing else is available, spray paint your name and phone number on cattle or horses, so they can be returned to you following a storm. Do not include Coggins number on any identification, because that would allow the animal to be sold at auction.
- Pick up debris that might become high-wind hazards. Strap down feeders, trailers and other items that might blow around and injure animals or cause damage to facilities.
Be prepared to remove and clean up broken limbs and uprooted trees on cowpens, fences and buildings following a storm. Photo credit Doug Mayo
Tropical storms and hurricanes can generate 3-15 inches of rain in just a few hours.
- Move tractors, equipment, hay, or other stored items to highest ground.
- Move animals out of low lying pastures, or at least tie the gates open so they can move to higher ground if need be.
- Have enough hay on hand to feed for two weeks in case grass runs short from low areas being flooded.
- Make sure drainage ditches are clean without blockage.
Photo credit: USDA Archive
Clean Up and Damage Assessment
Notification and documentation are the keys to getting financial aid following a major storm.
- Beware of downed power lines. Treat them as if they are charged even if they are damaged or knocked down tree limbs. If you drive up near a downed power line, stay in your vehicle, and contact emergency personnel or the utility company.
- Contact insurance agencies as soon as possible after the storm passes for buildings that are insured.
- Report major damage to the local Farm Service Agency within 15 days of the storm to be eligible for federal disaster aid.
- Document damage and repair expenses. Photographs of damages and receipts for services and materials will be very important when applying for insurance claims and federal disaster aid. Any purchased feed, supplies or veterinary expenses related to storm damage should be recorded as well.
Equipment shed in Hardee County destroyed by at tornado associated with Hurricane Charley in 2004. Photo credit: Doug Mayo
Other Resources available to aid with Farm Disaster Preparedness and Recovery
The large inventory of feed cattle that have been placed in the feedyards has begun to affect the price of feeder calves. How large an impact will depend on consumer demand. Credit: Chris Prevatt, UF/IFAS
Cattle on Feed Report
On Friday, September 21st the monthly USDA-NASS Cattle on Feed Report was released. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture the number of cattle and calves on feed (Feedlots with 1,000 head or more capacity) for the slaughter market in the United States on September 1st was 11.125 million head, 5.9 percent above Sept. 1, 2017. This is the largest September inventory since the series began in 1996. The monthly cattle on feed inventory not only increased year-over-year, but month-over-month with 32,000 more cattle on feed since the August 1st inventory report. Additionally, this is the fourth month in a row where a monthly record has been set for the number of cattle and calves on feed for the slaughter market. A twelve-month moving average of monthly feedlot inventories shows that, over the last year, feedlots have had the largest average feedlot total since 2007. Placements in feedlots during August totaled 2.07 million head, which was 7 percent above August 2017. Net placements were 2.02 million head. Marketing of fed cattle during August totaled 1.98 million head, slightly above the 2017 total.
Keys for the Beef Cattle Market
The cattle on feed report did not create a positive short-term outlook, as it continues to provide bearish information for supply fundamentals. Beef production is on track to reach a record level of 27.1 billion pounds in 2018, up 3.6 percent year over year. For the year to date, beef production is up 3.0 percent year over year. However, fourth quarter beef production is expected to be about 4.0 percent larger than last year.
From the demand side of things, a strong domestic economy and robust exports have continued to support beef and cattle prices during 2018, against record large U.S. beef production and all-time highs in competing meats (pork and poultry). Packing business margins continue to be good. Therefore, packers have great incentive to keep processing as many head as possible to take advantage of margins. Good retail demand and packer margins will be needed to keep the market moving along at a good pace during the last quarter of 2018.
There are many unknowns and potential headwinds for cattle markets during the next 12-18 months. Any weakness in the domestic or global economy compared to the conditions of the last two years would dampen demand for beef and thus cattle. Therefore, two of the keys for maintaining prices moving forward will be for the U.S. economy and export markets to continue growing. These two factors will be challenged by the cycle of tariffs and retaliation. Futures markets may begin to react more aggressively to political announcements that may or may not materialize into price changes. Demand for U.S. beef is critical to the success of U.S. cattle producers. Export markets can take a very long time to materialize, but can be lost very quickly.
