Animal Industry News Update - June 2013

Theresia Lavergne, Page, Timothy G., Hutchison, Charles F., Harborth, Karl, Navarre, Christine B., Walker, Neely, Pruitt, J. Ross  |  7/1/2013 10:46:58 PM

It's That Time Again! Disaster Readiness for Beef and Dairy Producers

cows in water

Dr. Christine Navarre

Due to the vulnerability of Louisiana to hurricanes and their potential to cause widespread damage due to high winds and flooding, hurricane preparedness is essential. Advanced planning can help producers minimize the loss of animal lives and the health problems associated with disasters. Although help may be available from many sources following a disaster, producers themselves are ultimately responsible for the welfare of their animals and should prepare accordingly.

Well in advance of a potential disaster, producers should evaluate their herd health programs with their veterinarian. Cattle that undergo evacuation either before or after a disaster will be stressed and are likely to be commingled with other cattle. Herd biosecurity may be breached, which makes increasing herd immunity imperative.

Individual animal identification is also important. If cattle get evacuated and commingled, or escape and are later captured, it is essential to be able to identify the herd of origin through brands or tags. Many cattle look alike, and plain, numbered dangle tags and tattoos could be duplicated by other producers. If cattle are not branded with a registered ranch brand, producers should identify the farm or ranch on the dangle tag or tattoo, or use electronic identification that is unique to each individual animal. Pictures and/or videos of cattle may also help identify them later.

In situations such as hurricanes, where advanced warning is given, health papers should be provided by a veterinarian if cattle are to be evacuated, particularly if traveling across state lines. Sometimes states will waive requirements for health papers in emergencies. However, some testing requirements may be necessary before cattle reenter Louisiana. In some situations it may not be possible to evacuate or rescue all animals, so producers should prioritize animals so their most valuable stock gets attention first. Copies of herd records, proof of ownership and registration papers should be stored in a safe place.

Beef cattle pose special problems when it comes to mass evacuation, so plans should be made weeks in advance of a potential disaster. Producers should partner with other farms to provide trucking and evacuation space so public holding areas can be used for rescued animals. Biosecurity issues (potential for disease transmission between herds) should be discussed when making these arrangements. Producers should have safe, efficient penning and loading facilities ready in advance. Livestock trailers should be inspected to make sure they are ready for hauling long distances. If flooding or high winds are expected and animals cannot be evacuated, they should be left in large open pastures and not put in barns. Most dairy producers will shelter in place, so preparations should be made to keep animals as safe as possible during and after a storm.

Producers should coordinate plans with other local agriculture-related groups such as Extension Services, USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Services and Farm Service Agencies, Farm Bureau, local cattlemen’s associations, livestock auction markets, feed stores, etc. Different tasks such as livestock hauling; feed, fuel and generator acquisition and distribution; and animal evacuation, rescue and treatment should be assigned to individuals or groups in advance. Primary and contingent holding areas for evacuated and/or rescued cattle as well as staging areas for feed and fuel distribution should be identified in advance. Special evacuation routes for cattle should be considered so loaded trucks and trailers can keep moving to avoid heat stress in the animals. Early evacuation is necessary as roads may be closed to trailer and towing traffic as a storm approaches.

Efforts should be made to have an emergency supply of feed and water stored in a safe place. Adult cows need at least 15-20 gallons of water per head per day. Storage tanks that previously held chemicals should not be used to store water. If wells depend on electricity to pump water, hand pumps or generators should be available in case of electrical outages.

Cattle that have been standing in water for prolonged periods of time may have skin infections and may be susceptible to tetanus. Dehydration and digestive upsets may occur if animals have been drinking water with high salinity. Mastitis might be a problem in dairy cattle, especially if the milking routine is disrupted. Damage to chemical storage buildings and fences may allow cattle access to toxic chemicals or plants. Severely injured or sick animals may require veterinary treatment or euthanasia. If animals do need treatment, working facilities should be inspected before use as they may have been damaged. Access to portable working facilities should be arranged in advance. Ropes, halters and wire cutters should also be collected in advance and stored in a safe place. With the help of a veterinarian, an emergency supply of medications and supplies can be readied in advance.

Besides portable working facilities and corrals, other equipment needs should be arranged. Tractors and forklifts to move feed and supplies, trucks and trailers for hauling cattle, and feed and water troughs may be needed.

