Animal Industry News Update September 2011

Theresia Lavergne, Page, Timothy G., Hutchison, Charles F., Harborth, Karl, Heidorn, Neely, Navarre, Christine B., Pruitt, J. Ross  |  9/23/2011 12:39:17 AM

Common Diseases Affecting Small Poultry Flocks


Dr. Theresia Lavergne  

The following are some of the diseases that commonly affect small poultry flocks. This is a description of diseases, how they are transmitted, symptoms of the diseases, and treatment of the diseases.

Fowl Pox

  • Chickens with fowl pox will have scab-like lesions on their combs and wattles (on unfeathered parts of their body). Fowl pox can occur in any age of chickens and may result in decreased egg production, reduced growth rate and poor feed conversion.
  • Fowl pox is caused by a virus. The virus is slow spreading and can take several months to move through a flock. An individual bird will have fowl pox for three to five weeks.
  • Fowl pox is spread by mosquitoes, by direct bird-to-bird contact or by bird contact with infected premises or equipment.
  • There is no treatment for fowl pox.
  • Fowl pox is prevented by vaccination. The vaccination can be given to birds as young as one day of age.
  • Another form of fowl pox affects the respiratory system of chickens. This fowl pox can be more detrimental and is called “wet” pox.

Infectious Coryza

  • The signs of infectious coryza are nasal discharge, swollen sinuses, discharge from the eyes or swelling around the eyes and wattles. When chickens have infectious coryza they may decrease their feed and water consumption and decrease their egg production, and their vision may be affected.
  • Infectious coryza is caused by bacteria and affects semi-mature and adult birds. Birds will show signs of infectious coryza within three to five days after exposure.
  • Infecious coryza is transmitted by direct bird-to-bird contact, by inhalation of airborne respiratory droplets or by contact with contaminated feed and water.
  • Water-soluble antibiotics can be used to help relieve the symptoms of coryza. However, there are no antibiotics labeled for use in egg-laying chickens.
  • Coryza is prevented by good sanitation and management and by using an “all-in, all-out” system (i.e., not mixing new birds with existing birds).


  • The signs of mycoplasmosis are respiratory distress, watery eyes, nasal discharge or swollen sinuses. Reduced egg production, stunted growth or reduced feed efficiency can occur when chickens have mycoplasmosis.
  • Mycoplasmosis is caused by the mycoplasma organisms (bacteria).
  • Mycoplasma is transmitted by direct bird-to-bird contact and by inhalation of airborne respiratory droplets.
  • Treatment is not always effective, and antibiotics have varying success. Mycoplasma is one of the diseases under the National Poultry Improvement Plan. Therefore, if commercial poultry get mycoplasma, treatment is not allowed, and the flock is depopulated. Treatment may be allowed in small flocks that are not under the National Poultry Improvement Plan.
  • Mycoplasma can be prevented by good sanitation and management and by using an “all-in, all-out” system.


  • Birds with coccidiosis will have bloody droppings, diarrhea, unthriftiness, emaciation, dehydration and even death. Feed and water consumption will be reduced too.
  • Coccidiosis is caused by coccidia, which is a protozoa. Coccidiosis is found in growing and young adult birds (usually not in birds under 3 weeks of age or mature birds).
  • Coccidiosis is transmitted by direct or indirect contact with droppings from infected birds.
  • Treatment is accomplished with an anticoccidial.
  • Coccidiosis is prevented by the use of a coccidiostat, by good sanitation or by vaccination.

Lameness in Show Pigs

pen of pigs

Dr. Tim Page  

For many years, the pork industry has attempted to deal with and decrease lameness in all classes of hogs. The pork industry estimates that over 80% of all hogs are affected by lameness, and lameness is one of the primary reasons for culling sows from herds. Also, lameness negatively affects a large number of 4-H and FFA show pigs across the country every year.

Lameness, or osteochondrosis, is the failure of cartilage to fully develop into bone, which leaves the cartilage area exposed and susceptible to damage. The condition is very painful because of the large amount of nerve endings that are vital to maintain balance and movement. The two primary changes in cartilage that have been identified with osteochondrosis are the loss of proteoglycans and collagen type II (two of the proteins within cartilage). When these two proteins are present in lower-than-normal quantities, the ability of the cartilage to repair itself is severely impaired. Then, abnormalities form in the joints that reduce the ability of the joint surface to support the weight of the pig. The protein deficiency causes structural change of the main cartilage.

