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Week #3: Tatura Research Center (DEDJTR)

Week #3: DEDJTR Tatura

Day #1:  I arrived early in the morning.  The first day was mostly spent meeting all the staff of the research facility, and the Murray-Dairy industry research group.  This was one of my favorite places throughout the whole trip.  All the employees were very, very friendly and easy going.  I answered all the usual questions about being American and my opinions on Trump, and then settled into my desk for the week.  The last couple hours of the day were spent learning about, and then using, an online, open-source farm mapping software.

Day #2:  Woke up bright and early for the day I planned on spending with Harriet from Murray-Dairy.  She picked me up somewhere around 7am in the morning, and we then drove three and a half hours to a dairy farm that had some research paddocks.  They also used the Rubicon pipe and riser flood irrigation equipment and software.  We were there to measure the growth rates of about 10-12 paddocks.  We used a cool device that was attached to the front of a golf cart so that when we drove through the paddocks it measured density, height of grass, and possible weight.  The device wasn’t built for ryegrass and clover paddocks though, so with these we had to cut samples each time we took a measurement so we could set a benchmark to work with when the data was analyzed.

Day #3:  On day three I toured the horticulture part of the research center.  I first saw the stone fruit orchards, where they were investigating varied irrigation rates on 3 different propagation systems.  One of which, called the Tatura Open trellis, I had seen used in vineyards across American and Australia before.  It was nice to see where the concept had originated sometime in the 1970’s.  After the stone fruit orchard, I went and saw the pear research plot, where I helped measure shoot growth after the plants were pruned using a wide range of techniques.  I then helped sort and measure those cut shoots for fiber and nutrient content.

Day #4:  Day four was spent organizing data from the research stations weather prediction service.  I had to plot the predicted evapotranspiration and rainfall rates against the actual measurements, in order to see how effective they were.  The evapotranspiration predictions were within an acceptable range, but the predicted rainfall was nowhere near the mark.  I wasn’t surprised knowing how accurate the weathermen usually are.  This was one of the things that I found to be most interesting.  Along with on farm automation, rainfall and transpiration rate prediction are likely to be the future of farming technology for the next 10-15 years, and it’s all happening in Australia.

Day #5:  The last day was the most relaxed.  I spent it with the research station hydrologist, who took me to a farm that fully used both Rubicon flood irrigation systems (flood gate and channel, and pipe and riser).  The whole operation was huge, and I wish I’d had more time to learn about how the whole system was managed.  One of the themes I noticed from the trip, is that the farmers who invested in the Rubicon technology had considerable extra time to focus on other dairy farm related activities, instead of spending all 24 hours of the day focused on irrigating.

Late Season Scouting and Looking Towards Harvest

As school moves closer and the summer continues to turn to fall, day to day activities are beginning to wind down at CaroVail. With the last of the corn being side-dressed and the last of the Pioneer returns sent back to Pennsylvania, things are beginning to slow down in terms of product application. With this being said, it is looking like there may be a second wave of potato leaf hopper coming in this neck of the woods, that could put some farmers in a bind. While many farmers have already treated their alfalfa for this neon green pest (pictured in previous post), I have seen many more popping up in the same alfalfa stands that were treated just one cutting ago. This raises concern amongst dairymen and women whom may have already sprayed most, if not all of their alfalfa crops earlier in the summer in defense against the leaf hopper. Growers are hopeful for a cold winter that will set back this pest, that has been unusually persistent this growing season.

There has been a fair amount of leaf disease in corn that I have scouted, as well. This growing season has been a perfect year for fungal diseases to thrive in corn, as a result of the wetness and humidity that has been around thus far. Two diseases that I have come across so far that seem to cause the most damage are gray leaf spot and northern corn leaf blight ( Both Pictured Below).

Gray Leaf Spot

 

Northern Corn Leaf Blight

 

Gray leaf spot is caused by a fungus called cercospora zeae-maydis and affects the leaves of a corn plant. This disease develops into gray rectangular lesions that can be up to four inches long with distinct, parallel edges. This disease can arise from leftover corn fodder, and is more likely to cause problems in fields where corn-corn rotation is prevalent and minimum tillage has taken place.

