Cornell Field Crops News

Timely Field Crops information for the New York Agricultural Community

December 4, 2018
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on Consider Bedded Pack Barns for Cow Comfort and Manure Management: Learn More at January 9 NYCO Meeting

Consider Bedded Pack Barns for Cow Comfort and Manure Management: Learn More at January 9 NYCO Meeting

Bedded pack barns are one of the topics for presentation and discussion at the January 9, 2019 NY Certified Organic meeting in Geneva, N.Y. Photo: Fay Benson

Small dairy farm operators in New York may soon be faced with the prohibition of winter spreading of manure by the State Department of Environmental Conservation. As an option to winter spreading, farmers considering updating barns or building new facilities can consider a bedded pack barn system for manure storage and animal comfort. There may also be government assistance to help build such a barn.

Farmers who have used bedded packs will be featured at the NY Certified Organic (NYCO) meeting on January 8, 2019, beginning at 10 AM, in Jordan Hall, 630 West North Street, Cornell AgriTech, Geneva, NY. There is no cost or need to register to attend the NYCO winter meetings in January, February, and March. Participants are asked to bring a dish to pass at the potluck lunch.

NYCO Winter Meeting Organizer and Cornell Cooperative Extension Small Dairy Specialist A. Fay Benson provides the following information on the two types of bedded pack systems with some pros and cons of each type and examples of one system in Vermont and one in New York.

The Deep Bedded Pack (DBP) uses fresh bedding daily to keep the pack dry and clean. The pack grows to a depth of 5-6 feet by the end of one winter.

The Composted Bedded Pack (CBP) requires the farmer to stirring once or twice a day with a tractor tractor-mounted rototiller. This system works best with wood shavings or chopped straw.

The choice of pack depends upon each individual farm’s needs. Both systems have been used by confinement and grazing operations and with beef and dairy cows. Benson has seen CBPs mostly on grazing dairy operations using the barn only during the 150 days or so of the winter.

A DBP system generally consists of a foundation of concrete or hard clay. Most DBPs use straw which is more absorbent than hay. DBP systems use more bedding, for example, one farm used 20 lbs. of straw/day/animal. As more manure and bedding are added daily, the pack grows deeper and requires strong retaining walls. DBP cleaning is more difficult due to the wetter, compressed material.

CBPs have a foundation of concrete covered by a layer of thick wood chips to allow moisture and air movement at the base. Composting in the pack happens just as in a compost pile. When the pack has the correct carbon-nitrogen ratio and air is regularly introduced to the pack by stirring, microorganisms flourish and break down the carbon structures of bedding and manure.

The main drawback to a CBP is the requirement of an expensive piece of rototilling equipment and the daily labor to run it. The bedding requirement for a CBP is less since stirring releases moisture to the air and the bedding is drier. Some CBP barns direct fans at the packs to increase drying.

The CBP’s main benefits are less material to be spread and nutrients (N, P, & K) that are more stable in the compost and will not run off with water when applied to the land.

Microbial activity in the CBP provides heat throughout the bedding for animal comfort through the winter. A farmer with a CBP barn in Vermont measured 60-80 degrees F up to 12 inches into the pack.

For both types of bedded packs, side-retaining walls need to be strong enough to contain 4-6 feet of the pack and stand up to cleaning. As with any type of housing management, using adequate bedding, properly maintaining the bedding system, and consistently applying good milking and animal hygiene help manage the pathogens naturally found in a bedded pack system. Cow access, animal grouping, and travel-to-the-feed-alley patterns can be managed by electric fences. Cows make more manure in eating areas so daily scraping those areas will also help reduce manure in bedded areas.

Good ventilation, whether the pack barn is positioned for natural wind ventilation or uses mechanical assistance with fans, helps keep cows healthy, the pack dry, and odors down.

The open barn area of a bedded pack system allows for natural animal movement which will become increasingly important as animal care standards are implemented. Opinions differ on how much room should be allowed per cow; 85 to 100 sq. ft. per animal is usually the recommendation and is higher than for a freestall system. Breed, age, and animal condition impact that decision when planning a new barn. The general consensus is the more room, the better. The extra housing cost per animal is one reason BP barn structures are used more on smaller dairies.

