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Dealer Spotlight: Farmer’s Co-op (Arkansas)

This weeks Dealer Spotlight goes to Farmer’s Co-op!

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The Farmer’s Co-op, who’s headquarters are located in Van Buren, Arkansas, is a cooperative with fifteen different locations (see here) throughout Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Their mission is “to provide quality supplies and services to both members and non-members, and be the leading agricultural supply, lawn & garden, pet supply, and animal feed store in the community”.

They carry a full line of farm and pet supplies, animal health supplies, animal feed (including Hiland Natuarls!), and lawn & garden, fertilizer, and agricultural chemical supplies. Additionally, they have qualified personnel on staff to handle any of your needs, including an agronomist.

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The Farmer’s Co-op also offers bulk feed and bulk fuel delivers as one of it’s many services. They also carry all of our feed as well as our Hiland Hen Delights!

To learn more about the Co-op and how they can better help you, check out their website: http://www.farmercoop.com/


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Farm Spotlight: Pastured Life Farm

Pastured Life Farm, located in O’Brien, Florida, is a family owned farm run by Ginger and Dave Shields and their children. Their mission is… “to produce premium grade, healthy, humanely raised, pasture and free-range based meats. All raised locally, sustainably, and responsibly by healthy farmers, for healthy families”.

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Pastured Life focuses on five main areas of farming: mimicking nature, rotational grazing, nutrition and diets, building healthy soils, and sustainability. Basically, they allow the animals to act, eat, and graze naturally, and in return, the animals use their abilities to help the farm. Pigs are great at tilling, cattle stimulate perennial growth, and chickens are natural sanitizers.

Highlighting these strengths and creating a grazing program to best utilize the animals allows them to eliminate petroleum based, synthetic fertilizers, endocrine disrupting herbicides, and beneficial insect destroying pesticides.

As for nutrition, Pastured life uses high quality non-GMO project verified feeds when supplementing with grain. Herbivores are kept grain free, but their omnivores, such as the chickens and pigs, are given grain to supplement their natural forage and grazing habits.

Pastured Life Farm is also a distributor of Hiland Naturals Feeds as well as Fertell products.

They take “you are what you eat” one step farther to “you are what you eat, eats”. Everyone wants to feel good about what they eat and creating this food transparency and returning to a more natural farming experience is just the start.

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To learn more, visit their website here.


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Farm Spotlight: Maple Wind Farm

Maple Wind Farm is a diversified pasture-based livestock, poultry, organic vegetable, and maple products farm owned by Bruce Hennessey and Beth Whiting. Located in Huntington and Richmond, Vermont, Maple Wind uses environmentally sustainable practices and alternative energy inputs to produce grass-fed beef, heritage breed pork, certified organic and non-organic broilers, eggs, and certified organic turkeys on pasture.

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Bruce and Beth believe that every animal has a job and contributes to the process. Cycling the animals through the pasture keeps the operation sustainable and allows the animals to live life naturally.

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Additionally, the use of wind and solar energy and subsequently, the reduction of the use of fossil fuels, is a huge part of life at Maple Wind Farms. They have two 6kW Solar Trackers that combined average 750 kW per month, which supplies most of their power requirements. They also utilize the animals for energy. The pastured animals give energy just by doing what they do, and the farm’s draft horses provides field power.

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We are proud to work with Maple Wind and to be apart of their operation.
To learn more about Maple Wind Farm, see their website at maplewindfarm.com or their facebook page here.


High-Risk Foods

More and more people are demanding food transparency from their farmers and supermarkets; however, pro-GMO advocates are meeting these demands with resistance. While we have won some food-labeling battles, it is still important for consumers to understand what they are eating and where it comes from. The people at the Non-GMO Project Verification Program are here to help!

The Non-GMO Project Verification Program has three GMO risk categories: high risk, monitored, and low risk.

