Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ark. workshop targets bermudagrass recovery

Fast facts
·       -- Arkansas Bermuda Breakout set for March 2 at Benton Co. Fairgrounds
·       -- Conference will include Bermuda stand recovery, weed control
·       -- For more info, call Benton Co. Extension Office, 479-271-1060 or
·       -- Register by Feb. 28

BENTONVILLE, Ark. – Bermudagrass, even with its drought-tolerant reputation, took a hit across Arkansas last year, struggling to grow weak stands and provide low yields, while suffering more weed encroachment than ranchers find to be healthy.

It’s a hard fall for a crop that has provided national championships to Arkansas growers in 12 straight years and on which ranchers depend for the cattle that are their livelihood.

“Last year’s drought came on the heels of the 2011 drought and the abnormally dry spring in 2012 prevented bermuda from starting, much less finishing the year,” said Robert Seay, Benton County Extension Agent, for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “As a result, hay producers couldn’t fill orders, grazers sold animals and more out-of-state hay was brought into NW Arkansas than most old-timers can remember.

 “An unfortunate start to the 2013 season is that producers are dealing with multiple uncertainties in regards to soil moisture, fertilizer and fuel costs, weed control and an unpredictable hay market,” he said.

The good news is that “bermudagrass is the king of recovery,” Seay said.

Capitalizing on bermudagrass’ ability to bounce back is the focus of a program set for Saturday, March 2, at the Benton County Fairgrounds Auditorium located on Hwy. 12 at Vaughn, Ark. The program opens at 9:30 a.m. with registration and ends at 2:30 p.m.

The program covers:
·       Timely and targeted weed control;
·       Nitrogen and Potassium requirements and applications;
·       Establishing seeded Bermuda varieties, and;
·       Seasonal practices necessary to achieve stand recovery, yield and quality of hay or pasture.  

A sponsor-supported program and noon meal will be offered at no cost to producers who register by Feb. 28 by calling 479-271-1060, or via email at  

For more information about forage production, visit or, or contact your county extension office.  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Scrapie eradication efforts continue

Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013 11:50 am
AUSTIN - The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) continues to work with the Texas sheep and goat industries toward the eradication of Scrapie. Texas currently leads the nation in sheep and goat production. A common goal of the US Sheep Industry and the American Sheep Industry (ASI) is to eradicate Scrapie from the US borders by 2017.
To help achieve this goal, the USDA is considering a proposed rule that would make the identification requirements for goats similar to those currently in place for sheep, as well as possibly expanding surveillance efforts for Scrapie in goats. Once the disease is eradicated, the US would then seek recognition as Scrapie-free in accordance with the World Organization for Animal Health. (OIE)
Texas leads the nation in sheep and goats production. Since 2009, there have been no confirmed cases of Scrapie in Texas. The last big spike in Texas Scrapie cases was in 2006 with 9 infected herds.
According to USDA regulations, Texas must conduct adequate Scrapie surveillance by a collecting a minimum of 598 sheep samples annually. In 2012 there were 1,050 samples collected from animals with Texas tags.
Dr. Dee Ellis, State Veterinarian, said, "Texas has made significant progress in battling this disease. The Scrapie Program has proven to be successful in Texas. Fighting this disease and implementing an animal identification program has worked." To date, Texas has 30 participating flocks enrolled in the Scrapie Flock Certification program.
Nationally, in 2005, there was a peak in Scrapie numbers. In the last fiscal year, for the first time ever, there were more Scrapie field cases in goats than in sheep. In fiscal years 2008 and 2011, two significant Scrapie outbreaks occurred in goats in volving a total of 18 positive goats.
The National Scrapie Eradication Program continued to make excellent progress in fiscal year 2012. In FY 2012, the percent of cull sheep found positive at slaughter decreased. This measure of prevalence decreased 96.2 percent since slaughter surveillance started in FY 2003 and 24.7 percent, respectively since FY 2011. Additionally, there was a 47% decrease in the number of infected and source flocks identified during FY 2012 compared to the previous fiscal year.
Scrapie is a degenerative disease of the nervous system that falls into the category of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSE). The disease is caused by a transmissible prion or abnormal protein which is very stable in the environment. Traditional blood tests are not reliable to diagnose Scrapie, so a sample is needed to diagnose it. Currently, no treatment exists for Scrapie. There is no known evidence of Scrapie transmission to humans.
While animals of any age may be exposed to Scrapie, lambs and kids are at the greatest risk of contracting the disease and are often infected by their dams shortly after birth.
Typically, infected animals don't show signs of Scrapie, such as behavioral changes, tremors, and incoordination that progresses to recumbency and death, until they are two years of age or older.
The most effective method of Scrapie prevention is to maintain a closed flock. Raising replacement ewes, purchasing genetically resistant (RR) rams or buying from a certified-free Scrapie flock are other options to reduce the risk the Scrapie. At this time the resistant genetic markers in goats have not been identified, therefore it is important to maintain your sheep and goat herds separately.
Since the incubation period for Scrapie is typically two to five years, producers should record individual identification numbers and the seller's premises identification number on purchase and sales records. These records must be maintained for a minimum of five years. "The success of the Scrapie Eradication Program is tied to producers keeping good records of sales and purchases," said Dr. Ellis.
TAHC rules regulate official identification tags or a registration tattoo be applied to all sheep 18 months of age and older, all breeding sheep, all breeding goats except those commingled with other sheep, and all sexually intact show or exhibition animals.
Producers should notify the Texas Animal Health Commission (800-550-8242) or the USDA-Austin Office (512-383-2400) if they have a sheep or goat over 18 months with neurologic signs such as incoordination, behavioral changes, or intense itching with wool loss. Producers may order Scrapie identification tags by calling 866-873-2824. For more information, please visit our web site or give us a call.
The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) is one of the oldest state regulatory agencies. TAHC was founded by the legislature in 1893 with a mission to combat fever ticks that plagued the Texas Cattle Industry. Today, the agency works to protect the health of all Texas livestock including: cattle, equine, sheep, goats, swine, poultry, exotic livestock and fowl.