Northern corn leaf blight, as illustrated in the above photo, is sometimes challenging to tell apart from previously mentioned gray leaf spot. Northern corn leaf blight has similar colored lesions to gray leaf spot, but they have more of an ovular, canoe-like shape than those of leaf spot. This form of blight also overwinters in corn debris, and is caused by the Setosphaeria turcica fungus. Both of these diseases are treated with similar fungicides, and can be devastating to yield if not managed properly and timely.

On the bright side, the hot weather in the past two weeks has helped corn in the east a great deal, and though a long, drawn out harvest season is still in store, yields may be higher than previously anticipated. More to come soon from Empire Farm Days!

Kids and Kows!

The last few weeks I feel like I have been here, there and everywhere, but I have enjoyed myself at each stop along the way! Usually after the county fair is over and done with, summer starts to slow down a little, but not in my case. I have the opportunity to be involved with a lot of different things this summer with Cooperative Extension and I am having a blast at each thing!

The Robot Farm Tour that I spent the summer planning took place on July 20th. This was a daytime event open to other dairy producers and businessmen alike. There were two different farms that we toured throughout the day and between the two, there were probably a dozen or so attendees at the event. In the morning, the tour began at a family farm who has been using robots for only about 4 months. We had the farmers on site to talk about their operation, along with their nutritionist and a representative who does a lot of the major work in building and implementing the robots at the farm. The event was greatly publicized too, which was great. A local news station came to check it out, as well as a writer from Lancaster Farming Newspaper. Here is the link from the news station:

http://www.wbng.com/story/35934777/how-new-technology-could-benefit-local-farms.

Below is the other link, this one is from Lancaster Farming:

http://www.lancasterfarming.com/farming/dairy/five-months-in-dairy-sees-benefits-of-robots/article_b6630fea-73b2-11e7-b9b6-439bebdaa108.html

After breaking for lunch and traveling to the next site, we had a similar itinerary at the second farm on the tour. After learning and touring the veteran operation, who has been using robots for about seven years, it was time to pack up and call it a day. I think it was really helpful to have a workshop/tour on just exactly how technology is being incorporated in the dairy industry more and more and showing other producers what the future may look like, especially for smaller-scaled farms. Being the first event that I have really ever had to solely coordinate, I would say it was a pretty successful day!

Throughout the summer, there are many local towns who have summer recreation programs for the kids in the neighborhood to attend. Though it can be difficult to schedule, 4H in Cortland County always tries to make a few stops at a couple different ones in the area. A couple of weeks ago, I went to one of the local recreations and did an activity on soil. It was one of the few days where the sun was shining, so the kids were really excited to be outside. I taught them about the different soil particles and layers by having soil for them to put into a plastic bottle and adding water. After time goes by, the particles settle by size and the distinct layers (sand, silt and clay) are apparent. They got to take their experiments home with them, too, so I think they were pretty happy about that, as well.

At the beginning of the week, Betsy, the area dairy specialist, and I put data loggers on at our fourth tiestall for the ongoing study. That leaves just one more. We have ran into a couple of problems throughout our study, but it is our first time with this type of research, so I guess you learn as you go. We seem to lose about one logger per farm that we do for various of reasons. If they fall off when the cows go out to pasture, there is a lot of ground covered, so they are not always retrieved. Also, if they fall into the gutter and then it is emptied into the manure spreader, well we just assume that it probably is not in one piece anymore! We had a couple of extra to start off, so that is a positive! I enjoy going to each of the farms to do this study because you find different things at each farm, even if they are all tiestalls. One of the most interesting findings to me is how the stall measurements differ, not only just from barn to barn, but sometimes even on the same farm! For example, you can tell which barns were built when industry standards were different and where improvements have been made on any given farm. It is almost like using a lens to look back on history. We have one more farm to do and it will be neat to see what the concluding results are at the end.

Yesterday, I had another opportunity to do a youth program. This program was with migrant youth from the area, whose parents are involved with the agriculture industry one way or another. This particular part of the program is a three-day event for the youth to get out and about and exposed to different things that they may not get the opportunity to otherwise. We were at a site that had a pond and trees and such. I taught them a similar program as before about soil, but incorporated the water and aqua life into the lesson. We also learned about the different plants and insects. The youth really did learn a lot about their surroundings and I would definitely say it was a productive day.