Included in the “High Risk” crops are:

-Alfalfa -Soy
-Canola -Sugar Beets
-Corn -Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash
-Cotton -Animal products (milk, meat, eggs, etc.) due to feed contamination
-Papaya  

 

Included in the “Monitored” crops are:

-Chard -Flax
-Rutabaga -Rice
-Bok Choy -Wheat
-Acorn Squash -Potato

 

Also, beware of common ingredients derived from these products, such as high-fructose corn syrup and of animal products that were produced by GMO contaminated feeds. Here at Hiland Naturals we are committed to providing farmers with a feed option that is completely verified non-GMO to help ensure that your animal products are as well!

For more information visit livingnongmo.org

(data source: The Non-GMO Project)


What is Least-Cost Formulation?

Least-cost formulated feed is a feed formula that is both technically nutritionally complete and with a minimum ingredient cost. This keeps the feed at a low cost, and since feed accounts for over 65% of total production costs, this can be a tempting purchase.

The ingredients in the feed change as the prices of the ingredients change and therefore, the consumer is not always getting the same product. Manufactures are able to get away with this by being vague on their ingredient lists; instead of specifically naming the ingredients, they will say “grain, grain meal” etc. so they can interchange ingredients at will. Although the initial feed costs will be lower, these feeds can affect production in a negative manner, and will cost you more in the long run.

A good friend and distributor of Hiland Naturals, Ginger Shields, performed a test comparing a standard non-GMO chicken grower against a non-GMO LCF equivalent. She wrote a great article explaining the project and her results, and published it in the APPPA Grit. Here it is, below:

 

 

Does Least Cost Formulation Save Farmers Any Money?

As distributors of Non-GMO project verified feeds we get quite a few requests for different feed formulations. Every farm has a different situation, so we understand the need for special formulations specific to their needs. When one of our feed manufacturers began offering “Least Cost Formulations” (LCF) for large scale producers who were trying to save on overall feed costs, as farmers ourselves we were definitely interested. The idea behind a LCF feed is you have target nutritional levels such as protein and energy but you use the lesser expensive grains where ever possible. Therefore, the formula may change throughout the year depending upon what is regionally available and what the commodities markets are doing.

On the outside, this concept seemed like a good idea. We promoted the LCF feed option to a number of our farm clients as a cost saving measure. The first couple of months went by without complaint, but as the end of the second month and beginning of the third month arrived we started receiving questions about poor performance issues and birds not gaining as they normally would. At the time, we were using the LCF feed on our own batches of broilers without any noticeable issues; however, like many family farms with children as part of the equation the reports from the field are not always accurate. As the concerns seem to climb we felt compelled to test this issue further. Nutritional analysis of the feed did indeed show the proper target levels so what was the difference and what was causing our issues?

Finally, being results driven farmers, we decided it was time to run a side-by-side test of the standard Non-GMO Chicken grower against the Non-GMO LCF equivalent. Taking into account the ages of our “field hands”, we made the test very straight forward and simple. Using the same 10×12 dome pasture pens and straight run Heritage Whites from S&G Hatchery we designated three separate pastured broiler pens with 50 chickens each. We labeled the pens with bright laminated cards according to the feed type they were to be fed with the intention there would be no confusion and consistency.

Initially, all of the chicks were brooded together and started on a standard 21% Non-GMO chick starter feed. We did this so all of the chickens would have the same base line and could start with a clean slate once we split them from the brooder after week two to their individual pastured pens.

Week three observations immediately began to display a difference between the feeds. The chickens in the LCF fed pen were more wasteful as if they were hunting and pecking through the feed being relatively selective of what they would consume. The other pen was fed with a standard Fertrell formulated Non-GMO ration with soy and had much cleaner eating habits with minimal waste. This observation also synced up with complaints from other farms using the LCF feed. Though early in the test, the first week in the pastured pens seemed to confirm at least that observation. Despite the waste, everyone was thriving, lively, and active.

Weeks four and five mirrored the same eating habits of week three. The chickens had not hit their growth curve that we normally see in the last two weeks but we were already seeing size differences amongst the pens with the LCF fed birds being smaller than the standard feed pen.

