Evaluating the 5-Year-Old Seedstock Cow: Is She Pulling Her Weight? – Drovers Magazine

Weaning is a good time for herd evaluation. How did the cows do this year? Did each individual cow bring home a good calf? In the seedstock business, the bar is higher than in a commercial herd. Registered breeders need more from their cows than just an acceptable calf. They need calves that will become highly marketable bulls as well as heifers that can enter the herd as replacements and contribute positively to the next round of superior genetics.

Registered cows that fail to produce marketable bull progeny and/or herd-worthy replacement heifers don’t have a place in a seedstock herd. They may be acceptable as commercial females, but in a registered herd, they simply occupy space and use up resources that could be beneficially directed elsewhere.

Practical Application. Consider a 5-year-old seedstock cow that has just weaned her fourth calf. She’s bred back every year, which is one positive attribute. However, by age 5, she should have done more than that for her owner. With four calves to her name, she should have profitably contributed to the herd by producing at least one (better yet, two or three) marketable sale bulls and/or replacement heifers. Cows that fail to meet that goal by the time they’ve produced four calves might as well be removed from the seedstock herd and replaced.

Production costs are higher in the seedstock business compared to commercial operations, particularly in the areas of breeding, marketing and labor related to data collection/submission. Thus, any 5-year-old cow that has produced only feeder-quality steers and heifers is not pulling her weight.

For illustration, consider the three example cows shown in the table below. Each cow is evaluated relative to her contribution to the seedstock herd. Cow 1 has done an excellent job, producing two replacement-quality heifers and one marketable bull out of her first four calves. That’s three out of four, which is a good batting average. Cow 2 also performed well and has one breeding-quality bull and one replacement heifer to her credit in four calves. She’s made two solid contributions to both the short and longer-term profitability of the registered herd.

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Cow 3, on the other hand, has failed to make even one positive contribution. She is essentially a commercial cow that in four tries was unable to produce a calf that was a “breeder” not a “feeder.” This cow might be reproductively sound for another four calves, but her ability to contribute financially to a seedstock herd is seriously in doubt. There’s nothing particularly useful about this cow to a registered operation.

Conclusion. Seedstock breeders, from one to the next, may evaluate their own cows differently from the example provided in this article. Some might be more strict and decide that by age 4, a cow needs to have produced at least one salable bull progeny or one replacement heifer. That, of course, is up to the individual breeder. The important point is that every registered cow needs to contribute to the seedstock enterprise with progeny that themselves pass muster as breeding animals. A cow that can’t do that in three or four tries has no real place in a registered herd.

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Investigation Launched After 'Gruesome' Cow Skinning Video Appears Online – Plant Based News

Cow Welare Issue
A dispute was sparked over whether the cow was dead or alive

‍Ontario police have said that an investigation has been launched in response to a cow skinning video that circulated online – but that animal cruelty is not suspected.

The video reportedly appears to have been shot in rural Ontario – and it sparked debate over whether the animal shown was alive or dead at the time of skinning.

While the police maintain that the cow was dead when the video was shot – Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture will also investigate what its described as a ‘disgusting and gruesome’ video.

Police will be investigation to ensure the slaughter met the standards of Canada’s Food Safety and Quality Act

Slaughter

Sargent Paul Davies of the Halton Regional Police told Global News that the video was shot around the time of Eid – a Muslim holiday which often involves ritualistic animal slaughter.

He added that the primary purpose of the investigation is to determine whether the cow’s death fell in line with the country’s Food Safety and Quality Act.

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Robots in Idaho dairy farms help facilitate cow milking | East Idaho … – East Idaho News

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WENDELL — In the Treasure Valley, artificial intelligence is changing the way we get around, how we research, and even how we shop for cartons of milk.

But even a carton of milk from a rural farm in Idaho may have been produced with the help of robots too.