There is no way to prepare for every situation that arises in a disaster. However, by working closely with other producers and agricultural groups, cattlemen can lessen the impact of a disaster on their operation.

Disaster Readiness Checklist

Farm Environment

  • Do preventive trimming of trees around barns, driveway and fences.
  • Try to maintain as much free board as possible in manure lagoons to avoid potential overflow.
  • Have on hand materials to mend fence or to build a temporary fence.
  • Stack together or anchor calf hutches that are not in use.
  • Nail down all loose pieces of tin on barns.
  • Attach extra guide wires to augers on grain bins.
  • Have some extra tarps or shade cloth available in order to cover equipment if a roof is blown off or to provide temporary shade.
  • Remove shade cloth from portable shade structures to prevent damage.


  • Fill all tractors, vehicles, generators and storage containers with fuel.
  • Service generator and make sure they are operational.
  • Run the generator under a load for a couple of hours at least every two months.
  • Set up generators in place before a storm.
  • If using a PTO-type generator, make sure the tractor being used has no fuel or oil leaks to prevent fire hazard.

Feed and Water

  • Have about a two-week supply of all feedstuffs needed.
  • Have an emergency supply of water.
  • Move round bales from low-lying areas to an area that is readily accessible.


  • Evaluate the herd health program.
  • Identify animals.
  • Have health papers if needed.
  • Store records in a safe location.
  • Have an evacuation plan if needed.
  • Move all animals to high ground if possible.
  • Remove calves from calf hutches made of plastic or fiberglass if possible. If not. anchor the hutches.
  • Have a supply of emergency veterinary supplies.


  • Have some cash on hand (often credit cards will not work).
  • Coordinate plans with other local agricultural groups.
  • Dairies should try to work with their milk haulers and marketing co-ops to have the least amount of milk as possible in the bulk tank to a potential hurricane.
  • Partner with other farms in remote areas for help.

Wholesale Meat and Poultry Prices Higher


Dr. Ross Pruitt

Retail beef and chicken prices continue to post year-on-year gains through the first four months of 2013. Pork prices have only been slightly below year-ago levels so far this year. Monthly demand indices from the University of Missouri indicate that combined demand for beef, pork, chicken and turkey have been higher than a year ago. However, February was a month where year-on-year declines occurred for beef and pork while March saw declines from chicken and turkey.

Higher beef wholesale prices have resulted from slightly improved demand and retail prices this year for most of the major protein sources. However, those gains have not been equally distributed through the primal cuts. This has limited, in part, the increase in live animal prices that producers receive. As an example, the choice boxed beef cutout value has broken the $200/cwt threshold, but the rib and loin primals have contributed the most to the year-on-year increase in boxed beef values. Wholesale choice round and chuck prices have largely been flat with last year. The select boxed beef cutout value has been above year ago levels for most of the year, but has not kept pace with the increase in choice wholesale values resulting in a wider choice-select spread, which limits the ability for higher wholesale prices to translate into higher cattle prices.

Wholesale pork prices are slightly more difficult to interpret due to the change from voluntary to mandatory price reporting earlier this year. Mandatory primal composite values were largely higher than the voluntary primal composite values during the comparisons available from January through early April. The pork cutout has benefited from its normal seasonal strength, but most of the increase in the carcass cutout has come from the belly needed to produce bacon. Similar to beef, pork is going to need additional strength from other primal cuts to maintain its strength going forward.

The broiler composite price has been much stronger than a year ago, largely owing to the strength in breast prices. Some of the increased prices for breast meat can be tied to recent KFC marketing commercials offering their original recipe chicken in a boneless form. Chicken leg and wing prices have been below a year ago for much of this year.

Combined with the favorable demand situation, signs show the economy is slowly improving. This can be supportive of prices in general going forward. Increases in chicken and pork production are expected to be small in 2013 while beef is expected to see a decrease. Slightly higher chicken and pork production may put some pressure on beef prices combined with slightly higher-than-expected beef production as some areas of the country continue to face serious drought conditions.

Show Pig Nutrition During the Louisiana Summer


Dr. Tim Page

Pigs consume feed containing essential nutrients such as protein (amino acids, which are primarily used for muscle accretion), fat (individual fatty acids, which provide energy), vitamins and minerals. After consumption, the feed is digested and eventually broken down into individual nutrients for absorption within the pig’s body.

