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GROWING FOR THE FUTURE Josh Helberg brings hemp back to Stevens County

Sue Dieter Morris Sun Tribune Like many small business owners, Josh Helberg is always looking for new ways to grow his business. But Helberg is taking the unusual step of literally growing a crop that could become building materials for his construction business - industrial hemp. This year is the second year of a Industrial Hemp Pilot Project through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. In 2016, seven producers across the state, including Helberg, planted the first hemp crop in the state since the plant was banned in the 1950s. Helberg planted four acres of hemp last year in Benton County. This year, he is looking at utilizing his family farm in Stevens County to increase the number of acres he’ll plant. MDA spokesman Allen Sommerfeld said they have received 41 applications this year from producers wanting to participate in the hemp project. But Sommerfeld stresses that there’s more to it than just applying, “Producers have to undergo background checks, become licensed and register with the state.” Helberg admits he’s sticking his neck out for a crop that’s widely misunderstood. “It’s nothing like marijuana. Hemp is useless if you’re looking to get high and all of the legislative concerns about that are asinine,“ Helberg asserted. Nonetheless, Helberg made sure to alert local law enforcement that he would be growing the crop, as much for his own security as for awareness. And he recognizes that education is part of pilot program, for growers as well as consumers. “It’s just like corn and should be treated the same as corn or soybeans,” Helberg said of the hemp plant. In addition to the business benefits of an industrial hemp crop, Helberg contends that there are environmental benefits as well. He was able to grow hemp last year without herbicides, pesticides or irrigation, which he says makes this a good crop to plant as a transition to organic. “You can plant hemp on hemp,” Helberg said. Currently, Helberg owns two small businesses - Exterior Pro and Minnesota Seamless Concepts - that he hopes will benefit from the many uses of industrial hemp. The list of products made from hemp includes hempcrete, hemp fiberboard, insulation and more. And Helberg contends that “virtually every [hemp] product is better than the existing product.” Helberg carries a briefcase made from hemp and hands out business cards printed on hemp and will quickly point out why they are superior to what’s on the market now. In addition to using hemp products in his own businesses, Helberg is trying to encourage others to try hemp. He has a shipment of hemp hurd - left-over fragments of the stems and stalk once all the fibers have been removed - being shipped to him after being imported from Europe for use as animal bedding and landscape mulch. The list of edible hemp products is even longer and Helberg is an enthusiastic promoter of that market as well. “This is an amazing crop and I’m excited to be involved with it now. Plus, it’s sexy to be doing what I’m doing,” Helberg says with a smile. In fact, Helberg has no shortage of enthusiasm for all of the benefits of industrial hemp, including the potential it could bring to Minnesota farmers. More importantly, Helberg believes hemp is an opportunity to create something to pass on to his children.

Contributed Photo

Josh Helberg, kneeling, shows off his first harvest of hemp with University of Minnesota researchers, from left to right: German Vargas, Austin Dobbels, Josh Helberg, Clemon Dabney III, Leon Sanders III.

“Right now, I really have nothing to leave to them for a legacy My construction businesses are built on my ability to work, to hire a workforce. That’s not something I can leave to them. But with all of the potential in industrial hemp as a cash crop and a commodity, that’s something my kids can inherit,” Helberg said.

Helberg grew up on a farm in Stevens County, graduated from Morris Area High School in 1998, headed off to St. Cloud for college and by 2001 had started his own construction business. In addition to his two construction businesses, he has recently started another venture, Good Ole Hemp, a limited liability company that he hopes will one day be marketing any number of hemp products.

Contributed Photo

Josh Helberg planted four acres of industrial hemp in Benton County in 2016 as part of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture Industrial Hemp Pilot Program. This was the first time that hemp had been legally grown in Minnesota since the federal government banned it in 1957. GROWING continued on PAGE 4





Russ Gesch and Frank Forcella USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Morris, Minn.

