USDA Prepared to Respond to Hurricane Florence

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Release No. 0183.18

Contact: USDA Press
Email: press@oc.usda.gov

USDA Prepared to Respond to Hurricane Florence

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2018 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds rural communities, farmers and ranchers, families and small businesses potentially impacted by Hurricane Florence of programs to provide assistance in the wake of disasters. USDA staff in the regional, State and county offices stand ready and eager to help. Additionally, USDA’s Operations Center will function around the clock.

“Our farmers and ranchers take financial risks every year to help feed and clothe the U.S. and the world, and a hurricane makes their situations even more perilous,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said. “At USDA, it’s our job to be there for them when they need help. All of our relevant agencies are ready to assist when natural disasters strike.”

USDA has important roles in both response to hurricanes and recovery efforts. USDA also is staffing the Regional Response Coordination Center in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Region IV, which covers eight states including North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. USDA is providing 24-hour staffing to the FEMA National Response Coordination Center, and has personnel supporting the North Carolina and South Carolina State Emergency Operations Centers. USDA also is supporting FEMA Region II Regional Response Coordination Center in New Jersey to assist response efforts for Tropical Storm Isaac and Hurricane Florence. Additionally, personnel from the U.S. Forest Service and USDA Office of the Inspector General are pre-staging in Charlotte, North Carolina to assist with public safety and security efforts.

USDA recently launched a disaster assistance discovery tool through its new website Farmers.gov that walks producers through five questions to help them identify personalized results of which USDA disaster assistance programs can help them recover after a natural disaster.

In a continuing effort to serve the public, USDA also partnered with FEMA and other disaster-focused organizations and created the Disaster Resource Center website, located at www.usda.gov/topics/disaster. This central source of information utilizes a searchable knowledgebase of disaster-related resources powered by agents with subject matter expertise. The Disaster Resource Center website and web tool now provide an easy access point to find USDA disaster information and assistance.

USDA also encourages residents and small businesses in impact zones to contact USDA offices which meet their individual needs.

Food Safety and Food Assistance

Severe weather forecasts often present the possibility of power outages that could compromise the safety of stored food. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) recommends consumers take necessary steps before, during, and after a power outage to reduce food waste and minimize the risk of foodborne illness. FSIS offers tips for keeping frozen and refrigerated food safe and A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes brochure that can be downloaded and printed for reference at home. Owners of meat and poultry producing businesses who have questions or concerns may contact the FSIS Small Plant Help Desk by phone at 1-877-FSIS-HELP (1-877-374-7435), by email at infosource@fsis.usda.gov, or 24/7 online at: www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulatory-compliance/svsp/sphelpdesk.

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) coordinates with state, local and voluntary organizations to provide food for shelters and other mass feeding sites. Under certain circumstances, states also may request to operate a disaster household distribution program to distribute USDA Foods directly to households in need. As disaster response moves into the recovery phase, FNS may approve a state’s request to implement a Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) when the President declares a major disaster for individual assistance under the Stafford Act in areas affected by a disaster. State agencies also may request a number of disaster-related waivers to help provide temporary assistance to impacted households already receiving SNAP benefits at the time of the disaster, and to provide flexibilities in administering school meals, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, and other programs. Resources for disaster feeding partners as well as available FNS disaster nutrition assistance can be found on the FNS Disaster Assistance website.

Crop and Livestock Loss

The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) administers many safety-net programs to help producers recover from eligible losses, including the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program, Emergency Forest Restoration Program (PDF, 257 KB) and the Tree Assistance Program. The FSA Emergency Conservation Program provides funding and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters. Producers located in counties that receive a primary or contiguous disaster designation are eligible for low-interest emergency loans to help them recover from production and physical losses. Compensation also is available to producers who purchased coverage through the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, which protects non-insurable crops against natural disasters that result in lower yields, crop losses or prevented planting. USDA encourages farmers and ranchers to contact their local FSA office to learn what documents can help the local office expedite assistance, such as farm records, receipts and pictures of damages or losses.

Producers with coverage through the federal crop insurance program administered by the Risk Management Agency should contact their crop insurance agent. Those who purchased crop insurance will be paid for covered losses. Producers should report crop damage within 72 hours of damage discovery and follow up in writing within 15 days.

