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Planting Season and Farm Vehicles

  • Planting season presents special dangers for farm workers and motorists. Drive slowly and cautiously during spring planting season, says MU Extension health and safety specialist Karen Funkenbusch.

Drivers should pay special attention as they travel rural roads and highways during spring planting time, says University of Missouri Extension health and safety specialist Karen Funkenbusch.

It’s the time of the year when the rural roads are filled with tractors pulling farm equipment. Slow-moving farm equipment presents special dangers for motorists, Funkenbusch says.

The most common accident occurs when a slow-moving farm vehicle turns left. Large farm equipment needs to make wide turns to line up with a gate or driveway.

Slow down on rural roads, she says. A car traveling 55 mph requires 224 feet to stop on dry payment, assuming average reaction time for braking. At 55 mph, it takes a car just five seconds to close the length of a football field and overtake a tractor moving 15 mph.

Stay back from farm equipment. Use caution and patience, Funkenbusch says. Noise from the equipment’s motor and tires may make it difficult for the driver to hear approaching vehicles.

Dusk, sunrise and blinding sunlight compromise the driver’s vision. Keep an eye on traffic behind you that may also attempt to pass. Pass only when the road is clear and vision is unobstructed. “Getting to your destination safely is the main goal,” Funkenbusch says. “A few extra minutes may save lives.”

Most farmers make every effort to be courteous and safe, she says. Many will pull equipment off the roadway when road shoulders permit to let motorists pass safely. Watch for hand signals from the farmer.

Farmers may rush as they face weather-related deadlines. They want to get into the fields to till and plant. Practice patience during the small and temporary inconvenience of your food being produced, Funkenbusch says.

Funkenbusch also recommends that parents talk to teen drivers in their household about additional dangers presented during farming season. Hired farmhands also should review safe practices.

Funkenbusch offers additional recommendations for farmers:

  • When driving farm machinery on a road or highway, display a red flag measuring 12-14 feet high atop a pole so that the machine can be seen even when hidden by a rise or curve in the roadway.
  • When rounding a curve, stay to the right-hand side of the road as much as possible. Avoid soft or steep road shoulders, which may cause the tractor to tip.
  • Take extra precautions when driving in the early morning or early evening hours, when visibility is often impaired by sun.
  • If traffic lines up behind you, pull off or let traffic pass when it is safe to do so.
  • Railroad crossings, especially those without gates, present a special hazard. Never take a safe crossing for granted.
  • Use hand signals, electronic signals or both to indicate intentions to turn. Avoid wide turns.
  • Turn your headlights on, but turn off rear spotlights, which can be mistaken for headlights.
  • Avoid the roads during rush hour, in bad weather and at night.
  • Use pilot cars if going a considerable distance, and hang a flag out the window of these vehicles or use a slow-moving vehicle emblem.

Un-complicating firearm and captive bolt euthanasia

While never the preferred outcome, humane euthanasia plays a key role in animal care and veterinary medicine. For bovine practitioners working in the field, euthanasia of cattle often involves using a firearm or a captive-bolt device. Recommendations for placement of the bullet or bolt can, however, create some confusion and potentially affect efficacy of the procedure.

During the recent Academy of Veterinary Consultants conference, Iowa State University veterinarian Renee Dewell, DVM, MS, presented a simple way to determine the optimal point of entry for euthanizing cattle with a firearm or captive-bolt device.

Dewell credits a team including Dr. Eric Rowe and Mr. Wolfgang Weber from the anatomy division at ISU, Dr. Dee Griffin from the University of Nebraska, ISU Extension veterinarian Grant Dewell and Mr. Doug Bear, Iowa BQA Coordinator, for working together to provide a rationale and validate an easier way to describe the ideal entrance point for a bolt or bullet.

Dewell’s team suggests that the operator simply aim the bullet or captive bolt towards the base of the tongue at the midpoint of a line drawn between the base of each ear.