Cover crops and the practice of cover cropping has caused a big buzz lately. Although this agricultural practice is not new, the USDA-ARS ‘Soils Lab’ and its partners have made some significant discoveries that may make cover-crop use more appealing to farmers throughout the upper Midwest. The benefits of cover crops for sustaining soil health have long been known. A major benefit is reducing erosion and maintaining residual soil nutrients such as nitrate-nitrogen and phosphorous in the cropping system, thereby making these nutrients available to the subsequent crop. Still, few Midwestern farmers practice cover cropping despite the knowledge of their benefits. There have been several reasons cited for lack of cover crop adoption, but the most common ones include difficulty of establishment. This difficulty is often attributed to the narrow window of opportunity to effectively plant cover crops. Another is the cost of establishment and maintenance coupled with lack of economic incentive. But what if these difficulties could be overcome? And what if a farmer could grow a cover crop and harvest it as a commodity for profit? Hence, the term cash cover crops. The Soils Lab in Morris–along with research partners from the University of Minnesota, North Dakota State University, and Iowa State University—are pioneering the development of two new winter annual oilseed cover crops (winter camelina and pennycress) as cash cover crops. Both of these oilseed crops are extremely winter-hardy. They can be seeded in the fall before soil freeze-up, they quickly germinate and emerge, remain dormant during the winter, resume growth in the spring, and are harvested for seed in June. Their early harvest allows the ability to double-crop with soybean and other short-season crops such as dry edible beans. In other words, we can grow two crops in one year on the same land. Double-cropping may not be novel for farmers in Missouri, but for Minnesota growers it is a significant development. Incidentally, some folks may recognize pennycress as a weed. Although this is true, the University of Minnesota has developed a breeding program to domesticate pennycress, with significant progress made in just the past few years. New lines of the formerly weedy pennycress now look like genuine and robust oilseed crops. Winter camelina, on the other hand, has been a recognized oilseed crop in northeastern Europe for centuries. However, in the last 70 years or so, it has been replaced by oilseed rape, a forerunner of canola that’s much more productive. Unfortunately, neither winter canola nor winter rape survives Minnesota winters, but winter camelina withstands even the harshest of winters in the Upper Midwest.

produces enough nectar sugar and pollen protein We have discovered that the most economically to support the needs of an active honey bee colony successful way of producing these two oilseed cash for an entire year—news that should be sweet to the cover crops with soybean is to use a practice called ears of honey producers, specifically, and pollinator “relay cropping.” This practice involves planting enthusiasts in general. soybean between rows of the winter oilseeds in the Consistent revenue for these new oilseed cover spring, when the oilseeds are still small. The soy- crops will depend on building stable and widespread beans emerge and begin growing but are still rela- markets for their seed. Through our joint Forever tively small at the time camelina and pennycress are Green Initiative (FGI: http://www.forevergreen. ready to be harvested. By raising the combine header, the Soils Lab and the University of Minneslightly, the oilseeds can be harvested over the top of sota are collaborating on a camelina and pennycress the soybean, which is later harvested as normal in project with the food-processing giants General September or October. Mills (GM) and PepsiCo, which have both expressed In field trials this past growing season, use of this interest in these oilseed crops. Indeed, hundreds of technique (coupled with the proper choice of soybean pounds of seeds produced in Stevens County recently variety and planting date) resulted in relay-cropped were given to GM for testing in the company’s food soybean yields of 54 to 59 bushels/acre—and that was science laboratories. in addition to winter camelina seed yields of 1,100 Developing the supply chain infrastructure for to 1,200 lbs./acre. The total yield of both camelina these cash cover crops will likely be a key element to and soybean combined from the relay-crop system how wide a scale they are adopted by farmers. In any exceeded that of the traditionally mono-cropped event, the future of these cash cover crops in Minnefull-season soybean, whose yield averaged 58 bush- sota looks promising. els/acre. Although markets for camelina seed are still in their infancy, this commodity can generally fetch a price of about $0.18/lb. So in the above example, growing winter camelina as a cash cover crop could add another $198 to $216 per acre gross profit to the soybean crop. We have shown that this relay system will work across the state from the Canadian border to that of Iowa. However, as expected, the yields and profit are greater in southern Minnesota. We are also experimenting with, and have shown that, other short-season crops such as sunflower, dry edible beans, and proso millet can be successfully double-cropped after harvesting winter camelina and pennycress. Double- and relay-cropping keep the soil covered year-round, thus helping to build soil health, improve water quality, and provide wildlife habitat. Our research has recently shown that during the spring (April through June), camelina and pennycress can deplete labile nitrate concentrations by more than 90% compared to leachate in conventionally managed soils. This, in turn, greatly improves the quality of water entering tile drain lines, streams, Taylir Bullick and lakes. Moreover, we Nearly mature winter camelina with an adjacent row of soybean seedlings in early June. The multitude have shown that just one of egg-shaped seed capsules can be seen and contrasted with the blue sky. Each capsule contains acre of camelina flowers about 10 small, oil-rich seeds.

