Upcoming Events



Football Season and Tailgating Parties

Hot wings, nachos, pigs in a blanket, beer, and popcorn, a tailgate party spread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the arrival of fall comes football season. What’s more fun than gathering with friends for a tailgating party?

However, don’t let cooler weather fool you into thinking you don’t need to consider the possibility of food-borne bacteria spoiling your party. Be proactive and follow a few simple procedures for safe food handling – then you’ll be sure to go home healthy from a fun day with friends.

* Before, during and after preparing your food, be sure you wash your hands, lathering them with warm soap and scrubbing for a full 20 seconds. Set up a large drink container with a spigot as your water source.

* Include moist towelettes or hand sanitizer for guests to use.

* Keep two separate insulated coolers: one for drinks and one for food. This will keep your food well chilled since the drink cooler is likely to be opened more frequently. Place coolers in the shade and cover them with blankets to help hold in the cold temperature.

* Place cold and frozen foods into coolers. Don’t assume your cooler can chill foods adequately if the food is at room temperature prior to packing.

* Pack foods in reverse order so that the last ones packed will be the first ones used, allowing food at the bottom to stay chilled longer.

* Meat and other similar raw foods should be packed in sealed plastic bags or containers in a chilled, insulated cooler. This will prevent contamination of other foods from leaking juices. Store raw foods separately from ready-to-eat foods.

* Take meat out of the cooler just in time to place on the grill. Never place cooked meat, fish or poultry back in the container that the raw meat, fish or poultry was in. Use a clean pair of tongs and a clean plastic plate or platter when removing the cooked items from the grill. When marinating meat, fish or poultry, discard the leftover marinade after you place the items on the grill. Never use this marinade on the cooked item.

* Use a meat thermometer to judge the safe internal temperature of meat and poultry over 2 inches thick (145F or higher for steaks and chops and 155F for ground meat, 165F or higher for poultry). For meat or poultry less than 2 inches thick, look for clear juices as signs of being done.

* Use separate cutting boards to prevent cross contamination of raw and cooked foods. Wipe them clean with paper towels at the barbecue and toss them in your dishwasher to sanitize when you return home.

* Perishable foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, sandwiches with mayonnaise and salads should not be kept at temperatures above 40F for more than two hours. When the outside temperature is 90F or higher, food should be left out for no longer than one hour.

* If deli or takeout foods such as fried chicken, potato salad or coleslaw are on the menu, make sure they are eaten within two hours of pickup.

* Hot food should be kept at 140F or hotter until served. Try wrapping your hot casserole or other item in several layers of aluminum wrap, followed by newspapers and a towel.

* Cover all food with plastic wrap, aluminum foil or lids, or keep foods and supplies in their original packaging to prevent contamination.

* If you’re not sure if food is still safe to eat, resort to the rule, “When in doubt, throw it out.”

 

Shelby County Regional Extension Agent Food Safety and Quality:

Angela Treadaway

Office: 205-669-6763

Mobile: 205-410-3696

Email: treadas@aces.edu

 

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

 

Muscadine Season is Here

Red and green muscadine grapes hanging on the vine, surrounded by green leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alabama muscadine and scuppernong grape lovers are enjoying their sweet taste, with their arrival in grocery stores, farmers markets, roadside stands and pick your own farms.

Besides their delicious flavor, muscadines are one of the richest sources of antioxidants found above ground.  Research points to significant health benefits associated with this grape.  That’s an added bonus for those who just love the fresh taste of these native grapes.

Unlike many human inhabitants, muscadines love the heat and humidity that is common in the South and thrive here as a result.

The difference in the scuppernong and the muscadine is the color and a little different taste.  The scuppernong grape is a Muscadine grape. It is a green-bronze color and was named because it was found growing near the Scuppernong River in North Carolina (an Indian name) in the 17th century. There are numerous cultivars of muscadines for fresh eating and use in other products.

Muscadines make a healthy addition to diets.  “Not only are these grapes delicious and versatile, but they also contain ellagic acid and resveratrol, which studies say play a key role in preventing heart disease and high cholesterol.  Additionally, they assist in treating ailments like arthritis, topical burns and the flu.

