Category Archives: Delaware Agriculture

Understanding Today’s Agriculture, AGRI130 Guest Lecture #9- Equine Industry

On November 18, 2019 Mr. Mark DAVIS gave a lecture on the Delaware equine industry.  As the Executive Director of the Delaware Harness Racing Commission, Mr. DAVIS was able the class all about the history of the industry and how it operates today.

Although Mr. DAVIS could thoroughly explain the mechanic of the industry today, that was not always the case.  In fact, before he took on his current position, he, ‘knew little about horses and noting about racing’.  But he did have good writing and management skills as well as a good work ethic.  After, ‘putting his nose to the grindstone’, he was able to pick-up the states’ horse racing industry, which he inherited in a state of disarray.

Mr. DAVIS provided a brief history of horseracing.  The practice of racing horses can be traced back to the Arabians, who held distance races over the desert.  These horses, acquired as spoils of war, were eventually bred with European horses. In 1750, the Jockey Club was created in America for the management of thoroughbreds.

There are two main types of racing- Quarter racing & distance racing.  There are two main breeds of American horses- thoroughbreds and standardbreds. Thoroughbreds typically race once a month with a galloping pace that places all a horses’ weight on one hoof at a time.  Standardbreds are typically use for the less popular, harness racing.  Harness racing has a lower point of entry and the horses race twice a week at a faster pacing/trotting pace.  Because they undergo physical exertion more frequently, these horses are usually heartier, with a slower breakdown.

Mr. DAVIS presented somewhat older data from 2005, but the statistics remain relevant.  Less people are going places.  People are able to engage in races via computer or TV, so physical attendance at horse races has gone down.  The low attendance is not however, because of a significant price barrier- 46% of horse-owners have an modest income, so the sport is not strictly reserved for the wealthy.  People are spending however, as evinced by a landmark wager on October 26, 2019 in which about $4million was bet in one day on a single horse.

The horse population has also gone down within the sport. Prices, therefore, continue going up.  This year marks the 1st time a horse sells for $1million. $100, 000 for a thoroughbred is not uncommon, but that same amount for a standardbred is quite unusual.

In 1934 the Delaware Racing Commission was established. In 1946 Harrington Raceway is built and continues operating as the oldest harness racing track in country. Other raceways include, the ‘Brandywine Raceway’, which closed because slots weren’t used to fund the establishment.  Video Lottery is a requirement on a racetrack, thanks to the, ‘Delaware Horseracing Revitalization Act.

Mr. DAVIS informed use that the harness racing industry is managed by the Fair board, which consists of 88 people, as well as the Raceway and Casino Board.  There are distinct boards for both the standardbred and thoroughbred horses. The Harrington Raceway runs April to October, with a 6 week summer break.  Ocean Downs, a racetrack in Maryland, hosts races in the period from June to August when Harrington isn’t having races.

In previous generation, modern horseracing as we know it consisted of a trainer, and owner, and a driver who divided the profits among themselves.  Today, there are owners and investors. The owners own less than 5% of a horse with a share of the profits and don’t require a license. Trainers however can earn six figures. There are also Paddock inspectors, nicknamed, ‘Pee catchers’ who analyze the urine and blood of the horses, and veterinarians, who are the only professionals in contact with the horse before races.

In Japan, regulations are more stringent, with horses brought to the track a full week before their race, the only people in contact with them are the groomer and/or trainer, and fed strictly hay and water.  In the U.S., drivers, who are still exclusively male, are tested as well- the procedure is imperative when a person is travelling 35mph behind a 2000lb aluminum chariot and horse with eight other people, no one should be under the influence.  Owners and groomers are tested once a month.  Anyone with a license to be in contact with the horse is subject to tests, ‘out of competition’.

The horses run two miles once or twice a week.  The demanding performance can tempt many of those involved in horse-racing to use the blood-building agent erythropoietin (EPO)- ‘the same drug [cyclist] Lance ARMSTRONG got in trouble for [using]’. EPO acts as a trigger to produce more red blood cells, aiding in the recovery of the animal after a race. Paddock inspectors are often checking for doping of the horses- EPO given the night after a race generates antibodies produced for recovery, which wear off before the next race, but already have an effect on the horse’s ability to recover from the previous race. Initially Bovine EPO was given to Equine animals before the switch to Synthetic EPO, of which there are now 37 types, with tests for only 2.

500 full-time jobs are generated by horseracing, which generate money via, ‘Purses’. Better horses race for more money- a better quality horse creates a larger, ‘purse’. Of a $100, 000 purse, a winner gets 50%, and while the owner/owner(s) get money, the driver and trainer receive just 5%. Race operators must also pay training bills, veterinarian bills, food, water, and more and somehow generate some salary.

