Practical lessons learned – A survey of Minnesota dairy farm heat abatement practices and resulting production responses.

The record-setting heat wave of July 13-21, 2011 markedly decreased milk production, severely compromised animal health and unprecedentedly increased livestock mortality, and is likely the most extreme weather event experienced by Midwestern livestock producers in modern history.  Heat Stress 2011 White Paper

Dairy Heat Stress Risk Snapshot

Heat Stress Risk Snap Dairy Worksheet

Pet Safety in Winter Weather

Posted on November 05, 2015

Although it maybe doesn’t seem like it, cold weather is just around the corner. This is the perfect time to take a look at the proper precautions in caring for our pets. The snow and harsh weather can have negative effects on our pets. To help prevent any problems this winter, we have put together a list of the top 10 ways to help you protect your pet in colder weather:

Pet Safety

Especially For Horse Owners…

It is important to make sure you are able to provide your horses with a dry, warm shelter. Horse blankets are a good way to keep your horses dry and warm. It is also important to provide your horses with constant food and water. Their bodies are working harder in the winter to stay warm, so they (along with any pet) need more food in the winter to stay energized and hydrated.


Towel Dry Extra Snow

Coming in and out of the house can cause your pet’s skin to become irritated. Snow and ice build-up (including the salt and other chemicals that come with it) can create dry, pads or even cause them to bleed. Make sure to keep a towel ready to dry off your pet when they come in the house and pay close attention to the spaces between their toes.


Brush Your Pet’s Fur

Most animals grow extra hair during the colder months, and this extra fur needs to be groomed. Matted fur can lead to extra hair loss and less protection from the cold. Also. brushing your pet’s fur on a regular basis will stimulate blood flow and help the health of their skin.


Winter Haircuts

If you have a long-haired pet, it is a good idea to trim your dog’s hair in the winter to reduce the amount of snow, ice, and different ice melting chemicals that can get stuck to them. Be careful not to cut it too short, they still need something to keep them warm. For shorter-haired breeds, you might want to skip the cuts until spring and add a sweater to keep them cozy.


Potty Training New Puppies

Puppies’ paws are a lot more sensitive to the winter cold. Your new pooch should not be spending too much time outside. If you are potty training, it would be a smart idea to paper train your puppy until the weather starts to warm up and limit their exposure outdoors.


Winter Bathing

A warm bath is a good idea to clean your pet from the dirty ice and snow. However, bathing too much during the winter can cause your pet’s skin to become dry, itchy, and flaky- just like your skin! If this happens to your pet, check with your local veterinary clinic to find a moisturizing shampoo.


How Cold is Too Cold?

The extra fur your pet grows for winter does act as added protection from the elements, but you wouldn’t be expected to be left outside with a warm coat in the coldest winter temperatures, no matter what kind of coat you wear. Your pet should always have a warm, dry place to go in the winter, but remember, if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for them!


Great Resources and General Information on Sheep

Posted on February 01, 2015

Starting A Successful Hobby Farm

Posted on May 30, 2013

Profit or Hobby

Most people that start a hobby farm do it for fun. But it is possible to make some money along the way. If you are looking to make a profit remember to keep track of your expenses each month and write down any items you sold. If you want to make a profit it is crucial that you do not overwhelm yourself.

Start Small


Jumping into hobby farming too quickly can be stressful and take away the fun. To avoid being stressed, focus on raising 1 to 3 types of animals to start.  Pick animals that you think you will enjoy the most. After all, hobby farms are meant to be enjoyable. The most common animal choices among hobby farmers are chickens, pigs, goats and horses. Sometimes your favorite animal may require more work than you can currently handle. Before you pick your animals do research on pens, housing and the feed they require. Make sure you have the proper housing and feed before your animals arrive. Picking 2 to 5 different types of fruits and vegetable is recommended for beginners. Do some research on which fruits and vegetables grow best in your area before you start planting.

Join a Farmers Market


Farmers Markets are great to get some local livestock. This is also a great place to make friends and get advice from experienced farmers. Once you have product of your own you can get a booth at a farmers market. Getting a booth at a farmers market not only gives you the chance to get your product out to the public, it is a great way get involved in the farming community.

