Veterinary Feed Directives Survey

Please click the button below to participate in a survey from the Michigan State University. The Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) Rules are over a year old now. We invite all farmers, over the age of 18, who raise cattle, pigs, sheep or goats to help us understand how those rules have affected your herd or flock and your business.

This survey is being conducted by Michigan State University Extension in partnership with Extension at Land Grant Universities nationwide. Your participation is voluntary and your responses are confidential.​

If the link below isn’t working, please copy and past the following URL:

Fecal Egg Counting and FAMACHA

Fecal Egg Counting
and FAMACHA© workshop

When:   June 2, 2018 9AM–3pm

WHERE: University of Delaware REC
16686 County Seat Highway
Georgetown, DE 19947

COST:    $25 (check or money order)*

Learn Parasite Control

University of Delaware
Susan Garey
Daniel Severson
Delaware State University
Kwame Matthews

Internal parasites are a major health problem affecting sheep and goats. This workshop is designed to help producers learn the basics of selective internal parasite control. Join us as we provide hands-on training to certify producers in the use of FAMACHA© score card and fecal egg counts.

Presented jointly by:

Register online:


Lunch included!

Limited to 25 attendees!

Pre-register by May 25, 2018!

Log on!
Register today!

Only $25 per person!*

*Make checks or money orders payable to:
Delaware State University
Mail to:
Dr. Kwame Matthews

For more information, for registration payments, or for assistance due to disabilities

Kwame Matthews, Ph.D.
Cooperative Extension
Small Ruminant Program
Delaware State University
1200 N. Dupont Hwy
Dover, DE 19901



10 Reasons Your Child Should Join FFA or 4-H

FFA and 4-H emblems
( FFA and 4-H )

It’s hard to imagine growing up on a farm without participating in 4-H or FFA. Although there was no FFA in my high school in Ann Arbor, Mich. (there were only about five farm kids in my class of 700), my siblings and I were active members of 4-H. Our woodworking leader had a workshop in his basement, so one Saturday a month, my sister and I would go there to work on projects, like the obligatory three-legged milk stool, a bread board and cribbage board, a tack box and finally, a solid walnut coffee table.

My mom was our sewing leader, with meetings in our basement. I loved sewing, the whir of the machines and the camaraderie. It was a thrill to be named top seamstress for our county my last year in 4-H. Our livestock club was in a neighboring rural town, where we made some great friends for life. I showed horses, dairy cattle, and of course, pigs, along with a host of other projects.

And, like my dad a generation earlier, I attended Club Congress, winning in the swine project. He went in 1943, and I went almost 30 years later.

My kids were in 4-H too (you may have read my harrowing experience as a first-time 4-H parent, watching my oldest son show pigs), and also had many great experiences.

The county fairs, leadership conferences at Michigan State, exchange trips to other states, the citizenship short-course trip to Washington, D.C. and Club Congress in Chicago are memories I’ll never forget.

Michelle Hochstein was a senior at Texas Tech University in December when she came up with the Top 10 list below.

“My involvement in FFA was key in getting me to this point,” she wrote in 2015. “Everyone should take advantage of what this organization has to offer!”

I feel the same way about 4-H, so we’re modifying her list slightly to include both groups. Encourage your sons and daughters to join these organizations. The leadership, work ethic, responsibility and team building skills they’ll learn will serve them well in life.

1.   Leadership skills. We all want our children to be successful. Public speaking, group projects and running for offices. All activities that contribute to leadership skills. All found in FFA and 4-H.

2.   Knowledge of agriculture. How do tractors run? What exactly is a cotton boll or a barrow? What’s the proper way to handle an animal? Just ask anyone involved in 4-H or FFA. They’ll tell you.

3.   Healthy living. Both organizations provide the building blocks toward a healthy lifestyle. Members learn about food, where it comes from and how to keep it safe and environmentally friendly. They also help bridge the gap between rural and non-rural folks.

4.   Confidence. Many children today have no “in-person” social outlets. Giving them a chance to meet people, complete projects and enter contests will spur a self-confidence that many children lack.

5.   Good sportsmanship. We live in a world where people like to say “every child is a winner.” But the truth – and in life – people have to learn how to accept failure. And in the long-run, the lessons learned in defeat are usually remembered and serve as building blocks. Competition can be healthy and character-building. Stock shows, skills tests and speaking contests are all outlets in which children can participate in friendly, sportsmanlike competition.

6.   Work ethic. FFA and FFA members complete a wide variety of projects throughout the year. These projects require dedication, time management and hard work.

7.   Community service. “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.” That’s the FFA way. Pledging your “Head to clearer thinking, your heart to greater loyalty, your hands to larger service and your health to better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world” is the 4-H way. Enough said.

8.   Lifelong friendships. All things aside, your children will make friends who share the same passion for agriculture. These friends become peers. Then colleagues. And often, life-long friends.

9.   Scholarship opportunities. We all want our children to get a college education. But face it. College comes with a big price tag. Let FFA and 4-H help you. And as an adult, you can give back.

10. And many other skills. Entomology. Communication. Horticulture. Food quality inspection. Economic and business development. The opportunities are endless and expand outside agriculture.

As mentioned, these are life skills that will serve your child in adulthood. Help them enjoy all the benefits and who knows, you may become a leader or instructor too (if you aren’t already).

Hay Cost Calculator

Hay season is around the corner and many producers are likely greasing the wheels, sharpening blades, checking belt tension, and settling in for a long hay season. However, it may be wise to do some calculating and revisit some management decisions to determine hay needs and to see if there is a way to reduce hay needs. This could be important considering the tremendous cost of feeding cattle 365 days per year and knowing hay tends to be one of the most expensive feeds available.

In order to achieve the task of determining how much hay is needed and what the potential cost will be, Mr. Kevin Ferguson, Ms. Rebekah Norman, and Ms. Tammy McKinley developed an Excel based “Hay Calculator” to help with the calculations. That file can be found at The tool takes into account storage losses, feeding losses, bale size and weight, cattle weight, consumption, number of days fed, and hay price to determine hay needs and total cost. The calculator can also assist with hay quality analysis.

Based on several pieces of research, the method of storing and feeding hay significantly increase costs. Average storage losses for hay stored six months or longer range from 5 percent for hay in a barn to 30 percent for hay stored outside and uncovered. Hay stacked and covered with a tarp on a rock pad or pallets results in 12 and 14 percent loss respectively. Additional storage methods include a plastic sleeve and net wrap which result in average losses of 19 and 23 percent respectively.

Similar to storage, the method of feeding hay can influence hay loss. Feeding losses from feeding hay in a cone ring range from 2 to 5 percent while feeding hay in a conventional ring results in 4 to 7 percent hay loss. The use of a hay trailer generally results in 10 to 13 percent hay feeding losses while the use of a cradle will result in 15 to 20 percent losses. Unrolling hay on the ground has the most variability with losses ranging from 5 percent to 45 percent. Hay feeding losses are likely more a function of how much hay is fed at a time as opposed to the method. For instance, feeding a week’s worth of hay in a cone ring will result in more feeding loss than feeding one day of hay in a cone ring.

For illustration purposes, consider a producer with 30 cows averaging 1,200 pounds and feeding 2.5 percent of the cows body weight for 150 days. This would result in each cow needing 30 pounds of hay each day on a dry matter basis. Assuming 11 percent moisture would result in the herd needing 76 tons of hay or 152, 1,000 pound bales. If the bales cost $35 per bale then the total cost to the herd would be $5,320. However, storage and feeding loss have not been considered.

Now consider two management options with this herd: storing hay in a barn and feeding in a cone ring or storing net wrapped hay outside and feeding in a conventional ring. The first system of storing hay in a barn and feeding in a cone ring results in a total loss of 6.4 tons of hay or 13 bales of hay for an additional hay cost of $451 for the herd. The second system of storing net wrapped hay outside and feeding in a conventional hay ring results in a total loss of 21.6 tons of hay resulting in the need of 43 additional bales of hay and adding $1,513 to herd hay cost.

This basic illustration demonstrates changes in feed costs from differing hay storage and feeding management. Producers should consider methods of reducing hay storage and feeding losses to reduce total costs. Producers should also consider grazing management practices that reduce hay needs which have a potential of reducing feed costs.