Whether I was working with kids or cows, the last couple of weeks have been fun and productive all at the same time. I cannot believe that the semester starts in just over two weeks and how fast this summer has flown by!

Scouting Season in Retrospect

The first two weeks of my internship at Agricultural Consulting Services in Ithaca started off slow; we spent a lot of time training and getting ready for “scouting season” as they called it. I printed off hundreds of field maps for dozens of farms and organized them in manila folders in my big Rubbermaid map box. When I wasn’t printing maps I was at a training session on weed identification or Phosphorous indexing or countless other things, all in the anticipation for this dreaded “scouting season” everyone kept talking about. Then it hit, corn was popping out of the ground and “scouting season” had begun. My 40-hour weeks turned to 60-hour weeks and it’s been that way for the past month and a half.

  

Photo of army worm on left and black cutworm on right.

Two of the biggest pests we looked for while scouting young corn were black cutworms and armyworms. Both were more prevalent in fields where a cover crop had been throughout the winter months. The adult moths lay their eggs in the standing cover crop and when it is plowed into the soil, the eggs hatch and then you have their larvae, the worms, present in the soil. The cutworms, like their name implies, literally chew (cut) right through the stem of the corn plant and then feed on the seed in the soil below. The armyworm does more vegetative damage while the plant is standing. When these pests were found, an analysis of the damage was done based on the percentage of plants injured and then a mode of action was taken, generally spraying.

Weeds were also on our radar when scouting in hopes to control them early to give the young corn the advantage from the VE to around V4 stages. Due to a lot of our farms planting non-gmo (not Round-up Ready) corn, weed identification was crucial, especially within the grasses, because Round-up couldn’t be used. For example, mistaking nutsedge as a grass and recommending a herbicide to control that grass wouldn’t kill the nutsedge, essentially wasting the farmers money.

Once the corn reached around the V4 stage we began to shift from weeds into more of a pest based scouting and focusing more on alfalfa and the potato leaf-hopper which started a whole new phase of our scouting season.

Week #2: Cotton in Wee Waa

Day #1:

I arrived in Wee Waa after 9 hours of travel from Sydney, where I’d just spent a week exploring with my brother and friends.  I hadn’t experienced train travel much before, but after the whole experience I’d highly recommend it to anyone.  Tickets were inexpensive, the food wasn’t terrible, and there was a decent amount of leg space available.  I arrived in Wee Waa around 6pm in the dark.  The farmer Mr. David Grellman picked me up at the station.  Before heading to the farm, Mr. Grellman had a Rotary Club meeting to attend, so I tagged along.  The meeting was very interesting.  One of the members was over 90 years old, a member in his 50’s had just invented an important chemical to be used for spraying in the region, and a member in his 30’s was a guy I recognized from the news (his brother was an Australian reporter that was accused or/framed for being a spy in Egypt.  I remember seeing footage from the trial a couple years ago).  After the dinner we headed back to the farm and went to bed

Day #2:

Woke up early in the morning to go to the biggest cotton purchaser in the region called AusCott, which is actually owned by Americans.  They had 4 very large cotton gins in a massive building, hopefully I have the pictures I took.  This particular facility is able to spit out a bale of cotton every 45 seconds, per side of the building.  So it’s actually 2 bales produced per 45 seconds.  What’s mind blowing is the fact that it takes them months to get all of the cotton crop they purchase through the gins.  Another aspect that the particular business struggles with is finding trucks to transport the bales, mostly because Wee Waa is very isolated, much like most towns and villages that aren’t within 2-3 hours of the big coastal cities in Australia.

After AusCott Mr. Grellman (the farmer) and I headed back to the farm for lunch.  On the way over we stopped by the cotton research extension office, where there was a visible IPM trial.  For those who don’t know, IPM stands for integrated pest management.  Integrated pest management is an attempt to make managing pests more economical and environmentally friendly.  In this particular case the researchers are trying to manage a particularly nasty cotton moth.  They do this by planting another plant that the moths like more than the cotton next to the crop load.