Things To Keep in Mind

You will need to do proper maintenance on fencing and housing, to keep your animals from escaping. Having fresh water and proper feed at all times is extremely important to your animals health. Also, keeping up with veterinary care is crucial. Keep in mind that you will have to adjust to different weather conditions. Finally, remember why you started your hobby farm in the first place, for enjoyment!

Benefits of Organic Pet Food

Posted on April 04, 2013

Better digestive system

Organic pet food does not contain chemical additives or pesticides that could irritate your pet’s bowel.  As a result organic feed reduces gas, bloating, diarrhea, and vomiting.  Organic pet food also boosts your pet’s metabolism, thus giving your pet more energy.

395723_exuberant_dog_More energy

Commercial pet food can cause your pet to over eat. The reason for this is that commercial pet food contains bulk-fillers. These bulk-fillers require your pet to eat more of the food to feel full. This can leave your pet feeling sluggish and puts them at a higher risk of diabetes, organ failure, back ailment or hip dysplasia. Organic pet food provides the proper nutrients that give your pet the energy it needs to be active throughout the day. Pets that switch from commercial pet food to organic tend to lose weight and live a happier life.

Reduction of Skin ailments and allergies

Organic pet food will help reduce many skin aliments and allergies because there are no artificial colors, flavor enhancers, chemical additives, or toxic pesticides. Organic pet food contains grains, protein, and other nutrients that add moisture to your pets skin causing less shedding and skin ailments.1389338_orange_cat

Quality and Longer Life

The ultimate outcome of organic pet food is that your pet is likely to live a longer, happier life. Organic pet food helps build a stronger immune system; thus it greatly reduces the chance of your pet getting a life threatening disease. Your pet will have the energy to run and play. Organic pet food also makes their outer appearance more appealing such as a shiner coat.  We as humans want to feel and look our best and so do our pets. We can give our pets a better quality life by providing organic pet food for them.

Try some of our favorite organic pet food.

Replacements That Calve at Two Add Profits

Posted on December 18, 2011

Calving at Two

Mon Dec 12, 2011 10:37 AM CST:

By Boyd Kidwell
Contributing Editor

Heifers are at the heart of Alan Graybeal’s cow-calf operation. And breeding replacement heifers to calve as 2-year-olds is key to the commercial cattleman’s profits.

Every year, Graybeal develops 40 to 60 heifers as replacements on his farm, near Radford, Va. The goal is to get these heifers bred at 12 to 13 months of age and to calve at 2 years. He breeds some heifers as early as 10 months of age to calve at 19 months.

Calving this early is an unusual management technique, but it works in Graybeal’s case. Here, the cow herd is divided into spring- and fall-calving groups. Heifers bred to calve at 19 months become replacements in the fall-calving herd. Heifers bred at 10 months have a 75% pregnancy rate, while those bred at 12 to 13 months have a 92% pregnancy rate. Graybeal notes the younger set of heifers doesn’t have increased calving difficulties.

Graybeal’s emphasis on early calvers has research behind it, proving the profits are there. A 15-year study out of Oklahoma shows when a heifer calves as a 2-year-old, it means an additional 300 pounds of beef is produced over that cow’s lifetime, compared to calving first as a 3-year-old. Those extra pounds add up for Graybeal’s herd of 350 SimAngus cows.

Laying the Foundation

The groundwork for developing these early calvers begins long before heifers are even weaned. Graybeal uses artificial insemination (AI) and selects sires for balanced traits and moderate frames. He chooses bulls with Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs) for moderate growth and milking ability in their daughters. His goal is moderate-framed heifers that give adequate milk and rebreed with nutrition coming from pastures and hay.

“We avoid extremes in AI sires. If we select EPDs for extremely high growth rates, those heifers may be too large-framed to make it in our grass-based operation. If we select for extremely high milking ability, we may not have the nutrition needed for heavy milk production and on-time rebreeding.”

As Graybeal looks over 160 heifers trying to choose 60 replacements, he leans heavily on the performance records of cows already in his herd.

“We keep many of our heifers from cow families we know have done a good job over the years,” he says.

Graybeal also gives preference during the selection process to the AI-sired heifers, saying these replacements speed up genetic progress of the herd.

