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Protect your valentine’s heart with dark chocolate

Published February 9, 2017

URBANA, Ill. - Valentine’s Day and chocolate are a classic pairing, but chocolate also has other positive connections to the heart.

Dietary flavonoids contained in dark chocolate may reduce blood pressure when eaten in moderation. In addition, dark chocolate has shown positive effects on the biochemistry of cholesterol and iron in the blood.

“The health benefits in dark chocolate are due to its high concentration of antioxidants found in cocoa-containing foods,” says Laura Barr, a nutrition and wellness educator for University of Illinois Extension. “Some findings show that the dairy component in milk chocolate may interfere with the absorption of these antioxidants. So, stick to the dark for the heart!”

While it makes a great choice for a special celebration, like Valentine’s Day, Barr recommends enjoying dark chocolate as a “sometimes food,” like any treat.

“If you’re looking for a non-traditional Valentine’s Day gift, consider a fun activity, like a brisk walk or ice-skating, that gets you moving while still having time together,” Barr says. “Regular exercise is needed for a strong heart, healthy body, and a good mood. A healthy diet and exercise are the power twins that will improve your life when practiced consistently. What better gift is there?”

University of Illinois Extension provides educational programs and research-based information to help Illinois residents improve their quality of life, develop skills and solve problems. For more information on U of I Extension programs in your county, visit

News Source:

Laura Barr

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension

2017 Agriculture Technology Innovation Summit planned for Feb. 23

Published February 9, 2017

URBANA, Ill. - The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is convening its second annual summit on agriculture technology innovation and opportunities for entrepreneurship on Feb. 23 at the iHotel and Conference Center in Champaign.  

Creating, developing, and building connections between entrepreneurs, industry, and growers is a key component to implementing innovation in agriculture. This event will include speakers from industry, investors in agriculture, researchers, and examples of agriculture entrepreneurship. 

The one-day program will include keynote speakers, panel discussions, and a lunch program. The event is co-hosted by the University of Illinois Research Park, the Office of Corporate Relations, and the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. 

Anyone who is interested in issues surrounding innovation, entrepreneurship, or commercialization of research is encouraged to attend any portion of this event.

Registration is free and is open at A general agenda as well as topics can also be found at the website. Please note that the registration deadline for all-day access is Feb. 13.

Registration opens at 8 a.m. and the event will conclude at 3 p.m.

2017 IPT Bull Sale, source for total performance genetics

Published February 7, 2017

URBANA, Ill. – Commercial cow-calf producers and seed stock breeders interested in purchasing a total performance tested bull will want to attend the 2017 Illinois Performance Tested Bull Sale. The sale will be the leadoff event of the Illinois Beef Expo. There are 67 bulls cataloged with 27 being longer-aged 2015 mature bulls and 40 yearlings. A breakdown of the breeds includes 42 Angus, 20 Simmental and SimAngus, and 5 Polled Hereford. The sale is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 23, at 11 a.m. and will be held in the Livestock Center on the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

The 2017 edition will be the 49th annual sale with 4,636 bulls valued at over 8.3 million dollars sold at previous sales, according to Travis Meteer, IPT Bull Sale manager. The sale order will be based on a power score system that utilizes the economic indexes provided by the breed associations. The power score will be calculated on the “percentile rank” for these values. The economic indexes are $W and $B for Angus, API and TI for Simmental, and BMI and CHB for Hereford.

Along with strict requirements for superior EPDs (expected progeny differences), bulls must meet some of the most rigorous requirements in the industry. “These bulls don’t just have to pass the test. They have to pass every test,” says Meteer.

All of the bulls must meet a stringent minimum scrotal circumference for their age. Mothers of the bull are required to test negative for Johne’s Disease or come from a Level 1 or higher herd of the Voluntary Johne’s Certification Program. Bulls also must be tested free for Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD) using the persistently infected (PI) ear notch screening system. All senior and January yearlings must be fertility tested. All bulls meet weight, frame, and functional soundness evaluations prior to the sale.