Just like soil sampling before purchasing fertilizer, hay should be sampled and sent to a lab for evaluation before purchasing supplemental feeds. As Dr. Jennifer Tucker from UGA often says, “Don’t guess, forage test!” Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS
The summer of 2018 has been very challenging for hay production. The combination of frequent rainfall, and heavy downpours have prevented timely harvest, and also diminished the quality of the hay produced. The days are getting shorter, grass growth has slowed, so it is time to start planning for cool-season supplementation. Because of the rainy summer, many producers will have to feed at least some lower quality hay this year. Since hay serves as the base for the winter feeding program on most operations, it will be even more critical this year to balance low quality hay with adequate supplemental feeds. This conundrum has many producers asking, “What is the best way to do that?”
In the modern area of precision agriculture, many crop farms have implemented the technique of precision fertilization. Using grid soil sampling, GPS maps can be generated with variable rate fertilization zones. Once the maps are paired with high-tech application equipment that responds to the data, crop farmers can fertilize more efficiently than ever before. While most livestock producers are familiar with high-tech genetic and breeding technologies, many farms are not utilizing the available technology for what I call “Precision Feeding.” Whether you produce your own hay, or buy it from a local farm or supply dealer, you should have your hay tested for nutritional quality. As Dr. Jennifer Tucker, UGA Beef Specialist, often says, “Don’t guess. Forage test!” Once you know how good or bad your hay is, you can precisely determine the type and amount of supplement needed to balance the nutritional needs of the animals you are feeding.
So where do you begin this process of fine-tuning your winter nutrition program? The first step is to sample each cutting or purchased lot of hay to determine the nutritional quality. Contact your local county agent to get some help with this. A number of the agents in the Florida Panhandle have forage probes at their office, or can get one to use from a nearby county. If you want to purchase your own equipment, there are a number of different companies that sell forage sampling probes. The one I use, was ordered from Nasco and fits on the end of a 1/2″ cordless drill. The combined cost of the forage probe ($130) and a heavy duty 1/2″ cordless drill is around $350.
To send in a forage sample to a lab for analysis you need a 1/2″ cordless drill, forage probe, and a submission form from the lab of choice. Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS
To submit a hay sample to a lab for testing, you will need to fill a 1-quart Ziploc bag with ground hay from probing 7-10 random hay bales from each cutting or purchased lots. Samples of hay from the exterior of a bale will not provide an adequate representation of the hay you will be feeding. You also don’t want to sample only a single bale. Just as with soil testing, you want to try to get a representative sample from each cutting by taking core samples from bales produced from different parts of the field. If you purchased the hay to be tested, just randomly sample from as many different bales as possible from each load.
There are a number of both commercial and university forage laboratories that can be used to provide a summary of the nutritional quality of your hay. The main things you need to know are the moisture content or dry matter (%DM), crude protein (CP), and the energy level reported as total digestible nutrients (TDN). The University of Florida has a forage testing lab at the Range Cattle Research and Education Center in Central Florida, that provides a basic test for $7/sample: UF Forage Test Submission Form. You can also send in hay samples through the Southeast Hay Contest that are analyzed by the University of Georgia’s Forage Lab: SE Hay Contest Entry Form. For $22 you get the forage analysis, a nitrate level test, and may win recognition at the Sun Belt Ag Expo as one of the top forage producers in the region. The entry deadline is the third week in September each year. If you want to use a commercial service, you can also submit samples to Waters Ag Lab in Camilla, GA: Waters Feed Test Submission Form. No matter which lab you select, the goal is find out what level of protein and energy is provided by the hay, so you can calculate the level of supplemental feed needed to complement it.
Forage Analysis Results
Most all forage labs provide sample analysis results in two formats: as-sampled and dry-matter. The as-sampled column would be useful for actual ration formulation of a total mixed ration. In general though, you should focus on the dry-matter columns for comparisons between forages, and for basic supplementation calculations. Moisture levels of forages are rarely identical, so removing the moisture gives a more accurate comparison. For basic supplementation program development, you would use the highlighted dry-matter protein and energy values. If you want to know more about the other information provided in a forage test, Understanding Your Forage Test Report is an article that was published a while back that more completely explains what each of the reported values represent in a standard forage test lab report.
