Grants for Dairy Farms Due February 12th

Apply for Dairy Improvement Grants up to $20,000

With grant funds donated by Commonwealth Dairy and in partnership with the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery, Dairy Farmers of AmericaHousing Vermont, and the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation, the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program provides grants of up to $20,000 to Vermont dairy farmer members of the St. Albans Co-op and Dairy Farmers of America to make farm improvements. This round of funding is for projects that will improve water quality and help farmers meet new water quality regulations. Application deadline is February 12th

Click this link for application information: Dairy Improvement Grants

Job Posting: Forest Business Educator

Forest Business Educator – Extension
The University of Vermont Extension seeks a Forest Business Outreach Educator to deliver business coaching and business management education to owners and managers of forest products-based businesses. The position will also contribute to forest and agricultural research projects. A Bachelor’s Degree in forestry, natural resources, business administration or a closely related field and at least 3 years of experience in economic development, forest products or business management education is required. The University is especially interested in candidates who can contribute to the diversity of the institution and deliver high quality outreach programs to a broad audience.
The position is located in Rutland or Berlin Vermont. This is a grant funded position. For further information and  to apply with electronic application, resume, cover letter and one page written biography visit our website at this link:

Winter Farm Business Programs_Sign up Now

UVM Extension Farm Viability is offering several programs for farm managers this winter.

2016 Budget Clinics : UVM Extension Farm Business educators are available to work one-on-one with farmers on their finances. Bring your financial statements, records and questions for this 1 to 1 ½ hour private meeting at a local Extension office. Click the link above for the schedule.

Ag Biz Pro : Ag Biz Pro is the program of choice for farm managers who wish to continue working with an individual adviser after completing a grant funded Farm Viability business planning project. Participants work directly with a farm business adviser within a flexible curriculum to address priority issues facing the business through the preparation of  financial statements, financial analysis and overall business analysis.

Farm Viability Business Planning and Dairy Management Teams : Individualized and team based business planning programs run throughout the entire year. Click the program summary above and download applications from our “Application Materials” page.

Changes to VT Current Use Tax Program

Changes have been made to the Vermont Use Value Appraisal Program (Current Use) that guides the taxation of land and buildings used for agriculture, forestry and conservation.

Click this link for a resource sheet that explains the new changes: Changes in VT Current Use Tax Program _July 2015

Key changes include:

  • A new calculation for the Land Use Change Tax (LUCT) (beginning Oct. 2, 2015)
  • A temporary “easy-out” period in which landowners can remove a parcel, or portion of a parcel, without paying the full LUCT liability (between July 1 and Oct. 1, 2015).
  • A new annual requirement for owners of agricultural lands and buildings to certify in writing on or before September 1 of every year that all enrolled agricultural land and buildings meet the requirements for enrollment at the time of the certification (form will be available in August).
  • Authority given to Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets to direct the Vermont Department of Taxes to remove agricultural land and farm buildings from the Current Use Program when the land or buildings are used by a person who has violated water quality requirements (beginning July 1, 2015).

What Farm Business Advisors are Talking About

This week the UVM Extension Farm Viability program and statewide VT Farm and Forest Viability Program partners got together to discuss current topics impacting farms.

Dennis Kauppila lead a discussion on farm business partnerships. We reviewed an older but still relevant resource guide that leads farm business owners that are setting up a partnership. Click here to download  Michigan State University: Farm Partnership Agreement Worksheet

Food safety is on our minds with the expectation of new federal  produce safety regulations this fall and the existing GAP’s/buyer-based verification programs. Ginger Nickerson explained the different post harvest packing and storage investments that produce growers are making  that can improve product quality in addition to meeting safety requirements. Click this link for a  fact sheet on building open packsheds. If you are thinking bigger, then click this link on renovating old barns .

A business planning meeting would not be complete without a discussion on risk management and crop insurance programs. Jake Jacobs, UVM Extension Crop Insurance Educator, provided an update on whole farm revenue insurance, Margin Protection for Dairy and the NAP program that could be used for maple producers. Click this link for a USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) 2014 Farm Bill Crop Insurance Modifications


Broiler Chicken Demand Research Report

Download the full report here:

[PDF] Broiler Demand at Small Grocers 2012-2013, FBRR-011

In the fall of 2012 University of Vermont Extension distributed a survey to a group of small  grocers  asking about chicken and egg demand in their stores with a focus on regionally-produced products. Follow-up phone interviews were conducted through the fall of 2013 to get additional feedback from the buyers in these stores. The goal of this work is to understand the demand for local poultry products and to also provide guidance for poultry farmers preparing to conduct their own market research.