Muscadines are good for making jams, jellies or any dishes using grapes.  Juice from the muscadines can be prepared and frozen or canned also for making jelly or drinking later.  Grape juice made from muscadines is very very tasty.  If you don’t grow them yourself there are a number of muscadine vineyards in the state of Alabama that sell fresh muscadine or allow you to pick your own.   You will need to search the internet to find vineyards in your area that you can go and pick from. They are usually very reasonable in price too.

Here are a few really good recipes using muscadines:

Muscadine “Dump Cake”
½ stick margarine
½ cup milk
½ cup sugar
1 cup prepared muscadines
¾ cup self-rising flour

To prepare muscadines, remove pulp.  Cook pulp until seeds loosen, then press through sieve to remove seeds.  Add pulp to skins and cook until tender.  Add sugar to taste, some grated lemon peel and a sprinkle of apple-pie spice.  Melt butter in glass pie plate.  Mix flour, sugar and milk in another bowl.  Pour flour mixture over butter.  Carefully pour prepared muscadines over the top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Do not open oven until baking time is up.  Cake should be brown on top. Yield: 8 servings.

Muscadine or Scuppernong Cobbler

2 lb Muscadine grapes (4 cups)
2 Cups Sugar
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1/4 tsp apple pie spice
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup milk

Directions:
Cut grapes in half, remove seeds & squeeze pulp into bowl…Add skins & Cook with 1 cup sugar, lemon rind & apple pie spice in a saucepan over medium heat & bring to boil. Reduce heat & simmer stirring occasionally…5 min or until tender.  Melt butter in a 11 X 7 baking dish in 350 oven. Stir together flour, remaining cup sugar& milk and pour over melted butter. Pour muscadine mix. over batter. Bake @ 350 for 35 min or until golden

 

For other information on growing or using muscadines please contact your local County Extension Office.

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Fall is here and Armyworms are on the move!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Damaging populations of fall armyworms have been found in 8 Alabama counties. While that is far fewer counties than last summer, it is important to check valuable forage grasses. Armyworm caterpillars are detrimental to cattlemen and forage producers. The damage can seem to appear overnight. Dr. Kathy Flanders, an Alabama Extension Entomologist, said that the  fall armyworm caterpillar eats the most within its last feeding stage.

“Fall armyworm caterpillars consume around 80 percent of the total amount of food eaten during the last few days of the last feeding stage,” said Flanders. “They then burrow into the ground, and transform into a moth and the life cycle starts all over again.”

It takes about 30 days for a female fall armyworm to develop from an egg to the point where she is ready to lay an egg of her own. This is why early on it appears that the reports of damage come in batches about a month apart.  The moths lay eggs almost every day, and all sizes of fall armyworm caterpillars can be found in any given field.

Control armyworms before they molt into their last stage. If the armyworms are discovered early in the forage cutting cycle,  Flanders said that producers should think about using the insecticides that have the longest residual on the foliage.

“No insecticide lasts forever, but three active ingredients with relatively long residual are Prevathon, Intrepid and Dimilin.  These insecticides work better on small caterpillars,” said Flanders. “Producers should be aware that Dimilin only works when the caterpillar molts. The caterpillar keeps on eating until that time. Therefore, it is essential to apply Dimilin before the caterpillars have molted into their largest stage.”

Scouting for Armyworms

A sweep net is a good inexpensive way to find fall armyworms when they are small. Most Alabama Extension county offices have a sweep net that you can borrow to look for fall armyworm caterpillars. If you find armyworms with a sweep net, follow up by checking to see how many caterpillars are present per square foot. If you find more than two caterpillars per square foot,  consider applying an insecticide, cutting the hay or grazing the affected forage.

The following counties have had reports of fall armyworms:

Lowndes                                          Week of July 16

Pickens, Greene                              Week of August 6

Lee, Houston, Lawrence,               Week of August 13

St. Clair, Elmore

You can find the latest map on where damaging populations of fall armyworms have been found here.