The differences begin to really show during week 6. There were noticeable difference in the size between the LCF and standard feed formulations. Again as in weeks three through five the feed waste continued in the LCF pen. Additionally, this was the beginning of their growth curve and feed consumption was climbing in all pens; however faster in the LCF pen due to the waste. At this point we decided to process the chickens at the end of the 7th week as the standard feed pens were reaching the desired size.

In the 7th week, the differences were becoming more and more significant. In general, the overall mortality at this point was the same. To be honest, we had 0% mortality in all pens once they hit the pasture. So the LCF feed at this point did not seem to impact mortality and merely the feed efficiency. This also paired up with other farm observations when using LCF feeds

Processing day finally arrived. The LCF batch first and then the standard feed formulation second. Upon observation the LCF fed chickens were typical, with no abnormalities present in the eviscera. With the noticeable difference in size, and disinterest in feed, we were expecting poor gizzard development and abnormal livers. We were surprised when they all appeared normal and weren’t surprised with a lower than normal average dress weight of 4.15 lbs across all 50 birds. Not terrible, but certainly not what we normally see at 7 weeks.

Next through the line, the standard formulation fed batch. Again, outward appearances of the chickens were good. Except that these birds were noticeably larger. The eviscera showed no abnormalities, and though we had a few birds with poor livers, and a few on the larger end of the spectrum had pleuracy, but this is our norm and only affected a handful of the larger birds. This group of 50 weighed in with an average of 5.25 lbs. Over a pound more than our LCF birds! This was a significant difference in size at a 21% difference.

In general, the LCF batch consumed approximately 10% more feed which again, was a significant number. Being that we have high shipping costs our feeds are quite a bit more than those with more local mill access. In this test batch the LCF feed cost $0.36/lb and the standard formulation was $0.39/lb and the 21% chicken starter was $0.42/lb. Naturally, with the $0.03/lb difference in price you can see why folks opted for the LCF option when we began offering it.

With the above stated, let’s break down the numbers so we have the per pound dressed weight yields. First the standard formulated batch. At 5.25 lbs dressed average with 12 lbs average of grower feed plus 1 lb average of starter for a total of 13 lb of feed per bird with a gain ratio was 2.48:1. The total cost of feed including the 21% starter was $0.98 per pound of gain. With the LCF fed birds at 10% greater feed consumption they consumed 13.2 lbs. average of LCF grower feed plus 1 lb average of starter for a total of 14.2 lbs. of feed per bird giving them a gain ratio of 3.42:1. The total cost of feed including the 21% starter was approximately $1.25 per pound of gain. Wow, that is significant!

 

Feed Type

Avg Dress

Weight

21%

Starter

19%

Grower

Final Feed

Conversion

Cost per/lb

of gain

LCF Feed 4.15 1 lb 13.2 3.42:1 $1.25
Std Feed 5.25 1 lb 12 2.48:1 $0.98

 

With the total feed costs being approximately the same when taking into account the waste the real difference was in performance. On the end of the day, the feed to gain ratio says it all. There was a significant loss in feed efficiency using the LCF feed. The efficiency loss was so significant that it completely negated the benefits of the feed cost saving literally being eaten up in waste and poor performance.

Promptly, after this experiment we dropped the LCF line of poultry feeds all together. It is clear that not all grains are equal, or well suited for chickens for optimum performance. When using a LCF feed you certainly open yourself to these sorts of issues as they frequently change the formulations to take advantage of the least expensive grains. On the end of the day, trying to save money on your chickens by sacrificing quality really may not be saving you money when performance is what pays when your business is production. I would encourage you run similar tests if you are using Least Cost Formulated feeds. You may find the cost savings are truly not there. Feed the animals to make money – not to save money is our new motto.


Direct-Fed Microbials and Poultry

Direct-fed microbials (probiotics) are dietary supplements that contain live bacteria, which aim to increase the populations of good bacteria in the intestinal tract of the animal. Direct-fed microbials are beneficial in that they have competitive exclusion properties — “good” bacteria compete with “bad” bacteria for binding sites and nutrients in the gut, theoretically always keeping the balance in favor of the beneficial bacteria. Many probiotic species are also capable of secreting substances that are harmful to many pathogenic bacteria and/or altering the environment in such a way that the pathogenic bacteria are unable to survive. Direct-fed microbials are great additions to a daily diet, but are especially helpful early in an animal’s life, during times of stress, and following any medical treatments.

