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Market Analysis for Biomass Growers

Sat, 01/20/2018 - 00:02

Example Analyses of the Wood Chips and Paperboard Manufacturing Industries as Biomass Markets.


Greene Team pellets. Photo: NEWBio A primary intended use for biomass is for the production of biofuels.  The cellulosic biofuels industry is still developing and there may not yet be sufficient biofuel refinery capacity to utilize biomass crops that are grown for the purpose of making cellulosic biofuels.  However, the bioeconomy overall is growing and many products other than biofuels can be manufactured from biomass.  These bioproducts can represent alternate markets [i]  for growers of biomass crops until the biofuels industry reaches capacity.  However, biomass growers may not be aware of alternate marketsfor biomass or whether the markets are viable for specific biomass raw materials. 

This fact sheet provides a market analysis approach that can be used to analyze any of these potential markets for the sale of biomass raw materials.  Two examples were selected for application of the market analysis: the wood chip industry and the paperboard industry



Porter’s Five Forces Market Analysis

Market analysis is integral to understanding customers as well as the forces that shape competition in the markets.  It is fundamental to developing competitive priorities and marketing strategies—generally expressed in terms of cost, quality, delivery (speed and reliability), and flexibility (features, variety, and mix)—that would successfully enable a company to break into new markets or increase its share in its existing markets [2].

Image courtesy of Myers (2013) [4]

Porter’s Five Forces Model is a comprehensive yet easy-to-use market analysis tool that helps companies gain understanding of their industry’s customers.  It is based on five forces that shape industry competition, shown in Figure 1 and briefly described accordingly.[3]

The configuration of the five forces differs by industry.  In this factsheet, the US wood chip industry and the US paperboard manufacturing industry are used as illustrative examples for the Porter Five Forces analysis, highlighting opportunities and challenges for biomass growers competing in the supply market of these industries.  Because biomass is the input material supplying these two industries, supplier bargaining power is the most relevant force for biomass producers in the Porter model.


  • Rivalry among existing competitors:  The current intensity of industry competition, as determined by the number of existing competitors and what each player is capable of doing.  Rivalry is high when companies in the industry are numerous or are roughly equal in size and power (thus equally selling a product or service); when the industry is growing; and when customers can easily switch to a competitor’s offering. 
  • Bargaining power of suppliers:  How much power and control suppliers have over the potential to raise prices of the products and service provided.  Sources of supplier power include number of available suppliers, the switching of costs from one supplier to another, the presence of available substitutes, and how critical the inputs are.
  • Bargaining power of customers:  The power of customers to affect pricing and quality.  Customers have power when there are large numbers of sellers, and when it is easy to switch between different sellers.  In contrast, customers have low power when they purchase products in small quantities and the seller’s product is very different from any of its competitors’ products.
  • Threat of new entrants:  Barriers to entry into the marketplace in the industry.  These can include patents, economies of scale, capital requirements, and government policies.
  • Threat of substitute products or services:  The availability of products or services that can serve the same purpose.  This is measured by the amount of available substitute products or services, the level of switching costs, and the likelihood of customers switching to alternatives in response to price increases.  This differs from bargaining power of customers in that the emphasis is on the switch to different products rather than to different suppliers.
For biomass growers, the model is especially useful from three key persepectives.
  1. Customer characteristics and needs.  The model enables understanding of characteristics of the customers at the industry level in terms of their major competitors and customers, basis of competition, products and services provided, and the scope of the industry’s market.  These insights are vital to identifying: Who are the customers?  What do they need?  How do they make their buying decisions?  How easily can they find substitute products?
  2. Buyer-supplier balance of power.  The model enables understanding of the ‘balance of power’ between biomass growers as suppliers and the customers as buyers.
  3. Competitor characteristics and competitive positions.  The model enables understanding of biomass growers’ competitors operating within the supply market of the industry, notably pertaining to: Who are they?  What are products and services they provide?  What are their competitive positions?
Porter Five Force Analysis Example: The US Wood Chips Industry

Greene Team pellet facility in PA. Photo: NEWBio Wood-chip processing facilities are primarily engaged in turning wood fiber into wood chips.  Activities involved in wood-chip processing operations typically include:
  • Obtaining, receiving, and storing wood-fiber raw materials (defined in the next paragraph)
  • Maintaining and managing storage facilities
  • Screening wood-fiber raw materials for chipping
  • Debarking, chipping, drying, and storing wood chips
  • Reclaiming and loading wood chips onto transport vehicles for customer delivery

Wood-fiber raw materials for wood-chip processing facilities come from four primary sources:

  • forest residues (e.g. timber harvest residues such as branches and treetops,
  • forest thinnings such as young or small-diameter trees, and material from forest clearing, such as low-lying bushes and vegetation),
  • saw mill residues (e.g. slabs, edges, sawdust),
  • urban wood wastes (e.g. municipal solid waste, construction and demolition waste), and purpose-grown woody biomass (e.g. short-rotation woody crops like willow). 

Each of t

Sample of willow biomass at harvest. Photo: T.Volk, SUNY ESF hese raw material sources differ in quality based on such characteristics as ash content, moisture content, energy content, uniformity, and contamination (e.g. rocks, dirt, debris).  As a result, a wood-chip facility processor’s choice of wood-fiber raw materials varies depending on the specifications for its end products.

Quality affects the suitability of these wood-chip end products for different applications in a suite of markets that includes landscape mulches, fuel for wood-fired boilers, pulp and paper, fiberboard, wood pellets, and biofuels, to name a few.  A classification guideline regarding wood chip end products is provided by the Biomass Energy Resource Center (BERC) [5] :

  • Grade A. Paper-grade chip (high quality)
  • Grade B. Bole chip (medium quality)
  • Grade C. Whole-tree chips (low quality)
  • Grade D. Urban-derived wood fuel (lowest quality)
Other Factors

Other factors influencing selection of raw material sources and suppliers may include price, availability, and services.  A key cost factor is transportation distance from wood source to customer facility.  Once selected, wood-chip facilities generally procure wood fibers from the suppliers under long-term contracts.  Market forces for the US wood chip industry are summarized in Figure 2. Some of the factors depend on scale.

Porter Five Force Analysis Example: The US Paperboard Manufacturing Industry

Corrugated Paper Manufacture. Photo: Ganesh Dhamodkar/Wikimedia Commons Paperboard mills are primarily engaged in turning fibrous materials into paperboard stocks.  These intermediate products come in a wide variety of styles and qualities suitable for different usage requirements.  However, more than two-thirds of all paperboard produced by US paperboard mills is converted into cardboard boxes, containers, and packaging, with a much smaller proportion delegated to other products.[6]  This major product line is expected to grow from $169.1 billion to $186 billion by 2017, according to the latest report issued by Smithers Pira, The Future of Packaging in North America to 2017.[7]

Paperboard is made from fibrous materials that come mainly from two sources— virgin sources, mainly wood pulp, and recovered fibers (also known as secondary fiber, recovered paper and board, and recycled paper products), notably old corrugated containers.[8]  Non-wood fiber is currently used to a smaller extent.[9]  Five influential factors in choosing the types of fibers used for paperboard production are:

  1. supply availability
  2. total costs of procurement (including purchased prices and logistics costs)
  3. contribution to product performance requirements
  4. compatibility with existing manufacturing infrastructure
  5. contribution to success of products in the marketplace.[10]

Figure 3 exhibits the configuration of the five forces in the paperboard industry.  From the biomass growers’ perspective, a number of insights into customers’ characteristics and needs are noted.  According to the FAO annual survey of world pulp and paper capacities, only about 16 percent of the wood pulp produced in the United States was sold on the market as pulp during 2012–2014,[11] suggesting that the majority of pulp produced for paper and paperboard is made by integrated mills for their own operations.  The growth prospects for the major product line discussed earlier and the practice of in-house pulp production render the paperboard-manufacturing market favorable as an opportunity for biomass growers to supply fiber raw material.


Source: Thomchick and Ruamsook (2015) [12] Closing Comments

Based on the US paperboard-manufacturing industry example, several characteristics of this industry make it promising for biomass producers as suppliers.  The supplier input is critical, yet the industry has the technology to extract wood pulp from a variety of sources, allowing the biomass industry to emerge as a natural alternative for paperboard manufacturing.  Nevertheless, the industry has operated using other sources in the past and is likely to continue to do so until the biomass cost becomes competitive with traditional sources and can provide the raw material reliably. 

As for the US wood-chip industry example, the industry appears to be a promising customer market for biomass producers as suppliers.  The supplier input is critical and the industry continues to expand, pushing the demand for raw materials, which, in turn, increases the prices of raw materials provided by traditional suppliers.  In the future, biomass producers may be able to position their material as a competitive alternative to these traditional suppliers, provided the yields are high and the cost becomes competitive with the traditional sources.

Two industries were analyzed in this fact sheet, but this framework can be applied to any industry market.  Its use can provide biomass growers a useful guide for the feasibility of entering markets through understanding buyers’ characteristics and needs, the balance of buyers vs. grower powers, and the competitiveness of growers against other suppliers.  Information necessary for the analysis can be based on the biomass growers’ knowledge of the specific markets, industry reports, or government publications. 

An overview of all biomass markets can be found in the NEWBio whitepaper publication entitled, Market Opportunities for Lignocelluosic Biomass: Multi-tier Market Identification Framework.  This white paper provides data for industry and companies collated from various sources, including Penn State business library databases (e.g. IBISWorld, Hoover’s, and Standard & Poor’s NetAdvantage), academic and industrial business journal databases (e.g. ABI/INFORM Complete, Academic Search Complete [Ebsco]), industry association publications, and government publications, as well as company websites, blogs, and annual reports.

End Notes

This Fact Sheet is a NEWBio Project Resource, which provide information on the research, opportunities and challenges in developing a sustainable system for the thermochemical production of biofuels from perennial grasses grown on land marginal for row crop production.

[1] Thomchick, Evelyn, and Kusumal Ruamsook. 2014. “Market Opportunities for Lignocellulosic Biomass: Multi-tier Market Identification Framework.” NEWBio White Paper.

[2] Chi, Ting, Peter P. D. Kilduff, and Vidyaranya B. Gargeya. 2009. “Alignment between Business Environment Characteristics, Competitive Priorities, Supply Chain Structures, and Firm Business Performance.” International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management 58 (7): 645–69. Sarmiento, R., G. Knowles, and M. Byrne. 2008. “Strategic Consensus on Manufacturing Competitive Priorities: A New Methodology and Proposals for Research.” Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management 19 (7): 830–43.

