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Summer Forage Tour

Thursday, Sept. 1
3:30-5:00 pm Pre-tour option at Beck-n-Rich Farm

Raphine, VA

Featuring: forage sorghums for silage & baleage
5:00-5:30 pm Registration at Virginia Tech McCormick Farm
5:30-6:15 pm Dinner
6:15-7:30 pm Tour: – summer stockpiling for late-summer grazing,
– crabgrass, lespedeza, & summer annual forages
– building drought resistance with healthy soils

To Beck-n-Rich Farm 4875 Borden Grant Trail Fairfield, VA 24435
Directions from I-81

To VT McCormick Farm
128 McCormick Farm Circle Raphine, VA 24472

-I-81, exit 200
-east on 710 Sterrett Rd (1000 ft)
-left on Rt. 11 (1 mile)
-right on 707 Jonestown Rd (1 mile)
-left on Borden Grant Trail (700 ft)

-I-81 exit 205
-east on Raphine Rd. (½ mile)
-farm on left

QUESTIONS? MATT BOOHER, @ 540-245-5750, MRBOOHER@VT.EDU
Registration is $10 /person; includes dinner and tour.
Payment must be received by Friday, Aug. 26 to account for dinner.

Name Phone
Email

# attending

Make check payable to: “Augusta VCE”
PO Box 590
Verona, VA 24482

Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color,
disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation,
race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis
protected by law. An equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of
Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State
University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia
Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Interim Administrator, 1890
Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg. If you are a person with a disability and
desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity,
please contact Matt Booher at (540-245-5750/TDD*) during business hours of 8 a.m. and 5
p.m. to discuss accommodations 5 days prior to the event.
*TDD number is (800) 828-1120.
This field event is partially funded by a USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant and the Virginia
Ag Council.

USDA plans to buy 11 million lb. of cheese, extends MPP deadline

Dairy farmers will receive additional assistance from the government following today’s announcement by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to purchase approximately 11 million pounds of cheese and extend an application deadline.

The cheese purchase will come out of private inventories and will be donated to assist food banks nationwide. The value of the cheese comes to $20 million.

USDA’s purchase would help reduce the highest cheese surplus in 30 years and increase bottom-lines for dairy farmers after a 35% reduction in revenues the last two years.

“We understand that the nation’s dairy producers are experiencing challenges due to market conditions and that food banks continue to see strong demand for assistance,” says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This commodity purchase is part of a robust, comprehensive safety net that will help reduce a cheese surplus that is at a 30-year high while, at the same time, moving a high-protein food to the tables of those most in need. USDA will continue to look for ways within its authorities to tackle food insecurity and provide for added stability in the marketplace.”

In addition to the cheese purchase, USDA will extend the deadline to enroll in the Margin Protection Program (MPP) for Dairy to Dec. 16, 2016. The previous deadline was Sept. 30.

Earlier in the month USDA announced approximately $11.2 million was earmarked for dairy producer financial assistance through the MPP-Dairy program. It is the largest payment since the program began 2014.

A number of groups had asked USDA for assistance in regards to Section 32 of the Agriculture Act of 1935, which allows surplus food to be purchased and donated into nutrition assistance programs. Still, the $20 million purchase does not come close to industry recommendations. National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) asked for $100-150 million and American Farm Bureau Federation requested at least $50 million.

“This cheese purchase will provide some assistance to America’s dairy farmers through increased demand for their milk,” says Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of NMPF. “We will continue to assess the economic situation facing dairy farmers, and suggest ways to help farmers endure this lengthy period of low prices.”

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson says the help is appreciated but it still won’t fix the business environment dairy farmers work with.

“Current projections indicate that farm revenue from milk sales this year will drop to $31.5 billion – a $20 billion plunge from 2014 revenue highs. Even with modest price rebounds, dairy producers are draining capital reserves, or worse, going out of business,” Johnson says.

Wooden breast chickens

UD researchers investigate wooden breast in broiler chickens

Wooden breast syndrome can affect broiler chickens, making the meat hard and chewy, rendering the birds unmarketable. Although it poses no threat to human health, wooden breast can cause significant economic losses for growers, who sometimes see the disease in up to half their flocks.

That’s a big concern in the U.S., which leads the world in broiler chicken production, and elsewhere around the globe, where chicken increasingly is being relied upon as a high-quality source of protein.

University of Delaware researchers are working to combat the disease. They’ve been analyzing the genes involved in wooden breast disease and have identified biomarkers for the disorder. Also, as reported recently in the journal PLOS One, they have determined the unique biochemistry of the hardened breast tissue. Such findings are expected to help advance new diagnostics and treatments for the disorder.

The research is led by Behnam Abasht, assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR).

Birds afflicted with wooden breast are easy to identify. “The disease manifests itself exactly as the name implies, making a chicken’s breast extremely tough and with the feel of wood,” Abasht said.

The disease also may cause issues such as white striping, in which white lines are visible parallel to the muscle fibers — a condition that may decrease the nutritional content.

With improvements in poultry production over the past 50 years leading to increased muscle yield and growth rate in chickens, Abasht said he wanted to see if these production gains could also be increasing the rate and development of new muscle disorders.

