December 2011

Life Outside the City Limits

Could Lowline Angus Be a Good Fit for Your Acreage?
By Lindsay Chichester, UNL Extension Educator

Small cattle breeds have generated a lot of interest over the years. These breeds of cattle seem to be gaining in popularity as a meat source for those wanting to raise their own food on just a few acres and for those looking for a breed that does well on a grass-finishing system.

History of the Lowline Angus Breed
The Lowline breed was developed in 1929 from a dwarf free herd of 100% Registered Angus. This herd was established at the Trangie Research Center in Australia; with the initial goal to provide quality breeding stock for the New South Wales Industry. The foundation stock at Trangie was purchased from Canada, and included two bulls, 17 heifers, and one cow-calf pair. Between 1930 and 1950, more cattle were imported from Canada, the U.S.A., and Scotland. The Trangie herd had become quite established, receiving many awards at stock shows around the world from the 1920s to the 1960s.

In 1963, the Australian Meat Research Committee asked the Trangie Research Center to conduct a project, with the emphasis on establishing the role of performance recording within a herd. The project concluded in 1970, and it was demonstrated that performance testing within a herd was highly useful and successful. From 1971 to 1973, further herd research was conducted on performance and growth potential with different sires.

Image of Lowlife cow
Richardson County youth work with a Lowline calf in preparation for fair.

The research trials that produced the Lowline breed began in 1974. The objective for the research was to establish whether large or small animals were better convertors of grass into meat protein. The trial involved detailed evaluations of weight gain, feed intake, reproductive performance, milk production, carcass yield, and quality and structural soundness. This trial continued for 19 years.

The original Lowline herd consisted of 85 cows bred to yearling bulls selected for their low growth rate from birth to yearling. From 1974 to 1992, the herd remained closed, and all heifer and bull replacements were selected from within the herd. On October 30, 1993, the research project was brought to an end and a dispersal sale was held. Seven persons purchased the herd and they formed the Australian Lowline Cattle Association.

These docile cattle are predominantly black in color; however, genetic work has shown the cattle can also have red color through gene expression. Through years of selection for low growth rates, mature Lowline bulls measure 40-48 inches at the shoulder and weigh 900-1,500 pounds. Mature cows measure approximately 39 inches or less and weigh 700-1,100 pounds.

Good Fit for Many Operations
The Australian Lowline cattle have a rich history, dating back to 1929; they are also known for their good confirmation and docility. Lowline and other small cattle breeds are considered a niche product.

They are very efficient on small pastures, and can maintain their condition on sparse pastures. Producers of normal sized cattle have also used Lowline bulls on their first calf heifers. This not only helps with calving ease, but also produces a smaller calf which demands less milk, giving the heifer a better chance to maintain her condition.

Image of Lowline cow
Lowline heifer calf at the NE State Fair.

Generally, they are easier to handle, making them a good fit for youth, persons less experienced, or even older folks. They have started gaining popularity as 4-H projects, as younger youth can raise a smaller, easier-to-handle beef animal while gaining knowledge and confidence. Richardson County youth, Tyler Uhri, and his parents Mark and Lisa say the reason they have incorporated Lowline cattle into their herd is because their young kids needed a step up from the bucket calves they had raised. In addition, Lisa said Lowline cattle are a great stepping stone to the traditional size animal that her kids will show when they get older and their confidence and skills are higher.

In addition, there is less finished product to find freezer space for (usually around 400 pounds of meat versus 900 pounds of meat); this gives smaller families more flexibility. One added bonus that Lowline and other small cattle raisers boast about is that their cattle have large rib-eyes in relation to the rest of their body and have a dressing percent of about 60%, where normal sized cattle may have a dressing percent of 50 to 55%.

A small study was conducted in which three Lowline steers were purchased, fed to market weights, and harvested. The study examines the costs to get a Lowline steer to harvest, and consumer opinions of the meat. Full details.