[3] Porter, Michael E. 2008. “The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy.” Harvard Business Review, January.

[4] Myers, Mason. 2013. “Five Forces by Michael Porter — Fundamentals Through Graphics.” Blog posted on February 3.

[5] BERC – Biomass Energy Resource Center. 2011. “Woodchip Heating Fuel Specifications in the Northeastern United States.” The Biomass Energy Resource Center.

[6] Hoopes, Stephen. 2014a. “Paperboard Mills in the US.” IBISWorld Industry Report 32213, June.

[7] Western Container. 2013. “Paperboard and Corrugated Packaging Top Market Trends in 2013.” Blog.

[8] EPA – US Environmental Protection Agency. 2012. “Paper Making and Recycling.” US Environmental Protection Agency, November 14. Hoopes, Stephen. 2014a. “Paperboard Mills in the US.” IBISWorld Industry Report 32213, June.

[9] Bajpai, Pratima. 2012. “Chapter 2: Brief Description of the Pulp and Paper Making Process.” In Biotechnology for Pulp and Paper Processing, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, 7–14. Hoover’s. 2014. “Pulp & Paper Mills.” First Research Industry Report. Iggesund Paperboard. 2014. “The Paperboard Process.” Product Information, 2014-08-26. Singh, Pooja, Othman Sulaiman, Rokiah Hashim, Leh Cheu Peng, and Rajeev Pratap Singh. 2013. “Using Biomass Residues from Oil Palm Industry as a Raw Material for Pulp and Paper Industry: Potential Benefits and Threat to the Environment.” Environment, Development and Sustainability 15 (2): 367–383.

[10] National Council for Air and Stream Improvement. 2013. “Effects of Nonwood Fiber Use.” http://www.paperenvironment.org/PDF/nonwood/NWF_Full_Text.pdf

[11] FAO – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2013. The 2013 FAO Survey of World Pulp and Paper Capacities, 2012–2017. FAO – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2014. The 2014 FAO Survey of World Pulp and Paper Capacities, 2013–2018.

[12] Thomchick, Evelyn, and Kusumal Ruamsook. 2015. “Market Opportunities for Lignocellulosic Biomass: Analysis of the Paperboard Industry.” NEWBio White Paper.


Contributors to This Article Authors
  • Kusumal Ruamsook, research associate, Center for Supply Chain Research, Smeal College of Business, Penn State University
  • Evelyn Thomchick, associate professor of Supply Chain Management, Department of Supply Chain & Information Systems, Smeal College of Business, Penn State University
Peer Reviewers
  • Sarah Wurzbacher, Extension Educator, NEWBio Consortium, Penn State University
  • Michael Jacobson, Professor of Forest Resources, Penn State University


The Northeast Woody/Warm-season Biomass Consortium - NEWBio is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2012-68005-19703 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Led by Penn State University, NEWBio includes partners from Cornell University, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, West Virginia University, Delaware State University, Ohio State University, Rutgers University, falseUSDA’s Eastern Regional Research Center, and DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Idaho National Laboratory.

Backpack Giving for Healthier Living

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 19:02

In the United States, hunger and food insecurity continue to be a persistent problem - 41.2 million people lived in food-insecure households in 2016, 6.5 million of which were children. Defined as the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, food insecurity is particularly concerning when it affects children, as a lack of nutritious food often leads to poorer diets, which can then be linked to a variety of health issues including obesity, behavioral and concentration problems, lower academic achievement, and delays in social and mental development.

In Little Rock, Arkansas, a school nurse launched her own Food for Kids program in 1995 after seeing many tired, sick children falling behind in school due to hunger and food scarcity at home. She partnered with a local food pantry and developed an initiative to reduce “weekend hunger” by giving students in need of assistance enough food for breakfast and lunch on the weekend. She did this by distributing backpacks containing the food to students on Friday afternoons. This became the first school BackPack program, which has since grown to include 38 states and serves more than 230,000 children.  

While BackPack programs are unique and individualized to each specific school, there are a few commonalities that unite each project:

  • The program partners with an external food pantry or food vendor to supply the food, and generally relies on community fundraising for financial support.
  • Community volunteers perform the majority of the work—packing food into backpacks, storing packs, and delivering them to schools.
  • Each backpack contains easy-to-prepare foods for 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 snacks, 1 fruit option, and 1 vegetable option, as well as a recipe card with nutrition tips that correspond to the food they are receiving that week. See a sample cycle menu below.
  • Teachers, nurses, or other school staff deliver the backpacks to students in a discreet manner, such as dropping them in a locker.

BackPack programs provide several benefits to communities. In one Feeding America report, there was a significant increase in the percent of families in the program who moved from the low-food insecure status to food secure, as 13% of families participating in the BackPack program experienced this status switch compared to only 5% of families who were not participating. Furthermore, 20% of very-low-food secure parents described the program as having a big effect on their budgets.

However, there are also common challenges in implementing this program. The BackPack program does not operate during the summer, which may make it more difficult for families to allocate food during this time. Additionally, children whose families are at the margins of food insecurity may not qualify for this public program, but still benefit from it. Perhaps a new qualification standard should be created to ensure all children in need receive assistance. Another point in question is the nutritional value of the food, as one program worker said the food is “not filling the true nutrition gap, but it really is helping the recipients.” Finally, while the backpack delivery attempts to be as confidential as possible, stigma associated with participation in hunger relief programs still exists. If these barriers prevent a BackPack program in your school, consider other models of student food insecurity relief, like food pantries, food drives, or food waste recovery efforts. For example, the Chicago Healthy Kids Markets evolved from a BackPack program and currently operate as school-based, market-style food distributions that provide nutritious food to students and families who may not be able to visit a traditional food pantry.

If a BackPack program might work in your school, consider the following suggestions for supporting such programs. As a school staff member, seek out opportunities to learn about reliable indicators of food insecurity. You are a vital resource in identifying students who may need additional assistance, even beyond a BackPack program. Communication with the school community is also a crucial key to success. As a parent, know that it is possible for your voice to be heard! As a participant in a program like this, your feedback can only improve the initiative. If you are not a participant but would like to bring a BackPack program to your child’s school, it is possible! Meeting with a school superintendent or principal is a great first step in establishing a hunger relief operation like the BackPack program. Finally, check out the Hunger Free Colorado backpack program toolkit for these and other ideas!


Catherine Spivak, Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University

Alisha Gaines, PhD, Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University


Backpack Food Program Starter Toolkit PDF. Hunger Free Colorado. 

Beyond the Lunchroom: How School Meals Can Promote Nutrition and Combat Hunger. eXtension Healthy Food Choices in Schools.

Byker Shanks, C., Harden, S. (2016). A Reach, Effectiveness, Adoption, Implementation, Maintenance Evaluation of Weekend Backpack Food Assistance Programs. American Journal of Healthy Promotion, 30(7), 511-520. DOI: 10.4278/ajhp.140116-QUAL-28

Feeding Children During the School Year. Greater Chicago Food Depository. 

Fiese, B. Backpack Program Evaluation. Family Resiliency Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Campaign.

Food Security in the US: Key Statistics and Graphics. USDA Economic Research Service. 


January 2018 Newsletter Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 18:27

<==Subscribe to the newsletter or browse past issues

Webcast Series Looking Ahead to January: Are You Prepared?

What would you (or your clientele) do if a natural disaster hit your area? What changes should and do occur on a livestock operation during or following a natural disaster, not only to ensure the safety and care of the animals, but also the environments around the operation? Join us January 26, 2018 at 2:30 pm EST (1:30 CST; 12:30 MST; and 11:30 a.m. PST) More information...

Speakers: Tommy Bass, Montana State University, Ronald Gill, Texas AgriLife Extension, Carl Dahlen, North Dakota State University, and Kevin Erb, University of Wisconsin Extension.

More on Webcasts...

Reducing Greenhouse Gas and Ammonia Emissions from Manure Systems What's Going On In the LPELC?

Waste to Worth 4. The fourth Waste to Worth conference is being tentatively planned for 2019 in Minnesota. If you are interested in being part of the planning committee, fill out this form.

Around the Horns

Water Quality. Michigan State University research examined streams, including the headwaters of small streams, to determine if they could figure out where nutrient loads were coming from. They found that even a few strategically collected samples can effectively serve as "sensors" for monitoring stream health. Read more...

PEDv Risk. Research from the University of Manitoba examined the risks of manure contaminated with PEDv being spread on soils. The multi-year project showed that the virus can survive winter conditions and can potentially replicated during winter months in manure storage structures. Three weeks after spreading, the virus was still detectable in soils, although its ability to infect animals was not examined. Learn more...

State Programs. The December 2017 Livestock Environmental Management newsletter from North Dakota State University is available. Topics include nutrient planning, the economic value of manure, and succession planning. Learn more...

Manure Storage. If you are interested in design of geosynthetic liners for liquid manure storage, check out this recorded webinar from USDA NRCS. Read more...


  • USDA NRCS is hosting a webinar on the CarbOn Management and Evaluation Tool (COMET). Webinar participants will learn about recent changes and  plans to integrate a version of COMET into Conservation Delivery Streamlining Initiative (CDSI). Participants will also learn about the ongoing development of an integrated greenhouse gas and water quality tool. January 25, 2018 at 2 pm EST. Learn more...
  • Economists at the University of Guelph examined what would happen if cattle were taxed because of methane emissions. They look at potential changes in consumption and production, potential unintended consequences, and assess whether they think it will be a successful strategy. Read more...

Nutrient Management. A National Science Foundation (NSF) analysis looked at 25 years of data to determine how phosphorus (P) loading in lakes occurred. They found that pulses of P are carried as a result of precipitation events with larger rain events contributing more P. This data can help in prioritizing strategies for reducing P losses from fields. Read more...

Animal Welfare. Research from USDA ARS and other partners is examining 3D imaging to model sow behavior with the goal of reducing piglet deaths. Read more...

Regulation & Policy. The US EPA has released English and Spanish fact sheets about the reporting requirements for animal agriculture related to EPCRA and CERCLA. The deadline for producers is January 22, 2018 to make the initial report. View the fact sheets...

Pastured Livestock.

  • The ATTRA Sustainable Ag Program has released a new publication "Building Healthy Pasture Soils". The publication emphasizes grazing management principles that build healthy soils. Read more...
  • A University of Alberta study shows that compensation programs that reimburse ranchers for livestock killed by predators helps advance conservation on private lands. Read more... | Journal abstract...

