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Volume 11, Number 1 - January 2005

This Month in Ag Connection

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Is the Plate Big Enough?

One often overlooked factor in feeding cattle is the feed bunk. If bunk space is inadequate, the bunks are in disrepair, or are located in the wrong place, feed intake may be depressed and animal performance will suffer.

The required length of bunk space per animal depends on the size of the animal, how often they are fed, and the type of ration being provided. For hand feeding hay, silage, or grain, calves weighing 350 to 500 pounds require a minimum of 18 to 22 inches of bunk space, yearling cattle require 22 to 26 inches of bunk space, and mature cows require 26 to 30 inches of bunk space. If cattle are eating from both sides of the bunk, the feed bunk should be 48 inches wide in order to allow adequate space for all animals to eat at the same time. When using a self-feeder, 6 to 12 inches of bunk space per animal is adequate.

Make sure the feed bunks are in good repair. Remove loose nails, patch holes, and smooth off rough edges to prevent cuts, splinters, and ingestion of sharp objects. Clean the bunks once a week, especially if feeding silage. This prevents a buildup of moldy feed which can depress intake.

Consider using gravel or other fill material to build a solid area wide enough for the cattle to stand and eat at the feed bunks. Geotextiles as an underlayment will help keep the fill material in place. For more information on geotextiles, see the October 1997 issue of Ag Connection, “Are Your Livestock Stuck in the Mud?” :

This prevents the formation of mud holes that can become so deep that cattle, especially smaller calves, can't reach the feed at the bottom of the bunk. When preparing an area for cattle to feed on, consider building up a path to drive your feeding equipment on or to walk on, whichever fits your situation. Getting a tractor stuck or losing a rubber boot in a mud hole and being trampled by hungry cattle is never very much fun and will always happen on the day when you have the least amount of time to deal with those kinds of problems. For more ideas on feed bunk construction, ask for a copy of the Beef Housing and Equipment Handbook at your local extension center.

(Author: Gene Schmitz, Livestock Specialist)

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Swine Barn Conversion

The Lincoln University (LU) aquaculture team is investigating methods to assist farmers in converting unused buildings into economic assets. Many Missouri farmers have quit producing hogs leaving them with unused buildings that are non-productive liabilities with no opportunity of generating income. The LU aquaculture team is studying methods to convert these buildings into the production of fish for commercial sale.

Lincoln University has converted a nursery and grower room of their swine facility into aquaculture production facilities. All recycle systems used in aquaculture have the basic components of:

Although many hog producing systems are configured differently, they all have similar basic components that can be used in the conversion process. Design of a facility conversion is uncomplicated, but requires following basic hydraulic principles. Keep the system as simple (KISS principle) as possible.

Raising fish in any facility is all about water quality. All aquaculture systems are designed to provide water high in oxygen and low in waste. Good quality water is needed from the start and fortunately most hog production units have good well water available. Well water is most suitable for aquaculture because it is devoid of water borne fish pathogens and suspended solids. Most well water does not have oxygen in it but can be added with an aeration system. Chlorine is highly toxic to fish and in cases where public water is used, it may need to be treated to remove chlorine before it can be used for fish.

Fish produce both solid waste and ammonia. Solid waste is removed by filtering. Ammonia and nitrites are very toxic to fish while nitrates are non-toxic. A bio-filter is used to provide a medium for the growth of two types of bacteria: nitrosomones sp. and nitrobacter sp., which reduces ammonia and nitrites to non-toxic nitrates.

By design, LU’s system recycles the volume every 30 minutes. This provides adequate aeration and removal of both liquid and solid waste. Any type or size of container for the filter may be used provided it has good water flow characteristics. LU used flush tanks packed with non-biodegradable styrofoam peanuts. These serve as a medium for bacteria growth and function as the bio-filters.

The flush gutters are configured to serve as solids’ settling tanks. They are periodically back flushed with air to re-suspend the solids so they can be removed to the lagoon. A small submergible pump returns clean water to the bio-filter before it is redistributed to the fish containers. Air is added in each fish holding container, the bio-filter, and the solids’ settling tank ensuring that enough oxygen will be provided for the fish.

More information about the conversion process and LU’s system can be obtained from:

Charles Hicks
Cooperative Research/Aquaculture
Lincoln University
Jefferson City, MO 65102
Telephone: (573) 681-5540

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BSE Test Inconclusive: What Does This Mean for the Future?

The USDA has ramped up their BSE surveillance program in packing plants. The tests used in these facilities are kits designed to quickly give results — usually within a couple of minutes. Anytime these tests are used in mass quantities, there are going to be false positives and inconclusive results. That is the nature of these rapid tests.

