Fall Calving Herd: Cow-Calf Profitability Expectations for Spring … – Drovers Magazine

Spring is the time of year when fall calving cow-calf operations wean their fall-born calves and summer stocker operators place calves into summer grazing programs. The purpose of this article will be to examine the profitability of cow-calf operations that have recently sold, or will soon sell, their fall born calves. A very similar article was written last year that took this same basic approach and overall profitability is very similar to where it was at that time.

Table 1 summarizes estimated spring 2018 costs and returns to a traditional fall-calving cow-calf operation. Every operation is different, so producers should modify these estimates to fit their situation. Average weaning weight is assumed to be 550 lbs and the steer / heifer average calf price is assumed to be $1.45 per pound. This price is based on the mid-April 2018 market, which actually decreased slightly from March. Weaning rate is assumed to be 90%, meaning that it is expected that a calf will be weaned and sold from 90% of the cows that are managed and exposed to a bull. This is a relatively high weaning rate as this analysis will generally assume a well-managed operation and reflects more favorable weather during the breeding and calving seasons for fall calving cows. Based on these assumptions, calf revenue per cow is $718.

The pasture stocking rate is assumed to be 2 acres per cow-calf unit and pasture maintenance costs are assumed to be relatively low. At $25 per acre, this would include one pasture clipping and seeding some legumes on a portion of the pasture acres each year. Producers who apply fertilizer to pasture ground would likely see much higher pasture maintenance costs and these costs should be adjusted accordingly. Producers should also consider the stocking rates for their operation as this will vary greatly, especially for fall calving herds. Stocking rate impacts the number of grazing days and winter feeding days for the operation, which has large implications for costs on a per cow basis.

The primary cost difference between a fall-calving herd and a spring-calving herd is winter feed. Since fall calving cows are lactating during the winter, their nutrient requirements are higher when stored feed is typically fed. For the initial purposes of this analysis, fall calving cows are assumed to consume 2.5 tons of hay through the winter and that hay is valued at $90 per ton. This hay value is considerably above “market” price in most areas, but is high due to the greater hay quality needs of fall calving cows. In some settings, fall calving cows may be fed lower quality hay, in which case weaning weights (and revenues per cow) would be lower. An alternative strategy for some operations might be to feed lower quality hay and supplement cows during the winter. If this is done, both the cost of the supplemental feed and the additional feeding labor should be considered. Regardless, winter nutrient needs are higher for fall calving cows, and this comes at an additional cost. Mineral cost is set at $35 per cow, veterinary / medicine costs $25, trucking costs $10, machinery costs $20 (primarily for feeding hay as this does not include machinery for hay production or pasture clipping as they are included in those respective costs), and other costs $25. Marketing costs are assumed to be $30 per cow, but larger operations may market cattle in larger groups and pay lower commission rates.

Breeding stock depreciation is a key cost that is often overlooked. Breeding stock depreciate just like any other asset on the farm. For example, if the “typical” cow entered the herd as a bred heifer valued at $1,700 and her expected cull value was $700, then she would depreciate $1,000 over her productive lifetime. If we assume a typical cow has 8 productive years, then annual cow depreciation is $125 using a straight line depreciation method. This is the assumption made in this analysis, but the actual depreciation will vary across farms. When buying bred replacement heifers, this cost is obvious. With farm-raised replacements, this cost should be the revenue foregone if the heifer had been sold with the other calves, plus all expenses incurred (feed, breeding, pasture rent, etc.) to reach the same stage as a purchased bred heifer.

Finally, breeding costs are assumed to be $40 per cow and are one of the most misunderstood costs on a cow calf operation. Breeding cost on a per cow basis should include annual depreciation of the bull and bull maintenance costs, spread across the number of cows he services. For example, if a bull is purchased for $3,500 and sold two years later for $2,500, the bull depreciated $500 each year. Then, if his maintenance costs were $500 per year (feed, pasture, vet / med, etc.), his ownerships costs are $1,000 per year. If that bull covers 25 cows, breeding cost per cow is $40. A similar approach can be used for AI, but producers should be careful to include multiple rounds of AI for some cows and the ownership costs of a cleanup bull, if one is used. Breeding costs per cow may be much higher for many operations as these assumptions are likely conservative.

Note that based on our assumptions, total expenses per cow are roughly $585 and revenues per cow are $718. So, estimated return to land, labor, capital, and management is $133 per cow managed. This is very similar to our estimates for spring 2017. At first glance, this return can be misleading, so some additional discussion is warranted. A number of costs were intentionally not included in this analysis because they vary greatly across operations. Notice that no value is placed on the time spent working and managing the operation, no depreciation on facilities, equipment, fences, or other capital items is included, and no interest (opportunity cost) is charged on any capital investments including land, facilities, and the cattle themselves. So, the return needs to be thought of as a return to the operator’s time, equipment, facilities, land, and capital.

As one thinks about quantifying these additional costs, it likely makes sense to start with land. Cow-calf operators should at least cover the rental potential of that pasture ground. Similarly, there is a great deal of capital investment on a cow-calf operation in facilities, fencing, and equipment that should be considered. Finally, a cow-calf operator should expect some return to the time they spend managing the operation. This might be best illustrated by using a simple, bare-bones illustration. At a relatively low land rental rate of $30 per acre, this would represent another $60 per cow in opportunity cost given the two acres per cow stocking rate. A similarly low $50 per cow estimate for depreciation and interest on equipment, fencing, facilities, etc. (this would not include hay equipment as hay is valued at market price in the analysis) and $30 value for the operator’s labor and management, would suggest that return to land, capital, labor, and management would need to be $140 per cow. Again, these numbers are likely low and variable across operations, but thinking through them is important to understanding current cow-calf profitability. Put simply, well-managed fall calving herds are likely covering cash costs and breeding stock depreciation right now, but are not likely receiving anything but minimal returns to the their capital investment, labor, and management.

Table 1: Estimated Returns to Fall Calving Cow-calf Operation: Spring 2018
Steer / Heifer Calf Average   550 lbs $1.45 $798
Discount for Open Cows   10% open   $80
Total Revenues per Cow $718
Pasture Maintenance 2.0 acres $25.00 $50
Hay 2.5 tons $90.00 $225
Mineral       $35
Vet       $25
Breeding       $40
Marketing       $30
Machinery       $20
Trucking       $10
Breeding Stock Depreciation       $125
Other       $25
Total Expenses per Cow $585
Return to Land, Labor, and Capital $133

It is likely that the two most variable factors impacting cow-calf profitability are calf prices and hay / winter feed costs. So, table 2 shows estimated returns to this same fall calving cow-calf operation given a range of winter feed costs and calf prices. Note that the center of the table, which represents a steer / heifer average price of $1.45 and hay costs of $225 per cow perfectly matches the detailed budget shown in table 1. From there, calf prices are increased and decreased by $0.10 and $0.20 per lb.

Winter feed costs are increased and decreased by $50 per cow in table 2. This is done to capture a wider range of hay costs, winter feeding days, or other nutritional approaches employed by the cow-calf operator. For example, at 2.5 tons per cow through the winter, a $50 increase in winter feed cost would value hay $20 higher per ton and a $50 decrease in winter feed costs would value hay at $20 less per ton. Producers should consider where their operation likely lies on table 2 to better estimate their likely profit levels in this environment. Both tables 1 and 2 should help producers understand current returns to a fall calving cow-calf operation.

Table 2: Estimated Returns to Fall Calving Cow-Calf Operation given Winter Feed Costs and Calf Prices: Spring 2018
  Avg. Steer/Heifer Price, 550 lbs
Winter Feed Costs $1.25 $1.35 $1.45 $1.55 $1.65
$175 $84 $133 $183 $232 $282
$225 $34 $83 $133 $182 $232
$275 -$16 $33 $83 $132 $182
Note: Returns above are returns to land, labor, and capital based on the same assumptions used in Table 1.

Much like last year, it appears that fall-calving herds are likely covering their cash costs and breeding stock depreciation. However, each operator should also consider what return they need to adequately compensate them for their investment in land, capital (including depreciation), labor, and management. For example, if a producer felt that they needed a minimum of $140 return to compensate them for their time and investment as was previously discussed, our initial estimates in table 1 suggest that we are not reaching that level. Once enough producers start to feel this way, we will start to see herd liquidation in response to unsustainable profit levels over time. In the meantime, cow-calf operations should work to better understand their cost structure and what calf prices are needed to reach their profit goals. This will help them determine their best strategy as they make long-term decisions about their cowherds.