Health & Safety. "Evaluation of low-cost hydrogen sulfide monitors for use in livestock production" is the title of a recent study by the University of Iowa. Gas monitors are important to protect farm workers from dangerous hydrogen sulfide gas. Researchers examined different models and differing conditions. They advise that bump tests are important to make sure monitors accurately detect high levels of H2S gas. Read more... | ASABE Technical Library...

Events & Announcements

SARE Conference. The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program is hosting a once-every-decade conference "Our Farms Our Future: The Next 30 Years of Sustainable Agriculture". April 3-5, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. More...

ILES. The Call for Papers is open for the 10th International Livestock Environment Symposium. ILES X will be held in Omaha, Nebraska September 25-27, 2018. More...

ASABE 2018. American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) Annual International Meeting will be held July 29 - August 1, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. Abstracts are due January 3, 2018. Meeting website...

News Droppings

A look at animal agriculture, stewardship, and manure in the news: serious, funny or controversial. We don't endorse this stuff, we just think you should know about it.

Protein levels in native grasses have dropped significantly in recent years and that could be a problem for grass-fed beef. Read more...

If you have any questions about this newsletter, please contact Jill Heemstra jheemstra@unl.edu

About the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 22:34

Mission | Contact Us | Topic Teams | Products | Core Values | Funding | Membership

What Is the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center (LPELC)?

The LPELC is a network made up of professionals from across the U.S. (and Canada) with an interest and expertise in some aspect of animal agriculture and environmental stewardship. (A nice way of saying we talk about manure....a lot.) Public sector funding for people and projects devoted to the outreach and extension of research information has dwindled at an alarming rate. This learning network offers faculty and staff with opportunities to network, collaborate, mentor, and share. What used to be done by walking down the hall, now can be done in "virtual" settings. It is our way of trying to do more with less. The network was officially established in 2005 with a USDA National Facilitation grant focused on water quality. It has continued to the present through the support of other grants related to air quality, beginning farmers, and climate change among others.

A learning network like the LPELC strives to bring together all types of expertise; all the way from research and technical knowledge to application of science on the farm. Ideally, a learning network creates a feedback loop where on-farm application informs the research and science. Better science should lead to positive applications on the farm which continues to refine the science, and so on.

Our Mission

Individuals involved in public policy issues, animal production, and delivery of technical services for animal agriculture will have on-demand access to the nation's best science-based resources that is responsive to priority and emerging environmental issues associated with animal agriculture.

Contact Us

General questions, partnering on grant projects, web content, newsletter: Jill Heemstra, University of Nebraska jill.heemstra@unl.edu

Webcast series, web content: Leslie Johnson, University of Nebraska leslie.johnson@unl.edu

Leadership committee:

Topic Teams

Most of the website content is created by the focused groups within the learning network--the topic teams. These teams host "virtual work days" (usually on an annual basis) for the review and development of  web content, identification of "hot" topics, professional development needs, or opportunities to collaborate for grant funding. The team leaders serve on a rotating basis and new members are welcomed at any time. (If you use the signup link, be sure to request membership in the LPELC during the process). The mutli-disciplinary nature of the LPELC is one of its greatest strengths.


The major products of the learning center are:

  • This website. The LPELC chose to affiliate with the eXtension Initiative platform for production of web content. This system is one of the largest outreach networks ever assembled and allows us to access expertise on beef, dairy, poultry, and other topics to supplement that already on our team.
  • Webcast series. The LPELC was a pioneer in delivering scientific information through live broadcasts over the web. We produced our first webinar in September, 2006 and continue on a monthly basis to the present. Webcasts are archived for future use.
  • Waste to Worth conference. The first W2W was held in 2013 in Denver, Colorado with over 250 people in attendance. The conference aims to bring together science, on-farm application, and solutions for the questions surrounding animal agriculture and environmental stewardship. A winning recipe, for turning waste into worth!
  • Newsletter. A comprehensive, national newsletter highlighting science, programs, activities, resources, and hot topics related to animal ag and stewardship. Subscribe now....
  • Ask an expert. If a question cannot be answered by looking through the website, you have the option to ask an expert. We have knowledgeable people from 40+ states ready to assist.
  • Our outreach goes beyond a website. Look for us on Youtube, Slideshare, Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr.
Pillars of This Learning Network

A national team representing a broad spectrum of those creating, delivering and utilizing research-based knowledge will establish a national Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center committed to:

  • Implementing a customer driven approach that will identify critical or emerging issues. We regularly ask stakeholders what they need and how this information impacts their daily work.
  • For priority issues identified by stakeholders, developing or curating the best science-based resources available. Reliable, credible information that is reviewed and recommended by a multi-disciplinary team of experts.
  • Developing and testing innovative outreach models for connecting those who are creating new research knowledge with the end users of that knowledge. We are finding new ways to learn and interact with experts, peers, learners, and influencers.
  • Identifying appropriate national learning center roles that best support existing organizations committed to an outreach mission. We are not trying to compete with existing resources--we are committed to finding ways to help increase the usage of good resources already published and then develop original content as appropriate.
  • Provide a repository for information that is accessible beyond a funded project. Grant-funded projects provide exceptional opportunities to develop new knowledge and explore outreach strategies. To prevent this accrued knowledge from falling out of common use as personnel move on to new projects or websites are decommissioned, it is important to provide an accessible "home" for that information. This also provides future projects with a base from which to build rather than have to start from scratch.
Our Audience

Our ultimate customer is the livestock or poultry producer. However, this network tends to emphasize delivery of information to ag professionals that influence producer environmental management decisions. This allows for the professional to appropriately contextualize information for different geographical locations or production systems. The LPELC places a high value on working with a wide range of groups such as: extension, research and teaching faculty/staff, commodity groups, ag organizations, agencies, environmental organizations, farmers, public and private sector advisers, and those involved in public policy implementation.

How Is the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center (LPELC) Funded?

The LPELC is funded through grant dollars. Our leadership and staff write grant grants for outreach in animal agriculture and stewardship efforts. They also work with projects that would like to partner with the LPELC to enhance their outreach efforts. A copy of the collaboration planner is available at: http://create.extension.org/node/99673 (need an eXtension ID to view it). A copy can also be obtained from Jill jheemstra@unl.edu.

How Do I Become a Member? Why?

Becoming a member is easy. Either request an email invitation from Jill jheemstra@unl.edu or sign up through eXtension's "people" application.

Being a part of a collaborative network as active as the LPELC often raises questions for perspective members:

  • How much time will it take? Being involved is voluntary and many members go through periods of activity followed by phases where they have to focus on other priorities. This is a normal and expected part of learning networks. It is our goal to assist members in finding resources and connections that help increase their efficiency. We hope you get as much (or more) out of this network than what you put in and welcome involvement as your efforts and interest allow and align with other activity in the LPELC.
  • Will I lose credit for my work? The LPELC produces some original content and also curates (links to, embeds, or otherwise highlight in its original location and form) information. Even in original content that is branded for the LPELC (which is a choice made by the authors) the individual contributors and their respective institutions are highlighted. The transparency of authorship and reivew is an important aspect of establishing the credibility of information on this site. Articles or resources authored through the LPELC should be reported on an author or reviewer's annual reporting for their supervisor as a national scope, peer-reviewed resource.

Texting Programs in SNAP-Ed

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 20:35

Creating a text message based program has shown to be a non-conventional way to provide nutrition education to SNAP-Ed participants.  There are many programs across the country that have implemented a text message program in their state.  This is a list of programs that has been shared with the CoP with a general description of their current texting program and program contact information.

Michigan State University Extension
Michigan State University Extension has two small texting programs. One aims to provide parents with quick actionable tips, as well as recipes related to nutrition and being healthy as a family. This project began in September and we have 37 participants. Originally, we tried to solely recruit through our Healthier Child Care Environments PSE initiative and had minimal participants. Then we shared information about it on social media, which is how the majority of the participants were recruited. Two text messages are sent out each week – one actionable tip and one recipe.

The other text program MSU Extension has is for Flint parents who have been impacted by the Flint Water Crisis to provide them with recipes and tips for using their food assistance benefits effectively. There are 141 participants who receive about 1 text message a week. Less frequently, as they occur, we send community events and resources that are available to the residents. We recruited at community events beginning in June.

MSU Extension uses the free platform, Remind, to deliver both of these initiatives. Remind allows for scheduling of messages in advance, shows how many people received the message, and also how many read it. It also allows the participants to react (“like”) a message and you can also set up two-way communication if desired. While you can do all of these things, the analytics are not displayed readily; you have to look at each message individually. Remind is user-friendly, able to be managed by multiple people, and many of our participants are familiar with the program because a lot of teachers use it to communicate with parents.

For more information, contact Erin Powell, MS RD LDN at powelle9@anr.msu.edu.


Colorado Integrated Nutrition Education Program (INEP)

The Integrated Nutrition Education Program (INEP), and The Culture of Wellness in Preschools (COWP) are programs through the Rocky Mountain Prevention Research Center at the University of Colorado School of Public Health.  We provide a creative and fun way for kids to learn about healthy eating in their classroom and to share what they learn with their families. Parent engagement is very important to our program.  As part of our efforts to engage parents, staff, and community members, we are developing a free text messaging program. The major themes of our messages will be Healthy Eating Behaviors, Physical Activity and Reduced Sedentary Behaviors, Healthy, Parent Engagement, Feeding Relationship, and Food Resource Management.  

Text2BHealthy will be launched this month in approximately 45 elementary schools statewide, and 65 early childhood sites.  We will be working on multiple outreach efforts to continue enrolling parents into the program. If you have any questions feel free to contact Maria Saldana, maria.saldana@ucdenver.edu, or Julie Atwood, julie.atwood@ucdenver.edu


Maryland Food Supplement Nutrition Education (FSNE)

Maryland developed Text2BHealthy in January 2012 as an indirect method of reaching parents with nutrition education. Text2BHealthy is a text message program targeting parents of elementary school students who are currently receiving classroom-based nutrition education.  Text2BHealthy provides parents with “nutrition nudges” 2-3 times per week on nutrition-related school and community activities, grocery store specials, and physical activity ideas. Messages are targeted and focus on encouraging families to take action and specific to the individuals school and community.  

Text2BHealthy currently has 29 schools participating  across the state of Maryland and has over 2100 parents enrolled. 

Text4HealthyTots is a text message based program in Maryland that is targeting parents of children ages 3-5.Messages give parents tips for feeding their children fruits and vegetables, healthy meal and recipe ideas, trying new foods, and being active as a family. Parents will receive 1-2 messages per week with ideas that relate to the time of year and often link to our blog, website, and Facebook page for more information.  

Maryland uses Mobile Messaging by Upland Software as their software platform for sending messages.  For more information, contact Laryessa Worthington  lengland@umd.edu.  

FY17 SNAP-Ed and EFNEP State Impact Reports

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 19:29



We have received the following states FY17 impact reports on their SNAP-Ed and EFNEP work during the 2017 fiscal year.  Click on the name of each state to view the corresponding report:


FY16 SNAP-Ed and EFNEP State Impact Reports

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 17:39


The following states have provided their FY16 impact reports on the SNAP-Ed and EFNEP work conducted during the 2016 fiscal year.  Click on the name of each state to view the corresponding report.  


Get to Know Your Salad Bar!

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 21:37

Student Nutrition Advisors from Adam Elementary School in Santa Maria, California offering peer-to-peer encouragement and advice on how to get the most of the school salad bar! 


Shannon Klisch, CalFresh, University of California Extension San Luis Obispo County


Healthy Food Choices in Schools Featured Series

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 19:57
School Gardens

This series offers expert advice about starting and maintaining successful school gardening programs.

Farm to School and Local Food Procurement

This content series highlights the goals, challenges and successes of procuring and serving local foods in school meal programs. 

Managing Food Allergies in Schools

Food allergies can create concern for students, parents, teachers and food service directors. This series focuses on ways of safely managing food allergies in cafeterias and classrooms.

School Breakfast Programs and Successes

This content series examines the importance of school breakfast and highlights some successful breakfast programs and initiatives that nourish students and help build healthy habits.

Moving Veggies off of the Sidelines

Featuring healthy nutrient rich vegetable dishes in the school lunchroom is great option for normalizing vegetables and getting kids excited about eating them! Linked below is a series of articles that feature different, creative ways of putting vegetables in play.

Healthy Classroom Celebrations

Fun and health can go together, especially in school parties and celebrations where health activities, food and lessons can positively contribute to health and happiness of students, teachers and staff. This series focuses on ways that parents, teachers, administrators and food service professionals can create healthy environments, foods, and activities for special days. 

Reducing and Managing School Cafeteria Food Waste

This content series explores food waste in school cafeterias; specifically, reducing food waste and analyzing  it to measure consumption. 

Investing for Your Future

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 14:34



A Cooperative Extension System Basic Investing Home Study Course

Sponsored by Rutgers Cooperative Extension in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Financial Security for All community of eXtension, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Dear Home Study Course Reader,

Welcome to the home study course Investing For Your Future. This 11-unit home study course was developed by the Cooperative Extension System for beginning investors with small dollar amounts to invest at any one time. It is updated annually to keep it current. We assumed that many readers will be investing for the first time or selecting investment products, such as a stock index fund or unit investment trust, that they have not purchased previously.

The course units were developed in a logical order. "Basic" topics such as setting goals, investment terms (e.g., diversification, dollar-cost averaging, asset allocation), and finding money to invest lay a foundation to help readers understand how and why they’re investing. You’ll also begin to understand that there’s generally a trade off between risk and reward. The more risk an investor assumes, the greater the chance of a high long-term return, as well as the greater chance of short-term losses along the way.

After exploring "the basics," the course describes specific types of investments (e.g., stocks and bonds) in detail. You’ll begin to understand their characteristics, how they are purchased, and what it costs to purchase each investment. There are also units that focus specifically on tax-advantaged investments and investments that can be purchased with $1,000 or less.

Finally, Investing For Your Future concludes with additional topics of use to investors: available resources, how to select professional financial advisors, and information to help you avoid becoming a victim of investment fraud. You can choose to read the entire course, in any order that makes sense to you, or select only those topics that are of most interest. The choice is yours.

Simply reading Investing For Your Future will not turn you into a successful investor, however. A printed page simply can never replace the personal motivation that is required to take action to achieve financial goals. That is why there are "action steps" listed at the end of each unit. These are specific steps that readers can take to apply the course material to their lives. We urge you to consider each action step carefully and take action that is appropriate for your individual financial situation. The course also contains a number of worksheets, which, again, are tools to help readers apply the information contained within each unit. We encouage you to use them to make your experience with Investing For Your Future a personal one.

Another resource to help you achieve your financial goals is your local Cooperative Extension office. Look in the "county government" section of your phone book to find the nearest office. Free or low-cost publications are available, as well as classes, Web sites, computerized financial analyses, newsletters, and other program delivery methods.

Thank you for participating in Investing For Your Future. We hope that you find it helpful and that all of your future financial goals are achieved.


Description of the Home Study Course

Investing For Your Future is an 11-part home study course that was initially written in 2000 by a consortium of six land-grant universities (Rutgers University, Cornell University, Clemson University, Virginia Tech, Michigan State University, and the University of Idaho), the U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. It is currently sponsored by the Financial Security for All community of eXtension and was revised and updated in 2008 as part of an online investor education program sponsored by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).


Course Objectives
  1. Participants will learn specific ways to "find" money to invest (e.g., expense reduction).
  2. Participants will learn about important investment principles (e.g., asset allocation, tax deferral, compound interest).
  3. Participants will learn about specific investment products (e.g., mutual funds).
  4. Participants will learn about ways to invest with small dollar amounts.
  5. Participants will learn how to access investment resources (e.g., Web sites, government agencies), including how to select professional advisors.
  6. Participants will learn about investment fraud and how to avoid it.
  7. Participants will complete personalized worksheets and learning activities to apply course content to their lives
Disclaimer Mention of a trademark, proprietary product, or commercial firm in text or figures does not constitute an endorsement by the Cooperative Extension System and does not imply approval to the exclusion of other suitable products or firms.



An eight-lesson course designed to help farm families plan for a financially stable future that meets their long-term needs. Developed by a team of Extension educators from several states, farm families can work at their own pace while taking the course.

Goat Announcements

Tue, 01/16/2018 - 19:02
Goat News

A genetic test for Scrapie Susceptibility in Goats through UC Davis https://www.vgl.ucdavis.edu/services/GoatScrapie.php.



Which goose breed is best for small and backyard poultry flocks?

Tue, 01/16/2018 - 16:36

Written by: Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky

Europeans raised domestic geese for both food and feathers long before settlers brought them to America. Unlike with chickens, turkeys, and ducks (to a limited extent), little genetic selective breeding has occurred with geese. However, different breeds have different characteristics, and the right breed for your flock depends on your intended use. Geese can be used for exhibition, meat and egg production, feather and down production, guard duty, and weed control. Geese even can be used as decoration—Egyptian geese are tiny (having a mature weight of only 4 to 5 pounds) and mostly are kept as ornamental birds.

There are eleven standard breeds of geese recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA). The APA publishes the American Standard of Perfection (also known as the APA standard), which describes ideals for various breeds of domestic fowl. Goose breeds are categorized into three classes, based on weight—heavy, medium, and light. Knowledge of the characteristics of breeds in certain weight classes is important when choosing a breed. For example, if you want to obtain as many hatching eggs as possible while using the minimum number of male geese (ganders), you should consider a lightweight breed. Males of heavy breeds mate with only two or three females, whereas males of lightweight breeds can mate with as many as six females. Weight class is not the only factor to consider, however. For example, Egyptian and Canada geese lay only a few eggs per season, meaning that selecting one of these breeds can help you save on flock upkeep. You also should consider temperament when choosing a breed and raising geese. Although some differences in temperament exist among breeds, upbringing also plays a major role in the temperament of all geese.


When purchasing stock for exhibition purposes, it is important to distinguish between exhibition strains (birds bred to meet the standards for purebred exhibition birds) and utility strains (birds bred for meat and egg production). For example, the exhibition strain of Toulouse goose has a dewlap; a long, deep keel; and a smooth, low paunch under the abdomen. Utility strains of geese sold as Toulouses have the same coloring, size, and markings of an authentic Toulouse but do not have the required characteristics. These nonconforming geese are referred to by several names, including farm goose, common gray goose, utility goose, business goose, and gray goose.

Meat and Egg Production

All geese in the heavy and medium weight classes are good utility birds. The most common geese raised for meat are the Embden, Toulouse, and Pilgrim. Other geese that can be used for meat and egg production are the African, Sebastopol, American Buff, Saddleback Pomeranian, Chinese, Tufted Roman, and Canada breeds, with the Embden, Toulouse, and African all attaining adult weights in excess of 19 pounds. The most popular breeds for small flocks are Embden, Toulouse, African, Chinese, and Pilgrim.

Embden is the most popular of the heavy breeds. Purebred Embden geese have blue eyes. Commercial hybrids are available that look like Embdens but do not have blue eyes. A common cross for these commercial hybrids is an Embden gander mated with a Toulouse goose. The Embden does not lay as many eggs as the Toulouse, but Embdens tend to be better mothers. Embden goslings can be sexed at hatch on the basis of down color—both have gray down, but the color is darker in females. Embden geese are good foragers, are the fastest growing of the domestic breeds, mature early, and dress out nicely because of their white plumage, although they have a tendency to produce a fatty carcass. The Embden can be an aggressive breed that will bully other geese, so it is best not to keep Embdens with more docile breeds.

The utility strains of Toulouse geese have been bred for their ability to gain weight rapidly. In the past, goose fat was a primary source of cooking fat and lubricants. Although they are not good foragers, Toulouse geese put on a lot of fat when plenty of feed is available and space for exercise is not. One result of this fat production is an oversized liver. Consequently, Toulouse geese have been used in the production of pate de foie gras (French for "fatty liver").

A Pilgrim goose makes a medium-sized roasting bird. The Pilgrim is a sex-linked breed developed in the United States for which the plumages of the males and females differ. As adults, the ganders are white with a little gray feathering on the wings, back, and tail. The females, which produce gray-blue eggs, are completely gray with brown eyes. At hatch, male goslings have yellow-gray down and an orange bill, whereas females have olive-gray down and a dark bill. Pilgrims are good foragers and can be tame when hand reared.

African geese are the largest of the domestic geese. They produce a high-quality, lean meat, making them excellent for roasting. They can withstand considerable cold weather but need shelter. The large knob on the head of the African goose is susceptible to frostbite. Often, African geese are crossed with Toulouses to develop a commercial hybrid for meat production.