After absorption, these nutrients are processed through different metabolic pathways where they are used first to meet maintenance requirements. Additional nutrients are used to support lean tissue gain in young, growing animals. A pig must meet daily maintenance requirements to support what it already has. All nutrients available to a pig after these maintenance requirements are met are primarily used to increase muscle tissue deposition.

One of the first requirements that must be met in the pig’s body is energy. Quantitatively, energy is the most important factor in a growing pig’s diet, and nearly all diet formulations are based on some measure of energy with additional inputs of protein and amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals.

After pigs are weaned, they are placed on dry diets. When pigs reach 40-50 pounds they become adapted to consuming a dry feed and go through a rapid growth stage. During this time, a large portion of their weight gain is lean muscle tissue. It is important to understand that energy and protein consumption are what drive the amount of muscle tissue development in growing pigs.

Herein is a potential problem. Research has shown that from about 50-160 pounds, the energy required for maintenance and muscle tissue gain is higher than the pig will consume when fed ad libitum. This is the energy-dependent phase of growth where a pig’s genetic potential for muscle deposition is dependent upon the amount of energy it consumes. Not only are most pig diets deficient in the energy density for optimal muscle deposition during this phase, extreme heat and high temperatures that we experience during our summers limit a pig’s daily feed intake as well.

There is a solution to this dilemma. Increase the energy density of the diet during our summers to meet the energy required for optimal muscle deposition and also to reduce the heat increment of the feed being consumed. Therefore, higher energy levels actually reduce the heat caused by digestion and absorption of the feed nutrients. Be sure you feed a show pig diet during the summer that contains at least 4% crude fat. I actually prefer 4.5-5.0% crude fat. If you observe that your show pig is not consuming enough feed during this heat and high temperatures, you can even topdress your feedings with a little vegetable oil (or dry fat) to increase consumption and, therefore, increase the amount of energy the pig is receiving. Good luck. And do anything you can to reduce the heat and high temperatures of your show pig’s environment.

Summer Hauling

horse in trailer

Dr. Neely Walker

It is summer, and the opportunities for horsing around are endless! Horse shows, competitions, sales and trail rides are just a haul away. However, the hot, humid conditions of a Louisiana summer can pose serious health problems for your horse. Dehydration, heatstroke and exhaustion are just some of the ailments that need to be prevented while traveling with your horse. Follow the hot-weather hauling safety tips to prevent any detour from your summer fun.

  • Avoid hauling during the warmest time of the day.
  • Open trailer vents to create airflow throughout the trailer. DO NOT allow your horse to ride with his head out of the trailer window; flying debris and bugs can cause serious eye injuries.
  • Stop and check your horse’s vitals and offer water every 4-5 hours; each stop should last a minimum of 20 minutes to allow your horse to relax and rest.
  • Park in shaded areas with air movement.
  • Carry ample drinking water for your horse while en route. It is not recommended to leave hanging water buckets in the trailer while hauling as sudden stops can lead to spilt water and slippery floors and are a potential hazard to your horse.
  • If you are stuck on the Interstate, ensure as much ventilation as possible inside the trailer without unloading the horses.
  • Make sure your vehicle is in top towing condition BEFORE leaving. Make sure all of your tires (truck and trailer) are fully inflated while they are cool before traveling; In hot weather, fully inflated tires flex less; therefore ride cooler, decreasing your chances of a blowout
  • Use two rubber mats on the trailer floor. This will reduce the heat on your horse’s legs.
  • If your destination is more than 12 hours away, it is recommended to unload your horses and give them an eight-hour break from trailering
  • Make sure to have copies of all important identification paperwork (Coggins, Health Certificate, etc.).

As always with horses, expect the unexpected. While you cannot plan for every situation, taking a few precautions and practicing some common sense can help ensure that you and your horse will arrive safely.

Poultry Biosecurity Plans: It is time to review them!

washing chicken house

Dr. Theresia Lavergne

With the recent detection of a low pathogenic strain of avian influenza in Arkansas, it is important to review biosecurity protocols on each poultry farm.

