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Volume 11, Number 10 - October 2005

This Month in Ag Connection

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Conserving Livestock Genetic Resources

Genetic diversity is being lost across livestock breeds and species. For example, in the Holstein, the effective population size, (which represents the number of unrelated individuals in the population) has shrunk to approximately 30 head. Such contractions limit the livestock industry's ability to respond to challenges from new or emerging diseases and/or changes in consumer preferences.

USDA's National Animal Germplasm Program was established to address this critical problem. The primary approach is to developing a gene bank consisting of semen, embryos and other tissue from all U. S. livestock breeds. Presently the national collection has over 100 different breeds. But to insure that a breed's genetic diversity has been captured additional samples are needed.

Efforts are underway to collect semen or embryos that may have already been collected and frozen, or in some cases new collections are made and the samples are shipped to the repository for processing, freezing and storage. Central Missouri Swine Producers have already begun assisting with this effort. At a recent swine semen collection short course, four producers have committed to providing semen collection for the germplasm bank.

For swine, producer cost is basically labor to collect the semen. Other species costs may be slightly different. If you are interested in finding out more about this effort or wish to contribute germplasm to this effort contact:

Harvey Blackburn
National Animal Germplasm Program
Ft. Collins, CO
Phone: 970-495-3268

Tim Safranski, State Swine Specialist at the University of Missouri, can answer questions at 573-884-7994.

(Author: Mark Stewart, Livestock Specialist)

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Watch Out For Aflatoxin In Corn

Aflatoxin is an extremely toxic chemical produced by the fungus Aspergillus flavus (Af), which can affect grain and livestock producers. Aflatoxin is a concern to livestock producers since only a few parts per billion (ppb) of aflatoxin in feed can cause serious illness. Grain (corn) will be rejected at the elevator if found to have 20 parts per billion (ppb) of aflatoxin. Farmers holding their grain to be feed locally should have it tested to avoid poisoning livestock.

The fungus is stimulated by hot, dry conditions and the crop damage caused by an associated drought. Drought conditions across Missouri should alert farmers to be aware of this problem. Farmers need to remember that this fungus will multiply in improperly stored grain more easily than in the field. Drought damage along with insect, bird, or mechanical damage to the grain produces conditions allowing this fungus to grow.

Steps to reduce the chance of aflatoxin contaminated grain are:

Samples for aflatoxin testing can be submitted to: The Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, College of Veterinary Medicine. Contact your local veterinarian, extension center or call the diagnostic lab at (573) 882-6811 for instructions. There is a fee of $20.50 for a qualitative analysis and $36 for a quantitative analysis of aflatoxin. See the web site at: for more information.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture is also offering aflatoxin testing for $20.00 per test. Phone: (573) 751-5515. Grain samples should be representative and of approximately 1,000 g or just over 2 pounds. The two locations in Central Missouri are: 104 South Pine, Ladonia, MO 63352 and 615 Cherokee, Suite 4B, Marshall, MO 65340). See the web site at: for more information.

There are other private laboratories available doing aflatoxin testing. The sources of information for this article are Laura Sweets, University of Missouri Commercial Agricultural program plant pathologist, and Jim Jarman, Extension Agronomy Specialist.

(Author: Jim Jarman, Agronomy Specialist (573) 642-0755)

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Safety At Harvest Time

Harvest time is primarily one of the peak periods for farm injuries and deaths. Many of these injuries can be prevented through effective farm safety management.

Use some of the following safety suggestions to prevent injuries and deaths during harvest:

Information supplied by the National Safety Council's Agricultural Division.

(Author: Don Day, Natural Resource Engineer)

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Taxation Tidbit: Health Savings Accounts - A Tax Friendly Way to Help Pay Health Care Costs

The IRS is providing a tax friendly means - Health Savings Accounts - to help self-employed individuals or employees who pay a portion of their health care costs. Health Savings Accounts are custodial accounts created to pay qualified medical expenses for the account holder, their spouse and dependents. These accounts are similar to IRAs. Contributions to Health Savings Accounts are tax deductible if made directly by an eligible individual; or not included in an individual's gross income if contributions are made by their employer. Distributions from the Health Savings Account are tax-free if they are used to pay for qualified medical expenses.