Sebastopol geese are unique in that their feathers are curly rather than straight. Considered a novelty by many, they do dress out well and are relatively good egg layers. The flight feathers are curved, making it impossible for these geese to fly. Sebastopol can be raised successfully in cold climates, but they need protection during wet, cold, and windy weather. Their loose feathering does not provide as much warmth as the feathering of other breeds, and they do not shed water as well as other breeds.

The American Buff breed was developed in the United States. American Buffs usually are calm and docile and make good parents. They are moderately good for meat production but not good for egg production.

Saddleback Pomeranian geese originally were bred for their high breast meat yield and have been used in the production of smoked goose breast. Although they can be noisy, they typically are docile. However, some are quick to pick up on body language and sometimes respond aggressively.

Chinese geese have been kept for eggs and meat and as guard animals. They are relatively good egg layers; they actively forage; and they produce the least greasy meat of all geese except Pilgrims. The Chinese goose has been crossed with the Embden, resulting in a hybrid goose that is more economical to raise than pure breeds.

The Tufted Roman goose makes a plump roaster bird despite its smaller size. It produces a high meat-to-bone ratio because it does not have a keel.

Although Canada geese have been raised for meat production, it is important to note that removing Canada geese or their eggs from the wild (or keeping any wild bird as a pet) is illegal. Canada geese, like all native birds, are protected in the United States and Canada by the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Captive geese that have been properly marked to identify them as such may be kept, although permits are needed. However, local and state regulations also may apply to the keeping of Canada geese, so it is important to check with your local fish and game department before trying to acquire any.

Feathers and Down

 Feathers are the principal covering of birds. A feather has a hard quill shaft from one end to the other, with a series of fibers joining together in a flat structure on each side of the shaft. Down is the light, fluffy undercoat of ducks, geese, and other waterfowl. Land fowl, such as chickens, do not produce down.

Despite their light weight, down feathers are good insulation. They have a three-dimensional structure and the ability to "loft" so that each down cluster traps more air for its weight than any synthetic material. Every ounce of quality down has about two million fluffy filaments that interlock and overlap to form a protective layer of still air that keeps warmth in and cold out. Down is resilient, so it can be scrunched up or flattened out and, after a good shake, fluffs up and bounces back to the form that maintains warmth.

Generally speaking, the best down comes from larger, more mature birds. When age and maturity are equal, goose down is better than duck down. However, down from an older duck is better than down from a younger goose. Larger down has an extraordinarily high warmth-to-weight ratio. Down from younger birds tends not only to have poor filling power but also to collapse in a relatively short time because its fibers are too fragile.

 Climate does not affect the quality of the down a bird produces, but it does affect the quantity. In cold weather, a bird grows more down to stay warm.

Guard Animals

Geese are able to distinguish regular everyday noises from other noises. As such, they are good as watch animals. The Romans used them to detect enemy approaches and found them to be more reliable than human guards. During the Vietnam War, U.S. soldiers used flocks of geese to warn of enemy infiltration, with pens of geese encircling entire camps.

The breeds best suited for guard duty are the Tufted Roman, Saddleback Pomeranian, and Chinese. Tufted Roman geese make excellent guard animals. In fact, it was Tufted Roman geese that sounded the alarm when the Gauls tried to invade Rome. Saddleback Pomeranian geese can be very noisy and react to anything out of the ordinary. Chinese geese are alert and vocal, raising the alarm whenever they perceive a threat.

Weed Control

Geese can be used as a biological control of weeds. The breed most suited to this management system is the Chinese goose. Chinese geese are good foragers that eat mainly grasses and herbaceous plants. If properly managed, Chinese geese make good weeders for various crops.

For More Information

Selecting the Right Goose Breed. University of Kentucky.

Which duck breed is best for small and backyard poultry flocks?

Tue, 01/16/2018 - 16:35

Written by: Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky

As with many domesticated species, ducks have been genetically selected for different purposes, primarily meat production and egg production. In addition, ducks are raised for exhibition, pest control, herd dog training, and feather and down production. If you plan to raise ducks, it is important to choose a breed that best suits your particular needs.

All domesticated duck breeds are believed to have originated from the wild mallard (Anas platyrhynchos). The male mallard has a couple of curled tail feathers, called sex feathers. No other wild duck has these sex feathers, yet the males of all domesticated duck breeds do.

Another bird widely kept in domestication is the Muscovy. Although often referred to as a duck, the Muscovy actually is a different species. It is hard to categorize Muscovies—they have a body like a duck; they nest, attack predators, and hiss like a goose; they roost like a chicken; and they have a plump breast like a turkey. The male Muscovy has characteristic fleshy growths around the eyes called caruncles. It is believed that Muscovies originated from South America. They are still found in the wild in the warm regions of that continent and are raised domestically throughout the world. The Muscovy is called the Barbary duck in southern Europe and North Africa and the Brazilian duck in Brazil. In the Guineas, it is known as the guinea duck or turkish duck because of the caruncles on its face. The Spanish call it the Pato, as do some handlers in the United States. The Muscovy also is known as the Cairo duck, Indian duck, musk duck, and turkey duck.

There are 17 breeds of ducks recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA). The APA publishes the American Standard of Perfection (also known as the APA standard), which describes ideals for various breeds of domestic fowl. Duck breeds are categorized by the APA into four classes—heavy, medium, lightweight, and bantam.

Meat Production

Heavy and medium weight ducks typically are raised for meat production. The main breeds are the Pekin and the Muscovy.

Around 90 percent of the duck meat produced in the United States is from the Pekin. Commercial producers are able to obtain a duck weighing 7 to 8 pounds in seven weeks. Under small farm conditions, a Pekin usually reaches 6 to 7 pounds in seven or eight weeks. The Pekin is popular because of its fast growth rate and yellow skin. Pekins should not be raised past 10 weeks because at that age, they become difficult to pluck due to their pin feathers and their feed efficiency declines sharply. Pekins are considered a general purpose breed because the hens lay fairly large numbers of white-shelled eggs.

The meat breed of choice in many areas is the Muscovy, which thrives under free-range conditions. Because the Muscovy originates from the warmer areas of the Southern Hemisphere, its meat is leaner than meat from ducks, which tends to be fatty. Another difference between the Muscovy and ducks is length of incubation—35 days for the Muscovy versus 28 days for ducks. The male Muscovy can become very large (10 to 12 pounds); the female is smaller (5 to 6 pounds). Muscovies must be butchered by 16 weeks of age, or the meat becomes too firm.

Another option for meat production is a Muscovy cross. When a Muscovy is crossed with a duck, the offspring are sterile and often are referred to as mule ducks or moulard ducks, depending on the cross. Many commercial duck operations in Europe raise mule or moulard ducks.

If you want more colorful ducks and can accept a slower growth rate, consider choosing from other breeds that can be used for meat production. Options include the following breeds:

  • Aylesbury. The Aylesbury is a pure white duck that originated in England and is popular there because of its white skin. (In general, the yellow-skinned Pekins are not popular in England, and the white-skinned Aylesburies are not popular in the United States.) Like the Pekin, the Aylesbury (which can grow to 8 to 10 pounds) reaches a market weight of 7 pounds in eight weeks. The deeper keel and loose feathers of the Aylesbury make it seem larger than the Pekin.
  • Cayuga. The only duck breed developed in the United States, the Cayuga originated near Cayuga Lake in New York State. Unlike Pekin and Aylesbury ducks, which reach market weight in eight weeks, the Cayuga and other heavy breeds take 12 to 16 weeks to finish as a market bird. Today, Cayugas are raised mainly for exhibition, but they also are an option for meat production.
  • Buff Orpington. Although they are smaller than Pekins and Aylesburies, Buff Orpingtons sometimes are raised for meat. The Buff Orpington was originally considered an egg breed, and it lays very well if not allowed to get too heavy. The Buff Orpington breed is not recognized in the current APA standard.
  • Rouen. The Rouen reaches 7 to 8 pounds in 12 to 15 weeks, with the bulk of the weight gain happening after the bird is 12 weeks of age. The Rouen not only is a good meat bird, but a Rouen hen can lay an egg every other day during the breeding season. Rouen eggs have a blue tint. Rouens also are popular for decorating ponds because they are colored like the wild mallard but are too heavy to fly away.
  • Crested. The crested duck is named for the ball of feathers on its head. It is not simply a white duck with a crest but a defined breed. A crested duck typically does not breed true. The gene responsible for the crest is lethal when two copies are present. As a result, one-fourth of fertile eggs do not hatch, and only two-thirds of the remaining fertile eggs develop into ducks with crests. The other one-third do not have crests and do not carry the gene necessary to produce further generations having crests. Although many breeders raise them for exhibition purposes only, crested ducks have a good growth rate, though not as great as that of the heavy breeds, and lay well.
  • Silver appleyard and Saxony. The silver appleyard and Saxony breeds are recent additions to the APA standard in the heavy class. Both breeds are colorful and have been selected for both meat production and egg production.
Egg Production

The runner and Campbell breeds are excellent egg layers, often attaining levels of production higher than those of egg-laying chicken breeds. Both breeds are hardy but tend to be nervous and flighty and stampede when startled. Both breeds are good foragers but also do well in confinement when a good layer ration is provided.

Runner ducks cannot fly, are lightweight, and stand upright like penguins. They run rather than waddle, thus their name. Only the females quack; the drakes are limited to a hoarse whisper. A runner duck's level of egg production depends on whether it is an exhibition strain or a utility strain (that is, bred to meet the standards for purebred exhibition birds or for egg production). Typically, a runner duck lays four eggs per week for about eight months, and some utility strains have produced more than 300 eggs in a year. In fact, the runner duck has such high egg production levels that it often is referred to as the Leghorn of the duck family. Darker varieties of runner ducks lay a blue-tinted egg. Runner ducks rarely form nests; instead, they drop their eggs wherever they happen to be. Consequently, when raising runners for egg production, confining them overnight makes egg collection easier. Good at foraging, runners eat worms and slugs and have even been seen to catch flies. Because of their small size, runners eat less feed than meat ducks. Of course, it is important to provide them with sufficient calcium and protein-rich feed to maintain egg production during the extensive laying season.