“The 2017 IPT Bull Sale offers some of the most elite bulls found anywhere in the United States as verified by their power scores,” Meteer says. Highlighting the 2017 sale will be several genetic powerhouse bulls that have light birth weight, high growth, and carcass desirability. Proven breed-leaders, AI sires, and legendary breed icons fill the pedigrees of the bulls.

“There are truly unique combinations of performance, pedigree, and phenotype offered through the sale," Meteer adds.

The IPT Bull Sale catalog along with supporting information can be found online. The website contains all the pedigree information, adjusted weights, power scores and EPDs on seven different traits and two dollar value indexes. In addition, there is a list of registration numbers for all the bulls that allow prospective buyers to print a “performance pedigree” from the breed associations. The website also provides more complete information on how the power score is calculated, as well as a summary of the past 48 IPT Bull Sales. Online bidding will be offered through DV Auction. All information is available on the website.

The website can be found at

“All bulls will sell with genomic-enhanced EPDs, which increases the accuracy and reliability of the EPD values,” Meteer says. “All of this year’s consignors have consigned bulls to previous sales and represent some of the elite seed stock suppliers in the state of Illinois and the Midwest. These bulls to sell on Feb. 23 are a direct result of generations of planned matings.”

The sale is supported by University of Illinois Extension, University of Illinois Department of Animal Sciences, Illinois Angus Association, Illinois Simmental Association, Vita-Ferm, Merial, Zoetis 50K and ABS.

For more information on the sale or bulls consigned, contact Travis Meteer at 217-430-7030 or



News Source:

Travis Meteer, 217-823-1340

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension

NRES Researcher Weighs in on The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy

Published February 7, 2017
Lowell Gentry discusses field trials that examined nutrient loss reduction via cover crops and woodship bioreactors.

The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy features options for farmers to weigh as they work toward reducing nutrient loss. However, how effective are they?

NRES' Lowell Gentry reports on findings related to use of a cover crop and woodchip bioreactor combination, in a recent article in Agrinews.

His findings? The combo works.

View the Agrinews article here.


News Source:

Lowell Gentry
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Cattle industry still in expansion mode, at least for now

Published February 6, 2017

 URBANA, Ill. – Once a year, USDA releases its comprehensive Cattle report, which includes survey-based estimates of the all cattle and calves inventory, the calf crop, beef and dairy cow inventories, and a variety of other inventory estimates. According to Purdue University Extension economist James Mintert, the report provides clues regarding future cattle and beef supplies.

“This year’s report, released on Jan. 31, was of particular interest because of the collapse in both fed and feeder cattle prices that took place during 2016,” says Mintert. “The dramatic price decline, and resulting falloff in profitability by cow-calf producers, led to questions about possible impacts on industry expansion. Last week’s report leaves little doubt that the industry is still in expansion mode, at least for now.”

USDA estimated the Jan. 1, 2017, all-cattle and -calves inventory to be 93.6 million head, 1.8 percent larger than a year earlier. The all-cattle and -calves inventory bottomed out on Jan.1, 2014, at 88.5 million head so this year’s inventory estimate is nearly 6 percent larger than it was at the bottom of the inventory cycle. The total inventory increase was in-line with most trade observers’ pre-report expectations.

“Unlike prior years, USDA did not provide a preliminary estimate of the 2016 calf crop back in July because the mid-year Cattle report was dropped from USDA’s lineup of inventory reports,” Mintert says. “As a result, last week’s report provided the first estimate of the 2016 calf crop, estimated at 35.1 million head, 2.9 percent larger than in 2015. The smallest calf crop of this cycle occurred in 2013 and the 2016 calf crop was nearly 5 percent larger than in 2013.”

Mintert says the keys to future cattle and beef supplies are the beef cow inventory and the number of heifers being held for future replacement or entry into the herd. USDA estimated the beef cow herd to be up 3.5 percent compared to a year earlier and more than 7 percent larger than at an inventory bottom in January 2014. Despite the falloff in prices during 2016, cow-calf operators indicated they are holding back 1.2 percent more heifers for herd replacement this year than last year. That combination means the supply of cattle for slaughter will continue to increase not just in 2017, but also into 2018-2019. Both commercial cattle slaughter and beef production increased just over 6 percent during 2016 compared to 2015. Cattle slaughter and beef production are both expected to increase again during 2017, Mintert says, although the year-over-year percentage changes are likely to be smaller, perhaps falling in a range of 3 to 4 percent.

“Larger supplies imply lower prices are ahead,” Mintert says. “Prices for slaughter cattle in the Southern Plains averaged approximately $121 per cwt. (live weight) during 2016, which was 19 percent lower than during 2015. During 2017, slaughter cattle prices could decline another 6 to 8 percent as a result of the expected supply increase. The decline in calf prices during 2016 was even more severe than the decline in slaughter cattle prices,” Mintert says. “Prices for 500- to 600-pound steers in the Kentucky market averaged $153 per cwt. during 2016, which was 36 percent lower than a year earlier. Lower slaughter cattle prices during 2017 are expected to exert more downward pressure on calf prices. Recent weekly average prices in Kentucky for 500- to 600-pound steers have been in the upper $120’s. The annual average for 500- to 600-pound steer calves in Kentucky could wind up in the low $120’s, 15 to 20 percent lower than 2016’s annual average.”

New program to provide professional policy analysis

Published February 2, 2017
ACES campus

URBANA, Ill. – Communicating analyses about policies for the upcoming farm bill, including risk and conservation management, international trade, and global agriculture, will be the primary focus of the Gardner Agriculture Policy Program in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois. The Gardner Agriculture Policy Program is funded through the Leonard and Lila Gardner/Illinois Farm Bureau Family of Companies endowment.

“These are policy areas that we expect to be of the utmost importance to farmers in Illinois and key parts of the debate in Congress as they work through the next Farm Bill,” says Jonathan Coppess, U of I economist and director of the Gardner Agriculture Policy Program. “We want to focus where the interest is strongest and where it is likely to have an impact on the Farm Bill policy development.”

Coppess says the key output of the program will be in coordination with the farmdoc and farmdocdaily websites. He, along with Gary Schnitkey, Nick Paulson, and Kathy Baylis will create frequent policy posts in the Gardner Policy Series. In addition, an annual Gardner Agriculture Policy Lecture and Roundtable will be held on the U of I campus.

In terms of trade, Coppess says there are a lot of questions to be researched and answered. “The new administration has definitely magnified trade issues in a way that we hadn’t anticipated even a year ago. The biggest issue currently is uncertainty. We don’t know how the changes will impact exports for Illinois farmers. We’ll watch it closely and evaluate what those impacts might be.”

According to Coppess, one of the challenges is that even a discussion about a renegotiation of a trade agreement can have a ripple effect on a host of aspects of trade and export. “It isn’t just the details of the trade agreement, but a lot of the consequences of changes, how the countries interact with each other. We’re seeing it now with the discussions with Mexico and border taxes that have the potential to ripple through exports and impact farmers and commodity exports. We’re going to sort it out as we go and do our best to understand what those implications might be and what it might mean for policy.”

The new program will also integrate research findings into online tools that farmers can use. “We learned some valuable lessons from the last Farm Bill with the web-based educational tool development process,” Coppess says. “We’d like to be able to expand on that and integrate the research on policy that we’re doing here.”

The Gardner Agriculture Policy Program is dedicated to the memory of Leonard “Len” Gardner (1934-2010). Gardner was a leading voice on agricultural policy, politics, and related issues for Illinois farmers, including the 36 years he worked for the Illinois Farm Bureau.

Gardner and his wife, Lila (1932-2017), met at and graduated from U of I. Their strong devotion to the university led them to donate a substantial portion of their net worth in the form of the family farmstead to endow a chair of agriculture policy in conjunction with the IFB Family of Companies.

“We’re excited and honored to have this opportunity. The history about how this has come about and the contribution Len Gardner made is an incredible reminder of what he did,” Coppess says. “We’re honored to build on the work that has been done and the important role that Illinois agriculture has played in policy-making development for a long time.”