The comfortable environment of a BP system reduces lameness and provides for cows’ deep and restful sleep that in turn positively impacts milk production. A report at the 5th National Small Farm Conference in 2009 noted that a 2000-lb. increase in milk sales/cow was attributed in part to use of a bedded pack management system ( That same year a study by the Cornell University Department of Applied Economics and Life Sciences concluded that the bedded pack management system was “an excellent environment for cattle and provided the intended environmental benefits.”

Vermont Pack Barn Shows Innovation

Bedded pack barns have been used in Vermont as a way for a smaller operation to build manure storage since the state prohibited winter spreading of manure in 1995.  At his organic Butterworks Farm in Westfield, Jack Lazor used a DBP with three animal groups in a 60X120-foot barn. He separated them with electric fences suspended from the ceiling and raised as the pack grew. A 6-foot coil of water line inside water troughs unwound as the waterers rose with the pack.  Jack used bale rings to feed baleage on the pack.

Jack noted that the return for the significant expense of straw for the pack: $40-$45 every other day plus the labor of composting the pack, was in the positive effect on the soil and soil nutrients. Once the cows went out to pasture, Jack would usually remove the pack after first cutting. He left it in long, 6-foot-high windrows on a nearby field until after the last harvest. By leaving it for 3 months, the pack composted to reduce the amount to haul to fields for spreading. Jack reasoned that applying the aged manure in the fall mimicked nature applying carbon to the soil in the fall with dead leaves and grass.

“Raw manure is hard on the soil and the environment; many of the nutrients are volatile or water soluble. By adding the extra carbon through the straw more of the volatile nutrients are captured and stored. Allowing them to go through the biological activity of composting, the nutrients are stabilized and won’t run off with significant rainfalls,” Jack said.

NY Farm Adds Pack Barn, Then Free Stalls

In 2010, Super Milk producers Ben and Kate Whittemore of Dead End Farm, an 80-cow organic dairy in Candor, NY, built a 70×120-foot bedded pack barn with a 16-foot feed alley and 16-foot scrape alley.

“Our cows loved the bedded pack barn with its thick, cushy bedding and wide open space to kick up their heels,” Kate Whittemore wrote in her farm blog, noting that most of the cows chose the bedded pack at night over the pasture.

The Whittemores first used chopped hay in the pack since it was less expensive, but found it more labor intensive and not as dry. They switched to sawdust as easier to apply and easier to stir with their rotovator. Stirring three times a day improved the composting efficiency. and they could go more than a year between barn cleanouts.

The Whittemores decided to add more animals and felt the best way to expand was to replace the bedded pack with free stalls. In 2014, they increased from 85 milkers to 120 milkers in the same barn.

Resources and Funding Assistance

Because of the environmental benefits of a bedded pack system, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) may offer funding incentives for designs that pass their engineering specifications. Learn more by contacting your local NRCS office.

The NRCS also has a 5-page Compost Bedded Pack Dairy Barns fact sheet, published in 2007, that is still relevant, as is an 18-page Bedded Pack Management System Case Study resource published in 2009 by a team with the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Applied Economics and Management.

For more information, Benson with Cornell University’s South Central NY Regional Team can be reached at 607-391-2660,



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July 16, 2018
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on Soil Health Experts from Fertilizer Institute in Washington, DC; Cornell University, CCE to Speak at 2018 Empire Farm Days

Soil Health Experts from Fertilizer Institute in Washington, DC; Cornell University, CCE to Speak at 2018 Empire Farm Days

The Soil Health Seminars programming at the 2018 Empire Farm Days at Rodman Lott and Son Farms in Seneca Falls, NY, will provide the opportunity to hear from soil specialists, learn from farming peers in daily panel presentations, see tabletop demonstrations, tour never cover crop plots, and have a soil report created for your use. The presentations are free and organized by the New York State Interagency Soil Health Working Group.