The Campbell breed was developed by Adele Campbell in the late 1800s. She crossed a runner and a Rouen in an attempt to create a breed of ducks that would lay well but have bigger bodies. The offspring were crossed with mallards to increase their hardiness. There is only one variety of Campbell ducks—khaki. Campbell ducks become sexually mature at approximately six months of age. They seldom become broody as this characteristic was sacrificed in exchange for a high level of egg production. They lay an off-white egg. When a lighting system is used, Campbells lay throughout the winter months, when daylight hours are naturally shorter.

A recent addition to the APA standard is the Welsh Harlequin duck. This colorful breed can serve as a meat duck and as a prolific producer of white or tinted eggs.

The Golden 300 hybrids and the White Golden layers, both developed by Metzer Farms, are excellent egg layers. The breeder crossed the Campbell with other duck breeds to produce ducks that achieve a high level of egg production and have calm temperaments.


All duck breeds recognized by the APA can be raised as exhibition birds. The bantam ducks are particularly good for exhibition because of their small size. The bantam breeds included in the APA standard are the call, East Indie, and mallard.

Biological Control of Pests

For centuries, ducks have been used as a biological control of insect pests in rice paddies in Asia. Today, in many parts of Southeast Asia, duck production has been integrated with rice and fish farming. One advantage of ducks is that they normally lay most of their eggs within three hours of sunrise (compared with five hours for chickens). This makes it possible for ducks to range freely in the rice fields by day and be confined at night.

All duck breeds help eradicate mosquito larvae from waterways. They also eat slugs, snails, and insect pests in gardens and clean algae slime and duckweed from ponds. The best foragers are the Anconas, Campbells, Welsh Harlequins, magpies, runners, and various bantam breeds. Silver appleyards, Cayugas, and Saxonies do a good job but do not cover as large an area, preferring to stay closer to their homes.

Herd Dog Training

Herding dogs, such as Australian shepherds, often are trained with a group of ducks. In general, it is best to use lighter-bodied breeds of ducks for such training. The heavier the body, the easier the duck tires. Herders tend to choose more highly strung breeds, such as runners or Campbells, because such ducks have lighter temperaments, and the dogs can move them by using less force. There are benefits to using calmer breeds as well. Some herders have had success with Swedish ducks, which are very calm and "break" easily. The Cayuga is another option, but Cayugas take longer to break and can frustrate a herder early on. Regardless of the breed, herding ducks should be exercised daily. Otherwise, they will not have the stamina needed for working.

Feathers and Down

Feathers are the principal covering of birds. A feather has a hard quill shaft from one end to the other, with a series of fibers joining together in a flat structure on each side of the shaft. Down is the light, fluffy undercoat of ducks, geese, and other waterfowl. Land fowl, such as chickens, do not produce down.

Despite their light weight, down feathers are good insulation. They have a three-dimensional structure and the ability to "loft" so that each down cluster traps more air for its weight than any synthetic material. Every ounce of quality down has about two million fluffy filaments that interlock and overlap to form a protective layer of still air that keeps warmth in and cold out. Down is resilient, so it can be scrunched up or flattened out and, after a good shake, fluffs up and bounces back to the form that maintains warmth.

Generally speaking, the best down comes from larger, more mature birds. When age and maturity are equal, goose down is better than duck down. However, down from an older duck is better than down from a younger goose. Larger down has an extraordinarily high warmth-to-weight ratio. Down from younger birds tends not only to have poor filling power but also to collapse in a relatively short time because its fibers are too fragile.

Eiderdown comes from the eider duck and is considered by some to be the finest-quality down. Eiderdown is unique in that it clings to itself, resulting in superior insulation. The eider duck is a protected migratory species. Eiderdown is collected by hand from nests without disturbing the birds.

Climate does not affect the quality of the down a bird produces, but it does affect the quantity. In cold weather, a bird grows more down to stay warm.

 For More Information 

Selecting the Right Duck Breed. Jacquie Jacob, Tony Pescatore, and Austin Cantor, University of Kentucky.

Which chicken breed is best for small and backyard poultry flocks?

Tue, 01/16/2018 - 16:33

Written by: Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky

Raising chickens can be fun and educational for the entire family. Whether you are starting a new flock or adding to an existing one, a first task is to choose the chicken breed you want to raise.

A breed is a group of individuals with the same physical characteristics. Several breeds of chickens exist, and those breeds are further categorized into classes. A class is a group of breeds originating in the same geographical location. Five classes of chicken breeds are American, Asiatic, English, Mediterranean, and Continental. Breeds not included in these classes are included in the Any Other Standard Breed class.

There are many things to consider before selecting a chicken breed for your flock. The kind of chicken you select depends on whether you want meat, eggs, or exhibition poultry.

All breeds of chickens around today are descended from the Red Jungle Fowl of Southeast Asia. Generations of genetic selection have developed breeds specializing in specific characteristics, as illustrated in Figure 1. For example, the mature weight of the Red Jungle Fowl is only about 2 pounds, whereas today's chicken breeds developed specifically for meat production can reach a market weight of 6.6 pounds in only eight weeks. Similarly, while the sexually mature Red Jungle Fowl hen lays 10 to 12 eggs during the breeding season, hens from chicken breeds developed specifically for egg production lay year round and can produce more than 300 eggs in a year. Moreover, chicken breeds now come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, making poultry exhibition an interesting and colorful experience.

Fig. 1. Results of generations of genetic selection of the Red Jungle Fowl to create specific-purpose chicken breeds. Source: Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky

Meat Production

Among meat-producing breeds (broiler chickens), nothing compares with the hybrid Cornish Cross (based on the Cornish crossed with the White Plymouth Rock) for fast growth and feed efficiency. These chickens can reach 4 to 5 pounds in six weeks or 6 to 10 pounds in eight to 12 weeks (see Figure 2). Of course, this growth level depends on management conditions, especially housing and nutrition. Cornish Cross chickens are not efficient egg producers because they must consume a large amount of feed just for body maintenance. Additionally, the inherent obesity of these chickens reduces their capacity to produce eggs.

Fig. 2. Broiler chickens just prior to harvest. Source: USDA photo gallery.

Typically, broiler chickens do not do well in a pasture or free-range system. Consequently, many producers are opting for dual-purpose breeds. Dual-purpose breeds are those breeds of which the hens lay reasonably well and the males are large enough for meat production. Many of the American breeds originally were developed as dual-purpose breeds for small family farms. These include the Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire, and Wyandotte and others. Dual-purpose breeds also exist in the Asiatic and English classes. The Asiatic breeds, which are large and have feathered feet, include the Brahma, Cochin, and Langshan. English breeds are characterized by their white skin, which is popular in Europe.

In Europe, a large market exists for slower-growing meat-type chickens. Some of these breeds have been imported into the United States and recently have become available for purchase. Typically, they are raised for 11 to 12 weeks and are, therefore, closer to sexual maturity at harvest than most commercial meat-type breeds. Because they are slower growing than the typical commercial broiler chicken, it is said that they have more flavor.

If you plan to produce meat-type chickens for the ethnic market, especially Asian consumers, choosing a dark-feathered, slower-growing breed is best. Although the Australorp was developed in Australia as an egg-producing breed, producers in many parts of the United States raise these chickens as meat birds for sale in live bird markets catering to the Asian market. Another breed popular in the Asian market is the silkie chicken. Silkie chickens, regardless of feather color, have black skin, black meat, and black bones. Some people believe that chicken soup made from the silkie chicken has medicinal properties.

Egg Production

Chickens used solely for egg production are of two general types—those that produce white-shelled eggs and those that produce brown-shelled eggs. Most major primary breeds include strains that produce both white eggs and brown eggs.

The White Leghorn is the principal white egg producer. It can produce 260-plus eggs in 12 months. White Leghorns are lightweight birds that convert feed to eggs efficiently. Many strains of White Leghorns are available from the various primary breeders and their franchise hatcheries.

The brown egg layers, for the most part, are derived from American breeds, such as the Plymouth Rock, New Hampshire, or Rhode Island Red. These layers are somewhat lighter in weight than other breeds of the American class; thus, they require less feed for body maintenance. However, their feed requirements are greater than those of the White Leghorn, making production costs for brown eggs a little higher than for white eggs.

The commercial breeds of egg layers, however, tend to be flighty and high strung and are not good choices for small and backyard poultry flocks. An alternative is one of the sex-linked crosses that are bred for egg production and available at most hatcheries in the United States.

  • The black sex-link cross (also known as the Rock Red) is produced by crossing a hen having a barred pattern in her feathers with a non-barred rooster. The male offspring typically have barred plumage like the mother, and the female offspring are a solid color, typically black. Black sex-link crosses are typically produced by crossing a Barred Plymouth Rock hen with a Rhode Island Red or New Hampshire Red rooster. At hatch, both sexes have black down, but the males can be identified by a white dot on the head.
  • The red sex-link cross (also known as the Golden Comet, Gold Star, or Cinnamon Queen, depending on the specific cross used) is produced by a number of different crosses. A White Plymouth Rock hen with the silver factor (a gene on the sex chromosome that inhibits red pigmentation of feathers) is crossed with a New Hampshire male to produce the Gold Comet. A Silver Laced Wyandotte hen is crossed with a New Hampshire Red rooster to produce the Cinnamon Queen. Additional possible red sex-link cross combinations are the Rhode Island White hen with a Rhode Island Red rooster or a Delaware hen with a Rhode Island Red rooster. Males hatch out white and can feather out to pure white or to white with some black feathering, depending on the cross. Females hatch out buff or red, depending on the cross, and feather out buff or red.

All the most popular sex-link crosses produced for small flocks lay brown eggs. One sex-link cross that you can purchase for white egg production is the California White. It is the cross between a White Leghorn hen and a California Gray rooster. Basically, the California White is a commercial White Leghorn bred to be able to handle the conditions typical for small flocks, including areas with colder temperatures.

There are some additional options for egg-producing chickens. For white eggs, you can use the Minorca and Ancona breeds. For brown eggs, you can use the Australorp, Rhode Island Red, or New Hampshire Red breeds. Typically, hens of breeds with white ear lobes lay white eggs, and those of breeds with red ear lobes lay brown eggs. Exceptions to this rule are the Araucana and Ameraucana breeds, shown in Figure 3. The Araucana is a breed from South America that lays blue eggs. Genetically, the blue egg color is a dominant trait, and when the Araucana is crossed with other breeds, the result is a chicken that lays colored eggs. If the feather coloring of such a chicken meets the standards in the American Poultry Association (APA), the chicken usually is considered to be of the Ameraucana breed. If the feather coloring does not meet the standards of the APA, the chicken typically is referred to as an Easter Egger. Eggs produced by Ameraucana and Easter Egger hens vary from pink to green.


