Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts cold and snowy winter

2015-16-Winter-ForecastDon’t say we didn’t warn you. The 2016 Old Farmer’s Almanac forecasts an unusually harsh winter this year for most of the nation.

The almanac, which is published annually and uses a secret forecasting formula it says is traditionally 80 percent accurate, has been in use since 1792 and remains one of the oldest and one of the most popular reference guides in the U.S.

The 2016 almanac, out today, warns the U.S. should prepare for extremely cold temperatures and lots of snow this winter. It says the Northeast can expect below-normal temperatures, the South will have above-average snowfall, and the Midwest will have less snowfall, but temperatures will be below-normal. The Pacific Northwest will see their biggest snowfall in mid-December, early to mid-January and mid to late February.

The secret forecasting formula, now locked in a black box in New Hampshire, was devised by the founder, Robert B. Thomas, who believed the weather was influenced by the magnetic storms on the surface of the sun, or sunspots.

The formula has been updated over the years. Predictions employ the study of solar activity, prevailing weather patterns and the atmosphere. The almanac also looks at weather trends and events by comparing past weather conditions with current solar activity.

However, many meteorologists question the almanac’s predictions and the validity of their methods. For one, the almanac’s secrecy means their methods can’t be compared with modern techniques that employ physics, math and atmospheric readings to simulate weather patterns. Such tools are used by agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to build the weather reports that you see on the news or on a smartphone app on a daily basis.

Akin to the almanac, NOAA also creates seasonal outlooks on a regular basis, and it’s findings contradict the almanac. For instance, they predict below average precipitation for the Pacific Northwest and for rainfall to coat California for most of the winter. The almanac also claims a high degree of accuracy on an annual basis without releasing evidence to back the claim.

Although originally created for recording and predicting astronomical events, today the Old Farmer’s Almanac does more than predict weather patterns. Readers can also learn about gardening, recipes, the best days to fish, among other helpful tips.

For more details about this coming winter, check out the almanac’s long ranging predictions.

BY Michelle Harven  August 17, 2015 at 12:20 PM EDT  | Updated: Aug 18, 2015 at 6:32 PM


Management, health, and nutritional considerations for weaning calves … and potentially making you more money

By Karla H. Jenkins, Dee Griffin, Aaron Stalker- Nebraska-Lincoln Extension

Weaning time can be a stressful time for calves. Weaning calves at home and selling after the seasonal price pressure subsides can increase profitability. Reducing separation and handling stress, providing proper nutrition, and preconditioning against disease increases the value of the calves and improves their performance when they enter the growing and finishing period.

Using low-stress handling techniques to ease calves away from their mothers boosts the vaccinations calves were given before bull turnout. Vaccines should include: Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) virals including IBR (Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis), BVD (Bovine Virus Diarrhea), and BRSV (Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus); a BRD bacterial vaccine (examples include; Presponse, Pulmo-Guard, One-Shot, etc.) and a Clostridial such as a 7-Way Blackleg. Calves are very susceptible to parasites and an effective dewormer should be given as well. A growth implant approved for weaning calves will improve growth during the next 45 to 60 days post weaning for cattle not intended for replacement breeding stock.

Separating calves from their dams causes behavioral changes that lead to stress. Vocalization, walking fences, and reduced intake can all result in reduced performance and health concerns. Producers should choose the separation method that works best for their operation while taking as many precautions as possible to maintain performance and reduce illness.

• TRADITIONAL WEANING- Traditional weaning is defined as separating the cows and calves abruptly without any residual contact. Calves may be moved away from the ranch, or they may be confined to a dry lot or a small pasture while the cows are taken away from the immediate area. Traditional weaning results in vocalization and fence walking which can last up to 3 days.

• FENCELINE WEANING – Fenceline weaning (placing cows and calves on opposite sides of a fence) has been shown to result in fewer vocalizations, less fence walking, and more weight gain postweaning compared to traditional weaning of calves. Fenceline weaning works best using a tight, 4-5 strand barbwire fence, reinforced with woven wire or electric fence. However, successful fenceline weaning has been accomplished with two strands of electric fence. One key to successful fenceline weaning is ensuring the adjacent pastures share a fence long enough for the cows and calves to spread out and maintain relatively close physical proximity. The process takes about 5-7 days. Fenceline weaning is best accomplished by removing cows from the pasture the pairs were occupying rather than moving the calves to a new pasture because the calves are accustomed to the watering location and feeding facilities. Introducing pairs into the weaning pasture about 1 week prior to weaning is sufficient for calves to become familiar with the pasture. If calves are going to be supplemented, consider supplementing the pairs three days a week beginning about three weeks before weaning. This will teach the calves to eat supplement and familiarize them with the supplement truck.

• TWO-STEP WEANING – At the time of preconditioning, a plastic nose piece (sometimes called a “weaner”) is placed in the calf’s nose which allows the calf to graze and drink water, but prevents nursing (step 1). Calves are then returned to the cows for 10-14 days. After day 10 to 14 placement of the plastic nose piece, calves and cows are separated (step 2). Research has shown this method decreases vocalization and walking by cows and calves. At the time of dam and calf separation, calves and cows can be handled like that described in the “traditional” weaning method.

Nutrition is a key element in the weight gain and immune response of weaned calves. Milk is rich in energy, protein, and vitamins and minerals and needs to be replaced with high quality forage and possibly supplement to maintain preweaning nutrient intake. Fortifying the pre- and post- weaning diet with vitamins and minerals can contribute to improved immune function and reduced post- weaning sickness. Unlimited access to fresh, clean water is essential for weaned calves. If the post weaning water source is unfamiliar to the calves, make accommodations to familiarize the calves. Allowing the water source to overflow for a brief time may help calves find the water.

• WEANING ON GRASS – If calves are allowed to continue grazing after weaning, consider the nutrient content of the forage. Native range in the fall is…………………………………………

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