Although breeds with full-sized carcasses will likely continue to dominate the general U.S. meat market for some time, the Lowline Angus breed may continue to find its niche with small-acreage owners, producers, and 4-H members alike.

For more information on Lowline cattle, visit their website at




We hope you find something to interest you in our show this month. Features include gifts for the gardener, water treatment equipment, toilet paper as reading material, roasting pumpkin seeds.

Connie Lowndes, UNL Extension, has 10 gift ideas for gardeners.


Does your drinking water need treatment? Sharon Skipton, UNL Extension, describes equipment to treat drinking water.


Jan Hygnstrom, UNL Extension, has a gift idea for that rural friend with a septic system. 


Nancy Urbanec, UNL Extension, tells how to make a healthy winter snack, roasted pumpkin seeds. 

Emergency Kit for Winter Driving
By Lorene Bartos, UNL Extension Educator

The holiday season is here. Visiting friends and family is among the many things we do this time of year. As we have decorated the home, baking is underway so planning and partaking in holiday activities is the next thing to do. As we plan for these fun events we must remember to be prepared and safe in the home and in the car.

Flashlight Image

Having an emergency kit in the car is a good precaution for those traveling during the holidays and for those who are on the road anytime. Some items to have in the car in case of emergency are:

  • Windshield scraper - a long handled one is best.
  • Flashlight - include extra batteries and a bulb. A crank flashlight might even be better.
  • Jumper cables - at least 12 feet long. Portable chargers are also available. Might be a good holiday gift.
  • Flares or hazard triangles (use 3) - place them 50, 75, and 100 feet behind a disabled vehicle.
  • Tow rope - use only to get out of troubled area, not for long hauls.
  • Duct tape - handy for emergency repairs.
  • Small shovel.
  • Bag of sand. - can be used to get traction, if you are stuck on ice or in the snow.
  • Emergency Blanket and hand warmers - to keep warm, if stalled in cold weather.

Many of these items would make good holiday gifts for friends and family members.

Add to these items an extra set of clothes, hat, gloves and boots. It is also good to have some non-perishable food such as granola or energy bars or candy, etc.

Always leave travel plans with a family member or neighbor, so if necessary you can be found or your route traced.

These ideas will help make a emergency a little easier. Always be prepared and be cautious of traveling if the weather report is unfavorable.

If winter travel is in your plans, take time to prepare an emergency kit for your car. Have a good and safe winter and holiday season.



Image of curb cut-out for stormwater drainage

Understanding Stormwater Management Terminology
By Bobbi Holm, UNL Extension Educator


If you read or hear about stormwater or stormwater management, your first thought might be, "What's that?" To find out, check out the new UNL Extension Circular, Stormwater Management: Terminology, EC701. It defines common terms people use when discussing stormwater and stormwater pollution and how to effectively manage it.




Activated Carbon Filters for Water Treatment
By Sharon Skipton, UNL Extension Educator

Activated carbon (AC) filters are becoming popular for treatment of water used for cooking and drinking. Different types of carbon filters remove different contaminants. Some AC filtration can remove many harmless taste and odor-producing compounds in water. Some also can remove or reduce organic chemicals such as benzene, chlorobenzenes, carbon tetrachloride, and methylene chloride. In addition, specialized AC filtration can absorb heavy metals such as lead. AC filters will not remove microbial contaminants (such as bacteria and viruses), nitrate, fluoride, hard water minerals, and many other compounds.

Available Equipment Types
AC filters are most often pour-through, faucet-mounted, in-line, or line-bypass. Pour-through models (such as pitchers with a filter) are the simplest type of AC filter. Water is simply poured through the carbon and collected in a container. These units aren't connected to the water supply. Faucet-mounted devices are attached to the faucet or set on the counter with connections to the faucet. This type can have a bypass valve that allows selective filtering. Both pour-through and faucet-mounted units are inexpensive and simple, but will treat only limited quantities of water at a time and are not as effective as other devices because contact time is limited due to the small amounts of carbon contained in the units.