Fig. 3. Araucana hen with tufts but no tail (left) and Ameraucana hen with tail and muff and beard instead of tufts (right). Source: Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky.


Poultry exhibition shows are popular in most states. Figure 4 shows examples of chickens that are popular for exhibition. The APA publishes the American Standard of Perfection, a publication that describes the ideal body types, colors, weights, and other characteristics of all recognized breeds and varieties. Chickens are judged according to these standards.


Fig. 4. White Cochin hen (left) and Golden Sebright rooster (right). Source: Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky.

Most chicken breeds come in a standard size and a bantam size, although there are some bantam breeds for which there is no standard-size version. Figure 5 shows an example of a bantam-size chicken. Bantams are typically one-quarter smaller than the size of their standard counterparts. Because of their smaller size, bantams are easier to handle, and they eat less feed and take up less space. Also, they lay smaller eggs. The American Bantam Association (ABA) produces a standard of perfection specifically for bantams.

Fig. 5. Japanese Bantam rooster. Source: Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky.

The Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities (SPPA) maintains a list of bantam and standard-size chickens that are in danger of disappearing and old, historically significant breeds for which documentation exists from before the era of the modern poultry show. Not all breeds on the list are considered rare. The organization designates a breed as rare if it deems that the breed is in need of more breeders to avoid genetic limitations and, ultimately, disappearance of the breed. The list also includes breeds not listed in the APA and ABA standards of perfection but for which recorded histories exist.

For More Information

Selecting the right chicken breed. Jacquie Jacob and Tony Pescatore, University of Kentucky.

Choosing a Chicken Breed: Eggs, Meat, or Exhibition. Doug Akers, Pete Akers, and Mickey Latour, Purdue University.

Match Your Need to the Right Breed: Choosing a Bird for the Home Flock. Robert Hawes and Richard Brzozowski, University of Maine.

Avian Skeletal System

Tue, 01/16/2018 - 16:31

Written by: Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky

All vertebrate animals have skeletons. A skeleton allows an animal to stand and protects its internal organs and tissues. The avian skeletal system looks similar to that of mammals but must accommodate a bird's need to be light enough to fly while having necessary body support. Consequently, the skeleton of a bird includes some unique features.

  • Some vertebral sections (sections of the backbone) are fused to provide the rigidity required for flight.
  • The sternum (breastbone or keel) has a surface area large enough to allow for the attachment of the main flight muscles.
  • The size of the skull is proportionally small when compared to the skulls of other species because a large head would make flying difficult.
  • The tail is a short section of fused bones called a pygostyle.
  • The ribs include the uncinate process, which involves overlying flaps that project from the ribs and connect adjacent ribs, giving strength to the rib cage so that it does not collapse during flight.
  • The neck is long in most species. A long, flexible neck acts as a shock absorber, protecting the delicate tissues of the brain from too much jarring when a bird lands. Because a bird's body is rigid, the long neck allows the bird to reach food located on the ground more easily. A long neck also allows a bird's center of gravity to adjust when the bird changes from the upright position of walking or perching to the more horizontal position of flying.

The bones of birds are lighter in weight than those of mammals. Some of the bones are hollow and actually act as part of the avian respiratory system. These bones, called pneumatic bones, include the skull, humerus, clavicle, keel, pelvic girdle, and lumbar and sacral vertebrae.

Other important bones in the avian skeleton are the medullary bones. These bones include the tibia, femur, pubic bone, ribs, ulna, toe bones, and scapula. Medullary bones are an important source of calcium when hens are laying eggs. Eggshells primarily are made of calcium, and a hen's body mobilizes 47 percent of its body calcium to make an eggshell. When in production, a commercial laying hen cannot obtain enough dietary calcium to allow for daily egg production. Without medullary bones to draw calcium from, the hen would produce eggs with very thin and weak shells.

Although important differences exist between the skeletons of birds and other animals, several similarities are present as well. In general, birds have the same skeletal structure as many other animals, including humans (as shown in Figures 1 and 2).

Fig. 1. Comparison of chicken (left) and human (right) arm bones. Source: Public domain.

Fig. 2. Comparison of chicken (left) and human (right) leg bones. Source: Public domain.

The common joints of the arms of chickens and humans are easily identifiable.

  • The joint between the scapula and the humerus is the shoulder.
  • The joint between the humerus and the radius/ulna is the elbow.
  • The joint between the radius/ulna and the metacarpus is the wrist.

Both the human leg and chicken leg have a femur, a fibula, and a tibia. In a chicken, the femur holds the thigh meat, and the fibula/tibia combination holds the meat of the drumstick. The metatarsus of a chicken is known as the shank, and the chicken walks on its toes. A comparison of the leg joints of chickens and humans is not quite as obvious as a comparison of the arm joints.

  • The joint at the top of the femur is the hip.
  • The joint between the femur and the fibula/tibia is the knee.
  • The joint between the fibula/tibia and the metatarsus is the ankle.


Avian Respiratory System

Tue, 01/16/2018 - 16:31

Written by: Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky

Respiratory diseases are the most common cause of death in a poultry flock. Knowledge of the avian respiratory system is essential for developing a health monitoring plan for a poultry flock, recognizing problems that may occur, and taking action to correct them.

The avian respiratory system is involved in the following functions:

  • absorption of oxygen (O2)
  • release of carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • release of heat (temperature regulation)
  • detoxification of certain chemicals
  • rapid adjustments of acid/base balance
  • vocalization

An understanding of the functions of the respiratory system begins with an understanding of the parts of the respiratory system.

Parts of the Chicken Respiratory System

As with any avian respiratory system, the chicken respiratory system (shown in Figure 1) begins at the head region. Parts of the respiratory system in this region include the nasal openings and nasal cavities and the pharyngeal region of the mouth. The cranial larynx (sometimes referred to as the superior larynx or glottis), located in this pharyngeal region, is the opening to the trachea (windpipe). The pharyngeal region also has the openings of the esophagus. The cranial larynx is normally open to allow air passage, but it closes when feed is passing down the throat so that the feed goes down the esophagus and does not enter the trachea.

Fig. 1. Chicken respiratory system. Source: Public domain.

After air passes through the cranial larynx, it continues through the trachea. The trachea is made up of cartilaginous rings that keep it from collapsing due to the negative pressure present when a chicken breathes in air.

The syrinx (or caudal larynx), located near the end of the trachea, is the chicken's voice box. A chicken does not have vocal cords to produce sound. Instead, a chicken's "voice" is produced by air pressure on a valve and modified by muscle tension. It is not possible to remove the syrinx to prevent chickens from crowing.

After the syrinx, the trachea divides into two much narrower tubes called bronchi. In some respiratory diseases, tracheal plugs form and physically block the respiratory tract at the junction of the bronchi, thus suffocating the chicken.

Each bronchus (singular of bronchi) enters a lung. Chicken lungs are relatively small, are firmly attached to the ribs, and do not expand. Birds have an incomplete diaphragm and chest muscles and a sternum (keel) that do not lend themselves to expansion in the way that a mammal's chest muscles and sternum do. Consequently, a bird's lungs operate differently from those of a mammal. Mammalian lungs contain many bronchi that lead to small sacs called alveoli. Because an alveolus (singular of alveoli) has only one opening, air flows into and out of the alveolus but not through it to the outside of the lung. In comparison, air passes through a bird's lungs in one direction. (In fact, the mammalian respiratory system is described as tidal because air goes in and out like the tide, whereas the avian respiratory system is described as nontidal.)

A bird's lungs contain parabronchi, which are continuous tubes that allow air to pass through the lung in one direction, and air sacs. The parabronchi are laced with blood capillaries, and it is here that gas exchange occurs. The air sacs, which fill a large proportion of the chest and abdominal cavity of a bird, are balloon-like structures at the ends of the airway system. The key to the avian respiratory system is that air moves in and out through distention and compression of the air sacs, not the lungs. The air sacs act as bellows to suck air in and blow it out and to hold part of the total air volume. At any given moment, air may be flowing into and out of the lung and being "parked" in the air sacs.

Air sacs are somewhat unique to avian species, found elsewhere only in certain reptiles. In the chicken, there are nine such sacs: an unpaired one in the cervical area, two interclavicular air sacs, two abdominal air sacs, two anterior thoracic air sacs, and two posterior thoracic air sacs.

Another important feature of the avian respiratory system is also part of the avian skeletal system. Some of a bird's bones are hollow. The air sacs in a bird's lungs connect to the air spaces in these bones, and the bones then act as part of the avian respiratory system. They are called pneumatic bones and include the skull, humerus, clavicle, keel, pelvic girdle, and lumbar and sacral vertebrae. A broken pneumatic bone can cause a bird to have difficulty breathing.

Dangers to the Chicken Respiratory System

As part of the avian immune system, the chicken respiratory tract normally is equipped with defense mechanisms to prevent or limit infection by airborne disease agents, to remove inhaled particles, and to keep the airways clean. Specifically, chicken respiratory health is protected by the function of three defensive mechanisms: cilia, mucus secretions, and the presence of scavenging cells that consume bacteria. Cilia are tiny hairlike structures in the trachea that are responsible for propelling entrapped particles for disposal. Mucus is produced in the trachea. Mucus secretions and movement of cilia are well developed in chickens. The consistency of the mucus produced is important for the efficiency of the ciliary activity. Cilia cannot function when the mucus is too thick. Scavenging cells in the lungs actively scavenge inhaled particles and bacteria that gain entrance to the lower respiratory tract. These cells consume bacteria and kill them, thus preventing their further spread. The integration of cilia, mucus, and scavenging cells keeps chicken airways free of disease-producing organisms. The impairment of even one of these components permits an accumulation of disease agents in the respiratory tract and may result in disease.

The defense mechanisms of the chicken respiratory system are important because with each breath, a chicken's respiratory tract is exposed to the inside environment of a poultry house. Poor environments normally do not cause disease directly, but they do reduce chickens' defenses, making them more susceptible to infection from existing viruses and pathogens. The air of poultry houses can contain aerosol particles—dust originating from the floor litter, feed, dried manure, and skin and feathers of the chickens. These aerosol particles can have a range of adverse effects on poultry. They act as an irritant to the respiratory system, and coughing is a physiological response designed to remove them. However, excessive coughing lowers a chicken's resistance to disease. Aerosol particles often collect inside chickens and can increase carcass condemnation at the processing plant. Excessive dust in the air also is believed to result in the formation of caseous tracheal plugs, which adversely affect chickens' health.