According to Bob Larson, University of Missouri Extension Veterinarian, Commercial Agriculture Beef Focus Team, “It is a numbers game on the number of false positives and inconclusive tests one will get”. These tests offer a quick way to diagnose and screen diseases in an immediate and efficient manner. Larson sums it up nicely when he said, “If the accuracy of a test is 99.9%, you still have a 0.1% chance of your test coming up with something wrong. Out of 200,000 tests run across the United States, that means 200 test results will not be accurate in their results"..

What does this mean for producers and consumers? It just means to be ready for more inconclusive BSE results. Hopefully with education people will understand that this is a part of the testing process and will not be completely alarmed when these results are mentioned in the media. For more information contact your local veterinarian or your University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist.

(Author: Wendy Flatt, Livestock Specialist)

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Conservation Security Program and the Livestock Producer

The USDA Conservation Security Program (CSP), administered by NRCS, is designed to reward the producers currently using conservation practices and motivate other producers to implement practices. CSP is voluntary and will provide financial and technical assistance for soil, water, air and energy conservation on agricultural land. These include cropland, grassland, prairie, rangeland and forests that are part of existing agricultural operations. Missouri NRCS program staff expects to see CSP enrollment offered in every county in the state within the next six years.

While most of the ‘agricultural conservation’ programs assist with fixing an existing problem, CSP rewards producers who have a high level of conservation practices in place. For livestock producers and ‘grass farmers,’ the previous two year’s records will be used to determine eligibility. The table below shows what written records may be required for documentation. This is not a comprehensive list and is expected to evolve with the program.

Type of Activity Documentation Needed
Nutrient Management Soil Tests, Fertilizer and Manure Application Records
Pest Management Pest Management Plan by Crop, Pesticides Used, Noxious Weed Control
Pasture Management Comprehensive Grazing Plan, Forage/Animal Balance, Grazing Records (Turn In/Pull Out Dates, Number of Head

As this newsletter goes to print, NRCS does not have a schedule completed showing what year CSP will be available in each county. This year CSP enrollment is taking place in certain counties and may be expanded to others. Call your local NRCS office for details. What does this mean for you? It means now is the time to begin keeping written, in-depth records of the good resource conservation management practices employed on your farm.

(Author: Mark Stewart, Livestock Specialist)

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Bottom Line Tidbits: Income Averaging -- Obstacle Removed

Good livestock prices and good crop yields are going to produce a good income year for 2004. However, farm income is nearly as volatile as Missouri weather. Congress is aware of this volatility and provided for income averaging of farm income in the late 1990s. Unfortunately, as the IRS and Treasury drafted the regulations – the effectiveness of farm income averaging was virtually eliminated by the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). Almost without exception, any tax savings generated by income averaging was offset when the AMT was calculated.

The AMT obstacle was removed by Congress with the enactment of the Jobs Act of 2004. This Act basically provides that the AMT is compared to the calculated regular tax amount, not the tax after using income averaging.

The following example illustrates this important change:

Situation: a farmer’s regular tax and AMT amounts were calculated to be $12,000 and $11,500 respectively, and the tax resulting from income averaging was $8,000. Under the previous regulations the AMT of $11,500 was greater than the income averaging tax of $8,000; thus the farmer would have had to pay the greater of AMT or the income averaging tax. Congress in the new Jobs Act instructs that in calculating the AMT, the comparison tax is the regular tax not the income averaging tax. So in this example, since the regular tax of $12,000 is greater than the $11,500 AMT, AMT is not applicable and the farmer is only liable for the $8,000 income tax resulting from income averaging.

For crop-share landlords to qualify for income averaging your rental agreement must be in writing. When the final regulations for income averaging were issued in 2002, information was distributed that indicated that farm rent based on a share of the production qualified for income averaging. However, the regulations also stated that to qualify, the lessor must have a written agreement with the lessee. Not much fuss was made of this requirement because very few taxpayers were able to get any advantage from income averaging. The rules have changed and many taxpayers can now benefit from income averaging. If you’re a landlord you should get your leases put in writing now! It has always been a recommended business practice, and, now it is also a requirement for income averaging.

(Author: Parman R. Green, Ag Business Mgmt. Specialist)

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Upcoming Events

January 27, 2005
Feminine Calving Clinic
Sedalia, MO
Farm Credit Services Building

Saline County Winter Cattleman's Series
7:00 P.M.
Marshall Farm Credit Service Building .

January 13, 2005
Richard Randle
DVM-Managing Calving Difficulties and Newborn Calves

February 9, 2005
Rob Kallenbach, PhD
Spring Pasture Management

February 3, 2005
Calving clinic in Howard County
Location TBA.

Ag Science Week
First Week of February

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Publishing Information

Ag Connection is published monthly for Central Missouri Region producers and is supported by University of Missouri Extension, the Commercial Agriculture program, the Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station and the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Managing Editor: Kent Shannon.