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Fuzzy cow slays in laidback photoshoot on the beach – Metro

Ugh, don’t you just hate it when someone shares pictures of you hanging out at the beach that haven’t been cast over by your creative eye?

We’re talking about a genuine candid, free of any posing and smizing, when you had already chosen you exact set-up for the perfect laidback plandid.

It’s maddening.

This fuzzy cow feels your pain.

A highland cow was photographed strolling along Clachtoll beach in Lochinver, Scotland, while clearly scoping out the ideal backdrop for its Instagram thirstraps.

Clearly without a decent Instagram husband, the cow was instead photographed by Margaret Harrison, 52, who said it was the first time she’d seen a highland cow taking a paddle in the sea.

Fuzzy cow slays in plandid photoshoot on the beach
(Picture: Margaret Harrison / SWNS.com

Thankfully, the cow still slayed it. Look at those beachy waves. That pose. The powerful look to the camera.


‘I have been visiting the area for years – we have a static caravan there,’ said Margaret.

‘It was the Easter holidays and it was a gorgeous day. You often see cows on the beach but not normally that near the water.

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‘I was just leaving the beach as the cow walked down to the water, so I decided to follow it and get some pictures, and then it started eating the seaweed.

‘It was absolutely lovely – there was no one around.’

Oh, so as well as taking pictures Margaret just spilled the cow’s snacking habits. Can they have some privacy, please?

Do enjoy the cow’s artful, totally unplanned, photoshoot below.

If you don’t love me when I’m eating seaweed alone…

A lone Highland Cow on Clachtoll beach, Lochinver, in the Scottish Highlands. See Centre Press story CPCOW; A highland cow has been caught on camera making the most of the Scottish sun as it headed down to the beach to snack on some seaweed. Margaret Harrison, 52, was joined on Clachtoll beach, Lochinver, in the Scottish Highlands by the lonesome cow. It wandered down to the water's edge to munch on the salty seaweed. Margaret, who was on holiday from Birmingham, has been visiting the area for years and said she has seen highland cows from nearby walking along the beach before. But the mother of four said this the first time she has ever seen one of the cows take a dip in the water. She said:
(Picture: Margaret Harrison / SWNS.com)

…You don’t deserve me when my Instagram likes reach the triple digits

A lone Highland Cow on Clachtoll beach, Lochinver, in the Scottish Highlands. See Centre Press story CPCOW; A highland cow has been caught on camera making the most of the Scottish sun as it headed down to the beach to snack on some seaweed. Margaret Harrison, 52, was joined on Clachtoll beach, Lochinver, in the Scottish Highlands by the lonesome cow. It wandered down to the water's edge to munch on the salty seaweed. Margaret, who was on holiday from Birmingham, has been visiting the area for years and said she has seen highland cows from nearby walking along the beach before. But the mother of four said this the first time she has ever seen one of the cows take a dip in the water. She said:
(Picture: Margaret Harrison / SWNS.com)

Work. It.

A lone Highland Cow on Clachtoll beach, Lochinver, in the Scottish Highlands. See Centre Press story CPCOW; A highland cow has been caught on camera making the most of the Scottish sun as it headed down to the beach to snack on some seaweed. Margaret Harrison, 52, was joined on Clachtoll beach, Lochinver, in the Scottish Highlands by the lonesome cow. It wandered down to the water's edge to munch on the salty seaweed. Margaret, who was on holiday from Birmingham, has been visiting the area for years and said she has seen highland cows from nearby walking along the beach before. But the mother of four said this the first time she has ever seen one of the cows take a dip in the water. She said:
(Picture: Margaret Harrison / SWNS.com)

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This one’s Facebook cover photo worthy

