Published Oct 18, 2013

Some Livestock Updates

By Margaret Chamas

I’ve decided to write up a blog post to summarize some of the neat stuff going on these days!

First, it’s the end of the on-farm research season!  Cooperators are handing in data – in the next few months, keep an eye out for reports on the following projects:

  • Pasture monitoring: whether seeding new species or documenting change over time, graziers are keeping track of what’s going on with their forage and how their animals are benefitting.
  • Winter feed monitoring: the biggest cost for many beef farmers is winter feed for the cows.  Whether by stockpiling forage, finding inexpensive hay, or grazing cornstalks, farmers are reporting annual feed consumption to find the most efficient management scheme.
  • Fly monitoring: by identifying easy ways to track the fly load on cattle, farmers can also determine which management practices are most effective at reducing the pests.
  • Grazing cover crops: not only are cover crops good for the soil and nutrient management on crop fields, but they can provide forage for livestock.  The project looks at how much feed is available, the quality, and considers impacts on the soil.
  • Apple cider vinegar supplementation: allegedly a cure-all for humans and animals, ACV may even change whether animals have male or female offspring.  Dosed goats were observed for gain and health over the summer, and their kids’ sexes will be reported next spring.
  • Ivermectin in organic hogs: how much are organic hog farms suffering from parasites?  Gain of hogs treated or not with ivermectin will be monitored.  If there is a parasite problem, more studies will help identify ways to mitigate it.
  • Near-limit-feeding hogs: animals tend to waste some feed no matter what.  By tightening down on self-feeding units, this waste may be reduced, and thus the costs of raising hogs.
  • Alternative rations for hogs: forages, milk, and fruit are among the menu options for these hogs.  Growth and meat quality will be assessed.
  • Poultry recordkeeping: poultry enterprises are fairly easy to start up, but do they make their farms money?  By reporting labor, feed, and other costs, some cooperators will determine what their biggest opportunities and expenses are.


The follow-up to number one: what shall we look at next year?  So far a few farmers have responded and suggested some new projects.

  • Grazing management to reduce parasite loads in goats
  • Switching from twice- to once-daily milking
  • Seeding summer annuals or other warm-season grasses into pastures

There’s room for more!  Curious farmers are welcome to send in ideas.  What about…

  • Comparing different grains or mixes for chicken (broiler or layer) production?
  • Using a fodder system for livestock feed production?
  • How does forage regrowth differ after taking off a hay cutting, versus grazing?

Email Margaret if you’re interested in participating in some on-farm research next year!


What are your feelings on third-party certification or marketing programs?  Groups like Niman, Meyer, Thousand Hills, etc. that establish standards of management for products they market.  If you’ve worked with them or considered it, were they easy to work with?  Did they offer assistance during the “transition” period to their standards?  What happens if, after being accepted and certified, the management requirements change?  Are any marketing options or assistance given if, for instance, you have to treat an animal with antibiotics in a “never ever” program?  Are professional assistance and technical support provided?


Should livestock be allowed to graze land in CRP, WRP, etc. as part of a management practice?  Can conservation and production be part of the same goal and management?  ISU grad student Justin Bisinger is looking for opinions on the current state and future of perennial grassland management here: