Vaccination is considered the most cost-effective method of preventing infectious diseases; however, vaccines do have limitations. It is important to recognize that vaccines are not 100% effective and cannot prevent all horses from becoming ill. Generally, vaccines need to be administered to a horse at least 2-4 weeks prior to shipping to a new location, hauling to an event or being exposed to new horses. This ensures that the horse has enough time to generate enough antibodies for protection from the diseases. That being said, there is no “vaccine schedule” that works for all horses and all farms. For the most complete protection for your farm and your horses, consult your veterinarian for a core vaccine program that will suit your specific needs.
Ultrasound is sound waves that have a frequency beyond the audible range for human ears. Humans can hear at frequencies between 20 and 20,000 hertz. Ultrasound is sound waves above 20,000 hertz. Tissue imaging or live animal evaluation frequencies range from 1 to 10 megahertz (MHz). The range for biological tissues is from 2 to 20 MHz. The frequency is determined by the type of tissue or organ being evaluated. If deep tissue penetration is necessary, then a low frequency is used. A higher frequency gives greater resolution but less tissue penetration. Beef cattle carcass evaluation most commonly uses a frequency of 3.5 MHz and reproductive evaluation uses 5.0-7.5 MHz.
Ultrasound occurs in nature as well. Some types of bats navigate by using ultrasound at a frequency of 25,000-500,000 MHz. Bats also use ultrasonic waves to locate their prey. This process is called echo-location. Some moths detect the presence of predators by sensing ultrasonic waves.
Ultrasound can travel through liquids, tissues and solids. Therefore, it can penetrate through the human and animal body and allow one to see the muscles, bones and organs. It is used for medical and veterinary diagnostics and for carcass and reproductive evaluation. Carcass composition can be determined on all species of livestock using ultrasound technology. The most common carcass traits evaluated with ultrasound include fat thickness, ribeye area, rump fat thickness and intramuscular fat (marbling).
Today, with the ever-changing market, beef cattle producers must utilize every piece of technology possible to improve their cattle production and keep up with the market trends. The beef cattle industry is using technology such as Real-Time Ultrasound to evaluate live carcass characteristics of an individual and to help make better management decisions concerning genetic selection.
Value-based marketing has pushed commercial beef producers to produce cattle that will bring a premium when sold on the rail. In some grids, this can create a $10-$15 per hundredweight (carcass weight) difference between a select carcass and a choice carcass, which, in some cases, relates to the difference between a loss and a profit. Granted, these premiums are subject to differences in price spreads between select and choice. Also, each packer has its own unique grid that producers have to fit their cattle into to receive the premium. That is all the more reason for producers to use ultrasound technology to learn more about their own cattle where they can make more informed decisions about how they want to market their cattle (Example: live weight versus grid). As the industry moves more and more toward paying according to value or quality, commercial beef producers will have to purchase breeding stock with reliable genetic carcass trait information.
Progressive purebred producers must find and produce cattle that are superior in carcass traits and will best fit the standards of value-based marketing within the breeders' particular breed. Progressive crossbred cattle producers need to select the top 25% of their heifers as replacements every year. Ultrasound technology can determine high, average and low individuals, whether it is the ribeye area, fat cover or the percent of intramuscular fat. Research has shown that sires with reduced fat thickness in steer progeny also produce heifer progeny that reach puberty later, in turn having reduced conception rates. The same relationship has been shown to exist between maternal and growth performance traits. Individuals exist in the population that allows for selection to make optimum change for both traits. Ultrasound accuracy allows a breeder to choose animals with minimum amounts of external fat thickness and optimum amount of ribeye area and intramuscular fat.
Carcass data should be used as another management tool that breeders have to make a more informed decision about selection of the cattle that will enter their breeding programs. Carcass data are not necessarily required to run a breeding operation, but competition with other breeders will be high, and each advantage a breeder uses will result in the improvement of the breeder’s ability to market their cattle.
There is much research being conducted at the LSU AgCenter and around the country related to animal diseases. Here are some highlights.
With the emergence of anthelmintic-resistant parasites in ruminants, alternatives to deworming with anthelmintics must be found. Current research by LSU AgCenter faculty shows promise. Dr. Jim Miller is looking into novel treatments with copper wire particles, grazing and feeding plants high in tannins, and sustainable integrated control programs. Dr. Wayne Wyatt has data that indicate that fecal egg counts could be used as a tool to help select cattle that are resistant to parasites.
Respiratory disease has a substantial negative economic impact on the beef and dairy industries. One of the problems in controlling bovine respiratory disease is the difficulty in diagnosing it in a timely manner. Cattle are a prey species and very adept at hiding illness. Many times they have been suffering from disease for a week before they can be identified clinically and treated. LSU AgCenter faculty are participating in a multi-state project that looks at many facets of bovine respiratory disease, including novel early detection methods. Some ideas being studied around the country and in Canada are rumen boluses that constantly measure body temperature, chemical changes in exhaled breath and behavioral changes such as pacing, eating, drinking and grooming.
At the onset of 2012, U.S. pork production was the only major protein source that was expected to exhibit a year-on-year increase. U.S. beef and broiler chicken production were both expected to experience decreases for two very different reasons. Tight supplies of feeder cattle and unprofitability of vertically integrated firms in the broiler chicken industry were expected to lead to reductions in production for those species, resulting in increased prices. Production so far this year has fallen in line with expectations. Hog and live cattle futures were both higher than year-ago levels at the beginning of June with live cattle futures 15% higher. Georgia dock prices for broilers are 8% higher, with wings and boneless/skinless breast prices 11% and 12.5% higher, respectively.
