By: Carl C. Stafford
A positive case of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is confirmed in a male deer harvested in 2018 in Culpeper County Virginia, this reported by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VGIF). See the summary of this report at the link provided: http://www.nbc12.com/2019/04/19/deer-tests-positive-chronic-wasting-disease-culpeper-county/
Citizens may not be familiar with this disease but will remember the cow that stole Christmas in 2003, a cow of Canadian origin imported into the United States and later found to be positive for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. A brain disease similar to CWD in deer, Scrapie in sheep, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans to name some of the known types of spongiform brain diseases found in mammals. Veterinarians providing information to Extension Agents on the potential for the spongiform disease to be transmissible to humans comment that these are not found to be zoonotic, meaning they do not move between species. A zoonotic disease would be brucellosis, found in animals and humans and capable of moving between them.
Chronic Wasting Disease in deer is present in Virginia in border counties adjacent to West Virginia where it is believed to have originated on deer farms, a place where animals are more confined than in the wild. The opportunity for transmission is higher when animals are close together. The Culpeper case was discovered because of regular surveillance by game wardens working with taxidermists and hunters.
VGIF rule prohibits feeding deer during hunting season, and it would be a wise move for readers to follow this rule year round. While it is clear, many people enjoy seeing deer and outside of the scheduled hunting season will lawfully offer food to attract deer for their viewing pleasure, this well-intentioned practice is not necessary to survival. In fact, it will increase the likely hood of disease of all kinds spreading among closely associated animals. Offering food to wildlife is of primary benefit to us. You like seeing them up close and share this with family.
“Problems with feeding deer include: unnaturally increasing population numbers that damage natural habitats; increasing the likelihood for disease transmission; increasing human-deer conflicts such as deer/vehicle collisions, and diminishing the wild nature of deer.” They will forage on their own and are naturally limited if the diet is short. Feeding them increases dependence on an artificial supply. Deer coming together to eat your feed increases the chance for disease transmission too. The disease of greatest concern is CWD.
“It is also illegal to feed deer year-round in Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah, and Warren counties and in the City of Winchester as part of the Department’s CWD management actions.” Other counties could be added to this list. VGIF is prohibiting deer feeding year round in these counties in hopes of reducing crowding around food, a condition thought to lead to the transmission of CWD. According to VGIF, “It is clear that the negative consequences of feeding deer outweigh the benefits. If you are not feeding deer, you should not start. If you are currently feeding deer, you should now stop.”
By: Carl C. Stafford
Senior Extension Agent
Risky business agriculture, riskier still to talk about economics, but let us give it a go. Dr David Kenyon, retired Agriculture Economist, Virginia Tech, a speaker in the 90’s and 00’s, regularly addressed the Corn and Soybean convention held in the heart Virginia grain country. He left me with this understanding. Ninety percent of price movement can be predicted by carry over supplies. When evaluating the potential for market movement, he would always include carry over grain numbers. If carry over was high, it could explain most of expected negative price movement and so on.
How does this inform us today on the risky business of agriculture? In terms of soybeans, recent reports show that we have a record supply in storage. Looking back, we almost never have such a big national supply on hand. The chance of soybean price moving up would in Kenyon’s words, be dependent on the 10% of other factors not related to carry over. So, before a bad prediction is made, let us turn to other evidence currently underway in the American farmer’s experience.
Many readers know of the incidence of flooding in the Mississippi river basin. The effects of this natural disaster are being felt now and will continue to amplify in impacts, months ahead. Delays in planting are expected, if at all in the hardest hit areas. Late planted crops tend to yield less; unplanted crops yield not at all. In short, fewer bushels are expected from the areas hit by these spring floods. Are these big production areas, you bet? Still though, other regions can have a record year then here comes the “freight train” of American agriculture. Robust in the least and capable of expanding when needed.
Our agriculture has this marvelous ability to produce and we depend upon our inevitable surplus moving into areas of deficient supply (think other countries), taking away the burden of the carry over here at home. There have been interruptions in the normal movement of supply, soybeans, apples, and pork to name some. The dairy industry struggles too with surplus and using Kenyon’s approach, explains why milk fails to move in the right direction for dairies.
Those who need farm commodities such as livestock feed, find when normal supply channels are interrupted, they still need to feed their animals and seek other sources. Our experience in the past may predict the future here as we quickly lost markets in the 80’s when a short-lived U.S. supply interruption occurred in the eastern Pacific Rim. Ag lenders express concern about this happening again, the shifting in supply sourcing and markets drying up. Evidence suggests South America continues to be big competition in grain markets, soybeans in particular and similar potential is seen in the Black Sea regions of Europe.