Community Recovery Resources

For declared natural disasters that lead to imminent threats to life and property, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can assist local government sponsors with the cost of implementing recovery efforts like debris removal and streambank stabilization to address natural resource concerns and hazards through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program. NRCS had made available nearly $2 million in advance funding under the Emergency Watershed Protection program to help local communities immediately begin relieving imminent hazards to life and property caused by floods and is coordinating with state partners to complete damage assessments in preparation for sponsor assistance requests. NRCS also can help producers with damaged agricultural lands caused by natural disasters, such as floods.

The NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides financial assistance to repair and prevent excessive soil erosion that can result from high rainfall events and flooding. Conservation practices supported through EQIP protect the land and aid in recovery, can build the natural resource base, and might help mitigate loss in future events.

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture provides support for disaster education through the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN). EDEN is a collaborative multi-state effort with land-grant universities and Cooperative Extension Services across the country, using research-based education and resources to improve the delivery of services to citizens affected by disasters. EDEN’s goal is to improve the nation’s ability to mitigate, prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters. EDEN equips county-based Extension educators to share research-based resources in local disaster management and recovery efforts. The EDEN website offers a searchable database of Extension professionals, resources, member universities and disaster agency websites, education materials to help people deal with a wide range of hazards, and food and agricultural defense educational resources.

Many of USDA Rural Development programs can help provide financial relief to rural communities hit by natural disasters by offering low-interest loans to rural community facilities, rural businesses and cooperatives and to rural utilities. More information can be found on the Rural Development website, located at www.rd.usda.gov.

For complete details and eligibility requirements regarding USDA’s disaster assistance programs, contact a local USDA Service Center. More information about USDA disaster assistance, as well as other disaster resources, is available on the USDA Disaster Resource Center website, located at www.usda.gov/topics/disaster.

Potentials for Plant and Other Toxicities in Cattle

While Johnsongrass is a good quality forage, it can be challenging to control in pastures where the perennial, warm-season grass is not desired. Prussic acid production under stress can pose a risk to livestock when grazing Johnsongrass, especially during prolonged droughts or after a frost.
( Dirk Philipp, University of Arkansas )

Fortunately, there has been plenty of rain this year. However, heading into late summer and fall are times of the year to watch out for plant toxicity in cattle.  In some cases, plants can become more toxic during drought and heat stress.  In addition, there is the increased potential for cattle to ingest toxic plants due to lack of other feedstuffs.  There may also be more access to toxic plants.  With droughts come increased weed infestation of pastures, hay and crop fields.   Penned cattle may also be in corrals or drawn to low lying areas that are still green, both of which are where toxic plants are likely to grow.  Differentiating “good” vs. “bad” plants is a learned behavior, so toxicity is more likely in young animals and animals moved to a new location.  A grazing management and supplemental feeding plan is essential to minimize problems.  Veterinarians and producers should be familiar with which plants can cause problems in their area, and try to avoid them.  The following discussion covers some of the plants and situations to watch for during drought situations.  There may be plants that grow some regions that are not covered.

Stressed plants more readily accumulate nitrates and prussic acid (cyanide).  Drought stress can cause both pasture forages and weeds to accumulate toxic amounts of nitrates.  Recently fertilized pastures are also at higher risk.  Plants that have accumulated nitrates remain toxic after baling or ensiling.  Test forages for nitrates to prevent poisoning.  Prussic acid accumulates most often in sorghums, sudans and Johnsongrasses, but these plants can accumulate nitrates also.  There is no test for prussic acid, but it dissipates when plants are baled or ensiled, so harvested forages are safe.  Cattle poisoned by nitrates or prussic acid are usually found dead, so prevention of these toxicities is critical.   Cattle with nitrate toxicity have methemoglobinemia (brown blood) and cattle with prussic acid toxicity have cyanohemoglobinemia (bright, cherry red blood).  Nitrate and prussic acid both interfere with oxygen carrying capacity in the blood, so pregnant cattle surviving these poisonings often abort.

Two of the most toxic plants found in croplands and pastures are coffeeweed and sickle pod.  Cattle will generally not graze the green plant unless other forages are scarce.  However, they will readily eat the seedpods that are dry after a frost.  The plant remains toxic when harvested in hay/balage/silage.   Coffeeweed and sicklepod are toxic to muscles and cause weakness, diarrhea, dark urine, and inability to rise.  There is no specific treatment or antidote, and once animals are down, they rarely recover.

Pigweed or carelessweed is very common in areas where cattle congregate.  Cattle will readily eat the young plants, but avoid the older plants unless forced to eat them.  A common pigweed poisoning is when cattle are penned where pigweed is the predominant plant and no alternative hay or feed is provided.  Red root pigweed is more toxic than spiny root pigweed, but is less common.  Pigweed can accumulate nitrates, so sudden death is the most common outcome.  It also contains oxalates, so renal failure can also occur.

Black nightshade is common in croplands, and like pigweed, in often in high traffic areas.   The green fruit is most toxic, so cattle should not have access to nightshade during this stage, and nightshade remains toxic in harvested forages.  Nightshade is toxic to the nervous and gastrointestinal systems, and causes weakness, depression, diarrhea, and muscle trembling among other signs.  Bullnettle and horsenettle are in the same plant family as nightshade.  They are also toxic, although less so, and are usually avoided by livestock unless other forages are not available.

Blue-green algae blooms in ponds can also occur in hot weather.  They are most common in ponds with high organic matter, such as ponds where cattle are allowed to wade, or where fertilizer runoff occurs.  The blue-green algae accumulates along pond edges, especially in windy conditions, and exposes cattle when they drink.  Both the live and dead algae are toxic.  The toxins can affect the neurologic system causing convulsions and death, sometimes right next to the source.  They can also affect the liver, causing a delayed syndrome of weight loss, and photosensitization (skin peeling in sparsely haired or white haired areas).

Perilla mint causes acute bovine pulmonary edema and emphysema (ABPE), usually in late summer.  It grows in most of the central and eastern United States and is common in partial shade in sparsely wooded areas, and around barns and corrals.   There is no treatment, so prevention is critical.

Cattle with access to wooded areas may eat bracken fern.  Cattle must eat roughly their body weight over time before toxicity occurs, but may do this in situations where other forage is not available. Braken fern toxicosis causes aplastic anemia.  Fever, anemia, hematuria, and secondary infections are some of the most common signs.

As summer moves into fall, the potential for acorn toxicosis increases.  Cattle have to eat large amounts usually to become sick, but those that are in poor body condition and hungry are more likely to do so.  Clinical signs include constipation or dark, foul-smelling diarrhea, dark nasal discharge, depression, weakness and weight loss.

The lack of summer forages and the need for supplemental feeding during a drought can increase the likelihood of feeding “accidents” and toxicities.  Producers may be tempted to feed cattle pruning’s of ornamental plants, many of which are highly toxic.  Grain overload is also a potential problem if access to concentrate feeds are not controlled.  Salt toxicity can occur if hungry cattle are allowed free access to high salt containing “hotmixes”.  Even though these are meant to limit intake, initial intake can be high enough to cause toxicity in starved or salt deprived cattle.  Feeding byproduct feeds, candy, bread, screenings, etc. may also be more common, all of which have the potential to cause problems.  Producers may also be tempted to feed moldy hay or feed, which can lead to toxicity problems.

With careful planning, plant toxicities can be avoided. If you have questions on toxic plants and how to identify/avoid them, please contact your local veterinarian or Extension agent. If you have further questions please feel free to contact me at, lstrick5@utk.edu, or 865-974-3538.

Moisture the Critical Component to Good Silage

One of the most important steps to make good silage is to cut it at the proper moisture level. The optimum moisture range for cutting corn and making silage is between 60-70% moisture (30-40% dry matter). Given the genetics of today’s corn varieties, utilization of the old relationship between the milk line and plant moisture content may not always be accurate.

An easy, quick and relatively inexpensive method to determine the actual moisture content of the whole corn plant is using a microwave oven. One additional advantage is that it takes typically less than 20 minutes to run the test.

So what equipment will you need to facilitate the moisture test?

  • Microwave, with a turntable (preferably). Your wife or significant other will appreciate you NOT using the kitchen microwave or doing this in the house kitchen, as it does produce an unpleasant odor. It is thus recommend to have a microwave in the shop or barn to run the moisture test.
  • Scale, one that weighs in grams is best.
  • Container, something that is microwave safe such as paper plate, paper boat, or a glass or plastic dish.
  • Water – 8 oz glass to protect the microwave oven
  • Paper & Pencil to record weights
  • Calculator

Next you need to collect a sample. Collect at random 10-20 plants throughout the field. You will need to chop these plants and this can be done by either shredding them in a brush chopper/branch shredder or by running them through your chopper. Please keep in mind that this can be a very dangerous process and care should be taken when doing this. The other option is to chop test areas in your field. Then take random grab samples from the green chopped silage. You should have about 2 gallons worth of product to mix and collect your test sample from. Once you have collected a representative sample you can start the process to run the moisture test.

Follow these steps to determine the moisture content of your corn silage or forage. Please note that this method can also be used to determine moisture content in any other forage.

Microwave Moisture Testing of Forages

  1. Take your gram scale and weigh the container you will use to hold the sample. This weight is known as Value A.
  2. Mix your sample and place about 100 grams in the container. Collect the total weight of the container and wet sample, record the weight as Value B.
  3. Put an 8oz. glass of water in the corner of the oven.
  4. Put the container with the sample in the microwave oven. Using a medium to high heat setting start drying the sample, starting with approximately 3-4 minutes if you suspect the sample is above 35% moisture.
  5. Remove the container and sample, weigh them, and record the weight. It should weigh less than the Value B that you initially recorded.
  6. Gently stir the sample and place back in the microwave.
  7. Reheat the sample again for another 30 seconds. Remove, reweight, and record the weight. You should continue this process, recording the weight every time. (You will need to be careful not to char or burn the sample. If you do, then either start over or take the previous recorded weight prior to charring the sample. You do not want your sample to be charred, so a hint is to go in time increments of less than 30 seconds once you feel your sample is getting close to dry.)
  8. Once you have two continuous weights that are equal, the sample is considered dry. Record this final weight as Value C.

Lastly you will need to calculate the percent moisture using the following formula:

  • Value A = weight of container
  • Value B = weight of container + initial wet sample weight
  • Value C = weight of container + dry sample weight

%Moisture = B - C divided by B - A times 100

Producers need to remember that if the silage is too wet there is a risk of butyric acid forming and nutrients being lost due to seepage. Silage that is over 70% moisture should not be harvested and should stand in the field for a few more days. On the other hand if it is too dry it will not ferment or pack adequately resulting in mold development. You may then need to add water to get an adequate pack and fermentation process. Therefore, having an accurate determination of what your corn silage moisture is running is critical in putting up good silage in a timely manner.

Flavored Milk is Back in Session for Pennsylvania Schools

As kids make their way back to the classroom, flavored milks are making their way back to the lunchroom. ( iStock )

As kids make their way back to the classroom, flavored milks are making their way back to the lunchroom.

 

Due to federal regulation last year, schools in Pennsylvania previously had to sign a waiver in order to serve flavored milk during breakfast and lunch, according to abc27News.This year, the waiver has been lifted and school districts are encouraged to take advantage of it.

“There are few foods or beverages that can offer the substantial nutritional benefits of milk,” said Michael Smith, the Executive Deputy Secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture in a news interview. “It’s also important, again, from an economic perspective. Dairy by far is the largest contributor to our agriculture economy.”

 

In 2011, Los Angeles school districts banned flavored milk in cafeterias because of their sugar content. The district also reported that kids were not consuming the milk and were discarding approximately 600 tons of half-full cartons away.

 

Five years later, L.A. schools lifted the ban as an attempt to encourage school children to drink more milk.

 

Introduced in 2017, the School Milk Nutrition Act has allowed schools to offer low-fat and fat-free milk, including flavored milk with no more than 150 calories per 8-ounce serving, to participants in the federal school lunch and breakfast programs.

 

“Milk is the number-one source of nine essential vitamins and minerals in children’s diets, and when its consumption drops, the overall nutritional intake of America’s kids is jeopardized,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation.

 

With more milk options available for Pennsylvania school children, could we see a rise in dairy consumption in schools?

 

Limit-Feeding Dairy Heifers

On-farm antibiotic discussions with your veterinarian should revolve around how much antibiotic use is needed, and how much is force of habit, says Kansas State Veterinarian Mike Apley.

The concept of limit-feeding or precision feeding dairy heifers has been studied for the last decade primarily at Penn state and the University of Wisconsin.  The goal of this research was to decrease costs while providing for adequate growth and performance after the heifer calves.

A few concepts regarding limit feeding and raising heifers are:

  1. Heifers are either the first or second largest cost on the dairy.
  2. Feed is the largest cost in raising heifers.
  3. Labor would be the second greatest cost in heifer raising.

An idea taken from the beef and other meat industries is the concept of feed efficiency.  In other words, how much feed per unit gain.  But differing from the meat industry is that we target growth at 1.8 to 2 pounds of gain per day over the post-weaned phase.   Precision feeding allows the farmer to precisely balance the heifer’s diet with little wasted feed and a reduction in cost.  There are no novel or different feed ingredients needed to make this work.  However, there are some hard and fast methods that must be adhered to, to make this work on your farm.