“We haven’t milked by hand for decades,” said Rick Naerebout, CEO of the Idaho Dairymen’s Association. “We’ve moved beyond that a few decades ago.”

In the last few years, more and more Idaho dairies have begun implementing robots in their milking facilities.

“The brushes are going up and their scrubbing, each, uh, side of the utter, cleaning the cow, stimulating her, helping to let her milk down,” said Jerimy Craig, owner of Box Canyon Dairy. “There’s another employee there that is towel drying them off. Getting them prepared to put the machine on.”

And one thing’s for sure: milking is not what it used to be. The suction tubes that connect to the cow’s udders are designed to pulsate in a way that feels to them like real hands, avoiding pain or harm to cows with healthy udders.

But there are clear incentives for the investment. For one, efficiency. And two, it replaces jobs.

“We cut our employee numbers in half,” said Craig. “So, that alone, was, is huge.”

And robots are not the only technology being utilized on Idaho dairy farms.

“Every animal has an RFID chip in her. So when they enter the facility, we know what stall she’s in, what time she was milked, and it’s recording the amount of flow she gives each day. So we have the amount of milk she’s producing every day,” said Craig.

In turn, producing a “sink-or-swim” environment among competing farms.

“No longer can you really succeed by just being a good cow-person. You have to be a great business manager, a great HR person, and really have a whole suite of specialties that we didn’t have to have in the past,” said Naerebout.

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BeefTalk: Economic Greats – 93 Percent of Cow's Weight Harvested – Tri-State Livestock News

As I was reviewing Cow Herd Appraisal Performance Software (CHAPS) records recently, cow Y1002’s record popped up.

Because of the weight of her calves at harvest (93 percent of her weight), she is one of the economic greats of the Dickinson Research Extension Center’s herd.

Y1002’s dam is half-Red Angus and half-Angus, and Y1002 was sired by an Aberdeen bull called Cadet Quartermaster. I would call Y1002 a frame score 3, 1,100-pound cow. Her weight has averaged 1,069 in the fall, but as she ages, she will put on some weight.

Y1002 has weaned a calf every year. Her 2015 calf (C5132), born on a late spring day, May 26, comes to mind as representing what I would expect out of a commercial cow. The sire of C5132 was not known because the center group mates and Y1002 was exposed to three bulls in her particular 2014 breeding pasture: 3280, an Angus bull, and two Red Angus bulls, A042 and A079.

Calf C5132 was 80 pounds at birth and 582 pounds at weaning, boasted 2.6 pounds of average daily gain and was 43 inches at the hip (frame score 4.9) on Dec. 3, 2015. C5132 was representative of his contemporaries. As with most calves, to the visual eye, he was just a calf but slightly on the small side.

Once neutered, C5132 went to the winter backgrounding lot, where he was targeted to gain 1.5 pounds a day on roughage, and was summered in 2016 on grass, crop aftermath and other forages. On Dec. 13, 2016, C5132 weighed 1,195 pounds and went to the feed yard, arriving at 1,104 pounds after shrinkage.

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At the feed yard, C5132 gained 4.8 pounds per day, reaching 1,673 pounds on harvest day, April 18, 2017 (683 days of age). C5132 had a hot carcass weight of 996 pounds, .4 inch of back fat and 15.4 square inches of rib eye, with a 2.8 yield grade and average Choice quality grade. Recall the earlier statistics and ponder.

Remember, C5132 was frame score 4.9 at weaning, and his mother, Y1002, averaged 1,069 pounds in body weight. Now ponder, and ponder a lot. I would be proud to look across the pasture at a whole herd of cows that resemble Y1002.

The economics of the cow-calf business involve three very important economic drivers. Economic driver No. 1: calving cows in sync with grass. Y1002 bred and calved on grass. Upon rebreeding, she foraged through late fall and early winter with limited harvested feed because her third trimester didn’t start until late February.