Broiler AttributesThe reports provides details about which attributes consumers are looking for in poultry products and also the specific service expectations that small grocers have for farms selling them them poultry.

Click here to view or download the full report:

[PDF] Broiler Demand at Small Grocers 2012-2013, FBRR-011


Irish Visitors meet Vermont’s Ag Lenders

Last week I had the pleasure of bringing 3 colleagues from Ireland’s extension service

Kevin Connolly and James McDonnell, Teagasc, discuss the finer points of chattel loans with Alan Curler, VT Ag Credit Corp.

Kevin Connolly and James McDonnell, Teagasc, discuss the finer points of chattel loans with Alan Curler, VT Ag Credit Corp.

around Vermont. They are part of Teagasc, an Irish organization that is similar to our Land Grant college system.  I studied last year with James, Fintan and Kevin, financial management specialists, when I was on sabbatical study leave in Ireland.

During the week we visited with lenders from USDA’s Farm Service Agency, VT Ag Credit Corporation, and Yankee Farm Credit. Several concepts came up that were very interesting to ‘the lads’ and may help the reader understand ag lending here in Vermont.

1. Each of the lenders talked about a ‘relationship’ with the farm borrower. They called it one of the Five Cs of Credit (see the second page of this article). Borrowers often have a difficult time understanding this, until they have a couple of years of borrowing experience- then they see how important it is to be able to pick up the phone, or send an email to their lender about a certain situation. ‘The lads’ from Ireland said that ‘relationship’ is out the window in their country. It evaporated a few years ago when Irish banks took a direct hit with the bad economy. They miss it- a lender can’t go out on a limb for a farmer who has had a little slip, and the lender knows the farmer will be able to make it right in a year or so. A farm lender sits on the opposite side of the table when a farmer wants to borrow money. But the farmer does not see the lender when the lender is trying to get approval for the farmer’s loan from the loan committee.

2. Each of the lenders talked about ‘Chattel Loans.’ This is making a loan for livestock or equipment (or another asset) using the livestock or equipment at partial collateral for the loan. Lenders in Ireland do not do this anymore. After the Irish economy hit the skids a few years ago, one of their banks had to hire people in the US, and on 2 other continents to try and find the large construction equipment that had been sold (illegally) and moved. The lenders do not want to go through that again. So farmers in Ireland are facing very strict lending rules and regulations. Ireland, as part of the European Union, is under the EU’s Dairy Marketing Quota, that has limited the amount of milk that a farmer can sell since 1984. In the spring of 2015, this quota ends. The Irish government wants an expansion of dairy- this is a product that can be easily exported to bring much-needed cash into the Irish economy. Irish dairy farmers are looking to expand to make more profits. Irish farmers who have not been dairying are considering dairy, since it has been the most profitable sector of the Irish economy. Not having Chattel Loans makes this more difficult.

3. Each of the lenders also talked about Guaranteed Loans. USDA’s FSA can guarantee farm loans made by other lenders. This protects the lender in case the borrower cannot repay the loan. This encourages lenders to make loans. Some lenders (like VACC and Yankee, and some private banks) understand how this works and use the guarantees, others do not understand. Several years ago in the economic downturn in Ireland, one bank failed, and the government decided to rescue other banks. ‘The lads’ did not think that the average person in Ireland would be in favor of guaranteed loans at this time.

4. Yankee Farm Credit is a cooperative, owned and run by farmers who have loans from Yankee. (Yankee also provides various financial services to farmers- members and non-members alike.) There is no coop farm lender in Ireland, but there are credit unions. While we were visiting with people at Yankee in White River Junction, one of ‘the lads’ thought that maybe local Irish credit unions would be interested in and able to lend to area farmers for chattel loans.

These were just a few of the ideas on their list to bring back to Ireland. In a few weeks, I hope to share what is going on in Ireland with farm business plans.

Will Irish Grass-Based Beef Imports Swallow up the Niche?

What do we think will happen to beef markets? Traditionally we have had smaller producers in VT that often have higher costs of production, processing and distribution. But we have also seen a good deal of innovation in rotational grazing and grass-based beef producers that are able to target customers seeking the various attributes of a grass-based meat. But we can’t lose sight of our competition. Ireland has excelled at all forms of grass based farming, including dairy and beef.Grass-finished beef is the commodity beef in Ireland, it’s the norm.