How do you do this?

Birth to weaning- no changes from what is presently done on the farm.

Penn State recommends the following regarding nutrition and management.

Nutrition

General: No free choice forages or concentrates are fed.  The diet must be followed specifically (Precision Feeding)

Dry matter intake (on a dry matter basis):

  • Pre-puberty 2.15% body weight/day
  • Post-puberty 1.65% body weight/ day

Crude protein:

  • Pre-puberty 14-15%
  • Post-puberty 13-14%

No RUP sources are needed here, this can be done with conventional ingredients.

Energy

The requirements are based on heifer size, growth rate, and environment the heifer is raised in.

Limit-feeding diets have a fixed energy requirement that meets an average daily gain of 1.75 to 2.0 pounds per day.  This is equivalent to 130 kcal of metabolizable energy per pound of metabolic body weight (BW0.75).  Work with your nutritionist or contact a UNH dairy specialist to help you with this if needed.

Fiber

Based on the fact that the heifers are limit fed, using poor quality forage (heifer hay) probably will not work here.  Data suggests that NDF values as low as 19% can work in this situation, but typical NDF values range from 23 to 31% over the growth period.

Vitamins and minerals  

There are no data indicating any changes required while limit feeding heifers

Concentrate sources

In this diet, a higher portion of the diet will be made of concentrate allowing the producer more flexibility in meeting nutrient requirements.  It is important to meet the minimum NDF values, most of this will be from forage and help prevent any laminitis from happening.  It is also suggested to limit the amount of alfalfa hay as this combination of a higher grain and alfalfa can result in frothy bloat.

Management

  1. Heifers must be weighed often to ensure that heifers are gaining within the target gains of 1.75 to 2.0 pounds/day.  For ease of weighing, anytime a heifer is handled, she should be weighed either via electronic scale or taped.  Recent data indicates that dairy heifer weigh tapes are accurate.  It is recommended that heifers be weighed monthly at the same time of day.  These results will allow you to adjust the diets as the heifers grow.
  2.   Make sure all heifers can eat at the same time, no overcrowding because heifers will consume all their feed within an hour, headlocks work best to allow the heifers to eat without competing with a boss heifer.  ALL heifers have to eat at one time.
  3. Feed only once a day at the same time.
  4. Grouping heifers should have a range of body weights less than 200 pounds within a pen after 4 months of age (2-4 month age variation at the most within a pen).
  5. No straw or shavings as bedding- they will eat it.
  6. Expect a lot of vocalization at the start, they will settle down eventually.
  7. When heifers are approaching freshening (two months prior to calving), you can add them to the high forage dry cow pen.  Their rumens will adjust.

Experience at UNH

We have been limit feeding post-weaned heifers for a few years now.  What we see is adequate growth, no feed wastage, and no negative effects on performance or breeding.  Routinely, our age at first calving is 22 months.  If you are interested in limit feeding don’t hesitate to contact me or work with your nutritionist.  You should see adequate growth, lower feed costs and lower labor costs.

Corn Silage Maturing Fast

Corn plants can lose more than two points of moisture on hot, windy days. ( Farm Journal, Inc. )

With plenty of moisture and lots of sunshine in much of the upper Midwest, corn silage is rapidly maturing.

Now is the time to aggressively monitor crop maturity and plant dry matter, says John Goeser, animal nutrition, research and innovation director for Rock River Laboratory in Watertown, Wis. Although ideal dry matter will vary with silage storage type, the general guideline is to shoot for 35% dry matter (65% moisture.

“The opportunity for failure, or for challenges to arise, is far greater when we aim for dryer and more mature thresholds,” says Goeser. “[Corn silage] will be harder to pack at those dryer levels. If we experience a dry spell with 80° F days and wind for a week, corn can go from drying out a point a day to losing several points of dry matter per day.”

That can lead to a “fluffier” crop with kernels harder to process, he says. “Realizing that chopping can take some time, it’s best to begin harvest just before you reach the dry-matter target,” he says. “Continue chopping beyond the target and realize an average dry matter this is right around the ideal level.”

Goeser also recommends:

Consider high cutting. “Many areas experienced plenty of heat and moisture early in the growing season this year, so I’m forecasting fiber digestibility and stover characteristics to be more ‘woody’ this years,” says Goeser. “These characteristics can be varied with cutting height.”

