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Champlain Valley Crops, Soils & Pastures – BLOG PAGE

Crop Team Annual Reports – 2012

Posted: March 4th, 2013 by Champlain Valley Crop, Soil and Pasture Team

Annual reports for the CV Crops Team, No-Till Grain Drills and Livestock Exclusion.

Here are some success stories:

CV_Crop_Team_Impact_Report_2012

CV_Crop_Team_No-Till_report_2012

CV_Crop_Team_LE_report_2012

 

2013 Vermont Farm Show Winners

Posted: February 8th, 2013 by Champlain Valley Crop, Soil and Pasture Team

Best of Class!!

2013 Vermont Farm Show
Field & Forage Crop Product Contest
Class Winners

Hay – Grass
Lucas Vaughan (South Ryegate)
Best of Show – Hay

Hay – Legume
James Maillee (Shelburne)

Hay – Mixed
Shawnha VanderWey (Ferrisburgh)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Silage & Grains – Grass Haylage
Henry Brothers- Wolfridge Dairy ( Alburg)

Silage & Grains – Legume Haylage
Woodlawn Farm, Inc. (Pawlet)

Silage & Grains – Baleage

Judging Silage

Fred & Michelle Pike (Cabot)

Silage & Grains – Corn Silage
David Conant, Conants Riverside Farm (Richmond)

Silage & Grains – High Moisture Ear Corn/Snaplage
Joseph Hescock, Elysian Fields Farm (Shoreham)

Judging Hay

Silage & Grains – Other Dry Grain
Earl Bessette, Elgin Spring Farm (New Haven)
Best of Show – Silage & Grain for their Barley Grain entry

Your Role in the Future of Farming in Vermont

Posted: January 16th, 2013 by Kirsten Workman

This post was originally published on the Women in Agriculture Network (WAgN) Blog.

Now is the time to have your voice heard.

As an Extension Outreach Professional, I am part of many networks related to farming and farmers.  Emails arrive in my inbox everyday about another issue that is directly related to how you farm in Vermont.  Whether it is the next pest, weed, or exciting crop to grow; a new grant or cost-share program; or the newest regulation being decided by the Vermont Legislature or state agency that will impact your farm business.  Many times these directives and programs are implemented without much input from the people and landscapes they will impact the most—YOU!

You most likely hear the same discussions I hear.  You may even get the exact same emails I get (whether you read them or not).  You probably have conversations with your neighbors about the many issues facing agriculture in Vermont.  I don’t walk into many barns without doing just that.  However, I encourage you to take the next step.

Stand up, participate, be heard, and take a leadership role to shape how these initiatives, programs, and policies impact you and Vermont agriculture.

It is very easy to put your nose down, focus on your own farm, and keep more than plenty busy just trying to get your daily farming tasks done.  However, sometimes we need to pick up our heads and take a look around.  Are you happy with the trajectory of policy-making, technical assistance programs, educational opportunities, water quality rules, food safety policy, funding programs, or farm economics?  If you have insight on how to improve any of these issues, NOW IS THE TIME TO SPEAK UP.

There are a lot of initiatives already happening or just starting that directly impact how you farm now and will farm in the future.  In my experience, farmer participation is not only accepted, but sought after.  I can’t tell you how many meetings I have been to where the participants are making decisions that directly impact Vermont farmers, and when you look around the room there may not be a single farmer in the room.  This happens for a few reasons.  Farmers are either not included, do not know about these meetings, or decide they are simply too busy to attend.  Let me say now that none of those are adequate reasons anymore.  As farmers, you need to know when and where these meetings are taking place and show up.

Having your voice heard just got a lot easier thanks to a group of local farmers, UVM Extension and a Conservation Innovation Grant from the Vermont NRCS.  We have started the Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition in much the same manner as the Farmers Watershed Alliance in Franklin County. The idea is to help all farmers proactively address water quality issues in the Chittenden, Addison & Rutland counties in the Lake Champlain Basin to advance local farm economic resiliency and environmental stewardship.   The group aims to target education and outreach, acquire potential project funding, and facilitate communication between farmers, agencies and the public to move us forward in improving water quality The Champlain Valley Farmers Coalition meets once a month and will be accepting new members soon. Call us if you want your voice to be heard and want to be proactive about how water quality and agriculture will co-exist in Vermont now and into the future.

If you would like to join the Champlain Farmers Coalition, please contact Kirsten Workman or Jeff Carter at (802) 388-4969 or champlain.crops@uvm.edu.

Beyond farmer-based groups like the Champlain Valley Farmers Coalition and the Farmers Watershed Alliance, you can participate on so many levels: in your town, your county, statewide or even national groups and boards.

Here are just a few examples:

 

 

Pasture Management Planning for the New Year

Posted: January 7th, 2013 by Cheryl Cesario

 

Claghorn and Hunt 008

While it may not be a common New Year’s resolution, stepping up your pasture management might be an important one. After all, improved pasture management can lead to lots of other improvements on the farm, including improved profits. Winter is a great time to think about the grazing season to come and start making plans for what you want to achieve this year. What worked last year, and what didn’t? If you are thinking to make changes, how can those be accomplished? A good starting point is to write down some simple goals. Some examples might include:

  • Bring in more species to increase pasture plant diversity
  • Increase the length of your grazing season by a month (or more)
  • Delay the feeding of stored forages until later in the fall
  • Keep better records of the movement of animals on pasture

The next step is to plan how to meet these goals, and then of course try to implement them once the season begins.

