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Cattlemen urged to tell ag’s real story

By Staff | Jan 1, 2010

SPENCER – Publication of negative animal welfare has given the livestock industry a bad name in recent years. That assessment was made Wednesday by Brian Waddingham, of the Iowa Beef Council, who spoke to cattle producers at the 2010 Beef Forum.

Animal welfare, Waddingham added, is a topic that is often in the forefront of people’s minds when they think about the cattle industry.

“Less than 2 percent of our current population has anything to do with production agriculture.” Waddingham said. Adding to the mix are radical activist groups with large budgets, foreign diseases, access to video, and an increased number of social networking sites.

“Consumers don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” he stated. “Public perception is so important.”

Waddingham said producers should ask themselves several questions before shipping animals to market. “Can the animal walk?” “Will it be able to walk off the truck?” and “Would I eat it?”

“On an average day in our nation, 400,000 cattle and 1.3 million hogs are shipped throughout the country,” Waddingham said. “People are watching.”

After producers consider the above questions, he suggested it would be obvious that animals with broken limbs, are too sick to walk, are in severe pain, are severely thin or suffering from diseases like cancer eye should not be loaded on trucks.

Instead, he noted, these animals should be euthanized.

He also added that new beef quality assurance rules suggest reducing the use of electric prods, improving cattle footing as they enter transport vehicles, and separating by gender at and during transport.

Soon trucker quality assurance training will be used in both the beef and pork industries, he said.

Mortality disposal

Dennis DeWitt, ISU livestock field specialist, held a short seminar in disposing of dead animals. Iowaa’s approved methods include burial, burning, rendering and composting.

Burning is legal by incineration only. Homemade incinerators are not allowed and open burning is not permitted.

Burial is legal at a rate of seven feedlot cattle, 44 pigs, 73 sheep or 400 poultry per acre. Animals may be buried no deeper than 6 feet, with a minimum of 30 inches of soil cover, and 2 feet ground.

To easily find approved burial locations producers can access the DNR Web site at:

www.iowadnr.gov/mapping/maps/afositing atlas.html

DeWitt said that 35 percent of all Iowa producers choose rendering as a sole disposal method.

Those who use this service must contact rendering plants “before” mortalities occur to find out what specifics each dead carcass must meet to be rendered.

Few sanitary landfills take animal mortalities, but some will call the landfill to determine if this is a possibility.

The final disposal option is composting. This is a rapidly increasing practice by livestock producers across the country. DeWitt explained that rendering services could be unpredictable and expensive.

The composting process will destroy diseases and pathogens and keep off-farm vehicles from entering ones property.

It is also accessible 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

The DNR has a number of dead animal composting regulations. A detailed list of these regulations can be found on the DNR’s Web site.

Producers should again remember that public perception is important. Composting facilities should be placed in a location away from public view.

He suggests that when constructing a pile, start with one 15 to 20 feet wide. Use a base layer of 12 to 24 inches of bulking agent, such as poultry or turkey brooder litter, hoop barn manure, ground corn stalks or cobs, woodchips, sawdust, or even moldy waste corn silage).

Mortalities should be placed in a single layer and at least 6 inches from the edge.

The pile should then be covered with another 12 to 18 inches of bulking agent placed in a mounded shape. The pile should reach 110 degrees in five days. A thermometer is a necessary tool when composting.

After 5 days the pile should maintain a temperature of 130 to 160 degrees. Turning the compost pile will be necessary if pile temperatures drop below 100 degrees. The pile should be inspected regularly and more bulk agent added to maintain an adequate cover.

“Start small with an on-farm composting operation to learn what works for you,” DeWitt told producers.

Contact Robyn Kruger by e-mail at rangerob@hickorytech.net.

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