GMO? Or Non-GMO? That is the question!

GMO? Or Non-GMO? That is the question!

Consumers are continuously perplexed by the terminology used within agriculture. Seed selection, plant breeding, and hybridization, for example, are often confused with genetic engineering (often referred to as GMO). Genetic engineering vastly differs from these other practices, as it utilizes a gene splicing technique to insert foreign genetic material into another organism’s DNA. This type of modification cannot occur on its own in nature. In contrast, seed selection, breeding, and hybridization are interrelated practices that can occur naturally and have been used in agriculture for centuries. Seed selection is a tedious but beneficial process done by farmers throughout all of history. Throughout each season, crops are monitored for productivity, disease and pest resistance, adaptability to surrounding environment, length of maturity, and overall viability of product. At the end of the season, the crops with the best traits are selected and seeds are saved for consecutive growing seasons. This practice has not only improved crop quality and yield over time, but also has adapted seeds to the local microclimates and soil types in which the crops were grown. (Bass et al., 2). Similarly, plant breeding is the “genetic improvement of crop plants through the study and application of genetics, statistics, agronomy, plant pathology, entomology, and related sciences” (“Plant Breeding,” Department of Agronomy, 1). This practice can be compared to creating a new dog breed or breed of livestock. The results are not always precise, but genetic changes do happen. These changes can be reasonably controlled through repeated breeding and careful selection, often leading to improved productivity over the parent cross. Selection is simply based off of a desired phenotype[1] and...
An Egg’s Journey

An Egg’s Journey

Have you ever wondered how an egg is made? Thanks to Sarah Mayhugh, a homesteader in Virginia, we have a wonderful visual to help you understand this process. A female chick is born with thousands of ova on its ovaries, but not all of the ova will reach maturity. Unlike most female species, avian females only have one functional ovary. The hen is considered reproductively mature as early as 16 weeks of age. The ovary contains both immature and mature follicles. Each ova takes approximately 10 days to reach maturity. The egg-laying process begins with the release of the ovum from the ovary. The ovum is surrounded by the yolk, which is rich in protein, fat, and water and provides a food source for an embryo. From this point, it takes approximately 25 hours for the egg to reach complete development. A hen may have multiple eggs in various stages of development throughout her reproductive tract. When the yolk is released, it progresses into the oviduct, which has five distinct parts: the infundibulum, ampulla (or magnum), isthmus, uterus (or shell gland), and vagina. The infundibulum catches the yolk when it is released from the ovary and is the site where fertilization occurs if sperm is present. If the hen has been exposed to a mature rooster, the infundibulum stores the sperm in sperm nests and can fertilize eggs for up to 3 weeks after exposure. Fertilization does not have to occur in order for the egg-laying process to continue. The infundibulum then directs the yolk into the ampulla, which begins the formation of the albumen (egg white). The ampulla secretes approximately 40% of the albumen before passing the yolk into the isthmus....
What Do My Chickens Need in the Winter?

What Do My Chickens Need in the Winter?

Winter weather brings out all sorts of concerns about the health and safety of our flocks. Commonly asked questions include the following: What should I feed them? Are they warm enough? Do I need a heater? Chicken sweaters? What if it snows?   Here are a few suggestions from the NCO team:   Water: The #1 forgotten nutrient in any livestock operation is water. Livestock need access to plenty of fresh, clean, unfrozen water. While trudging water buckets up to the barn or out to the hen house may be tedious, this step should never be overlooked. For those in areas with harsh winter weather, this may mean more frequent water changes and/or the utilization of water bucket heaters. Poultry and other livestock are less likely to drink water if the ice has simply been broken. Bedding: Plenty of fresh straw, pine or hemp shavings, or other bedding should be used in the coop and nest boxes to provide a warm environment for your flock. Bedding should be checked and/or cleaned and replenished every few days to prevent ammonia build up, as poultry are much more susceptible to respiratory infections during winter months. Exercise is another great way to prevent frostbite and chilly chickens. By putting the soiled bedding in the outdoor area for the chickens to scratch and break down, not only will your chickens stay warm but you will also have great compost. Outdoor area: Frostbite is a concern for areas with snow and cold, wet conditions. One way to prevent frostbite is to provide multiple roosts, dry run-in shelters, and straw or mulch pathways to keep the birds’ feet dry. Roosts...
What Feed Should I Give My Chickens? Part 3

What Feed Should I Give My Chickens? Part 3

Every animal goes through different growth phases. For egg-laying chickens, there are three main phases: chick, pullet, and layer. We stress the importance of feeding the right feed at the right time. In this 3 part series, we discuss the differences between our NCO Starter, Grower/Broiler, and Layer feeds.   Layer Feed Now that your birds are nearing 16 weeks of age or have just begun laying, which Layer feed is the best option for your flock? Here are some basic questions to consider before choosing the next feed: Where do you live? Are you in the South or West with hot weather almost year round? Or are you in the North, Northeast, or Midwest with temperamental weather conditions and really cold winters? Do you like to ferment feed prior to feeding it to your flock? Do you, the handler of the feed, have wheat or gluten sensitivity? We offer four varieties of layer feed: Classic Grind, Corn-Free, Wheat-Free, and Whole Grain. All are formulated with 17% protein, 2% fat, and 8% fiber and are supplemented with kelp, organic alfalfa, and Poultry NutriBalancer. These feeds are also formulated with additional calcium for egg-shell strength and flaxseed to increase the omega-3 content of the eggs. For those living in hotter climates, we recommend feeding our Corn-Free Layer feed. Corn is a high-energy starch feed ingredient that also promotes heat of digestion. In hotter climates, birds do not require as much energy and therefore do not need corn in their diet. For those living in colder climates or areas with noticeable changing seasons, our Classic Grind Layer feed is a better...
What Feed Should I Give My Chickens? Part 2

What Feed Should I Give My Chickens? Part 2

Every animal goes through different growth phases. For egg-laying chickens, there are three main phases: chick, pullet, and layer. We stress the importance of feeding the right feed at the right time. In this 3 part series, we discuss the differences between our NCO Starter, Grower/Broiler, and Layer feeds. Grower/Broiler Feed Once chicks reach 5 weeks of age, they are ready for a chunkier feed. This change helps to continue to develop their crop and digestive tract. Grower/Broiler Feed is 19% protein, which is 2% lower protein than the Starter Feed. At this age, the lower protein feed aids in a slower growth for better-controlled weight and structural development. This also allows the reproductive system time to develop properly. The protein level is still high enough, however, to meet feather production needs. Most chicks are fully feathered by week 7. Both pullets and broilers are fed this feed at 5 weeks of age. Broilers should be fed this feed until they have reached the desired slaughter weight while pullets remain on the feed until they reach 16 weeks of age or lay their first egg. Once pullets are near laying age, they should be slowly transitioned to Layer Feed. Tune in tomorrow to learn more about NCO Layer feeds! For immediate assistance, please contact our Sales Team at...
What Feed Should I Give My Chickens? Part 1

What Feed Should I Give My Chickens? Part 1

Every animal goes through different growth phases. For egg-laying chickens, there are three main phases: chick, pullet, and layer. We stress the importance of feeding the right feed at the right time. In this 3 part series, we discuss the differences between our NCO Starter, Grower/Broiler, and Layer feeds.   Starter Feed When chicks hatch, their first instinct is to find food and water, as they expend a lot of energy trying to break out of their shells. Chicks are small in size and their digestive tract is still developing. This is why most starter feed products are a fine grind or fine crumble. This prevents blockage from occurring within the crop or other parts of the digestive tract and ensures better breakdown and absorption of nutrients. Starter Feed is also higher protein than the other two categories of chicken feed. A 21% protein diet is generally recommended to accommodate a chick’s accelerated growth and energy needs. At this age, chicks do not need the mineral allowances that layers need. Switching chicks to layer feed during their critical growth stage can cause developmental problems in their legs, reproductive organs, and other parts of growth. We recommend feeding Starter Feed for the first full four weeks of life. During the fifth week, the chicks should be slowly transitioned to the Grower/Broiler feed. Tune in tomorrow to learn more about NCO Grower/Broiler feed! For immediate assistance, please contact our Sales Team at...
Chaffhaye… Yeast or Mold?

Chaffhaye… Yeast or Mold?

We’ve had a lot of questions lately regarding Chaffhaye, a product for which we are authorized dealers. The most common question is in regards to the yeast found within the fermented product and whether or not it is mold. To explain it best, here is a summary of the production process and the benefits of the yeast culture. In a nutshell, Chaffhaye is premium pasture in a bag. The high quality, non-GMO alfalfa is harvested at optimal plant maturity to maximize nutrients and palatability, all while eliminating the dust and airborne-mold found in baled hay. This is then chopped, lightly misted with molasses, and packaged into air-tight packages to lock in freshness. Once the bag is sealed, beneficial bacteria eliminate the oxygen in the bag making an anaerobic environment. As a result of the acids produced by this bacteria, the pH is reduced to below 5, which prevents the growth of harmful molds. The beneficial bacteria continue to break down the plant matter similar to what happens in the hindgut of a horse or the rumen in ruminant animals, producing nutrients and probiotics as a result of the fermentation process. This is what gives Chaffhaye a long shelf-life. Once a bag is opened, it is important to use it up within one week to ten days during summer months and within two weeks during winter months, as the feed will continue to ferment. Unopened, it will keep for 18 months past its production date. Chaffhaye can be stored inside or outside, rain or shine, hot or cold, and does not need to be covered. Air movement around the bag...
Why Should You Eat Organic?

