Join Kirk and Kathie Arnold at Twin Oaks Dairy on August 14th from 10:00-2:00 and learn about alternative summer forages, mixed intercropping, interseeding into corn, and double cropping with triticale and sorghum sudangrass. Cornell researchers will discuss improving soil health and other ways farmers can build resilience to extreme weather events. The NY Soil Health Trailer will also be on-site with demonstrations to show participants how healthy soil compares to degraded soil. (Lunch included, please register here: https://nofany.secure.nonprofitsoapbox.com/fielddays). Twin Oaks Dairy, 3185 NY-13, Truxton, NY 13158.
10:00 to 10:15 – Opening remarks (Kirk Arnold, Fay Benson, and Robert)
10:15 to 10:30 – Forge Intercropping for Resilience (Ann Bybee-Finley and Dr. Matt Ryan)
10:30 to 11:15 – Demonstration trial of alternative summer annual forages (Ann, Matt, Fay, Kirk, and Rod Porter)
11:15 to 12:00 – Farmer panel about adapting to extreme weather
12:00 to 1:00 – Lunch
1:00 to 1:30 – Soil health demo (Fay and Joseph Amsili)
1:30 to 1:45 – Industry insights (Rod)
1:45 to 2:00 – Crop insurance (Fay) and tour of Buckwheat field
Pre-registration for the field day will close two days before the event, but walk-ins are always welcome. For more information, please contact Fay Benson, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The New York Soil Health Trailer brought spring 2019 “Train the Trainer” programs, taught by New York Soil Health Trailer Coordinator and Cornell Extension Specialist Fay Benson, Soil Structure Consultant Larry Hepner, and Cornell Soil Health Laboratory Director Bob Schindelbeck to Brunswick and Troupsburg, N.Y . Seventeen grazing educators attended the two trainings, offered as the first part of a Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (NE SARE) project to educate and provide research on soil compaction in Northeast pasture soils.
The New York Soil Health Trailer will be traveling across the Northeast, participating in pasture walks and other events this summer and fall. Currently scheduled events include July 25-27: Grasstravaganza, Cobleskill, NY; August 6-8: Empire Farm Days, Seneca Falls, NY; August dates TBA: Great New York State Fair, Syracuse, NY;and September 3-6: Maine Soil Field Days, site TBA.
Compaction is an important issue in agriculture affecting soil health and productivity. Compacted soils, which result from heavy tractor and animal use over time, have less water and air flow and are therefore less productive. Identifying compaction is the first step toward remediation. Benson is working with farmers and ag educators to develop tools that he hopes will lead to improved pasture management and therefore more sustainable farms.
Benson’s idea for this NE SARE project is to use a soil penetrometer to measure soil penetration resistance in the fence line of a pasture where no livestock compaction has occurred and within the grazing area where compaction is likely. The objective is to develop tools to help farmers better identify areas of compaction to guide remediation response.
The morning sessions of the recent training programs included morning presentations and discussions followed by afternoon field sessions at two farms, using the penetrometers to measure compaction and examining mini profiles to identify and describe soil structures.
Benson has a number of responsibilities with the Small Dairy Support Cornell University SCNY Regional Team, and as Education Coordinator for the NY Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship, and Project Manager of the NY Organic Dairy Initiative. He also travels to many farm events with the New York Soil Health Trailer for demonstrations showing how healthy soils improve infiltration and prevent runoff.
As Director of the Cornell Soil Health Laboratory and a member of the Soil and Crop Sciences Section at Cornell University, Schindelbeck presents the Lab’s analysis of the physical, chemical, and biological properties of soil, how they are measured in the lab, and the interpretations on how to improve soil health.
Hepner, a consulting agronomist and retired Delaware Valley University professor of Agronomy and Environmental Science, spoke at the training sessions to explain how to describe soil structure based on USDA NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) terminology. Structure is how the sand, silt, and clay fit together to form aggregates. Structure is described using terms for type (granular, subangular blocky, platy), grade (weak, moderate, strong, i.e. how visible the individual structural units are), and class (fine, medium, coarse, i.e. size of the granule, block, or plate). Typically, surface soil layers (horizons) have granular structure which is very good for infiltration, water movement, and oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange. Granular structure usually produces maximum growth of plants. When compaction occurs, either by livestock or equipment use, the granules are crushed and converted to plates. Platy structures impede water movement, stay wet longer, and have poor oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange; all in all a much poorer environment for plants, resulting in less growth.
Compaction in pastures and farm fields is difficult to avoid. The good news is that a healthy soil (physical, chemical, and biological properties in balance) allows a soil to be much more resilient when it comes to compaction. Through field research, correlating penetrometer reading and moisture levels, Benson is working to develop ways that farmers and ag educators can better identify soil compaction at any time of year and take appropriate action to address the compaction for improved soil health and farm performance.
Benson suggests graziers test their pasture soil compaction level by using a step-in post, ny pushing the post into the soil up to 6 inches repeatedly ,first in the pasture, then under the fence line. If the grazier notices a significant difference, this indicates they are dealing with pasture soil compaction. It is best if the soil moisture level is at relatively normal condition for testing, not the overly saturated soil as many are dealing with this spring.
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 (http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p373821_index.html). 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, email@example.com.
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 www.empirefarmdays.com. Also see Facebook and Instagram.
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 www.empirefarmdays.com or call 877-697-7837.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.