Thursday, April 30, 2015

Heritage Breeds of Livestock

The Steller's sea cow, the passenger pigeon and the New Zealand moa all went extinct because people developed a taste for their meat.
Highland Cattle

But other animals are going their way precisely because they are no longer preferred table fare. The Livestock Conservancy, a North Carolina organization that advocates for the preservation of rare and vanishing breeds, keeps an official list of nearly 200 domesticated birds and mammals which today are at risk of vanishing. The group is trying to generate interest in these breeds, among both consumers and farmers, to keep the animals from going extinct.

"We sometimes say, 'You need to eat them to save them — just don't eat them all,' " says Ryan Walker, the marketing and communications manager of the conservancy.
The Red Wattle, a pig with exceptionally juicy flesh, and the Randall Lineback, a cow that produces beautiful rose-red veal, are two success stories — breeds that were close to oblivion but that foodie ranchers have revived.

But others haven't been so lucky. And it may be because lately no one has wanted to eat them.
There are fewer than 200 Choctaw hogs left, for example. This pig was prized by the Native American Choctaw tribe as a meat source. But displacement of the tribe led to the breed's downfall. Today, Choctaw hogs live on just a few farms in a single county in Oklahoma. The animals are still extremely vulnerable to inbreeding and, Walker says, to natural disasters. "They could potentially get wiped out by one tornado," he says.

Choctaw Hog
But Walker says the conservancy has received calls from people around the country interested in rearing the pigs, and he guesses that within several years the breed's population will start to increase. If the Choctaw is lucky, it should start appearing in butcher shops for the first time.
Many, if not most, heritage food animals are said to have a flavor that's distinct from modern mainstream breeds – flavor that can now be appreciated by foodies seeking novelty and quality. But many of these breeds have been swiftly declining since about 70 years ago, when certain breeds began to dominate industrial livestock production.

Before World War II, farms were on average smaller and regional variations common in both crops and livestock. But one by one, regional breeds were supplanted by just a handful that were selectively bred to reproduce and grow faster, withstand more cramped confinement, and generate more meat, milk or eggs.
Meanwhile, hundreds of livestock breeds that were once commercially relevant have nearly vanished. Among them are several dozen that The Livestock Conservancy lists as critically endangered—like the Texas longhorn cattle, the cotton patch goose, the modern game chicken and the San Clemente goat, which originated on the rugged San Clemente Island, in the Channel Islands chain off California. Through genetic isolation and natural selection, a unique breed emerged. The nonnative goats became a hated pest in the 1970s, and most were removed from the island or shot. Still, a few are raised on a small scale for food, mostly in the Southwest.
Jacob Sheep

Sometimes, breeds believed to be lost are rediscovered—like the Beltsville small white turkey. It was thought extinct until 2014, when the Livestock Conservancy discovered that scientists with the University of Georgia were keeping a small research flock.

"They didn't even realize what they had until we saw the turkeys," says Walker. "We thought the breed was extinct, and now they're back on the table," as heritage breeders are working to restore them to abundance. This process involves matching up prospective mates and selectively removing other individuals from the breeding pool. Ultimately, several "very lucky farmers" got to eat Beltsville small whites last Thanksgiving, Walker says.
The key to saving critically endangered breeds is finding people to breed and grow the populations. Walker says his organization, without land to rear its own animals, helps rare breeds by coordinating meetings between farmers who own the animals.
Other times, small farmers strike out on their own to get their hands on rare breeds and grow their own herds. Several years ago, Amy Grabish and her husband Larry Fox contacted the American Mulefoot Hog Association,hoping to start their own passel. They bought several animals, and today they keep about a dozen pigs but also fainting goats, Welsh harlequin ducks and American buff geese.
Houdan Chicken

Raising such animals is not especially profitable, Grabish says, since some of them grow more slowly, and in some cases are more temperamental, than mainstream breeds. Fainting goats, for example, fall over when startled.
But she and her husband chose to raise heritage breeds partly because they are hardier than mainstream breeds.
"We wanted animals that would be comfortable outside," Grabish tells The Salt. Her mulefoot pigs have a coat of hair that protects them from sunburn in the summer and keeps them warm in the winter. Though the animals are provided with a shed, they don't use it. "They just hunker down under the eucalyptus trees," she says.
Today, in spite of the efforts of numerous ranchers and organizations focused on preserving rare breeds, some are going extinct. Almost one livestock breed has vanished every month around the world for at least the past six years, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture supports a program for preserving heritage livestock breeds. The idea is to keep alive unique genetic traits that could someday come in handy for breeders who are trying to create hardier, or tastier, animals. In the American West, Walker says, demand is growing for drought tolerant cattle that can withstand the unusually dry conditions that may become the new normal going into the future. While many rare breeds are kept alive on small farms, the USDA has preserved some cryogenically—mainly via samples of frozen semen.