The forage analysis report above is fairly typical quality for average quality Bahia or low quality Bermudagrass hay that was more mature because of frequent summer rains. If you were going to feed this hay to lactating cows, or growing animals you would expect those animals to be deficient in both protein and energy. These numbers mean very little, however, without also knowing the nutrient requirements of the animals you are feeding.
Decision Aids for Supplement Calculations
There are a number of commercial software options for livestock ration balancing, as well as private nutrition consultants that provide very precise calculations for complete ration balancing. For feedlots and dairy operations, having very precise mixing recipes is essential. For most cow-calf operations, however, determining the right amounts of supplements to provide is not that complicated. Since you typically feed hay free-choice, all you really need to know is whether the hay is adequate or deficient in protein and energy. Once you know that, a simple spreadsheet can be used to provide a good estimate of the type and amount of supplement required to maintain body weight. Dr. Nicolas DiLorenzo, UF/IFAS Beef Specialist recently developed a very simple spread sheet called the UF HAY BALANCER that can be used to help cattle producers make decisions on supplement choices for mature cows on a free-choice hay diet. The University of Georgia also has a decision aid spreadsheet called the UGA BASIC BALANCER that is a little more complex, but it can be used to compare supplements for brood cows, bulls, heifers, and stockers, as well as providing some feedstuff cost comparisons. Both of these are Microsoft Excel spreadsheets that come with information pre-loaded for use. Commodity prices do fluctuate, so you may need to update the prices in the feed list provided.
Putting it All Together
In closing, I wanted to share an example of the end results of this process to demonstrate how the UF Hay Balancer can be used to help cattle producers become more precise with feeding supplements to compliment the hay they produce or purchase. For this example lets assume that you must purchase hay to feed 25 cows for 30 days that will be in their 2nd month, or peak lactation. This would be the time of most concern, because if you don’t supply adequate nutrition for these cows they will lose weight, reduce milk production, delay cycling and calve later for the following season. The following is a comparison of two types of hay at different prices, and a comparison of different supplement options. You can purchase 850 pound Bahia hay for $43 per bale or 1,000 pound Bermudagrass bales for $67 per bale (based on Alabama Weekly Hay Report). Which would be the best to purchase?
As you can see from this summary, this was not a simple scenario to answer. The end result of this exercise was that even though the bahiagrass hay was lower in quality, the cheaper price compensated for the lack of quality. The Bahia hay required a supplement that offered both protein and energy such as whole cottonseed, that can be purchased from local cotton gins, to balance the diet for these cows. The Bermudagrass hay provided adequate protein, so an energy supplement such as corn or molasses was all that required for a balanced diet. However, using 4 pounds/head/day of whole cottonseed, a rancher could feed his or her herd for 30 days cheaper with Bahia hay than with Bermudagrass hay, even though the supplement costs were $45 lower. If you had worked through this scenario with hay you have grown yourself, with similar production costs, the Bermudagrass hay would have been the better option.
If you would like assistance with forage testing, or balancing cattle herd supplementation, contact your local county extension agent. They can help you develop a precision feeding program for your herd.
Lucy Ray, Morgan County UGA Extension
The horse has one of the most complex, and arguably, the most frustrating, digestive systems of any grazing livestock species that owners/producers deal with. When one thinks of feeding horses, frightening scenarios like colic and founder can come to mind. While certain parts of the horse’s digestive system can cause them to be more difficult to feed than cattle, other features can make horses easier to maintain than ruminants.
Horses are classified as non-ruminant herbivores. This means that they have the capacity to break down the cellulose and hemi-cellulose components in forages without the four-chambered stomach that cattle have. Horses breakdown these structural components of roughages via a microbial population in a modified part of the digestive system called the cecum. The cecum is located behind the stomach in the digestive system. It is for this reason that horses are also called hind-gut fermenters. Cattle, sheep, and other ruminants, have food deposited into the rumen first, where it goes through a microbial digestive process before moving onto other compartments such as the true stomach. A diagram of the equine digestive system is shown below.
