Skip Derra, News Service, (515) 294-4917
AGRICULTURE, VETERINARY MEDICINE AND NATURAL RESOURCES NEWS FROM IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY
AMES, Iowa --
HOLSTEIN STILLBIRTHS RISE, BUT GENETIC LINK NOT YET CLEAR
Even though the incidence of stillbirths in Holstein dairy herds in the United States has increased since the mid-1980s, there still is little evidence it is a genetic trend, say Iowa State researchers. "The genetic issue is still an open question," said Jeffrey Berger, professor of animal science. "There may be many factors involved related to management, nutrition and environment." Berger and graduate student Christy Meyer presented results of the research at the Midwest meetings of the American Society of Animal Science and American Dairy Science Association, March 15-17, in Des Moines. Stillbirths cause an estimated loss of $132 million each year to the U.S. dairy industry. Stillbirths also may be an important issue for U.S. exports. The Swedish dairy industry has reported increases in the number of stillbirths, and have questioned whether it is related to imports of semen from American Holstein bulls. "Currently, our research does not support the development of genetic evaluations for stillbirths," Berger said. "We feel a more important trait to focus on, and perhaps a better way to approach the stillbirth problem, is by addressing the problem of difficult calvings." Contact Berger, (515) 294-3435 or Brian Meyer, Agriculture Information, (515) 294-0706.
ADDING VITAMIN C TO PIG DIETS IMPROVES PORK QUALITY
It's economical. It's nutritious. It improves the quality of pork. It's vitamin C. ISU animal scientists have discovered that feeding pigs vitamin C can result in a more appealing product at the meat counter. Feeding vitamin C to pigs a few hours before they are processed reduced water loss in the meat by 13 percent, said Tim Stahly. The result is a more juicy, tender product. The vitamin C also improved pork's color. For their work, the ISU researchers received the National Pork Producers Council Innovative Pork Research Award at the Midwest meetings of the American Society of Animal Science and American Dairy Science Association in Des Moines. Contact Stahly, (515) 294-5009, or Barbara McManus, Agriculture Information, (515) 294-0707.
STUDY SHOWS YOUNG PIGS GROW WELL IN HOOP BUILDINGS
Young pigs performed as well in hoop buildings as they did in confinement facilities in an ISU study comparing the two production systems. Many producers put early-weaned pigs in confinement nurseries. The project showed placing young pigs in hoop buildings may be an acceptable strategy, said animal scientist Mark Honeyman. A hoop structure consists of a tarp covering a skeleton of steel arches and short wooden walls. The floor is bedded with cornstalks or other crop residues. "The hoop pigs grew faster and were more efficient during the first two weeks of the trial than pigs in confinement," Honeyman said. "Overall, the hoop pigs ate more feed and grew faster, but didn't differ in feed efficiency with confinement pigs." Honeyman and graduate research assistant Mike Larson presented their results at the Midwest meetings of the American Society of Animal Science and American Dairy Science Association in Des Moines. Contact Honeyman, (515) 294-4621, or Susan Thompson, Agriculture Information, (515) 294- 0705.
PIG SUPPLEMENT COULD GIVE CHOPS EXTRA EXPORT POTENTIAL
Pigs fed a diet containing conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) produced pork chops with characteristics that may make them popular with Asian consumers. A group of ISU researchers has been feeding the fatty acid to animals to see if it increases the content of CLA in meat, milk and eggs. CLA is believed to be beneficial to human health. The researchers fed CLA to pigs to see if its reported antioxidant properties would prolong the red color of pork chops. The resulting pork chops were firmer, had more marbling and were redder than meat from pigs that didn't get CLA. "The export market wants dark, reddish chops. If this research plays out, these chops would be on their way to Japan at a premium price," said Bryon Wiegand, an animal science graduate student. Wiegand and animal scientist F.C. Parrish presented their results at the Midwest meetings of the American Society of Animal Science and the American Dairy Science Association in Des Moines. Contact Parrish, (515) 294-3280, Wiegand, (515) 294-1548, or Ed Adcock, Agriculture Information, (515) 294-2314.