Research with growing/finishing pigs suggests that nutritional supplements may reduce the incidence of osteochondrosis. Pigs fed diets containing fish oil or silicon tend to have a higher severity score for abnormalities when compared with pigs fed other diets. Pigs fed high levels of methionine and threonine, or copper manganese, tend to have lower cartilage lesion severity scores compared with pigs fed other diets. Also, pigs fed high levels of methionine and threonine tend to have lower total severity scores than pigs fed diets with fish oil.

It should be noted that lameness in pigs initially can be caused by the presence of disease organisms in joints. The disease can be treated and even eliminated in many cases. However, damage done to the joints and cartilage while the disease was present may not allow for the pig to overcome the lameness. In these cases, dietary supplementation of high levels of certain amino acids (methionine and threonine) and minerals (copper, manganese) may be of some benefit in reducing the severity of the lameness by promoting more healthy cartilage and bone metabolism. As always, consult your veterinarian before instituting any treatments to show pigs.

Although not foolproof, purchasing show pigs that are sound from the ground up can significantly reduce lameness problems as pigs grow and become heavier. Never purchase show pigs with soundness problems. They never get better; they only get worse.

Broiler Chicken Industry Situation Recap


Dr. Ross Pruitt  

The August 30 edition of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s Daily Livestock Report discussed the estimated gross margins for processors in the beef and pork industries, which have experienced a bumpy ride in 2011. While there is not a publicly available estimate of gross margins for the broiler chicken industry, the industry is in the red given the cutbacks in production that have occurred and lower-than-year-ago prices for broiler meat. Sanderson Farms recently announced its production cuts will be extended indefinitely while Cagle’s was expected to be producing at 22% below capacity by the end of August. High feed costs are impacting this industry like the cattle feeding industry, but production cuts are just now beginning to be reflected in weekly production data. Year-to-date broiler chicken production is 2.1% higher than last year.

Composite broiler prices and breast prices in July were below year-ago levels, underscoring the situation that the broiler industry finds itself in. Boneless skinless breast prices were 26% lower in July 2011 than July 2010. Other component prices such as legs, gizzards and thighs are higher than a year ago but cannot overcome the weakness present in the breast market. Prices did see a seasonal increase starting in May, but those increases were short lived. From an export perspective, broiler exports for the first half of 2011 are only 1.7% lower than 2010 but are 8.2% lower than the same time period in 2009. There is some good news in that exports for the first half of 2011 were 7% higher than the 2004-08 average.

At the end of August, U.S. broiler egg sets were 6-7% below last year, and chick broiler placements 5-6% lower than a year ago. There is a three-week lag between the time the egg is set and the chick hatches and at least five weeks from chick placement until slaughter with some birds not harvested until nine weeks after placement. Of the first seven months of 2011, only April and July saw decreases in production relative to the corresponding month in 2010. The reduction in chick placements in the past few weeks will result in tangible production reductions as September closes, but that is only if average live weight does not continue its year-on-year increases. It was the last week of August 2010 when there was at least a 1% decrease in average live weight relative to the previous year. The contractual nature of the marketing agreements vertically integrated firms have with retailers may be contributing to the average live weight not decreasing. Additionally, integrators started to shift production toward larger birds, reflecting the softness of the fast food market for smaller birds. While some integrators reporting feed costs are 60% higher than a year ago, the integrators seem to be aware of the financial strain that contract growers experience from large production costs. As a result, integrators are trying to ease the financial strain experienced by growers, but there is no guarantee this will continue.

Forecasts for broiler chicken production are split at this point for next year. The Livestock Marketing Information Center (LMIC) is projecting a decrease of 2.2% in 2012 with no year-on-year increases in production until the 4th quarter. USDA’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates is more optimistic with a 1% increase in 2012 broiler chicken production. USDA may revise their number downward in the coming months, partially due to expected increases in the price of feed grains. For now, the broiler chicken industry is going to continue to have a bumpy road to economic recovery.

Beef Quality Assurance Program Update

cow calf

Dr. Christine Navarre

What is BQA?
Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) is a nationally coordinated, state-implemented program. The program provides systematic information to U.S. beef producers, and beef consumers, on how commonsense husbandry techniques can be coupled with accepted scientific knowledge to raise cattle under optimum management and environmental conditions. The program raises consumer confidence through offering proper management techniques and a commitment to quality within every segment of the beef industry. BQA guidelines are designed to make certain all beef consumers can trust and have confidence in the entire beef industry and its beef products.

