June 12, 2024

From the Pastures: Dealing with listeria

This year, I used a spreader truck instead of an airplane to apply the nitrogen and red clover seed over my dry wheat ground. The next day, I got a 2-inch rain, so I hope it didn’t wash the seed and fertilizer too far. We really needed the rain and it didn’t puddle up too much. It just soaked in.

I rode with Trevor Toland over to the Heart of America Grazing Conference in Ferdinand, Indiana. Illinois was represented nicely in the crowd of around 200. One of the first speakers, out of 19 speakers, was Keith Johnson, professor of agronomy at Purdue University. His talk was “Feed the Soil to Grow the Forage to Feed the Livestock — Don’t Starve the Soil!” One thing he covered was why soil test, when to soil test, what to request of the soil test, and what is a reasonable yield goal. He also covered tissue sampling and how to do a tissue sample.

Johnny Rogers, animal science associate from North Carolina State Extension, talked on “Adding Sheep to a Cattle Operation.” A Texas A&M University research project suggests a 24% increase in total farm meat production when sheep are added to a cattle operation. So, should you add sheep to your cattle operation? “It depends” is the quick answer, and then Johnny went over several considerations that are covered in the proceedings booklet.

The one I really wanted to hear about was from Grant Burcham, veterinary diagnostician at Purdue on “Livestock Disorders Associated with Preserved Forages: Listeriosis and Botulism.” I have lost five pregnant ewes to listeria from feeding baleage in the last month. I know it’s listeria because I’ve taken two ewes to the University of Illinois large animal vet lab and they have came back positive for listeria.

He said ensure that ensiled forage hits the target pH of less than 4.5 to inhibit growth of harmful bacteria. The second point is test for ash content. Heavy soil contamination of forages can be a risk factor for both of these diseases. There is a QR code in the proceedings that covers a lot more, but I did learn an awful lot from his talk and also talking directly to him afterward.

All of the presentations are in the booklet that you can get from Jason Tower at towerj@purdue.edu. I have used baleage for 10 years and this year is the only time I’ve had problems. I’ll continue to use baleage. I think it was just the year.

We preg checked last week and those numbers are down, also. In 2022, the fetus count was 200%, but 2023 fetus count is 160%. I’ve talked to several shepherds who said their number of lambs born this year is less than last year. There again, I think it was just the weather.

Keep putting one foot in front of the other and if you wake up on the green side of the grass, you’re doing good!

Elton Mau

Elton Mau

Arrowsmith, Ill.