Planning for the Alfalfa Growing Season

Planning for the growing season this year has been a little different than in previous years. The winter season seemed to be longer than usual and has producers wondering when they would be able to access their fields. Here is a bit of information for those producers that are considering planting alfalfa this year.

Field Selection

Establishment of alfalfa seed require a well-drained soil for optimum production. A germination soil temperature of 45oF is adequate for alfalfa establishment. Achieving a profitable stand of alfalfa is the result of proper field selection utilizing proven production practices to ensure germination and establishment. Poor soil drainage can cause problems with soil crusting which may cause poor soil aeration, micronutrient toxicity, and ice damage during winter.

Soil Fertility

It is important to remember to ALWAYS take soil samples before planting to determine pH and nutrient status of the field. Overall, there are 18 nutrients (macronutrients and micronutrients) essential for alfalfa growth. Some of these nutrients include:

  • Phosphorus: Helps root growth and increase seeding success. Low fertility soils can be improved with an application of 30-50 lbs per acre of P2O5, depending on soil test results.
  • Potassium: Research suggests that potassium has little effect or influence on improving stand establishment, however, adequate potassium should be added to meet the needs of alfalfa and even a companion crop.

Planting Alfalfa

Failure to successfully establish alfalfa can be expensive and may lead to issues related to production soil erosion. Some considerations for planting alfalfa include: (1) seedbed preparation; (2) seeding dates; (3) seeding depth and rate; (4) whether or not to seed with a companion crop; (5) 100% alfalfa seedings vs. alfalfa-grass mixtures.

  1. Seedbed preparation 
    Having a firm seedbed is a critical step to ensure good germination of alfalfa seed. Firm seedbeds will reduce the possibility of planting too deep and will help hold moisture closer to the surface. Packing the soil will help to insure a firm seedbed and good soil moisture retention.
  2. Seeding dates
    Determining when to plant alfalfa depends on several factors such as soil moisture and cropping practices. For best results in South Dakota alfalfa should be seeded between mid-April to mid-May. This all depends on weather conditions as well. This year might be safe to say that seeding alfalfa in mid-May might be the best option for producers.
  3. Seeding depth and rate 
    Seed should be covered with enough soil to provide moist conditions for germination. Seed placement of ¼ to ½ inch deep is appropriate on most soils at rates from 10 to 25 lb seed/acre.
  4. Seeding with or without a companion crop 
    Seeding alfalfa with a companion crop such as annual ryegrass, oats, spring barley, or spring triticale can help to minimize weed competition during establishment. However, planting alfalfa without a companion crop allows producers to harvest more alfalfa with higher quality in the seeding year.
  5. 100% alfalfa seedings vs. alfalfa-grass mixtures 
    Pure stands of alfalfa will produce the highest quality forage and for that reason has the highest demand from the dairy industry. Other producers whose animals’ nutrient requirements are lower may be interested in using alfalfa/grass blends to take advantage of improved persistency while still meeting the nutrient requirements of their livestock. Alfalfa-grass mixtures also offers some advantages such as reduced weed pressure and soil erosion.

The Bottom Line

It is always handy to remember that the first harvest seeding year is when alfalfa is seeded in the spring and considerations of taking one or two cuttings in the same year need to be made by then. The first harvest should be done after the flowers begin to appear, allowing greater energy reserves in the roots. Generally, alfalfa will reach this stage of development 60 to 70 days after emergence. Harvesting delays during this stage will cause large reductions in quality and a decline in total yield over the season because fewer harvests are possible.

I hope this growing season is another successful one. We might be a little slow this year; but that does not mean we won’t be able to achieve the goals for production.

8 Tips To Extend Your Phone Battery During Long Days In The Field

It’s a mix of urban legend and science—how to maximize the battery life of your smart phone. iPhone, Android or other, all phones have their limits, and long-days in the field put the devices to their test—particularly when you forget the charging cord.

Here’s a curated list of some ideas to help give you that extra five minutes for a phone call.

  1. Research in how your phone uses its battery

Look to see which of your apps use the most battery power. On iPhones and Android phones, open “Settings” and in the Battery menu, you’ll find a sorted list of apps by the amount of battery power they use.

