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The Difficult Growing Season Continues

Adverse conditions for growers have continued through the last two weeks in June. In eastern New York, many of the dairy farms are still making final attempts at planting short day silage corn to supplement their inventories for the coming fall and winter months. Luckily for most dairy farms, the last two years have produced bumper crops that have padded feed inventories, preparing dairymen and women for the potentially poor yields that may ensue after this growing season.

I have been kept busy in the fields scouting, as their is corn staging from V8 stage to corn that is not planted yet. In the V8 corn, we are beginning to look for fungal diseases and pest pressures, while also scouting for any emergency last-minute weed spraying that needs to be done before the canopy closes between the rows. Moving down the staging chart, much of the V6 corn is being side-dressed with Urea before stem elongation begins to take place. Bindweed is continuing to pop up everywhere, and farmers are being notified almost immediately when this trouble weed is found in the field. In the fields that are pre-plant to V6, we are keeping our eyes open for any seedlings coming in, and determining whether or not they have potential to cause issues in the growing process. 

I did not realize coming into my internship that my Class B commercial license would come in handy as much as it has. With spurts of weather being few and far between, when it is time to roll the fertilizer and spray has to be applied- in a hurry. This is where I recently had my first opportunity to both sidedress corn and topdress hay ground. I have covered almost 700 acres on my own at this point in my brand new Vector 300 dry fertilizer spreader truck. 

Though intimidating at first, the truck took little time for me to get used to. I am using the Raven GPS software package for all my different jobs and applications that I have been completing. In the software, I have learned of the number of different variables that need to be taken into account when applying fertilizer. There are five important aspects of the spreader and software that need to be monitored before starting a job. The first is the rate in pounds per acre that will be applied to the field. In order to achieve this rate, you need to have the right density of the material entered into the software, as this will make a difference in how fast the product comes out of the spreader. Another variable is spinner speed, which controls your working width. The last two variables are the door height on the spreader box and the table setting where the fertilizer falls on to the spinners.

I am learning there is a lot that goes into spreading fertilizer, much more than I previously thought. If any of these variables are out of sync, the rate will be off, which may lead to an unhappy farmer. Each job is a new challenge covering new terrain, and it is truly joy!

Summer is in Full Swing!

I cannot believe that today is already the last day of June! These last couple weeks have been quite busy with some awesome hands-on research with the tiestall lameness project and a lot of prep work for upcoming summer events. I usually try to make sure I have plenty of pictures for my blog, so I apologize that this post will be a little slim when it comes to photos.

I said in my earlier blog posts to stay tuned about the tiestall lameness study that I was helping Betsy Hicks with, and the wait is over! We are in full swing and have already put the data loggers on at two different farms. There are five farms total in this round that we are doing. We put the data loggers on while the cows are in the barn so that it is easier for both us and the cows. The data loggers are really small devices. I would describe it as like a watch battery in the way it looks, but is a lot bigger, about the size of a quarter or half-dollar coin. We wrap them each in a high-visibility leg band and a lot of vet wrap so that they hopefully don’t fall off. The picture shows what one of the loggers look like once they are on. We had already sat down and met with the producers to fill out paperwork, so it was now time to start the actually measuring part of the study. The goal of the study is to correlate lying time with lameness on tiestall farms and then present feedback to each farm on ways to improve. When we get to each farm, forty cows are chosen at random to participate. I also take stall measurements throughout the barn and record information about that, while Betsy goes down the line and does some different scoring, like hygiene and body condition. We also look at each animal’s hocks and necks for any injury or swelling from getting up and down in the stalls. I also conduct height and weight measurements on each cow participating. Once all the data loggers are on, they also are scored on locomotion. Each cow is let out of the barn one by one so that they can receive a locomotion score, which is based on how they walk and if a lot of effort is needed or not. There is a reader that stays in the barn for the duration of that farm’s participation that stores all the data for each farm. The data loggers stay on for five days at each farm and then the data is downloaded onto the computer before being reset for the next farm. We have another farm coming up in a couple weeks.