Farmers like Grabish and Fox are doing their part to keep rare breeds alive, though Grabish says they are reluctant to put their animals in contact with those from other farms, due to concerns about disease transmission. Their own little property provides only enough land to keep a few animals, which ultimately are used to supply the family's own freezer and a circle of local restaurants. When they sell breeding stock to other farmers, their hope, Grabish says, is that the new owners will use the animals for breeding with others of their type.
"Because these animals are so rare, their genetics need to be kept clean," she says, "for science and for the gene pool."
(By Alastair Bland is a freelance writer based in San Francisco)
(Photos from the Livestock Conservancy)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Forest Farming

Off in the backwoods near Laurie, there's a 560 acre expanse of land where the University of Missouri's Center for Agroforestry is running a research farm.

The term may be new to some, but for Senior Outreach Specialist Gene Garrett, it's the future of Missouri farming.

"You've got a lot of timber. The question is, what do you do with it?" he asks.

The research farm, owned and volunteered by Doug Allen, aims to help answer that question. On the farm, the Agroforestry Center is running many experiments to find the best way Missouri farmers can cultivate their land for maximum profitability, health and conservation.

"The best thing about this farm is the location," says Garrett. "It's great for drawing in the Ozark Region locals. We can show them how to take something they already have, and make it healthy, vigorous and profitable."

With a solid idea on how things should be done, the University has begun to implement many ideas which have the capacity to revolutionize the Missouri Ozarks agriculture industry. Among these ideas, Garrett says, are very practical uses for local landowners.

Most landowners in the region have land that is heavily forested, and practically useless for any type of conventional farming. That's where agroforestry comes into play. The idea behind agroforestry is to help landowners realize the full potential of the natural resources in Missouri.

For example, Garrett explains the concept of Timber Stand Improvement, or TSI for short. This is a method of thinning out wooded areas, and in the same move, increasing the health of the land by inviting more wildlife and growth potential. Then in the future, the trees will be healthy and strong enough for use as lumber.

"There are resources to help with this," Garrett says. "Just contact your regional forester and ask about Timber Stand Improvement."

Afterwards, you can farm those wooded areas with crops that enjoy the shaded understory of a lightly forested area. The research farm is running experiments on that as well in an effort to discover the absolute best options there are. The center holds annual displays on how and what to do in order to get started.

But the research focus isn't exclusively on wooded areas. The farm also takes notice of the small pockets of open land that are maybe five or so acres on many Missouri properties. On these, Garrett says, you have many options.

He has placed an orchard on one such pocket within the farm. In it, he grows three rows each of walnut, chestnut and pecan trees. But this orchard has a twist.

"I believe in taking the landowner and showing them what it's going to look like," Garrett says.
To this end, his orchard has the five best varieties of each nut tree growing in his orchard. Local farmers and landowners can come in and see what trees will best suit their property. From there, Garrett can help them decide how to proceed.

But Garrett isn't only focusing on fruiting trees. He has a field dedicated to growing pine trees as well.

The pine trees are a hybrid - bred specifically to grow long needles and thrive in Missouri weather. The needles of these trees are harvested for mulch, which Garrett states is a far better option than wood chips. He also explains that pine straw is competitive with corn and soy crops, with a budding market and comparable prices.

And there are even more benefits to growing pine trees.

Garrett has designed the pine grove on the research farm to allow for alley cropping. Alley cropping is a method of cultivating other crops in the open spaces between the tree lines while the pine trees are growing. Additionally, there are smaller alleys between tree lines, where Garrett is setting up wildlife habitats. This specific grove was set up with quail in mind, and Garrett says he expects to see a population boom in the coming years as the farm is developed.

All of these methods were designed specifically to help Missouri landowners and farmers. With a lot of research, a dash of common sense and some experimenting, the farm continues to grow as an example of what the Agroforestry Center considers an ideal land plot in the Ozarks. But there is always more to do, and the farm plans to be there for a long time to come.
(by Colby Powell, Lake News Online)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Tools for Small-Scale Crop Production

This webinar, broadcast October 25, 2012, focuses on tools and techniques for small-scale crop production. National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) Agriculture Specialist Andy Pressman discusses the importance of investing in good quality and well-designed tools, their different purposes, and how to use them to properly plant and maintain crops.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

High Tunnels

There are many companies out there selling high tunnels. Some are worthwhile to buy and build. Others are just made too light and not worth the effort putting up. Hopefully I can help you out in this. I will point out, that my company (Morgan County Seeds LLC) does sell high tunnels and greenhouse.

First of all let’s look at steel gauges. This is the thickness of the steel. In high tunnels, it is the wall thickness of the tubing. Steel gauges for high tunnels usually range from 17 gauges all the way to a 12 gauge. No that is not a mistake; the numbers are in the correct order.

Now let’s look at what the numbers mean. When you see steel tubing or sheeting gauge, make a fraction out of it. For instance if you have a 13 gauge it would become 1/13 of an inch. In other words, the gauge means the number of sheets or tubing wall thickness it takes to make an inch in thickness. The thicker the tubing is, the more strength it has. In tubing, 13-gauge wall thickness has more strength then a 17-gauge tube. Plus if you are putting in a screw, there is more meat there to hold unto.

The next thing we need to look at is the tubing diameter. In all of the high tunnels out there, tubing sizes range from 1.315” all the way up to 2 3/8” diameter. What does this mean? Talking with Neal Zimmerman from Zimmerman’s Welding I found out that each time you increase the tubing diameter by 1/3, the strength increases by 66%. That can make a big difference. If the tubing size from one company is 1.7” diameter and the other is 2.27” diameter, there is 66% more strength in the 2.27” tubing. This one area that some high tunnel manufactures are cutting corners on cost. It also cuts down on the strength of the tunnel.

Now let’s look at bracing. Some have lots of bracing and others have almost no bracing or none. For strength of a building you need bracing to help it stay square or upright. On buildings with a sheet metal cover, the sheet metal can work as bracing. On a high tunnel you do not have any sheet metal on the outside for bracing. Greenhouse plastic does not brace. In fact it will stretch if pulled to hard.

Here are some of the common types of bracing used in high tunnel construction. Corner bracing. This brace is usually placed in between the first and 2nd sidewall post at all 4 corners of the high tunnel. This helps keep the corners of the tunnel in line. Some manufactures use them and others cut corners here and do not use them to save a little money on the cost of the high tunnel. It also leaves a weak spot in the tunnel.

Roof bracing, is another spot some cut the cost of a tunnel. These cheap tunnels rely on the purlins to help brace the roof. A very poor choice. Other tunnel manufactures use several braces in the roof. Usually the bracing starts at the peak of the tunnel on the first bow and goes at angle to the 2nd bow. Some also continue this bracing from the 2nd bow to the third bow. This is done on both sides of the center purlin. When standing under the tunnel and looking up, it will make V. Both ends of the tunnel roof should have this bracing.

Side to side bow bracing. Some provide this option and others do not. There are several types used for this. One is just a long brace from one side of the bow to the other side. This makes a small truss in the peak of the tunnel. It will help with wind and snow loads.

The other popular one is called a W truss. On the bottom of the W truss, there is a long pipe. This pipe fastens to the bow at each end. Several feet in, at a angle a short brace goes from the bow to the lower pipe of the W truss. At this point, another brace takes off and goes to the center of the peak of the bow. This is done on both sides of the bow. When looking at it, it makes capital W. This is by far the strongest bracing you can get for your bows. If each bow has one of these W trusses, it will hold a lot more snow or ice.

(By Norman Kilmer, Morgan County Seed)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Managing Risks for Small Ruminants Workshop

The 2015 Managing Risks for Small Ruminants Workshop sponsored by Lincoln University Cooperative Extension Small Ruminants Program & University of Illinois Extension will be held on May 1-2, 2015 at George W. Carver Farm, 3804 Bald Hill Road, Jefferson City, MO 65101.

History: Lincoln University Cooperative Extension Small Ruminant Program and the University of Illinois Extension have joined collaborative efforts to bring a pilot program to central Missouri that will address the concerns of small ruminant producers and risks faced by many beginning producers.
There are risks in everything we do, and livestock production is no exception.  If raising goats and   sheep; we encounter many obstacles that are considered risks depending on the type of production goals one might have.

Goal: This program if successful will be developed into a significant educational series that will culminate over three years of progressive training for small ruminant producers in an effort to increase the proficiency of knowledge and independence of goat and sheep production in the Midwest. Certificate of competition will be given.

Topics: Low-input management, toxic plants, when to call the vet, drug use, animal disease traceability, disaster preparedness, parasites, and how to efficiently raise a market goat or lamb are offered in this pilot program.


