WILLMAR -- The summer of 2012 is turning out to be one of the hottest on record--and we're still in the month of July. The combination of high temperatures, high humidity and days with little or no breeze has made it not only uncomfortable for livestock, but even deadly.
During an extended period of high temperatures, weight gains are often reduced, milk production will typically decline in dairy cows, and mortality rates may increase -- even dramatically in the case of poultry.
During days of extreme heat, it is important that livestock producers take extra steps to keep livestock as cool and comfortable as possible. With this purpose in mind, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health and the University of Minnesota Extension Service offer the following suggestions:
- Provide extra water for consumption. Water consumption should be the first priority for water use, even before sprinkling. To encourage more water intake, keep water tanks clean.
- Install sprinklers. Set up sprinklers to cover both animals and the ground, ideally about 20 square feet per head. More emphasis should be put on wetting the ground than the livestock. Ground wetting should be performed even before the peak heat of the day arrives.
- Intensify fly control measures around feed bunks and bedding areas.
- Scale back scheduled increases in feed portions. It might be best to maintain intake for 3 days before increasing feed portions during periods of extreme heat. If feeding once a day, feed after 4 p.m. If feeding twice a day, feed 30 percent of total feed intake before 7 a.m., with the remaining 70 percent provided after 4 p.m.
- Apply dry bedding near shaded areas or locations that offer a better opportunity for cooling by the wind.
- Abstain from moving livestock unless absolutely necessary.
- Ensure adequate air movement by removing any obstructions that could restrict air flow, both inside and outside of buildings that house livestock or poultry.
Livestock producers are reminded that carcasses from domestic animals must be disposed of as soon as possible after death, usually within 48 to 72 hours.
Producers dealing with animal mortalities associated with any catastrophic heat event can contact the Minnesota Board of Animal Health for information and advice by calling 651-296-2942.
For more information on heat stress in livestock and how to minimize the risk to animals, visit:
- U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service at http://tinyurl.com/ARS-heat.
- Minnesota State Cattlemen's Association at www.mnsca.org.
- University of Minnesota Extension Service - Tips for Pork Producers at http://tinyurl.com/SWINE-heat.
Limited haying of CRP allowed after Aug. 1
Livestock producers seeking additional supplies of hay should note that local Farm Service Agency offices are now accepting requests to allow limited haying of land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program after Aug. 1.
In accordance with those provisions, the use of program acres for haying is limited to specific conservation practices.
For example, haying is prohibited on acres devoted to filter strips, tree plantings and wetland restorations. In addition, haying is permitted only once every three years on the same acres.
Haying is also prohibited on land located within 120 feet of streams or other permanent bodies of water. Haying is only allowed on acres where the cover crop has been fully established for at least one year.
No haying activity, including the cutting of the cover crop, can occur during the primary nesting or brood rearing season, which ends locally Aug. 1.
A payment reduction equal to 25 percent of the contract's annual rental rate will be assessed on the number of acres hayed.
Program participants who do not own livestock may rent or lease the privilege to hay or graze their Conservation Reserve Program acres to a livestock producer. However, any livestock producers that rent or lease the haying or grazing privileges must sign a statement agreeing that they will not sublease those privileges.
Hay harvested under these provisions may be sold to anyone at any price.
Before any haying activity can begin, program participants will need to visit their USDA Service Center and indicate on aerial maps which acres they wish to hay or graze, and then sign all required documents.
USDA centers conducting food drives
Employees of local USDA Service Centers are partnering with all federal agencies to participate in the fourth annual "Feds Feed Families Food Drive" that continues through Aug. 31.
This is a national effort that was started in 2009 to help local food banks and pantries stay stocked during the summer months -- a time when donation levels tend to decline while demand for assistance increases.
Last year, USDA employees nationwide donated 1.79 million of the 5.79 million total pounds of food donated by federal employees. This year, USDA is hoping to donate more than 1.8 million pounds.
Anyone who would like to assist local USDA employees in their national effort to fight hunger can do so by dropping off food items at their local USDA Service Center.
Wes Nelson is executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Kandiyohi County.