Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Arriving home yesterday I saw an interesting sight on our farm, a duck following the heifers around the pasture. Interesting enough, I decided that this was the perfect photographic moment, so I scrambled around to find my camera and raced to the field to get this picture.
Now this duck is not your normal duck. The duck, that I have named George, has been living in our barn for the past two months. We found him one cold wintry day in the barn nestled in the cattle trough on a pile of hay. Ever since that day, he has befriended the cattle, the sheep, and the cats. The barn animals seemed to take a liking to George and they treat him like one of their own. Some days we will find him sitting on top of a fencepost and other days we will find him roaming with the sheep. He doesn't seem to mind that he isn't socializing with other ducks or even frolicking in the water. The duck enjoys living in our barn so I think George is here to stay...
Monday, March 30, 2009
April 15th is closer than you think, so I thought it was only necessary to get you prepared for filing your farm tax returns. As we all know preparing your taxes can be a real headache. In fact, even thinking about doing your taxes can give you enough incentive not to do them. There are many things you can do to ease headache throughout the year to make your taxes more controllable. These are the top five tips that I suggest agriculture producers to take in consideration when preparing your taxes.
Choose your Tax Preparer Intelligently
No one knows your farm finances better than you do so be sure to choose someone you trust knows what to do. Choose a licensed preparer that has not only the tax preparation knowledge but maybe agriculture tax expertise. Each year, new tax laws are put into place; your tax preparer should be aware of all of these updates and make you aware of them also. Use a tax preparer that is recommended by the Farm Bureau, your banker, or your farm neighbors. Chances are that a tax preparer that knows agriculture will be able to do complete your tax preparation quick and efficiently without oodles of questions.
Eliminate Costs by Organizing
Handing your box of receipts to your tax preparer is great if you have an excellent stash of money in your bank account and 5 months to file your taxes. Most tax preparers will charge more fees if they have to organize your receipts because it is time consuming. You are not their only customer. Before you meet with your tax preparer, organize all of your receipts, payments, and expenses.
Fill Out Tax Organizer
It is recommended that farmers fill out a good portion of the tax organizer. If you are running out of time at least have all the information ready to be filled in the tax organizer. You should fill out the personal information, income and expenses, estimated payments, and refunds. Filling out the tax organizer as much as possible eliminates time and tax preparer fees.
Good Records in Good Financial Order
Farmers need to provide the tax preparer with good solid records to receive the most deductions. To provide these solid records, farmers need to have their own accounting system in place on their farm. This will allow the farmer to easily at any time pick up the information and hand it to the tax preparer. Now, most of us do not have all the time in the world and certainly do not want to spend free time always having to keep their finances in good order. Do whatever works for your farm. You can use computer programs, farm books, or simply keeping an accurate log in a financial journal. This will make it easy for when you are ready to go to your tax preparer since you will need to total everything before handing it over.
The best tax planning is done in November of December. It is smart to know what you have to work with on your farm in November or December. Most accountants will want you to talk to them around November.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Proper management of animal mortalities on the farm has important implications in nutrient management, herd health, as well as farm family and public health. For this reason it is imperative to be familiar with best management practices for dealing with dead animals. It is also important to understand that most states have laws related to proper disposal or processing of mortalities. State departments of agriculture and regulatory agencies are great places to start looking for information on local laws.
The purpose of proper mortality disposal is to prevent the spread of infectious, contagious and communicable diseases and to protect air, water and soil quality. Also, there are legal issues and requirements related to nutrient management and the permitting of animal feeding operations. In the nutrient management plan, disposal of routine operational mortalities and catastrophic mortalities must be defined.
Unacceptable Animal Mortality Disposal
Though dragging off a carcass to the bone yard has been a historical practice, abandonment is NOT recommended and is likely ILLEGAL in many places. Examples include: carcasses abandoned on the surface, in open pits, ditches, water features and sinkholes or in wells. Abandonment promotes extreme biological and disease hazard, threats to water quality, odors, flies, scavengers, rodents and visual pollution.
