Summer heat threatens livestock as well as crops
The same hot, dry weather conditions that are damaging crops across the United States also pose a threat to the well-being of livestock -- and not just because they damage the animals' feed.
Ohio State University researchers note heat can cause physical and emotional stress.
Livestock not only eat less on hot days, but they also can suffer from inadequate feed intake or illness from consuming toxic plants and weeds.
Excessive temperatures and dry weather also can reduce the pasture grasses available for grazing, leaving toxic plants and weeds as the only green vegetation available for the animals to eat.
The end result can be poor reproductive performance, lessened production potential and even death.
"Even though we've had some cooler days, it's not just the management of heat, but also providing adequate nutrition, that is important to keeping animals healthy," Ohio State sheep specialist Roger High said.
For sheep and swine, poor nutrition and heat stress can result in unsustainable pregnancies in females and infertility in males.
"Heat stress the last two weeks of gestation can increase the rate of stillborn piglets," swine specialist Don Levis said.
Heat stress can even reduce the fertility of boars. Within several days of 90-degree weather, fertility drops. In extreme cases, boars can remain infertile or subfertile for up to 50 days.
Heat stress also can impact milk production in dairy cattle. Production can drop by 20 percent or more in cows exposed to hot temperatures because of reduced feed intake. "The cows also may lose body condition to support milk production with the drop in dry matter intake," dairy specialist Maurice Eastridge said.
Researchers said farmers need to consider air conditioning and proper ventilation for their livestock barns.
They also need to pay special attention to their livestock feed, making sure it contains higher levels of protein, potassium and fat to compensate for the lesser amounts the animals will eat.
Also helping would be high-energy feed with adequate fiber in the ration and farmers remembering to provide plenty of water to their animals.
Cooling mechanisms such as fans and sprinklers also could help control livestock body temperatures.
"Swine don't have sweat glands, so they are more vulnerable to heat stress than any other livestock," Levis said. "So it's important to keep them as cool as possible."
Iowa's champion cow chip chucker won't be able to use his home state's product to protect his title.
Iowa State Fair officials admitted the cow dung chips used in the Chip Throwing contest are not from Iowa. They were purchased from a farm in Beaver, Okla., which provides the dried cow waste to entities across the United States and Canada.
The Beaver County Sheltered Workshop employs developmentally disabled people to pick the chips up in pastures where cattle have "done their business." They then are "de-bugged" and packed 70 to a box, before being sold.
State fair officials told the Des Moines Register they will use about 140 cow chips in their contest, which has become a tradition of the Iowa agricultural fair.
The Agriculture Department has designated portions of Georgia, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Virginia as federal disaster areas due to adverse weather conditions.
Those designations make farmers in those regions eligible for emergency farm loans to help compensate them for their crop losses this year.
Flooding ruined crops in Minnesota, while other farmers are trying to cope with drought.
"This assistance will provide much needed relief to farmers who have suffered from losses due to natural disasters," Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said.
People may be concerned about possible ill effects of food from genetically modified crops but a new study says they're not willing to pay more at the supermarket for "genetically pure" foods.
A Southern Illinois University study found only 37 percent of people surveyed are willing to pay more for foods guaranteed to be free of genetically modified sources. Even those people were not willing to pay too much more for their foods.
The survey of U.S. consumers differs from a recent study of British consumers, where 71 percent said they did not want genetically modified foods and 56 percent would pay more to ensure their foods are pure.
The Agriculture Department will provide $100 million to various rural communities in Illinois to help ease economic problems.
Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman was in Illinois Wednesday with Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., to provide funds to improve water and energy facilities, invest in business development and buy fire equipment. She also toured a new ethanol facility at the Edwardsville campus of Southern Illinois University.
"Rural communities are an important part of our nation's economic strength and these investments should help families in these areas," Veneman said.
Grain futures were higher at the close Wednesday on the Chicago Board of Trade.
Corn and soybeans rose on perceptions rainfall earlier this week was insufficient to ease stress on crops caused by hot, dry weather. Wheat and oats were influenced positively by other commodities.
Soybeans: Aug 6.02 1/4 up 8 3/4, Sep 5.94 up 9, Nov 5.71 3/4 up 9 3/4, Jan 5.70 1/4 up 8.
Corn: Sep 2.73 up 5 1/4, Dec 2.84 3/4 up 5 1/4, Mar 2.89 up 6 , May 2.89 3/4 up 5.
Wheat: Sep 3.57 up 1/4, Dec 3.69 off 1, Mar 3.76 3/4 up 1/4, May 3.69 up 2.
Oats: Sep 1.89 1/4 up 2 1/2, Dec 1.87 up 4, Mar 1.80 1/2 up 2 3/4, May 1.77 3/4 up 4 1/2.