The delay in the consumption of harvested feed potentially shaves a third of the winter feed costs or more in cases where a producer is finely tuning winter grazing operations. The mid-December weaning puts calves into the backgrounding facilities, where gain may be minimized, but they stay vigorous and healthy.

Following winter, C5132 and his contemporaries were turned out on cool-season spring grass, a grazing banquet. This is the same grass type on which C5132 started life.

Keep in mind, the mother cows again were across the hill grazing and calving on their own cool-season pastures. As summer progresses into fall, properly designed grazing strategies will funnel the cows to more crop residue and the yearlings to fall cover crops, standing corn and other higher protein forages.

Here’s an important point: As 2016 came to a close, Y1002’s bull calf (D6001) weaned at 576 pounds, with 2.1 pounds of average daily gain and a frame score of 4.8. This was as C5132 was ready to load on the truck going to the feed yard.

This is time to ponder and ponder some more. While the DREC was providing for Y1002 and her 2016 calf, the ranch had added 613 pounds to C5132 (her 2015 calf).

Back to the economic drivers. Economic driver No. 2: the importance of monitoring cow weight. In this case, one cow is marketing a calf each year, but the second year does not have the costs of the cow’s pregnancy. This is interesting to note.

Y1002 is a 1,069-pound cow, exceeding 1,100 at maturity, and averages 538 pounds of calf at weaning, with the potential to market 1,200-pound yearlings. Sure, heavier cows could produce these calves, but then the extra cow weight is simply a burden and expense to the operation.

Economic driver No. 3: the bull. Cow Y1002 is not a large, robust, muscular cow, but the bulls that sire her calves have those traits. The bull she mated with helped produce 996 pounds of carcass on the rail at .4 inch of back fat and 15.4 square inches of rib eye, with a 2.8 yield grade and average Choice quality grade. That is 93 percent of the cow’s weight harvested.

Who decides all this? The producer does by constructing the fences, planting in the soil, partitioning the grass and determining the level of production and financial rewards sought. So, I just had to ponder and smile as Y1002’s records were reviewed. Unfortunately, Y1002 only produced bull calves, all steered, but commercial wonders.

When producers ponder the future, they have no need to question the futility of agriculture. Opportunity abounds. The challenges are us and our willingness to think, plan and achieve.

May you find all your ear tags.

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Cow rescued after nine days at bottom of Devon cliffs – BBC News – BBC News

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A cow trapped at the bottom of cliffs for more than a week has been rescued by firefighters and the RSPCA.

The animal was spotted in its precarious position on rocks between Hallsands and Start Point, Devon, by a member of public on 22 August.

Farmer Fred Ansell fed hay to the heifer, nicknamed Rocky, by kayak.

On Friday, the year-old Devon Red Ruby was stunned by a vet before being levered into a boat and taken to safety on a nearby beach.

Mr Ansell said: “The rescue operation went excellently. Rocky is standing up and looks bright and happy.”

  • More news from across Devon

Rocky was transferred to a trailer to be taken back to Start Farm, where she will be fully checked over by a vet.

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Mad cow disease diagnosed in Florida beef cow – KTRK-TV

TALLAHASSEE, Florida —

Florida’s Department of Agriculture announced today that a case of mad cow disease has been detected in a 6-year-old mixed breed beef cow.

The department didn’t say where the cow was, but emphasized that it never entered the slaughter channels or food supply.

Mad cow is a progressive neurologic disease.

This form of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) is not contagious, and is different from Classic BSE, which has been linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in people.

Classic BSE occurred in the United Kingdom in the 1980s, in cattle which had been given the infectious prion agent, such as meat-and-bone meal containing protein from rendered infected cattle.

The FDA has prohibited mammalian protein in feed for cattle since 1997, and in all animal feed since 2009.

The animal in Florida was tested as part of the USDA routine surveillance of cattle deemed unsuitable for slaughter.

(Copyright ©2018 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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Ankle bracelets connected to the cloud are giving farmers a wealth of data about their cows – CNBC

From cheese and butter to an ice-cold glass of milk, cows are a crucial cog in the global food and drink industry.