Tall Fescue: A Problematic Pasture Grass

Posted: November 15th, 2012 by Cheryl Cesario

Tall fescue

Tall fescue is a pasture grass that is relatively easy to identify late in the season – just look for the grass that your animals have refused all season. Typically livestock will avoid tall fescue if given other options. That is because this tall bunch grass is quite unpalatable. The leaves, which are quite broad, are very coarse and leathery. The edges can be quite sharp as well. Rub a leaf between your fingers and you’ll see why your animals would choose not to eat it.

Besides the physical attributes that make it unappetizing, tall fescue can be toxic as pasture, hay or haylage due to endophyte alkaloids. Endophytes are fungi which live within the plant and produce alkaloid chemicals. Fescue toxicosis can result in various production-related issues ranging from foot problems to reproduction issues. There are endophyte-free varieties of tall fescue, but these have alkaloids as well, and although less toxic than their endophyte-infected counterparts, they still upset rumen function and therefore reduce animal performance. Toxicity is a measure of the overall percentage of tall fescue plants in the pasture and decreases if animals are in a diverse sward with many other grass and legume species.

Some producers have noticed this past year more tall fescue in their pastures than ever before. What is going on? The reason tall fescue is the grass of choice in the Southeast is that it is very drought resistant. It will grow when nothing else will. In a dry year like 2012, when our cool-season grasses went dormant in the heat of summer with little to no rain, tall fescue will take the opportunity to grow and spread.

Some tall fescue is seeded intentionally. For example, when ditches and roadsides are seeded with ‘conservation mixes’, these typically contain tall fescue as it will establish with little effort. The seed then spreads into neighboring fields and pastures. Interestingly, many commercial pasture seed mixes on the market also contain tall fescue. This is a sign that the seed mix was developed for other regions of the country where the climate is not conducive to the cool-season grasses we can grow so well here. We have so many better options for cool-season grasses such as bluegrass, ryegrass, and orchardgrass, to name a few, that tall fescue is a plant best to avoid.

If you are finding that tall fescue is spreading and becoming a problem what do you do? Unfortunately, tall fescue is hard to get rid of without an herbicide, so if you are an organic producer it will depend on how much of a problem it is. One option is to seed plants with high tannin content such as forage chicory or birdsfoot trefoil. When animals eat both the tannins and the alkaloids together, the tannins bind the alkaloids and reduce toxicity problems. For a real problem stand, plowing and tilling would kill most of the existing plants. Following with an annual crop such as a small grain, and then seeding down to a pasture/hay crop would increase the chances of eliminating the tall fescue plants.

Frost Seeding: Simple, But Not Foolproof

Posted: November 12th, 2012 by Champlain Valley Crop, Soil and Pasture Team

by Rico Balzano, UVM Extension Agronomy Outreach Professional

Frost seeding can be an efficient and cost effective way to reseed or introduce new forage species to pastures and hay meadows. Successful frost seeding can improve forage quality, and research in Michigan has shown yield increases by 1.5-2.0 tons of dry matter per acre. That is a pretty good return on the cost the cost of the seed and the time to broadcast it. However, frost seeding is not right for every situation and not every year presents the ideal conditions. The basic idea behind frost seeding is the freeze-thaw cycle and rain of early spring will help incorporate seed broadcast over the surface. It is a simple process, but timing is critical: seed too early and seed may die, seed too late and there is no frost to do the work. Frost seeding can be accomplished with broadcast spreaders that mount onto ATVs or tractor 3-point hitches.  Roller seeders are also very effective but will require more passes across the field. This can be done over minimal snow cover, but broadcasting over deeper snow before a rapid melting can result in losing seed to runoff.  In Vermont, most frost seeding happens in late February or March. But now is the time to start planning.

Site Selection- Choose where you frost seed carefully. Pastures and hay meadows that are predominately sod-forming grasses, such as bluegrass or reed canary grass, can have a thick thatch barrier that can make seed establishment difficult. Grazing livestock “stomping” the seed in can be worth a try in these situations. Also, soil type is important. Soils that have natural moisture through the early summer, such as loam and clay soil, work best for frost seeding. Sandy soils should be avoided.

Soil Test, Lime, and Fertilizer- If possible, apply any needed lime a year in advance. Nitrogen should be avoided the year before and the year of seeding. This only stimulates grasses and weeds making them too competitive. Legumes need phosphorus and potassium, however, to compete with grasses.

Preparing the fall before seeding- Seed to soil contact is critical for frost seeding to work. Grazing or clipping pastures and hay meadows down to about 2” the previous fall or winter opens the canopy and allows broadcast seed to reach the soil. Grazing tightly will also reduce the vigor of the existing forages the following spring, helping the new seedlings to better compete.  In some cases, lightly disturbing the soil with a disk the fall before frost seeding can help increase success.