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USDA-ARS SOILS LAB CONDUCTS WILD RICE RESEARCH Talisha Zimmerman University of Minnesota-Morris and USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Morris, Minn.

This past summer we began a twoyear long research study focusing on the effects of the environment on wild rice quality. The research project is a cooperative initiative funded by White Earth Tribal and Community College together with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service “Soils Lab” in Morris and the U.S. Geological Survey. Our goal is to examine how different factors such as land use, weather, and the presence of macro and micronutrients affect the overall quality of wild rice. We will also identify sources contributing to declining water quality and develop a database to predict future impacts of land use on water quality. Manoomin, the Ojibwe word for wild rice, has been an important food source for Native Americans for hundreds of years and was instrumental in providing sustenance throughout harsh winters. The rice was once so abundant it posed navigational problems for European explorers who made their way through the region by water routes in canoes. Sadly, due largely to the Industrial Revolution and land development including dam construction, populations of the rice have decreased throughout the entire Great Lakes region, disappearing altogether in some lakes and rivers. We hope that the results of this study will produce

information necessary for informed decision making to protect remaining populations of this cultural and natural resource. Throughout the summer, we collected samples from three lakes (Rice, Buffalo and Blackbird) around the White Earth area. We collected plants, sediment, water, panicles (heads) and seed along with physical measurements and records of the surrounding area. Back at the Soils Lab, we carried out chemical and physical analyses to determine the quality of rice from each lake. We also looked at differences in water quality and population densities, among other things. The lakes chosen vary in their level of development, with Buffalo Lake being the most developed and Rice Lake being completely undeveloped. Blackbird Lake was the in-between. The lake lacks any sort of housing development but does have a gravel road that runs the length of it. From the beginning, we noticed differences between the wild rice populations in each lake. The plants in Buffalo Lake’s rice stand were much smaller than those in the other two lakes and contained higher lily pad populations, which choke out the wild rice growth and produce thin rice stands. Meanwhile, the plant populations in Rice Lake were flourishing and filled the majority of the lake. Human-caused disturbances are not all that threaten the viability of wild rice. The plant is also susceptible to changes in water level, storms/high wind, insects/diseases,

and other environmental impacts. Wild rice grows best in depths of 1-3 feet, so for rice growing in deeper water, an increase in water level of just a couple of inches can mean uprooted rice plants. Unfortunately, the White Earth region experienced a number of storms with high rainfall totals towards the end of the wild rice growing season. The resulting increase in water level caused a large portion of the population to uproot in Rice Lake. Rice plants in the other two lakes were not impacted as badly because they had been growing in shallower depths. We have not yet reached the end of our analysis for the 2016 samples. However, we are already seeing a significant difference between the three lakes and their production of wild rice. Our findings thus far show that Blackbird Lake was the healthiest overall, while Buffalo Lake was on the other end of the spectrum. Because Buffalo Lake seems to be the least productive, our next job will be to determine why. For example, we’ll investigate whether this lack of productivity is related to the housing development there, dam construction, or an array of environmental factors. Stay tuned to find out! In the meantime, you can learn more about this project online at research/project/?accnNo=429128 or by emailing Talisha Zimmerman at

Talisha Zimmerman

Wild rice stand on Blackbird Lake. Average height above water on July 6, 2016 was 32 inches.

