September Q&A

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This week I want to share three questions we received at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Caldwell County Center. I hope you find these questions and their answers helpful.

Question: How much beef do you get from a steer?

Answer: A typical commercial beef steer weighs 1200 to 1300 pounds when it is “harvested”. Ideally, this animal should be less than 30 months of age. The older a beef animal, the more you have to chew the meat.


USDA quality grades predict how tender and juicy the beef will be to the consumer. The meat pictured starting from the top is Prime, Choice, Select, and ungraded. The amount of marbling and the age of the animal determines the quality grade. Credit Seth Nagy

When the animal is slaughtered, the hanging weight is about 55-60% of the live weight.

Once the side of beef is worked up into retail cuts, about 25% is lost through bone and fat leaving. So, a live 1300 pound animal will yield around 550 pounds of cut and wrapped meat.

Question: My hemlock tree does not look healthy. Would fertilizer help?

Answer: My suspicion is an insect called the hemlock wooly adelgid. This insect is a pest of hemlocks in our area. According to Dr. Jill Sidebottom with NC State University, homeowners have a couple of options when trying to save their hemlocks. First, determine if the hemlock is worth saving. Already heavily infested trees may not survive, even if the tree is treated. If you have numerous hemlocks in the landscape, you will want to pick and choose which trees to treat and which trees to cut down. Leaving untreated hemlocks in the area will be a source for more adelgids later.


The hemlock woolly adelgid is a little insect that feeds at the base of the hemlock needles. Once these insects start feeding they do not move. credit, Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service,

Pesticide options depend on the size of the tree. For smaller trees, or trees that can be completely treated from top to bottom, homeowners can use insecticidal soaps or horticultural oil to control the crawlers. These products should be applied in the fall of the year

Insecticidal soil drenches are an option for smaller trees that need treatment prior to the fall or for larger hemlocks that cannot be completely covered. Imidacloprid is one the insecticides used in soil drenches and can readily be purchased by homeowners. Imidacloprid is sold under several different trade names, so make sure to check the active ingredient statement.

Remember to follow the directions on the label when using any insecticide. Trees can also be directly injected with the same insecticide used for the soil drench. It is usually best to leave tree injecting up to the professionals, and there are people in the area that have experience with this method.

Question: How much does it cost for a soil test?

Answer: It costs about $3.65 to process a soil sample at the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services Agronomy Lab. However, this test is provided at no cost to NC residents from March through November. Outside of these months, there is a $4.00 charge for processing the samples through the lab.

The soil test provides a customized lime and fertilizer recommendation based on the submitted soil sample and the crop or plant that will be grown. This is powerful information and if utilized, can improve the chances of success, protect the environment, and save money.

There are soil sample kits available for pick up at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Caldwell County Center. Come by and get yours. For answers to your agricultural questions, call the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Caldwell County Center at 828-757-1290 or visit us online anytime.