Featured and Article Image: Dr. Kathy Flanders

 

Here are some publications to help you:

Controlling Fall Armyworms on Lawns and Turf

http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-0172/ANR-0172.pdf)

Management of Fall Armyworm in Pastures and Hayfields

http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-1019/ANR-1019.pdf

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Shelby County Extension presents Pickling and Fermenting Vegetables on Sept. 26, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shelby County Extension presents Pickling and Fermenting Vegetables
September 26th 4:00-6:00pm
Fee: $10.00 for supplies
Class will be held at the Shelby County Extension Office

 

Remember how grandmother and great grandmother use to have crocks setting around with sauerkraut or fermented pickles in them. Or do you remember helping them cut the cabbage up or get the cucumbers ready? Science is proving more and more today that was a good thing for them to eat fermented foods. Its good for our gut health and digestion. We eat so many processed foods and eat out a lot and more and more folks are developing colon cancer and other types of cancers from this. Fermented foods along with our other fruits, vegetables and meats are what we need.
This class will be a little different to what has been taught in food preservation before. We will discuss the proper preservation procedures for processing vegetables and will also discuss canning high and low acid foods. We will make fermented cabbage and other vegetables and talk about the benefits as well as we will make some other type of pickled products. Each person will take a jar of each home. This will be taught by Angela Treadaway – Regional Extension Agent with the Shelby County Extension System.

If you are interested in attending either register with the Shelby County Extension Office at 205-669-6763 or contact Angela at 205-410-3696.

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Beef Cattle Management: Early Weaning

Early weaning is a technique beef cattle producers do not often use on cattle operations. However, drought conditions may necessitate the implementation of non-traditional practices to continue normal and productive operations.

“In some areas of Alabama that were hard hit by drought last year, forages are not growing well,” Dr. Lisa Kriese-Anderson, an Alabama Extension animal scientist, said. “Producers may need to look at weaning calves early to take the pressure off of forages and cows. Also realize early weaning does not mean at three months of age—it can be one to two months earlier than usual.”

How Early is Early Weaning?

Weaning can happen as early as 45 days of age early weaning at 60 to 90 days is preferable. However, depending on calving season and when drought conditions begin, early weaning may only be one to two months earlier than usual.

Depending on calving season and when drought conditions begin, early weaning may only be one to two months earlier than usual. Early weaned calves accustomed to creep feeding will prevent added stress. It may require additional management, but the benefits of early weaning during drought can be beneficial to the overall operation.

Advantages of Early Weaning

  • Nutritional requirements for dams of early-weaned calves could be reduced by half. By weaning early, the cow’s nutrient requirements for lactation are eliminated. This enables cows to maintain or increase body condition prior to fall and winter feeding periods.
  • With reduced nutritional needs, more cows can be kept on available forages.
  • Dams of early-weaned calves should have adequate body condition scores at subsequent calving, which will be beneficial for rebreeding.
  • Poorer quality roughages can be provided to dams of early-weaned calves because their daily nutritional requirements are reduced.
  • During drought, calves may not be able to compete with cows for adequate forages. By weaning early and providing a nutritious diet, calves can reach their growth potential. These calves are very efficient in converting feed to gain. Early weaning, coupled with feeding a high concentrate diet, has resulted in increased quality grade at slaughter without a decrease in finish weight.

Disadvantages of Early Weaning

  • Management increase is necessary. Farmers should pay close attention to early-weaned calf health status, nutritional needs and overall management.
  • Costs will increase. Instead of pasture and milk, early-weaned calves will eat high quality rations of stored forages and supplemental feed.
  • Adequate facilities to drylot early-weaned calves are necessary.
  • If the cow herd has high milk expected progeny difference values, the potential increase in weaning weight is not realized through increased milk production.

Herd Management Prior to Early Weaning

Several management practices must be complete prior to weaning early.

  • Castrate bull calves a minimum of 14 days before weaning. Dehorning should also occur at this time.
  • Early weaned beef calves have variable levels of colostrum-derived antibodies at 2-4 months of age. These calves could benefit from vaccination prior to the stress of weaning. Farmers should consult herd veterinarians to create a health plan for early-weaned calves.
  • Calves should know how to eat solid feeds and drink from a water trough. Calves that are unable to eat or drink will encounter additional stress and are more susceptible to illness.

Herd Management at Weaning

At weaning, producers should de-worm calves and provide fly control if flies are an issue. Flies can reduce weights by as much as 30 pounds if not controlled. At this time, producers can also implant steer calves and non-replacement heifers with a low-dose, growth-promoting product. Ensure calf access to a high quality trace mineral and give a vitamin A, D and E injection.

