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Farm & Ranch

Values Over Valuables

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Speak with Roger and Leigh Gaddis for more than a few minutes, and you’ll soon fall into the easy banter of longtime friends. The couple, of Ada, Okla., run their business and lives based on a couple key principals; value over valuables and family over fortune.

The couple not only own a successful wealth management business, they’re active in the community on local and state levels, they’re passionate about agriculture, hunting, conservation, and family.

Advocates of Action

For almost 35 years, Roger and Leigh have owned and operated Gaddis and Gaddis Wealth Management, which now has offices in Ada, Ardmore, Durant, and McAlester. Their clients come from a variety of backgrounds, but a large percentage are fellow farmers and ranchers. “I always tell our farm and ranch clients that they spend so much time managing their four-legged stocks, that we will help them manage their monetary stock,” Roger shared with a laugh. “We do a lot more than just manage money. The bottom line is that we do financial advising, from budgeting to cash flows to savings, retirement and estate planning.”

Leigh added, “Too many times we see people who are not protected and are heading for disaster. Even worse is when we have a client with a problem that could have been prevented.”

The Gaddis’ have seen a variety of scenarios play out, from families fighting amongst themselves due to perceived disparities in contributions to the land, or massive dispersals just to pay taxes after a death. “We have a high value system and believe in doing unto others as you’d have done to you,” Roger said. “We have four sons between us, and I always think it is great when people who can help our sons and daughters-in-law to make better decisions step up and do so. Leigh and I want to be that kind of people, too.”

Through their business, the couple guides clients through the ins and outs of estate planning – but one of the main tools they implement doesn’t cost a dime. “Nationwide Insurance was started by farmers and ranchers, and have a love for those people. They have a program called ‘Land as your Legacy,’ and it’s an estate planning process customized for farmers and ranchers. It is absolutely free to use and there are no strings attached,” Roger explained. “We’ve run several clients through the process, and the company does it at no cost. Many people would pay up to $15,000 to have a lawyer do it.

“Of course, they hope that if families find they need some help that they (Nationwide) get to bid for any business, but they’re doing it to help people.”

Whether you’re a client of theirs or not, Roger and Leigh encourage everyone to plan for the future. “I don’t think there really is a minimum amount of assets a person needs to plan to protect their legacy,” Roger shared. “It’s more important as you get to multi-million dollar operations, but we can tell you plenty of sad stories about people with modest estates.”

Look for estate planning information from Roger and Leigh in future issues of Oklahoma Farm & Ranch.

Love of Outdoors

Both Roger and Leigh came from families connected to agriculture. “My dad had a farm in Texas he took over from his father, but it wasn’t his livelihood. Roger’s grandfather had a farming operation here in Oklahoma. While farming and ranching were part of our life, it wasn’t our bread and butter,” Leigh explained.

“A large part of our ranching and hunting efforts really comes from the hunting background we both have. Both of our families were hunting families. We did a lot of recreational hunting, but that wasn’t just for sport; it was a source of food for us,” Roger said. “I love to hunt, but I’m more of a deer, turkey, and pheasant kind of guy. I love Oklahoma stuff, but Leigh has had a couple African hunting experiences.”

Leigh took her first trip to Namibia, Africa, several years ago with another female hunter. “Through the years she has taken many groups of women to Africa. I had mentioned to her I’d like to go, and then she set it up. It was such an amazing experience – not only the hunting, but also the conservation efforts of the people in Africa. Not only is every part of the animal utilized in some way, but the professional guides make sure only the older, mature males are harvested,” she explained.

“What many people don’t understand is that without hunters, death for one of these animals can be slow and miserable. They lose their teeth and starve to death, or they’re kicked out of the herd and killed by other animals. Sometimes the older males will turn on the young, and that can make a huge dent in the population,” Leigh explained.

Roger joined his wife on a trip to South Africa a few years later. “The other thing is that in many cases, these hunts are the sole economy for the area. You can take the horns and the capes home, but else stays there and feeds the people and benefits that population,” he said.

It was the couple’s shared love of hunting that fostered their current farming operation. “We leased hunting property up in Osage County. Then we thought we ought to put some cattle on that property to help recover some of the lease cost, and to graze some of the grass that was growing.” Roger laughed, and added, “Then we had to get more land, and of course, more cattle. Then we decided we didn’t want to buy hay; we wanted to grow our own. We added some hunting property to our portfolio, too.”

Roger and Leigh first focused on black Angus cattle, but a few years ago the color of the landscape began to change. “We decided we liked the red Angus better, so we switched to that,” Roger said.

