Animal Industry News Update - September 2012

Theresia Lavergne, Page, Timothy G., Hutchison, Charles F., Harborth, Karl, Navarre, Christine B., Walker, Neely, Pruitt, J. Ross  |  10/1/2012 7:46:09 PM

Vaccinate Horses!

WNV vaccine

 Dr. Neely Walker and Dr. Christine Navarre

People are not the only ones affected by West Nile Virus (WNV) and other similar viruses – horses are too. There has been a recent rise in cases of WNV and Equine Eastern Encephalitis (EEE) in horses in Louisiana. This is unfortunate since vaccination is very effective in preventing these diseases in horses.

WNV and EEE are often fatal. About one-third of horses who exhibit clinical signs of WNV infection, which is transmitted by mosquitos, will die or be euthanized. That number is much higher for EEE. Even if horses survive, many will exhibit residual effects – such as gait and behavioral abnormalities that last for months or years. Symptoms of WNV and EEE in horses include fever, weakness, wobbles, seizures, falling down and/or behavioral changes. These signs also can indicate other diseases, such as rabies, which can be transmitted to people. While WNV and EEE are not transmitted from horses to people, when horses get the disease it is an indication that the mosquito population is infected. To protect people, getting a diagnosis is critical when horses show any of the signs listed above.

It takes two initial vaccinations then yearly boosters to protect horses. In high-risk areas of the U.S., semi-annual vaccination is recommended. It is best to get horses vaccinated well before mosquito season to get the best protection. However, it is not too late to get some protection started.

Swine Influenza

hand sanitizer

Dr. Tim Page

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that from July to August 31, 2012, 289 new cases of H3N2v flu virus were identified. One person has died, and more than 15 people had to be hospitalized. Most of the cases occurred in children who exhibited show pigs at county and state fairs. There has been discussion about discontinuing swine shows this year, but as of now they are not planning on cancelling any shows.

There is basic information concerning the flu virus that everyone needs to be familiar with. The H3N2v is a relatively new strain of influenza that was first detected in people in the United States in July 2011. There are many types of flu, and H3N2v is just one of them. The letters and numbers distinguish different flu viruses. The “v” or “variant” designation is used when a virus that normally circulates in pigs is then found in humans. This relatively new H3N2v virus has acquired some key genetic components from the 2009 pandemic strain of influenza (pH1N1).

The H3N2v appears to be spread primarily by direct contact with infected pigs and does not spread from person to person readily. Swine flu infection largely depends upon a person’s natural immunity and overall health. The CDC has made some recommendations for people who should avoid swine shows. This recommendation includes people with weak immune systems, such as children under the age of 5, people over 65 years old, pregnant women and people with long-term health conditions. It needs to be strongly emphasized that the H3N2v is NOT transmitted from eating pork or pork products.

As LSU AgCenter Extension personnel, what are your 4-H exhibitors, FFA exhibitors, swine producers and even your own risks? It is a fact that H3N2v is in commercial hog operations as well as show pig operations. It is possible for producers, workers, exhibitors and agents to become infected. The H3N2v virus is very much like the seasonal influenza virus that causes fever, coughing, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. The yearly seasonal influenza vaccine probably will NOT protect anyone against the H3N2v strain.

To protect you, staff, 4-H exhibitors, FFA exhibitors and producers from becoming infected with H3N2v virus:

  1. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water before and after exposure to pigs.
  2. Do not work with pigs if you feel ill with influenza-like symptoms.
  3. Never eat, drink or put things in your mouth (ex: tobacco products) while in pig areas, and do not take food or drinks into pig areas.
  4. If you have sick pigs, work with your local veterinarian on diagnosis and control of the disease.
  5. If you or your clientele are going to be working around pigs, take some basic precautions such as protective clothing, gloves and face masks.
  6. Proper hygiene is the most important criterion for anyone who will have contact with pigs.

I am not trying to alarm anyone with this article. I just want to make sure that everyone acts in a professional and cautious manner around pigs. Please educate your clientele on strategies they can use to avoid being infected with H3N2v.

Benchmarking and Profitability

dollar sign

Dr. Ross Pruitt

Record keeping is not the most exciting of topics for many producers. Without this important piece to production agriculture, how does the individual know if their operation is improving, or possibly even regressing, over time? There is no shortage of regular production-oriented tasks that must be implemented in addition to family activities, but producers should not overlook the need to spend time planning and evaluating operational practices.

