Ag Connection

Your link to the Universities for ag extension and research information


Volume 3, Number 10
October 1997
This Month in Ag Connection
Good Livestock Handling Systems Pay Dividends
Are Your Livestock Stuck in the Mud?
New Heifer Development and Sales Program
University Outreach and Extension Resources to assist in planning livestock handling systems:
"Weed and Brush Control Guide for Forages, Pastures and Non-Cropland" Updated
Missouri Value-Added Conference
Phytase Is Environmentally Sound and Can Save Pork Producers Money

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Good Livestock Handling Systems Pay Dividends

Advantages of having an efficient handling system include:

- Easier handling and time saved.
- Improved health and management practices.
- Scales can be used to provide data to improve performance.
- Safer for both the livestock and the people working them.

A good livestock handling system will pay dividends. If livestock are easier to work, improved health and management practices are more likely to be done in a timely manner.

In planning, you should:

  • Plan for efficient flow patterns of livestock.
  • Make a scale drawing of your operation and what you are going to build.
  • Consider all the operations you will perform (sorting, vaccinating, weighing, pregnancy checking, etc.) and include them in the plan. If you don’t plan to put all components in at once, allow room for these at a future date.
  • Be aware of how livestock see, hear, and react, then plan the system to accommodate these traits.
  • Plan for personal safety! Consider where people working have to be and plan for catwalks, man passes, etc.
  • Plan a system that will let you bring livestock through the components and then bring them back through if needed. For example, if an animal gets through the squeeze chute, you don’t want them in a forty-acre field.
  • Allow room for expansion.

Livestock characteristics to consider in planning handling systems:

Cattle have a panoramic field of vision.

How they see: Animals see in black and white, they have panoramic vision and poor depth perception. Bright light and shadows can cause them to balk or bolt. Minimize shadows that will be cast across alleyways. The panoramic vision allows them to see behind themselves without turning their heads, so care has to be taken as you move toward them from behind.

Noises: Loud noises scare livestock. High frequency noises and the sound of cracking whips actually hurt their ears. Clanging and banging noises will scare livestock and cause them to balk or bolt.

Author: Don Day, Agricultural Engineering/Information Technology Specialist

For additional information, see:

Ohio State University Extension FactSheet AEX-304-97, Using Geotextile Fabric in Livestock Operations

From University of Kentucky:

Geotextile Feeding/Traffic Surfaces and Costs

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Are Your Livestock Stuck in the Mud?

Geotextiles May be the Answer

Livestock lots and wet conditions combine for an unhealthy environment for livestock. This leads to lost production efficiency and difficulty in maneuvering farm equipment. Surface water quality can also be jeopardized.

Geotextile fabric applications are designed to keep soil and gravel separate. By keeping them separate, the fabric improves the stability, load bearing capacity, and drainage of the site. Geotextile fabric used under gravel provides a surface on which vehicles and livestock can travel and provide erosion control benefits.

The original development of geotextiles was for non-agricultural applications like subgrades, roadbed and parking lot construction. Agriculture applications that can benefit include lanes to pasture paddocks, feedlots, livestock watering areas, round bale storage and feeding areas, driveways for farmsteads and other farm roads; drainage ditch and stream crossing areas, aprons for open-sided livestock barns, and to extend existing concrete, paved or graveled areas.

These filter fabrics are porous, so water and moisture pass through the material while the rock is held in place. Kentucky Extension Specialists recommend a 4-6 inch layer of No. 4 crushed limestone for the base material. A 2-3 inch cover of sifted lime or “dense grade” material allows for easier scraping of the surface.

This diagram shows how Kentucky recommends construction of animal use pads: figure 1
In Ohio, a demonstration was conducted with twelve producers in 1994. The cost for installing geotextiles on these sites was between 25 and 33 percent of the cost of concrete.

The Ohio producers were generally pleased with the effectiveness of these systems. Some reported it was a very effective way to keep animals out of the mud.

Costs of materials for geotextile systems in Kentucky in 1996:
Geotextile Filter Fabric $0.10/square foot
Rock Base (No. 4 Crushed Limestone) $0.18/square foot
Fine Cover Material $0.09/square foot
Total Materials $0.12/square foot
Labor/Grading Work $0.12/square foot
Total Cost $0.49/square foot

Comparable costs of concrete would be about $1.50/square foot.