An in-line device is installed beneath the kitchen sink in the cold water supply line. In this situation, only the cold water can be considered to be treated. If hot and cold water are blended, the treated cold water mixes with the untreated hot water.

In the line-bypass system, a separate faucet is installed at the sink. The unit is attached to the cold water pipe and provides drinking and cooking water, with the regular tap providing untreated water for non-consumptive use.

Filter Replacement
Carbon cartridges must be replaced regularly. Replacement intervals should be determined based on daily water flow through the filter and the contaminant being removed. Some manufacturers state a recommended water treatment capacity in gallons, beyond which the AC should be replaced. Tests done by Rodale Press Product Testing Department indicated that filter performance was reduced significantly after 75 percent of the manufacturer's recommended lifetime. Therefore, it may be safer to replace the filter more often than recommended by the manufacturer.

AC filters which have been idle for a number of days or which are saturated with organic matter provide an excellent environment for bacterial growth. There is little risk to healthy people consuming harmless (non-pathogenic) bacteria found on most AC filters. However, there may be some concern for the very young, the very old, and those with weakened immune systems. When a filter has been idle for several hours (such as in the morning) the amount of bacteria on the filter may be reduced by running water through the filter for 30 seconds. Some filters are impregnated with silver to try to prevent bacterial growth, but studies indicate that this practice makes little difference in reducing bacteria. Any advantage seen from the silver is only apparent in the first month of use. The best practice is to replace the filter as often or more often than the manufacturer recommends.



Spiders in the Home
By Nicole Haxton, UNL Extension Educator

As the weather cools down, spiders tend to move into our homes. There are many different types of spiders that we can see inside and outside our homes. Some of these include jumping spiders, garden spiders, grass spiders, and of course brown recluse spiders and wolf spiders. These last two seem to be feared the most of any of the spiders because the brown recluse is quite toxic and the wolf spider is quite large.  Brown recluse spiders and wolf spiders are quite different, but because brown recluse spiders are known for the damage they can do to a person if they bite them, people picture them as a much larger, scarier looking spider.

Brown recluse spiders are actually not scary looking at all, they are large, as big as a quarter, but most of their size is actually their legs. They are a brown spider with a darker brown fiddle shape or violin shape on their cephalothorax, the part in front of the abdomen section on a spider.

Brown recluse spiders are called that because they are reclusive. They prefer to not be out in the open. Many times people are bitten when they go to get a box out of their storage room or grab a sweater after a long hot summer and they don't know that the spider is on the other side. The spider will bite if trapped when the person grabs the box or when they feel threatened.

The bite does not necessarily mean you will have a horrible reaction that may lead to necrotic and ulcerous lesions, like the pictures on the internet show. People have varying degrees of sensitivity to spider bites, just as we all do to bee stings. People who are bitten by brown recluse spiders may not feel the bite at the time it happens. The reaction occurs 4-6 hours later and will expand outward from the original bite location. Unless you find the spider, it is difficult to determine the type of spider that bit you after the wound is noticed.

Image of Brown Recluse

Brown recluse spider
Department of Entomology, University of Nebraska- Lincoln

Image of a wolf spider

Wolf spider
Department of Entomology, University of Nebraska- Lincoln


Wolf spiders, on the other hand, are very large and rarely cause much damage. Wolf spiders are most commonly found outside but will wander into homes from time to time. You will probably only find a few wolf spiders in your house throughout the fall and winter. Wolf spiders are one of the largest spiders found in Nebraska, which is why they are so feared. These spiders are typically quite fuzzy and can range in size from fairly small to quite large. The bite from a wolf spider does not usually cause a very bad reaction, but it can leave a welt.

Whether you encounter a brown recluse spider, a wolf spider, or any other type of spider do not worry too much about it. It is not going to bother you unless you bother it. If you see one and you are afraid of it, you can always just smash it with your shoe or two bricks, or you can get it into a container and release it outside, or you can pick it up with toilet paper and flush it down the toilet. Either way, just be cautious to not get bit because even if it is not a poisonous spider, the bite may still hurt.