Alabama Extension veterinarian Dr. Soren Rodning, said producers should closely observe calves to be sure they are eating and drinking regularly.

“Watch for symptoms of illness, such as not eating, not chewing cud, listlessness, drooping heads or ears, coughing, bloat, scours or diarrhea,” Rodning said. “It is important to consult the herd veterinarian to determine the best management strategies at the earliest signs of potential health problems.”

Diets for Early-Weaned Calves

Calves will eat sparingly after weaning. Therefore, the feed for early-weaned calves must be palatable and nutritious. Producers should consider quality over price.

Dr. Kim Mullenix, an Alabama Extension beef specialist, said early-weaned calves have high nutritional requirements because they are maturing.

“A high energy-protein diet (≥ 70 percent total digestible nutrients and 15 to 16 percent crude protein) is needed for calves less than 450 pounds,” Mullenix said. “Protein requirements decrease as calves reach weights above 450 pounds. However, producers should maintain the energy levels of the diet.”

Starting young calves on a development ration takes time. Calves tend to be more selective about feed texture than mature cows. Slowly acclimating calves to high energy diets is important for rumen health and animal production.

Expected Performance for Early Weaned Calves

Nursing calves usually gain 2.1 to 2.3 pounds per day. Early weaned calves placed on a high quality diet should be able to grow at this rate.

It is economically advantageous to maintain ownership of early-weaned calves until they reach the traditional weaning age. Market prices and prices for lightweight calves will not be equivalent when calves are able to mature and put on weight. Early-weaned, lightweight calves have a much higher efficiency of gain.

More Information

Find more information on dietary restrictions and suggestions and specific early weaning strategies in the Timely Information – Early Weaned Calves sheet. This sheet is authored by Alabama Cooperative Extension System Animal Science team members Dr. Lisa Kriese-Anderson, Dr. Kim Mullenix and Dr. Soren Rodning.

Contact you County Extension office for assistance reaching an Extension professional, or for more information.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Backyard Poultry Management Workshop, Monday, August 14, 2017

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System will be hosting a Backyard Poultry Management Workshop

 

Have chickens & want to learn more management techniques? Interested in expanding your poultry base to other kinds of fowl?

Poultry Specialists from Auburn University present the challenges and benefits of raising your own flocks.

 

Date:        Monday, August 14, 2017

Time:        5:45 p.m. – 7:45 p.m.

 Location:        Alabama Green Industry Training Center

                         5521 Cahaba Valley Road

                        Birmingham, AL 35242

 

The workshop is “FREE”, but please call Nelson D. Wynn at 205-669-6763/ or email wynnnel@aces.edu to pre-register by Friday, August 11, 2017.

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University) is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Everyone is welcome!

Revised June 2013, ANR-

 

 

 

Healthy Grilling & Freezing Tips

Man grilling meat on garden barbecue party, in the background friends eating and drinking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grilling is one of the healthiest forms of cooking and a summertime staple. Backyard burgers, tasty T-bones, and crispy corn on the cob are just a few of the delicious things that can be cooked on the grill. But research has shown that if done improperly, the food can become charred. And that char can be chock full of cancer-causing compounds called carcinogens.  Here are six strategies for grilling the healthier way:

 

Timely flipping. Too much flipping can tear the meat and make it dry. Don’t force it! When

the food gives with a gentle tug, it’s ready to flip.

 

Proper portions. Cubing or slicing the meat into smaller portions can speed up cook time.

Or try quick-cooking options such as shrimp or fish.

 

Less is more. Foods that cook faster are less likely to char. Also, keep track of the internal

temperature. Avoid cooking meats past their temperature goal: 165 degrees F for poultry,

155 degrees F for pork and ground red meats, and 145 degrees F for steaks and chops.

 

Avoid flare-ups. Never put water on a grease fire. If you have a flare-up, simply move the

food to a cooler part of the grill or set it aside while the fire dies down.

 

Try something different.  Grilling isn’t just for meat, you know. A variety of foods

including fruits, vegetables, and breads can also be deliciously grilled.  Grilled vegetables are great in the summer as well as baking them in the oven.  They are healthier and sweeter tasting.

 

Keep it clean. Cleaning the grill rack regularly can prevent burned bits of food from causing future flare-ups.