Day 1
11:00 am - 12:00 pm - Registration

12:00 pm - 12:15 pm - Welcome

12:15 pm - 1:30 pm - DOs and DON’Ts of a Low-Input Operation, Mr. Mark Kennedy

1:30 pm - 2:30 pm - Toxicities: Differences for Goats & Sheep, Dr. Tim Evans

2:30 pm - 2:45 pm - Break

2:45 pm - 3:45 pm - Toxic plant ID- hands on, Dr. Tim Evans

3:45 pm - 5:00 pm - When to call the Vet - Q & A, Dr. Dusty Nagy

5:00 pm - 6:00 pm - Animal Disease Traceability, USDA

6:00 pm - 7:30 pm - Dinner - Disaster Preparedness for Producers, TBA

Day 2
8:00 am - 9:00 am - Raising Market Worthy Animals without Breaking the Bank, Dr. Beth Walker

9:00 am - 10:00 am - Safe Farm – Safe Animals (Biosecurity on your farm), Dr. Charlotte Clifford-Rathert

10:00 am - 10:15 am - Break

10:15 am - 11:45 pm - Parasite Management: 5-Point Check, FAMACHA, BCS, Dr. Teresa Steckler

11:45 am - 12:00 pm - Evaluation and Adjourn

Conference Format: Dinner and light snacks will be provided during conference; along with educational materials

Lodging: 10 RM block available at each location, under “Lincoln University” cut-off April 24, 2015

Days Inn Jefferson City - 1-573-761-3600
2100 Jefferson Street, Jefferson City, MO 65109

1716 Jefferson Street, Jefferson City, MO, US, 65109

Registration Fees: $60 w/included dinner and daily snacks

*Pre-registration is available to reserve your seat via web-link or by attaching it to an email message addressed to: or call / fax (see below)

Complete registration by returning this form by mail to the address below with full payment to: Lincoln University Cooperative Extension c/o Regina Thompson, 900 Chestnut Street; Allen Hall Room 109, Jefferson City, MO  65101

Monday, April 13, 2015

Moisture and Compaction Key to Well-Built Pond

A pond can be a valuable asset to a farm or suburban landowner according to Bob Schultheis, a natural resource engineering specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

"A well-planned and built pond can provide livestock water, fishing opportunities, soil erosion control, fire protection, and a nice place to relax," said Schultheis. "But a good, usable pond is not inexpensive to build. Depending on the geology of the site, a half-acre pond could cost between $11,000 and $15,000."

According to Schultheis, undersized and leaky ponds are the two most common problems he encounters.

"A properly-sized farm pond will have one acre of surface area for each 10-15 acres of watershed that drains into it and be at least eight feet deep. Cutting corners on size to save money only ends up costing more later in repairing erosion damage and downstream neighbor relations, and in dealing with aquatic weed problems," said Schultheis.

Leaky ponds are frequently due to the wrong soil being used for sealing or because the right soil was improperly compacted. When building or enlarging a pond in the Ozarks, Schultheis says to be sure to do it when the soil is moist and sticky, never when the soil is dry.

"Many of the red and yellow clay soils in the Ozarks are quite leaky in their natural state. Pulverizing these soils with a disk breaks down their blocky soil structure and keeping them moist during the recompaction process and after construction will help the pond better hold water," said Schultheis.

Compaction of several four to six-inch thick layers of moist clay in the pond bottom will usually be needed to assure a seal. Additives such as bentonite clay or soda ash may need to be mixed with some soils to keep them from leaking.

"Don't expect a bulldozer to do good soil compaction," said Schultheis.

Bulldozers have a large "footprint" that spreads out their weight, resulting in ground pressure of 7-13 psi, which is no greater than a person just standing on the ground. A better choice is a wheel tractor and disk (15-45 psi ground pressure), or a sheepsfoot roller (300+ psi ground pressure), to compact each clay layer before adding the next one.

"A well-built pond should fill within one year, and seepage plus evaporation should be 12 inches or less in hot summer months and 4 inches or less in winter months," said Schultheis.

Excellent resources for planning, building and managing ponds are available through the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Missouri Department of Conservation and University of Missouri Extension. A hot-linked list of these resources can be found online here

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Grafting Research Could Rescue Watermelon Crop

The watermelon crop has declined dramatically in Washington because of disease. But Washington State University researchers are developing a solution that involves grafting watermelon plants onto squash and other vine plant root stocks.

“We’ve lost about a third of our state’s watermelon production over the last 10 years because of Verticillium wilt,” said Carol Miles, a professor of vegetable horticulture at the WSU Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center in Mount Vernon. “Growers have switched to other crops that are less susceptible.”

Today, there are about 550 acres of watermelon grown in Washington, with a value of approximately $5 million.

