Integrating Irrigation Into Your Grazing System: Thursday August 4, 2016

Hescock Cows

Joe and Kathleen Hescock’s Elysian Fields has been certified organic since 1998, where they currently manage 225 milking cows on pasture. This workshop will look at how they have recently integrated a traveling gun irrigation system into their grazing program. We will discuss the impacts of installing pasture irrigation with opportunities to maximize dry matter yields, shorten recovery periods and increase the number of rotations.

When: Thursday August 4, 2016 at 12:30pm to 2:30pm
Where: Elysian Fields, 3658 Route 74W, Shoreham, VT
Cost: $10 for farmers, $20 all others
Register: At the NOFA VT Events Page

This workshop is part of the Summer Organic Dairy Series put on by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) and UVM Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program and the Champlain Valley Crop, Soil and Pasture Program.

In the News and Around the Town

Lately we’ve been busy bees (particularly Kirsten Workman!) and have found ourselves on Across the Fence as well as NPR.  Here are some links where you can see and hear more about what we are up to!

http://digital.vpr.net/post/farmers-embrace-cover-crops-improve-soil-reduce-runoff#stream/0

http://digital.vpr.net/post/no-till-tell-all#stream/0

 

 

 

 

Grazing School Coming To Pawlet

Cheryl Cesario has coordinated a ‘Grazing School’ event to be held Wednesday June 22nd, 2016.

Sarah Flack, a prominent grazing consultant in our area will lead a discussion at both Consider Bardwell and Wayward Goose Farms. There will be something for everyone and Sarah can tailor the conversation to the grazing level of the participants.

Topics covered will include:

  • Management Intensive Grazing (Intensive Discussion!)
  • Multi-Species Grazing
  • Small Scale Cheese Production Business Model
  • Animal Welfare Approved Certification

More Information Can Be Found Below:

CBF kidCBF Goat pasturegallery-cows2x

December 2015 Pasture Workshop

Irrigation and Tile Drainage: Tools For Pasture Productivity

When: Friday, December 4, 2015  10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Where: Bridport Community Hall, 52 Middle Rd, Bridport, VT

Cost: $20

More Information –> download our pdf: Irrigation and Tile with Pasture Flyer

Register Online By December 1st ——> www.regonline.com/irrigationonpasture

It often seems we either have too much water or not enough. We will be discussing how water management fits into pasture productivity. Irrigation specialist Jim Peeler of Charles W. Harris Irrigation will start the day with a session on design and implementation considerations, while farmers Tyler Webb and Earl Fournier will talk about how it has worked on their farms. Eric Young from the Miner Institute in Chazy, NY will update us on research in tile drainage systems for optimizing nutrient retention. This workshop will specifically be focused on how these topics apply to pastures, but we are also happy to have other farmers interested in these concepts attend.

Registration Questions? Contact Karen Gallott [802-388-4969 x 330, karen.gallott@uvm.edu]

Questions about the Topic? Contact Cheryl Cesario [802-388-4969 x 346, cheryl.cesario@uvm.edu]

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Reading ‘Cow Signals’: Upcoming Workshop

Join us for a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the ‘Cow Signals’ program! Dr. Hubert Karreman will be on hand in both a classroom and a barn session.

When: Tuesday March 24, 2015

Where: Bridport,VT and Shoreham, VT

Cows send out signals continuously about their health, well-being, nutrition, and production. The challenge is how to interpret these signals and use them to maximize cow health and well-being. The ‘Cow Signals’ program teaches farmers how to interpret the behavior and physical characteristics of groups of cows and individuals.

Learn More: Click on the picture below to view the pdf of the event.

Cow Signals March 15

 

 

 

 

 

Register: https://www.regonline.com/cowsignals

Two Great Upcoming Events…Pastures & Cover Crops

The Champlain Valley Crop, Soil & Pasture Team is pleased to announce two fantastic events in November:

November 8th * 10:00 am to 11:30 pm  *  Ferrisburgh, VT
No-Till Cover Crop FIELD DAYinterseed

Can no-till, cover crop mixes and manure work in corn silage on the clay soils of the Champlain Valley??  We’re trying to find out.  Please join us at the site of one of our on-farm research trialsJoin the Champlain Valley Crop Soil & Pasture Team and Deer Valley Farm as we share our preliminary results from our  Cover Crop Diversity in No-Till Systems SARE Partnership Project.  Come check out our on-farm research plots of two different cover crop mixes in corn silage on CLAY SOIL

Click HERE for the Field Day flyer

RSVP to (802) 388-4969 or kirsten.workman@uvm.edu

 

November 14th  *  10:00 am to 2:30 pm  *  Bridport Community Hall
Champlain Valley Grazing SymposiumOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Join us as we wrap up this year’s grazing season and think ahead to next year! Come hear how planned grazing can be fun
and profitablee. Troy Bishopp, aka “The Grass Whisperer” is an accomplished grazier on his own farm in NY state, in addition to working with the Madison County Soil & Water Conservation District/Upper Susquehanna Coalition as their regional grazing specialist. Troy brings a holistic approach to grazing planning by helping farmers chart a course that pays attention to their personal goals as well as their profits. Julie Smith, UVM Extension Dairy Specialist, will also be here to discuss how to manage and troubleshoot common herd health issues including Johne’s, BVD, and nutritional deficiencies. Julie’s focus is on biosecurity and preventive animal health management. Hope to see you there!

Click HERE for the Grazing Symposium flyer

Register & purchase tickets:  http://grazingsymposium2013.eventbrite.com/

 

Please join us for one or both of these fantastic events. 

If you have  any questions or need more information, please give us a call at (802) 388-4969 or email us at champlain.crops@uvm.edu.

SEE YOU THERE!

Mending Pastures After Excessive Rains

Wet Pasture Cows grazing in wet, saturated pasture.

This summer’s rainy, severe weather has had quite a negative effect on pasture quality. Visiting several grazing farms over the last month, we have seen that many dairy herds have been periodically housed and fed in the barn or barnyard in order to help preserve pasture stands, soil quality and animal health. In some cases, as with dairy heifers or beef cows, herds have been moved up on higher ground with somewhat better drainage, to help manage mud and decrease compaction issues. Some farmers have chosen to run their herds through tall stands of grass that may have otherwise been cut for hay. Although, animals will waste a lot of this lower quality mature forage, the upside is that what they trample will form a mat that can help reduce pasture damage.

However, even with these tactics, it has been challenging. Animal traffic on wet soils can cause soil compaction; pugging (holes) from hooves, leading to rough surfaces; areas of bare soil; potential runoff issues; and reduced plant density and yield. If despite your best efforts, your pastures are showing signs of this kind of damage, there are some basic things you can do now that some sunny weather is on the horizon and soils dry out a bit.

If pastures appear to have less plant density, using the UVM Extension no-till drill to plant new seed may be an option to bump up the diversity and species composition. There are numerous options for this depending on your goals, system, etc. One option would be to drill in grass species such as perennial ryegrass or orchard grass mixed with a legume such as Ladino clover. Another option would be to try an annual crop such as oats, triticale, or turnip for fall grazing. In some cases, it may be easiest to broadcast the seed and then turn the cows in to help stomp the seed into the ground.

For pastures that are severely pugged (also called ‘ankle breakers’) you may consider running a harrow to help smooth out the soil surface, and then planting your choice of seed. For large areas of bare soil that have developed extending from gates, water tubs and other heavy use areas, consider a crop like tillage radish. It can be seeded alone or mixed with a grass such as ryegrass and seeded at 10# per acre. Last year, we saw success seeding tillage radish into a heavy use area at this rate, yielding both nutritious tops that can be grazed after 45 days and large tap roots that help break up soil compaction.

To sign up to use the drill or to discuss seeding options to help amend summer pastures, producers are encouraged to call the Middlebury UVM Extension office at 388-4969.

 

Millet: An Exciting Pasture Plant

Cow grazing Japanese Millet at the Beidler Farm in Randoph. Photo by Deb Heleba
Cow grazing Japanese Millet at the Beidler Farm in Randoph. Photo by Deb Heleba

 

Soon we’ll be coming up on the time of the summer where pastures really slow down and seem not to be growing at all. We are moving past the period of most rapid growth for our cool-season grasses (bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and orchard grass, for example) and in late summer we’ll see that growth revive again. The thing about cool-season grasses is that they really slow down when the weather isn’t cool (surprise!). Longer rest periods for individual paddocks during this time can help prevent overgrazing damage, as plants will need longer (30+ days) before they will be ready to be grazed again.