He recommends a simple on-farm experiment when kernels reach the half-milk line. Cut three or four stalks at normal height, another set of stalks at 12 to 14” and a third set at 18 to 20”. Chop these stalks and then submit the samples for neutral detergent fiber digestibility analysis. The results should tell you which cutting height will provide optimal feed.

Utilize kernel processing scores (KPS) throughout harvest. “It’s one thing to have your equipment ready for the season, but changes happen in equipment and crop status which affects KPS,” he says. So monitor KPS daily or every couple of days.

“Understand that the KPS benchmark is lower for unfermented, fresh chop whole plant corn relative to what it will be six months into fermentation,” he says. The fresh chopped corn KPS goal is 60 to 65, while fermented corn silage should be 75 or better, he says.

Use free app to monitor crop conditions in your area. Rock River Lab is providing a free, crowd-sourced phone app called InField Updates that reports dry matter, NDF and starch statistics on a map. This data can be used to track crop progress in your area. Download the FeedScan app and click on “InField Updates” to try out this tool.

Hilarious Facebook Video Exposes Nut Milking; Opens Labeling Dialogue

A viral comedy video exposes “nut milking” and seeks to start a conversation with consumers about labeling plant-based beverages that are often called “milk.”
( Know Ideas Media )

“Milking a 600 kg Holstein, now that’s easy. Milking a 1 gram almond, that’s hard.” That statement might raise some eyebrows for dairy farmers, but if they watch a parody video put out by Know Ideas Media they’re certain to get a laugh.

The video made its debut on Aug. 3 by the Facebook page seeking “to bring pragmatism back to topics that are too far divided to allow for mutual understanding. GMO and Organic for example, are not mutually exclusive.”

In the video a “third generation nut milker” tends to his herd of almonds nut that he milks. Little known fact female almonds produce milk, while the male almonds are the ones you might find in trail mix.

According to the tongue in cheek video almonds have tiny little udders so they are difficult to milk.

“There’s so much confusion with city folks these days. They’re talking about ‘Nuts don’t lactate. Nuts don’t have nipple.’ I’ll show you a nut nipple,” says the nut milker.

The video goes on to poke fun at almond milk showing how the nuts are milked and what it takes to get nut milk to the grocery store.

At the end of the three minute comedy video it ends by talking about the debate on what to label nut based beverages.

“There is a debate in the dairy industry: If nuts don’t lactate why is their juice called milk?” the video asks.

“Definition matter in the world of food. What defines milk for you?” the video ends.

Viewers are asked to continue the conversation below in the comments.

In roughly 24 hour the video shared by the Facebook page Know Ideas Media has been viewed more than 200,000 times, shared at least 5,600 times and commented on by nearly 800 people. The video is also available on YouTube has has been watched more than 16,000 times, thus far.

The video comes out at a time when the debate about properly labeling plant-based beverages like almond and soy milk is being had at the federal level of government. The Food and Drug Administration has said it will look into enforcing milk labeling through the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

This past year states like Missouri and North Carolina have taken steps to address labeling of plant-based products that market themselves as meat or dairy. France has even enacted legislation that limits labeling of dairy and meat products to foods or beverages originating from animals.

Another comedy video came out earlier in the year helping dispel misleading labeling like non-GMO and natural products. That video was sponsored by the National Milk Producers Federation through the Peel Back the Label campaign and ran on the popular comedy site Funny or Die.

Amendment Banning Dairy Label Enforcement Fails; Processor Aid Passes

Dairy group believes the FDA should not follow the requests of a vegan advocacy group to label plant-based products as “milk.”

Legislation that would have changed how the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates non-dairy “milk” failed to make its way into a Senate bill, while another amendment aimed at sparking innovation in dairy processing passed.

An amendment proposed by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and co-sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) had the stated purpose of prohibiting “the use of funds to enforce standards of identity with respect to certain food.” The amendment was part of the “minibus” spending bill that the Senate is working on. It failed by a vote of 14-84 with two Senators not voting.

The Lee amendment would have overturned a recent decision by FDA regarding dairy labeling where the agency was looking at enforcing standards for labeling products as milk that come exclusively from animals.

National Milk Producer’s Federation (NMPF) was satisfied with the vote by the Senate to allow FDA to continue pursing enforcement on food labeling.

