by Troy Bishopp

KNOXBORO, NY – When farmers get together to talk shop, it’s a practical, honest dialogue of reality down on the farm. However, like a box of chocolates, you never quite know what you’re going to get.

Sam Yoder, Oneida County’s Cornell Cooperative Extension agronomy specialist, Dairy & Livestock Educator Marylynn Collins and Jeff Miller hosted a casual meeting of local dairy and field crop producers on a Knoxboro dairy farm.

As always, the weather and staying flexible with cropping practices were on the minds of farmers after a rough 2019 season. Yoder chronicled his journey into no-till farming practices since 2003 when he transitioned his soybean fields into cover crops and then into wheat. “Patience and learning what works on your farm are virtues to be practiced,” said Yoder.

He talked about planting seven acres after wheat harvest this year to “Ray’s Crazy Mix” (a 10-way seed mixture from Kings Agri-Seed Co.) while adding sorghum and buckwheat to get soil health services from diverse plants and late season feed for his bred heifers. The $40/acre annual forage was strip-grazed with portable fence which fed the animals for several weeks. Miller stressed the advantage of cover crops in reducing soil erosion and feeding the microbes while improving soil tilth.

Crop farmers, including Howard Regner from Vernon, said they are also experimenting with tillage radishes and red clover mixes and inter-seeding rye into standing corn. Crop rotation decision-making becomes critical as weather extremes test the resolve of all farmers in this region. According to the group, geese like the succulent seedlings too and can reduce yield.

Munnsville dairy farmer Roy Meeker said he has planted triticale for the first time to get some early forage for his cows in 2020 as the wet weather of 2019 plays on his mind.

All agreed that the weather is profoundly changing the crop sequences, forage chains and tools used to prepare a seedbed and control weeds. They are looking to improve their organic matter levels, reduce tillage, add precision fertility, keep an eye out for Roundup weeds such as marestail and continue to learn about soil health practices. “Utilizing a seasoned, independent set of eyes like Jeff Miller is an invaluable resource for our county,” said Yoder. “We are all in this together as a farming community.”

Collins reminded dairy farmers of the new animal care standards within the “FARM” Program (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management). “The FARM Animal Care Program Version 4.0 slated for January 1 doubles down on calf care, especially the practice of disbudding,” said Collins.

According to the organization’s press release, “Significant changes going into effect beginning Jan. 1 include: If tail docking is found to have continued to occur, immediate action must be taken to cease the practice. Standards that generate a Mandatory Corrective Action Plan – ranging from veterinarian engagement (Veterinarian-Client-Patient-Relationship and herd health plan review), calf care, non-ambulatory, euthanasia and fitness to transport management practices, and disbudding prior to 8 weeks of age – will need to be addressed within nine months of the evaluation.” For guidance, visit .

Shop meetings are free to attend and offer an opportunity to gain information and knowledge while networking with fellow producers. For more information on what was discussed at this meeting, contact Oneida County CCE at 315.736.3394 ext. 132 or