Abdullah Jaradat

Harvest Time! White Earth Tribal and Community College professor and study supervisor Steve Dahlberg pushes a canoe through Buffalo Lake using a 20+ foot pole. Talisha Zimmerman, seated, takes pictures of the surrounding rice. Average height above water on September 2, 2016 was 65 inches.

Talisha Zimmerman

Flowering wild rice plants on Rice Lake, located in the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. Average height above water on July 20, 2016 was 56.5 inches.


Minnesota Farm Bureau and Minnesota State Fair work in conjunction on the Century Farm Program to honor Minnesota families that have owned their farms for at least 100 years, are at least 50 acres in size and are currently involved in farming. Century Farm families receive a commemorative sign, as well as a certificate signed by the president of the State Fair, president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau and the Governor of Minnesota. The deadline for applications is April 3, 2017. Applications are available at the Stevens County Extension Office or online at http:// recognition.html.

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“My goal is to one day be selling hemp products on Amazon,” Helberg announced. University of Minnesota research assistant Clemon Dabny agrees that the potential for industrial hemp is big, noting the crop is a $500 million industry in Canada. Dabny agrees with Helberg that Minnesota is poised to be a major producer of hemp. “We have a favorable climate and soils beneficial for industrial hemp production. Hemp production supports and creates rural jobs and stimulates the economy in those areas that cultivate hemp. The average hemp grain yield in Minnesota in 2016 was 1,334 pounds of grain per acre. We have a lot of potential that can be realized with more agronomic research and proper cultivar selection.” Sommerfeld says there’s still a lot of work to do to build an infrastructure for any potential hemp industries. Part of the pilot project is to identify potential harvesters, processors and elevators that can handle the crop. But those aren’t the only hurdles. The federal government still lists hemp as a controlled substance, and any expansion of the crop beyond the pilot project would mean the plant would have to be declassified. Helberg can list off the top of his head those state legislators who are opposed to industrial hemp and wonders why they can’t see the crop’s potential. And Helberg says that’s one of several areas he needs help with to keep growing the hemp market and he’s hoping more farmers will get involved in developing this crop’s potential. One of the nagging inconsistencies that he cites is the fact that it’s illegal to feed hemp to livestock, but not to humans. In fact, he’s quick to offer a taste of roasted hemp seed and ask, “Isn’t the good? Now why can’t we offer feed from this same plant to cattle?” Helberg is hoping to find a livestock producer who agrees and is willing to work with him to get that regulation changed. Dabny calls Helberg a hemp pioneer.

Contributed Photo

Education is part of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Industrial Hemp Pilot Project. Grower Josh Helberg says, “Hemp is useless if you’re looking to get high and all of the legislative concerns about that are asinine.”

“Josh is the type of hemp farmer the industry needs; he is open to share his experience as a hemp farmer and more importantly he is willing to learn and adapt to the market. Josh has been experimenting with using the leftover hemp stalks to make products like animal bedding and mulch as well as selling his grain to local brewers to make a hemp beer.” Sommerfeld agrees, noting that Helberg’s enthusiasm will draw interest in the pilot project.

Helberg. Sommerfeld and Dabny all agree there’s much more work to be done regarding industrial hemp, and they welcome questions. Helberg is hoping to find other hemp supporters to help promote and more importantly, consume hemp. He invites you to follow him on Facebook at Good Ole Hemp LLC.