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Farm & Ranch

Fescue Foot

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Barry Whitworth, DVM

Area Food/Animal Quality and

Health Specialist for Eastern Oklahoma 

Since most of Oklahoma experienced drought conditions and with fall fast approaching, producers with fescue pastures should closely observe their livestock for any signs of fescue toxicity. According to Mike Trammel, Pottawatomie County Ag Educator and Muti-County Agronomist, fescue toxins (ergot alkaloids) tend to increase in Kentucky-31 tall fescue pastures in the fall. Some reports indicate more problems with fescue toxins following a summer drought and limited fall rains. All of this may put Oklahoma cattle at a greater risk of fescue toxicity.

One issue that cattle experience with fescue toxins is fescue foot. Fescue foot is thought to be caused by ergot alkaloids such as ergovaline. These alkaloids are produced by endophyte fungus (Epichloë coenophiala) which is in tall fescue. Ergovaline has been proven to be a vasoconstrictor which might be responsible for fescue foot and heat intolerance also known as summer slump in cattle. Other issues that may be seen with the ergot fescue toxins are reduced milk production and reproductive issues.

Clinical signs of fescue foot appear within a few days of cattle being turned on to tall fescue pastures or it may take weeks if toxins in the pasture are low. Producers will initially observe cattle with arched back, rough hair coats, and sore feet. These symptoms are more noticeable early in the morning and with cold weather. This is followed by reddening and swelling in the area between the dewclaws and hooves. The lameness usually becomes more severe with time. If no action is taken, gangrene will result in loss of tissues distal to the coronary band and declaws. If the weather remains mild, other signs such as increase respiration rate, increase heart rate, and higher body temperature are more common.

Other causes of lameness in cattle must be differentiated from fescue foot. One simple method that will help differentiate fescue foot from footrot is to check the temperature of the foot. If the foot is cold, this is an indication that the problem is more likely fescue foot.

Since there is not a specific treatment for fescue foot, the condition must be managed. Cattle need to be observed daily for any signs of lameness or stiffness during the first few weeks on fescue pastures. This should be done early in the morning before cattle walk off the stiffness. Producers should pay close attention during cold weather, especially when rain, snow, or ice are present. Any animal showing clinical signs of fescue foot should be removed from the pasture and placed in a clean environment. The animal should be fed a ration with no fescue toxins.  

The best but most costly solution to reduce fescue toxicity is to renovate old pastures with new endophyte friendly varieties. If this option is not possible, producers might try interseeding fescue pastures with clovers or other grasses. This should dilute fescue toxins. Nitrogen fertilization may increase ergot alkaloids, so producers should avoid fertilizing fescue pastures with high amounts of nitrogen. Researchers have demonstrated that feeding a supplement while grazing fescue pastures reduces clinical symptoms. Some studies indicate a difference in susceptibility to fescue toxicity in some cattle. Selecting cattle based on genetic tolerance of fescue toxins is an option. (For more information go to www.agbotanica.com/t-snip.aspx)

With large areas in Oklahoma covered with Kentucky-31 fescue pastures, fescue foot as well as other fescue toxicities are not going away any time soon. Livestock producers will need to watch their livestock closely for any signs of fescue toxicity and manage their pastures to keep toxins as low as possible. If producers would like more information on fescue foot, they should consult their veterinarian and/or visit their local Oklahoma State University Cooperative County Extension Agriculture Educator.  

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Farm & Ranch

Dropping Like Flies-Prussic Acid in Cattle

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As the year progresses many producers look to move cattle to alternative pasture. Unfortunately, certain weather conditions, including drought or freezing, can set up some plants in the sorghum family, including Johnson grass, to become toxic. Even after limited grazing, deaths may be seen due to the ingestion of prussic acid, also known as hydrocyanic acid or cyanide. A classic call to the veterinarian is, “My cattle are dropping like flies.”

Prussic acid toxin is created when the harmless hydrocyanic glycosides in plants are stressed and breakdown. Once the hydrocyanic glycosides in the plants are damaged through actions like cattle chewing or a swather and crimper, they quickly convert to prussic acid.  Following ingestion, the prussic acid is released in the rumen and rapidly absorbed into the blood stream. 

Once in the circulatory system, the toxin prevents cells from taking up oxygen. The blood therefore becomes saturated with oxygen leading to blood that appears bright cherry red. The clinical signs most often seen include excitement, muscle tremors, increased respiration rate, excess salivation, staggering, convulsions, and collapse. Asphyxiation at the cellular level is the cause of death due to deprivation of oxygen. 

When producers encounter animals displaying clinical signs of prussic acid toxicity, they should immediately remove all the animals that appear normal to a new pasture and contact their veterinarian.  The veterinarian will treat the sick animals with two drugs (sodium nitrite and sodium thiosulfate) that can reverse the toxicity. Treatment must be initiated quickly but can prove difficult due to the rapid progression of the toxin.

The drugs used to treat prussic acid toxicity can be difficult to obtain. It is advisable to contact your veterinarian before grazing potential toxic plants to make sure that your veterinarian will have availability to respond and the necessary drugs on hand to treat the cattle if a problem arises.