In the European Union (EU), cows produced 163 million tons of milk in 2016, according to statistics body Eurostat. This represents 96.9 percent of all milks produced in the EU.

As demand for dairy products increases, farmers are under an increasing amount of pressure to boost yields and ensure their animals are in top physical condition.

One business, IceRobotics, wants to use technology to assist the farming process. Based in Edinburgh, Scotland, the company develops and provides data collection and analysis to help farmers monitor the behavior of dairy cows.

Data collection and analysis is enabled by a sensor being placed on a cow’s rear leg. “It’s recording data multiple times a second,” Douglas Armstrong, IceRobotics’ CEO, told CNBC’s Didi Akinyelure.

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“The data then is transmitted,” he added. “It goes over a trigger in the milking parlor, the data is… sent to the cloud, we run our diagnostic algorithms in the cloud and then all the information is sent back to the PC.”

The device provides farmers with a wealth of data, including information relating to a cow’s fertility. Using visual interfaces such as graphs, a farmer can monitor when a cow is lying down or upright. While this may seem like an innocuous piece of information, it is anything but.

“What we’re doing is we’re measuring the difference between today’s behavior and yesterday’s behavior,” Douglas said. “Whenever… she’s looking for a mate, she’s not interested in lying down anymore and her behavior totally changes.” Increased activity in the graph generates a heat alert so the farmer knows when a cow is ready to “serve.”

The data provided by IceRobotics’ system can also let farmers know if a cow is unwell. “Cows like to lie down,” Douglas said. “They’re either lying or eating or they will socialize, but generally speaking they will lie down for about 12 hours every day.”

“If they’re not, if they’re lying down for less than that or they’re lying down for a lot longer, then you know that there is something potentially wrong.”

Problems could range from illness to being lame, an incredibly important issue for dairy farmers. “A lame cow produces less milk than she optimally could produce if she wasn’t lame, so the farmer’s, you could say… losing money,” Vivi Thorup, lead scientist at IceRobotics, said.

“It’s also a welfare issue to the cow, because if the cow’s lame it’s a sign that she’s feeling pain, she’s got sore feet for some reason,” Thorup added.

Farmer Alex Jack has a 300 strong herd of milking cows in Fife, Scotland. Jack has seen the benefits of using new technology on her farm first hand. “The cow alert system that we’ve put in here has been fantastic because it’s like having a person with each individual cow all day long, collecting data from them,” she said.

“Every morning I check the computer and I’m able to see cows that are not lying for long enough, and that would indicate that there’s potentially a problem with them,” she added. “It’s also collecting all their heats, so we get more accurate with getting cows into calve earlier, which is obviously better for them and better for us.”

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Study suggests need for cull cow lameness evaluation training – Feedstuffs

A common reason for culling dairy cows is lameness. An important element of cow welfare during transport is to make sure they are fit for transport before they are loaded into the trailer, according to researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark.

This includes an evaluation of whether their lameness is serious enough to preclude transport. Farmers, livestock drivers and veterinarians regularly face the task of assessing transport fitness of lame dairy cows, Aarhus said, adding that the question is how similar their assessments are to each other.

The Aarhus researchers have done an initial investigation in which they asked farmers, livestock drivers and veterinarians to evaluate cow lameness and fitness for transport based on video sequences. The aim of the study — which Aarhus said is one of the first of its kind — was to evaluate the extent of agreement among farmers, livestock drivers and veterinarians — both within and between the groups — with regard to assessing cows’ lameness and fitness for transport.

The researchers used an online questionnaire with 30 video sequences of walking cows. The respondents were asked to score each cow for lameness and assess if it was fit for transport or not, the announcement said. A total of 55 people participated in the survey: 19 farmers, 19 veterinarians and 17 livestock drivers.