Day #3:

The highlight of the third day was the visit to CSD, the cotton seed distributers.  I learned all about the general process of breeding new cotton plants, the timeline from idea conception to actual use in the field, and the many aspects that the manager needs to juggle.  They often have multiple versions of each plant growing at different places around the farm, and each version is being tested in different condition.  Each paddock, or bay, is essentially its own trial, so there are no similar requirements.  The manager also has to take measures to ensure that there isn’t genetic drift of the product into the current varieties.  This is all I’m allowed to include due to confidentiality agreements, but the visit to CSD was in my top 3 favorite experiences for the whole trip.

Day #4:

The next day was spent on Mr. Grellmans second property.  This property was considerably larger than his first one he gave me a tour of.  Not only did he grow cotton on the second farm, but he also had a considerable amount of natural grazing fields that he raised beef cattle on.  We spent the day rounding up the cattle from one of the paddocks to another.  Because it was a natural grazing field, he wasn’t allowed to grow anything on it.  This means that there isn’t always enough food that provides a reasonable amount of nutrients.  The cows weren’t as healthy as Mr. Grellman usually wants them to be, but he had enough feed to get them through the season in a reasonable shape.  After that I had to go and flatten out the dirt roads through the farm and on top of the channel systems.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Well, it is hard to believe that July is over and in a little over a month, we will be moving back to school. This growing season has been a tough one for all growers thus far, but it appears as if the weather may be straightening out. Some early corn crops are beginning to tassel, which brings some relief to farmers who may have just put their planter away a few weeks ago. In the corn fields, things are beginning to dry out in some of the lighter soils, and some of the heavier clays remain moist and often lacking a healthy corn crop.

Corn in Wet Clay Soil

I have come across a few breakouts of army worm in fields that were no till planted later in the season into either rye cover crops or old stands of alfalfa. In the coming weeks, I will begin focusing my corn scouting towards different fungi that develop, particularly in a wet year like this one has been.

Many dairies who, perhaps, were unable to plant the acres of corn they intended are relying heavily on several high quality cuttings of alfalfa and forage grass to fill the void and the empty feed bunk that may be looming in the coming winter months. With high tonnage being harvested in many eastern NY dairies’ first cuttings, many second cuttings were hindered as a result of the potato leaf hopper.

Potato Leaf Hopper

These small yellow/green pests got their name from their original eating preference, the potato plant. With less potatoes being grown in New York State now than in the past, the leaf hopper has found a succulent new host in alfalfa leaves. The leaf hoppers will feed on the alfalfa, turning the leaves a yellow and purple color. The threshold for leaf hopper in new seedings is less than the threshold for established stands, though I have found it in almost every field I have swept. Caro-Vail has treated thousands of acres of alfalfa so far this summer in an effort to combat these insects, and save the alfalfa for the growers.

In the coming weeks, I plan on continuing with my scouting schedule and looking at crops from the sky, via a new drone. More to come!

Australia Week #1: Russell Pell Dairy Farm

My name is Rhys Moller.  I’m heading into my junior year at Cornell University where I’m in the Agricultural Sciences degree.  I’m still not quite sure why I chose to study agriculture, I think mostly it’s because at the time I liked working outside and hated the idea of sitting in an office all day.  I came into university with no knowledge of anything agriculture related, so I decided to contact my uncle in Australia, who works as an irrigation expert at a company called Rubicon Water.  We decided that after sophomore year I should go to Australia for my internship credit, and go on a six week working tour across all kinds of agricultural entities in Melbourne, Brisbane, Shepparton, Sydney, Wee Waa, Echuca, and a handful of small towns in Northern Victoria.
The goals for the internship being to solidify what I’d like to do for a job, identify any classes I should take to be better prepared to enter the workforce, and to get a close up look at how Australian farmers handle the unique issues they face with limited water supply, droughts, extreme flooding, and heavy government regulations on water.  The first stop in this tour was a dairy farm half an hour out of Echuca with a Farmer called Russell Pell.  He’s a very interesting guy.  He started the dairy with his brother in the 70’s, he meets with politicians to discuss water regulations, and is one of the first farmers in his region to start using modern irrigation technology and automation.  I was excited to meet him and spend time on the farm, though having no farm experience what-so-ever, the learning curve was huge.