The lottery money generated by the casinos is put into a large pool.  With the casinos and the state operating as partners, the money is distributed between Delaware’s three casinos and the state in a, ‘weekly sweep’.  Despite popular belief, Mr. DAVIS informs the class that the casino doesn’t take all the money, instead only keeping vendor fees for itself- the headline, ‘State bails out Casino’ is false. In 2015 the casino formula reapportioned the percentages each party received from the, ‘weekly sweep’, with the casino receiving 50% casino and the state receiving 30%.  In 2020, the formula was re-adjusted 2% to help casinos recover, but this was just the state re-correcting the problem they initially caused with the first formula change that gave casinos 50%.  The state largely uses their percentage for state infrastructure.  Even though casinos receive a specific amount of money, the Horse Racing Commission still receives phone calls from betters who complain about the outcome of races.

To close out the lecture, Mr. DAVIS answers the classes questions.  One question concerned the weight requirements for harness racing drivers.  Mr. DAVIS informed the class that drivers are typically in the 150-300lbs weight range, but that unlike jockeys, because of where the drivers are situated, there are no real height and weight requirements for the harness racing drivers.

 

Understanding Today’s Agriculture, AGRI130 Guest Lecture #7- Livestock Industry

On October 21, 2019 Mr. Dan SEVERSON spoke to the class on Delaware’s Livestock Industry. He covers the large-scope of the industry and the varied number of animals that are cultivated in agriculture.

Less than 2% of the U.S. population is involved in agriculture- a farm is any family that makes $1, 000 a year from agriculture. 98% of farms are family-owned and account for 87% of all agricultural value generated.  In Delaware, more than half of the farms are less than 50acres. More than half of farms have sales that generate less than $50, 000 in profit.   $3.5 million is generated in  direct-to-consumers in products and Delaware is the #1 state in the U.S. for value of products per acre. Delaware is also the #1 producer of lima beans in the U.S.

In the U.S., the livestock industry occupies .5mil acres land, with 500, 000acres in farms accounting for 40% of the gross domestic product.  With an average of 200 acres per farm, the industry generates about $8 billion in profit for agriculture.

Before going into the specifics of the Delaware livestock industry, Mr. SEVERSON gave the class a quick history overview. In 1914 WW1 takes shape & so begins the birth of agricultural extensions. In the 1930s Depression & Dust Bowl hit. And in 1939 WW2 starts, encouraging farm hands go to war. When the farmers return, they bring training & technology. No young man is willing to work for $0.50/week when they might earn $7/day at a factory.  In1950, Ammonium Nitrate fertilizer increases crop yields, aiding in a 265% increase in production and decreasing inputs by 2%

As a result of the wars ‘advancements’ the average annual per capita consumption of meat has changed over the years- beef, pork, and lamb have decreased while poultry has increased. 29% of Delaware’s land area is planted in corn & soybeans, and most of that produce goes towards the poultry industry as chicken feed. Goat & veal consumption has not been tracked ‘til recently. In the U.S. family food costs on average represent just 9.7% of a households income, that food typically consisting of what is most affordable, safe, & abundant. Compare that percentage to Russia’s average family spending 14-15% of their income, or the average Ethiopia n family spending 45%.  Much of that reduction in cost is due to the way that the meat is produced.

In Delaware there are 235 beef farms with 14, 000 cows/calves between them. Many of the cows are fed a Total Mix Ration (TMR) for more efficient and tailored nutrition. An example of a Delaware cattle farm would be Power’s Farm in Townsend, Delaware. Cattle are often the topic of Animal Welfare discussions.

Pork is soon to be vertically integrated. Swine production, Mr. SEVERSON notes, is a subject taught by UD’s Dr. Lesa GRIFFITH. Hogs may be raised farrow to finish, farrow to feeders, or feeders to finish. When keeping pigs, it is important to note white pigs are prone to sunburn, making the black breed Berkshire better for bacon. Part of the processing of hogs involves a scalding trough to skin the pigs, which Mr. SEVERSON notes is very hard to do. A popular value-added product made from pork is, ‘Artisan Scrapple.’   Mr. SEVERSON interjects the lecture to pose a question to the class on why pork shoulders are referred to as, ‘Boston Butt’.  When no one is able to provide an answer, he moves on.  Conducting a quick search after the fact define the pork shoulder is the ‘skinless, boneless upper part of a pigs front shoulder’.  A common cut, a quick Google search notes the name came from barrels the pork was shipped in and the region that made the cut popular.