The featured speaker at the Soil Health Center at 9:30 am on Tuesday, August 7, 2018, will be Sally A. Flis, Ph.D., director of agronomy at The Fertilizer Institute, Washington, DC. She will share an update on 4R research and discuss how to adjust fertilizer management for soil health-building practices such as no-till, reduced till, cover crops, legumes in rotation, and manure management, and how growing conditions in the Northeast effect 4R management.

On Wednesday, August 8, at 9:30 am, Harold M. van Es, a 30-year professor of soil science at Cornell University will discuss why healthy soil is the foundation of sustainable crop production and how understanding interactions among the physical, biological, and chemical aspects of soil is key to good soil health management practices, including how to enhance soil organic matter. The audience will learn how reducing tillage and adding cover crops and organic amendments result in increasing the quality and quantity of organic matter to benefit soils and crops.

The Thursday, August 9 speaker at 9:30 am at the Soil Health Center at Empire Farm Days will be Cornell University Cooperative Extension Field Crops Specialist Michael E. Hunter addressing “Weed Management for Cover Cropping and Conservation Tillage Systems.” Mike will cover the challenge of managing residual herbicides in soil health cropping systems that include cover crops, interseeding, diverse rotations, and no-till or strip tillage in the Northeast. Cover crop termination and herbicide resistance management strategies will also be discussed.

Daily at 10:30 am, King’s Agriseeds and Seedway representatives will lead tours of the side-by-side field trials of new cover crop single species and mixes, including stress-tolerant summer annuals for no-till and conventional till systems; combinations for dealing with soil compaction and adding organic matter; pollinator- and butterfly-friendly mixes; crops for use after small grain or vegetables; and natural biofumigants.

At 11:30 am each day, farmers from across New York State will participate in panel discussions as follows:

Tuesday, August 7: Soil Health Management Practices and Fertilizer and Manure Management When Incorporating Cover Crops and Reduced Tillage Into Their Systems;

Wednesday, August 8: Challenges and Benefits of Building Organic Matter and Soil, Water and Nutrient Interactions Using Soil Health Management Systems; and

Thursday, August 9: Challenges of Managing Herbicides Within Systems That Incorporate Cover Crops, Reduced Tillage and Diverse Rotations.

Empire Farm Days is the largest outdoor agricultural trade show in the Northeastern U.S. Show hours, daily schedules, directions and information about exhibitors, demonstrations, ride and drive opportunities, live animal programming and more are posted at Also see Facebook and Instagram.

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July 6, 2018
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on Worker Protection and Pesticide Handling Training Added Daily at Empire Farm Days: Regulatory Update, Federal Changes, Re-certification Credit

Worker Protection and Pesticide Handling Training Added Daily at Empire Farm Days: Regulatory Update, Federal Changes, Re-certification Credit

Empire Farm Days has announced the addition of a 2018 DEC Regulatory Update and Worker Protection Standard Program for the August 7-9, 2018 show at Rodman Lott and Son Farms, 2973 State Route 414, Seneca Falls, NY. The program will take place daily at 9:30 am at Lot 409 on the showgrounds.

The one-hour program will provide an overview of New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and federal regulations relating to the application of pesticides in New York State. The one-hour training will highlight the Worker Protection Standard and how recent changes, such as mandatory respiratory fit testing and training, application exclusion zone, and annual worker and handler training, may affect operations.

One hour of DEC credit is available to attendees with a Pesticide Certification ID Card who sign in on time and sign out on completion of the program. The certification categories to be covered are CORE, 1A, 21, 22, 23, 24 and 25.

Those not yet certified will learn how to qualify to make pesticide applications.

Empire Farm Days showcases working equipment, crops and live animal demonstrations; seminars; test driving opportunities; and training on the latest farming techniques, products, safety practices, and equipment with more than 600 exhibitors.

Hundreds of agriculture-related vendors, organizations, colleges and associations are on site with information.