WEEK #1

Day 1). The first thing you should know about Victoria, a southern state in Australia, is that it can be quite cold.  The first day on the farm there was frost and fog, none of which I was expecting.  I instantly regretted my decision to not bring a winter jacket and for the entire first day I unfortunately wore jeans and a t-shirt, I don’t think I’ve ever been so cold.  To make matters worse, the farm was so large that ATV bikes were the only convenient way to get around.  If there’s one thing you take away from this blog, it should be that going 40-50 kilometers/hour on a ATV in the middle of winter with only a t-shirt is the most miserable thing you can possibly do.  Especially when it’s so foggy that you end up hitting a fence and get launched into the pond nearby.  Learn through experience I guess…  Because it’s winter in Australia, farms are relatively inactive in terms of crop growth.  The farms dry feed had been harvested a few weeks earlier, the irrigation of winter crops had taken place a week before I arrived, and a couple crew members were on vacation.  However, there was still much to do.  The first big job was to cover the dry feed with plastic and tires to prevent pest damage.  It may come as a surprise to Americans, but cockatoos are considered a farm pest.  They have very sharp beaks that damage feed covers, which results in a significant loss.  Because of this farmers are allowed to shoot them, and that alone should say how much of a pest they are since Australia has very, very strict gun laws.  They had started swarming around the dry feed stores, so Russell decided it was time to put the plastic cover and tires over it.  Covering the feed took close to 3 hours of hard work in very muddy and wet conditions.  I was so sore at the end that when I was walking to my ATV my legs gave out from exhaustion and I fell into a large pit of mud.  Luckily it was pitch black so nobody saw a thing.

 

Day #2). This was a very busy day.  We had to first move an excavator that was stuck in one of the irrigation panels.  We drove the big tractor out with a bed to put the excavator on for transport.  The excavator got out from the mud in no time, but when we put it on the trailer it was so heavy that the tractor couldn’t get out of the muddy pathway.  We decided that I was going to have to drive the tractor out of the mud, while Mr. Pell was simultaneously used the escalator, stored on the trailer bed, arm to push the tractor out.  Somehow this worked, and looking back it was actually very unsafe, having never driven a large tractor in my life.  Not to mention the fact that the escalator constantly looked like it was going to fall backwards off the trailer with Mr. Pell in it.  Good times…  After that we had to round up some cattle that had been sold a couple weeks earlier for pickup.  Not much action really, but it was good for me to see the whole loading process.  The rest of the day was spent getting a view of the above ground water transport systems, which in Australia are huge channels of dirt, and the overall farm irrigation plan.  In Australia, the use of flood irrigation is very common, and generally thought of as less expensive that lateral movement irrigators and pivot irrigators.  The problem is that flood irrigation isn’t very efficient with water use.  A farmer has to judge how quickly the water is moving across a field in order to judge when to stop the water flow in, and closing the channels can take time.  Mr. Pell recently invested in automatic rubicon irrigation channel doors (pictured above), that are all connected via the cloud.  Now he can simply use an app to close the channels, and even better, each time he irrigates the data is all collected and eventually averaged out.  This means that he can open the channel doors, and with all the previous irrigation times stored, the doors will close on their own when the field is properly irrigated without wasting as much water as he would have previously.

Day #3). The third day was uneventful.  Russell Pell had to leave for Australia’s capital, Canberra, to meet with politicians to discuss water policy related problems.  While he was over in the capital, I went and did various jobs with the farm hands,  I sat in the tractor with Peter, the head herdsman, and fed the cows.  I went and cleared out the dairy after milking, which smelled awful, and mustered the cows from the dairy all the way across to the other corner of the farm.  Herding the cattle was actually quite fun, even though these cows were obstinate to an extreme level.  The farm hands looked on in laughter as I was standing on my quad bike, waving my arms and making as much noise as possible, attempting to get those cows to move.  They showed me a video afterwards and I looked pretty ridiculous.  Something of note, an immediate difference I noticed from how American dairy cows are raised to Australian cows is that Australian cows are always outside, and are only brought in to structures of any form to be milked.  Though, I will admit that the only reason they can do that is the warm climate.  A result of this is that there is lots of foreign investment and purchasing of Australian dairy products from China, who views Australian dairy products as clean and in much higher standards of quality than most Chinese produced milk.