 

Keep Food Safety in Mind too –  Make sure you use a different plate to place your cooked meat on than the one that you brought the raw meat to the grill on.  Also, if you are using a sauce to baste with don’t use the same brush to baste the raw meat and stick it back in the sauce as you are cooking be sure to have two different brushes and bowls of sauce because to prevent cross contamination.

 

How to Prevent Freezing Fiascos…….

Freezing is a safe and effective way to preserve foods. However, if not done properly, it can lead to ruin and waste: freezer burn, dehydration, bad flavors and odors. But these things can be prevented by following these simple tips:

 

 

 

 

 

Choose the right container.

All containers are not equal. Choose the container that best fits the product. For example, liquids such as soups and beverages can be stored in quart sized plastic storage bags. After they’re frozen, they’re stackable!

 

Function over fab. Sure those little round bowls with the polka dot lids are cute, but they’re not

practical for freezer storage. Square, flat, stackable containers are ideal for the freezer; round

containers just waste space.

Banish the burn. Wrap foods correctly in materials designed specifically for freezer storage,

such as coated freezer paper, double seal zip top bags, and rigid plastic containers with airtight

lids. These will keep the air out.  Vacuum sealing is a great way to prevent freezer burn and meats will last much longer in the freezer this way too.

 

Say no to mush. Fruits  and Vegetables will always thaw softer than they were before freezing because freezing changes the cell structure.  However, with vegetables if you will blanch in hot water about 3-5 minutes and then plunge into ice water to stop the cooking they will not turn as mushy.  Fast freezing things like peaches, berries, okra, squash, peas, green beans, etc by placing on a cookie sheet and spreading out for about an hour and then bagging up for the freezer there will be much less mush or softness.  Make sure your freezer is freezing at zero too by checking with an appliance thermometer.

 

Play it safe. If the power goes out, the food in a full freezer should remain safe for 48 hours.

If only half full, you have 24 hours, according to the USDA.

Adapted from Cooking Light, June 2010.

 

For Food Safety and Quality questions contact:

Angela Treadaway #205-410-3696 or email: treadas@aces.edu

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

 

Harvest to Table Recipes

Vegetable garden

Harvest. Vegetables for harvest this month include: asparagus, broad beans, broccoli, spring cabbage, kohlrabi, lettuce, salad onions, peas, early potatoes, radish, spinach and chard.  Here are some great recipes to use all these great vegetables in a delightful dish.

Marinated Asparagus                                                     

1 pound fresh asparagus

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

4 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed

1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes

1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook asparagus, drain and place in a shallow baking dish.  Combine mustard with vinegar and stir to blend well.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Pout over asparagus, cover and marinate in refrigerator for several hours or overnight.  Drain asparagus and serve on salad green with a dressing, if desired.  Use French or some other tomato-base dressing or use a light cheesy dressing.

Makes 5 serving.  One serving: 4 or 5 spears.

One serving contains: 42 calories, 0 mg cholesterol; 129 mg sodium; 5 g carbohydrates; 2 g protein;

2 g fat or 41% of total calories.

Analysis includes all of the marinade on the asparagus; draining will reduce calories, fat, and sodium. However, analysis does not include salad greens or dressing.

Refrigerator Slaw

6 pounds cabbage, shredded

2 teaspoons salt

2 cups chopped celery

1 cup chopped green pepper

1 cup chopped onion

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

2 cups white vinegar

1 tablespoon celery seed

1 tablespoon mustard seed

Mix together the cabbage and salt and let stand 1 hour.  Add celery, green pepper, and onion; stir well and let stand 20 minutes.  Drain well.  Mix sugar, water, vinegar, celery seed, and mustard seed in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, pour over cabbage mixture, and toss well.  Cool.  Cover and refrigerator several hours or overnight.  This will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or may be packed in a moisture-vapor-resistant container and frozen for up to 2 months.  Drain well before serving.

Makes 25 servings.  One serving: 1/2 cup.

One serving contains: 94 calories; 0 mg cholesterol; 185 mg sodium; 23 g carbohydrates; 2 g protein; -1 g fat or 4% of total calories.  Analysis includes all of the salt on the cabbage and the dressing on the salad; draining will reduce carbohydrates and sodium. 