Show hours are 9am-5pm on Tuesday, August 7 and Wednesday, August 8 and 9am-4pm on Thursday, August 9. Parking is $10 per vehicle. For daily schedules and more information, visit or call 877-697-7837.

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July 3, 2018
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on July 31: Reduced Tillage Field Day in Willsboro

July 31: Reduced Tillage Field Day in Willsboro

Strip tilling with cover crops; photo: Ryan Maher

In-field demonstrations with agricultural specialists and growers from NY and Vermont and six learning stations are all part of the Reduced Tillage in Organic Systems Field Day to be held Tuesday, July 31, 2018, from 9 am to 3 pm at the Cornell Willsboro Research Farm, 48 Sayward Lane, Willsboro, NY. The event is free to attend.

The overall focus of the day on improving soil health was developed to meet grower requests. While the event is geared toward organic vegetable, row crop, and small grain growers, the practices discussed will also benefit conventional growers.

Decreasing soil disturbance maintains diverse and active biological activity that is critical for well-functioning, healthy soil. Reducing tillage intensity and mechanical soil disturbance can improve soil health. Over time, this helps maintain or increase crop yields, while reducing production costs due to saved labor, equipment wear, and fuel,” notes organizer Amy Ivy, a vegetable specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension, Clinton County.

The field day topics include roller-crimping, zone tillage in high residue, in-row cultivation tools, stale seedbed and weed seed bank management strategies and grower experiences with reduced tillage on their farms.

The field day speakers are Jean-Paul Courtens, Roxbury Farm, Kinderhook, NY; University of Vermont Agronomist Heather Darby; Cornell Willsboro Research Farm Manager Mike Davis; Jack Lazor, Butterwork Farm, Westfield, VT; Chuck Bornt, Cornell Cooperative Extension Eastern NY Commercial Horticulture Program; Bryan Brown and Ryan Maher, Cornell Small Farms Program; Kitty O’Neil, Cornell Cooperative Extension North Country Regional Ag Team; and Cornell University Weed Ecology and Management Professor John Wallace.

Participants at the day-long event will rotate between three demonstration and discussion stations in the morning and three in the afternoon. Lunch is included. The first 50 attendees will receive a program resource booklet.

The Eastern NY Commercial Horticulture Program, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County and the Cornell Willsboro Research Farm coordinated this field day with funding support from the New York State Soil Health Initiative, Lake Champlain Basin Program, and the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program.

For more information, contact Amy Ivy, Cornell Cooperative Extension Clinton County, 518-561-7450,

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July 2, 2018
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on NYS IPM Weekly Field Crops Pest Report – July 2, 2018

May 23, 2018
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on Save the Date! New York Soil Health Summit

Save the Date! New York Soil Health Summit

Date: Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Time: TBD
Location: Empire State Plaza, Downtown Albany, NY

Save the date for the first New York Soil Health Summit. This event, organized by the New York Soil Health project, is for farmers, researchers, agriculture service providers, government agencies, non-profits and policy-makers interested in advancing soil health efforts across the state.

Topics include:

  • Local experts/grower panel
  • Research and policies relevant to soil health
  • Soil Health Roadmap breakout sessions

Don’t miss this opportunity to connect with colleagues and contribute critical feedback to the NY Soil Health Roadmap.

Registration, summit agenda, and other details will be coming soon.

For more information at this time, contact David Wolfe ( or Aaron Ristow (

More information about the project:

Summit details will be updated here:

New York Soil Health is funded through New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets.

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February 5, 2018
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on Cornell Organic Dairy Program Sets Weed Control, Farm Tour, Pasturing Events

Cornell Organic Dairy Program Sets Weed Control, Farm Tour, Pasturing Events

Ithaca, NY. Three events hosted by the Cornell Organic Dairy Program will help organic growers and livestock farmers enhance weed management, dairy business operations, and livestock grazing efficiency and profitability. Registration is requested. Each event has a $5 charge for lunch. To register, call Steph at 607-391-2662 or email Abbie at for all events.

