A common recommendation of agronomists is to let one alfalfa cutting reach bloom each year.
Ev Thomas, retired agronomist from the Miner Research Institute in Chazy, N.Y., says otherwise in The William H Miner Agricultural Research Institute Farm Report.
“For many years, I’ve said that in managing alfalfa for dairy cows, you should never see an alfalfa blossom, from seeding to plowdown,” says Thomas.
Thomas also notes there’s room for difference of opinion due to no research supporting either opinion.
But, if one cutting is to bloom, which cutting should it be?
The first cut of alfalfa-grass typically contains the most grass. Grass, even the late-maturing species, is close to heading when alfalfa is in the late bud stage.
The second cut is exposed to long, hot June days that result in highly lignified, fine stems. A Miner Institute trial found that the stem quality of bud-stage second-cut alfalfa was no better than full-bloom first-cut alfalfa.
The third cut can be influenced by prior harvest management. If it was a late second cutting, the third cut was growing during midsummer heat. This cut would also have highly lignified stems.
The fourth cut often takes a long time to bloom, if it makes it there. A killing frost might arrive first.
For any cutting, the more grass in the stand, the lower the forage quality if alfalfa is left to bloom.
“The objective of letting alfalfa bloom is to improve root reserves, and therefore extend stand life,” says Thomas. “We need to balance the impact of delayed harvest on plant health with the economics of feeding alfalfa of lower quality that is needed by today’s high-producing dairy cows,” Thomas adds.
How alfalfa and alfalfa-grass is managed depends on if the goal in mind is long stand life or high milk production potential.
For some time now, livestock producers and veterinarians have been gaining an understanding of the new Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) rules. These rules went into effect on January 1, 2017, and as the year progressed, livestock producers have been confronting what those rule changes mean for their own operations. Before January 1, feed-grade antibiotics such as chlortetracycline (CTC) for their animals could be purchased and used by livestock producers without any input from a veterinarian. Now, in order to use those medications, a VFD form from a veterinarian must be obtained.
Understanding the New Rules
As all parties have quickly discovered, the VFD process is more than just having a vet’s signature on a scrap of paper. Because there is no allowance for using feed-grade medications in an “off-label” manner, veterinarians completing the VFD’s have had to pay exquisite attention to every detail on the label, including the dose, duration of feeding, reasons (disease treatment vs. control) for feeding, and the diseases the medication could be used for.
For many cattle producers, the fall of 2017 has been the first time they’ve encountered this new way of doing business. Issues with pneumonia post-weaning, or following arrival of feeder cattle have always been challenges. In past years, uses of CTC in cattle feed have been subject to very little oversight, and some of those uses, although well-intended, were off-label. With the onset of the new rules, producers are having to square their previous treatment methods with what a VFD can – or can’t – allow them to do.
A VFD can’t provide for refills, like a prescription one might get from a family doctor. This means a producer can’t use the same VFD form to come back and get another quantity of medicine if it’s determined to be needed later on.
All VFD’s have expiration dates, and that’s a point of confusion as well. A VFD actually expires when the treatment is done (or the expiration date is reached – whatever comes first). Even though a VFD might not expire until February (authorizing a treatment any time until then), if a 5-day treatment is finished in November, the VFD is finished too.
A VFD can’t contain a statement authorizing a “retreatment as needed” or “repeat treatment in xx days.” An animal can’t show up on a VFD form more than once. If another round of treatment is necessary, a veterinarian will have to issue another VFD for the second treatment. That means that some groups of cattle might need 2 or 3 separate VFD’s written for them.
A VFD can’t be written for more animals than the veterinarian expects you’ll have on the farm. The veterinarian is responsible for indicating the number and location of the animals to be treated. This might get a little tricky for producers who buy several groups of feeder calves over time. Veterinarians might decide to only write the VFD for what is currently on the farm, or they could write it for the number eventually expected, if they are confident that number will be eventually procured.
A VFD can’t be written to treat or control pneumonia when there isn’t any pneumonia in the cattle. In the past, it was not uncommon for treatment doses of CTC to be fed to cattle to “get ahead of” an outbreak, or to “clean up” the calves’ respiratory tract in anticipation of problems. When treatment doses are authorized by a VFD, this implies that active pneumonia is present in the group. It doesn’t mean producers have to wait until each and every calf is sick – but clearly, CTC labels don’t allow for using treatment doses in a group of completely healthy calves. This is the veterinarian’s call. If their clinical judgement tells them there’s pneumonia present in the group, they can write the VFD.
