Monday, November 29, 2010

Falling Forward

An Ounce of Prevention

With the turn back to standard time we are reminded of changing our clocks and checking our smoke detectors. But, what about the farm? Do you have sensors in the farm to protect your investment in birds and shelter? Have heat or smoke detection equipment installed where those can be deployed to help warn of danger. Invert dry chemical fire extinguishers to help keep the retardant free-flowing. Did you have a fire drill with your workforce so that they know where to go if the place catches fire? Walk the house to check for loose belting and cables on ventilation equipment. This does take time and money to perform, but it would be cheaper than the alternative.

Short Days Ahead

Do you See What I See...

For the most part, dealing with shorter days isn't much of a problem with windowless housing. But, for those who have open sided housing or open range short days means a break in production. Be sure that floor layers in curtain sided housing have adequate supplemental lights to keep the flock in production in lower duration days. Light meters wired into the lighting system could help provide light when the house gets too dark for stimulation. Be sure to check light bulbs and replace as soon as possible.
(photo credit:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Egg Safety - Is a Partnership

To Be Safe Takes Effort on All

It was unfortunate to learn of an egg recall due to suspected bacteria in the egg packs. This casts a shadow on all producers as consumers question are their eggs really safe. In my travels I can say that farms are trying to do the right thing in protecting the safety of eggs and egg products for the consumer. The producers' families often are consuming the same products as the public they serve.

Due to the work of state egg quality assurance programs like the PA
egg quality assurance program (PEQAP) the numbers of eggs with bacteria seen has been reduced significantly. Further, with new FDA regulation on larger farms coming soon, egg testing for bacteria will be strengthened in areas of the country that did not have state programs before. Regardless of flock size food safety should be practiced.

But the important message is that when consuming eggs, the eggs should be cooked fully to kill any harmful bacteria. It was undercooked or raw eggs that were suspected in the current cases. Eggs should be stored in their cartons at the bottom of the refrigerator where it is the coldest. Hand washing and handling foods carefully in the kitchen are important to ensure food safety.

Other links:
CDC - Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Salmonella from Eggs

The Egg Safety Center

Egg Nutrition Center

Monday, August 9, 2010

The First Steps of IPM

Did you see what I saw?

The first cornerstone of good integrated pest management (IPM) is the use of scouting for pests. Whether we are talking mice, weeds or even flies it is very important to determine just what you have and how many. By doing this on a routine basis you can measure how effective your pest control program is running. Without scouting, you are running like a car down the road without a speedometer. You know you are moving - but you don't know how fast.

When making a change to a pest control program, be sure to scout after allowing the program change to fully run. This change then will be measured against past performance. If done on a routine basis scouting will map your progress through time with hopefully good results.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Heat Stress - Signs of trouble ahead

Watch and Learn

When we are experiencing fast onset hot weather we need to be more reactive than reactive in poultry housing. Birds usually show two stages of panting from slow open mouthed breathing to a heavy, labored pant. Keying on this is very important as energy expended on keeping cool by the birds is sacrificing production. output.

To counteract hot weather, provide the optimal environment for evaporative cooling and feed birds in cooler portions of the day. The heat of metabolism from feeding may exacerbate an already bad situation. You may want to map temps in the hottest portion of the house to pre-cool these areas before heat builds up in the house.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Making Molehills out of Mountains

Be reasonable – Do it my way

It is now becoming all too common now in the country. Someone telling you that you can’t grow food in the way you were most accustomed to. Noise, Odors, Zoning and animal welfare issues are now restricting some producers from producing local food that’s cheaper for all of us. Farmers do need to step forward and explain what they are doing with their neighbors so they will once again be “one with nature”. They will also need to police themselves against bad actors in the field that are not working towards the goal of using the best management to produce good economical food for all of us. Best management practices (bmp’s) are good for all of us. We need to be shining examples for all around us. They are watcing!

One group that I have discovered recently was The Good Egg Project. This included video segments with the farmers explaining different aspects of the production cycle.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thinking ahead of the storms

Prevention is the best policy from weather related farm failures

With all the recent weather, I am reminded that we should always think ahead of the storm and be prepared to act. This means that now with all the snow, we should be able to clear our farm roads and remove snow from animal housing to prevent roof collapse under the weight of the storms. Some suggestions include:
  1. Open the Attic doors of the barn to allow warm air rise to the roof line and help melt the ice.
  2. Rake off the roof (see illustration, right) to help remove the snow. A rope system tied to a 2x6 four foot long can remove snow off a gabled barn without getting up on the roof.
  3. Lower feeding equipment and any other suspended equipment for temporary relief of weight on the truss systems.
As with all snow events, water is your next concern. Be sure all water collection and handling systems are operational to handle the snow melt. Snow removal equipment and backup generation also helps protect the farm from road blockages and power outages. Be sure all emergency equipment is checked and ran periodically so that it will work when you need it.

No matter what the most common threat is to a farm a farmer needs to be prepared for those challenges.

The Future of Agriculture

Where are the New Farmers Coming From?

Like many who wonder where the next generation of labor to help us is coming from, should really ask "Where is my next meal coming from?". Like the rest of the labor force the average age of a farmer is rising. Further, when you count encroachment from cities, tax burdens, zoning of land, and the lack of allied industry support for some commodities, it is daunting to think that anyone is heeding the call to work in agriculture.

But there are shining examples out there. 4-H programs show kids how to raise animals with proper care. They also teach leadership skills and responsibility that will serve them well both on and off the farm. We should support 4-H and FFA programs to help kids, no matter from what background learn more about the world they will soon enter to work.