Category Archives: recycling

Farm Visit and Meeting

I am excited to say that I am going to get time to go spend on another Jersey Farm today! Lawton’s, who are some of my favorite people around, have a 75 milking cow herd of the most beautiful jerseys!

I have to admit, I feel almost priveledged to be able to go sit down with them for a couple of hours and talk with them about the four generations that have worked the farm. They are lacking ONE year from being in operation 75 YEARS! And I really hope I live to see the day when the celebrate 100!

First thing this morning though, I have to go sit through a bioenergy training class that I am an advisor and instructor for….blah! But, someone needs to do this to educate our local economic development agencies just how important agriculture is to the renewable energy sector and local economic development. Too many times, these agencies won’t talk anything agriculture. I am hoping that these monthly classes (that have been going on for almost a year) have changed the mind sets of the staff. I don’t get paid to do any of this either. It’s been my commitment to the agriculture sector and hopefully more farm security in the upcoming future. I do it for my neighbors, my friends and yes, even a few of my extended family members.

Do I feel I am an industry leader? In some ways, yes I do. In others, no. I am just trying to do my part to educate and promote agriculture. Too many people don’t understand the full diversity of how important our farm land is. It isn’t only about food production anymore. It’s about food, fiber, and energy. It’s not all about the little guys and girls like me, it’s about doing what is best for the environment. It’s about using left over waste products and land that isn’t valued for the food system. There are so many different aspects that most people just don’t grasp. Maybe the whole concept is just too big…another reason why this program is taking a year already and I am sure at least another to begin actual projects.

It takes time to get people to open their minds and sometimes their eyes to see the world around them. We don’t live in a concrete jungle, not all of us anyway. We live in wide open spaces where we watch the birds come in to nest. We watch wildflowers bloom and cover fields in a sea of purples, blues, yellows and whites. We watch as deer, turkey and geese walk across fields looking for food to forage. We sit along creek banks and ponds watching the fish swim and jump. It is just a different way of life that needs preservation. It’s that way of life that keeps me passionate about everything I do.

So for now…I am off to the concrete jungle to talk about nature’s finest moments and how agriculture works together with nature to provide us the stuff we need….would rather be watching that new calf out running in the pasture along side his mother but, sometimes we all have to make sacrifices for the greater good!

Peace to all and God bless you!

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Farm Shows

Well, on Friday, Mr. Farmer and I attended the NY Farm Show in Syracuse, NY. I spent my morning listening through a seminar on gas leasing and the information research gathered through three individuals across the state.

Once I was done taking my notes (which will be used for next weeks edition of a Lancaster Farming article) I got to spend some time walking around and chatting with some different people.

First stop…….the youth food booth for a cup of hot coffee! Then it was on to look at the new Jaylor Mixers! We have been thinking about getting one of these to use as our herd expands. It was nice to actually stand on one, see the size of it in person and ask some questions. We are looking at the self propelled unit, which should provide a Total Mixed Ration (TMR) in enough quantity to feed all of our upcoming herd. It is the only mini-mixer with a steel tub, not a poly tub.

The next stop was to start looking at different mixtures for seedings for our new pasture mixes. We found three that are shelf-ready and two that would have to be custom mixed. We are going to be looking through these mixes now with the nutrienist to make sure that which ever one we use for our intensive grazing during the summer months will have the proper balance for our herd of Jersey cows.

Then it was on to look at some of the corn seeds that are coming online and have been referred to us by one of our contacts at Cornell. . . I will post more on this as time comes.

I had a great conversation with Chris Fesko about what she is doing and she informed me that she has planned her first open house of the year again this year for Mother’s Day weekend. I encourage you to take time reading about what she is doing and maybe even booking some time to go spend a day on her farm.

Then it was off to talk with the great folks who farm and sell their milk through Agrimark. Agri-Mark farmers take pride in their Cabot and McCadam products and have the toughest milk quality standards in the market. Now that sounds like a group I can get involved with. Quality over quantity! Sounds good to me!