Make Healthy Holiday Food Choices
Lisa Franzen-Castle, Extension Nutrition Specialist

During the holiday season, eating healthy can seem downright impossible. Between shopping for the holidays, family and work responsibilities and sometimes not enough sleep, the temptation to indulge in your favorite holiday foods can be hard to resist. This holiday season, instead of feeling bad about making and eating your favorite holiday dishes and treats, try making some simple substitutions to bump up the nutrition and decrease the fat, calories, and sodium in your recipes to have a healthier holiday season. Check out the following tips on making healthy holiday substitutions for some of your favorite holiday recipes.

Tips for Making Healthy Holiday Substitutions:

  • Flour: Try substituting whole wheat flour for half of the called for all-purpose flour in baked goods such as cakes and muffins to increase the nutrient content of your sweet treats. Whole grains provide many nutrients vital for health, such as dietary fiber, B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate), and minerals (iron, magnesium, and selenium).
  • Cream: Top off holiday pies with frozen or low-fat yogurt instead of whipped cream or ice cream. When recipes call for sour cream, use plain, low-fat or fat-free yogurt to make snacks that are lower in fat and calories. Dairy products that retain their calcium content such as yogurt have calcium as well as potassium, vitamin D, and protein.
  • Seasoning Salt: When the recipe calls for seasoning salt, such as garlic salt, celery salt, or onion salt try using herb only seasoning, such as garlic powder, celery seed, onion flakes, or use finely chopped herbs such as garlic, celery, or onions. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, healthy adults should reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg/ day (about 1 teaspoon of salt). Reduce intake to 1,500 mg/day (about one-half of a teaspoon) among those 51 years and older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. Every little bit helps, so start reducing your sodium intake wherever you can.

Image of holiday cookie made from whole wheat flour

Holiday cut-out cookies made with healthier whole-grain wheat flour. Photo by Peggy Greb, from USDA ARS image gallery.

  • Eggs: For cakes, cookies, and quick breads try using egg whites or cholesterol free egg substitute instead of whole eggs. Two egg whites or ¼ cup cholesterol free egg substitute can be used in many recipes in place of one whole egg. The average amount of cholesterol found in one large egg is 185 milligrams, all of which is located in the yolk. It is recommended that healthy adults limit dietary cholesterol to less than 300 mg per day. Egg whites can be beneficial for those watching their cholesterol levels because they contain no cholesterol.
  • Dressing & Stuffing: Try adding low-sodium broth or pan drippings with the fat skimmed off instead of lard or butter for dressing and stuffing. Use herbs, spices, and whole grain bread for added flavor. Also, think about replacing some of the bread in your stuffing with sliced almonds, chestnuts, or a mixture of vegetables.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) say Americans gain about a pound during the winter holiday season. Although one pound does not sound like much, over several years this adds up. Remember, obesity doesn't happen overnight, pounds accumulate slowly over time. So start a tradition this holiday season by getting creative and making your holiday recipes healthier through simple substitutions.

Check out for a variety of information on food, nutrition, and health topics. It is a great resource for the holiday season.




Mouse Trapping 101
By Barb Ogg, UNL Extension Educator

The house mouse (Mus musculus) is a common pest outdoors around homes and farms. In the fall, mice come indoors seeking warmth because, unlike other animals, they do not have the ability to hibernate. A mouse living in a warm place indoors will need less food and have a greater chance of surviving the cold winter months, than one living outside.

Some people do not want to kill mice, but these people may not understand the health and safety implications of living with them. Mice are incontinent and dribble urine everywhere they travel. (This disgusting habit is very useful to mice because it helps them locate hiding places, even ones from earlier infestations.) Mice contaminate food-preparation surfaces with their feces, which can contain salmonella bacteria and food poisoning. Gnawing causes damage to structures and electrical wiring and may be the cause of fires and failure of appliances.