On Wednesday, February 21, Weed Control in Organic Field Crop Systems will be presented from 11 am to 2 pm at the McLean Fire Hall, 2 Stevens Road, McLean, NY. Matthew Ryan, Ph.D., agroecologist, and assistant professor at Cornell’s Sustainable Cropping System Lab, Ithaca, NY, will discuss crop rotation, cover crops, and other cultural weed management practices. His work has included studies using cover crops for organic no-till soybean production, perennial grains, and climate change adaptation.

An organic farmer panel at the February 21 event will include Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York Farmer Number 01 Tony Potenza of Trumansburg with a long history of organic field crop experience; Peter Mapstone, who works with his son Jeremy to grow forage and grain to feed their 300-cow organic dairy in Manlius, NY; and Phil Stauderman of Genoa, NY, who raises organic crops for his son Karl’s dairy and to sell.

On Tuesday, March 20, a 10am-1 pm farm tour at Smith’s Tre G Farm, 8183 US Route 20, in Manlius, NY, includes a look at paddocks designed by Kirk Smith to make grazing and the use of two Lely Robotic milkers compatible. At lunch, the Smith family will relate their experience of transitioning to organic dairy production in challenging times. The Smiths transitioned their 130-cow dairy to organic production over the past three years and now ship milk to the farmer-owned Organic Valley cooperative.

On Thursday, March 29, Are Your Robbing Your Pastures to Feed Your Livestock will be the question for two noted grazing and grass-fed consultants at Dryden Fire Hall, 26 North Street, Dryden, NY. The 12-2:30 pm program begins with lunch followed by presentations by Altfrid Krusenbaum, a Wisconsin-based grazing consultant helping grazing dairy and beef farmers, and Cleason Horst of Friendly Blends soil amendments in Canandaigua, NY.

Krusenbaum will discuss organically managing pastures on his 470-acre farm to generate profit. After operating a grazing dairy for several years, he now raises grass-fed, grass-finished beef; hay; and small grains. He worked for several years with the Natural Resources Conservation Services as a Certified Grazing Planner, and currently serves with the national Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship Program.

Horst will talk about the depletion of soil fertility in pastures and how farmers can identify this by understanding soil lab reports. He has experience with pastures from which there were only withdrawals and no deposits to the soil bank account long-term. Horst will describe how he reads a soil test to prioritize recommendations for re-investing nutrients into soil as the most important resource on the farm.

For more information on the Cornell Organic Dairy Program, contact Fay Benson with the Cornell South Central NY Dairy Team at

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December 20, 2017
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on New York Certified Organic Sets 2018 Winter Program Series: Crop Rotations, Quality Forage Harvest, Pastured Hogs, Farm Startup on Agenda

New York Certified Organic Sets 2018 Winter Program Series: Crop Rotations, Quality Forage Harvest, Pastured Hogs, Farm Startup on Agenda

Dairy and crop growers from across New York State gather for the annual NY Certified Organic Winter Meeting series. Photo: NYCO

New York Certified Organic, NYCO, has announced its 2018 series of Winter Meetings with a January 9 session on crop rotations with a presentation on, February 13 focus on harvesting quality forage, and a March 13 spotlight on adding pastured hogs to a diversified dairy or crop business and general farm start-up opportunities.

The free-to-attend NYCO meetings begin at 10 AM in Jordan Hall at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, 630 West North Street, in Geneva, NY, and provide organic crop growers and dairy farmers together with the opportunity to hear speakers and network. There is no need to register for meetings. Participants are asked to bring a dish to pass at the potluck lunch.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018: Crop Rotations

The Tuesday, January 9 Crop Rotations topic was requested by a number of farmers attending the 2017 NYCO meetings in 2017. The program will cover how farmers select the rotations that fit the financial needs, environmental concerns, and weed pressures of their farms. The program includes a representative from Kings AgriSeeds presenting on how they see farmers selecting rotations; a review by Fay Benson of an organic field crop growers survey by the NY Organic Dairy Program, and a farmer panel.

