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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

eXtension has an "Update on HPAI Mixed Origin Virus"

Avian influenza is a concern for poultry producers and can affect prices seen at the grocery store.  A webinar on Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) will be broadcast on:

Friday, June 26 at 12:00 pm MDT

or here

Dr. David Schmitt, Iowa State Veterinarian and Dr. Beth Thompson, Minnesota State Board of Animal Health will provide an update on the HPAI mixed origin virus that has had a significant impact on the poultry industry in many states this year.

Dr. Nathaniel Tablante, University of Maryland Extension Poultry Veterinarian, will moderate the session.

For other information on poultry visit,

Monday, June 22, 2015

Water Quality & Supply

by Chris Shelley
CSU Extension livestock agent

One of our most important resources, water, is making headlines across the US, in government agencies and even here in Colorado. We do not always think about its importance, but water quality and supply will affect the productivity of livestock. A quick and relatively inexpensive assessment provides valuable information on the quality of the water you are supplying to your livestock.

photo by brianfuller6385 @ flickr

Water makes up as much as 98% of the molecules in humans and livestock. Livestock use water for temperature regulation, digestion, growth, and many other bodily functions, making it very important for producers to know how much their livestock will drink. This is not always just as simple as looking up a value in a table. The ambient temperature, water temperature, diet, growth, lactation and the animal’s activity all play a part in how much the animal will drink. Your local extension office or animal nutritionist can help estimate the animals water needs.

Automatic fountains are a great way to supply livestock with all the water they may need, but bear in mind, each type of water unit for livestock has a limited number of livestock it can service. Alternatively, many choose to oversupply water to assure that their animals have enough. Trial and error, with frequent initial monitoring, can also be used to gauge livestock water consumption. Whichever system you choose, it is always a good idea to have an estimate of what your livestock will consume and what you have available. Remember that water requirements of livestock will change throughout the year.

Livestock owners should also ask themselves, “what else is in my water?”. Water is an excellent solvent, dissolving many polarized chemicals, elements and molecules. This comes in handy when mixing sugar in a drink or washing your car, but water can also dissolve things that may negatively affect your livestock. The water in your livestock tanks can contain anything from algal mycotoxins to dissolved salts and minerals.

Testing the quality of your water may feel like just another expense; however, poor water quality can decrease animal performance outweighing the cost of the test. Most analytical labs can run a water quality analysis for around thirty dollars and will test for pH, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and more.

Many wonder what to do with the complicated results received from the lab. What level of minerals, nitrates, and etc. your livestock can tolerate in water depends on how much is being supplied in the diet. Your local extension office is happy to help decipher results, balance rations, and determine which laboratory is best for you.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Sweet Itch

by Michael Fisher, Pueblo County Extension Director

While it is nice to see the rain following a lengthy drought, there are also issues that excess moisture can create or enhance.  One of those issues is an increase in bothersome insects.  Standing and stagnant water can be a breeding habitat for many of the biting insects.  With that in mind, here is an excerpt from an article that I wrote several years ago.  It addresses the affliction of sweet itch in horses and how this is caused by biting midges.

Sweet itch is a skin condition that can affect some horses.  It is caused when a susceptible horse is bitten by biting midges called Culicoides, the same parasites that are responsible for transmitting bluetongue among cattle and sheep.  These very small gnats (1 to 3 mm) swarm together for feeding.  Typically, the midges are nectar feeders; however, the female of the species requires a blood meal in order to mature her eggs.  The saliva that is left behind following the insect’s bite contains a specific protein molecule that the horse’s immune system considers to be a threat.  In sweet itch cases, the immune system over reacts and releases an overload of the antibody IgE.  This is followed by a cascade production of both cytokins and histamine to kill the invader.  However, the overproduction of histamine inflames the skin and causes intense, uncontrolled itching. 

Hypersensitive horses may pace endlessly and seek an unusual amount of mutual grooming from other horses penned with them.  They are also prone to excessive yawning and may be easily distracted when being ridden.  Additionally, they will rub, roll, paw, and bite at the affected area in an effort to relief the itch.  In turn, this activity tears away at their skin causing hair loss, abrasions, weeping soars, open wounds, and leading to secondary infections.  Often times the inflamed area will be around the tail, over the withers and through the mane, or about the ears and face.  Additionally, some cases may be along the spine or belly.  This variability is a result of a difference in feeding preference among the various varieties of midges.

As is the case with many allergens, a horse may develop a greater intolerance to sweet itch the more that it is exposed to the allergen.  Therefore, it is possible that the symptomatic horse’s condition may worsen with each passing summer. 