Mouse in washing machine

Signs of Mice
The presence of droppings indicates areas where mice are active and will probably be the first sign of a mouse infestation. Occasionally, you may see a mouse during the daytime; this could be an early invader, one that hasn't found a good place to hide yet. As soon as you see the first sign of mice, you should begin mouse control. Waiting and hoping they will go away will not fact, the longer you wait, the greater the mouse problem you will have. Trapping is the best method of mouse control inside homes. Understanding a few basics will help you more quickly get rid of the mice.

What types of traps? Snap traps are the simplest, cheapest (i.e., reusable) and are very effective when placed correctly. If you are worried about kids and pets messing with a trap in a specific location, you might want to use a covered trap, like the Ultra Set trap™ made by D-Con. These covered traps will be more expensive, but have the added advantage in being able to set by simply pressing lever on the outside of the trap housing. Mice can also be removed without touching the carcass.

Glue traps are easy to handle and monitor, but they are more expensive than snap traps. Some animal welfare groups consider glue traps to be an inhuman method of rodent control. If the mouse is not captured cleanly, the mouse may crawl away with the trap.

There are two types of glue traps sold for mouse control. The first is the glue "board" trap, a flat piece of cardboard covered by a thin layer of glue. The second is the glue "tray" trap, which is a shallow plastic tray filled with glue. According to Bobby Corrigan, a nationally-known rodent expert, the best type of glue board is the glue board trap because the mouse does not have to step up onto the tray platform. In his research, Corrigan has also found glue traps are less effective at catching mice than snap traps.

Multiple catch traps (Ketch-All®, or Tin Cat®) are useful in areas where mice populations are high because many mice can be caught in the same trap each night. These are live traps, but mice will die quickly (a day or two) of starvation once caught so they do need to be checked frequently, and emptied, and reset. Multiple catch traps are best used in garages and outbuildings. For quickest trapping, here are some suggestions:

  1. Location, location, location. Good trap placement is essential to catching mice. Place traps:

†Â¢  In high activity areas, where droppings have been found or where you have seen mice.

†Â¢  Near all appliances that produce heat. Examples are: furnace, water heater, refrigerator, freezer, dishwasher, and stove.

†Â¢  Cluttered places near where mice are nesting.

  1. Install lots of traps. A dozen traps is not too many to set in your house to catch a single mouse. Because a snap trap can only catch one mouse each night, buy and use more traps than you think you need. Snap traps are cheap.
  2. Offer many bait choices. Different mice might be attracted to different types of food. Divide the traps and bait with peanut butter, thin slices of hot dog, bacon, or gumdrops. You may need to tie some of these baits to the trigger. My favorite bait to use is a small piece of a vanilla-scented caramel. This will work on those elusive mice that lick peanut butter off the trap without releasing it. Dental floss or a cotton ball will be attractive to a female who is building a nest. Contrary to popular opinion, cheese isn't really a very good bait...only mice in the cartoons seem to like it.
  3. How to place the trap. Mice usually travel along vertical structures by using their whiskers to "feel" their way. If you place traps in the center of the room or a cupboard, you will hardly ever catch mice. Instead, place the trap against the wall so the mouse will encounter it when it travels. The bait pedal should be placed next to the wall to prevent the mouse from jumping backward to avoid the kill bar. Another method is to place two traps along a wall with the bait pedal facing opposite ways, so mice will encounter it from either direction.

Why Don't We Recommend Poisons Inside the Home?
When food is abundant, mice will hoard it and save it for hard times. Sometimes they move it from one location to another or may drop it. Because of this behavior, poisoned pellets and other baits are frequently moved from one location to another, and there is potential exposure to humans and pets. If poisons must be used, experts recommend bait blocks, rather than pellets. Another problem with baits, is mice often die in nesting areas or wall voids and produce unpleasant smells. Many people believe poisoned mice are thirsty and will leave the structure to find water, but this old wives' tale isn't true.




Prepare Tools for Use Next Spring
Elizabeth Killinger, UNL Extension Educator

Garden tools imageYou wouldn't forget to wash your hands after 'playing' in the soil, so why should your garden tools get this treatment? Garden tools often get neglected and ignored until there is a major problem. With a little bit of maintenance at the end of the gardening season you can keep your tools looking like new for many years to come.