Then it was off to talk fencing….phew boy are there a ton of options out there! Time for me to put a bunch of thought into what we are going to do. Five strand high tensile is looking better everyday with some extremely high voltage around the perimeter fencing……….More on this coming soon!

We also got to see my Canadian friend Jasmin from Energrow Inc. too! She is so much fun to talk to and I love seeing her. Her and I could have a ton of fun together if we lived closer together. But all kidding aside…you all really need to go take a look at their machinery that turns soybeans and other oil based crops into oil and meal. This is a must have piece of machinery as we move forward with our expansions….AND I can’t wait to get it!

There was plenty more to see and do…but I think the funniest and most serious thing I saw was the Farm Show poll on how the attendees would vote for the current canidates for president.

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Know Your Food

I stumbled upon this video documentary this morning about the importance of knowing your food. Is Organic better? Is buying Local Sustainably produced better?

If you are asking yourself these questions, please take the time to view and watch this video.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/32845880″>LOCAL – A Short Documentary</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/christianremde”>Christian Remde</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Manure

After sitting through a webinar yesterday about new things happening in the world of agriculture, I decided that today would be a good day to take a look at manure. Manure is one of those things that can either be used effectively and can be beneficial for the environment OR by abusing it’s use it can create water contamination and have detrimental effects on the environment.

What is manure?

Manure is well…poop from animals.

It contains undigested pieces of corn and other grains , bits and pieces of undigested hay and the waste from digested foods. Manure from animals really isn’t that different from human feces, other than the animals diet is much less complex and doesn’t vary in what foods are eaten. They eat the same basic ingredients for 2 or 3 meals a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Hays from grasses, silage from corn and grains.

Poultry poop is a little different. It can be dropped in spots between the size of a dime up to the diameter of about a quarter (25 cents). It is high in nitrogen but doesn’t contain bits of what they eat. The color of the manure may change if they are allowed to roam a pasture to a darker green in color but if they are housed inside and feed a grain diet the manure will be a lighter green to almost brown color. And of course, lets not forget that little white spot on top. I am still not sure why they do that!

The principal value of manure is its extended availability of nitrogen within the soil.

Now, that you have manure: What do you do with it? How is it used?

What the farm does with it really depends on the size of the farm and what type of animals are there.

Small farms like us will usually clean the barns daily and pile the manure into a compost pile. That pile is turned with the bucket on the front of the tractor. Our compost piles also contain bedding materials like wheat straw, poultry manure and wood shaving from the barn floor and nest boxes.

Farmers who have more animals than I do, typically have a manure spreader and will spread the manure upon fields that will be planted into crops or used for hay. How often they spread the manure depends on the size of the farm. The other farm I work on has a 76 head barn that the manure gets spread twice per day. I know of another one with about 25 head that spreads every two days. Farms of this size are currently allowed daily spreading of manure, even during the winter months.

Larger farms with more than 200 head of cows need to have a manure management plan in effect. You can think of this as a map with written direction on field locations and when the fields will be spread. The plan also includes, on larger farms, manure storage and transportation. Most of the larger farms also have a manure storage of some sort. Some of the older farms have in-ground pits that look much like a small ponds while others have recently incorporate the use of concrete “pools”. The manure is then pumped out of the unit and spread, as needed on fields as a fertilizer.

A few of the larger farms, which I am going to estimate the head count at 1,000 plus, have added ponds or pits with a covering. That covering allows for the materials to compost down, much like I do on my farm but it has an enclosure over the top of the area. That enclosure will usually have a capture unit on the top that will transport the gases released form the composting process (methane) to a storage unit or a unit that generates electricity. After the material has decomposed it will become a liquid, without the smell of traditional manure, that is then applied as a fertilizer to the field.

How is manure a fertilizer?

Manure is an excellent fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other nutrients that are needed for plant growth. Nutrient content and the rate nitrogen becomes available for plant use depends upon the source, moisture content, storage and handling. Manure also adds organic matter to the soil which may improve soil structure, aeration, soil moisture-holding capacity and water infiltration.