The cows in the videos varied from having a completely normal gait to being severely lame. Each cow was scored as to whether it was “not lame,” “slightly lame” or “lame.” The participants were given definitions of these categories beforehand: a “not lame” cow was one that walked normally, a “slightly lame” cow was one that did not walk normally but it was not possible to see which leg was affected and a “lame” cow was one where it could been seen which leg was affected.

The participants were also asked to assess, solely on the basis of the cow’s lameness, if she was fit for transport.

Slightly different assessments

In general, agreement among the groups was moderate, the researchers said, explaining that the group of veterinarians tended to assess more of the cows as being lame, while the group of farmers tended to assess fewer of the cows as being unfit for transport. Otherwise, the researchers said there was no systematic agreement or disagreement within or among the groups.

“If our results hold in a larger survey, they indicate that there is a need for more focus on assessment of fitness for transport. This could, for example, take the form of training of the various groups that undertake the assessments. The aim would be to ensure good animal welfare during transport,” said Peter T. Thomsen from the Aarhus department of animal science and one of the researchers behind the study.

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This cow is happy with the Happycow – Boing Boing

Look at this rotating brush, called the Happycow. From the manufacturer’s description:

Through automatic controls, the cows start up the machine by themselves by a slight lift of the brush. After the machine has been turned on, the brush is in operation for approx. 60 seconds. After it switches itself off, the cow cleaning machine can be immediately reused. The cows use the machine six times a day, on average. Uses the cow’s natural behaviour of rubbing its body up against the feeding tree and activating the device.

I think my cats would go for a Happycat. If there isn’t one already, someone should Kickstart it.

Aww yisss

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mark frauenfelder

Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the founding editor-in-chief of MAKE. He is a research director at <a href="Kevin J. Anderson has written more than 125 books, including 52 national or international bestsellers. He has over 23 million books in print worldwide in thirty languages. He has been nominated for the Nebula Award, Bram Stoker Award, Shamus Award, and Silver Falchion Award, and has won the SFX Readers' Choice Award, Golden Duck Award, Scribe Award, and New York Times Notable Book; in 2012 at San Diego Comic Con he received the Faust Grand Master Award for Lifetime Achievement. He is a research director at Institute for the Future and editor-in-chief of Cool Tools and co-founder of Wink Books. Twitter: @frauenfelder.

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Milk without the Cow. Eggs without the Chicken – Anthropoce

IDEA WATCH

Milk without the Cow. Eggs without the Chicken

Yeast-derived “animal products” may soon be part of an environmentally balanced diet

 

By Lindsey Doermann

In 2008, the biotech industry had fallen on tough times: capital was drying up and businesses were struggling to survive. That’s when Ryan Bethencourt saw an opportunity. A biologist with an entrepreneurial streak, he and a couple of friends started buying equipment from bankrupt companies and setting up their own small labs. By 2013, he had co-founded Counter Culture Labs, a “biohacker” space in Oakland, California. There, DIY-biology enthusiasts are now working on, among other projects, making real cheese in a way that bypasses the cow.

Bethencourt is part of a growing group of scientists, entrepreneurs, and lab tinkerers who are forging a bold new food future—one without animals. But they’re not asking everyone to give up meat and dairy. Thanks to advances in synthetic biology, they’re developing ways to produce actual animal products—meat, milk, egg whites, gelatin—in the lab. And in doing so, they are shrinking the carbon footprint and slashing the land and water requirements of these goods with the goal of meeting the world’s growing protein needs more sustainably.

Microbes become factories that churn out the same substances that we now rely upon animals to produce.

Lab-grown meat has grabbed a lot of headlines in recent years. Dutch scientist Mark Post infamously produced the first lab-grown hamburger in 2013 to the tune of $325,000. But Post’s costs have since dropped precipitously, and one cultured-meat startup, Memphis Meats, has said it expects to have a product in stores by 2021.