Dewell said the project was initiated after several members of the group related incidents where they  observed those responsible for euthanasia struggling with firearm or captive bolt euthanasia because of difficulty in rapidly and correctly locating the point of entry. “Veterinarians and others responsible for euthanasia are tasked with dispatching an animal as quickly and humanely as possible.  A method to rapidly and accurately locate the optimal point of entry for a bullet or captive bolt may simplify the procedure and result in less stress for both the person conducting the euthanasia procedure as well as the animal.” Says Dewell.

Dewell acknowledges there are several existing descriptions to locate the optimal point of entry, all targeting the brainstem. While Dewell and her group don’t dispute the validity of  them, the group contends that some techniques to determine the point of entry may be difficult to remember, require multiple steps, need to be adjusted based on breed type, and may be challenging in polled cattle when the suggested protocol uses horns as a landmark. Dewell also noted that the recent PRRS (swine) and HPAI (poultry) outbreaks have invigorated efforts within the cattle industry to plan for a swift and effective response during a disease outbreak. Dewell stated that depopulation would likely be considered in some disease scenarios as part of a response effort and emphasized that preference should be given to the use of depopulation techniques and strategies that are most likely to minimize human psychological stress and support animal welfare.

“Several team members had already been successfully using the ears to help determine the point of entry and we had discussed this concept with others but none of us was aware of any scientific support for this idea.”  In addition, she says she and several team members had observed packing plant personnel use the ears as landmarks when stunning. “Packing plants may process more than 350 head per hour. Rapid and accurate stunning is absolutely critical to protect human safety, support a high standard of cattle welfare, and maintain the projected kill rate. Plant personnel who are responsible for stunning use a captive bolt far more than veterinarians or other cattle caretakers.  Even though the captive bolts used in packing plants are non-penetrating, the intended point of entry is comparable to that for penetrating captive bolts and firearms.”

The team is confident that their suggested technique is both reliable and broadly applicable to the bovine species because of the relationship of cranial nerves between the brainstem and external acoustic meatus as well as the comparable brain size in cattle regardless of maturity. Dewell expressed gratitude for the expert anatomical input provided by Rowe and Weber as well as the fact that bovine cranial nerve and head skeletal anatomy have already been well documented in the literature. These established anatomical parameters are common to the bovine species regardless of age, gender, presence/absence of horns, or breed type. They used this existing knowledge to explain the suggested protocol and then demonstrated it using specially prepared prosections.

Dewell summarized the presentation by emphasizing the importance of appropriate ammunition and equipment, proper animal restraint.  She also reminded us that the AVMA’s Euthanasia Guidelines strongly recommended a reliable and humane adjunct method be used following the use of captive bolt.




Credit Iowa State University

Land O’ Lakes implements nationwide base plan

This story originally appeared on Farm Journal’s MILK

Milk production in the U.S. has grown substantially over the last 10 years. From 2000 to 2014 the amount of milk produced in America has grown 23.1%. Combined with production increases around the world, supply is outpacing demand and milk prices have fallen.

In response to the glut of milk, Land O’ Lakes will have a nationwide base plan fully implemented this year.  “By instituting a Base Program, we are acting as an industry leader to implement more structure and discipline and be in a better position to capture market opportunities to maximize the value of member production,” officials say.

Details on the base program have not been disclosed; however, Land O’ Lakes officials say they have had similar programs in place for California members since 2008 and for Bismarck, N.D., members since September 2006. The co-op introduced a Base Program in their Eastern and Upper Midwest regions earlier in 2016.

It is unknown at this time if other co-ops will follow suit. Dairy Farmers of America, the nation’s largest dairy cooperative, says it doesn’t intend to implement a nationwide program this year.

“At this time, DFA does not have any plans to establish a national quota/base plan for our membership,” says John Wilson, Senior Vice President and Chief Fluid Marketing Officer. “As the movement of milk is very regional, supply management decisions are handled region by region.”