Developing on Forage

At weaning time, replacements enter a 45-day preconditioning program along with those calves destined for the feedlot. After this phase, replacement heifers go on pasture, depending solely on forage and high-quality alfalfa hay.

As breeding season approaches, Virginia Tech veterinarian Dee Whittier performs reproductive tract exams on the heifers. Each one receives a reproductive tract score measuring physiological readiness. A score of 1 indicates the heifer has an infantile reproductive tract and isn’t ready for breeding. A score of 5 indicates the heifer is cycling. Heifers with a score of 4 are cycling or probably will be in a few weeks. To conceive early in the breeding season, 12-month-old heifers should have scores of 3 to 5.

Heifers in the Feedlot

While Graybeal relies on forages and hay to prepare replacement heifers, in other regions, feedlots are key in developing replacements. Because of short grazing seasons, Wes Dvorak, of Manning, N.D., develops heifers in his feedlot. He starts at weaning, sorting large-framed heifers from his 250-cow herd. They are finished in feedlots with steers. He evaluates the remaining heifers, keeping 40 for his herd and developing the rest to sell as bred heifers.

“In selecting replacement heifers, I look closely at the performance of the dams and the bloodlines of the sires. Then we cull based on conformation and temperament,” says the North Dakota cattleman.

Dvorak uses a high-roughage ration and shoots for moderate weight gains that allow a heifer to reach a target weight of 60 to 65% of mature weight by breeding season. Ultrasound is used on the heifers after AI to see which are bred and to sex expected calves. Marketing heifers as groups that will have either all bull or all heifer calves is a good sales tool in today’s replacement market.

Advice From a Pro

Patsy Houghton, of McCook, Neb., founded a custom heifer-development facility called Heartland Cattle Company 21 years ago. After managing 80,000 replacement heifers for rancher/clients, the PhD in ruminant nutrition is nationally known as the guru of heifer development.

Here are Houghton’s tips for selecting replacement heifers:

— Match weight with appropriate frame. Depending on feed resources, heifers should mature into cows weighing 1,100 to 1,300 pounds. A heifer that matures at 1,150 pounds should have a high 4 frame score.

— Boost fertility with medium-framed heifers. Taller, larger-framed heifers have a longer growth curve and tend to reach puberty later.

— Take advantage of hybrid vigor. A planned crossbreeding program pays dividends in fertility, growth and longevity.

— Establish a uniform cow herd. Houghton prefers black- or red-bodied heifers. White faces are fine, and pigment around the eyes reduces the chances of pinkeye.

— Select calm heifers. Cattle with quiet dispositions exhibit better fertility, immune response, weight gain and meat quality.

— Vaccinate heifer calves for brucellosis prior to 10 months of age. Heifers vaccinated after 10 months run a risk of showing positive titers for brucellosis as young cows.

— Schedule reproductive soundness exams 35 to 45 days prior to breeding. Houghton finds approximately 5% of otherwise good-looking heifers flunk reproductive soundness exams and should be sent to feedlots.

— Feed to meet target weight and Body Condition Score (BCS). A heifer should reach a target weight of 60 to 65% of her mature weight at the time of first breeding. For heifers that will weigh 1,300 pounds as adult cows, the target weight is 780 to 845 pounds with a BCS of 5.75 to 6.00.

— “Develop your heifers on a high-roughage, limit-fed ration. Heifers developed on a high-roughage diet have a better chance of breeding back under ranch conditions,” Houghton advises.

© Copyright 2011 DTN/The Progressive Farmer, A Telvent Brand. All rights reserved.

Heat Stress 2011:

Practical Lessons Learned - A Survey Of Minnesota Dairy Farm Heat Abatement Practices And Resulting Production Responses.

The record-setting heat wave of July 13-21, 2011 markedly decreased milk production, severely compromised animal health and unprecedentedly increased livestock mortality, and is likely the most extreme weather event experienced by Midwestern livestock producers in modern history. Heat Stress 2011 White Paper

Dairy Heat Stress Risk Snapshot


Upside Magazine: Growth Challenge Winner

Enterprising Women Magazine: Top Women Business Owners in North America 2010v



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