Sheep are typically raised for wool. He notes that ‘Hair sheep’ are a type of sheep with wool that falls out.  The upcoming Delaware Agricultural Week in January 2020, a Maryland farmer with a sheep milking operation is slated to come.

Goats are raised for three things- Angora, milk, and meat.  There is no certified meat & milk facility in Delaware. In New Holland PA, the 2nd largest goat auction in country is held- Texas hosts the biggest auction.  The U.S. cannot support it’s ethnic population’s demand for goat meat, namely Islamic, Jamaican, & Jewish where goats are used for celebration. Mr. SVERSON says that goats are browsers like deer which eat above their heads.  The reason for it’s lack of broad popularity might be because goat meat doesn’t marble. Mr. SEVERSON proudly mentions that he received $280 for small (60-80lbs) goat in New Holland, where the price is based on the amount of meat. While attending the National Goat Conference in Montgomery, AL, where ice cream and cheesecake are popular forms of value-added goat products for a niche market. Lotions & soaps are easier in Delaware without a certified dairy.

Dairy is dying in the U.S.  In Delaware there were once 80 dairies, which decreased to 50, and now just 21 dairy farms operate today with 4 creameries- Woodside, UDairy, Hopkins, & Vanderwende Creamery. Natural by Nature & Hy-Point are the remaining processors. Farm fresh, homemade ice-cream is a popular commodity. Mr. SEVERSON notes Amish youth prefer construction to milking with it’s regular hours and consistent work. Whole milk contains 3.25% milk fat, while skim milk contains just 1%, but there is no raw milk available in Delaware. To generate a profit, dairy cow numbers are increasing- it takes 1000 cows minimum to make profit. For farms that are struggling, the cows are either moved to farms or shipped to different states & countries.

Other livestock farmers may keep for commercial production include bees, bison, alpaca, llamas, rabbits, water buffalo, deer, chickens, turkey, & emu. Mr. SEVERSON informed that class that he was unwilling to raise alpaca or llamas because they look ‘strange’ to him…

Lastly, Mr. SEVERSON discussed growing agricultural trends in the livestock industry. The number of farms is increasing while overall farm size has been cut in half- total production covers 8, 000 acres in Newark. The industry is also seeing a growing number of young farmers.  Farms and CSA’s are becoming increasingly diversified and catering to niche markets.  Many of these smaller farms are selling value-added products to direct markets. 10 current GMO crops include, corn, soy beans, cotton, papaya, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, canola, alfalfa, & sugar beets

The future of the livestock industry depends on new technology like GMO’s and robotics for labor, and investment in the next generation to cater to the environment, government regulations and animal welfare. Mr. SEVERSON states he has seen an increase in young females without and agricultural background pursuing knowledge to enter the industry. It takers 3-4years to establish a farm working with grants for funding. Mr. SEVERSON often conducts experiments on his own farm first. With that, he informs us of the skills and traits needed to work for the Extension agency. The following soft skills are preferable- listening, compassion, working with others and reading them. Other skills include agricultural skills, professional skills, & education.

Hoober field trip

The class was fortunate enough to take a field trip to the Hoober Tractor dealership. I, unfortunately, didn’t make it to the field trip but I did get to talk to some of the other students about the experience and looked at some of the pictures. Hearing about how impressive the machinery was in person and they even got the opportunity to sit in the tractors and experience the auto-steer. Technology like this may seem like small leaps to most but it is allowing for tremendous progress within the industry. By continuing to make advancements like this to the tools used in agriculture, we are simultaneously bettering the quality of life of farmers and other workers in the industry while also continuing to increase yields and efficiency. Hoober and many other companies are constantly furthering this progress by implementing constant innovation into their products.

Horse racing industry

Mark Davis presented a guest lecture on the horse racing industry and went into further detail about its history in Delaware. As he went into a brief history lesson about the industry, we learned that British settlers brought the sport to America in the early 1600s and began on Long Island. We also learned that Newark Delaware had its first horse track opened as early as 1760. The industry has been a large part of the area since the very beginning and now generates around $182 million a year in Delaware alone and has a yearly average of $102 billion impact on the U.S. economy. With this much money being generated it is slightly less shocking to learn statistics on the demographics within the industry. He explained the inaccuracy of the common misconception that the horse industry is reserved for the wealthy. In reality, the industry has participants from all walks of life. Along with the money generated and crowds it allures, the industry also offers a wide range of jobs and in the small state of Delaware, the industry is reported to support over 1500 jobs. It is always interesting to have working professionals come and speak to our class because the insight they can offer to us is always endless.