To determine how much manure is needed the nutrient content and the nitrogen rate needs to be estimated. Moisture content is a major consideration. For example: Moisture content of fresh manure is around 75-80%; air-dried is around 9-15%. As manure dries, the nutrients concentrate on a weight basis but also on a volume basis. Urine nitrogen can evaporate into the air at a rate up 50% or more.

Knowing the basic information on manure is important so you know what to spread on which locations based off the nutriental requirements of the crops and what nutrients are held within the soil. The soil values are determined by doing soil sample tests at different locations within a field.

Available nitrogen from complete organic compounds, such as bedding materials, is released gradually. You can think of this like a slow release pain medication you would take. The slow release of nitrogen is the manure’s most important asset as it extends the nitrogen available within the soil and reduces leaching problems.

The basic guidelines are to apply enough manure to meet the first year need for available nitrogen. After that, you decrease the amounts applied the following years due to carry-over nitrogen released from previous applications. If applying manure from poultry, the nitrogen release at a rate of approximately 90% the first year. Fresh manure that contains both urine and solids with a high amount of urea releases approximately 75% of the total nitrogen in year one. Solid manures release much slower with a rate of approximately 35% of the total nitrogen released during the first year.

Improper Use and Disadvantages to Using Manure as Fertilizer:

If the same rates of manure are applied every year, a field that may have originally been low in nitrogen can become unnecessarily high over the following years. This can cause contamination of water supplies (I will discuss this more on Monday’s blog) and create additional issues throughout the whole farm. Excess nutrients, whether in the form of manure or synthetic fertilizer, can run off or leach into the environment and contaminate streams, lakes, and wells.

Weed seeds are also common in manures. Fewer are found in Poultry manure due to the effective digestion of the animals. Seeds in manures can come through feed, litter or just blown into an area (think dandelion seeds). The seeds can pass through the digestive tract still viable. High rates of weed seeds within manure could result in the potential use of Round-up to kill the weed growth. Composted or stockpiled manure will reduce the number of viable seeds within the manure.

Manure also contains 4-5% soluble salts on a dry weight basis but can run as high as 10%. An application of manure containing 5% salt of 5 tons adds approximately 500 lbs of salt to the soil. Irrigation and rain water will assist with the leach process in well-drained soils, preventing salt accumulations. Salts in poorly drained soils, soils with salinity issues and/or high application rates need to pay close attention around new growth plants.

Too much manure application can cause P (phosphorus) and K (potassium) to accumulate in soils with a history of manure applications, and may eventually reach excessive levels. Excess levels of soil P can increase the amount of P in runoff, increasing the risk of surface water degradation. Many crops can handle high levels of K, but livestock can be harmed by nutrient imbalances if they consume a diet of forages with high K level.

I don’t claim to be an expert by any means on the actual values within manures. This is why soil sampling is very important. Soil sampling and advice from a soil adviser ensure that you are applying the proper balance of nutrients to the soil.

 

Bioenergy and Agriculture

As many of you already know, I have been working for the past two and a half years on developing more bioenergy usage within my region. Not for many of the reasons that most people think either.

I work in this industry, pushing for the additional option to farmers and landowners. To some folks, there is no understanding of what bioenergy is exactly. You may have the basic concept that it comes from biological materials and in that aspect, you are correct. Bioenergy can be defined as an alternative energy produce from living materials.

You can break bioenergy into three basic concepts. The following PDF document will help you see the potential uses of the three separate categories.
Bioenergy through Agriculture

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be compiling a flow chart for the different industries that can potentially be impacted and see economic variations through a bioenergy energy sector. The first one that I will be focusing on is Biogas. Some of you are already familiar with biogas, since it is something that we all hear about (both good and bad) within Ag.

Biogas is nothing more than harnessed Methane. But, some of you still have some questions about how methane can be used to produce energy. I will give you just an overview of those answers when I compile them into an additional tag along slideshow.

I think it is important for all farms, large and small, to consider the benefit potentials of Methane in the energy cycle. This is one of the reason why I will openly share the compiled documents and answer any questions that may arise to the best of my ability.

I hope that you find these pages informative and helpful. If not, please comment on how we can improve these pages so that the “general public” will get a better understanding of how agriculture is for the future of energy within the US.