Spending time regularly reviewing financial and production information can lead to improved production, which will improve the profitability of the operation. Simple steps, such as developing enterprise budgets at the beginning of the year, can help operations determine if their expected expenses are in line with actual expenses. In situations where the expected and actual expenses are significantly different, questions must be asked as to why. Could it be that expected expenses were underestimated or something happened that led to higher-than-expected costs? In the latter case, is there a solution to prevent that problem from arising again in the future?

Tracking the performance of your operation in terms of production and financial indicators is often referred to as benchmarking. Benchmarking can provide indications of how your operation is progressing over time. The real benefit of benchmarking is when there is available information for other similar operations over several years of time.

For many years cow-calf producers have had access to the Standard Performance Analysis program that benchmarks production and financial indicators on the health of the operation. Annual summaries are available for the Southern Plains at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension website. While there are significant differences in cow-calf production between Texas and Louisiana, important information on average weaning weights and weaning percentage carries over and should be the minimum that producers seek to attain. This program is available to interested producers in Louisiana. Most of the information required by producers is already being collected through weaning weights, sales receipts, number of females owned and cost information from tax returns.

Similar information is not available for contract broiler growers in Louisiana, but a series of workshops, currently in development by LSU AgCenter faculty, will be conducted next spring to help those involved in chicken production develop a similar set of benchmarks. These workshops will tentatively be held in late April near Farmerville, Ruston and Natchitoches. Benchmarks on the production and financial situation for contract broiler growers will be developed using producers' information. This information then can be used to help determine ways to improve their operations. Identification of areas where the operation is underperforming relative to other similar operations will be determined in order to improve overall production and financial performance.

Reducing Winter Cow Herd Costs

hay ring

Dr. Karl Harborth

The feed cost forecast does not look good for livestock industries in the immediate future. To reduce feed cost this winter, it is crucial now more than ever to work towards reducing cow herd cost to maintain profitability. There are many things that you can do to reduce costs, such as anticipating supplementation needs, supplementing accurately, feeding efficiently and purchasing supplements properly.

Supplement accordingly

Deciding what supplement you need is directly correlated to the type of forage base the herd will have access to. It can be as simple as knowing how much and what color the grass your cow herd will be consuming during the supplementation period. Also, you will need to access the herd body condition and adjust your supplementation according to its needs.

A flow chart developed by Dr. Clay Mathis of the King Ranch Institute of Ranch Management starts out by asking the question “Will you have enough forage to comfortably make it through winter?” If your answer is yes, it will depend on the quality of the pasture you plan on providing. If it is a dormant pasture that is brown, a high-protein supplement will be needed. An example of a high-protein supplement is whole cottonseed, distiller’s grains or a 38-40% crude protein cube. If you have ryegrass available, you will most likely not need to supplement anything, unless your cows need to gain body condition. If so, they will need a supplement that is energy dense. Corn is the standard for energy supplements, but products like rice bran, wheat midds and soy hulls also can be substitutes and are actually more rumen friendly.

If you do not expect to have enough forage or need to stretch the forage you have, purchase supplements that are more moderate in protein (15-20% CP) and supply additional energy. Corn gluten feed would be an example of a feedstuff that fits this category.

Even though mineral needs are small relative to the requirements of other nutrients, make sure to supply enough of a balanced mineral mix to meet the needs of the herd. During winter, adding vitamins A and E to the mineral mix is usually warranted.

Feed Accurately

A dry late-gestation cow will consume 1.8-2% of her body weight. Once she calves she will need approximately 2.3-2.5 % of her body weight to reach satiety. A 1,200-pound cow will need 1.6-3.0 pounds of protein and 11-16 pounds of TDN a day to meet her requirements depending on physiological status. Peak nutrient requirements will occur 45-60 days post-partum, and the low will be shortly after weaning.

Purchasing Supplements

Regardless of the type of supplements that you need, you should purchase the needed nutrients in a nutrient-dense form. In other words, purchase supplements on a nutrient basis. For example, if a protein supplement is needed, evaluate the possible supplements you can purchase on the cost of each pound of protein available in these supplements. Be sure to compare feed ingredients on a dry-matter basis. An example of this is in Table 1.