Pinpointing genes

One of the first ways Abasht and his team looked at the problem was by studying all of the genes expressed in chicken breast tissue to get an understanding of the underlying biological mechanisms contributing to the disease.

By constructing complementary DNA information from five affected and six unaffected breast muscle samples from a line of commercial broiler chickens, the team compared their gene list to previously published histology findings on the disorder.

“From over 11,000 genes with a detectable expression in the tissue, we found that around 1,500 genes are significantly different between these two groups, the healthy and the affected,” said Abasht. “Once we had the list, we did a functional analysis to find out where those genes belong — do they belong to specific pathways or specific cellular functions? We were trying to make sense of the genes and what they tell us.

“What we found is that there may be localized hypoxia — a lower oxygen concentration in the affected tissues. In addition, our findings strongly suggest presence of oxidative stress — when free radicals build up and there aren’t enough antioxidants to detoxify them — as well as an increase in calcium in the tissue cells.”

Since there has been limited research on the recently emerged disorder, the team wasn’t sure what to expect and had little to compare their results to.

“By using advanced technology such as RNA sequencing we were able to characterize the general profile of this disease, which was a key first step in the research process,” said Marie Mutryn, who graduated in 2015 and did her master’s thesis on the disease. “I was very lucky to be able to study such a novel disease at UD as a master’s student, and I really felt like I was able to make an impact to help the poultry industry combat this disease.”

Identifying biomarkers

Building on the gene expression data, the team started to identify biomarkers likely to be associated with wooden breast incidence and severity.

Using a subset of the genes found in the previous study, the team quantified the expression levels of 204 genes in 96 broiler chickens.

From a list of 30 genes that were the most important in separating the chickens into groups of unaffected, moderately affected and severely affected, the team identified six genes that are increased in moderately to severely affected birds when compared with unaffected birds.

These biomarkers can now be used to accurately classify commercial chickens with or without the disease, as well as to potentially indicate its severity.

“This work will directly impact the health and well-being of over 500 million broiler chickens raised in the Delmarva region each year,” said Erin Brannick, director of the CANR Comparative Pathology Laboratory, assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, and a veterinary pathologist who was a collaborator on the research. “It truly underscores the purpose of the land grant institution to apply cutting-edge research techniques to real-world agricultural problems.”

A unique metabolic signature

The researchers also found that affected breast muscle possesses a unique metabolic signature reflecting elevated lipid levels, muscle degradation and altered use of glucose. These findings offer new insight into the biochemical processes that contribute to tissue hardening.

“There were lots of similarities in the results of this work and the gene expression work that really confirmed each other,” Abasht said. “The results confirmed that there’s oxidative stress in affected muscles.”

Supplementing poultry diets with vitamin C, a potent antioxidant, may help lower the incidence of the disorder, Abasht said, and is the subject of future research.

Feed efficiency

The researchers also studied 2,500 broiler chickens raised under commercial conditions for 29 days to study their feed efficiency until market age at 47 days.

“Efficient chickens eat less food per unit of weight gain,” Abasht explained.

The results showed a significant statistical difference between healthy and affected chickens, with the affected chickens having a larger breast muscle, higher body weight and greater feed efficiency.

But that’s not the case every time. “You can still find chickens that aren’t as efficient and have a relatively smaller breast muscle, yet they have the disease,” Abasht said.

UD researchers are currently studying the onset and early course of this disease through funding supports made by Arthur W. Perdue Foundation and U.S. Poultry and Egg Association.

Going forward, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently funded a $500,000 research grant proposal (Grant No. 2016-67015-25027), which is a collaboration between UD, Iowa State University and Ohio State University, that aims to further characterize the genetic basis of wooden breast. Abasht will serve as the principal investigator on the project.

Dairy Budgets

Dairy budgets available through ISU Extension and Outreach

By Larry Tranel, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach July 29, 2016 | 6:48 am EDTBudgets will help farmers monitor their financial situation.

Managing a dairy farm’s finances and ensuring it is profitable is no easy task. The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach dairy team has developed a series of budgets to help dairy producers understand their current financial situation and determine the profitability of their operation.

The budgets can be found online through the ISU Extension and Outreach dairy team website.

Dairy businesses are often made up of many components that can either complement or compete with each other. The enterprise analysis allows producers to take stock of the entirety of their operation and determine its profitability.

“These are the most comprehensive budgets that we’ve seen specifically made for the dairy industry,” said Larry Tranel, dairy specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach. “We have included budgets for grazing, organic and conventional operations. As we look at the cost of production versus milk prices, it is imperative that producers understand their cost of production, especially those who are just getting into the industry or making changes.”

Three different types of budgets have been prepared, providing farmers who operate a conventional, organic or pasture based system an opportunity to set up a personalized budget plan that works for their operation’s herd size and production level.

“While the budgets are fantastic tools to begin the process of examining a farm’s profitability, visiting with an ISU Extension and Outreach dairy specialist is still a good idea,” Tranel said. “Contact your dairy specialist for further information and assistance.”

The budgets available online will be updated semi-annually, allowing for a current look at costs and projected income throughout the dairy industry. While the budgets are currently only available in PDF format, an editable Microsoft Excel spreadsheet version is coming soon.

The organic budgets included were created through a grant provided by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.