Then, you can disable the background activities of apps. Here’s a summary from this article in the NY TimesOn an iPhone, go “Settings”, select “General”, and then “Background App Refresh.” From that list you can disable the background activities, which consume battery reserves. On an Android phone, go to “Settings”, select “Data Usage,” choose an app, then select “Restrict Background Data.”

  1. Keep your phone out of the sunlight.

Avoid putting your phone in the direct sunlight or even warm surfaces as it will drain your battery faster.

  1. Set your phone to automatic lock

Most sources cite that a smartphone’s screen consumes the most energy of any component. Enabling auto-lock minimizes the time your phone screen consumes battery while you aren’t actively using it.

  1. Turn off the vibrate function

Unless the vibrate function is the only way for you to know when your phone is ringing, consider disabling it.

  1. Turn down the brightness of your screen or use the auto-brightness feature.

This idea comes with some discussion. The debate comes from whether to use auto-brightness, or to operate with minimum brightness whenever possible.

One report conducted by The Wirecutter found using auto-brightness saved a good amount of battery life. That report also showed in an hourlong test, an iPhone 6s used 54% less battery power with the screen brightness at minimum as compared with maximum brightness. An Android test phone used 30% less.

While some sources advocate you operate your phone at the minimally required brightness, that gets tricky out in the middle of a corn field in the full sun.

  1. Play music downloaded to the phone, rather than streaming it.

In the same above mentioned Wirecutter series of tests, streaming music over a Wi-Fi connection for two hours used 10% of an iPhone’s battery. Streaming the same music stored directly on a device over two hours consumed only 5%.

  1. It’s okay to use chargers not made by the phone manufacturers.

Charging equipment from reputable vendors is just as effective and safe. As this article explains, internally the phone contains all of the circuitry that charges the battery—so charging equipment can’t hurt your phone’s battery. That said, some budget models of chargers can be poorly made or use low-quality components. A poor-quality charger may damage your phone or expose you to dangerous currents.

  1. There are two other tactics worth experimenting with.

Some say to close all unused apps from the background. Others say it doesn’t matter and you can leave them all open. In fact, if you close them only to restart the app, it may require more power from the phone battery.

Some sources say to turn off and disable GPS, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. But, say you are in range of a strong wi-fi signal (which isn’t in the middle of a most corn fields) your phone will use less power with a good wi-fi connection. So if you are working in the shed, next to the farm office, you could save battery by relying on wi-fi.

Farmers’ Share Of Food Dollar At Record Low

USDA’s Economic Research Service’s Food Dollar Series recently revealed that in 2016 the farmers’ share of the food dollar fell to 14.8 cents, down 4.5 percent from the prior year and the lowest level since the series was launched in 1993.

When adjusted for inflation, in 2009 dollars, the farmers’ share of the food dollar was 12.2 cents, down 11.6 percent from 2015 and again the lowest level since the series began.

The farmers’ share of the $1 spent on domestically produced food represents the percentage of the farm commodity sales tied to that food dollar expenditure.

Non-farm related marketing associated with the food dollar, i.e. transportation, processing, marketing, etc., rose to a record-high of 85.2 cents.

USDA tracks several other methods of food consumption in the Food Dollar Series.

For 2016, the farmers’ share of food consumed at home was 23.6 cents, down 2.9 percent from the prior year. For food and beverages consumed at home, the farm share was 18.9 cents, down 3.8 percent from 2015.

The largest decline in the farm share of the food dollar was in food consumed away from home.

The farm share of food away from home was 4.4 cents, down 10.2 percent from the prior year.

The smaller share of the food dollar consumed outside of the home is attributable to the costs of restaurant food service and preparation.

For all but the food and beverage dollar consumed at home and the food at home dollar, the farmers’ share of the food dollar is at record-low levels.

Time to Check for Winterkill Injury

Winterkill Injury

There is a wide range of winterhardiness among alfalfa varieties. Some varieties may have suffered winterkill injury this winter, especially where the crop had no snow cover. Like in wheat, winterkill in alfalfa occurs when the crown is frozen. When this occurs, the taproot will turn soft and mushy. In the early spring, check for bud and new shoot vigor. Healthy crowns are large, symmetrical and have many shoots. Examine them for delayed green-up, lopsided crowns and uneven shoot growth. If any of these characteristics are present, check the taproots for firmness. Some plants may even begin to green-up and then die. Plants putting out second leaves are likely unaffected.