Illustration of the various components that encompasses the equine gastrointestinal tract. Source: UGA Extension Equine Colic
Before delving too deeply into the differences in ruminant and non-ruminant herbivores, perhaps we should give an overview of how a horse grazes and what happens to the forage once it enters the digestive system. A typical 1000 lb horse will graze approximately 12-18 hours/day. Horses are spot grazers, they have specialized mouths to select and eat the tops of the plants that they like. They rarely graze in “rough areas” or areas where they defecate. Because of the selective behavior, horses have a reputation as rough and detrimental on pastures and forage species. This reputation is not entirely undeserved.
Horse chewing movement is both lateral and vertical. From the mouth, the forage travels down the esophagus. The esophagus has one-way peristaltic action which means that horses cannot regurgitate their food and therefore can’t “chew their cud.” They also cannot burp or pass gas through their esophagus.
From the esophagus, forage travels to the stomach. A horse’s stomach is approximately 4 gallons and is the smallest in relation to its size of any other livestock species. The stomach secretes hydrochloric acid (HCL) and specific enzymes. Production of HCL is continuous and can contribute to ulcers in horses who are not fed properly. Remember, horses are designed to graze 12-18 hours a day! In the small intestine, some nutrients are absorbed and bile is secreted directly from the liver into the first part of the small intestine. The continuous production of HCL and the way that bile is secreted into the small intestine make it necessary for horses to consume small meals several times a day.
The horse’s large intestine accounts for 60% of the total volume of the digestive tract. The cecum contains active bacteria similar to the microbes of the rumen. Bacterial breakdown of cellulose and other carbohydrates result in the production of volatile fatty acids (VFAs). VFAs are a source of energy similar to glucose and other sugars. The small colon is the primary site of water absorption and the rectum is where manure is expelled.Several of these attributes add up to making horses susceptible to digestive upsets. For example, the inability to regurgitate food or gas, means that everything must be expelled through the rear of the animal. This can result in gas colic, or impaction colic as sometimes the material has a LONG way to travel before exiting the animal. Moldy hay is more likely to cause issues in horses. Since the equine digestive system doesn’t have a lot of muscular contractions, adequate water is essential to keep things moving through the tract. Again, this can result in impactions and digestive issues if there is not enough fluid available.
However, the speed at which food moves through the digestive tract, makes non-ruminant herbivores more likely to be “easy keepers” than most ruminants. They can move a larger volume of feed through their systems and extract the nutrients more rapidly. In addition, there is some research to suggest that horses handle high nitrates in forages better than ruminants due to the physical makeup of their digestive system.
There are limitations and benefits to the equine digestive system. As long as one keeps in mind the anatomy of the horse and how they were designed to eat, the pitfalls long associated with feeding horses can be minimized.
For more information on this subject, use the following publication links:
When you visit the Sunbelt Ag Expo in October, make sure you visit the UF/IFAS Barn to visit with members of the Panhandle Ag Team about services available from the Extension Service for farmers, and enjoy some free orange juice and peanuts while you are there.
Becca Turner, Sunbelt Ag Expo
The Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition will celebrate its 41st Anniversary show October 16-18, 2018. Over 1,200 exhibitors will display and demonstrate products and welcome thousands of visitors to the 100 acre show site.
Crowned as North America’s Premier Farm Show ® and the largest Farm Show in America with field demonstrations, the Sunbelt Ag Expo brings together all segments of agribusiness including farmers, educators, policy-makers, ag-enthusiasts and families. All attending the show will see the latest innovation and technology that the agriculture industry has to offer.
Education is the key component of the show with over 300 seminars and demonstrations offered over the 3-day event. These seminars and demonstrations are taught in exhibit areas for beef, dairy, poultry, forestry, pond management, equine and cattle management. Farmers and ranchers attending gain beneficial knowledge on the latest in cutting edge techniques from industry leaders and university specialists. The Expo works with 21 different education sponsors to host a strong seminar and demo schedule. These education sponsors include major universities and colleges with six of these having permanent exhibit buildings on-site. New this year, the Expo will feature Youth Educational Challenges for 6th-12th graders as a competitive and fun opportunity for students to demonstrate their knowledge in six different content areas.
The Hoss Tools Sustainable Living Center focuses on topics for the specialty gardener. If you are interested in learning how to garden year round, visit this section. Greg Key, owner of Hoss Tools will offer a bounty of information on gardening tips, tools and more in the demonstration garden.
