Birds, Bees, and Beneficial Bugs in Our Livestock Systems

Join UVM Extension specialists for two farm tours this summer to learn about ways to enhance bird, bee and beneficial insect habitats in your rotational grazing systems.

Friday, June 9, 2023 from 10 a.m. − 12 p.m. at Owl’s Head Farm, 263 Blueberry Farm Road, Richmond, VT

Wednesday, July 19, 2023 from 10 a.m. − 12 p.m. at Rebop Farm, 1320 Sunset Lake Road, Brattleboro, VT

TO REGISTER: Call or email Kelsie Meehan at 802-656-4829 or

Check out the event flyer for more information!

FAP Program Application’s are due by June 15th

The grass has been growing fast and many folks are starting to get cows out on pasture. Before things get too crazy, don’t forget to submit your Farm Agronomic Practices Program rotational grazing application through the VT Agency of Agriculture. Applications are due by June 15th. If you’ve never applied, don’t worry! All the information you need regarding eligibility, payments, and the application requirements can be found at The application is simple and you can always reach out to us for help.

Eligible Practices for FAP Payments:

  • Cover Cropping
  • Crop to Hay
  • Crop to Hay with Nurse crop
  • No Till
  • No Till Pasture and Hayland Renovation
  • Rotational Grazing
  • Manure Injection
  • Educational or Instructional Activities

Influence of Cutting Height on Forage Quality

Harvest management is an integral component of producing high-quality forage. Often harvest timing and speed are discussed but equally important is the cutting height. While many grazing farmers have adopted the practice of leaving more un-grazed material in the pasture, many hay fields are still harvested as low as possible. This, in combination with frequent harvesting, can stress stands causing loss in density, which can lead to declines in productivity, quality, and allow for weeds to proliferate. Furthermore, with more erratic rainfall patterns often leading to long periods of drought during the summer months, cutting at a higher height can help the plants recover faster and keep the ground cooler during these conditions following harvest. Understandably, farmers are harvesting low to harvest as much dry matter per acre as possible. But at what cost? Is the additional dry matter worth it?

In 2022, the University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program initiated a trial evaluating the impacts of varying cutting heights on forage yield and quality, as well as regrowth rates to better understand this trade-off. Check out results from year 1 of the study, Influence of Cutting Height on Forage Quality and Productivity, linked here.

Time to evaluate your forage stands for winter injury!


Our harsh winter environment in northern New England can be surprisingly damaging to the plants we grow. Conditions like freeze/thaw events with fluctuating temperatures or desiccation due to lack of water can be a main driver for winter injury or winter kill. Perennial forage stands, particularly alfalfa, are no exception. Therefore, it is crucial to assess your forage fields early in the spring for signs of damage.


First and foremost, it is most important to determine if your field(s) was impacted by the winter weather. Check your fields for…

  • Stands that are slow to green up. If other fields in your area are starting to grow and yours are still brown those stands should be checked for injury or death.
  • Uneven growth patterns as that may also indicate damage.

The best way to diagnose damage is by examining the plant roots in a suspect field. To do this, walk diagonally across a field and at regular intervals (every 4 to 5 paces) dig up a shovel full of plants (4 to 6 inches deep) and examine their roots. The roots of each plant should be firm and the interior color should be white or cream colored. If the roots are soft and the interior yellow to brownish in color it most likely was wintered killed. For alfalfa, the majority of crown buds should be white or pink and firm throughout the bud.


Winter injured stands will require different management than healthy stands if they are to stay in production. If winter injury is evident consider the following:

  • Allow alfalfa plants to mature longer before cutting. This will help the plants rebuild needed energy for future production. Increasing the cutting height may also help stands recover. Lastly do not cut winter injured stands late in the fall this will allow them to build up more reserves before winter.
  • If a significant loss of alfalfa was seen in a predominantly grass stand, then you could manage it for grass. This will work best if the grass species are predominated by tall growing species. If the grass is less than 10 inches tall, it may still be economical to apply 50 pounds of N per acre to boost yield and protein. If the grass stand is predominately lower yielding forage, you may want to consider replanting.
  • If the alfalfa stand was only partially injured (25 to 50 %) interseeding (with a no-till or grain drill) with a quick germinating forage could provide additional production. When dealing with winter injured stands, it is particularly important to adequately fertilize and to control for weed competition.