It’s understandable that some livestock producers are feeling pinched by what a VFD can’t do. However, these new rules can do one very valuable thing: giving livestock producers an opportunity to interact with the one local professional who can best guide them through health-related decisions about their animals – their veterinarian. Since the VFD’s implementation, many of these interactions have resulted in more effective and efficient use of these tools and consideration of disease prevention methods that preclude the need for antibiotics. These conversations are definitely a positive by-product of these new regulations.
Scrapie is the most common reportable disease of goats and sheep in the United States today. Scrapie is a difficult disease to diagnose and is always fatal. It can take up to six years or more for clinical signs to appear. Scrapie is in the same category as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or “mad cow disease,” and chronic wasting disease (CWD) of deer and elk. There is no evidence that scrapie or CWD can spread to humans, either through consuming the meat or dairy products or by handling infected animals. Scrapie is a disease of both sheep and goats; however, it is rare in goats.
Transmission: Scrapie is believed to be spread primarily vertically through direct contact between breeding stock and their offspring. The cause is most likely a prion, which is a sub-viral protein particle. It is transferred through contact with the placentas or fetal fluids of infected dams. The prion first invades the lymph nodes and then the nervous system. The prior somehow takes over protein synthesis in the brain and sheets of abnormal proteins are produced, eventually causing the classic “spongy” appearance of brain tissue.
Clinical signs usually progress slowly over a period of one to six months and have not been seen in goats less than 2 years of age. Animals suspected to have scrapie may show changes in gait, tremors of the head and neck, behavioral changes, lip smacking, loss of coordination, increased sensitivity to noise, rubbing against fences or feed bunks, skin/wool biting, and progressive weight loss with a normal appetite. Genetic testing can be used in sheep to identify a scrapie susceptibility gene; however, such a gene has not yet been identified in goats. The disease is much more likely in black-faced sheep breeds.
As part of a larger small ruminant health grant, please join us on the evening of November 5, 2015 at the Paradee Center in Dover, Delaware for our initial workshop in a series of health related workshops to focus on vital signs and health assessments and recognizing the signs and symptoms of pre-parturient diseases (diseases of pregnant ewes/does) and diseases in lambs and kids. Our featured guest speaker for the evening will be nationally recognized expert on small ruminant veterinary care, Dr. Wendy Freeman, VMD.
Dr. Freeman graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School in 1985. After graduation, Dr. Freeman completed an internship and residency in Field Service at the University of Pennsylvania New Bolton Center in 1988. Following her residency, Wendy joined the faculty at New Bolton Center and became Assistant Professor of Medicine and Field Service in 1992, where she worked on developing and directing the small ruminant program. Dr. Freeman directed the reproductive program and implemented total health care and clinical studies of the teaching flock. Wendy is one of the most experienced small ruminant specialists in the United States and sees both large and small animal patients at Longwood Veterinary Center in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania on a full-time basis.
The Small Ruminant Health Program is a project developed by University of Delaware extension professionals Susan Garey and Dan Severson in response to a deficiency of veterinarians in the region with the desire to treat small ruminants. As a result, producers need to further develop their skills in assessing animal health and treating common diseases. A Risk Management Grant Proposal was funded by the Northeast Extension for Risk Management Education Center to develop the project. A needs assessment was completed to determine needs for technical training and skill development. If producers can develop knowledge and skills in assessing animal health, recognizing disease symptoms, determining treatment and performing treatment skills, producers can ultimately reduce mortality rates increase productivity of their flocks and herds.
For questions or to register for this free workshop, please contact Susan Garey, Extension Agent Animal Science, University of Delaware (302)730-4000 firstname.lastname@example.org or Dan Severson, New Castle County Extension Agricultural Agent, (302)831-8860 or email@example.com If you have any special needs in accessing this program, please let us know two weeks in advance.
Cooperative Extension Education in Agriculture and Home Economics, University of Delaware, Delaware State University, and the United States Department of Agriculture cooperating. Distributed in furtherance of Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. It is the policy of the Delaware Cooperative Extension System that no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex, disability, age, or national origin.