Year-to-date (YTD) beef production is 2.8% lower than a year ago as federally inspected (FI) cattle slaughter is 4.7% lower so far in 2012. Federally inspected steer and heifer slaughter is down 5% while total cow slaughter (beef and dairy) is down 3.5% through mid-May. Beef cow slaughter is down 8.6% YTD but should see larger declines as the year progresses, weather conditions permitting. Carcass weights, on a weekly basis, have averaged 1.8% higher this year on higher steer and heifer dressed weights, which has prevented a larger decrease in beef production occurring so far in 2012. Increased carcass weights will not be enough to prevent larger decreases in beef production as the second half of 2012 begins. The Livestock Marketing Information Center (LMIC) currently forecasts beef production in the third and fourth quarters at 4.6% and 3.3% lower, respectively, and down 2.9% year-on-year for 2012.
YTD U.S. pork production is 2.1% higher than a year ago due to FI hog slaughter that is 1.8% higher than a year ago through the first week of June. Carcass weights on a weekly basis have largely been even with last year. LMIC forecasts third quarter pork production to be even with the previous year and 3.5% higher in the fourth quarter. This will lead to a 2.4% increase in 2012 production over 2011.
Broiler chicken egg sets continue to be approximately 4.6% below year-ago levels. Total young chicken slaughter through April is 2.1% lower than 2011, but production on a ready-to-cook basis is 1.5% lower. Average live weights for broilers have been slightly higher than a year ago on a weekly basis. It was mid-June 2011 when egg sets began to show drastic year-on-year decreases, but at the end of May 2012, egg sets were 2.3% lower than 2011 (approximately 5.3% lower than 2010). Net ready-to-cook production in the first quarter of 2012 was 2.2% lower than a year ago, with approximately 2% declines expected by LMIC in the second and third quarter of this year. The fourth quarter of 2012 is forecasted to experience a 3.6% increase and will contribute to an annual decline of only 0.7% for U.S. broiler production. Declines in poultry production have improved the earnings potential for integrated firms, but maintaining that discipline might prove difficult. However, potential pullet placements have been declining through much of this year. Potential pullet placements through November 2012 are between 4% and 5% lower than a year ago, which suggests that integrated firms are not planning to increase production significantly at this time.
Forecasted production for the remainder of 2012 should be favorable to prices. Hog prices for 2012 will average out largely equal to last year as estimated returns have been slightly negative so far this year. Fed cattle prices could be 7% higher in 2012 than 2011. Feeder cattle prices in the Southern Plains may be 14% higher for the year, with weaned calf prices 22% higher, according to LMIC forecasts.
I have received many inquiries on creep feeding this year due to the record high feeder cattle values. I think to answer this question we need to look at the advantages and disadvantages of creep feeding. The following list of advantages and disadvantages was originally written by Dr. Harlan Ritchie (Ritchie, 1987) and was adapted from DiCostanzo and Gill (2008):
The number one reason on the list is calf prices are high relative to feed cost, which increases the desire to take advantage of the added weight gain obtained from creep feeding. The problem is the second half of Dr. Ritchie’s first advantage. Carcass data should be used as another management tool that breeders have to make a more informed decision about selection of the cattle that will enter their breeding programs – “relative to feed prices.” Currently, we are in a high-calf-value-to-high-feed-cost scenario. In this situation, I feel that it becomes a tougher question to answer. Most people do not like my answer as I feel we can more efficiently feed calves by early weaning rather than by creep feeding. If we look at the historical studies of creep feeding, feed efficiency is variable at best and can range from a couple of pounds of feed per extra pound of gain to as much as 20 pounds of feed per pound of added gain. These differences can be attributed to many factors. Which one would you prefer? Of course we would prefer the lower feed to gain conversions. But the problem is, you may not know how efficient your calves will be on a diet until they are consuming it, which makes it very difficult to budget.
The number one reason most people want to creep feed is to reduce the amount of milk a calf consumes or to take some pressure off of the cow. While this is a great theory, studies have shown that calves will still consume similar amounts of milk compared to non-creep-fed calves. Creep feeding will put additive gains on your calves, but the question is – at what cost? I think everyone has to look at their individual situation and put a pencil to the cost of the creep feed and what the expected returns will be in relation to the value of the added weight and condition gain.
Creep feeding is a management practice that if used properly and/or during the proper economic scenarios, can increase the profitability of your cattle operation, However, at the same time, if not practiced in the proper situation, it may actually cost you more than it is worth.
DiConstanzo, A. and R. K. Gill. 2008. Creep Feeding Calves. UMN Accessed on 06/13/2012.
Ritchie, HD, 1987. Limited creep feeding, grazing may offer advantages. Feedstuffs, October 12, 1987.
Recent reports show that chicken as a menu item in the U.S. has increased 12% in the past three years (source: Mintel Menu Insights), and this trend should continue for the next few years. Popular chicken dishes include chicken fingers, Buffalo wings, chicken wraps, pizza topped with chicken, and chicken bites. Chicken also is a popular choice at the grocery store. However, whether you consume your chicken at a restaurant or purchase it in a retail store, the variety of labels on chicken products can be confusing. If you purchase chicken products labeled as “no hormones added,” “free range,” “cage free” or “organic” – do your really know what you are purchasing?
Chicken is a versatile product, and we can expect to continue to see new chicken products developed for the restaurant and retail food industries. Chicken is a relatively inexpensive source of protein, but with the different labeling claims, you may see prices as high as $9 per pound. Therefore, it is important to understand the labels so you know what you are paying for.
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