If your stand was over 50 % killed, you may consider replanting. There are several forage choices depending on your needs or goals.

  • Is your forage needed early/mid-summer? A small grain/field pea mixture will be the best choice. Harvest when the small grain is at late boot stage. This will allow enough time to replant the perennial forages during late summer if desired.
  • Are you looking to optimize full season forage production? Corn silage will be the best choice for that. If corn silage is planted by the end of June, it will normally out yield most other forages however you risk lower quality forage.
  • Are you planting mid-June to early July? Consider planting a summer annual grass. These forages should be harvested when they reach approximately 30 inches and will typically be harvested twice. Selecting varieties with the Brown Mid Rib (BMR) gene can increase the fiber digestibility of the forage.

For more information on winter injury, see the resources below:

  1. Evaluating and Managing Winter Forage Stands for Winter Injury, UVM:
  2. Planning Ahead for Winter Injury in Forages, UNH:
  3. Spring Oats Offer Fast Forage, Hay & Forage:
  4. Guide to Using Annual Forages in the Northeast:

It’s time for Frost Seeding!

Spring is right around the corner, but it isn’t too late to think about forage improvements! Frost seeding is a simple practice that can help improve pasture and hay field yield, quality, and composition over time. The general principle of frost seeding is to broadcast forage seed onto pastures or hay fields in early spring when the ground freezes at night and thaws during the day. The time is now! Below are some helpful tips for successful frost seeding.

Manage your expectations:  Frost seeding will not look like a new seeding. New plants will grow over time and hard seed may sit around for a while until conditions are right. The first year you may not notice a huge difference but frost seeding a little bit each year around your farm can help maintain stands and avoid the need to do costly and extensive reseeding.

Limit competition:  Frost seeding will be more successful where the seed can easily reach the soil surface, making seed to soil contact. Fields that have a lot of bare ground showing or where you have grazed or mowed very short will be more successful than fields with lots of residue or thatch covering the ground. Remember for seed to germinate it needs good seed to soil contact.  

Be ready to go when the conditions are right:  At this time of year, conditions can fluctuate quickly. Be ready! Walk your fields and decide which are the best candidates for frost seeding and which species you’d like to seed. When the snow is gone or mostly gone and the ground is freezing at night but thawing during the day, you should frost seed. Sandy soils that don’t heave and shrink under these conditions are generally poor candidates for frost seeding.

Strategic species selection:  To be ready when the weather is ready, you must select your species and purchase seed ahead of time. Frost seeding is more successful with legumes and grasses that can germinate quickly in cool temperatures. Red and white clovers are generally the most successful legumes while perennial ryegrass and orchard grass are relatively successful grasses.

Equipment options:  Frost seeding is often done with seeders mounted on ATVs, or a tractor-mounted or handheld broadcast seeder. When frost seeding with a broadcast seeder, make sure to first determine the effective seeding width to avoid possible overlap of seed. Although not always necessary, a disk or cattle can help incorporate the seed into the soil. A no-till drill can be used but this will increase the number of trips across the field.

ATV with seeder mounted on back.

More information on frost seeding can be found at:

Happy spring and happy seeding!

2022 Organic Black Bean Seeding Rate Trial’s results are in!

In 2022 the UVM Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program conducted a new research trial to investigate the impact of black bean seeding rate on crop productivity and weed suppression under different tillage regimes. Planting dry beans into rolled down rye can reduce weed pressure but can also result in reduced seed yields because of reduced stands. Increasing the dry bean seeding rate at planting could make up for the lower emergence in no-till systems.