N.C. farm switches from produce to breeding goats

L.W. Shoaf holds two doelings among the rest of his Pygmy goat herd at his farm on Tyro Road on Friday.
Rebekah Cansler McGee/The Dispat
Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 2:18 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 2:18 p.m.
Shoaf Plantation, a staple at the Lexington (North Carolina) Farmer's Market, slowly made the transition this past year from growing produce to raising goats.
L.W. Shoaf, owner of Shoaf Plantation, said he was an integral part of the farmers' market, helping it get off the ground. He has also sold his produce there each summer, but a life-changing situation forced Shoaf's hand. It was either change directions or suffer major consequences.
Shoaf suffered heart problems a couple years ago, and his doctor told him if he didn't do something soon, he would have a massive heart attack. Not only did Shoaf have to have heart surgery, but he needed to reduce his stress.
His answer was to shift from commercial produce to breeding goats.
"I needed to do something with a little less stress on me," Shoaf explained, adding that he had owned goats in some form or other since he was 12 years old.
Before the switch, Shoaf had been growing commercial produce with a specialty in a tomato he dubbed Kangaroo Tomatoes. The farm, kept up by Shoaf and his wife, was just too much after the near heart attack.
"Gosh, I just felt so much peace about making the decision to switch that as the crops matured off, I changed to pasture land," Shoaf said.
Shoaf now raises Nigerian Dwarf and Pygmy goats, mostly for pets, but the Nigerian Dwarf goat is also a milk goat. Some of Shoaf's clients are repeat customers, but he also garners new ones through pictures on his website and

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

TSC announces national FFA scholarship program

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (Feb. 4, 2013) – As an extension of its sponsorship with the National FFA Foundation, Tractor Supply Company has recently announced a new scholarship program to assist FFA members in their pursuit of a college degree.
The Growing Scholars program will be supported nationally by each of the more than 1,150 Tractor Supply stores Feb. 15-24, which includes National FFA Week. Tractor Supply customers can donate $1 at store registers during the checkout process to support local FFA chapters and their members. Ninety percent of funds raised through Tractor Supply’s Growing Scholars program will be utilized to fund scholarships for FFA members. The remaining 10 percent of donations will benefit state FFA organizations.
            “This program will provide critical funding to FFA members who intend to pursue a college degree and local FFA chapters that enrich the lives of young members by teaching life skills, citizenship and leadership qualities,” said Tractor Supply President and CEO Greg Sandfort. “For us, this is an outstanding way to support our current and future customers and future team members and a way to give back to the 1,100-plus unique communities we serve.”
To be eligible for the scholarship, students must be current FFA members and either high school seniors or a freshman, sophomore or junior college student seeking a two- or four-year degree or other specialized training program. Major areas of study will also be considered when determining scholarship recipients. 
“We are extremely grateful to Tractor Supply and its customers for supporting FFA, student and alumni members and agriculture education in general,” said National FFA Foundation Executive Director Robert K. Cooper.
In addition to the Growing Scholars program, Tractor Supply and the National FFA Foundation have many other joint initiatives, including the FFA horse evaluation career development event, National FFA Week and the annual National Association of Agricultural Educators Conference. At an individual store level, Tractor Supply continually hosts fund-raising events and works closely with local FFA chapters and high school agriculture advisors to provide resources and leverage synergies.
“Local high school agricultural advisors and FFA chapters feel at home in their local Tractor Supply stores,” said John Wendler, senior vice president of marketing at Tractor Supply. “These groups often host fund-raising events at our stores to raise money for community projects, like building a school greenhouse, a new bridge in a public park or an animal care lab. Our stores also work with local FFA members to support specific programs and proficiencies by providing demonstrations from knowledgeable Tractor Supply employees and our vendor partners, which brings significant value to both organizations.”
Tractor Supply has been a sponsor of the National FFA Foundation for 27 years. The National FFA Foundation is the fundraising arm of the National FFA Organization, which provides leadership, personal growth and career success training through agricultural education to 557,318 student members in grades seven through 12 who belong to one of 7,498 local FFA chapters throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.