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For poultry specifically, direct-fed microbials are especially useful early in the chick’s life. Unlike most other livestock, chickens are usually hatched in a relatively sterile environment and their intestinal tracts contain few to no bacteria populations. This is the perfect opportunity for pathogenic bacteria to colonize and cause issues in young birds. Feeding direct-fed microbials directly after hatch allows you to colonize their guts with beneficial bacteria early, giving them a better chance at deterring pathogens later.


What are Mycotoxins?

Mycotoxins are toxic chemicals produced by fungi, which typically contaminate crops. Mycotoxins can be fatal to both animals and humans at very small concentrations, usually parts per million or parts per billion. The fungi and molds that produce these chemicals are often times undetectable by the human eye and nose and feedstuffs should undergo mycotoxin testing to determine the presence or absence of the fungi.

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(pic: Microscopic view of Aflatoxin – globalbiodefense.com)

Some common mycotoxins include aflatoxins, fumonisins, ochratoxins, zearaleonoe, and vomitoxin and these can contaminate cereal grains such as corn, wheat, rye, etc., peanuts, hay, and other staple ingredients. It has been seen that mycotoxin contamination causes production losses at all levels of production and according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, at least 25% of the world’s crops are contaminated with mycotoxins.

Because mycotoxins are usually invisible, scentless, and tastless, it is important to test crops to protect your animals and the human consumer from illness. Here at Hiland Naturals, all of our feeds are subjected to mold and mycotoxin testing for aflatoxin and deoxynivalenol.


Is GMO Feed Harming Your Goats?

A recent study published in the Journal of Small Ruminant Research, the official journal of the International Goat Association, suggests that feeding GMO soy products to goats have negative effects on nutrient availability and milk components. The article (found here) is titled Genetically modified soybean in a goat diet: Influence on kid performance, and I have broken it down for you below.

What did they test?

60 female goats were fed either a conventional (NON-GMO) or a genetically modified soybean meal sixty days before kidding. Colostrum was collected and tested for protein, fat, and immunoglobulin G (IgG). Blood was also collected and tested for IgG. Initial kid body weights and carcass weights were also recorded.

What did they find out?

Conventional/Non-GMO feed GMO feed
Kid Initial Body Weight Same Same
Kid Carcass Weight Higher Lower
Colostrum Protein Higher Lower
Colostrum Fat Higher Lower
Colostrum IgG Higher Lower
Kid Blood IgG Higher Lower

 

Why is this important?

Growth and body weight of all production animals is a very important part of our job as livestock producers and we all strive for healthy, growing animals. Good colostrum quality during the initial stages of life plays an important role in the kid’s survival and growth. Mother colostrum is very much dependent on the health and nutrient availability of the mother, and if the mother does not have adequate protein or fat, she will not transfer enough to her colostrum.

IgG is an important antibody crucial for the initiation of the immune system because, unlike humans, they are unable to receive immunity via the placenta before birth. Because of this, they rely heavily on the antibodies in their mother’s colostrum to establish their immune systems. In this study, we see that the mothers fed GMO feed produced less IgG in their colostrum, resulting in lower blood levels of IgG in the kid. This leaves the kid susceptible to disease and infection.

When mothers milk is affecting kid growth and health, this is bad for business and these results also raise questions on the quality of goat milk for human consumption as well the health effects on humans.


What’s The Deal With Glyphosate?

Monsanto is a household name in the agriculture community for its array of chemicals that were designed to safeguard crops from all the natural elements that could prohibit their growth. In theory, it sounds like a fantastic idea. Combat the pests that make farmers’ lives even more difficult, improve crop yields, and protect the earth. That’s all well and good if it had actually worked out that way.

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