When I’m not busy spending my time in a tiestall barn, I have been doing a lot of prep work for our upcoming summer farm tours and the county fair, which starts on Tuesday, July 4th! I cannot believe that the fair is already here. The South Central Dairy and Field Crops Team puts on quite a few different tours and pasture walks throughout the summer, so I have been working on finalizing details for the tour that I am putting on, as well as making a summer flyer to go out to the area’s producers to provide information to them. The tour that I have been coordinating is a Robot Farm Tour, which includes visiting two different farms during the day and hearing about the ins and outs of each facility and how this technology is beneficial to their operation. It’ll be neat to see the crowd that will hopefully come and check it out.

Today is the last day for us to really set up the fairgrounds and get everything ready to go before people start to show up. Putting on the fair is definitely a huge team effort and the 4-H department here in Cortland County puts in a tremendous amount of effort and time to make sure it is a memorable experience for the children. This week I spent some time at the fairgrounds putting up name cards throughout the dairy barn so the kids could start setting up their bedding and display for their animals beforehand, as well as getting all of the fire extinguishers in place. In the office, I’ve been putting together the Dairy Challenge contest, as well as some other odds and ends. The little things really add up! In the picture, I am finishing the poster I made for the 4-H market sale, thanking our sponsors for participating in the auction and buying animals. We also had a clean-up/set-up night, where 4-Hers and their parents come down to help clean up the buildings and set up things like rabbit cages and animal pens.This morning I went and dropped off my eggs at the fairgrounds that I have been incubating since I will be at the fairgrounds this weekend for a different cow show and they are only a few days from HOPEFULLY hatching! What an experience this egg business has been! After I finish this blog, I will head back down to the fairgrounds to drop off a lot of things that we have piled up in the office and set-up the 4-H building so that exhibits the members enter will have a place to go after being judged. Even though the last couple days and the days to come may be hectic and a little stressful, it’ll all be worth it and I could not be more excited!

A long, wet Spring

Black Cutworm

This summer I am interning at Carolina-Eastern Vail, which is a fertilizer and crop service company with several locations in eastern and central New York. They not only sell and apply both fertilizers and pesticides, but they also are a DuPont Pioneer seed distributor. They handle application and distribution of these products to growers from central New York to western New England and everywhere in between. Another service that this company offers is crop scouting to it’s growers, which is a large part of what my internship has been thus far.

Interning in a large dairy area near Salem, NY has allowed me to see many different fields while working with a number of dairymen and women and, this year, observe the effects that a cold, wet spring can have on all crops. Farmers throughout the eastern part of the state have had an incredibly tough start to the growing season, with only about half of the corn being planted as of June 1st. However, conditions have turned around slightly as of late, and agronomists at CaroVail believe at this point that most farmers have stopped planting, with the exception of some shorter day silage corns.

One of the many pests I observed early in the spring is pictured above, and that is black cutworm. This creature tends to show up in stands of corn where there was a rye cover crop, or old grass sod that was turned under. The cutworm feeds on the root systems of the grass and rye, and then after the cover crop is killed, resort to the corn crop. They are easier to find during the night or in the early morning hours, as they do most of their feeding at night.


Another pest that I have been tracking heavily in corn this spring is bindweed. Bindweed is a perennial that grows in a vine and can devastate corn crops. It has a tendency to form a green wall on the stand of corn, making the corn damaging to any harvesting equipment. It can pop up anywhere, grows fast, and is very resilient to herbicide injury. This is definitely a weed to lookout for!

As the growing season continues, the weather is beginning to straighten out, and the fields are starting to dry up (for the most part). It will be interesting to see what mother nature has in store for the rest of the summer.

All About Ag!

I spent a lot of time the last couple of weeks out of the office and out in the field. With finally some nice weather, I was so glad to be able to spend many of my days outdoors! One of the main events that we had is called Agstravaganza. Agstravaganza is a two-day event held at the county fairgrounds. About a dozen fourth grade classes from the area schools come each day to learn about all of the different avenues of agriculture. I ran a station about 4-H and why agriculture is important to us, as well as played a few agriculture-based games. It is a really great way for students to learn about what agriculture is and everything that is included in it.

Then, the following week the local fifth grade classes had a field trip again put on by Cooperative Extension at a local dairy farm. The McMahon’s own E-Z Acres, where they milk around 700 Holstein cows. Again, this two-day event provides the ins and outs of a dairy farm with the classes visiting around ten stations throughout the farm, ranging from hoof trimming to equipment and soil health. I ran the calf station, where the students learned about calf housing, nutrition and the life of a calf on the farm. It was a really fun experience sharing knowledge that I am passionate about and spreading the importance of dairy and agriculture to the students.