Table 1. Typical protein supplements on a $/lb of protein basis




$/lb of protein

Dried Distillers Grains w/solubles




Soybean meal (Bulk)




20% breeder cube




Corn Gluten




Soy Hulls




Whole Cotton Seed




Cooked Protein Tub




aPrices in this table come from many sources and may not be current. Prices are for demonstration purposes.
b $/lb of protein=($/ton of feed ingredient)/(2,000 x Crude Protein %)

As shown in Table 1, some feeds may be more expensive, but when compared on a nutrient basis they may be a more economical choice. The best supplement may not always be the cheapest one on the list, even though we would like it to be. If your operation cannot handle the form of supplement or you cannot purchase the volume required to obtain the discounts, you may need to reevaluate which supplement works best. The same can be done when comparing energy supplements by using the TDN or NEm %. You also must keep in mind the cost of delivering these supplements. Self-fed supplements may be more expensive but can save you considerable time and money, especially if you do not need to check those pastures daily or if they are a good distance away.

Reduce waste

Along with feeding accurately, another way to save during the winter supplement period is to reduce hay and/or supplement wastage. A practice as simple as the use of a hay ring can reduce hay waste dramatically. Investment in the more expensive hay rings can pay for itself rather quickly with today’s hay value.

Parting Thoughts

From a feed cost standpoint, it is going to be a very trying year for most of us in the livestock industry. This year, possibly more than ever, our forage base is what will pull us through. Of course Mother Nature will have a lot to say about that.

Dairy Update

dairy cows

Dr. Charlie Hutchison

Milk Prices, Production and Cow Numbers

The good news is milk prices are increasing. The Class I price for October milk is $22.68/cwt, which is $3.37/cwt higher than the July price and an increase of $1.29 compared to the September price. The Uniform blend price for August milk was $19.95/cwt an increase of $1.34 over the previous month. By all current indications of the futures and cash market the price of milk should continue to increase during the next several months. On September 20 the CME cash block cheese market traded at $2 per pound for the first time since November 16, 2011, and has remained above the $2.00 mark. On September 25 both the block and barrel cash cheese markets traded above $2/lb with blocks at $2.05/lb and barrels at $2/lb. Cash butter traded for $1.94/lb, the highest level since September 8, 2011. On September 25 the Class III milk futures market for October through December closed at an average of $20.60/cwt, up $0.53/cwt from the previous day.

On September 19, the USDA Milk Production report was released for August. Milk production in August for the 23 select states totaled 15.3 billion pounds, down 29 million pounds (0.2 %) from August 2011. This is the first decline since January 2010. Milk per cow for these states averaged 1,803 pounds in August, down 10 pounds from last year. The total number of milk cows in these states was 8.5 million head, up 32,000 head (0.4 %) compared to August 2011, but 4,000 head fewer than July 2012. California milk production was 3.3 billion pounds in August, down 203 million pounds (5.8 %) compared to last year. This is the largest year-over-year decline since September 2009. The primary reason for this decline was milk per cow, which declined 125 pounds (6.3 %) to 1,850 pounds in August. Colorado had the largest percentage increase in milk production from last year at 6.2 %, up 16 million pounds to 274 million pounds. Overall, nine of the 23 states declined in milk production while 14 increased.

Milk production for all 50 states for August was at 16.4 billion pounds, down 0.3 % from the prior year. The last time milk supply declined year over year was January 2010. Year-to-date milk production remains 2.3 % above last year. The decline in total milk volume is attributed to a 0.5 % (9 pounds) decrease in milk per cow to 1,776 pounds for the month.

The U.S. herd size, although lower than last month, is still up 0.2 % (20,000 head) from last year at 9.22 million head. From last month, the U.S. herd declined by 6,000 head and is 115 lower than the peak in July 2008.

Dairy cow culling for August increased substantially with 30,000 more head culled compared to the same time last year and 36,000 more head than the previous month. This increase is probably driven by tight feed supplies and higher feed cost. The percentage increases are even more dramatic, up 12% over a year ago and up 15% over July.

Culling was up across the country, but Region 6, which includes New Mexico and Texas, reported the biggest increase, up 25.6% over July. Region 9 – Arizona, California and Nevada – reported an increase in culling of 19.4%. The Southeast was up 15.3%. The Midwest reported the largest numerical increase over July of 10,000 head or 13.2%. As of September 1, 2.09 million dairy cows have been culled this year which is up 105,900 head (5.3 %) from the same period last year.