A crowd pleaser is the 600-acre research farm’s field demonstrations. These demos showcase harvesting and tillage equipment for cotton, peanuts, corn, soybeans and hay. As in the past, cotton will be harvested during the show! In addition, hay demos will include all facets of hay harvesting from cutting to baling and will provide visitors the opportunity to see 80 different types of hay harvesting equipment run in a true farm setting.
Expo is honored to have Kentucky as the 2018 Spotlight State. The Kentucky Spotlight State Committee has put together an all-encompassing exhibit themed “Kentucky Start to finish: Pioneering Innovation.” The exhibit will also feature a special section on Agricultural Safety, including seminars and demonstrations.
There’s never a dull moment during the 3-day show and attendees will find there is something for the entire family. There is a daily rolling Antique Tractor Parade, the American Grand Finals Stock Dog Trials (the largest field of competition in recent Expo history), and even a Cow Milking Contest. Add in rural lifestyle fun, truck, tractor and ATV test drives, and the venue is perfect for rural enthusiasts.
Chip Blalock, Show Director, says, “The Sunbelt Expo is an unbelievable showcase of rural living blanketed with agriculture’s newest ideas and technologies. Its 3-days of fun, education and dreaming about agriculture’s future as we team together to feed, clothe and house a growing population around the world.”
The Sunbelt Ag Expo is open Tuesday through Thursday, October 16-18, from 8:30 AM to 5:00 (T,W) and 4:00 (Th). Admission at the gate is $10 per person per day. Advanced and discount tickets can be purchased online. The Show site is four miles southeast of Moultrie, GA on Hwy 133. For more information, go to the show website at www.sunbeltexpo.com.
Heaves is a non-infectious respiratory disease of horses that is similar to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in humans. It is considered progressive, and degenerative. That means it will never go away completely and each bout will get progressively worse.
There are a number of forms relative to cause, but they share similar symptoms. Horses react to an allergen and airways become restricted so air cannot move normally. The tissues of the lungs become inflamed and thicken. An affected horse will likely cough, wheeze, have an increased respiration rate, flared nostrils, nasal discharge and will become intolerant to exercise. Removal of the irritant often abates the symptoms, so remission can occur. With each successive bout however, the lungs lose more elasticity. Over time, breathing out requires as much energy as breathing in. The result is enlarged abdominal muscles in the area of the flank that are referred to as “heave lines.” Figure 1.
Though there is no cure, the symptoms can be treated orally or with injections. Corticosteroids can help reduce inflammation. Unfortunately, laminitis and/or generalized infection can occur with prolonged use of corticosteroids. Aerosolized bronchodilators (Ventolin/Proventil or albuterol) can be prescribed and administered with a tight fitting mask placed over the horse’s nose that works much like an inhaler for humans. Figure 2. Though costly, they are very effective and have fewer side effects.
Figure 2. Aerosolized bronchodilators that work much like an inhaler in humans can be prescribed and administered with a tight fitting mask placed over the horse’s nose. Source: Twin Pines Veterinary Services.
You can manage the disease by minimizing exposure to allergens. Keep records of occurrence so that you can identify the triggers and when they occur. Determine if it is seasonal or year round. To stop the irritation, change the environment, reduce dust, soak hay. If your horse has seasonal heaves, it is likely due to an irritant associated with grazing pasture. You can place the affected horse in dry lot during seasons when they are reactive to pasture.
Though the precise allergen(s) in grasses have not be defined in Florida, there is reason to suspect endophytes and mycotoxins as triggers. In an effort to identify grass species that contain fungal endophyte and mycotoxin presence, UF/IFAS researchers, led by Ann Blount, UF Forage Breeder, have received funding from the Florida Cattle Enhancement Fund. Researchers are currently sampling bahiagrass, bermudagrass and limpograss pastures on approximately 13 ranches state-wide over a period of one year. Analysis of these samples will help UF/IFAS researchers provide unbiased information about endophyte and mycotoxin presence in forages and how it relates, if found, to animal health and performance.
If you think your horse is suffering from heaves, contact your veterinarian for diagnosis and a course of treatment.