Methods of Animal Mortality Disposal
This is a safe method of carcass management from a bio-security standpoint. Incineration is different from burning because it is intended for the entire carcass to be quickly and completely consumed by fire and heat. This practice must be done in an approved device with air quality and emissions controls. It is mostly limited to small carcasses (such as poultry) and can be energy intense. The cost of fuel can be an important factor in adopting this practice.
This is probably the most common method of dead animal disposal in many states, although it may NOT be allowed in some. Most states have regulatory burial guidelines outlining site location, distance from waterways, depth to groundwater, etc. If proper procedures are used, burial is safe; however the land owner should be aware that certain portions of carcasses can persist for years in an anaerobic environment. During construction projects on former poultry farms, old burial pits have been discovered that contain intact birds. Areas with high water tables and sandy soils do not allow proper depth or cover of burial without threatening ground water. Burial pits are considered mass graves and, if not managed properly, may pose additional risks to spreading disease and contaminating the environment.
For many species, carcass composting is an environmentally preferable method of managing mortalities. When performed correctly, the end product may be incorporated into existing land application of manures. Much information is available on poultry composting and it is not an uncommon practice. It is also possible to compost larger carcasses. Many operations, even in cold climates, successfully compost larger stock including sows and full grown cattle. Technical procedures on composting cattle carcasses are available and continue to be studied and refined; this appears to be a viable option for the future. Most composting requires storm water protection and covering. Additional management and monitoring is required to refine the process, maintain temperatures, attain proper decomposition and prevent scavengers. Nutrients and organic matter in finished carcass compost can benefit forest and crop land; however, nutrient management guidelines should be followed.
The Obama administration amended the federal inspection rules for non-ambulatory cattle. Slaughtering cows that are too sick or weak to stand on their own is now against the law. This ban was proposed by the Department of Agriculture after the largest recall of beef occurred in the United States last year.
The final rule requires all cattle that are disabled prior to slaughter or those cattle that become non-ambulatory after passing inspection be taken out of the line of food supply. Non-ambulatory cattle are now required to be properly disposed of according to the Food Safety and Inspection Service regulations. Inspectors in the plant will tag those cattle as “U.S. Condemned” and will be humanely euthanized.
The administration mentioned that this will further minimize the chance of mad cow disease entering the food supply. Non-ambulatory cows have a larger risk of mad cow disease and also are more susceptible to bacterial infections that could get into the meat supply. The Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack mentioned that the ban is a step forward for standards of humane treatment of animals.
-World Dairy Diary, www.wdepo.com
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Since 2000, sixteen flocks have been in infected and seventy five flocks were exposed to scrapie in Pennsylvania. Each year, the presence of scrapie costs US producers between $20-$25 million dollars. Scrapie tags are necessary to trace scrapie positive animals back to their original flock to help prevent this fatal disease from spreading. Since January 1, 2009, scrapie identification of all sheep and goats is mandatory. It is now illegal to transport sheep and goats without official scrapie identification. This includes lambs born in Pennsylvania as well as imported animals.
People transporting sheep and goats without official scrapie identification may be subject to criminal and/or civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation. You may obtain your FREE USDA issued ear tags and ear tag applicator by calling the United States Department of Agriculture- Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service office in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania at 1-866-873-2824.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
A recent study by Penn State University showed that most consumers find grass fed beef more acceptable in taste and tenderness. Grass fed beef has an advantage over grain finished beef because of the increased amount of omega-3 fat content.
Producers should look into ways to produce more grass fed beef. Grass fed cattle must be on a high quality forage diet to finish at 18 months of age or less. The study found that finishing productive, healthy cattle on pastures for 120 days is very important to consumer acceptance of the product rather than frame size or how fat the animal is... Read the whole article at the Penn State University