Interseeding alfalfa to thicken an alfalfa stand will generally not work. If the stand is one year old or less, plants will generally come up and then be outcompeted by the survivors from last year. Large dead spots should be disked first and then seeded. If the stand is two or more years old, interseeding alfalfa will not work because of autotoxicity.

Heaving Effect

As the soil freezes and thaws, alfalfa stands can be damaged by the heaving effect. This will be more likely to occur where soils are not under continuous snow or ice cover and where temperatures have been in the single digits at night. This winter has been cold enough to freeze the soil where it is not under snow cover. Soils with high levels of clay are especially prone to winter heaving.

If heaving has occurred, dig up some plants to determine if the taproot is broken. Plants with broken taproots may green-up, but they perform poorly and eventually die. Slightly heaved plants can survive, but their longevity and productivity will be reduced. Crowns that heaved 1″ or less are not as likely to have a broken taproot. With time, these plants can reposition themselves. Raised crowns are susceptible to weather and mechanical damage. Raise cutterbars to avoid damaging exposed crowns.

Evaluating Plants and Stands

Producers should start to evaluate the health of their alfalfa stands as soon as the soil thaws.

  • Look at the crowns and roots.
  • Buds should be firm, and white or pink in color if they have survived with good vigor.
  • The bark of roots should not peel away easily when scratched with a thumbnail.
  • When cut, the interior of healthy roots will be white or cream in color.

When alfalfa growth reaches 4 to 6″, producers can use stems per square foot to assess density measure. A density of 55 stems per sq. ft. has good yield potential. There will probably be some yield loss with stem counts between 40 and 50 per sq. ft. Consider replacing the stand if there are less than 40 stems per sq. ft., and the crown and root health are poor.

If an established stand was injured by winterkill or heaving, and large patches are dead, producers may want to buy some time before replacing the stand by temporarily thickening the bare areas with red clover. Red clover is not as susceptible as alfalfa to the plant toxins released by alfalfa (allelopathy) and helps provide good quality forage.


Spring Manure Applications

Carefully Approach Spring Manure Applications

Appropriate timing is an important part of efficient manure application.

At this time of year you may be looking at a full manure storage and desire to get an early jump on application for the coming growing season. Patience can pay off in the form of manure nutrient conservation. After all, the goal of manure application is to place valuable nutrients on the soil where they are needed and to keep them there. A large part of this equation is timing. The closer the nutrient is applied to actual crop need the better.

The goal of manure application is to place valuable nutrients on the soil where they are needed and to keep them there.

Application of nutrients during times of snow-cover, frozen soil, or saturated conditions increases risk of nutrient loss. Once a nutrient passes the field edge it is lost to the environment – and lost from crop uptake. A fraction of both nitrogen and phosphorus in manure will be present in soluble forms. If the liquid solution of manure can infiltrate the soil then soluble nutrients will infiltrate with the liquid to a location that is safe from overland runoff. The ammonium nitrogen fraction will also be safe from volatilization after it is beneath the soil surface. Frozen, snow-covered, and saturated soil conditions hinder infiltration. Spring rain events can carry both the soluble and solid portions of manure from the field.

If you must apply manure before conditions are ideal, you should go to fields specifically listed in your nutrient or manure management plan to receive manure during the current season. Some things that limit risk of manure nutrient loss include fields with shallow slopes, fields with a perennial crop such as hay, fields with a cover crop, fields with lots of crop residue, and fields that are more distant to water. You should prioritize the order of manure application according to risk and go to the least risky fields first.

Because infiltration can be limited at this time of year, extreme runoff events can occur. For instance, snow melt or rain on frozen or snow-covered ground can cause runoff to occur from lands that rarely lose water. For this reason, it is wise to skip subtle swales in these fields where water can gather and flow. Nutrients placed here certainly won’t stick around. These shallow depressions can be covered with manure later in the spring when risk is lower. Pay attention to the weather forecast, and avoid situations where you expect upcoming weather may undo the nutrient placement work you have done.