Read more in the August 2022 issue of Oklahoma Farm & Ranch.

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Farm & Ranch

Histomoniasis (Blackhead)

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A question sometimes asked by backyard poultry enthusiasts is “Can turkeys and chickens be raised in the same area?” A simple answer is that many backyard poultry producers do; however, many poultry experts would caution poultry producers about comingling these two species. The reason for this is a small protozoan parasite called Histomonas meleagridis.

H. meleagridis is a flagellated ameboid protozoan. The survival of this protozoan is dependent on Heterakis gallinarum, commonly referred to as the cecal worm of poultry. The cecal worms eat the protozoans. Once inside the cecal worm, the female cecal worm incorporates the protozoan in her eggs. The contaminated cecal worm eggs are shed in the bird’s droppings. At this time, H. meleagridis can be transmitted to domestic birds by ingestion of the contaminated cecal worm eggs or intermediated host (earthworms) that has ingested the contaminated eggs. Also, the protozoan can be transmitted directly from one bird to another bird. Unless protected in the cecal worm eggs or earthworms, H. meleagridis only survives a short period of time in the environment.

Several different species of birds (turkeys, chickens, ducks, geese, game birds, zoo birds) have been infected with H. meleagridis. Turkeys are considered the most susceptible with high morbidity and mortality rates. Young turkeys seem more susceptible than older turkeys. Blackhead can be rapid with birds appearing healthy in the morning and sick and/or dead by the afternoon. This makes control difficult. Chickens are easily infected but unlike turkeys, they have a milder form of the disease. Although not as deadly as in turkeys, production losses can be substantial with chickens. The difference between the severity of disease between turkeys and chickens may be explained by the turkey’s poor immune response compared to chickens. Lastly, some studies indicate that the development of disease is dependent on the presence of bacteria (Clostridium perfringens, Escherichia coli) or other microorganisms such as coccidia (Eimeria tenella).

Once a bird is infected with H. meleagridis, the protozoan penetrates the intestinal cecal wall of the bird. They will multiply and enter the bloodstream. Eventually, the protozoans infect the liver. The protozoans can be found in other tissues as well. Clinical signs will develop in one to two weeks.

Infected turkeys will display clinical signs such as yellow stained feces, anorexia, drooping wings, drowsiness, and problems walking. Eventually, turkeys will become emaciated. Studies have found sickness rates greater than 80% and death rates up to 100% in turkeys. As mentioned earlier, chickens tend to have milder forms of the disease; however, mortality rates around 30% have occurred.

Diagnosis of blackhead disease should be based on laboratory testing; however, poultry producers can make a presumptive diagnosis based on clinical signs, morbidity/mortality rates, and viewing the internal tissues. The primary internal lesions seen are in the ceca and liver. The cecal lesions are thick cecal walls with a cheesy like core and inflamed surfaces with an occasional ulcerated area. The liver will have circular dead depressed areas surrounded by red raised areas (bulls-eye-like lesions). 

All previous approved drugs used to treat/prevent/control blackhead disease have been banned by the United States Food and Drug Administration. Several different prevention and control practices have been suggested with few being thoroughly researched. One key is to start with healthy chicks and turkey poults. Studies have shown that beginning with high quality young reduces issues with blackhead disease. Some recommended practices by poultry experts are confirming the diagnosis of blackhead disease, maintain a proper environmental (wet moist conditions favor the development of the protozoan), control coccidiosis, control internal parasites (cecal worm) through deworming, do not comingle chickens and turkeys, and follow biosecurity protocols. Development of resistant genetic lines of birds has the potential to reduce the incidence of the disease. Several different natural treatments/preventions (essential oils, oregano, garlic, rosemary, etc.) have shown promise in laboratory conditions, but have not been researched in the field situations.

Fortunately, blackhead disease has not been found to be a major cause of death in backyard poultry operations; however, backyard poultry enthusiast should be careful when commingling turkeys and chickens. If a producer would like more information about blackhead disease, they should contact their local veterinarian and/or their local Oklahoma State University Cooperative County Extension Agriculture Educator.

References

Cadmus, K. J., Mete, A., Harris, M., Anderson, D., Davison, S., Sato, Y., Helm, J., Boger, L., Odani, J., Ficken, M. D., & Pabilonia, K. L. (2019). Causes of mortality in backyard poultry in eight states in the United States. Journal of veterinary diagnostic investigation : official publication of the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians, Inc31(3), 318–326.

Clark, S., & Kimminau, E. (2017). Critical Review: Future Control of Blackhead Disease (Histomoniasis) in Poultry. Avian diseases61(3), 281–288.

Swayne, D.E. and Halvorson, D.A. 2003 Influenza. In Y. M. Saif (ed.). Diseases of Poultry, 11th ed. Iowa State Press: Ames, Iowa, 135-160.

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