Day #4). Woke up early again to go and clear the cattle sheds after milking, which ended up being cut short.  One of the water pipes had apparently broken (shown above) and had to be fixed.  It turns out that the original structure wasn’t put together very well, and that particular pipe was only half welded into place, so they’d been leaking water for a couple years without noticing.  It took a couple hours to sort that issue out, mostly because the pipes in this particular dairy are also connected to the wiring, so in order to replace the pipe they had to also remove the wire cords.  Once that whole drama was over, I went to go explore the intake pipes by the river.  Farms in Australia are only allowed a certain amount of water, in Megalitres per year, to draw out of the water.  Their intake is measured by a device placed inside the piping at the intake point.  The first and second sets of pictures have examples of what the intake piping looks like.  The water is drawn up into channels that then spread the water across the farm.  Also present on a typical Australian farm is catchment dams.  These are unregulated, which means that whatever water these dams keep after rainfall is yours to use.  I’ll show some pictures of those in one of the next blog posts from the cotton farm.

Day #5). My last day on the farm was spent learning how to build fences, which is something that I never thought was going to be very difficult.  Having now experienced that, I can comfortably say that it would take lots and lots of practice to finally string up a fence properly.  I really enjoyed the experience on the farm, but I can comfortably say that i will not be pursuing a career as a dairy farmer.  I’m not sure I could handle the constant smell, somewhat monotonous routine, and constant worrying about the international precise of dairy, but in the short term it was a great experience and I learned lots of practical skills for later in life.  So yeah that’s week #1, next week I head to Sydney to go exploring.  Even though I’ve done it too many times to count, I’ll likely do all the typical touristy things around the harbor area, but I’ll also be heading out to the Blue Mountains to explore what is in my opinion one of the most beautiful areas in the whole world, Katoomba.  Next blog post will be from the cotton farm based out in Wee Waa.

Animals All Around!

I remember when I was younger, I could never grasp how fast time went by at my county fair. Last week, I had the same feeling. The Cortland County Junior Fair kicked off on July 4th and ran through July 8th. The fair week was jammed pack full of activities like animal shows, an adorabl animal costume contest, a dairy birthing center and special contests like a Jr. Iron Chef, Dairy Challenge and Judging and Tool Identification only to touch the surface. The 4-Hbuilding was full of nonperishable exhibits from awesome crafts and baked goods, to my favorite, an amazing picnic table built by one of the 4-H members! I spent a majority of my time with the animals, one way or another. Whether it was checking registration papers, doing a daily herdsmanship check, helping with the annual 4-H market sale or helping out at the animal show of the day, I definitely was busy! Seeing how the fair runs from the inside-out was an eye-opening experience; no longer an exhibitor, but now an individual making sure the fair runs as smoothly as possible. This gave me a different lens to look through and a new perspective that taught me much respect to those who work all year to make one week as successful as possible. The exhibitors all did a great job and overall the fair went very smoothly and planning for next year has already begun! The biggest news of all though, is that about 19 eggs hatched! I incubated them for about 21 days in my spare bedroom and was so nervous that I had messed them up and that there were not going to be any eggs hatching at fair for the kids to see! I must’ve done either something right, or only a few things wrong though, because we had chicks! Of course, I don’t have pictures to prove it though, so you’ll just have to take my word for it!

The Monday morning after fair, Betsy, the dairy specialist, and I had another tiestall barn to go to for the project we have been doing. We have to go and put the data loggers on while the cows are in the barn, which is usually during milking time. We had to be there by 6 AM and finish putting them on before it was time for them to go outside after milking. We have done three farms so far, and have two more to do during this round of the study. Again, we will be tracking lameness through lying time, standing time and just overall how the cow is able to get up and down and move around (locomotion).

Lastly, the summer tours put on by the South Central Dairy and Field Crops Team are beginning. Last night, we kicked off our first Twilight meeting, which we held at a local farm during the evening and covered cow comfort. These workshops/tours are open to producers/agriculture business people in the surrounding counties that the SCDFC team cover. A couple different speakers came in last night to cover topics such as animal handling, barns and facilities and the on-site veterinarian and partner talked about different cow comfort topics like the stalls and bedding and such. After going through the presentations, we all took a tour of the different barns. It was neat to see how each barn actually does differ, depending on when it was built and what the industry wants were at the time of building.  We got really good feedback from the attendees and I’m looking forward to the robot farm tour, which is coming up next week.

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!

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