Feed Prices

Now for the bad news. Feed prices are at an all-time high for many of the basic feed commodities. The following table contains the prices of some the basic feedstuffs used in dairy rations around the United States.

Prices reported the week of Sept. 17-20 by professional dairy nutritionists
or commodity brokers in five key dairy regions* plus prices for SE Louisiana**

fine ground or

Soybean meal


alfalfa hay
(170-185 RFV)

Truckload quantities delivered to the dairy ($/ton)

SE Louisiana





Eastern Wisconsin





SE Pennsylvania




$245 (very scarce)

Texas Panhandle





Southern Idaho





Central California





a Fine ground shelled corn
Steam-rolled or steam-flaked corn

c 46 percent to 48 percent soybean meal
47.5 percent soybean meal

** approximate prices for dairy producers in Southeast Louisiana

* Source: Dairy Herd Management’s Nutritionist e-Network

However, there may be a ray of sunshine concerning feed prices in the near future. For the past several days the futures market for corn has been trading below $7.50/bu, and 48% soybean meal has been trading below $500/ton, which is a substantial decrease for both commodities. For producers in Louisiana the cheapest feed source will be high-quality forage, particularly winter annuals such as ryegrass and oats. With planting and fertilization cost of about $200 per acre for ryegrass or oats, depending on the utilization of the forage, the cost per pound of dry matter will probably be about $0.03 to $0.05/lb compared to $0.19/lb dry matter for dairy-quality alfalfa hay.

What affects profitability more: milk production, milk price or feed cost?

According to a study of California dairy farms published in 2009, milk production was the driving force for profitability, regardless of milk price or feed cost. Considering our current high feed prices, it is important to remember this.

This study compiled data provided by the California Department of Food and Agriculture from 150 dairy farms ranging in size from 140 to almost 5,000 cows per farm. The herds in these data include Holstein, Jersey and cross-bred herds. Milk prices varied by more than $6 per cwt in the two years data were collected (2006 and 2007). Feed cost per cow was higher for high-producing herds. However, the high-producing herds were the most profitable.

Reference: Rodriguez, L.A. and J.M. Defrain, 2009. Factors affecting profitability of western dairies. Proceedings: Southwest Nutrition and Management Conference pp 79-89.

Dr. Theresia Lavergne

Have your chickens ever had white lesions that developed into wart-like nodules and then formed dark scabs on their comb and wattles? If so, then your chickens had fowl pox. Fowl pox is not new; it has been around since the earliest history.

Fowl pox is a slow-spreading viral disease in birds. Fowl pox can affect birds of any age and is transmitted by direct or indirect contact. The fowl pox virus can be transmitted by several species of mosquitoes, and that is why we see fowl pox in chickens in Louisiana.

There are two types of fowl pox: dry and wet. The dry pox is the type that forms nodules, and eventually scabs, on the comb, wattles, ear lobes, eyes and sometimes feet of chickens. The wet pox occurs in the oral cavity and upper respiratory tract. Fowl pox is usually easily diagnosed based on flock history and the presence of the typical lesions.

There is no treatment for fowl pox, and mortality is not significant (unless the respiratory tract is severely affected). Once a flock is infected, the disease spreads slowly, and the flock will be infected for several months. The course of the disease in the individual bird takes three to five weeks. Most birds will continue to eat and drink normally while affected by the disease. However, young birds may have retarded growth, and layers may decrease egg production. Also, birds that are affected by the wet type of fowl pox may have difficulty eating and breathing.

Disease control is accomplished best by preventative vaccination. Normal management and sanitation will not prevent fowl pox. Chicks can be vaccinated at one day of age, and replacement chickens can be vaccinated at six to 10 weeks of age. Once chickens are vaccinated for fowl pox, they have permanent immunity.

If fowl pox occurs in your exhibition show birds, remember that they will not be admitted to shows while they are exhibiting signs of the virus. This policy is intended to protect your flock, as well as the flocks of the other exhibitors.

Thus, if your chickens have or have had fowl pox, you are not alone. Just keep in mind that the disease will run its course, and your flock will recover. This is just one more reason to practice strict biosecurity procedures for your flock.

fowl pox
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