However, this new food landscape extends well beyond meat. In the Oakland biohacker space, biologists, coders, and other volunteers with the Real Vegan Cheese project are figuring out how to produce the real thing, and they’re keeping their findings open-source. In the startup arena, Perfect Day is racing to get their cow-free milk to market, Clara Foods is creating egg whites without eggs, and Geltor is making gelatin in the lab. Bethencourt has supported these and other innovative food startups through IndieBio, an investment group and business accelerator he cofounded in 2014.

What all these projects have in common is that they’re harnessing the fermentation process to make animal protein. “We’ve been using that technology for thousands of years,” said Bethencourt in a recent talk. “Now we’re starting to get sophisticated with it.”

Producing animal protein in a lab looks like making beer, but with the help of a little synthetic biology. Scientists genetically modify yeast with a chunk of DNA that tells the microbe what protein to make. They then “brew” the yeast with nutrients in a bioreactor and isolate the resulting proteins. In other words, microbes become factories that churn out the same substances that we now rely upon sentient beings to produce.

In the case of Perfect Day, after isolating the yeast-derived cow’s milk protein, they add in nutrients—as well as plant-based sugars and fats—to achieve texture and flavor similar to those of milk from an udder. Unlike other milk substitutes, their milk doesn’t need starches, gums, and stabilizers, says company CEO Ryan Pandya, and it can be made into other higher-value products such as cheese and yogurt.

A preliminary life-cycle analysis of yeast-derived milk found that its production requires approximately two-thirds the amount of land and water that conventional milk production does.

Raising cows and other livestock to feed ourselves has led to a familiar host of environmental woes—CO2 and methane emissions, air and water pollution, considerable land requirements—not to mention animal-welfare transgressions and antibiotic resistance. At the same time, the demand for meat, dairy, and eggs continues to rise, particularly in developing countries.

A preliminary life-cycle analysis of yeast-derived milk found that its production requires approximately two-thirds the amount of land and water that conventional milk production does. And, assuming wind energy powers the bioreactors, yeast-derived milk beats conventional milk by about half in terms of fossil fuel depletion and global warming potential.

Of course, to reap these environmental benefits in any meaningful way will require a massive scaling effort. Bethencourt believes this will be possible within a decade. But the problem isn’t trivial. He sums up the crux of it in a deceptively simple question: “How efficiently can you turn a pound of sugar into a pound of the product you want?” The inputs to fermentation are essentially sugar water and yeast protein, but there’s still a lot of experimentation to be done to output proteins on a large scale. Some are just more difficult to make than others, says Kate Krueger, research director at New Harvest, a nonprofit that supports the science of cellular agriculture. “It’s really hard to tell what’s going to be hard to make until you try,” says Krueger. Companies are doing R&D as they go, and running a bioreactor is not cheap.

However, they’re moving toward cost-competitiveness. Perfect Day is tailoring its process so that it can work within standard industrial fermentation
facilities, according to Pandya. And Geltor is starting off by selling their gelatin products in the cosmetics industry, where a consistent, customizable product can command a premium, says company CEO Alexander Lorestani. They may explore pharmaceutical and food industry applications as their efficiency improves.

But efficiency is only one hurdle in the marketplace. The other is squeamishness. Cellular agriculture will be realized only if consumers accept the technology and its products. To those who wrinkle their noses at the idea of a yeast-based system to produce milk, Isha Datar, executive director of New Harvest, likes to remind us of the current system: “Today, milk is made by artificially inseminating a cow at 13 months of age, having it bear a calf nine months later, having the calf removed (to be made into veal), and then maintaining the cow in a lactating state for about two years. By age four, the dairy cow is culled for beef.”

Can we do better? Fermentation biotechnology has brought us cheese and yogurt. Now it could play a big part in feeding a growing world population while keeping agriculture’s environmental footprint in check. And that’s a mouth-watering prospect.

_____________________

Lindsey Doermann is a freelance science writer based in Seattle, Washington

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