Bedded pack barn management one of many topics at VA’s 2015 area dairy conferences

CM-MR-2-VA-FARM-CON-1by Karl H. Kazaks

MARION, VA — Virginia Extension recently hosted its 2015 Area Dairy Conference at five locations around the Old Dominion: in Amelia, Dayton, Brandy Station, Rocky Mount and Marion. The program varied at each location, with topics addressed including management strategies to endure adverse scenarios, an update on Virginia Tech’s Kentland Farm, calf auto-feeder management, and an update on the Southeast Quality Milk Initiative. [Read more…]

Soil fertility: getting it right

by Tamara Scully

“Feed the soil to help feed the crops that you want to grow,” Neil Kinsey, soil fertility specialist, advised. “If you just put down what the plants need, you aren’t feeding the soil.”

Feeding the plants does not feed the soil. Growing plants remove essential elements from the soil. If those elements aren’t replaced, and aren’t in balance, then soil fertility is compromised, and crop health and yields will be impacted, Kinsey cautioned.

Just getting the pH right is not nearly enough. The result of the interactions of soil chemistry is pH, and a target pH can be achieved even when the chemistry is out of balance. But when the chemistry is unbalanced, important elements are not available to the plants. [Read more…]

Inconvenient truths about GMOs

CM-MR-2-Inconvenient1253by Steve Wagner

It is now crystal clear that GMOs, topically and acronymically, will be conversational fodder for the next few years and possibly the next decade. Equally clear is the notion that American public understanding, or lack thereof, stems largely from European thinking, especially British attitudes toward the subject. At a farmer’s breakfast in 2013, former PA Ag Secretary George Greig said something that bears repeating and sets a general tone for this discussion. “I think a lot of this comes from Europe because there has been an effort against GMOs in European countries. We’ve met with quite a few different countries including Germany about a month or six weeks ago to form an ag co-op. Their concern is that they won’t be able to produce the food for their population. So they came here to talk to the Department of Agriculture. They also talked to Penn State to see what they could do. They were interested in how we’re keeping up with our population, and still have food to export. I don’t know the answers to what people’s fears are with GMO. There have been studies done at Penn State and the University of Michigan which have stated that conventional food supplies are as safe as organic and non-GMO products. I would say that we have to keep educating our people. Germany’s cash receipts were about a little over a third of what Pennsylvania’s are. In other words, Pennsylvania produced more food, which was enlightening to Germany to learn that they are not quite so big a country as they thought they were.” [Read more…]

Trouble-shooting irrigation ponds

Homeowner treating algae in an irrigation Bill and Mary Weaver

Farm ponds can be both beautiful and functional as irrigation reservoirs. In addition, having a pond can save you about 10 percent on your farm insurance premium, if you install the right type of fire hydrant hookup for your local fire department. “These hook ups cost only a couple hundred dollars to put in,” commented Bryan Swistock, Penn State Water Resources Extension Coordinator. Some regular attention to potential problems can help to keep your pond from causing you headaches. Here are some suggestions from Swistock for irrigation pond owners, starting with ones that could be less obvious until you find yourself clobbered by them. [Read more…]

Making your farm more profitable

CF4-MR-2-DECISION MAKING120by Sanne Kure-Jensen

Make decisions regarding labor management and new equipment investment is something that most farmers face during normal business operations. Chris Blanchard of Purple Pitchfork shared his experience gathering accurate farm costs and production data for investment decisions at the 2014 Beginning Farmer Learning Network Conference recently. The lecture covered ways farmers can track, extrapolate and weigh labor costs and capacity against hiring staff or investing in tractors or other equipment; Using accurate data and careful budget analysis, farmers can maximize profits and make fewer poor decisions. [Read more…]