A lone Highland Cow on Clachtoll beach, Lochinver, in the Scottish Highlands. See Centre Press story CPCOW; A highland cow has been caught on camera making the most of the Scottish sun as it headed down to the beach to snack on some seaweed. Margaret Harrison, 52, was joined on Clachtoll beach, Lochinver, in the Scottish Highlands by the lonesome cow. It wandered down to the water's edge to munch on the salty seaweed. Margaret, who was on holiday from Birmingham, has been visiting the area for years and said she has seen highland cows from nearby walking along the beach before. But the mother of four said this the first time she has ever seen one of the cows take a dip in the water. She said:
(Picture: Margaret Harrison / SWNS.com)

Slay, queen

A lone Highland Cow on Clachtoll beach, Lochinver, in the Scottish Highlands. See Centre Press story CPCOW; A highland cow has been caught on camera making the most of the Scottish sun as it headed down to the beach to snack on some seaweed. Margaret Harrison, 52, was joined on Clachtoll beach, Lochinver, in the Scottish Highlands by the lonesome cow. It wandered down to the water's edge to munch on the salty seaweed. Margaret, who was on holiday from Birmingham, has been visiting the area for years and said she has seen highland cows from nearby walking along the beach before. But the mother of four said this the first time she has ever seen one of the cows take a dip in the water. She said:
(Picture: Margaret Harrison / SWNS)

We bow to you, ruler of beach photoshoots.

MORE: Meghan Markle’s eyebrow stylist tells us how to get royal brows

MORE: Why does Prince George always wear shorts?

MORE: These are the most right-swiped people on Tinder


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Did a Prehistoric Brain Surgeon Practice on This Cow? – Smithsonian

One of the more astonishing facts about prehistoric humans is how early they went under the knife—or rather, the sharpened stone.

Starting at least 7,000 years ago, people practiced a procedure called trepanation, which involved punching or scraping a hole in the skull for medical or spiritual reasons. Now, reports Nicola Davis at The Guardian, researchers have found evidence that humans may have been performing the same procedure on cows, either as practice or as early veterinary medicine.

As Ashley Strickland at CNN reports, between 1975 and 1985, researchers were excavating the Neolithic site in France called Champ-Durand, which served as a trade center that focused on salt and cattle between 3,400 and 3,000 B.C.E. They found the bones of many domestic animals, but they also uncovered something relatively rare: a nearly complete skull of a cow with a hole drilled in it.

Stone Age humans used the whole animal, commonly crushing the cranium to extract the animal’s tongue and brain. This means that intact skulls from that period are fairly unusual. But researchers were initially unimpressed with the find, suggesting the skull’s prominent hole was merely a gore mark from another cow. But a recent reexamination of the skull suggests that ancient humans purposefully made the marks. They published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.

This most recent examination suggests the hole was not inflicted by another animal due to a lack of other cracks or associated trauma to the skull. Microscopic scans ruled out a tumor, gnawing mice or other similar causes. Cut and scrape marks directly around the wound suggest purposeful creation. But since there was no healing around the bone, researchers surmise that the animal likely died from the procedure or was dead when it happened.

“I have analyzed many, many human skulls … all from the Neolithic period and they all show the same techniques,” Fernando Ramirez Rozzi of the French National Centre for Scientific Research in Paris and first author of the study tells Davis, “and the technique you can observe in the cow’s skull [is] the same.”

The big question is why a Stone Age surgeon might cut a hole in the head of a cow. As Strickland reports, cattle were very common at Champ-Durand, comprising over fifty percent of the bones found. It’s unlikely that the locals would go to the trouble of trying to save one ailing cow. As Rozzi inquires: “What would be the interest to heal a cow which represent the most abundant animal among the archaeological remains?”

The other possibility is that a budding surgeon used the animal for practice. Many trepanations found in the archaeological record appear to be surprisingly precise and in some cases patients survived the procedure. It’s possible that practicing on animals was the way these surgeons developed their skills.

This leaves one big question: Why were people drilling into one another’s skulls 5,000 years ago in the first place?

As Robin Wylie at the BBC reports, this is a hotly debated topic. The Victorians believed the procedure was used to relieve migraine headaches, an idea that has since been debunked. Still, some researchers argue that it was primarily a medical intervention used to treat pain or neurological conditions as Stone Age humans understood them. It’s hard to say since many of those medical conditions don’t leave evidence in the skull.

