Preparing for the Upcoming Season

By Nate Severy, Agronomy Outreach Professional

This winter we have been very busy putting together workshops and meetings focused on new manure spreading rules and how farmers and custom applicators can make them work on their farms. Manure or other “agricultural wastes” cannot be spread within 25 feet of a stream and 10 feet of a ditch. There are also new restrictions when spreading in floodplains, training requirements, and recordkeeping requirements. Everyone under the certified small, medium or large farm definition must spread manure according to a Nutrient Management Plan (NMP), and all farms must apply manure based on agronomic rates.

We received a grant last fall from the Vt. Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) to develop an educational and certification program for custom manure applicators in coordination with the Northwest Crop and Soil Team. This program will be very similar to the Pesticide Applicator Program: applicators will have to take and pass an exam, recertify yearly, and accumulate 8 hours of professional development over 5 years to maintain the certification. The first exam will take place next winter, most likely before Christmas.

For this upcoming cropping season, even though custom applicators will not have their applicator certification, these businesses will be expected to follow all of the RAPs pertaining to spreading manure, including keeping application records. To help everyone learn about the RAPs and what records need to be kept, we helped organize 3 custom manure applicator workshops and 5 farmer and custom applicator employee workshops throughout Vermont. At these events, attendees learned about the new rules and what is expected from them. These workshops also provided a forum where people were able to ask questions and engage in open dialogue with VAAFM staff. At each meeting there were good conversations that generated important questions and it is great to hear respectful conversations. Even when people do not agree they can still have a good discussion. We are here to help applicators sort out their questions about the RAPs and will continue to keep the dialogue going.

Going into the 2017 cropping season, I believe that recordkeeping is going be a big obstacle for many people. Good recordkeeping takes extra time, patience, and dedication, even on a small farm. If someone is not prepared, recordkeeping could be challenging for a custom applicator that spreads manure on thousands or even tens of thousands of acres on many different farms. At our meetings, we stressed that the key to good recordkeeping is to seamlessly integrate it into your business. Some are already doing this through technologies like UVM’s goCrop™ or flow meters where fieldby-field data is automatically recorded and downloaded into a computer. Other people have put recordkeeping logs on the back of employee timesheets and require that the employee fill out the log in order to be paid. For custom applicators who need help with recordkeeping, UVM Extension has developed a recordkeeping book (copies available at our office). Each page has a carbon copy so at the end of the day the applicator can fill out the page, tear off the top and give it to the farmer for his/her records, and then tear off the carbon copy and put it in a file at home. All of these systems are acceptable, but it is important to use the system that will work best for you, and will help strengthen your business going into the future. Even though there is an initial inertia required to make record keeping successful, the hope is that it can also pay off for the farmer by documenting and improving on agronomic practices.

If you have questions about manure application or would like more information or materials on record keeping, contact our office. If you do not have an NMP and need to obtain one, contact your local conservation district or NRCS office for funding possibilities.


By Cheryl Cesario, Grazing Outreach Specialist

Rotations are tracked with the grazing chart at Elysian Fields in Shoreham, Vermont.

There is a saying, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” and this holds true for pasture as well as crops. There are many ways to monitor and keep records of pasture yields and grazing activity. Personally, I am a fan of whatever recordkeeping system works for the individual farmer, as it has to be efficient, straightforward and provide useful information to be worthwhile.

One tool I have seen used with success is the Holistic Management Grazing Planning Chart. This tool was initially developed by Holistic Management International as a part of their overall decision making framework for farm planning. Troy Bishopp, of the Madison
County Soil and Water Conservation District in central N.Y., was able to bring the chart to the masses through a Northeast SARE grant, with the help of a network of service providers who then reached out to individual farmers. In 2013, I began distributing these charts so farmers who
were interested could try them out and evaluate their usefulness.

On the surface, the chart is just a large sheet of paper with a lot of rows and columns that form a grid. This grid is really a “year-at-a-glance” calendar that can be a powerful planning and recordkeeping tool. With a simple daily activity of filling in a box that corresponds to the day and
the field or paddock where the animals have moved, a pattern forms providing a visual record of the entire season laid out at once. With this chart, there is no flipping pages back and forth in a calendar to figure out what animals were where and when. I personally like being able to look at a chart and see how many days since I last grazed a given area, and it helps me readjust my plan. At the end of the season, I find it informative (or in the case of last summer, depressing) to see how many times I was able to graze a given field. For experienced grazers, try planning a month ahead by filling in the chart in pencil and then have fun seeing how close you were.

This will be the fifth year distributing grazing charts and I am seeing farmers track all kinds of interesting data including daily temperature and rainfall, periods of hay feeding and/or confinement, applications of chicken manure, bull introduction and frost dates. Organic farmers find these records keep their annual organic inspector happy, and they
are acceptable records for NRCS “prescribed grazing” payments. One farmer is comparing his grazing chart to his milk production records to understand milk per acre. Another farmer charts crops, color-coding the daily entries for planting, spraying, harvesting and manure spreading. When he comes in each fall to update his nutrient management plan,
all the information is at his fingertips.

I would love to hear from farmers who are utilizing some of the newer “apps” such as PastureMap™ or GrazingCalculator ™. Also on the horizon is goGraze™ currently in development as a companion to UVM Extension’s goCrop™ nutrient management software. Ultimately, there are tools available for everyone, whether you want to enter data on the go with your phone or like the comfort of having a tangible paper record.

A limited number of printed planning charts are available at our Middlebury office, or download a variety of templates at: