Rain is a Tricky Thing

We’ve all heard the Luke Bryan song “Rain is a Good Thing”. While it may be a catchy lyric, lack of rain can cause livestock producers to suffer from drought and heat stress issues, while too much rain can leave farmers dealing with flood damage.  This year has been especially testing from those aspects.  The southwest is on fire.  Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico and areas of Texas, Kansas and Missouri are suffering from extreme drought and wildfires with surrounding areas battling through severe and moderate drought conditions.

DroughtMapJuly19
http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/CurrentMap.aspx

In contrast, there have been 6 major flooding events due to excessive rain which have been declared disaster states this summer.  There is no denying drought is difficult to handle, but flooding can be just as destructive with obstacles of its own.

flood timeline

To summarize the timeline above:

  • May 30 – Tropical Storm Alberto’s heavy rainfall lead to flash flooding in 10 southeastern states.
  • June 18 – Heavy rainfall in a short period of time lead to flooding mostly affecting the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and parts of northern Wisconsin and Minnesota.
  • June 20 – Heavy rainfall resulted in river levels rising and floods in northwest Iowa and southeastern South Dakota.
  • June 21 – Some areas of Texas received more than 10 inches of rain in a 48-hour period resulting in flooding.
  • July 3 – Torrential rains resulted in flooding in southern Minnesota.
  • July 17- Heavy rain resulted in flash flooding in Washington D.C. and Massachusetts.

Rain resulting in flooding has several destructive effects on agriculture.  First, damage to infrastructure such as roadways and powerlines.  Dirt and gravel roads may get washed away during a flood, which will limit a livestock producer from checking and accessing animals.  In the event of an evacuation often the animals are unfortunately left to fend for themselves.  It is a challenge to put those access points back in place to get any operation up and running after the flooding.  There will likely be damage to other assets as well such as outbuildings and machinery.

Second, the flood waters may carry sand and other debris with it.  This debris will settle on top of fields and may result in a barrier to the soil, creating a challenge when trying to plant crops or maintain a pasture.  Removing the debris and sand can be financially exhaustive and labor intensive.

Third, heavy rainfall producing floods will likely erode the soil and carry away valuable top soil.  The erosion itself, will leave gaps and divots in fields making the next planting season more difficult with new obstacles in fields.  The loss of top soil means the soil in the field will have less nutrients and likely will have lost aspects related to a healthy soil including structure and beneficial microorganism populations such as mycorrhizal fungi.  It will be important for crop producers and pasture managers to consult with soil health experts such as Lance Gunderson or Emily Shafto at Ward Laboratories Inc. to replenish nutrients and rebuild soil health after a flooding event.

Fourth, if there were standing crops or forages in a field during a significant rain and flood event, those crops and forages likely are damaged.  Powerful rains and hail can physically damage plants.  Therefore, if harvesting for grain or planning to feed these crops or forages mold and mycotoxins should be tested.  Additionally, corn, sorghum, oats, and other nitrate accumulating forages should be tested for nitrates due to the additional stress from flooding.

Finally, field operations may be hindered.  Planting, and harvesting of crops may be delayed due to wet sloppy fields.  If the areas affected produce hay, harvesting, drying and baling all present unique obstacles.

In conclusion, rain is not always a good thing.  Too little leaves us with droughts and too much results in devastating floods.  Always consider the obstacles of these disastrous events and make a plan before they happen to avoid panic when natural disasters occur.

More Resources:

Flood List

Farming After Flooding 

The Impact of Extreme Weather Events on Agriculture in the United States

iGrow Flood Resources

 

Feeding Fido: Is Kibble Still Okay? 8 counter points to the agenda against formulated pet food

Circulating Video Against “Kibble”

The link above is to a video that has been circulating the internet.  It captured my attention as it uses scare tactics to keep pet owners from feeding a balanced pet food (aka kibble) as the main source of nutrition.   I feed my fur baby (Angel pictured above) dry dog food formulated for her physiological state with the addition of plenty of treats and even some human foods which all can be a part of a healthy nutritious diet.  Additionally, Ward Laboratories Inc.  participates in the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) proficiency program and therefore, pet food and pet food ingredients are tested in our laboratory.   Here are my 8 points of rebuttal to the above video link:

 

  1. Dry dog foods have been formulated for dogs in all stages of life at varying physiological states. Therefore, it should not be assumed that pet owners buy one form of “kibble” and feed it without variation through-out the pet’s entire lifetime.  Many pet owners will change dog food from different life stages and include treats as a routine addition in their pet’s entire diet.  Read the AAFCO statement which qualifies the products as balanced and complete either through feeding trials or laboratory testing of the feed to ensure the nutrient values are in line with an already approved product.