Others believe there is evidence for trepanation used as a ritual. As Wylie reports, archaeologists in Russia have found the remains of 12 healthy adults, all of whom had a hole cut in their skull in an extremely dangerous area. Four died soon after the surgery. The other eight lived at least four years with the holes in their head. The researchers argue that these unusual trepanations were likely used not to heal disease but to give these people supernatural powers or connections.

Whatever the reason, trepanations was not an uncommon practice—with evidence found throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and even in the Americas. Versions of the procedure were used by the ancient Greeks and through the European Renaissance.

Today, it remains a valid way to relieve pressure in the brain under emergency situations. So we just might have cows to thank for helping early humans sharpen their skills in early versions of this procedure.

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Funny Cow review – grit and wit – The Guardian

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The Guardian

Funny Cow review – grit and wit
The Guardian
Funny Cow follows the changing fortunes of a standup comic finding her feet in the northern working men's clubs of the 70s. It has been described by writer and co-star Tony Pitts as “an unblinking obituary” and “unsentimental commentary” on the culture

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Film reviews roundup: Funny Cow, The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Society, Let The Sunshine In – The Independent

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The Independent

Film reviews roundup: Funny Cow, The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Society, Let The Sunshine In
The Independent
Funny Cow is one of the best British features of the year so far: an abrasive, tender and continually surprising affair whose comic moments sit next to scenes of irredeemable bleakness. The film evokes an era when comedy wasn't touched in the slightest
Funny CowThe Upcoming
Producer of Funny Cow on re-creating 1970s clubland in BradfordBradford Telegraph and Argus

all 3 news articles »

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Cow by Bear: Pop-up perfection – Connect Savannah.com

HAVE YOU ever had dinner served by a bear? For a few select locals the answer, odd as it may be, is yes. 

But how is it possible that a bear serve you dinner, and five courses at that? Simply, Savannah’s newest and coolest pop-up restaurant: Cow by Bear.

And if you are not in the know about what it means to be a pop-up restaurant, let me explain.

Traditionally, a pop-up is a temporary restaurant in a secret location that serves food for a limited time period.

Savannah’s newest culinary comrade, Cow by Bear, is flipping the concept on its head by offering guests an experience like no other — all five courses are created and served by a bear: Chef Po Bear himself. 

Savannah’s Cow by Bear is not the first location, and several other Chef Bears are hosting their own pop-ups in San Diego and Seattle. Chef Po Bear explains why Savannah was so lucky to be included in the Chef Bears’ dinners:

click to enlargecow_by_bear-img_5727.jpg

“Savannah had the right kind of acceptance and quirkiness that makes us feel at home. With the culinary scene continuously evolving, where better than here to start something different and new?”

As for Chef Po Bear’s menu, he explains that “growing up in the mountains of France, my family and I lived by the seasons. As I’ve grown into a chef, I’ve used the seasons as the place to start a foundation for a new dish.”

The Welcome Course, the Hawaii P-O, is “based on Chef Po’s trip to Hawaii…and a dish that was served with Spam,” our dinner host and mixologist, Michael Peterson, explains as the course is served.

Pork belly is the star of the dish, served sliced and so tender it barely stays on the fork. The nod to Spam came with the seasoning of the pork, which somehow Chef Po Bear imparts with a wink of classic salty Spam flavor without overpowering the entire dish, as the classic canned meat so often does.

Paired with the fragile pork is a complex yellow curry, vibrant pickled green apple, and invigorating fresh cilantro. 

The drink pairing, a creation by Michael, was his take on the classic Silver Monk, a cucumber, mint, and yellow chartreuse libation. Inspired by the Powerpuff Girls villain Mojo Jojo, he adds tequila and lime which lends the drink a refreshing kick, and makes it a flawless introduction to the night ahead. 

Paired with the first course, Ode to Spring, was a light Chardonnay to match the delicate flavor of the masterpiece. Featured was creamy fennel risotto topped with confit chicken, crispy new potatoes, and a herb salad.

The idea is to “dig for your potatoes like they are from the garden,” Michael said as he explained why the beautiful new potatoes were hidden beneath the bright green herb salad resting over the entire dish.