Horse Racing Industry

Mark Davis guest lectured to our class about the livestock industry. From his presentation I learned a lot about the horse racing industry and horse racing in Delaware. Horse Racing is one of the oldest sports, beginning in the 12th century. Currently, there are 9.2 million horses in the United States and 2 million people own horses. Some horses are for showing, racing, recreation, and other. Most horses are for recreation. Harrington Raceway is the oldest continuously operating harness racing track in the country. Harness Racing has about 145 days per year yielding about 2,000 races.

Livestock Industry

Dan Severson guest lectured to our class about the Livestock Industry in Delaware. I learned that there are 14,000 cows and 6,000 hogs in Delaware. Cows and hogs can both be sold for direct market or used as show animals at the Delaware State Fair. I also learned that most sheep in Delaware are back yard animals, most farms do not choose to raise sheep because the profit just is not there like it is for cows and hogs. Sheep can be sold for wool, dairy and also show animals. I learned that most of the goats in Delaware are for meat and only a few are for milk. Lastly, Dan talked about the different marketing trends like farm to table and buy local, eat local.

DE Green Industry

Tracy Wootten and Valann Budischak guest lectured in our class about the Delaware Green Industry. In 2014, the horticultural production sales were $21,774,000. The green industry is comprised of many different people ranging from producers, retailers, landscapers, land mangers, and more. We learned the difference between Floriculture crops and Nursery crops. Floriculture crops are more like bedding/garden plants while Nursery crops are more like shade and Christmas trees.Nursery crops make almost double the revenue of Floriculture crops coming in at about $8 billion in 2014. In the past decade the cash receipts have only been increasing.

Mark Davis on the Horse Racing Industry

Mark Davis gave the understanding agriculture class a guest lecture on the horse racing industry in Delaware, beginning with a brief history of the sport. Horse racing is one of the oldest of all American sports and has gone under nearly zero changes to the practice over centuries. From the 12th century, when English knights returned from the crusades with Arabian horses, to 1989, when horse racing was at its peak as the second most widely attended spectator sport behind baseball, worth over 9.14 billion dollars. Currently, the U.S. stats for horse racing consist of 9.2 million horses and 4.6 million Americans that are involved in the industry as horse owners, service providers, employees, and volunteers. This business has a direct economic effect of 39 billion dollars annually. The horses are used for racing, showing, recreation, etc., and accounts for 9,222,847 horses in total that are related to the business. Most would assume that this sport is only for the wealthy, but it actually holds a diverse amount of people with different financial backgrounds. Recreational and show horse riders, moderate-income track, and show employees, as well as volunteers, are some examples. Not to mention that over 46% of these horse owners have an income between $25,000 to $75,000 annually. He also showed us the history of Delaware horse racing and the current regulations of it, which comprises of overseeing all aspects of each race as well as the tracks and paddocks. There must be post-race testing on winners and a pre-race blood gas analysis. Riders must be drug tested as well. Economically, horse racing contributes nearly $182 million and support of over 1,540 jobs in Delaware. Which is positive when considering citizens who need a job. The horse racing industry is definitely not as popular as it used to be in the ’80s, but it does have a social and economic impact on the U.S. and even the state of Delaware on its own.

Guest Speaker Mark Davis: Horse Industry In Delaware

“ Horse racing is one of the oldest sports, it’s been around for many years” (Mark Davis) Mark Davis, a manager of a horse farm within the harness racing industry, discussed with the University of Delaware’s understanding todays agriculture class about the harness racing industry in Delaware and the history that lies within it. Delaware’s harness racing industry, one of the oldest sports in the world, has undergone very little change in the past centuries in the races. However, in 1750, the jockey club was developed which created the many regulations on the horses and jockeys that enforces the jockey and horses to be continuously drug tested to prevent unfairness with the use of substances in the race as well as reduce the health issues that can arise with the use of drugs for both the horses and their riders. However, regardless of the drug testing, thorough bred horses experience more health problems then that of harness racing horses due to the amount of physical stress thoroughbreds experience with carrying a jockey and running at high speeds. While, in harness racing industry the horses stay at a trotting pace with only a carriage on the back of them to pull the rider. Although each part of the industry has their own unique characteristics associated with them, the industry has declined since its peak in 1989, due to the lack of interest in these generations individuals in this particular industry.

