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Ricks Ag-Roundup
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Okay, I have to admit, I am not a big time birder. What I mean is – I am not an expert when it comes to knowing bird species nor their biology and habits. I like birds when they aren’t damaging crops or gardens. I enjoy their songs and sounds and enjoy watching their habits. They bring beauty and charm to the environment. They also benefit by eating troublesome insect pest at times.   
A good way to bring birds up close to your home is to feed them. The type of birds you attract will depend on the type of feed you put out, the type of feeder you use and the location of the feeder and feed. There are several different types of feeders. The most common are platform feeders, tube feeders, suet feeders and hanging feeders. There also are variations and combinations. Choose a ground level platform feeder or a raised platform feeder. Choose a high or low hanging feeder. Location, high or low, as well as surrounding cover seems to have as much to do with usage of the feeder by birds as does the type of feeder.
Water is another important consideration in backyard habitats. In the winter, sources of open water may be scarce. A birdbath, with a birdbath heater, may attract as many birds as the feed in your feeders. Locate the birdbath where it will be convenient to fill and close enough to an electrical outlet to provide current to a heater.
Birds also remind me of the passage in the book of Mathew in Chapter 6, verses 26-27, where Jesus said that God feeds the birds. He takes care of them; like he does us. We are not to worry, but we are to take action. So, we can do our part by putting the food out and the birds do their part by finding it.
Most everything I learned about birds was from my wife’s Aunt Muriel, who went to be with the Lord last year. She was a true expert and had hundreds of birds around her farm north of Sylvia.
The other person who I know to be a true birder is Chuck Otte, the Geary County Extension Agent at Junction City. He has published a number of fact sheets on bird feeding and bird watching. Chuck is well known as a birdwatcher and serves as vice president of the Kansas Ornithological Society. He is also the webmaster for KSBIRDS.ORG and the newly launched You can find his fact sheets in our publications list under “Wildlife” at  There are a total of eight publications with three each on feeding birds and bird watching, one on landscaping for birds and one specifically on hummingbirds.
Bull sale season is under way, and producers will have many opportunities to buy bulls from now through the end of May. With all of the options - sale dates, breeders, cow families and sires - to choose from, the decision of which bull to buy may not come easily.
Some information out of North Dakota, which is just as true for Kansas and many other states, caught my attention the other day.
The first step in bull buying is to determine your expectations of your bull,” says Carl Dahlen, North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension Service beef cattle specialist. “Certainly, he needs to be fertile and get cows pregnant, but beyond that, each rancher has his or her own expectations of a bull. Some producers need a bull that will produce growthy calves that have maximum weight at the time of weaning, while some select bulls that will minimize calving problems. Still others want the highest quality carcass possible.”
However, selecting for just one trait can have consequences. For example, by continually selecting bulls for the heaviest yearling weight, producers inadvertently would increase the mature cow size in their herd if they consistently select replacement heifers from within the herd. In addition, the heaviest yearling weights may be associated with heavier birth weights, which could lead to calving difficulty.
By contrast, I feel many producers have gone overboard with selecting calving ease and low birth weight bulls. I can understand that somewhat if you are breeding heifers but if you have mostly mature cows this should not be your primary objective because you aren’t going to be pulling many calves with those old gals anyway..
The best way to select a bull is to decide on a combination of traits that best fits the needs of the cow herd. Once the herd’s needs are realized, the decision about which bull to purchase is much easier.
“Choosing the right bull involves both a physical evaluation of the bull and a review of the available genetic information,” says David Buchanan, an animal genetics professor in NDSU’s Animal Sciences Department. “When looking at bulls, producers need to review the structural correctness, frame size and muscling pattern, and see whether the bulls have an overall eye appeal that they want to have in their next calf crop. A breeding soundness examination is also important.”
The review of available genetic information can be difficult. Sale catalogs will list expected progeny differences (EPDs) for calving ease, birth weight, weaning weight, yearling weight, milk and scrotal circumference. In addition, EPDs are available for carcass traits including carcass weight, marbling, ribeye area and fat thickness.
The Wichita Garden Show continues through March 6 at Century II… A crop Insurance Webinar will be held on March 11. Dr. Art Barnaby will discuss cheap put options in the new insurance contract. The cost will be $25. Register at  or call 785-532-1504. It is sponsored by K-State Ag Economics….The annual Extension Goat & Sheep Conference will be held at Phillipsburg on March 5. Call 785-425-6851 for more information….The annual Gathering for Gardeners will be held on March 12 in Hutchinson. Many good speakers with topics of horticulture interest will be available. Call 620-662-2371 for details….On Saturday, March 12, K-State will hold their Junior Swine Producer Day in Manhattan. Cost is $15. Call 785-532-1264 for more details.