Seed Selection, Legumes: Alfalfa, clover, and trefoil can all be successfully frost seeded. Alfalfa should be frost-seeded on well drained soils with near neutral pH and adequate levels of phosphorus and potassium. Avoid fields where alfalfa already exists.  Autotoxicity will prevent new alfalfa plants from becoming established. Clovers have better success on poorly drained and with less lime and fertilizer. Red clover establishes quickly and produces for one or two years, while white clovers can last three years or more. Although birdsfoot trefoil is slow to establish, it is long lived, improves with time, and can become the dominant legume as red clover dies out. Be sure to inoculate all legume seed.

Seed Selection, Grasses: Older alfalfa stands that have become less productive can sometimes benefit from grasses being introduced. This can be challenging because most grasses tend not to be as successful as legumes when frost seeded. Research from the University of Wisconsin has shown that perennial ryegrass and orchardgrass have the best success in years when moisture is adequate for growth. However, perennial ryegrass is not as winter hardy as other cool season grasses so persistence may be a problem.

Seed Mixtures: In many cases, seeding more than one species can be advantageous. For example, red clover and birdsfoot trefoil seeded together can ensure a long-term legume presence in a pasture. In research done at Iowa State, red clover established quickly and was productive for two years before declining, while birdsfoot trefoil became productive in the second and following years. For this reason, many producers frost seed red clover every two to three years to maintain legume production. Also, especially when seeding mixes using broadcast type seeders, be sure to determine the spreading width. Different species and mixes will vary. For example, legume seed tends to “throw” further than grass seed. Therefore it is recommended to separate grass and legume seed and spread them in two passes.

Grazing management after seeding:  Establishment of legumes depends on control of grasses and weeds, especially in the first two to three months after emergence. Immediately after seeding, but before emergence, animals can be used to control early spring growth. Hoof action will assist the freeze-thaw cycle to incorporate seed. Cattle should be removed before emergence to prevent seedling damage.  After legume emergence, moderate but quick grazing, not shorter than 3-4”, after the grass starts growing will give legume seedlings a chance. Periodic mowing, or an early hay cut, may be necessary to control grasses and weeds. If possible, birdsfoot trefoil will benefit from an early fall rest period.

Recommended Rates for Frost Seeding into Existing Sod (U. of Wisconsin)

Rate (lb./acre)

Expected Establishment

Plants per Square ft.

Species

Seeded Alone

In Mixture

Red Clover

4-8

3-4

2-5

Ladino Clover

2-3

1-2

1-2

Birdsfoot Trefoil

4-6

2-3

6-9 (in 2nd year)

Alfalfa

5-8

3-4

4-6

Perennial Ryegrass

8-15

2-3

10-12

Orchardgrass

3-4

3-4

4

 

Stand Density of Two Forage Legume Following Frost Seeding (Michigan State U.)

Red Clover

Trefoil

————————————–Months after seeding———————————-

3

15

3

15

Established plants as % of herbicide treated stand

0 cuts

69

51

74

52

2 cuts

79

82

88

96

4 cuts

103

107

117

114

Herbicide

100

100

100

100

 

Additional Information and links:

http://pss.uvm.edu/vtcrops/?Page=articles/PastureProduction.html
http://www.uwex.edu/ces/crops/frostsd.htm
http://www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/PM856.pdf
http://www.msue.msu.edu/objects/content_revision/download.cfm/revision_id.283375/workspace_id.108285/Frost%20Seeding%20Guidelines.pdf/

Working Together for Clean Water | Women’s Agricultural Network Blog

Posted: November 7th, 2012 by Kirsten Workman

One of the members of the Champlain Valley Crop, Soil & Pasture team was a guest blogger on the Women’s Agriculture Network (WAgN) blog.

Check it out!

Working Together for Clean Water | Women’s Agricultural Network Blog.

Grazing Road Trip

Posted: November 5th, 2012 by Champlain Valley Crop, Soil and Pasture Team

 

UVM Extension Grazing Specialists Kim Hagen and Cheryl Cesario (taking the picture) spent the day last week with Willie Gibson of NOFA-VT and grazing expert Darrell Emmick from NY state. The group visited an organic dairy farm in East Montpelier and a grass-fed beef operation in Waitsfield. They spent a whirlwind day discussing topics such as large herd grazing planning, forage quality and quantity, and reclaiming pasture land.

In the Press: UVM tests aerial planting of cover crops

Posted: October 18th, 2012 by Champlain Valley Crop, Soil and Pasture Team

Read this article in VT Digger about our Aerial Cover Crop project.

UVM tests aerial planting of cover crops.

New Grazing Guide From UVM Extension

Posted: October 11th, 2012 by Champlain Valley Crop, Soil and Pasture Team

Managing Pasture as a Crop – A Guide to Good Grazing, written by Darrell Emmick while on staff at UVM Extension in Middlebury is now available. The 80 page book is a great read for livestock farmers who want to learn more about getting the best from their land.

Check it out HERE Managing Pasture as a Crop

Managing Pasture as a Crop

A Guide to Good Grazing, by Darrell L. Emmick, Ph.D.

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