This past week, I spent most of my afternoons out in corn fields getting a sunburn (I forgot sunscreen!). Janice, the fields crop specialist, has three different cornfields that we are doing research on this summer. Each field has fifteen plots, with each plot having either 36 or 24 rows in each, depending on the size of the field. Different fungicides and amounts will be sprayed on the different plots; the first field being sprayed today. It was my job this week to visit all of the fields and measure plant populations on all of the plots in each field. While it might seem like a simple task, it was quite time consuming. I had to do three populations in each plot and there were fifteen plots per field. That’s a lot of measuring! The different plots are divided out by the flags, as you can see in the picture.

The best, yet most intimidating thing in the last couple weeks are the chicken eggs that are currently in my spare bedroom. The eggs themselves are not at all intimidating, who doesn’t love little chicken eggs! What is intimidating is that I’m in charge of hatching them! Each year for the county fair we hatch eggs for the 4-H building so that the kids can see them throughout fair week. It takes 21 days for them to hatch, so for the days that are left, I’m in charge. That’s a lot of pressure, I hope I don’ t mess it up somehow! Until next time, stay tuned for my next blog and hopefully the eggs will still be in tact!

Let the New Adventures Begin!

This summer I am spending my time in Cortland County, working in the Cornell Cooperative Extension Office. I just officially finished my first week and it is off to a great start! The neat thing is that I am not only working in one avenue of extension, but many. My sole focus for the summer is education, both youth and adult. A lot of my time here will be with the 4-H educator, Rebecca Ireland-Perry, where I am working on different lesson plans and workshops with local recreation programs and the county’s camp, Camp Owahta, where I will be doing livestock lesson plans with the kids each week. Also, I will be heavily involved with the county fair, which is less than a month away! That’s not all, though! The South Central Dairy and Field Crops Team is also based out of the same office. I will also be working with Betsy Hicks, the area dairy specialist and Janice Degni, the team leader and field crop specialist. The big summer project with Betsy is a tiestall lameness study, so stay tuned throughout the weeks!

I have already gotten the opportunity to get my hands-on experience in many different areas of agriculture. Memorial day weekend, I was able to spend at the county fairgrounds. The walls in the 4-H building at the fairgrounds are getting a “facelift” so I spent most of Saturday working on putting up the new walls and basic carpentry. I had little to no experience with tools, just the basics like a hammer and drill, so this was an awesome opportunity to learn. I want to teach agriculture education, so this was a great lesson in a different part of agriculture and vocational education. My favorite part was using the air nailer, as you can see in the picture! Also during that weekend, the state goat show was going on at the fairgrounds, so the 4-H Teen Council group had the food booth open, so on Sunday I helped out with that.

A few weekends prior to the end of the semester, I was able to sort of start my internship a little early, with the annual Dairy Rodeo, and what a fitting name this is to the event. It is an all-day event where the 4-H kids are given a day to train, clip and show their animal. In the morning, a couple areas farms bring thirty or so calves and each kid gets a calf. I then did a showmanship demonstration for the members and another individual did a clipping demo to show the kids the proper way to clip their animal. Then then have the rest of the afternoon to wash, clip and train their animal to walk. I spent the day in the show ring helping the kids get their animals to walk and gave them pointers on their showmanship techniques. Then, at around 5:30 or so, the “mock show” began. The classes for the show were divided up based on age and I was the official judge. I placed them beginning with a first place winner and then went through the group and said what they did well and what to improve on given the circumstances. All of the 4-H members did a great job given the circumstances; there are a lot of calves who only want to run and some that don’t want to move, so it is a long day for both the kids and the calves, but definitely a learning experience for both!

Like I mentioned earlier, with Betsy Hicks, the area dairy specialist, we are working on a tiestall lameness study this summer, where we will be measuring lameness, the size of stalls and overall body condition scores, along with other specific parameters. This past week we went out and met with a farmer who will be participating in the study and sat down with her to find out specific information about her barn and farm. The team is also doing a few different farm tours this summer, one of them being a heifer barn facility tour. On Friday of this past week, we went out and visited a few farms to invite them to host one of the tours of their facilities.

I have a feeling this summer will be very diverse in the different departments that I am involved with, but they are all things that greatly excite me! Like they say “Experience is the teacher of all things.” Until next time, stay tuned!

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