September 16, 2009
Contact: Jessica Prosper, 518-483-7403, or Cornell Cooperative Extension (list below)

It’s NNY Beef Week! Fall 2009 Focus is on Better Animal Selection

Northern New York – Better animals, better beef. A series of workshops in October will help Northern New York livestock producers select better breeding bulls and replacement cows for beef production. The workshops are part of a project funded by the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP).

Specific topics at the workshops include the use of technology such as ultrasound to select replacement animals and the hows and whys of artificial insemination, including reading bull proofs, identifying when cows are ready for breeding, and heat synchronization tools.

The ultrasound portion of the October workshops is a follow-up to scanning demonstrations held on regional farms in May 2009 as part of the NNYADP grant project. A series of workshops in 2008 introduced beef producers to ultrasound and how it can be used to evaluate animals.

“Because the adoption of ultrasound technology is important to the viability of agricultural in the region, the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program agreed to fund anther series of workshops in 2009 to encourage producers to incorporate its use into their management practices,” says project leader Jessica Prosper, a farm business management educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County.

Heather Birdsall with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County is New York’s only beef ultrasound technician. She says, “The best time to ultrasound animals is when they become yearlings, which is usually in the spring and fall of the year. I try to group producers in an area to take advantage of this tool that provides them with data to better select animals, particularly heifers, for breeding or culling to improve their herds.”

Prosper notes that “the initial NNY Beef Week workshops provided farmers with the opportunity to have animals scanned at a reduced cost. After the animals were scanned, the images were sent to an Ultrasound Processing Lab in Iowa for interpretation. As a follow-up now, in October, Cornell Cooperative Extension Beef Cattle Specialist Mike Baker will explain how the interpreted results can be read used to make better management decisions on the farm through better animal selection,” Prosper says.

It is not necessary for farmers to have attended the meeting in May 2009 to participate in the October workshops scheduled for:
• Tuesday, October 6: 6:30-9 pm, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County, Watertown, contact: Ron Kuck, 315-788-8450, rak6@cornell.edu

• Wednesday, October 7: 6:30-9 pm, Ausable Valley Grange, Keeseville, contact: Peter Hagar, 518-561-7450, phh7@cornell.edu

• Thursday, October 8: 6:30-9 pm, North Country Community College, Malone, contact: Jessica Prosper, 518-483-7403, jlr15@cornell.edu

• Friday, October 9: 6:30-9 pm, Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County Learning Farm, Canton, contact: Betsy Hodge: 315-379-9192, bmf9@cornell.edu.

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is a farmer-driven initiative to ensure the long term economic vitality of Northern NY’s agricultural production sector and agriculture’s important contributions to the protection and enhancement of the region’s environment and rich natural resource base and to communities in New York State’s six northernmost counties.

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program awards grants for practical on-farm research, outreach and technical assistance and is supported by funds from the New York State Legislature through the long term support of the North Country’s State Senators, and with the support of NYS Assemblypersons from the region and other areas of the state.
The program receives support (funds, time, land, expertise, etc.) from Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station, the NYS Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, the six Northern New York Cornell Cooperative Extension Associations, the W. H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, cooperating farms, agribusinesses across the region, and others.

To learn more about the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program, go online to www.nnyagdev.org, contact program co-chairs Jon Greenwood at 315-386-3231 or Joe Giroux at 518-563-7523, or call your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office. # # #

What is Real-Time Beef Carcass Ultrasound? by Heather Birdsall, Senior Extension Resource Educator, Cortland County Cornell Cooperative Extension

So, what is real-time ultrasound? Real-time ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves to “see” under the hide while the animal is still alive. This is the same technology used for pregnancy diagnosis in livestock as well as humans. This process is harmless to the animal and technician. These images make it possible to evaluate the carcass quality of live animals previously possible only through the direct measure on a hanging carcass following harvest. This allows a manager to directly determine the carcass characteristics of replacement stock as compared to evaluation-harvested progeny.

In the application of real-time beef carcass ultrasound, specific equipment is needed to collect and analyze the scanned images of the beef animal. There are two major types of ultrasound machines being used for carcass evaluation of beef cattle: the Aloka 500 and the Classic PIE Scanner 200. These machines consist of a console unit that contains the electronics, controls, and a screen upon which the ultrasound image is visualized by the technician. The sound-emitting probe, called a transducer, is attached to the ultrasound machine. Once placed on the animal, the transducer emits ultrasonic waves, which bounce off the boundaries between fat and muscle. The echoes returning to the transducer are detected and translated into images that are displayed on the ultrasound machine screen. A standoff pad is a made of a pliable "super flab" material and is placed on the transducer. This allows it to fit the natural curvature of the animal assisting in the collection of the ribeye image. A chute side video monitor, external monitor, is also used when ultrasounding cattle to help insure quality images are taken. And lastly, an image capturing system, called a Black Box, is needed to capture and save images to a zip disk for processing purposes.

Real-time live animal carcass ultrasound can be a very beneficial production practice for all segments of the beef industry. This technology is being utilized across the nation by progressive purebred and commercial producers and buyers as they integrate more carcass information into their selection programs. The use of live-animal carcass ultrasound is just one step towards reaching the goal of producing a high quality, consistent product for today’s value-based market.

Additional Contacts:
Cornell Cooperative Extension Livestock Educators for Northern NY:
• Clinton County: Peter Hagar, 518-561-7450
• Essex County: Anita Deming, 518-962-4810
• Franklin County: Carl Tillinghast, Bernadette Logozar, 518-483-7403
• Jefferson County: Ron Kuck, 315-788-8450
• Lewis County: Michele Ledoux, Frans Vokey, 315-376-5270
• St. Lawrence County: Brent Buchanan, Betsy Hodge, 315-379-9192

Northern New York Agricultural Development Program: www.nnyagdev.org