Guest Lecture: DE Green Industry

Delaware’s Green Industry produces more than $21 million in sales and of those sales, over 62% come from containerized nursery products. Some examples of nursery products are evergreen trees, shade and flower trees, shrubs, and fruit and nut plants. Nursery crops are one of two types of crop groups, the other being floriculture crops. The green industry is responsible for maintaining agriculture in schools, city parks and recreation, golf courses, greenhouses, and irrigation. Jobs in the green industry include lawn and garden retailers, landscapers, land managers, and suppliers of equipment. DelDOT, Delaware Department of Transportation, is responsible for Delaware’s roadways, traffic, accident responses, and transportation services. They also are the largest landholder in the state of Delaware.

Mark Davis

Mark Davis came in to talk about the horse racing industry. Horse racing is one of the oldest of sports out there. The origins of modern racing began in this century when English knights returned from the Crusades with swift Arabian horses. In 1750, American horse breeders and racers establish the Jockey Club. Today, the club still defines standards and regulations for thoroughbred racing, race courses and breeding. Horse racing in Delaware goes back as far as the colonial period. There are about 775 thoroughbreds in DE. There are many parts to the horse racing industry like horses, suppliers, land, betting public, commissions, and government. When I think of horse racing, I think of it as a more wealthy sport. Since it takes a lot of money to fund horse racing, like getting a horse, taking care of it, and making sure you have all the proper equipment and horse training, people with more money tend to partake in the sport. I have never watched a horse race in real life, but I have seen a lot in movies, so coming into the lecture, I didn’t know a lot about it.

Guest Lecture: The horse Racing Industry in DE

Mr. Mark Davis came to our Agriculture class lecturing us about the Horse industry in Delaware. He is the Delaware’s Executive director of Harness Racing Commission. The horse racing in one of the oldest of all sports. It began in 12th century, invent by British, then introduce to America in 1665 in Long Island. There are 9.2 million horses in the United States.  The horse industry has massive and direct economic impact on the U.S.  economy. It creates $39 billion annually. Tremendous people in U.S. own horses and love horse racing. Compared to Harness racing and Standardbred racing, Thoroughbred racing has less race game per year but produce more money to the industry. A big industry always supports a lot of job opportunities. In 2014, the horse racing industry created 1500 jobs. In Delaware, there are about 100 farms housing 775 thoroughbreds and 300 farms housing 3000 standardbreds, 1000 of them are one-year-old racing horse and breeding stock. And the annual thoroughbred cost is also high than the standardbred.

Dr. David Mayondo with Bayer Agrisciences

Dr. David Mayondo spoke to our Understanding Today’s Agriculture class on the advancement of technology in agriculture. He talked about how agriculture in the past was a very hands on and labor intensive career. Over time farming has advanced in all areas putting technology in the forefront of the industry. One of the biggest advancements are in the area of biotechnology and GMOs. Dr. Mayondo spoke about the different characteristics found in GMOs like round up ready and DroughtGard Corn. He also spoke about gene silencing in corn to help defend rootworm. Rootworms attack the root of the corn plant causing nutrient deficiencies and harm to the structure of the crop. With the ability to defend the crop from harmful pest, we can produce a healthier and higher yielding crop.

Guest Lecturer Dave Mayondo

On November 11th, Lecturer Dave Mayondo came to class and talked to us about the use of and innovations in technology related to agriculture.  The integration of more advanced technologies in the agriculture industry has drastically decreased the amount of hands on labor required to operate a farm. Only on certain, more specialty crops, does one need a sizable manual work force.

This use of technology is beneficial to the farmers for many reasons. Firstly, they can spend less money on hired hands to work the fields, and they don’t have to strain their body through labor as much themselves. The technology also allows for more crop yield through things like precision agriculture and more advanced irrigation systems.

One of the things that Mayondo stated in relation to how technology has helped increase yields was the improvements in pesticides and pest control through GMO’s. Using these methods, pests can be controlled much more efficiently, with less human risk, and with less environmental impact.

The Horse Racing Industry

On Monday, November 18th, 2019, Mark Davis talked to the class about the Horse Racing Industry in Delaware. Horse racing is one of the oldest sports, and it all began in the 12th century. Knights back in the day used Arabian horses for crusades. The earliest record of horse racing was in the 1500’s in England, not long after racecourses became a thing. In 1665, America received their first racecourse in Long Island. The Jockey Club was then established. It’s a club for racers. Americas first harness racing track was called the Harlem Course, and was in New York. The first speed record was recorded here in 1806. There are 9.2 million horses in the U.S. 2 million people own horses. Horses have a 102 million impact on U.S economy. Delaware racing began in 1706. Delaware park had its grand opening June 26, 1937 and was a thirty day meet. In 1967 Dover Downs was incorporated. First race took place in 1969. Horse racing was a huge, 182 million. Horse racing is a huge industry, and will forever amaze those interested,