In addition to the aerosol particles in a poultry house, gases are generated from decomposing poultry waste, emissions from the chickens, and improperly maintained or installed equipment, such as gas burners. Harmful gases most often found in poultry houses are ammonia (NH3) and carbon dioxide (CO2). Research has shown that as little as 10 ppm of ammonia causes excessive mucus production and damages the cilia. Research also has revealed that ammonia levels of 10 to 40 ppm reduce the clearance of E. coli from a chicken's air sacs, lungs, and trachea.

Another danger to the chicken respiratory system has nothing to do with what the bird takes into its system. Because birds do not have a diaphragm, they depend on some movement of the sternum and rib cage to breathe. Holding a bird too tightly restricts movement of the rib cage and can suffocate the bird. This often happens when young children hold baby chicks.

Who Builds Mobile Slaughter Units?

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 21:24

These companies (all but the last on the list) have designed and built MSUs, from bare bones rigs to complete, fully-equipped systems. Inclusion in this list does not imply endorsement.


Mobile slaughter unit pioneer and NMPAN Advisory Board member Bruce Dunlop shares photos, specifications, and equipment needs for mobile units.


TriVan Truck Body is located in Ferndale, Washington. TriVan has a reputation for high quality work, long-term reliability, and customer service.

A TriVan mobile slaughter unit comes fully equipped and satisfies USDA inspection and licensing requirements. The unit consists of a mechanical and storage area, slaughter area, and refrigeration area. Miscellaneous equipment includes knives, saws, scales and other necessary supplies. A semi truck tractor is necessary to pull the trailer and must be purchased separately, either new or used. The approximate vehicle weight is 25,000 pounds.

It takes approximately 14 – 20 weeks to receive a mobile slaughter unit. The purchase terms are 50 percent down at the time of the order, with the balance on completion.

Download 2-page TriVan MSU brochure.


A Featherlite mobile slaughter unit also comes fully equipped and ready to go, or it can come less equipped if the customer wishes to put in his/her own equipment.

It takes approximately 8 to 12 weeks, from time of order, for the unit to be completed.

Cornerstone Farm Ventures

Cornerstone has equipped two units so far, both for poultry. One is in Vermont, the other on Martha's Vineyard, MA. The Vermont unit's trailer was built by Brothers Body and Equipment, in Crestline, Ohio. View the blueprints for that mobile poultry processing unit hereprovided by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.

  The Locker

While not mobile, these units are modular, which means they can be transported to a site and set up fairly quickly. Many municipalities won't even require a building permit. The Lockers are refurbished 48' x 8' shipping containers designed to be used for meat fabrication. They come ready to "plug and play", including 3 months of consulting with Dirigo Food Safety, an experienced food safety firm who designs these units.

Craftsmen Industries

Craftsmen builds mobile kitchens/other units and would like to get into the MSU market. Based in St. Charles, MO, they build "vehicles that transform into mobile command centers, medical treatment facilities, kitchens, recruiting vehicles & exchanges for the Military & Federal Government." As of spring 2011, they had not yet built an MSU but were very interested in doing so.

Identifying and Correcting Hazards on Your Farm or Ranch

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 19:12

(Source: Penn State Ag Safety & Health)

Use the following format to cite this article:

Identifying and correcting hazards on your farm or ranch. (2013) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://articles.extension.org/pages/69135/identifying-and-correcting-haz....


The majority of serious farm incidents involve machinery and equipment, but many hazards can be found in all areas of farm operations. Many of these incidents can be prevented through an inspection and correction of the hazard. The challenge is that most agricultural producers do not know how to properly assess and correct hazards on their farm operation.  

The Farm/Agriculture/Rural/Management-Hazard Analysis Tool (FARM-HAT) was developed by the Pennsylvania State University and is the most comprehensive on-line tool for assessing and identifying ways to correct hazards in 11 major categories including, but not limited to, farm operations, dwellings, agritourism, and tractors. FARM-HAT can be used by farmers, extension educators, insurance agents and others that are interested in improving the safety of a farm operation, equipment or rural enterprise.  

Take the inspection of your farm operation very seriously and also recruit other farm family members to participate in the process. Inspections can be done at various times of the year. Consider inspecting yours tractors and machinery over the winter so that you have time to complete repairs before the spring when you are preparing for the planting season.

In addition to FARM-HAT, other resources are available for specialized inspections including barns, machinery and tractors. Listed below are links to checklists for farm operations.

Resource Links - Pick a Site and Start Your Farm Inspection:
  1. FARM-HAT (Penn State University)
  2. Evaluate Equipment for Dangers (Iowa State University)
  3. Your Personal Farm Safety Audit (Agricultural Safety and Health Network)
  Use the following format to cite this article:

Identifying and correcting hazards on your farm or ranch. (2013) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://articles.extension.org/pages/69135/identifying-and-correcting-haz....



Farm/Agricultural/Rural Management Hazard Analysis Tool. (2010) Penn State Agricultural Safety and Health. Retrieved from http://extension.psu.edu/business/ag-safety/farmhat.

Folsom, R. (2009) Barn and farm inspection checklist. Virginia Cooperative Extension. Retrieved from https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/bitstream/handle/10919/48862/VCE_Barn_Farm....

Hanna, M., Schwab, C., and Miller, L. (1998) Evaluate equipment for dangers. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Retrieved from http://nasdonline.org/2469/d002295/safe-farm-evaluate-equipment-for-dang....

Tractor Safety Checklist (n.d.). Canadian Agricultural Safety Association.  Retrieved from http://aghealth.usask.ca/resources/documents/TractorModulePDF.pdf.


Reviewed and Summarized by: Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University - lmf8@psu.edu Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University - djm13@psu.edu Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center - aaron.yoder@unmc.edu

Organic Seed Growers Conference 2018 Live Broadcast

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 22:10

Join eOrganic at the 2018 Organic Seed Growers Conference for live broadcasts of the Seed Economics Intensive on Feb 14th, and 2 more days of organic seed workshops on the 16th and 17th! You can attend any or all of these presentations and come and go as you wish from wherever you are! It's free, and just one advance registration is required! See the schedule below--because it is a live conference, the exact program might be subject to change. (Please note that there are some long breaks between sessions.)

Register now at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7399072627054006018

February 14th: Seed Economics Intensive. 9-4:30 Pacific Time

Note: There will be 15-minute breaks at 10:15 and 3, and a lunch break from 1230-115 Pacific Time

Navigating the finances of growing seed commercially can be challenging and managing the risks are essential to success. Beginning and experienced seed growers are invited to join us for this one-day intensive to gain the tools needed for managing financial risk in commercial seed production. Get skilled at using budgeting tools to evaluate capital investments, expanding enterprises, and assessing market opportunities. We’ll examine real-world examples from seed growers with different marketing strategies to build knowledge of wholesale, retail, contract growing, as well as breeding and variety maintenance. Participants will have the opportunity to provide their own production examples and work with an agricultural economist to develop enterprise budgets. We’ll also hear from organic seed industry representatives about gaps in the seed supply, best practices for quality control, and projections for the future of the organic seed market.

Presenters: Sebastian Aguilar, Chickadee Farm; Travis Greenwalt, Highland Economics; Sam McCullough, Nash's Organic Produce; Tanya Murray, Oregon Tilth; Sarah Kleeger, Adaptive Seed; Tom Stearns, High Mowing Organic Seed; Ira Wallace, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange; Pete Zuck, Johnny's Selected Seeds

Friday, February 16 Crop Planning for Organic Seed Growers: 9-10:30 Pacific Time

Speakers: Daniel Brisebois, Tourne-Sol Cooperative Farm; Sebastian Aguilar, Chickadee Farm, Jared Zystro, Organic Seed Alliance

Growing Strong Seed The Biodynamic Way: 2-3:30 Pacific Time

Speakers: Thea Maria Carlson, Biodynamic Farmer and Co-Director of the Biodynamic Association; Beth Corymb, Meadowlark Hearth; Jim Fullmer, Biodynamic Farmer and Co-Director of Demeter USA; Marjory House, Biodynamic Farmer and consultant with Sero Biodynamic Seed. 

Seed Production in Cages – Challenging, Fun, and Rewarding: 4-5:30 Pacific Time

Speakers: Shaina Bronstein, Vitalis Organic Seeds; Jen Jody, Growing Opportunities Farm Community Coop, Laurie McKenzie,Organic Seed Alliance; Chris Thoreau, Farmfolk Cityfolk

Saturday February 17 Leveraging Variety Trials to Advance Organic Seed Systems: 9-10:30 Pacific Time

Speakers: Julie Dawson, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Alex Lyon, University of British Columbia; Jared Zystro, Organic Seed Alliance and University of Wisconsin-Madison

Microbial Hitchhikers on Seed: Friend or Foe? 1:30-3PM Pacific Time

Speakers: Dan Egel, Purdue University; Jim Myers, Oregon State University

Organic Hybrid Seed Production in the US: Methods and Case Studies: 3:30-5 Pacific Time

Speakers: Jeffrey Block, Gro Alliance; Jason Cavatorta, Earthwork Seeds; Tom Stearns, High Mowing Organic Seeds; Bill Waycott, Nipomo Native Seeds.

About the Organic Seed Growers Conference

The Organic Seed Growers Conference is the largest organic seed event in the US and is organized by the Organic Seed Alliance.  It takes place in Corvallis, Oregon on February 14-17, 2018. To learn more about how to attend in person, please visit the conference website at https://seedalliance.org/conference/

System Requirements

View detailed system requirements here. Please connect to the webinar 10 minutes in advance, as the webinar program will require you to download software. To test your connection in advance, go here. You can either listen via your computer speakers or call in by phone (toll call). Java needs to be installed and working on your computer to join the webinar.  If you are running Mac OSU with Safari, please test your Java at http://java.com/en/download/testjava.jsp prior to joining the webinar, and if it isn't working, try Firefox or Chrome.




This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Resources

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 00:12

The Financial Security for All Community of Practice has compiled the following list of informational resources related to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act:

 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Legislation

Background Information: Land-Grant Universities

Background Information: Other 

Tax Law Calculators

Image credit: Personal Income Taxes Ver3 by ccPixs.com
Original image was cropped and resized
Available under a Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0