The Holstein Dairy Cow

History of dairy cow breeds: Holstein

Holstein cows are the most recognized breed of dairy cattle with distinctive black and white or red and white markings.

Have you ever looked at a dairy cow and wondered about the history of the breed? This new series from Michigan State University Extension will explore the history of the seven major breeds of dairy cattle in the U.S. First in the series is the Holstein.

Holstein cows are perhaps the most recognized breed of dairy cattle and are the most common dairy breed in the U.S. The have distinctive black and white or red and white markings. The red and white coloring is a recessive gene that appears when both the dam (mother) and sire (father) are carriers or exhibit the trait themselves. The Holstein breed is known for high milk production but has less butterfat and protein based on percentage in the milk, compared other breeds.

Holstein cows originated in the Netherlands approximately 2,000 years ago. Two breeds of cattle, black animals from the Batavians (present day Germany) and white animals from the Friesians (present day Holland), were crossed to create a new breed of cattle. This crossbreeding led to a high milk-producing animal that was able to do so on limited feed resources. Originally, this breed was known as Holstein-Friesians but is now known more simply as Holsteins. Friesian cattle still exist today but are separate from the Holstein breed. There are Friesian breeds from the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Holland and these animals tend to be smaller bodied than Holstein cattle.

Holstein cattle were initially brought to the U.S. in 1852 by a Massachusetts man named Winthrop Chenery. There was a growing market for milk and a need for cattle, so dairy breeders looked to Holland for animals. Chenery purchased the cow from a Dutch sailing master who had a Holstein on board to provide fresh milk to his crew during the voyage. Impressed with the cow’s milk production, Chenery imported more cows in 1857, 1859 and 1861, and soon many other breeders followed suit to establish lines of Holstein cattle in the U.S.

Near the end of the 1800’s, there were enough cattle and dairy farmers interested in the breed that the Holstein-Friesian Association of America was formed in 1885 to maintain herdbooks and record pedigrees of cattle in the U.S. In 1994, the association changed its name to Holstein Association USA, Inc.

Here are a few more fun facts about the Holstein breed:

  • A mature cow weighs about 1,500 pounds and stands 58 inches tall at her shoulder.
  • There are more than nine million dairy cows in this country and about 90 percent of them are Holsteins.
  • Holstein calves weigh 80 to100 pounds when born.
  • Holstein cows take the top awards in milk production. The average cow produces about 25,000 pounds, or around 2,900 gallons, of milk each lactation or milking, cycle. Each lactation cycle lasts about a year.

Enjoyed learning about Holsteins? Stay tuned for more articles about U.S. dairy breeds!

Will dairy base plans be triggered this spring?

With milk production up in New York, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota and processing plants nearing capacity, it begs the question whether dairy co-ops will have to activate base plans to slow milk production.

It’s a real possibility, says the University of Wisconsin’s Bob Cropp. “I haven’t heard of any new big plant capacity coming on out there,” he says.

Plants in New York and Michigan were brimming to overflow last spring, and some had to dump milk after they skimmed off solids. This year, even though we’re not yet through the first quarter, production is up.

Even discounting for leap year, February milk production in New York is up 4.6%, Michigan is up 7.7%, Wisconsin is up 5.1% and Minnesota is up 1.4%. Cow numbers are also up in three of these four states. New York is up 4,000 head; Michigan is up 11,000, and Wisconsin is up 5,000. Cow numbers in Minnesota are unchanged.

At the same time, milk/feed margins are tight, particularly in New York. Because of the large milk supply, dairy processors there are not paying premiums to attract milk and basis is much lower than in the Midwest. “That hurts,” says Mark Stephenson, a dairy economist with the University of Wisconsin.

“Bankers out there tell me there are a few farms that are in bad enough shape that they likely will not be get operating loans,” he says. “That’s not widespread, but if you’re talking about that at all going into spring planting season, if you’re working capital isn’t adequate, that’s tough.”