The spread of poultry diseases needs to be prevented through biosecurity practices. Implementing a biosecurity plan on each poultry farm is probably more critical today than it ever has been. And as biosecurity plans are developed, they need to be tailored specifically for each individual farm. As these plans are developed, the methods of introduction and transmission of disease-causing organisms must be considered. We generally think of humans (shoes, hands or clothes), carriers within a flock, birds acquired from an outside flock, eggs from infected breeder flocks, dust, feathers, feral birds, predators, rodents, insects, contaminated feed or water, or air as the means of spreading disease-causing organisms. But we cannot forget the possibility of spreading disease through improper poultry litter management or disposal of dead birds.

A poultry farm’s biosecurity plan should include procedures for traffic control, access restriction, service personnel sanitation, vaccination, flock profiling, housecleaning procedures, feed system cleaning, waterline sanitizing, poultry litter management and disposal of dead birds.

Traffic control of both humans and animals needs to be part of the biosecurity plan. This includes locking poultry house doors, having a perimeter fence with a gate, posting biosecurity/disease control signs and allowing entry only to authorized and necessary personnel (with protective gear on). Procedures for traffic control of farm personnel, service techs, feed mill employees and vehicles, hatchery employees and vehicles, live-haul employees and vehicles, and visitors need to be developed and implemented. These procedures should include restricting contact with noncommercial poultry, restricting equipment sharing between poultry farms, wearing clean protective clothing, using hand sanitizer before entering and after exiting houses, designating parking areas, and cleaning and disinfecting equipment and vehicles.

Restricting access to the farm also is an important part of the biosecurity plan. If visitors must come to the farm, they should provide the following information (at a minimum): name, address, phone number, date of visit, time of visit, company association, reason for the visit and the farm visited previously on that day or the preceding day. Service techs and veterinarians will have to visit other farms. Therefore, they need to follow strict procedures for sanitizing themselves and their vehicles, as well as wear clean, disposable protective gear at each farm. This gear should be disposed of before they leave the farm where it was worn.

Vaccines should be used for disease prevention as part of the biosecurity plan. Each grower should follow the recommendations of the integrator. Additionally, growers should regularly submit birds to a laboratory for analyses. This is especially important when there is concern of a possible disease.

Furthermore, each poultry farm’s biosecurity plan should include procedures for cleaning houses, cleaning feeding systems and sanitizing water lines. Each of these procedures should be followed while the flock is on the farm and between each flock as applicable.

The parts of a biosecurity plan discussed above are necessary for prevention of disease. In addition to those measures, poultry litter management and dead poultry disposal procedures need to be outlined in biosecurity plans.
Poultry litter provides a favorable environment for disease organisms to live and grow. Thus, poultry litter management is crucial to disease prevention. Composting litter is the most effective method of lessening the opportunity for a disease outbreak caused by contamination of the litter. Stored litter should be composted to self-generated temperatures above 132 degrees – the threshold temperature at which most disease organisms cannot survive.

The following tips can be followed to keep litter safe:

  • Litter removed from poultry houses should be stored as far away from the houses as possible.
  • All housekeepers, dirt pans, blades and other equipment used to remove litter from houses should be washed with an approved disinfectant.
  • If insects are a problem in the litter, use an approved insecticide according to its labeled instructions (do not mix insecticides and disinfectants for application).
  • Cover loads of dry litter when hauling to avoid roadside spills.
  • Avoid applying litter to other poultry farms.
  • Avoid sharing litter spreaders, housekeepers and other litter equipment with other poultry growers.

Proper disposal of dead birds is important for disease prevention. Improper handling of poultry carcasses can lead to spread of disease via scavengers such as birds, varmints or predators. The approved methods of proper disposal vary depending on geographical location of the poultry farm. Therefore, poultry growers must follow the approved methods for their locations.

The following tips can help to prevent a disease outbreak from poultry mortalities:

  • Do not leave carcasses uncovered and outside.
  • If using composting bins, monitor their temperature daily.
  • Do not feed dead birds to other animals.
  • Implement a strict pest and varmint control program.
  • Remove all dead birds from poultry houses as soon as they are discovered.
  • Put carcasses in the proper disposal area immediately following removal from the poultry house.
  • Restrict access to disposal sites.

Developing and implementing a biosecurity plan is critical for preventing disease outbreaks on individual poultry farms, as well as throughout the poultry industry. Biosecurity plans need to address traffic control, access restriction, flock health, and house and equipment cleaning. In addition, proper poultry litter management and disposal are necessary for a complete biosecurity plan. These issues are important and should not be overlooked.