“We are very pleased with the Senate’s overwhelming rejection of Sen. Lee’s blatant attempt to interfere with the ability of the Food and Drug Administration to enforce standards of identity for dairy products and other foods.  We fought this amendment because it would have undermined the decades-long policy, established by Congress, that the FDA should regulate food names in order to promote honesty and fair dealing in the interest of consumers,” says NMPF president and CEO Jim Mulhern.

NMPF and Mulhern also thanked Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho) for leading a bipartisan effort to defeat the amendment.

Senator Baldwin led another piece of legislation that made its way into the appropriations bill that would provide aid to dairy processors and on-farm creameries. The Dairy Business Innovation Act passed by a vote of 83-15 with two Senators not voting. The goal of the bill is “to appropriate funds to carry out programs relating to the innovation, process improvement, and marketing of dairy products.”

Under the amendment proposed by Baldwin and cosponsored by Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), there is $7 million of funding granted to assist cheesemakers and other dairy businesses in developing new products and expanding markets.

Baldwin says dairy is important to her state’s economy and that dairy farmers have been struggling with low milk prices and limited processing.

“I’m proud to have secured this funding to create new initiatives and expand resources for our dairy businesses to foster innovation, improve their manufacturing practices and reach new markets so Wisconsin’s dairy industry can continue to lead the nation,” says Baldwin.

The Dairy Business Innovation Act was originally introduced in June and had support from a number of dairy organizations and processors.

The recent amendment passing had the backing of both NMPF and FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative thanked Senator Baldwin for her efforts to help dairy.

“Cheesemakers and dairy product manufacturers are incredibly talented in making high-quality dairy products that consumers have come to love,” says Jeff Lyon, General Manager of FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative. “When faced with challenges, it is important to think outside the box. This legislation allows the dairy industry to do just that – by being creative in the development of new dairy products, expanding production capacity and developing new markets. We believe these are key steps that will help support the milk price in the near future, as well as the long term.”

The minibus appropriations bill passed with a vote of 92-6 on August 1. There is still a House version that needs to move from the floor before Congress goes to conference. President Trump has also threatened to force a shutdown by not signing the bill if no funding for a border wall is added.

Time to Plan for Corn Silage Harvest

( Sponsored Content )

Now is the time to start thinking about and planning for corn silage harvest. Preparations taken now and close attention to details like moisture content can mean higher-quality silage when you peel back the plastic months from now.

One of the most important factors influencing corn silage quality is moisture content at time of harvest. Ideally, corn silage should be harvested at the moisture content appropriate for the type of silo used. Recommended moisture contents are 65-70 percent for horizontal silos, 63-68 percent for conventional tower silos, 55-60 percent for limited-oxygen silos and 65 percent for silo bags, writes Jud Heinrichs, professor of dairy science and Gregory W. Roth, Ph.D., professor of agronomy, both with Penn State.

Crop dry matter yields are maximized near 65 percent moisture (Table 3) and losses during feeding, storage and harvesting are minimized. Delaying harvest can reduce both the fiber and starch digestibility as the stover gets more lignified and the overmature kernels become harder and less digestible if left unbroken after ensiling.

Table 3. Corn silage yield and quality as influenced by growth stage.

Corn Silage

Silage moisture at harvest is not difficult to determine and should be monitored, if possible, to prevent harvesting of the crop outside of the desired moisture range. A commercial forage moisture tester or a microwave oven can be used to determine the moisture content fairly rapidly. If silage moisture is above ideal levels, then harvest should be delayed if possible.

Corn that is ensiled extremely wet will ferment poorly and lose nutrients by seepage, which also has potential to damage the silo and if not contained, contaminate local water supplies. Silage that is too dry may result in poorly packed material, causing more mold and spoilage due to air trapped in the silage. In dry, overmature corn silage, the stover portion of the plant is less digestible and contains lower amounts of sugars and vitamin A.

Moisture content cannot be determined accurately using the kernel milkline, because of variations due to weather and hybrids. Moisture content should be measured rather than estimated.

One strategy for timing corn silage harvest is to chop a sample at the full dent stage, just as the milkline appears, and determine the moisture content. Then estimate the harvest date by using a typical drydown rate of 0.50 to 0.75 percentage units per day.

Harvest considerations should also focus on obtaining the correct particle size distribution and the need to process the crop. Processing silage refers to putting the chopped material between two rollers that are installed in the harvester to crush the harvested material as it passes through. Kernel processing units are becoming more popular on corn silage harvesters in Pennsylvania. Kernel processing has the advantage of crushing cob slices and kernels and can increase the starch availability by about 10 percent in the silage. The current data shows no clear nutritional advantage to processing silage unless it is overly mature with hard kernels. In some cases, this has resulted in increased milk production compared to unprocessed silage. A good general recommendation for the theoretical length of cut for processed silage is 3/4 inch with a 1-2 mm roller clearance.

Kennel Processing

Figure 1. The Penn State Particle Size Separator can be used to monitor silage particle size.

Corn DistributionFor unprocessed silage, an average theoretical length of cut should range from 3/8 to 3/4 of an inch. Particle size of corn silage should be monitored during harvesting because it can change as crop moisture content varies. The Penn State Particle Size Separator can be used to estimate the particle size distributions for harvested corn silage.

Table 4. General recommendations for corn silage particle size distributions on the three sieves and bottom pan in the Penn State Particle Size Separator.

Once harvesting has begun, fill the silo as rapidly as possible and continue until it is filled. Continue to evaluate processed corn throughout the harvest season. Kernels should be broken into multiple pieces and cobs should be broken into thumbnail-sized pieces or less. As the crop matures after half milkline, it may be desirable to have more kernel breakage so that much of the grain is in the bottom pan of the particle size separator.

The most desirable method of packing bunker silos is the progressive wedge method, where silage is continually packed on a 30-40 percent grade. This minimizes the surface area exposed to the air that can result in DM and forage quality losses. If this is not possible, the silos should be packed by spreading relatively thin layers of silage (6 inches deep) and packing it well. If packed well, the density of the silage should be about 14 pounds of dry matter per cubic foot.

Bunker Silos

Figure 2. Technique for ensiling forage in bunker silos.

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You Can Help Prevent Farmer Suicides

You can help prevent farmer suicides
( Farm Journal )

The dark underbelly of the current dairy crisis is that some farmers will see no way out but to attempt to take their own lives.

An even more chilling statistic: For every suicide that results in death, there are 25 failed attempts. But there are concrete actions you can take as a family member or friend to reduce the risks, says Cassandra Linkenmeyer, Minnesota area director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She spoke recently at a Farm Bureau rural health symposium.

“Suicide is a health issue,” Linkenmeyer says. “Nine out of 10 people who die by suicide have mental health issues. It can be treated, prevented and corrected.”

TALK SAVES LIVES

Seeking help for depression is often stigmatized, particularly in rural communities. But depression and thoughts of suicide have nothing to do with strength of character. Autopsies of the brains of individuals in deep states of depression show there are actual physical differences and changes present in those brains. As a result, their responses to stress are different from people who are mentally healthy.

Linkenmeyer’s main message: “Talk saves lives.” That means it’s important for family and friends to have conversations, however difficult they might be, with those they suspect are dealing with depression.

“Most people who attempt suicide are ambivalent about death, but they often reach a crisis point in their lives and are desperate to escape the unbearable pain. Their brains can enter a state of tunnel vision, where nothing else matters to them,” she says.

KNOW THE WARNING SIGNS

Suicide warning signs include talking about suicide, such as wanting to end their lives, believing they are a burden on their families or no longer having a reason to live. Watch for mood and behavioral changes such as increased alcohol or drug use, insomnia or reckless behavior.

Also limit access to lethal means, such as firearms and vehicles. “If they don’t have access to a method of suicide they’ve been fixated on, such as a gun or car, they often don’t look for another method,” Linkenmeyer explains.

Talking is essential to determine their state of mind. “Talking to them is prevention. Listen. Express concern. And ask them directly about suicide,” Linkenmeyer says.

The critical thing is to acknowledge their pain, and to avoid minimizing their feelings or offering advice on fixing the problem, she says. If you suspect they might act on their suicidal thoughts, it’s imperative to get help immediately. “Twenty-five percent of suicide survivors say they made the decision to attempt to take their lives within five minutes,” she says.

“If you think they might make an attempt soon, stay with the person, secure or remove lethal means, and escort them to mental health services,” Linkenmeyer says. If a clinic isn’t nearby or they refuse to go, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or use the crisis text line at 741-741. In an emergency, call 911.

Finally, Linkenmeyer urges everyone to be aware and watchful of family members, friends and neighbors during these stressful times. “Trust your gut. Assume you are the only person who is going to reach out to them,” she says. “Talk is life.”