There currently is no real good treatment for the condition.  Steroids and antihistamines have been used to relieve the itching; however, these are only masking the condition and may lead to side effects that can be more harmful, such as laminitis.  Prevention is the best chance of avoiding a problem.  This may include the use of insect repellants in the horse’s stall or topical repellants regularly applied to the pastured horse.  Insecticides that appear to work the best in these situations are those that use either a permethrin or benzyl benzoate as an active ingredient.  Additionally, some equine enthusiasts will place a blanket or hood over the horse to prevent the midges from being able to bite into the horse.  Another successful tactic is to understand the midge in question and manage around it.  Most of the Culicoides will do their feeding from 4am to 10am and 4pm to 10pm.  Therefore, it is possible to keep your horse stalled during those times, in the airflow of a strong fan.  Midges are poor fliers and require calm air to be able to fly.  It is also advisable to drain still or stagnant water and remove decaying vegetation near the horse, as these are considered prime breeding habitat to the midges.

Monday, June 8, 2015

June 2015 GPA Ag Newsletter

Check out the newest issue of the 2015 Golden Plains Area Ag Newsletter at the following link  If you would like to receive this newsletter by email, just call or email at 970-332-4151 or

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

2015 Livestock Disease Update

Last year, several diseases were particularly damaging to Colorado livestock production. These threats are real possibilities again for 2015; however, education and management practices can limit the extent of their impact and severity. The following is a discussion about three viral threats to Colorado livestock and resources to help producers minimize their risk.

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV) is a corona virus that affects pigs of all ages. It is however, most devastating to sow farms with 100% mortality on piglets ages 3-5 weeks. It was recently diagnosed for the first time in the United States on a sow farm in Iowa in May of 2013. It is highly contagious between pigs and within a year, it had spread to 30 states with just short of 7,000 positive samples sent in. The viral strain is greater than 99 percent similar to the strain in China, but the method of entry into the United States is unknown. The disease is likely spread across states through livestock trailers. At processing plants, it is estimated that for every contaminated truck arriving, two will leave contaminated. The best way to protect against PEDV is prevention through biosecurity.

This disease is not zoonotic and not considered a threat to public health or the food supply. For more information on PEDV, visit

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza

Unlike PEDV, the Influenza virus is no stranger to the United States. Two strains of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), H5N2 and H5N8, have been confirmed in the United States. HPAI spreads easily in birds and poultry and has a high mortality rate. The main source of disease transmission is due to the wild bird population and their migratory routes. HPAI at this time is not considered a threat to public health or the food supply. Practice the following biosecurity measures to stop disease spread and keep your flock safe.

Colorado Department of Agriculture recommendations for Commercial Flocks
· Restrict on-farm access to essential employees only
· Practice on-farm disinfecting procedures (ex: foot baths and equipment cleaning)
· Use indoor facilities
· Do not have contact with other flocks and limit movement of birds, poultry workers, equipment, and transport vehicles
· Anyone entering the farm should use protective gear on egg farms
· Avoid contact with sick or dead poultry/wildlife
· If contact occurs, wash hands with soap and water and change clothing before having any contact with domestic poultry

USDA APHIS recommendations for Backyard Flocks
· Wash hands thoroughly before and after working with your birds
· Scrub your shoes with disinfectant
· Clean cages and change food and water daily
· Clean and disinfect equipment that is exposed to your birds
· If you do borrow tools or cages, clean and disinfect them before they reach your property
· If visitors have birds of their own, do not let them near your birds
· If you have been near other birds, bird owners, pet/feed store disinfect shoes, clothing, and equipment before returning to your birds.

For a sick bird, call the Colorado Avian Health Call Line at Colorado State University (CSU): (970) 297-4008.

For a dead bird, submit to the CSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Fort Collins for free HPAI testing: (970) 297-4008 or (970) 297-1281 or visit

For Multiple sick/dead birds, call either the Colorado State Veterinarian’s Office at (303) 869-9130 or USDA Colorado Office at (303) 231-5385.

Vesicular Stomatitis Virus

Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) affects most livestock, but particularly horses and cattle. This disease can be spread by insects, animal-to-animal contact, and by livestock transportation. The insects undergo yearly migrations that begins in Mexico and continue north as spring and summer commence.

 The first case of VSV this year was documented in New Mexico and has since been confirmed in Arizona and Utah. The location and severity of the disease varies from year to year. The outbreak of 2014 was particularly severe for Colorado with 370 premises with positive diagnosis. Livestock owners can reduce the spread of the disease by practicing biosecurity principles and by implementing insect control. Although in rare circumstances, the disease can be spread to humans, this disease is not considered a threat to public health or the food supply. For more information on VSV, visit

For any unusual livestock/poultry disease or death, contact your local veterinarian. Your local Extension Office can also help direct calls and answer questions. The State Veterinarian’s Office can be reached at 303-869-9130.