Also on January 9, Dr. Joshua Woodard, founder of, a live open data, open source data integration and automation platform, and farmer Luke Gianforte of Gianforte Farm, Cazenovia, NY, will offer a presentation on how to use an online tool for managing field and crop data.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018: Harvesting Quality Forage

Harvesting quality forage year after year is the topic of the February 13 NYCO meeting. The challenges of the drought of 2016 followed by the wet spring of 2017 have many farmers wondering how to develop resiliency in their forage system. Invited speakers include Tom Kilcer of Advanced Ag Systems, on his new work adding resiliency to rotations through double cropping and multi-use cover crops.

Also on February 13, Cornell Horticulture Professor Dr. Thomas Björkman will show research on planting dates and when to include clover in cover crops, and Dr. Heather Darby from the University of Vermont will share details on forage and small grain research she has recently conducted in northern Vermont.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018: Adding Pastured Hogs to Diversified Dairy or Crop Farm; Farm Start-Up Opportunities

The March 13 NYCO meeting will cover two topics. Rodale Institute Farm Manager Ross Duffield will provide an overview of current projects at Rodale and present a how-to talk on how Rodale incorporated hogs into its farming system and the multiple benefits of doing so. A panel of three organic dairy farmers will share how they have used social investment capital to help their farming business, and representatives from Dirt Capital Partners and Iroquois Valley Farms REIT will be on hand to outline the opportunities they offer farms.

The New York Crop Insurance Education Team and Cornell Cooperative Extension provide support for the NYCO meetings. There will be a brief description of how Crop Insurance can benefit organic farmers at each of the three NYCO 2018 Winter Meetings.

NYCO winter meetings have grown from a gathering of six organic grain producers in the Martens Farms farmhouse kitchen in 1994 to filling the auditorium at the Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva. More than 300 farmers attended NYCO meetings in 2017. For more information, contact Fay Benson at 607-391-2669 or Information on previous NYCO meetings is posted at

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August 3, 2017
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on 2017 New York Grain Corn and Soybean Yield Contest

2017 New York Grain Corn and Soybean Yield Contest

In spite of the very wet season New York growers have experienced thus far, there are still some really good looking crops out there!  Please consider entering them into the 2017 New York Grain Corn and Soybean Yield Contest.  The deadline for entry (and payment) is August 25th.  Download the entry form and rules here.

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August 3, 2017
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on Field Demos Expanded, Irrigated Crops at 2017 Empire Farm Days

Field Demos Expanded, Irrigated Crops at 2017 Empire Farm Days

Seneca Falls, NY.  Visitors to the August 8-10, 2017 Empire Farm Days at Rodman Lott and Son Farms in Seneca Falls, NY, will experience more equipment and expanded demos at the show that is the largest outdoor agricultural trade show in the northeastern U.S.

With leadership from Morrisville State College this year, the field demos have a renewed focus on big iron operating in real-time field conditions, says Empire Farm Days Manager Melanie Wickham.

The daily Cover Crops Field Demonstration Tour with King’s AgriSeeds and Seedway at 10:30 am will show cool and warm season cover crop species and mixes with a discussion on best seeding methods, timing, and purposes.

A new Demo Tram at the show is dedicated to carrying visitors to the field demos area.

The field demo and crop tour schedule for the 2017 Empire Farm Days is as follows:
All day:  Tours to irrigation field unit from Lot 522
10 am to 2 pm:  Test drive applicators, trucks, tractors, construction equipment, UTVs
10:30 am:  Hay mowing demonstration
10:30 am:  Cover crops field demonstration tour
11:30 am:  Hay merging and chopping demonstration
12:30 pm:  Tillage and GPS field demonstration
1:30 pm:    Hay baling demonstration
2:30 pm:    Hay handling.

Empire Farm Days show hours are 9 am to 5 pm on Tuesday and Wednesday, 9 am to 4 pm on Thursday; admission is $10 per vehicle. For more information on exhibits, seminars, live animal demonstration, farm safety and other presentations at the show, see or call 1-877-697-7837.

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