In descending order, by date published.
One of the most challenging and costly aspects of beef cattle production in Kentucky is winter-feeding. Many producers complain about the time required to feed stored forages, the mud, the drudgery that it creates for the operator, and the decline in production. The intense traffic associated with winter-feeding on unimproved surfaces causes mud, compaction, erosion, and loss of desirable vegetation, often resulting in annual pasture renovations to address areas impacted by winter-feeding practices. Fenceline feeding systems offer an alternative to traditional in-field bale feeding during the wet winter conditions that Kentucky often experiences. These structures can be utilized to reduce the impact of winter-feeding on pastures and improve the operational efficiency of a winter-feeding area.
Planning and design are critical steps when modernizing a farm to meet the current and future operational needs. Farm renovations and redevelopment must always consider the cost/benefit of changes, while staying consistent with good agricultural practice guidelines that conserve labor and the resources of the farm. The process of developing a farm map will be used to guide producers on the concepts and considerations necessary to make decisions related to planning renovations and developing new infrastructure on the farm.
Research shows that cattle benefit from summer shade and winter shelter. Pastured cattle seek shelter around structures, under trees, and in forested streamside zones. These areas are often heavily trafficked and become muddy, compacted loafing areas. Mud creates further stress on cattle and compounds the problems of temperature stress and feed inefficiencies. One option that could be used to lure cattle from these areas and provide winter shelter and summer shade is a constructed windbreak fence on a mound.
Farm gates are a necessity for controlling traffic and increasing security. There are many design considerations for optimizing a system of farm gates. Very few gates incorporate all the recommended design components that will be discussed in this publication. However, to move people, materials, equipment, and livestock through a gateway, the gateway should economize time, be navigable, and operate in an efficient manner. Time spent operating a poorly designed gateway is time wasted and a hindrance to production. This publication is a guide to aid producers in creating more functional designs for gateways.
Opening farm gates for trucks, tractors, equipment, and livestock is unavoidable. However, opening a large gate, or a set of gates, for a person on foot is extremely inefficient, especially if the entrance does not put the producer where they need to be. An inconveniently located gate can lead to additional steps and unnecessary movements. Opening gates may require dealing with clasps, chains, or ropes just to get the gate unfastened. The gate may then have to be lifted or dragged open and closed. The bottom-line is that entering a poorly installed and unmaintained gateway can make the experience of opening and closing gates a time consuming nuisance.
Abundant, clean drinking water is an essential nutrient for livestock. The obvious water source that is recommended by veterinarians is city water. However, city water has its drawbacks. City water distribution systems are often expensive to install and have a recurring usage charge. In some instances, city water is unavailable, may have inadequate pressure, or producers consider it too expensive to operate, forcing them to use streams and ponds to water livestock. Collecting rainwater from a catchment area, is a low cost, high quality alternative water source that can supplement traditional water distribution systems and improve the environmental quality of farming operations. Rainwater harvesting involves the collection of rainfall from rooftops or land based catchments systems for storage and distribution as needed. Capturing rainfall has the added benefit of improving water quality by reducing soil erosion and runoff. Strategically installed rainwater harvesting systems can be used to direct stormwater around sensitive areas of the farm where animal waste is present, thus reducing the potential for nutrient and pathogen delivery to nearby waterways. Rainwater harvesting and stormwater management techniques can also reduce the volume of water that must be managed in liquid manure management systems by diverting clean water away from manure pits and lagoons.
Many livestock producers would say that mud is a natural part of livestock production. But the creation of mud costs producers money and makes them less competitive. Livestock that walk through mud require more feed for energy but actually eat less because walking in mud requires more effort to get to feed and water. Therefore, mud decreases average daily gains. Mud accumulation on the coat increases the amount of energy needed to generate heat in the winter or to keep cool in the summer. Also, it can lower sale prices due to hanging tags. The creation of mud also increases animal stress and leads to a variety of health problems, including protozoan and bacterial infections. It is essential that livestock producers understand that mud hinders cost-efficient livestock production and efforts should be made to limit the creation of mud. This publication explains how mud is created and describes different types of hardened surfaces and pads that agricultural producers should use to reduce mud creation and ultimately increase production efficiency and protect natural resources.
Kentucky's abundant forage and extensive stream system have helped the Commonwealth become the largest beef producing state east of the Mississippi River. While streams and ponds serve as a water source for many operations, livestock can quickly degrade soil and water quality by trampling streambanks and defecating and urinating in and around waterbodies. These actions increase sediment, pathogen, and nutrient loads to streams, rivers, and lakes which in turn can causes eutrophication. To help protect the health of Kentucky's soil and water, producers can implement best management practices (BMPs). These practices help reduce the sources of pollutants and/or the transport of pollutants to waterways. One such practice or BMP is limiting cattle access to streams and ponds. When producers exclude livestock access to stream and ponds and their associated riparian buffers, an alternative source of water is required. Automatic water fountains are one commonly used means of providing cattle with water from an alternate source. A water tank constructed using a heavy equipment tire may serve as a viable option for supplying livestock with an alternate source of water.
Water is the most essential nutrient for cattle production. Water is used in almost every bodily function, including digestion, milk production, and excretion. Given the role and function of water in relation to animal production, health, and welfare, it is critical that abundant, clean water is available in any livestock production operation. Livestock must have immediate access to water within every paddock of a rotational grazing system to realize maximum efficiency and production.
The traditional farmstead planning process might have been ideal for farming operations set up on blank slate farms that were surveyed based on 640-acre sections. However, these concepts are more challenging for irregular shaped farms in Kentucky with existing structures built more than a half century ago. Older farm buildings may be underutilized because they were constructed using what would be considered obsolete technologies today. It is essential that producers take the time and obtain the necessary help to develop their farming operation plan in order to realize their potential and achieve their goals.
Once a drought occurs, it can be difficult to effectively manage your resources and overcome the conditions that drought creates. At the heart of effective drought management is preparedness. A systems-management approach is an ideal tool for drought preparedness, as its goal is to improve each component of the farming operation (soils, forages, facilities, stock, etc.) and improve the connections between the components (i.e. the system). The goal of this publication is to aid beef producers in implementing best management practices (BMPs) that take a systems approach to maximizing farm water use efficiency, while operating under the assumption that water is becoming an increasingly uncertain resource that is vital to the future of the farm.