A return to normal is a positive way out of some troubles. The risky business of agriculture is in the midst of its season of optimism, spring is rising and we move forward with determination, with plans made for success and from success proven by generations and refined by the next generation – think technology as our future farmers contribute their skills to modern farming.
By: Carl C. Stafford
Senior Extension Agent
Culpeper Senior Livestock Judging Team places fifth in swine judging at the Virginia Tech Block and Bridle livestock judging competition, March 1 and 2, 2019. Team members include 4H and FFA members JC Craig, Billy Powers, Savannah Smith and L J West. The contest, held annually on the Virginia Tech campus, invites high school age students from across the Commonwealth to come together for one big judging competition.
Contest organizers are college student members of the Block and Bridle club. They are studying animal science and receive support from their academic advisors in organizing and conducting the show. This is part of their education too. They put together a judging experience to include Senior and Junior judging teams placing cattle, sheep, goats and hogs.
There are often management and market scenarios tied to each class, requiring the student judges to consider the end use as they make their placings. Memory and observation skills are tested by the contest. Judges must recall specific features and characteristics of certain animals and reasons can be given to defend placings. A good set of reasons is a strong defense of a judges placing.
There were 129 senior participants representing 46 teams from across the Commonwealth. Savannah Smith was 9th individual overall in swine judging, helping her team achieve their 5th overall placing in swine. Rachael Davis, Marketing Manager for CFC Farm and Home is the Culpeper Livestock Judging Team coach and knows a thing or two about it. She grew up judging in Hanover County and has shown cattle since age eleven. Traveled extensively in cattle judging to include Red Angus judging in Canada as an ambassador for the Red Angus Association and served a term as their junior President.
Congratulations Rachael for organizing and leading these emerging livestock judges! Thank you to Melessa Suder, EVHS FFA chapter advisor and Cristy Mosley Extension Agent 4H Youth Development.
By: Carl C. Stafford
Senior Extension Agent 2/1/19
The 2018 hay crop will probably go down in history as one of the worst of its kind in recent memory. I recall a summer in the 70’s when my Pop spent his hay season frustrated by rain. Frustration in the 2018 growing season was high to say the least. It was a record wet season with about twice the normal rainfall. While rain makes hay grow, it prevents timely, dry harvest. The old adage, “make hay while the sun shines” could not be truer than in 2018, we just did not see the enough sun. When it did come out, a mad scramble commenced with everyone cutting, raking and baling hay at once. It usually takes about three good days of drying weather to make hay. There were a few spells like this but not enough of them during the growing season to allow quality hay made in the quantity needed.
Grazing livestock, be they horses, sheep, cattle, llamas or goats universally depend upon stored feed during the dormant season – when grass stops growing. This is usually from November until April. Stored feed for these critters is mostly hay. Many people make their own hay for their livestock and some sell the excess to generate extra income. Still others are in the hay business, making every effort to harvest and store very high quality hay, “horse quality” is the goal, not everyone makes it.
Horse quality hay is green in color and is leafy, nutritious and free of must, dust and off odors. Horse hay commands the highest price along with dairy quality hay. Made from several types of grass, it can be a mix with legumes and it can be the queen of forages – alfalfa. Sometimes horses are fed hay they do not need, but that is a discussion for another day.
The supply of horse hay made in the wet growing season of 2018 is limited. Supply and demand dictate that with lower supply the market can command a higher price and this rations the available supply. Higher prices also attract supply from surplus areas and we know this hay is moving here from those states. Horse customers have high standards as do their suppliers who seek to satisfy them. It is a struggle and a challenge to be in the horse hay business, 2018 survivors will recount this year.
Cow hay is another category altogether and unlike horse hay, is not always of the highest quality. Rained on, over mature, stored out of doors and weather damaged all can generally describe cow hay made in 2018. The cows and their owners are not so particular, but cows do need a certain amount of nutrition or they go backwards. The hay shortage affects everyone dependent upon stored feed and wet winter-feeding conditions is not helping as waste increases and the supply dwindles further.
In summary, we feed what we make and this year we made a poor crop, short crop. If you find good hay, buy it. Your next chance will be in the coming summer with the new crop. As we are trending wet, until now, who knows when quality hay, in surplus, will appear. And so goes the life of a farmer.
Join VSU’s Small Farm Outreach Agent Susan Cheek for this introductory course from the New, Beginning & U.S. Military Veteran Farmer and Rancher Program from VSU’s Small Farm Outreach Program.