Miles said growers can lose 25-75 percent of their yield to the disease – but this loss does not occur until the very end of the growing season. That’s when the damage from Verticillium appears.

The fungus also affects tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and many other crops and plants.
Watermelon grafting used worldwide

Last fall, Miles received a $138,000 grant from the state agriculture department to look into grafting, a solution that doesn’t require fumigants. She is also working with a national team of researchers on a $3 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. Her portion is $171,000 to look at grafting tomato and eggplant.

Grafting involves cutting a young seedling from its roots and attaching it to the roots of a related plant that is disease resistant. The grafted plant produces fruits that are equivalent or better in quality than those of non-grafted plants.

“Grafting is very old technology, going back over 1,500 years in China,” Miles said. “Farmers in Japan have used grafted watermelon since the 1920's. In the Mediterranean region, farmers have been using grafted watermelon, tomato and eggplant for almost 20 years.

“We just need to find out what works best for our region and we’ll solve the Verticillium wilt problem,” she said.

Testing root stocks in the field
Her research involves testing which plants work best together under Washington growing conditions and which root stocks are most resistant to Verticillium wilt.

The first goal is to increase the survival rate for newly grafted watermelon plants. If only 25 percent survive, the effort is not worth it, Miles said.

The second goal is to find successful plant combinations that are disease resistant and have equivalent fruit yield and quality, compared to non-grafted plants grown in healthy soil. Miles and her team are testing watermelon grafted to pumpkin, squash and bottle gourd because they are all resistant to Verticillium wilt.

This year will be the second of a two-year field study. While these studies actually started about five years ago under a previous grant, Miles and her team are applying new information that they have learned along the way. They will have two full years of testing in commercial fields by the end of the grants.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Save 75% on GAP Certification

In January 2002, USDA formally implemented the Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices (GAP & GHP) audit verification program.  This voluntary program is offered to the fruit and vegetable industry to verify an operation’s efforts to minimize the risk of contamination of fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts by microbial pathogens.  The program does not guarantee the product is free from microbial contamination, but verifies the participant has taken proactive measure to reduce the risk of contamination by adhering to generally recognized industry best practices.  The responsibility for product safety and the continued observance of best practices rests with the operation producing and handling the fresh product.

Some of the areas covered by GAP include:
  • Water – for both crop growth and processing
  • Manure management – identify microbial hazards, address treatments to reduce pathogens and cover manure handling
  • Worker health and hygiene – identify microbial hazards and necessary worker training
  • Sanitary facilities – includes toilet facilities and hand washing stations
  • Field sanitation – identify microbial hazards and required equipment maintenance
  • Packing facility sanitation – identify microbial hazards, maintenance concerns and pet control
  • Transportation
  • Traceback
Implement GAP on a farm makes sense since the measures reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses for both growers and consumers.  The MO Dept of Ag has received funding from FDA which allows us to cover 75% of the cost of GAP certification for Missouri vegetable producers.  If you are GAP certified or are thinking of becoming GAP certified, the cost share is a sweet deal.  

To participate:
  • Develop a written farm safety plan
  • Have a GAP inspection conducted
  • Submit a copy of the passing GAP inspect score sheet
  • Submit a copy of the GAP inspection invoice
The funding is available for a limited time so please contact the MO Dept of Ag at 573-522-4170.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Sheep and Goat Workshop - El Dorado Springs

University of Missouri Extension and Lincoln University Cooperative Extension and Research are working together to put on a sheep and goat workshop on April 18th beginning at 10:00 a. m. at the Land O Lakes Youth Fairgrounds (3390 E 380 Rd, El Dorado Springs, Mo. 64744) in El Dorado, Springs, Mo.

This 6 hour workshop will include lecture, discussion, and hands on activity related to
  • Body Condition Scoring
  • FAMACHA© Scoring
  • Fecal Egg Counts
Participants will become certified in the use of the FAMACHA© eye anemia system. The FAMACHA© system, along with the Five Point Check©, is used to determine when a sheep, goat, or camelid requires deworming. The instructor for the class will be Dr. Charlotte Clifford – Rathert, DVM, Associate Professor and State Extension Specialist – Small Ruminant Lincoln University Cooperative Extension and Research.

The cost of the class is $35 per person and the limit on the class is 25 people. Cost will cover all material, refreshments and lunch. For more information on the class or to register contact the Cedar County MU Extension Center (113 South Street, Stockton, Mo. 65785) at 417 – 276 – 3313 or by email at Need to be registered and paid by April 15th.

Click here for the registration form: Sheep and Goat Workshop Flyer 4-18-2015