Friday, August 26, 2011

Preparing for Bad Weather

Picture from Corn & Soybean Digest
Could of - Should of - Would of ...

Many farmers often are too busy to think about emergency preparedness until the storm is upon them. That is the worst time to plan for an emergency. Fire departments do not take delivery of a fire engine only when a house is on fire! So it pays to be prepared, to be a good scout, and be ready for the most common threat to your farm and your livelihood. For small flocks, it too is important to prepare as the birds you keep are important to you as well (some have names!) so, it is important to have an emergency plan to enact when trouble strikes.

Anyone with animals should have a plan to take care of them if a supply falls short or fails altogether. For poultry, water and power is important to maintain in constant supply. As a storm approaches, it is important to take stock of critical equipment on the farm and make sure it is in operational order. Fuel and oil levels on backup generators, extension cords for backup generators, switching equipment and emergency pumps are valuable tools for farm backup supplies.

For water supplies, if running on a tank / cistern system make sure that pumps are keeping pool levels high in order to ensure supplies during a power outage. Barrels of water for small flocks can ensure a constant supply.

Check drainage routes on the farm and clear away any debris from gutters / spouting and culverts to ensure drainage away from poultry shelters and barns. If there are bridges that lead onto the farm be sure to check those too to make sure they are free of trash that could clog the bridge and cause a wash-out.

Logistically, you should have a call list of people that can help you. Township, county and other agency numbers in addition to integrator numbers should be handy. Check (Google if you have to) governmental websites for current numbers and contacts.

Personally, you should have a family plan as well. Have an outside the area contact that can call family on your behalf should disaster strike. Many times an area code will turn to one- way traffic (outgoing) in an emergency to keep phone lines open. Plan for that as well and give your out of area contact a list of who to contact in an emergency. Be sure your home has enough food and water for all occupants for 3 days without power. Be sure your cell is fully charged and that you have a way of charging it (car, batteries, etc.) without plugging it into a wall.

For more information on emergency preparedness for poultry and farms see:

ReadyAG program
a poultry module is available there.

Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN)

eXtension Emergency preparedness website

Friday, July 22, 2011

Combating Heat Stress

Boy, is it hot out there!

With the recent heat wave moving through the US, we are all reminded of what we can do to make poultry more comfortable, and hopefully get them to survive.

Water is the saving elixir in heat. Due to its physical properties of heat energy, water can aid in the cooling of flocks. Flushing the watering lines with cool water may aid in getting hot birds to drink. Do not flush water lines for chicks as you risk the chance of cooling the chicks below their optimal core temperature.

In addition to flushing drinking lines/fonts, spraying the outside of the house (roof, sides and surrounding grounds) with water will drop the ambient temperature of the area a few degrees due to evaporative cooling. In humid climates this may not work well. To test, place a wick on a thermometer and dampen it with distilled water. The ability to cool with evaporation will be shown as the temperature will drop as it cools. Five degrees depressed temperature can make the difference in some flocks.

Shift some feedings to feed the birds during the coolness of the night if possible. Heat builds up in birds as they metabolize their feed. Cool air aids in getting birds to eat in hot periods.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Moving Forward in Uncertain Times

A Penny Saved ...

When we consider the business climate we are working in right now, it does give us pause. Change is the only constant in life, behind death and taxes. Whether you have a small farm or a large business the key to succeeding is to be able to evaluate and decide the big questions that present themselves in the course of moving through time. Those that can will be able to stay ahead of the curve and optimize opportunities that are time sensitive.

To aid in those decisions requires good data. Keeping good data both on production and business aspects of your enterprise will help in the analysis of questions affecting your firm. By having a good sense of where you are will help in where you are going. With the present climb in oil prices, it would be good to know what your average trip consists of so that you may be able to predict consumption and perhaps lock in a fuel price for your fleet. Comparing current production to breeder goals and comparable flocks will also help "benchmark" your current position and aid in decision making for the future.

We would think it silly to drive through a city without a speedometer, so why make business decisions solely on "Gut Instincts". With all the financial software and spreadsheets available, it would be prudent to use these tools to help aid the "Gut" in navigating through the tough decisions in a hard economy.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Did you hear that ?

Egg Cholesterol is moving lower in Eggs...

In an age where being first is best, sometimes rediscovery of what is known makes for a better result. Recently, a press release about the cholesterol content of eggs made for a big splash. True, news about lower cholesterol content and higher vitamin D3 in eggs is a good thing. When I asked Dr. Jacob Exler from USDA/ARS for a copy of his findings, he sent his original report from - September 2010. While publically released, this did not make top media notice until AEB made a recent press release and media push.

What this means is that it is true, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. We need to take the opportunities presented to us to tell the story of how good our poultry and egg products are for a balanced diet. It also means that we should thank scientists like Dr. Exler and his team that routinely tests foods for their correct composition. It does change over time. Because of his research, dietitians and other human nutritionists will have the most recent data in order to formulate diets for their clients who for some may be at a risk from dietary cholesterol or in need of nutrients. Dr. Exler and his team will repeat this testing over time to correct nutrient levels for the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. This is certainly a good program.

These latest values for egg nutritional components can be attributed to feed formulation and breeding lines used for our modern poultry layers. With further adjustments to the diets of layers we may expect the cholesterol content to further drop.

For More Information:

Link to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

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