Broccoli Casserole

2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped broccoli (7 cups of fresh chopped broccoli)

1  10 3/4-ounce can cream of mushroom soup

2 tablespoons grated onion

1 tablespoon grated lemon rind

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 cup reduced-fat, cholesterol-free mayonnaise

1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt

3 egg whites (discard yolks)

butter-flavored vegetable cooking spray

1 cup grated reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese

1/4 cup dry bread crumbs

1/2 cup grated reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese

Cook broccoli as directed on package or as directed in the AU cookbook (pg. 388 boiling broccoli, stalk and splits in water for 9 to 12 minutes or steaming for 10 to 12 minutes).  Drain well.  Combine soup, onion, lemon rind, lemon juice, mayonnaise and yogurt.  Stir until well blended.  Beat egg whites until foamy and add to soup mixture.  Beat until well blended.  Coat a 1 1/2- quart baking dish with the cooking spray.  Layer half of the broccoli in the bottom of dish and cover with half of the soup mixture.  Sprinkle half of the 1 cup cheese over soup.  Repeat with the remaining broccoli, soup mixture and cheese.  Bake it at 350’F. for 20 minutes.  Combine bread crumbs with 1/2 cup cheese and sprinkle over hot casserole.  Return to oven for 10 minutes or until topping is light brown.

Makes 10 servings.  One serving: 1/2 cup.

One serving contains: 148 calories; 12 mg cholesterol; 393 mg sodium; 9 g carbohydrates; 9 g protein; 8 g fat or 51% of total calories.

 

If you have any Food Safety questions please contact our Shelby County Extension Agent:

Angela Treadaway

Office #: 205-669-6763

Cell #: 205-410-3696

Email: treadas@aces.edu

 

These recipes and many others can be found in the Auburn Cookbook, a publication of Alabama Extension.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

 

What did the Drought do to my Calving Season?

Memories of the fall of 2016 and its impacts on pasture availability and cow nutritional status are still fresh on most every Alabama cattle producer’s mind.  As fall calving programs move past the breeding season and spring programs focus on this important time, many producers are likely scratching their heads as to what impacts the drought may have on their cowherd’s breeding season success. This is rightly so, as lowered grazing availability likely led to some loss of body condition in many herds, and stand loss may leave some producers without adequate summer forage emergence.

The drought’s effects on your herd’s breeding season can be closely tied to the nutrition you were able to provide your animals to maintain their body condition score (BCS) throughout the calving and breeding season. Cows that calved at BCS lower than five could have experienced poor performance in the breeding season for two reasons:

1. Cows that calve at a BCS lower than five take more time to return to cycling than their BCS 5+ herdmates. Expect thin animals at calving to take an added 20+ days to return to cycling past their appropriately conditioned herdmates.

2.Animals that have a BCS lower than five during the breeding season experience lower pregnancy rates per breeding. Animals of BCS 4 or lower may experience a conception rate 10-30% lower than their BCS 5+ pasture mates.

Follow these two links (link 1, link 2) to learn more about BCS and its impact on pregnancy outcomes in your herd.

These facts are helpful in managing cattle to have a successful breeding season, but if the season has passed and you are questioning exactly what impact the drought had on your operation’s reproductive success, keep this factor in mind:  

You can know the pregnancy status of your herd quickly and economically. It is extremely important to perform annual pregnancy examination in your herd to identify and cull open cows. However if you are resistant to pregnancy check your herd, keep in mind that this year may be the most important year to implement this management practice. If cows became thin during the breeding season and you move forward on “faith alone” until calving time, there is a very high chance that you will experience lower calving rates than you had hoped for or seen in previous years. Pregnancy check cows 60 days after the conclusion of the breeding season or at calf weaning time to gain a true perspective on your herd’s reproductive status. With no pregnancy exam, you may feed open cows for 6-7 months before realizing that there is a problem. Without this information, you cannot manage your herd for profit potential as you look into the near future. Click here to read more about pregnancy exam options and how such knowledge can impact your herd.

Once you know your herd’s pregnancy status, you can make management decisions to increase your profitability outlook. You will also have tools to help you cull appropriate animals if the drought returns.

1. You will know which cows are not doing their job. Regardless of your breeding season existence or length, cows that are not pregnant by the time of traditional  calf weaning are not performing up to par. These animals are keeping you from reaching your profit potential and are consuming resources away from their herdmates. They need to go – even if they may become pregnant after weaning. Keeping such animals will only lower your herd’s overall reproductive performance and slowly suck dollars from you bottom line.

2.You will know what to expect for the upcoming calving season. If the drought led to thin cows at calving and breeding, you may have a higher percentage of late calving animals. Knowing your expected calving distribution will help you divide your manpower at calving time and begin thinking of a plan for calf marketing and how to manage cows to calve earlier in subsequent years.

3. You can combine body condition scoring with pregnancy examination to help identify thin, pregnant cows that may need additional supplementation to improve their condition before calving. Remember, we want cows to calve at a BCS 5-6. Post weaning is the best time to improve condition on thin cows. Evaluate your pasture availability and consider your ability to get weight on thin cows. Keep in mind that cows should gain about 80 pounds to improve one BCS. It is critical to return thin cows to an acceptable BCS before calving to limit the negative impacts of last year’s drought on your herd. If you do not have adequate pasture for such gains, you will need to supplement feed. Thin, pregnant cows with low production records may be a logical culling option if pasture availability is low and you do not have the resources to supplement feed.

If you have a large number of open cows at pregnancy check, you may be faced with hard decisions. There are several options to successfully move past this disheartening news:

1. Evaluate your cowherd. Discover possible reasons for the very low pregnancy rates. What is the herd average BCS? Were many cows of all ages open, or just your 2-3 year olds? What is the bull’s BCS and age? What was your bull:cow ratio? Did the bulls pass a breeding soundness exam before the breeding season?

2.Thin cows can be expected to gain weight at calf weaning if adequate grazing or supplement is available. If calves are still nursing and you are early in the breeding season, consider early weaning to allow cows to gain weight and hopefully avoid the low pregnancy rates we are currently discussing. Follow these two links to learn more about early weaning options (link 1, link 2)

3. If your breeding season is well over, consider the advantages and disadvantages of converting to a spring and fall calving season. In some herds, this management scheme works extremely well. Thin, open cows at this year’s pregnancy check can be moved to the opposite breeding season to reduce culling rates and still maintain a defined calving season. It is important to maintain a strict culling of animals in subsequent years to avoid creating a “reproductively lazy” herd. Using this second breeding season to strategically produce bred cows for sale versus open cull cows is also a viable option.

4.Retain your high standards. If your pasture availability is very low and you need lower stocking rates for your fields to recover, these open cows may be just your ticket. Culling of higher than normal numbers of open cows will lead to an increase in immediate monetary intake while decreasing your stocking rates for the near future as your pasture recovers. Rebuild your herd as your forages recover.

If the drought wreaked havoc on your breeding season, remember that it may take a few years to return to an ideal breeding season length. However, through proper management strategies of correct nutrition, strict culling, and replacing open or late calving animals with early calving heifers or purchased cows you can recover your herd from possible impacts of the 2016 drought.

If you have questions about determining and improving your herd’s reproductive performance, contact myself or other members of the ACES Animal Science and Forages Team.

Sarah Dickinson, M.S.

Regional Extension Agent I – Animal Science & Forages

Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Ph.D. Student – Reproductive Physiology / Molecular Genomics

Cell: 256-537-0024

Office: 256-825-1050

Email:sed0029@auburn.edu

Serving Chambers, Clay, Cleburne, Coosa, Lee, Randolph, Shelby, Talladega, and Tallapoosa Counties

Are Value Added Products Right for you?

Are Value Added Products Right for you?

Direct marketing and value-added products are two of the best strategies farmers can employ to improve net profitability. Value-added products can open new markets, enhance the public’s appreciation for the farm, and extend the marketing season.  In fact, adding value to agricultural products beyond the farm gate usually has several times the economic impact of the agricultural production alone.  This offers the farmers a much larger potential to capture a larger share of the food dollar.

Most Agricultural producers receive a much smaller portion of the consumer’s dollar than do food processors, especially processors who produce brand name items (e.g., Sunkist, Del Monte). Capturing those additional dollars by adding value to farm or ranch products is a goal of many producers in the United States today.

What is Value Added?