This material is based upon work supported by USDA/NIFA under Award Number 2012-49200-20031
Scrapie. A word in the sheep and goat industry that is well known by many, but is truly understood by few. Scrapie is defined as a fatal, degenerative, neurological disease that affects a sheep or goat’s central nervous system. Scientifically, scrapie is classified as a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy or TSE, which is closely related to BSE or Mad Cow disease. The disease itself was first spotted in the United States in 1947 but has been recognized since 1732. Since then, it rapidly spread across the globe, causing massive damage to the sheep and goat industry as a whole. However, with increased awareness and improved management techniques over the years, countries began eradicating the disease from their flocks. Both New Zealand and Australia have successfully eradicated scrapie from their flocks, with the United States attempting to become the third scrapie free country. With scrapie costing the United States sheep industry ten to twenty million dollars annually, it is critical for each breeder to do his or her part in helping the country become scrapie free. In order to eradicate this disease, it is important to understand and become educated on the causes, signs, and prevention of scrapie.
Although still being further investigated by scientist and researchers, an agent that is smaller than a virus and linked to the prion protein is the cause of scrapie. The scrapie agent causes the normal cellular prion protein to become abnormal, causing the cell to grow and replicates at an alarming rate. Scrapie is also highly contagious and can travel from sheep to sheep fairly quickly. Scrapie can be transmitted via bodily fluids of the infected animals, most commonly from an infected ewe or doe to her offspring through the afterbirth or milk. An animal’s genetic make-up also plays an important role in the susceptibility to contracting scrapie with certain DNA characteristics and breeds, such as Suffolk and Hampshire, having higher risks for contracting the disease.
In order to proper defend a flock from scrapie, it is important to be able to recognize an infected animal as soon as possible. Initially, an animal infected with scrapie may appear healthy since scrapie does not begin to take its toll on the animal for two to five years. Scrapie causes several signs and symptoms that can vary animal to animal and can also vary in severity. An animal with scrapie may experience weight loss, behavior changes, tremors, sensitivity to sound or light, or itchiness. More obvious signs include: wool pulling, biting of limbs, hopping on rear legs, inability to stand, or even death. It is critical to be able to recognize these signs and symptoms since a scrapie positive sheep should be immediately removed from the flock to prevent further contamination.
Currently there is no treatment, for the disease is ultimately fatal to any animal that is infected. However, scrapie can be prevented if the proper measures are taken to ensure the safety of the flock. Scrapie is known to have a heat resistant quality and be resistant to standard cleaning practices, making it somewhat difficult to eradicate once present on farm. Regular cleaning of the ground and fences with strong bleach or lye has been proven to kill scrapie. It is also important to ensure that the birthing area is clean, has fresh bedding, and is free of afterbirth. By eliminating places for the scrapie disease organism to lie dormant, the risk of scrapie becomes substantially lower. Another prevention method is to verify that those selling sheep or goats are part of the scrapie certification program and to ensure any sheep bought have proper scrapie tag identification. Throughout the country, each state has taken different precautions to make sure that any scrapie outbreaks can be quickly traced back to the flock of origin and stopped as soon as possible.
In Delaware specifically, all sheep and goats require an official ear tag prior to moving off the premises of origin in order to trace the animal should it contract scrapie. Scrapie tags are thin, usually white, ear tags that include an animal number along with a unique scrapie number specific to a producer’s farm and the US shield. These tags can be easily acquired at any time by calling 1-866-USDA-TAG at no cost to the animal owner and the tags never expire. The National Scrapie Eradication Program will also send those that order scrapie tags a free applicator, making the process easier for producers and eliminating excuses for not following the program.
Many times sheep and goats are often bought and sold to various producers around the country for breeding purposes with can cause some confusion on proper scrapie tag management. If buying sheep or goats with a scrapie tags already in place, then the buyer should leave the original tag in and not replace it with their own. All sheep must have a scrapie tags in place before being sold initially, with the responsibility of this falling on the breeders to perform this action. Finally, scrapie tags should never be shared since they include a number that is specific to one individual producer or farm and would cause confusion should an outbreak occur.
Guest Blog by Hunter Murray, Extension Scholar 2015. Hunter is a lifelong sheep breeder and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FAQ about the scrapie program. USDA. Web. 11 Aug. 2015
Scrapie. Colorado State University Extension. Web. 11 Aug. 2015.
Scrapie fact sheet. National Scrapie Education Initiative. Web. 11 Aug. 2015