The BQA program is a cooperative effort among beef producers, veterinarians, nutritionists, extension staff and other professionals. BQA programs include best practices, which can result in more profits for producers. Through BQA programs, producers recognize the economic value of committing to quality beef production at every level - not just at the feedlot or packing plant, but within every segment of the cattle industry. When better-quality cattle leave the farm and reach the marketplace, the producer, packer and consumer all benefit. When better-quality beef reaches the supermarket, consumers are more confident in the beef they are buying, which increases beef consumption.

BQA's Value to the Beef Industry
BQA has helped beef producers capture more value from their cattle and enhance herd profitability through better management. Also, BQA has helped project a positive public image and improved consumer confidence in the beef industry. This has become increasingly more important because of increased public attention to animal welfare. BQA has been instrumental in rebuilding and maintaining beef demand and provided cattlemen an important tool in avoiding additional government regulation.

Louisiana BQA Program
Because of the diverse nature of the beef industry, each state is allowed to tailor the BQA program to its unique needs. However, accountability of the beef industry is becoming increasingly important. Since each state has its own program, it is difficult to account for the quality and consistency of the programs from state to state, or account for the total number of producers certified across the United States. Having accountability of quality and producer buy-in on a national basis would make it easier for beef industry leaders to assure consumer confidence. In other words, quality assurance for the quality assurance program would be beneficial to beef producers. For this reason, a new and more comprehensive national program was adopted for states to use if they so choose.

Like many states, Louisiana has had its own BQA program based on the national guidelines. After considering many options, Louisiana has decided to adopt the new, more comprehensive national program. This program allows Louisiana producers to join ranks with producers from across the U.S. to guarantee accountability and quality training of the entire beef industry.

BQA certification meetings will be scheduled in regions throughout the state each year. Certification of producers through these meetings will be free of charge. Producers also may get certified individually, either online or by CDrom (individual producer certification is $25). Please contact the Louisiana BQA coordinator for more information: Dr. Christine Navarre.

For more information about BQA go to

Equine Disaster Planning

horses and water

Dr. Neely Heidorn

Weather-related events – floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, tropical storms and fires – can have devastating effects on people and their animals. Despite Louisiana’s history of catastrophic weather events, many horse owners do not expect to fall victim to a weather-related emergency, leaving them unprepared in the midst of a disaster. One of the greatest costs of being unprepared is the loss of an animal. Additionally, the lack of planning puts excessive stress on rescue workers when they are faced with unmarked, untamed and potentially unwanted horses. As horse owners, we have a responsibility to plan ahead and to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

Being prepared for an emergency means developing a plan that will help you deal with potential hazards that can threaten the safety of your horse.

Important questions to ask yourself are:

  • Will you evacuate? If yes, where will you go? Your plan needs to include a location, the route you will take to get there (plan for additional traffic), food and water once you arrive, emergency kit, how you will haul and which horses you will take if you have more than one.
  • Are your horses prepared? All of your horses need to be up-to-date on all vaccinations and have a current negative coggins, as well as a health certificate if crossing state lines. Make sure to plan for horses that may need to be handled differently (stallions, foals or senior animals). They all need to load easily, tie and have appropriate ground manners. Even the most broke horse may be unpredictable during an emergency. 
  • Are your animals easily identified? Owners will need definitive identification to reclaim animals that have been displaced during an emergency. Mark animals with owner information (pastern bands, luggage tags braided into the mane, neck bands, duct tape, spray paint, etc.). Make sure to carry copies of health records, insurance, microchip number and pictures of markings, scars, brands and tattoos. It also is useful to have a photograph of your horse with a family member.
  • Do you know who to contact in case of emergency? Make sure to keep a copy of important phone numbers and contact information for your veterinarian, family members, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Louisiana State Animal Response Team (LSART), universities with large animal programs, sale barns, fairgrounds, feed stores, stables, extension agents, etc. Having a relationship with these types of groups before an emergency happens can make recovering your animals a much easier process.
  • What if evacuation is not possible? Sometimes, despite proper planning, it may not be feasible to evacuate. If you plan to shelter in place, make sure to turn horses out into a safe, open pasture. Close the barn and make it inaccessible to horses; oftentimes a stressed animal will return to a place it feels safe and could trap itself inside the building. Store enough food and water for 5-7 days (12-20 gallons of water per horse per day). Keep all feed dry and off of the ground. Fill all water containers with water; keep chlorine bleach available for contaminated water (2 drops per quart and let stand for 30 minutes prior to drinking). Check property for sharp objects, downed power lines, fallen trees, gas leaks and dangerous wildlife.