At the most basic, a value-added product simply means any product or action that helps you raise the value of your products or business or something you can add to a product that enables you to increase your profit margin.  You also may hear the term “value-added opportunities,” which relates more to actions you can take, such as making jam from your organic berry harvest, making a unique cheese on your dairy farm, fire roasting your vegetable crops for the Farmers’ Market, packaging organic products together in a special way that may increase their value, hosting farm tours or educational workshops, the list could go on infinitely.

Many growers are inviting the public onto their farms to harvest their own produce. These farms are known as pick-your-own or PYO, and these are attractive to farmers because there is reduced labor required for harvesting and they can sell produce that is too fragile to ship. PYOs do, however, require long working hours and more liability insurance. With the right location and crop offerings, PYOs offer an opportunity to diversify existing farm businesses.

Value-added might mean something slightly different to nearly every person that owns a farm that is hoping to raise or make products from the items they are growing.  The breadth of crop production — from grains and oil seeds to fruits and vegetables; from nursery and landscape crops to herbs and handcrafted items like pine needle baskets, or grapevine wreaths.  It is different for every farm.  You don’t always have to farm a large number of acres to have a value added product either.

Increasing Profits and Enjoyment with Value-Added Products

At best, value-added endeavors increase profit, but value-added products and opportunities have other perks as well, such as:

  • Personal fulfillment. Maybe there’s a hobby you’ve always wanted to pursue or a product you’ve always really wanted to produce. Considering this hobby or this product as something value-added for your business can help you both fulfill that personal dream and make more money.
  • Excitement. Okay, it’s not as if making jam is akin to skydiving, but growing the same crops year after year can result in boredom. Anything gets mundane and routine if you do it often enough. Value-added endeavors can add some diversity and excitement to your work routine.
  • Marketing value. Never underestimate how cool niche products can look to consumers. Organic veggies are available everywhere, but if consumers can also pick up organic cut flowers or dried herbs at your farm stand, then you start to stand out. The same goes for organic jam made from your organic berries.
  • Fun and learning. It’s fun to try new things, and value-added products can increase your organic knowledge in a new niche area.
  • Eco-friendly aspects. Value-added items and opportunities are very eco-friendly for the most part because they usually utilize the resources you already have, and keep new land use and new raw material use to a minimum, or both.

Starting a Value-Added Enterprise

One of the first things you should do when considering a value-added business is to decide on the products you want to create, the implications of creating these products, and the steps involved in beginning the business. These steps will vary depending on your skills and your location and which overseeing agency you will need to work with. The National Sustainable Agriculture Assistance Program’s publication; Adding Value to Farm Products: An Overview is a good place to begin.

The United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development has a list of resources you should review when considering a new value-added venture. The information included contains topics and articles from several Universities with information covering a value-added enterprise. There are grants you could possibly apply for on this website as well for small producers that want to do value-added products. Just go under Value Added Producer Grants. If you do research online look for articles from the Extension Service and other educational sources to find trusted sources to get info from.

Producers wanting to start doing Value Added products need to research the buying habits, tastes, income levels and proximity of their potential customers. Knowing customer needs can help producers decide what to sell. Advertising can be as simple as a roadside stand, selling at a couple of different farmers markets or they could go as far as to do a direct mail flyer or putting ads in local papers.

Building a new business is difficult and takes hard work.  But, for all the uncertainty, there are ways to craft a successful value-added business strategy. The key factors in a detailed business plan are:

  • Operations plan — flow of the business, quality and cost control
  • Personnel plan — needs, skills and training
  • Sales plan — including challenging but realistic goals
  • Management plan — strengths, weaknesses, and resources
  • Investment and financial plan — cash flow planning

Summary

Beyond business planning and market research to get to know the customer, the essential elements for success in a value-added business can be boiled down to four key ingredients for business managers:

  • Adapt to market changes
  • Be open to exploring new ideas
  • Operate more as a resource manager than as a producer
  • Realize the importance of networking and the need to develop alliances

Managing resources and exploring new ideas means you will constantly need to be looking for new ideas of ways to increase your profits. That may seem tedious, but that is precisely what adding value is all about.

The sky is the limit if you can just find the right products and markets to match.  There are many resources online for you to search for new ideas as well as ways to manage.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!