ISU TESTS MAY HELP HAWAIIAN GROWERS SHIP MORE FRUIT
For a short time this month, papaya replaced pork as the center of attention at ISU's Linear Accelerator Facility. The facility is the nation's only commercial-sized irradiation plant for food research and demonstration. ISU helped Hawaiian tropical fruit growers test the technology on papaya and rambutan (a small, bristly-skinned red fruit). Currently, Hawaiian fruits must be picked early and heat-treated to ensure no fruit flies or larvae survive the trip to the mainland. Tests at ISU showed that irradiating the fruit with x-rays could be done at uniform doses and at levels that would eliminate the pest problem, allowing the fruit to be shipped at a riper stage. A group of Hawaiian fruit growers is considering building a linear accelerator similar to ISU's. Contact Dennis Olson, Animal Science, (515) 294-1055, or Brian Meyer, Agriculture Information, (515) 294-0706.
MORE IOWA FARMERS EXPLORE GOING ORGANIC
Iowa's potential to grow organic crops is as high as it is in California, says an ISU organic crops specialist. "We can grow anything California can grow," says Kathleen Delate. "They have a head start on organic markets, so we may need to work harder to enter them or start our own. But we can grow some of best organic soybeans in the world and have direct markets to Japan." Delate says more Iowa farmers are interested in going organic. Organic acreage was an estimated 100,000 in 1997, up from 13,000 acres in 1995. That mirrors a national trend toward organic sales, which are growing 20 percent annually. Contact Delate, Horticulture, (515) 294- 7069, or Ed Adcock, Agriculture Information, (515) 294- 2314.
PRODUCING "EARTH FRIENDLY" PORK MAY FIT CONSUMER NICHE
Good news -- and possibly a new market -- may await Iowa pork producers who have the know-how and inclination to produce pork in environmentally friendly ways. Recently completed research funded by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture suggests one way to add value to pork production is to capitalize on meat produced in ways that benefit the environment. Economics professor James Kliebenstein and graduate student Sean Hurley say their work shows that consumers may be willing to pay nearly $1 more for a package of pork chops produced under a system that improves air and water quality. Contact Kliebenstein, (515) 294-7111, Hurley, (515) 294-8891, or Anne Larson, Leopold Center, (515) 294- 0626.
NEW TRADITION IN ANIMAL BREEDING AND GENETICS GROUP
Modern animal breeding and genetics began in the 1930s with Jay Lush. The pioneering work of the Iowa State animal scientist remade herds and flocks around the world. Today's heirs to Lush -- the members of ISU's Animal Breeding and Genetics Group -- aren't resting on history's laurels. "We're developing our own tradition," says group leader Max Rothschild. "Since the Lush era, ISU has been the center of the universe for animal breeding. We continue to be dedicated to the discovery, development and implementation of livestock genetic knowledge." The group is breaking ground in several research areas, including a national project to map the pig genome; identifying potentially useful genes in chickens; predicting which bulls will sire healthier dairy cattle; using ultrasound to supply beef producers with fast information on body composition; and studying an important gene cluster in livestock that helps defend against disease. In May, the Animal Breeding and Genetics Group will host an international symposium to examine the future of the field. Contact Rothschild, Animal Science, (515) 294-6202, or Brian Meyer, Agriculture Information, (515) 294-0706.
CHECK THE WEB: ISU IMPACTS FOR IOWANS IN AGRICULTURE
Iowa State's agricultural programs benefit Iowans in many ways. Some of those success stories have been compiled and posted on the Web. "Impacts for Iowans" are located on the Web at: http://www.ag.iastate.edu/news/impact.html. The ISU stories were prepared for a national reporting project sponsored each year by the USDA. "Impacts for Iowans" are listed by USDA strategic goals: competitive agriculture in a global economy; safe and secure food and fiber; healthy, well-nourished population; greater harmony between agriculture and the environment; economic development and quality of life for people and communities; and society-ready graduates. National impacts also are on the Web at: http://www.reeusda.gov/success/impact.htm. Contact Ed Adcock, Agriculture Information, (515) 294-2314.
WHOLE FARM REVENUE INSURANCE PROPOSED
The collapse in hog prices last fall has renewed interest in using insurance as a way to provide an affordable safety net to U.S. farmers. One option that has received attention is to expand the U.S. Department of Agriculture's crop insurance program to include livestock producers with either price insurance or revenue insurance. The creation of a price or revenue insurance program raises a number of issues regarding what to insure, how to insure it and how much the coverage should cost. A briefing paper by Bruce Babcock and Dermot Hayes, both professors in the Department of Economics, discusses some of the issues raised by an expansion of revenue insurance. It also provides a "worked example" of a whole-farm insurance product that guards against revenue losses from a farm that raises corn, soybeans and hogs. For the complete text of the briefing paper, see http://www.card.iastate.edu, or contact Betty Hempe, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, (515) 294-7519.
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