To qualify for a Health Savings Account, the individual must be covered under a high deductible health plan. A qualifying high deductible health plan for 2005 must have an annual deductible of at least $1,000 for individual coverage and $2,000 for family coverage, and a maximum annual out-of-pocket expense limit of $5,100 for individual coverage and $10,200 for family coverage.

The maximum annual contribution to a Health Savings Account for 2005 is the lesser of:

  1. the annual deductible of the high deductible health plan or
  2. $2,650 for individual coverage or $5,250 for family coverage. Individual policyholders and covered spouses who are 55 or older are allowed an annual catch-up contribution. For 2005, the catch-up amount is $600 and will increase $100 each year until it reaches $1,000 in 2009.

An eligible individual can establish a Health Savings Account with a qualified trustee or custodian. A qualified trustee or custodian is any bank or insurance company, or any other entity already approved as a trustee or custodian for IRAs. The trustee does not have to be the provider of the high-deductible health coverage.

Contributions can be made to a Health Savings Account at any time prior to the filing due date of the individual's tax return, not including extensions. Contributions made by an individual are deductible in determining the individual's adjusted gross income; that is, they are deductible regardless of whether you take the standard deduction or itemize. A self-employed individual will be able to claim the self-employed health insurance deduction in addition to the deduction for contributions made to a Health Savings Account.

There is not a "use-it or lose it" provision for Health Savings Accounts so any unused contributions can be carried forward and used for eligible medical expenses in later years. The beneficiary can also withdraw funds for non-medical uses penalty-free after age 65, thus treating the Health Savings Account as the equivalent of a traditional IRA.

See the following web site for more information:

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

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Act Now to Head Off Rising Home Heating Bills

Furnaces should be checked and cleaned by a professional at least every two years. Oil furnaces should be cleaned by a qualified technician yearly. Having your furnace serviced by a reputable specialist before the start of each heating season could reduce your fuel bill as much as 10 percent. Make sure the furnace and flue outlets are cleaned, filters are cleaned or changed and the motor is in good working order. Check furnace filters every two months during the heating season.

Weather-strip doors and windows and use caulk around pipes. A couple tubes of caulk, which may cost $20, could save you several hundred dollars, he said.

In Missouri, we recommend 12 inches of insulation. Exposed air ducts in the attic also should be covered or wrapped with insulation. Warm air in these ducts coming from the furnace cools before entering the house, making the furnace work harder.

Set the thermostat a degree or two lower. It is estimated that there is a 3 percent saving in heating fuel costs for each degree the thermostat is lowered. A thermostat setting of 65 to 68 F provides sufficient heat for normal daytime activity, although children and the elderly may require higher temperatures. Because less heat is needed when sleeping, a thermostat setting of 60 degrees is recommended for nighttime hours. Turn down heat in unused rooms. During winter vacations or long periods away from home, reduce the thermostat setting to 50 degrees.

For a more thorough analysis of energy savings, most utility companies also offer free energy audit programs.

(Source: Michael Goldschmidt, University of Missouri Architect and Design Specialist)

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The National Pork Board 2005 Professional Managers Conferences

If you are an employee, owner, or manager of a swine unit, the content of these conferences is suited to your needs. These conferences are focused on gilt and sow throughput with practical information on how to improve your reproductive output from the unit or system you manage. The intent of these conferences is to provide all attendees with hands-on practical training that they can take back home and apply immediately. These conferences will be money and time well spent for knowledge and information to fine-tune your operation for maximum productivity and profitability.

The conferences are scheduled to be held in ten sites across the United States. The closest conference for Central Missouri producers to attend will be November 11 & 12, 2005 in Marshall, MO. Other sites include:

These conferences are supported by pork check off educational funds.

To check out all the locations and to get registration information, contact the Pork Board at 515-223-2600 or by email at: or go the following web page: Scroll down and select the Professional Managers Conference icon on the right hand side.

(Author: Mark Stewart, Livestock Specialist)

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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.