At Borderview Research Farm (Alburgh, VT), black beans were planted at 60, 120, 180, 240, and 300,000 plants ac-1 in both a conventional tillage and a no-till system. For the no-till system, cereal rye was planted the previous fall and was rolled down prior to dry bean planting. Overall, black beans that were no-till planted into cereal rye had reduced yields and increased weed pressure (Figure 1). Increasing the seeding rate of black beans did increase yields but there was no significant impact on weed suppression (Figure 2). The timing of cover crop termination is crucial. High rye biomass at termination made it difficult to cut through with the no-till planter and good seed to soil contact is very important especially for dry beans. This trial is being repeated in 2023 to better understand the impact of seeding rate and tillage regime on black bean performance.

Read the full 2022 Organic Black Bean Seeding Rate Trial research report on our website! While you are there, be sure to check out the 2022 Organic Dry Bean Variety Trial research report as well.

This project was done in collaboration with Cornell University and is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Federal Award No. 2021-38640-34688, Subaward No. 142258-21558.

Check out recordings of our two recent webinars on Growing Dry Beans in the Northeast and The Basics of Dry Bean Production.

2023 Vermont Organic Dairy Producers Conference

Join us on March 9, 2023 for the 11th annual Vermont Organic Dairy Producers Conference! The event will be held at Vermont Technical College, Judd Hall, 124 Admin Drive, Randolph Ctr, VT 05061 with registration starting at 9:00 a.m. Conference will be 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

We are happy to be in-person again for this annual conference! This year we will start with a presentation on improved pasture management using satellite imagery with Organic Valley’s Dr. Greg Brickner, followed by a presentation on organic dairy farm management decisions with Sarah Flack, consultant, and Jen Miller from NOFA-VT. The morning will end with research updates from UVM Extension’s Heather Darby and Sara Ziegler.

The afternoon will include a presentation on managing high feed costs in 2023 with Bill Kipp, an independent dairy consultant, as well as hearing from UVM’s John Barlow on housing, bedding, and mastitis risk. UVM postdoctoral research fellow Bryony Sands will share her research on parasite management and the pasture ecosystem. Dr. Brickner will complete the day with a presentation on health issues during the grazing season.

Certified Crop Adviser CEU credits and VAAFM Water Quality Education credits will be available.

Registration is $25 per person and includes lunch. Register online at


The results are in! 2022 Organic Dry Bean Variety Trial

In 2022, the Northwest Crops and Soils Team evaluated 27 organic dry bean varieties to identify those best suited for organic production in the Northeast. Dry bean varieties were from a wide range of market classes, including black, navy, pinto, small red, and heirloom or specialty varieties. Varieties were evaluated for direct harvestability, yield, and pest and disease resistance. Read the full 2022 Organic Dry Bean Variety Trial report here!

Don’t forget! The UVM Extension NWCS Team and Cornell University are hosting two webinars on dry bean production in the Northeast. You can still register for the second webinar, The Basics of Dry Bean Production, that takes place on Friday March 3rd from 12-1:30pm and will feature Scott Bales from Michigan State University. He will be covering dry bean production from field preparation to harvest. View the event flyer here! If you missed the first webinar which took place on Friday February 17th, you can view the recording here.

This is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture NE SARE under federal award number 2021-38640-34668.

2023 No-Till and Cover Crop Conference

UVM Extension invites farmers, technical advisers, agricultural providers, consultants, and others to attend the 2023 No-Till and Cover Crop (NTCC) Conference on Thursday, March 2, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Burlington, VT!

This event is dedicated to no-till and cover crop systems for field crop growers. Visit with sponsoring ag businesses, farmers, organizations, consultants, agencies and Extension.

Registration is $75 per person and $50 per student and can be done online at before Friday, February 24. If you cannot register online, please call the UVM Non-Credit Registration Office at 802-656-8407.

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