Remove the Dirt & Rust
The type of tool determines the care that it receives. Digging tools, like shovels and hoes, need different maintenance and care compared to the pruning tools, like pruners and loppers. Digging tools, most commonly include shovels, hoes, pitchforks, and garden rakes. Routine maintenance should begin by removing any excess soil from the tool. It can be as simple as scraping off the excess soil, or as extreme as washing and drying the tool after every use, the choice is yours. Any rust that is present can be removed using a wire brush and a little bit of elbow grease or an electric drill with a wire brush or sanding attachment. After rust is removed, renew or sharpen the edges and points with a mill file or grinding wheel, be sure to wear protective eyewear.

For winter storage, apply a light coating of oil. Tools can even be stored in a 5 gallon bucket filled with sand and oil, either motor oil or vegetable oil. Inspect the handles of your tools at the end of the season for cracks or splinters. Replace the handles if necessary. If the wooden handles are in good condition, they can be sanded and oiled at least once a year. Use a fine grade sand paper to smooth the surface. Remove any dust and rub linseed oil into the handle and allow it to soak in. Keep applying until the oil doesn't absorb any more. Wait a half hour, and dry off any oil remaining on the surface.

Sharpen Your Pruners
Pruning tools, like hand pruners, loppers, or hedge shears, require a little different maintenance technique than digging tools. After each use, the cutting blades should be cleaned. Rubbing alcohol or a solvent like kerosene can be used to remove any sticky sap residue left on the blades. Prior to storage, apply a light coating of oil on the joints and on the exposed metal.

When it comes to sharpening your pruning tools, the type of tool and how you sharpen can make a difference. Sharp pruning tools will cut with less effort and the clean cuts promote faster plant healing. Inspect your pruning tools to see if they would benefit from a sharpening. With Anvil type tools, sharpen the cutting blade only on both sides, not the anvil portion. It is important that you don't change the shape of the blade because it needs to sit flush against the anvil to provide clean cuts. With bypass type tools, sharpen the blade on the outside edge only. With both types of tools, try to maintain the original bevel angle of the blade to give you the best edge life.

To ensure you have the correct cutting angle on the blades, color the area to be sharpened with a black felt-tip pen before your start. Use a whetstone or oil stone and sharpen evenly until no trace of the ink can be seen on the blades. When sharpening, be sure to push away from the blade with the file or sharpening tool.

Personalize Your Tools
Another good thing to do with your tools is to personalize them. How many times have you not seen the garden rake lying in the lawn or remembered which tools you borrowed from your neighbor? Use spray paint on the handles to find tools quickly and to identify yours' from the neighbors'. Go green and use up any leftover paint from another project, or invest in the bright florescent pink paint that you have had your eye on. Whichever you choose, it will make finding and identifying your tools a snap.

Follow Elizabeth on her blog at




Planning Ahead....Yet Another Use for "Spent" Christmas Trees
By John Fech, UNL Extension Educator

Christmas Tree ImageAlways looking for ways to reuse items around the home, I've come across a great second chance for Christmas trees. In addition to running it through the chipper/shredder for mulch and trail cover or tossing it in a nearby lake for fish habitat, it can also serve as an instrument in vertical gardening.

Begin by cutting off the branches with a pruning shears (these may be processed into mulch). Leaving short stubs is beneficial to this venture, in that it provides additional anchorage sites for climbing vegetables such as cucumbers, peas and beans. Stubs left 4-6 inches long would allow a small melon to perch, potentially discouraging pathogenic diseases due to greater air circulation.

Once the branches have been removed, store the trunk in a cool, dry location until gardening season. Some folks may be interested in bringing the trunk out at Easter, constructing a cross focal point in their living room. Then in May, install three or four trunks in a full sun garden site, plant a few bean seeds, and voila, a vertical garden made from a recycled Christmas tree!