The saying “it is better to be safe than sorry” should be your motto when it comes to preparing for disasters. Be proactive and protect yourself and your horses before a disaster happens.

Hidden Hay Dangers

hay bales

Dr. Karl Harborth

In drought situations, such as the extended one we are facing, it can be difficult to find quality forages for a cow herd. In the search for feed resources, cattle producers have resorted to using forages such as wheat straw, milo and corn stubble, drought-stressed sorghum and corn, and Johnson grass. The problem that arises with utilizing these resources is that some of them are likely to have high nitrate and/or Prussic acid concentrations.

If you recently purchased hay that you think may be at risk, properly sampling it and having it analyzed at an accredited lab (see lab info below) is a must. This is the only way of knowing the full extent of the problem.

LSU AgCenter’s Ag Chemistry Lab
Department of Agricultural Chemistry
Room 102 AG Chemistry Building, LSU
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
Phone (225) 342-5812
Fax (225) 342-0027
Current cost is $15 dollars, and a gallon-size plastic bag with representative sample is required.

If the forage has not been baled, collecting representative samples from the field may prevent you from wasting the time and money involved in putting up hay that is not safe and is risky to feed to the herd. (Disclaimer: Even though you may take the time, effort, and money to sample potential at-risk feedstuffs, you must understand that there could be a huge variation in concentrations within a field that will not be seen in a laboratory test. Thus, you may not catch a problem bale.) In other words, even after you have done everything to make sure you will not have a problem, unless you analyze every bale you feed; you may still be at risk. The range of nitrates (ppm) that are considered safe or unsafe for use in livestock is in Table 1. Any sample analysis that returns with a level of 3,000 ppm of nitrates or less is considered to be safe. If your forage contains 3,000-6,000 nitrates (ppm), it is usable but should be no more than 50% of the animal’s diet. If the test comes back in the range of 6,000-9,000 nitrates (ppm), it becomes very tricky to incorporate this forage into the herd’s diet. It is hard to guarantee, or control, the amount of forage they will consume unless being fed in a Total Mixed ration. If forages are in this range, free choice is not a method of delivery to be used.

Table 1. Nitrate levels in forage (dry matter basis) and level of concern for use in livestock feeds

ppm Nitrate

Effect on Animals


Virtually safe


Moderately Safe; limit to 50% of diet in stressed animals


Potentially toxic to cattle should not be the only source of feed.

9,000 and greater

Dangerous to cattle

Adapted from Nitrate and Prussic Acid Toxicity in Forage, KSU Cooperative Extension Service MF-1018

When forage samples are analyzed the results should be reported as nitrate (ppm). If they are not reported as nitrate, use the conversions in Table 2.

Table 2. Conversion factors for expressing nitrate content forages

Potassium nitrate X 0.61

= Nitrate (ppm)

Nitrate-Nitrogen X 4.42

= Nitrate (ppm)

% Nitrate x 10,000

= Nitrate (ppm)

Adapted from Nitrate and Prussic Acid Toxicity in Forage, KSU Cooperative Extension Service MF-1018

If you have any questions about nitrate toxicity, prussic acid poisoning, or sampling and analyzing your feed sources, feel free to contact your local county agent or Karl Harborth (225-578-2416).

Tips for managing potential Nitrate or Prussic acid issues
1. Do not allow animals to graze suspect forages.
2. Test the forage before baling if possible.
3. Sample standing forages at the same level they will be harvested (preferably at least 6 inches above the ground as nitrates accumulate in the base of the plant).
4. Do not feed at-risk feeds to stressed or hungry cattle.
5. Provide clean water.
6. Check water for high nitrates.
7. Post-harvest, proper curing can reduce Prussic acid levels.
8. High nitrate levels in roughages can only be potentially reduced by ensiling.
9. Bales that are stored will leech, and concentrations of the nitrate can build up in the bottom half of the bales,
10. If at all possible, do not take the risk.

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