One advanced management practice is to plant summer annual grasses such as millet. Unlike the cool-season perennials, warm-season annuals thrive when the temperatures rise. The optimal planting time for annuals such as millet is between June 1st and July 1st when soil temperatures reach at least 65 degrees. Unlike sorghum-sudangrass, millet does not carry the risks associated with prussic acid and it can tolerate wetter soils. It should be grazed at about 18 inches tall and can be grazed more than once.

Some farmers use millet when renovating pastures, plowing and then seeding down with millet for the season, before re-planting with a pasture mix in early fall. We know that farmers in other parts of Vermont have had success with this crop, but tilling up Addison County heavy clay soil in the window that is needed, can be a challenge. We are not sure how well it will do when drilled in to existing stands, but this summer we will be experimenting with no-tilling millet into perennial pastures on a handful of farms to see if we can get an increase in dry matter production in the late summer months. We are going to drill in a variety of pearl millet called ‘Wonderleaf’ as well as a mixture called ‘Summerfeast’ which contains both pearl millet and forage brassica.  The idea being that the brassica plants will also provide some forage later into the grazing season.  Stay tuned for some exciting results…

Ins and Outs of Livestock Fence Systems

Claghorn and Hunt 007

In early May, Dave Kennard at Wellscroft Farm and Fence Systems in Harrisville, NH hosted a fantastic full day workshop covering all aspects of livestock fencing. It was an information filled day with lots of helpful hints and tips on topics such as proper grounding, choosing the right sized energizer, locating it in the right spot, how to ensure lightning protection, and the latest and greatest types of fence and gates. There was really something for everyone, with a brush up on the basics as well as advanced tips to fine tune an existing system.

Here are the 6 most common mistakes with electric fence that Dave outlined for us that day:

1. Improper grounding: One thing that can help ensure your fence is well grounded is to have enough ground rods in place. The rods should be in a line and at least 10 feet apart. Galvanized rods are preferred. How many do you need? A rule of thumb is to figure 3-6’ of ground rod per joule of energizer. So a 3J energizer could require up to 18 feet of ground rods depending on soil moisture and fence resistance. Your ground field should be at least 40 feet away from utility grounds.

2. Having the wrong sized or type of energizer: Energizers are either 110 V plug-in, battery, or solar powered. Their effectiveness is measured in joules. The size of the area that is fenced, the type of animal, and type of fence used will determine what size energizer is needed. They increase from small 0.5 joule units to 50 joules or more (and so does the cost). Choose one based not just on where you’re at right now, but where you might be a few years down the road, so that you don’t ‘outgrow’ it and have to buy a new one. It is recommended to install the energizer outside of buildings in a protected three sided enclosure.

3. Improper livestock training: Since electric fence is a psychological fence, not a physical one, animals must learn to respect it, rather than run through it. Most livestock when shocked for the first time will instinctively back up. That is, except for pigs! They will keep charging ahead. For pigs, you’ll want to train them to electric fence inside an enclosed area (such as a barnyard) which will give them a physical barrier as well.

4. Improper lightning and surge protection: Lightning can cause a voltage surge and damage the energizer if the unit is a plug-in type. If unplugging the fence is not an option before a big storm, plugging the unit into a 1,000 joule surge protector can help reduce the impact if a nearby utility wire is hit. Also, lightning can damage an energizer if the fence or an object near the fence is struck. High voltage will be carried along the fence wire and through the energizer on its way to the ground. Lightning choke/diverters can be installed at the start of the fence. For areas of 5 acres or more, additional ones can be installed with their own ground rods. The surge protector and the diverter each cost less than $15. Not a bad insurance policy for a several hundred dollar energizer.

5. Not monitoring the voltage and condition of the fence: Use a volt meter or fence tester to monitor your voltage. If the fence is not adequately charged, you can start troubleshooting where the problem lies. Some volt meters are also fault finders and can point you in the direction of the problem – a definite timesaver! Monitor your fence for poor connections (snapping sounds) and keep excess vegetation off the fence which can ground it out.

6. Not choosing the right type of fence: How many strands of high tensile wire do you need on your perimeter fence? For beef, you might need 2 or 3 strands. For goats, maybe 50 wires would hold them in? Just kidding! For temporary fences when making subdivisions, a single strand of polywire can do the trick for dairy cows, while sheep and chickens do well with electric netting.

Keeping these tips in mind can help minimize problems and keep both the animals and the people happy during the grazing season.

Fact Sheets from the Grazing Symposium

Four separate fact sheets are now available from Sarah Flack’s presentation at our April 1st Grazing Symposium. Simply click on the links below to view them.