Category Archives: Animal Science

Gearing up for Ag Innovation Day 2017

Our second annual Michigan State University (MSU) Agriculture Innovation Day is almost here. The event takes place August 24 at our Lake City Research Center. The theme this year is Focus on Forages and the Future. I hope that you’ll spread the word about this program, and I would like to invite you to join us as well. There’s a great line-up designed to deliver a cutting-edge, in-depth look at forages, livestock and the future to help farmers meet growing demands.

Here are the sessions that will be offered:

  • Making the Most of Reduced-Lignin Alfalfa in Your Operation
  • Precision is the Division in Silage
  • Expand Your Use With Double-Cropping
  • Precision Dairy Cattle Monitoring
  • Finding the Right Mix for Soil Health
  • Baleage Made Tight, Made Right
  • Creating Profitable Beef Operations by Managing Land, Livestock and People
  • Grass-Fed Beef – Research and Experience
  • Is Your Land Regenerating?

Another important element of the day is that MSU will send recruiters to the event to provide students with information about all of the degrees available through the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. We want to engage our next generation of farmers and producers, and give them the tools they need to meet the challenges they will face in the future.

We’ll also have an opportunity to hear from President Lou Anna K. Simon and Dean Ron Hendrick over the dinner portion of the event.

The event will begin at 12:30 p.m. and end around 9 p.m. For course descriptions and to register for the event, visit the Ag Innovation Day website. I hope to see you there!

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Filed under Ag Innovation Day, Agriculture and Agribusiness, Animal Science, Events, Farming, Field Days, Uncategorized

MSU Extension teams up with MDARD over baby chicks

Two baby chicks huddle together.I recently saw a T-shirt that made me chuckle. It read, “Chickens are like potato chips, you can’t have just one.” Each spring, customers flock to farm supply stores across the country for Chick Days, where live chicks are available for purchase. The adorable baby birds are tiny and cute, but many people do not know that the chicks also carry dangerous germs such as Salmonella. With a rise in salmonella cases in 2016, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and Michigan State University (MSU) Extension decided to work together to improve educational efforts around salmonella prevention with chick buyers in 2017. Extension educator Katie Ockert and Mindy Tape and Jamie Wilson from our communications team worked closely with MDARD on collaborative efforts that resulted in “Chick Bags.” Each bag contains a series of informative rack cards, disinfectant and cleaning brushes. More than 1,000 free bags will be distributed to chick buyers at 10 Family Farm and Home stores. In addition to helping chick buyers understand ways to prevent Salmonella contamination, the cards also provide new owners with valuable information on caring for their animals and preventing the spread of disease among their birds.

These are great guides that are worth taking a look at and sharing with any chick buyers you might know. You can find them on the MSU Extension website and at the sites below.

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Filed under Agriculture, Animal Science, communication, health, Health and Nutrition, Partnerships, Publications

MSU Extension partners with MHS and MAACO to educate about livestock handling, management

Many animal control officers and people working in law enforcement have little or no experience and knowledge related to livestock evaluation, handling and management. Realizing this is a problem, the Michigan Humane Society (MHS) approached Michigan State University (MSU) Extension knowing we would have the expertise to work toward a solution. The result: MSU Extension partnered with MHS and the Michigan Association of Animal Control Officers (MAACO) to produce a program session at the Michigan Partnership for Animal Welfare Great Lakes Animal Welfare Conference, which took place Oct. 19-20 at the FireKeepers Casino Hotel in Battle Creek, Michigan.

The program session “Livestock Evaluation and Handling” included three hours of classroom instruction and three hours of practical on-farm learning on Oct. 20. Twenty-five people from 15 Michigan counties and from Kentucky and Indiana attended.

Presenters for the morning classroom portion of the program included Dr. Judy Marteniuk, MSU Extension equine veterinarian; Dr. Karen Waite, MSU Extension equine specialist; Tom Guthrie, MSU Extension equine and pork educator; Kevin Gould, MSU Extension beef educator; and Mike Metzger, MSU Extension small ruminants and forages educator.

On-farm learning opportunities in the afternoon included a visit and tour of the Ladine Dairy Farm in Bellevue with hosts David and Sally Bivens. Participants learned to evaluate animal body condition and to assess housing, and they found out more about the overall management practices of dairy cattle. They also visited Neal’s Hereford Farms in Bellevue with host Becky Neal, currently president of MAACO. Here, participants observed and participated in handling of beef cattle as well as handling, haltering and working around equine. In addition to the farm hosts, all of the MSU Extension presenters mentioned in the above paragraph took part in educating attendees at the farms.

Besides hosting, Becky Neal was responsible for procuring both farms for the event. Others who helped with the program included Linda Reider, former MHS statewide initiatives director; Ann Griffin, MHS special projects manager; and Terry MacKillop, past president of MAACO.

At the end of the program, Becky Neal asked for feedback from the participants. All agreed that the program was beneficial, and that they would use the information gained in their work. They also felt that they would like more of this type of programming in the future. Afterward, she asked the presenters if they would be willing to do more of this in the future even if it was not in conjunction with the conference.

The program presenters also felt that the event was worthwhile.

“We felt that this was a good program and that the participants got useful animal handling knowledge and body condition scoring knowledge, as well as information on how dairy farms operate and the care that they give their animals,” said Mike Metzger.

Sounds like a success to me! Thank you to the entire team for stepping up to the challenge.

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Filed under Animal Science

Congress action and inaction affects our budget

News about funding uncertainties isn’t really new to those of us who’ve worked in MSUE for any part of the past decade. It doesn’t make it easier to wait on pins and needles, but it’s not new territory. We’ve spent the first three months of the federal fiscal year (which began Oct. 1, 2012), waiting for decision makers in Washington to let us know how much funding we’ll have to support our work this year, and though they extended the Farm Bill temporarily, they haven’t come to any concrete decisions.

While not deciding how much funding we have is one challenge, another is the decision that they did make to reduce the funding we had been granted in support of our nutrition programming for families with limited resources (SNAP-ED) by 28 percent for the current fiscal year.

We are working to find ways to minimize the impacts of a 28 percent budget reduction on the people we serve and the staff who serve our clients. That means we are holding off on filling open positions and looking at ways to make the most of funds remaining from last fiscal year and those available from other sources. Inevitably, it may mean we won’t be able to serve as many people as we had planned to serve or to serve them as frequently as we had planned. But we’re going to do our part to live up to our mission and commitments.

That’s the state of things in MSU Extension today. I shared details about how the resolution of the fiscal cliff crisis and the extension of the Farm Bill affects us on our MSUE Update webinar on Monday, Jan. 7. If you missed that, you can review the recording of the webinar.

During the past four years, we have worked hard in MSU Extension to position ourselves for an unpredictable future, anticipating that demands for our services would change and grow while resources from the public sector would likely shrink. The changes we expected have occurred: we still find a great deal of interest in our services, and decision makers and stakeholders are good at identifying new needs that call for our expertise and network of Extension professionals.  At the same time, federal funding has remained flat or declining and unpredictable. State funding was cut 15 percent two years ago after a decade of proposals that ranged from eliminating our state funding to reducing it by 25 to 50 percent.

Amid the turmoil, some stakeholders have expressed concerns about our commitment to the land-grant mission, a mission based on public investment in the provision of educational services and application of research to individuals, families, farms, businesses and communities at the local level. As we have adjusted to reduced funding, we’ve sought to embrace technology, organize ourselves to be smarter, put a premium on programmatic investments at the expense of administrative services, all in order to make sure that we are meeting the ideals of the land-grant mission in a 21st century setting.

MSU Extension staff and faculty members are out in the communities across the state, working to help people improve their lives. We’re doing our best to make sure they have the resources and support they need to get that job done. Regardless of what decision makers do or don’t do, we have a job to get done and we’re going to see that it gets done.

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Filed under Agriculture, Animal Science, Budget, Farming, Funding, Impacts

MSU Extension specialist’s evening college class featured in CASE magazine

Raising chickens in the backyard is becoming a popular activity. And as you can guess, people who are attempting the venture are in need of some professional guidance. Michigan State University Extension specialist Darrin Karcher recently taught a class on raising backyard poultry at the MSUAA’s (MSU Alumni Association’s) Lifelong Education Evening College. The Evening College offers personal enrichment courses to MSU alumni and members of the community. The September 2011 issue of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Currents magazine featured the class in the article “Backyard Egg-stravaganza.” CASE is an international association of educational institutions.

 More than 30 people took the course that included three weeknight lectures and a field trip to the MSU Poultry Research and Teaching Center. The class was one of the most popular of the semester.

 Last year, Darrin received the Poultry Science Association’s Early Achievement Award for Extension. He co-authored the MSU Extension bulletin E3136, “Suggestions for Ordinances Allowing Backyard Poultry” along with Paul Wylie, retired Extension educator, and R.M. “Mick” Fulton, avian pathologist with the MSU Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health. You can download the bulletin as a free PDF at the MSU Extension Bookstore:

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Filed under Animal Science