 

  1. The trendy RAW diet for pet food has a higher incidence of food borne illness. Salmonella and Listeria are just two examples of microbial pathogens more likely to be found on raw pet food than dry kibble or canned wet food. These food-borne pathogens also are zoonotic and therefore, can affect the entire family if say mom feeds Fido and then prepares dinner for the rest of the family.

 

  1. In this video, using “run off” from the human food industry is touted as sub-standard. I beg to differ. Using organic waste from human food facilities ensures the products are strictly analyzed to ensure food safety and hazard prevention prior to being processed into dog or cat food.  Additionally, these ingredients are regulated under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), further improving the safety of your pet’s food.  Organic waste often includes certain parts of various food products such as cull carrots, pea shells, beef liver or tongues. Just because they don’t fit our consumer aesthetics and taste preferences does not mean they have no nutritional value. For convenience, these organic materials are processed into dry pellets for storage safety and easy distribution to our four-legged friends.  By utilizing organic waste from human food processing plants, the cost of pet food manufacturing is lower, making good quality food more affordable for the consumer while preventing those materials from falling into landfills, a definite bonus for the environment.

 

  1. The video above suggests that making your own pet food at home is the best alternative to kibble or dry pet food. This will result in mineral and vitamin deficiencies in your pet unless you have a background in animal nutrition. Complete and balanced diets are precisely formulated based on the species and physiological state of the pet. If specific nutrients are not provided, these deficiencies will affect your fur baby’s health. It is not as simple as frying some hamburger and adding some rice to the mix.  Vitamin and mineral supplements will need to be added at the right concentrations to meet the animal’s requirements without causing a potential toxicity.  Pet food companies spend a lot of money to employ educated professionals to formulate good, wholesome products for your pets.

 

  1. Dogs and cats are not just carnivores. They are domesticated species, which have evolved from hunting their own food and consuming an all meat diet to begging for scraps from our diet.  Contrary to the indications in the video, an all meat diet can be hard on your pet’s health, especially the kidneys. Pets on all meat diets can form painful kidney stones due to calcium and phosphorous imbalance. An all meat diet will also contain a deficiency of readily available carbohydrates, which are a necessary energy source for animals.

 

  1. Yes, misguiding labels are an issue. A well-educated consumer should be aware that labeled ingredients are often the result of splitting.  Some pet food labels will split plant ingredients for example, ground rice, rice flower, and rice bran, so that a meat ingredient can appear first on the ingredient list.

 

  1. To expect an industrialized manufacturing industry of any sort to never have a recall is over the top. Recalls on human food products are just as common as recalls on pet food.  The last one I can remember that affected how I grocery shopped was a recall on Sabra humus, but it passed, and I still enjoy a healthy snack of carrot sticks and humus from time to time.  Additionally, there are recalls on both “kibble” and raw pet foods, which is considered a better pet food option in the video.

 

  1. The video concludes by stating that if you cannot pronounce a specific ingredient on the label, you should not be feeding it to your pet. I strongly disagree. Unless you have a strong background in chemistry, natural and synthetic mineral compounds added to pet food are difficult to pronounce, however the ingredient itself is serving a purpose: to meet your pet’s requirements for specific minerals. Below, I have inserted a photo example of an ingredients list you may find on a dry dog food label. One ingredient that may be difficult to pronounce but is stands out to me as hard to say and nutritionally important is Ferrous Sulfate.  Ferrous Sulfate will provide your pet with required iron and sulfur in a complete and balanced diet.
ingredients
http://www.dummies.com/pets/dogs/how-to-read-a-dog-food-label/

Videos and articles that circulate the internet should always be closely scrutinized. Pet food manufacturers test ingredients as well as final products to ensure the formulated kibble is both safe and nutritious for pets.  There are many options if you prefer to go grain free to avoid pet allergies or you are looking to increase omega fatty acids to improve your pets coat. It is up to you as a consumer to read ingredients lists, AAFCO statements, and guaranteed analysis to determine the best food to fit your furry friend. If you doubt a pet food’s nutritional value, you can always send a sample to the lab to check it against its guaranteed analysis.

If you are interested in learning more about feeding a safe and nutritious diet to your pet, check out the resources below.

paleo-or-mcdonalds-choosing-a-diet-for-your-pet

how-safe-is-pet-food-likely-safer-than-yours

FDA Pet Food Labels

FDA Pet Food Literacy 

Nutritent Requirements of Dogs