Round bale feeding pad using hay rings — for two feeding rings, the size of the system would be 32' x 58'. This is a total of 1856 square feet. Using the figures from Kentucky, the cost would be $909.44. A similar concrete system would cost $2784. figure 2

Author: Don Day, Agricultural Engineering/Information Technology Specialist

University of Missouri Extension Livestock Contacts for Central Missouri Counties:

Benton, Cooper, Morgan, Moniteau, Pettis:
James Rogers

Carroll, Chariton, Howard and Saline:
Dale Watson

Audrain, Boone, Callaway, Cole and Osage:
Mark Stewart

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New Heifer Development and Sales Program

The ‘Show-Me-Select’ heifer development program is a cooperative effort between University Outreach and Extension, the Commercial Agriculture Program, the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association and the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

The objectives of this program are to:

  • add value and increase marketing opportunities for Missouri-raised heifers
  • provide a reliable source of quality replacements which have been produced in a Total Quality Management system
  • improve ‘home raised’ replacement heifers

The program components include length of ownership requirements, a vaccination program, animal performance, parasite control, birth weight EPD (Expected Progeny Differences) requirements for bulls used to breed heifers and an on-farm inspection. Producers raising and developing heifers to keep for themselves should find this program helps identify heifers who are freemartin, have small pelvic areas, have immature reproductive tracts, and other potential problems.

Producers interested in developing and selling replacement heifers will be interested in the sales. The Show-Me-Select sales offer the opportunity for Missouri producers to capture additional income from their cattle business. For producers in Central Missouri, sale locations include Palmyra, Sedalia, and either Cuba or Vienna.

For additional information, contact your local livestock specialist (see list at left) or check

Author: Mark Stewart, Livestock Specialist
Source: David Patterson, State Beef Cattle Specialist


For additional assistance, contact the agricultural specialist at your local extension center.

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University Outreach and Extension Resources to assist in planning livestock handling systems:

Midwest Plan Service Publications:
MWPS-3, Sheep Housing and Equipment Handbook
MWPS-6, Beef Housing and Equipment Handbook
MWPS-7, Dairy Freestall Housing and Equipment
MWPS-8, Swine Housing and Equipment Handbook
MWPS-15, Horse Housing and Equipment Handbook
CAN-723, Corrals for Handling Beef Cattle
OKE-938, Modern Corral Design

UMC Guides:
G1165, Corral Systems for Handling and Sorting Hogs
G1191, Selecting Wire Fencing Materials
G1192, Constructing Wire Fences
G1195, Walk-Through Trap to Control Horn Flies on Cattle
G1931, Animal handling Safety Considerations

World Wide Web Sites:
Recommended Basic Livestock Handling
Behavioral Principles of Livestock Handling
Cow Stress and Well-Being Publications
Know Your Livestock and Be Safe
Livestock Handling and Confinement Safety
The Beef Handbook -- Animal Welfare


University of Missouri Weed Science Page

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The updated version of MP581 "Weed and Brush Control Guide for Forages, Pastures and Non-Cropland" is now available from your local University Outreach and Extension Center at a cost of $5 per copy. This version replaces the 1993 version and includes some new herbicides for alfalfa and changes in the pasture and non-cropland section.


December 5-6
Osage Beach, MO

For more information call Matt Nichols at (816) 665-9866 or Dennis Heldman at (573) 882-2032.

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Missouri Value-Added Conference

A conference for Missouri agricultural producers and entrepreneurs interested in value-added enterprises will be held Dec. 5-6 in Osage Beach. The conference will help businesses find ways to process raw commodities produced in Missouri.

At the conference, issues such as value-added production, processing and marketing of livestock, fruits and vegetables as well as beverages and sauces will be explored. New technologies, case studies, personal experiences and marketing strategies will be discussed. Conference participants will learn about the business planning and resources necessary to start or expand their value-added businesses.


For more information, contact Trygve Veum, (573) 882-4331

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Phytase Is Environmentally Sound and Can Save Pork Producers Money

Microbial phytase, an enzyme that helps pigs get the phosphorus they need from a corn-soybean ration, is both profitable and environmentally sound for the pork producer, according to research at the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU).

The Missouri study showed 68 enzyme units per pound of feed was enough for adequate growth performance in pigs weighing 100 pounds or more. In this study, all the phosphorus supplement was pulled out of the rations. The only source of phosphorus was from the corn and soybean meal. Without an enzyme in the ration to release it, 75-to-80 percent of that phosphorus is bound as phytate and is not digested by the pig.

The 68 units of microbial phosphate costs about $1 per ton of feed less than dicalcium phosphate, the commonly used phosphorus source in hog rations.

Also, microbial phosphate reduces the amount of phosphorus excreted in manure by 20 percent. That's good news for environmentalists who point out that phosphorus is a potential pollutant if it exceeds what the soil can absorb.

MU researchers Jiazhong Liu, D.W. Bollinger, D.R. Ledoux, and Trygve Veum evaluated microbial phosphate in pigs fed low-phosphorus and corn-soybean meal diets.

The MU studies showed 68 enzyme units per pound was enough for good growth, but 136 to 204 enzyme units were needed for maximum bone strength and phosphorus absorption.

For the producer raising market hogs, 68 units is enough. The researchers recommend 136 to 204 enzyme units for the producer selecting gilts for breeding stock who wants maximum skeletal strength and structural soundness.

Source: Joe Marks, MU Extension & Agricultural Information

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University ExtensionAg Connection - October 1997 -- Revised: March 10, 2005