The showstopper of this course was truly the fennel risotto; the fennel brightened the velvety rice and a brown butter and chicken broth au jus enveloped every grain with the sumptuous taste of succulent briny chicken gravy. 

The risotto is one of Chef Po Bear’s special recipes, he boasts, “I have been told I make a mean risotto, and it is one of my favorite ways to play around with new flavors.”

His confidence is justified because, though an extremely difficult dish for even the most seasoned chefs to cook properly, the risotto he created could be pictured in the dictionary next the definition.

click to enlarge'Beauty and the Beets'

  • ‘Beauty and the Beets’

Beauty and The Beets was served as the second course, and is the favorite of both Chef Po Bear and Michael. As he proudly placed down each plate, Michael explained the Chef “tried to take on an ugly vegetable and dress it up into the belle of the ball.”

Delicate hand folded tortelloni filled with a striking purple beet filling were presented wading in a shallow pool of lemon oil, and resting atop the al dente pasta was a sprinkling a poppy seeds, pea shoots, shaved candy striped beets, and pickled golden beets. The golden beets were most surprising, tricking the palate into thinking it was eating candy.

As for the filling, the tender beet stuffing was nutty, without even the slightest hint of what can be an overbearing earthy taste that beets can so often have. 

A 21-day dry-aged ribeye cap, the Cow by Bear, was the pinnacle of the show. As the table sat and waited, drinking Chef Po Bear’s favorite rum, the sound of sizzling marbled steak drove everyone at the table crazy.

With a caramelized crust and warm red medium-rare center, the prized cut of meat had a developed beef flavor due to the long dry age. Roasted sunchokes rested elegantly next to the steak, and tasted reminiscent of a potato; perched on the hunk of beef came a nest of crispy carrots and onions. 

To finish, the dessert, dubbed Milk and Honey, was that of a dream. It “features two of Chef Po Bear’s favorite flavors of all time,” Michael told the table, but it also featured almost every texture you could imagine.

Crunchy, creamy, gooey, sticky, sweet, salty, are just some of the things you can expect from the symphony made with two types of honeycomb, yogurt panna cotta, crispy sweet cream, chocolate ganache, dulce de leche, and bee pollen. It is rare to find a skillful chef that can create a balanced yet delicious dessert, many restaurants have both a pastry chef for the task. 

Just like the seasons that Chef Po Bear so adores, the menu is set to change as seasonal ingredients change. He even plans to switch up the “Cow”, claiming “while it is still in rotation here, I’ll be mixing it up a bit and giving people a reason to come back and try something new every time.”

So how do you get a seat at the select 14 person table of Cow by Bear, especially considering the location is a secret and there is not a telephone number to call? A little digging online and a quick email can get you on the list. 


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Purveyor: Wandering Cow Farm – Richmond magazine (blog)

Wandering Cow Farm: Charles City

History: First came chickens and cows, then goats and herbs. Nearly 20 years later, you’ll find that Mary Murphy and her family have transformed their farm into a sustainable livestock and fiber farm, where they make a variety of goods. 

Specialties: When her daughter developed a skin condition, Murphy took matters into her own hands. “The natural progression was to start with soap — and then our herd just kept growing.” The farm produces wool products as well as herb, tea and goat’s milk soaps, including one made using Hardywood Singel.  

Production methods: The soap and wool products are all produced on the farm from Murphy’s sheep and goat herd. If an ingredient is needed that Murphy doesn’t have, she makes sure to source only local products. 

Where to find in RVA: Urban Farmhouse Market & Café, South of the James Farmers Market, The Farmers Market at St. Stephen’s, and First Fridays.  

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“Cow FitBits” Won't Make Cows Happier Because They're Not Milk Robots – Futurism

The life of a milk cow is mostly pretty great. They relax, they go for walks on rich pastures; when it gets cold, they hang out with their bovine homies indoors.

That all goes out the window when they’re sick. Sick cows tend to eat less, walk differently, and give off sad moos. Now, the great AI hawkers have decided to automate a practice almost as old as farming itself: figuring out if cows are sick to them give them treatment. Proponents claim that the devices can identify a sick cow sooner, but many farmers don’t think they’re necessary, because they’ve developed a sixth sense for a sick cow.