Dairy Update

ice cream

Dr. Charles Hutchison

The milk--o feed ratio for June was announced at 1.53, which is identical to the May ratio and similar to the 1.54 and 1.48 ratios in April and March, respectively. The milk-to-feed ratio is sometimes referred to as a profitability ratio since it is a rough measure of dairy profitability, with ratios above 2.0 considered profitable. However, the ratio has been below 2.0 for the past couple of years; yet milk production nationwide continues to increase. This has led some people to question how valid the USDA’s milk-to-feed ratio is. But the USDA has been using the same formula for years, comparing the same commodities. Thus, the milk-to-feed ratio can be used as a relative measure for comparing different points in time.

The all-milk price used in calculating June’s ratio was identical to May’s at $19.70/cwt. In years past, a milk price of $19.70/cwt would have meant healthy profits, but high feed costs have sucked a lot of the profit out of the equation. In the June calculation of the milk-to-feed ratio, the price of corn was $7.02 per bushel, an increase of $0.05 per bushel from May. Soybeans increased by $0.20/bushel compared to the May price, with the June price at $15.10 per bushel. The alfalfa hay price was $220 per ton for June, a decrease of $1a ton compared to May. The milk-to-feed ratio represents the pounds of a 16% crude protein mixed dairy feed equal in value to one pound of whole milk. In other words, with a milk-to-feed ratio of 1.53 for June, a dairy producer could buy 1.53 pounds of feed for every one pound of milk sold.

On June 19 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the Class I Price for July at $22.71/cwt for Federal Order 7 Atlanta zone, which is down two cents from June but up $3.40/cwt from July 2012. The average pay price for dairy producers in Louisiana for the first five months of the year has been $19.80/cwt + or - $0.25/cwt depending on deductions, premiums and butterfat percent. The June pay price should be within the same range as the previous five months.

Milk prices for the rest of the year will depend on many factors, such as U.S. milk production, input costs, export market, supply of dairy products, and demand for milk and dairy products along with the health of the general economy.

Milk production in the United States rose 0.8% for the month of May according to the USDA Milk Production Report. Milk production was reported at 17.7 billion pounds, which is up by 141 million pounds compared to the prior year. While milk production continues to rise, dairy cattle slaughter has decreased over the past five weeks compared to the same period last year.

On a more positive note, April fluid milk sales increased 1.1% from April last year. This is the first year-over-year increase since October 2012.

A report in early June from USDA reported the nonfat dry milk (NFDM) commercial inventory was at 193.1 million pounds, which is down 32.4 million pounds (14.4%) from a year ago. This is the lowest inventory level during 2013. Lower NFDM production in April, paired with increased exports, has led to the decline in inventory. Whey commercial inventory was reported at 66.6 million pounds, which is up 19 million pounds (39.9%) from last year.

Another facet of the dairy industry that is struggling is ice cream sales. After decades of dominating the market as America’s favorite frozen dessert, ice cream’s reign appears to be coming to an end. According to The Daily Ticker, innovative competition and health trends are playing against the industry. Ice cream sales are poised to hit their lowest level this year as consumption rates continue to drop. Today, Americans consume an average of 11.6 quarts of the frozen dairy treat, down 13% since 2002.

Probably the biggest factor that will have the greatest effect on milk prices for the remainder of the year is the magnitude of increasing cheese and butter stocks. Even though the increase in milk production has been slower than the rate set last year, the growth in inventory of dairy products has been exceptional. During the first five months of this year, American cheese stocks increased 162 million pounds more than the same period last year, with stocks reaching the greatest level since September 1986. Total cheese inventory has exceeded last year’s pace for the first five months by 251.5 million pounds. Butter stocks have grown by a whopping 233.8 million pounds more for the first five months compared to last year, taking it back to a level last seen in late 1993.

Interestingly, CWT has continued to aid in the exports of butter and cheese to the tune of 60.8 million pounds of cheese and 51.7 million pounds of butter so far. Of course, some of these exports are still considered part of these stocks because assisted exports may not be completely shipped until as far out as October. What this indicates is demand has slowed. Milk production through May has not been much higher than last year, but inventory has increased substantially.

Whether milk prices will increase, decrease or remain the same as the year progresses will depend heavily on many of the factors mentioned above. Input costs for the rest of the year may moderate some but will still be considered relatively high in relation to the price of milk.

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