AgWatch


All Kind Of Information Is Out There, But Not All Is Accurate

DR. TERESA L. STECKLER

SIMPSON, ILL.
   It is amazing the amount of information available to livestock producers that one can find on the world wide web. There is one major problem, much/some of that information is just plain wrong.  I have often heard web-based information referred to as “Dr. Google” because they can find information on maladies that occur on the farm and possible treatments. Unfortunately many people think that what they read on-line is 100 percent fool proof, but sometimes the remedies that some promote do nothing to treat the condition which can make the condition worse by not correctly treating sooner or is possibly toxic to livestock.
   However there are several web locations that are based on the latest science to help cattlemen. For example, if you want to synchronize your cattle for artificial insemination then the Beef Reproductive Task Force has the site for you – Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle (http://beefrepro.unl.edu/). This website will provide you with the latest recommended synchronization protocols, an estrus synchronization planner, an AI calculator, as well as numerous other resources.
   Keep in mind that while people may discuss procedures that are NOT on the list, those procedures have not been adequately studied and, as a reproductive physiologist, I will not recommend them.  This is why – from a scientific perspective a new AI synchronization procedure must be tested on a large number of cattle (more than 2000 head), not a few hundred to test whether we can actually see an improvement in pregnancy rates. Also several states, including Illinois, generally are included in a large multistate collaborative effort to test the synchronization procedure’s effectiveness.
   Livestock producers know that as the temperature soars and humidity rises, it is very important not to work the livestock any more than necessary. The U.S. Department of Ag has had a great webpage on Cattle Heat Stress Forecast. Instead of putting the web link here (which is too long), perform a search with the following: “USDA cattle heat stress forecast.” That will take you directly to the site.
   But if you have a smart phone, you can look up the information on an app now. Just recently the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) released a new app that will forecast conditions triggering heat stress in cattle. The new app is compatible with Android and Apple mobile phones and issues forecasts one to seven days in advance of extreme heat conditions, along with recommended actions that can protect animals before and during a heat stress event. This app and many others can be found on the ARS webpage under “Quick Links.”
   There are many apps available to cattlemen – too many to mention in this article. However, you perform a search with the terms “cattle apps”. This will bring up several web pages listing apps. Wyoming has an app to keep records. Several cattlemen’s organizations have apps on their websites – choose those you like.
   In addition to cattlemen I help small ruminant producers – sheep and goat people. Sheep and goats are considered minor species in the US and the amount of research dedicated to them whether at a university or corporation is pittance versus cattle, pigs, and chickens. Thus many small ruminant producers have come to rely on “Dr. Google” for much of their information. But as mentioned above much of this information, especially on forums, is NOT based on sound science!
   One of the best sites for small ruminant producers is the Maryland Small Ruminant Page (www.sheepandgoat.com). Susan Schoenian maintains the webpage and is constantly updated.  In addition to Maryland’s page, Langston University can also be a great resource (http://www.luresext.edu/). 
   Regardless of the animal you are raising it is important not to fall into “Dr. Google’s” pit of vast, useless information. I can make several recommendations when surfing the web for information: 1) information from universities has been vetted for accuracy; 2) seek information from your local veterinarian (if they do not feel comfortable treating small ruminants then him/her to recommend an alternative); 3) contact your local Extension office to obtain a name with whom to speak with. Happy surfing! ∆
   DR. TERESA L. STECKLER: Extension Specialist, Animal Systems/Beef, Dixon Springs Agricultural Center, University of Illinois
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