Check out this article about Irish beef setting their sights on US markets

Northern Ireland: State of the Art Demonstration Greenmount

Today we spent the day visiting with “technologists” and seeing their state of the art demonstration farm at the Greenmount Campus. College of Agriculture, Farms and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) at Greenmount provides various levels of vocational, technical and advanced agriculture degree programs in Northern Ireland. have just completed work on a nee dairy demonstration facility. The 150 cow herd has moved off grazing land and into the barn for the winter season. The facility features padded floors at key spots, robotic alley cleaners and an innovative manure/urine separator floor (see image below). The floor scraper separates urine and manure to reduce the mixing that promotes ammonia volatilization. They expect this is several years ahead of an industry that is soon approaching numerous innovations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on farms.

low ammonia alley scraper

low ammonia alley scraper

On the greener side, we saw horticulture demonstrations, testing numerous late season and winter ornamental crops that could add off season cash flow to nursery and greenhouses. It is not uncommon here for a live

stock farm to also manage an ornamental hoop house for another source of income. Crops include: ornamental cabbage, winter rose and cyclamen(see below)


Ireland today September 29, 2013


Local high school vo-ag students, Jim White is on far right

Local high school vo-ag students, Jim White is on far right

Jim and Teresa White know how to raise heifers.  They just won the National Heifer Rearing Competitionhere in Ireland.  There was a farm walk at their farm in County Tipperary on the 10th of September.     


Calves at the White's farm

Calves at the White’s farm

What is unusual about the White’s farm is not that they weigh calves and heifers 4 or 5  times per year.  What is unusual is that then they do something about it!  They remove the quarter of the animals that are the smallest and put them into their own group.  These heifers get special treatment:  extra feed and the freshest paddocks.    


Jim's milking herd
The White’s milking herd

 Jim and his wife have a milking herd of 106 cows, mostly Friesian, with some Jersey crosses.  They produce spring milk, so their herd is dried off for about 6 weeks, starting in December.  One of their big goals is ‘compact calving.’  They are able to have 78% of their herd freshen within 6 weeks, starting on January 14.  In order to do this, they must really concentrate on breeding cows within a short period of time.  Cows that do not fit the calendar are culled.  (These might be great cows for someone else’s dairy herd).  They also select bulls with shorter gestation periods. 

Emer Kennedy, Teagasc calf specialist

Emer Kennedy, Teagasc calf specialist

Calves get a good start: they are offered 3 quarts of colostrum within the first hour of birth, the first half hour is their goal, and the calves usually drink 2 quarts or a little more. Then Jim and Teresa continue to take top care of them. Calves are weaned when they are double their birth weight.  The goal is to have the heifers at 60% of their mature weight by 13-14 months to begin breeding so they freshen at 24 months of age. 

George Ramsbottom and James Mullane, Teagasc

George Ramsbottom and James Mullane, Teagasc

The Whites have an interesting system.  They are milking 106 cows now.  But 139 cows and heifers calved this spring and they had 141 calves born.  There were 56 heifers and 58 calves on the farm on the day of the farm walk.  All male calves are sold at about 2 weeks of age, and fresh cows that might not quite fit his breeding program or that have some kind of a problem are culled.  Their goal is to be milking about 150 in 2015, and then raise just enough calves to keep the herd size stable.  They focus on keeping the earliest born calves, with the best genetics, that come from easy-breeding cows for the herd.  And because they have a good herd, other dairy farmers are quite interested in buying dairy cattle from this farm.

Local Vo-Ag students and their teacher

Local Vo-Ag students and their teacher

The Whites attention to detail and is what earned them the Heifer Rearing award.  Feeding colostrum, a vaccination plan, weighing heifers to sort and group them, keeping heifers growing, breeding them to freshen at 24 months, and compact breeding and calving were the main points stressed at the farm walk. 

Farmer's at one of the 'stands'

Farmer’s at one of the ‘stands’

The last ‘stand’ at the farm walk was an opportunity to talk about fodder (forage) budgeting with farmers.  According to a survey done in early September by Teagasc, about 20% of the farms in Ireland are short of hay or silage.  Results further showed the country to be about 8% short.  Teagasc advisors are recommending that farmers count and measure their forage supplies.  Then calculate how many head are on the farm now, and are likely to be on the farm come spring.  Farmers surveyed were counting on 140 day barn-feeding period, which seems like a bit of wishful thinking, as 150 days might be more like it (in Vermont it is more like 200 days).  No matter how long the winter might be, the point is to do some figuring now in order to do some buying of feed or selling of animals.  There is a good supply of straw from the wheat and barley crops that can be fed with haylage in a ration for tail enders and dry cows, in order to stretch the home-grown forage supply.