Dutch innovation company Connecterra has developed an “intelligent cow-monitoring system” that follows  individual cows’ every move, relaying live information back to the farmer. Built on Google’s open-source AI platform TensorFlow (the same technology used to thwart illegal deforestation in Louisiana), the system uses motion-sensing “FitBits” attached to the cow’s neck to analyze its behavior.

Connecterra claims it’s Big Bovine Brother network can tell if a cow gets sick 24 to 48 hours before any visual symptoms arise by analyzing changes in internal temperature (that aren’t accounted for by external factors like high outside temperatures and humidity levels). It can also learn behavior such as walking, standing, laying, and chewing, and ring the alarm bells if a particular cow decides not to go for a second helping of hay.

Many farmers directly benefit from the technology, the company claims. “For a typical Dutch farm, which are generally known to be very productive to begin with, we’ve seen about a 20 percent to 30 percent gain in efficiency in farm operations using Connecterra,” Yasir Khokhar, former Microsoft employee, and the company’s CEO.

AI is being used elsewhere on the farm, too. Farmers in China have been tracking the movement of pigs using RFID tags and overhead cameras that track individual pigs using machine learning. Even the noises the pigs make are analyzed to monitor for disease.

But do we really need AI-powered sensors to know if a cow is not producing at her max? Dairy farmers have been around for at least 7,500 years. “I can spot a cow across a room that don’t feel great just by looking in her eyes,” Mark Rodgers, a Georgian dairy farmer, tells the Washington Post.

And then there is the cost. Just to get your herd all hooked up with Connecterra, it costs a substantial $79.99-per-cow, and $3-per-month charge per cow. If you’ve got a decent number of cows in your herd, costs like that can really add up.

The benefits of using AI technology to the individual animals themselves are pretty clear. Farmers can respond to illnesses and other changes in behavior faster. But there is, of course, a downside: if farmers continue to use technologies like Connecterra’s in the future, will their intuition change or vanish over time? What about the next generation of dairy farmers?

Dairy farmers should know how and when to respond to a cow’s needs without sophisticated technology. Teach a farmer how to watch cows, and they’ll drink milk for the rest of their life. But the unstoppable wave of AI technologies is taking over almost every aspects of our lives. At the end of the day, it’s about finding a balance between farmer intuition, and technological aids that will make everyone happy.

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Putting in Legwork to Help Cow Health – Kokomo Perspective

Lameness is one of the most important animal welfare concerns in the dairy industry and is the subject of more than 100 scholarly papers a year.

But despite all that work on improving cow mobility, the problem isn’t going away.

“In fact, in some research we find that lameness actually has shown increases over the years,” said Kathryn Proudfoot, an Ohio State University Extension specialist in animal welfare and behavior.

Proudfoot spoke in one of two recent webinars presented by DAIReXNET, a national dairy Extension group.

One reason lameness’ persistence might be that farmers don’t recognize the scale of the problem.

Studies in the United States, Britain and Canada have all found that dairy farmers underestimate how many lame cows they have in their herds.

Farmers may be defining lameness more narrowly than researchers, or they may be missing some of the subtle indicators.

“Pretty much anyone can pick out a cow that’s showing very obvious signs of a limp,” but stiffness and awkward movements can be harder to spot, Proudfoot said.

For example, when cows move, they normally keep their heads steady or bob rhythmically.

“Cows that are lame show more jerky head movements,” she said.

Researchers have found that a horse that bobs its head up likely has lameness in its front legs.

If it jerks its head down, it probably has lameness in the back legs.

That behavior seems to apply with cows as well, Proudfoot said.

When a cow is walking, its back foot should hit the same place its front foot stepped. If the back foot doesn’t come forward far enough, the cow could be lame.

An arched back is another indicator, though it’s not associated strictly with lameness.

“Typically you’re not looking at just one behavior” for a diagnosis anyway, Proudfoot said.

Lameness is typically scored on a three-, four- or five-point scale, and it takes some training to identify the symptoms and score cows correctly.

Farmers should watch cows on a straight, flat, nonslip surface where the cows make at least three strides and can be evaluated one at a time.

“One of the most ideal places to watch cows (is) as they’re coming out of the milking parlor,” Proudfoot said.

Watching the cows go into milking isn’t as helpful because healthy cows sometimes have to adjust their gait to accommodate their full udders.

It’s best to check all the cows daily for lameness, though that can be tough to do.

Especially in large herds, electronic trackers like pedometers could be a useful way to monitor the herd.

Motion sensors are often associated with heat detection, but they can also record movements that indicate lameness.

Lying down for long or inconsistent periods of time are suggestive of lameness.

Cows that spend little time lying down could also have problems, especially if they are perching — standing with just their front feet in the stall.

Lame cows go to the bunk at feeding time along with the healthy cows but return to their stalls sooner than the rest, Proudfoot said.

Housing design can influence a cow’s activity as well.

Cows on a bedded pack tend to spend more time lying down than those on mattresses or uncomfortable surfaces, she said.

Nutritional problems can also contribute to lameness, said Robert Van Saun, a Penn State Extension veterinarian.

Low rumen pH, which is a particular risk with grain-heavy diets, can kill bacteria in the digestive tract, causing chemical changes that produce inflammation.

When this happens in the hindgut, a part of the digestive tract with a sensitive lining, the cells release histamine, a compound associated with hoof blood flow problems in horses.

A similar hoof-harming process might be happening in cows, Van Saun said.

Body condition score correlates with the thickness of the cushion that protects the bone from rubbing against the hoof.

Lameness is prevalent in cows with a body condition of 2 or less.

A higher body condition correlates to a thicker cushion and lowers the risk of lameness, he said.

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Cow Palace gun show draws crowds and protesters – SFGate

Right at the northern edge of Daly City and the southern edge of San Francisco, hundreds came out to a gun show Saturday to look at the latest firearms on display. But they wouldn’t walk out with any.

There’s a 10-day waiting period to get a gun in California — the state with some of the strictest laws in the country governing sales at gun shows.

Still, the Crossroads of the West gun show, which continues Sunday at the Cow Palace, always attracts a steady stream of more than 1,000 firearms enthusiasts — and this year a handful of protesters. As a national, youth-led movement on gun control and safety maintains its momentum, the controversial Daly City show brought out gun supporters ranging from families with young children to military veterans.

“This tragic event in Parkland, Fla., has energized people on both sides. People are so polarized it’s difficult to have a dialogue,” Bob Templeton, owner of the gun show, said Saturday. “But I think there’s a lot of common ground that we have. We all want to eliminate violence with guns, and misuse of guns, and we all want to protect our kids.”

Some yards away from the entrance, a small group of Bay Area high school students stood in protest, arguing in particular that the show has “dangerous rhetoric around anti-gun control.”

David Gales, 17, held up a sign that said, “Send the gun show packing.” He and his classmate, Natalie Keim, organized the demonstration outside the show, just a couple of miles from Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco, which they both attend.

“People really don’t like this gun show. Over the past couple of years it’s really kind of declined. The only reason people are coming now is to cling onto old, outdated ideals,” Gales said. “There’s been a lot of debate about whether or not the Cow Palace should be having gun shows at all and the local popular opinion has been pretty strongly against it.”

At the arena, everything from ammo and holsters to rifles and handguns was on display — all compliant with California regulations. That means magazines at the event are limited to 10 rounds, for instance.

The show is monitored by enforcement officers with the California Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Daly City police officers to make sure the laws are being followed, Templeton said.

Crossroads of the West’s traveling gun show reaches across the nation, and this year’s San Francisco stop coincided with a day of rallies by gun rights supporters at state capitals across the country. The rallies serve as a response to protests against gun violence in the wake of a mass shooting that killed 17 people at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

As the gun debate magnifies, some at the show had a laissez-faire take. Longtime friends Robert Anderson and Randy McManus leaned against a railing outside the show, laughing as McManus smoked a cigar.

Anderson said he favors shooting with .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire cartridges. For McManus, it’s .22s. They’ve been attending the show off and on for 20 years and say it’s just a way to feed a hobby.

“Gun stuff,” Anderson said. “It is what it is. Everybody has their opinions. I’m OK with that. You have your opinions about guns. I have my opinions about guns.”

Jenna Lyons is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: jlyons@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @JennaJourno

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