Why Should You Eat Organic?

A recent study published in The British Journal of Nutrition has provided strong evidence for the benefits of consuming organic produce. Barański et al. (2014) performed an extensive meta-analysis of 343 peer-reviewed publications comparing the differences between organically and conventionally grown crops. Organic crops in this study had higher antioxidant activity as well as “higher concentrations of a wide range of nutritionally desirable antioxidants/(poly)phenolics, but lower concentrations of the potentially harmful, toxic metal [cadmium]” and were also significantly lower in pesticide residue (Barański et al., 2014). Additionally, this study suggests that the discrepancies in previous meta-analyses that led to inconclusive data on this topic may be due to the limited data used for those studies. The nutritional advantages in organic crops are significant in that the higher concentrations of the compounds analyzed have been linked to a reduced risk in chronic diseases, including certain cancers. These nutritional advantages may be due to organic farming requirements. Unlike conventional farming practices, organic farmers are required to improve soil conditions and promote plant diversity. Many organic farmers meet this requirement by focusing on cover crops and crop rotation practices as well as utilizing composts. Furthermore, organic crops have a greater ability to adapt to their surroundings and acquire natural immunity to pests or other environmental conditions. Organic agriculture goes beyond just the seed. With such great attention given to the care of the soil and the surrounding environment, it’s no wonder that organic is considered the gold standard of agriculture. This study’s results are exciting for the organic community!   *Barański, Marcin, et al. “Higher Antioxidant and Lower Cadmium Concentrations and Lower...
Winter Nutrition and Preparation, Part 4

Winter Nutrition and Preparation, Part 4

What better way to end our series on Winter Nutrition and Preparation than with horses! Equine nutrition builds on the material previously covered in this series but with a unique twist in the digestive process. While horses are a monogastric species, digestion occurs slightly differently from other monogastrics and ruminants. The equine digestive system is designed for almost continuous intake of a variety of forages and other feedstuffs. Similar to fermentation of feed in the rumen, horses are known as hindgut fermenters. Unlike ruminants, however, microbial fermentation in the horse occurs after chemical breakdown in the stomach. Digestion and fermentation in the hindgut not only produce calories and nutrients for the horse, but it also serves an important role in heat production. The horse’s stomach only comprises about 10% of the digestive system, thus the horse will tend to eat smaller amounts of roughages more frequently. The major site of digestion is the small intestine and feed can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours to pass through this part of digestion. The hindgut, or large intestine, comprises 62% of the entire gut and is approximately 7 meters in length and has a volume of 140 to 150 liters. Digestion in the hindgut is largely performed by symbiotic bacteria that break down plant fibers and undigested starches into volatile fatty acids, proteins, vitamin K, and B-complex vitamins, which can then be absorbed through the gut wall. Horses have a similar LCT (lowest critical environmental temperature) to other livestock and special care should be taken well prior to winter temperatures. The ideal BCS (body condition score) should be between...
Winter Nutrition and Preparation, Part 3

Winter Nutrition and Preparation, Part 3

To understand ruminant nutrition, one must first look at the anatomical differences between ruminant and non-ruminant species. Ruminants have a four-chambered stomach that allows them to digest food in a completely unique manner. The rumen is approximately 60% of the stomach and contains microorganisms that aid in fermentation of the feed prior to chemical breakdown of the feed. These microorganisms allow the animal to turn otherwise inaccessible nutrients into viable nutrients. The end results of the fermentation of readily available carbohydrates are volatile fatty acids, carbon dioxide, methane, and heat. These products are absorbed into the body through the rumen walls. Ruminants utilize the volatile fatty acids as a source of energy, whereas most species utilize glucose for cell metabolism. Additionally, microorganisms are also digested and serve as an additional energy source with high quality protein and other necessary nutrients. In contrast to non-ruminant species, ruminants have less of an ability to digest large amounts of grain or pelleted roughage due to a limited production of the enzymes needed to complete this process. Fiber is an important part of the ruminant diet because it helps maintain a healthy rumen environment. Hay is the primary source of nutrients for ruminants during the winter or non-grazing season unless stockpiling pasture methods are followed. A high forage diet will stimulate greater heat production. Supplementing with a quality grain mix will also help keep them in good body condition. To determine how much feed is needed per head per day, it is important to monitor environmental conditions. For any livestock, nutritional requirements can change as temperature fluctuates. A general rule of thumb is...