FARM RESOURCE GUIDE NOW AVAILABLE AT LOCAL EXTENSION OFFICES The Farm Resource Guide for 2017 is now available upon request at many University of Minnesota Extension county offices across the state. This resource guide includes a variety of useful farm business management information including the following items: • Custom rates • Average farmland rental rates by county • Flexible rental agreements

• It includes lease forms for cash rent and share rent arrangements • Farmland sales information for all counties in Minnesota • Information on charges for custom feeding, commodity storage, leasing buildings and various bin rental rates • Current information on pasture rental rates, tree timber values

• Marketing information along with recent cost trends for Minnesota • Commodity price probabilities for corn, soybeans, alfalfa hay, straw, grass hay, hogs, and cattle • Corn and soybean yields by county • Feedlot rule highlights and information on manure agreement and easements • Examples of manure spreading lease and land application agreement forms This Resource Guide is available for a $25 fee plus postage and sales tax if you would like to have your own copy. I can provide you the information in your preferred format: e-mail cost $25 plus sales tax; CD cost $28.50; or hard copy cost $30. If you would like your own copy of the Farm Resource Guide, please e-mail bauxx003@umn. edu or call at 507-372-3900 ext. 3906.

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THERESA KEAVENY IS NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR SFA The Sustainable Farming Association is proud to announce that Theresa Keaveny has accepted the position of Executive Director, effective Feb. 5. Tapped after an Theresa Keaveny extensive search led by the Association Board of Directors, Keaveny, a veteran leader of sustainable-focused nonprofit organizations, was introduced at the SFA Annual Conference on Feb. 11 in St. Joseph, Minnesota.

Keaveny worked for 17 years as the founding executive director of Montana Conservation Voters, where she built an effective membership-based group advocating conservation, clean energy and civic participation in government. A Minnesota native who grew up on a farm near Morton, Keaveny is eager to lead SFA’s vibrant network of sustainable farming education and soil health-focused programming. “I’m honored to join the inspiring team of food producers, grassroots leaders and staff at Sustainable Farming Association,” she said. “SFA’s farmer network is an important part of our region’s agricultural landscape. I

look forward to advancing our mission - one that strengthens our rural communities, protects our food producing resources and brings me back to my family farming roots.” Jim Chamberlin, Chair of the SFA Board of Directors, said Keaveny brought a strong background in nonprofit development and operations. “Theresa comes highly recommended as a dedicated employee and someone who cares passionately for the planet and others,” he said. “I look forward to working with and learning from her.” Keaveny has been a rural community organizer in the Dakotas and Montana working on conservation,

water protection and family farm and ranch issues. She received a bachelor’s degree in social work from the College of St. Benedict and a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota-Duluth and brings extensive nonprofit, chapter organizing and fundraising experience to SFA. Theresa also has roots in the food cooperative movement, most recently as a board member of the Billings, Mont., community food cooperative. Keaveny succeeds John Mesko, who last fall accepted the Executive Director position at Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service.


Brad Heins, Kathleen Delate, and Hannah Phillips

Currently, organic production in the U.S. is dominated by cash grain crops, with the majority of organic farmers in the Midwest and Northeast using off-farm purchases to feed their organic animal herds. Integrating crops and livestock on a multi-function operation could have multiple benefits and the potential to improve the profitability of these kinds of operations. Researchers at Iowa State University, the University of Minnesota, and Rodale Institute are in the second year of a four-year project, funded by the USDA Organic Research and Extension Initiative, to evaluate the production, environmental, and economic benefits of growing cash crops with forage crops for grazing, including small grains and hay crops for livestock feed. They are comparing two crop rotations—pasture-winter wheat-soybean-pasture and pasture-winter rye/hairy vetch-corn-pasture—and grazing dairy steers on the cover crops as a method of integrating livestock and organic cropping systems. Pasture, Animal Productivity At the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center’s organic dairy in Morris, Minn., the dairy bull calves are: Holsteins; crossbreeds, including combinations of Holstein, Montbéliarde, and Swedish Red (HMS); and, crossbreeds, including combinations of Normande, Jersey, and Swedish Red (NJS). Researchers there are grazing steers on a pasture divided in half for the two crop sequences (S1: Pasture-wheat-soybean, and S2: Pasture-rye/vetchcorn). These pastures are separated into 15 paddocks, with a non-grazed enclosure in each paddock. Winter wheat and winter rye forages were planted on Sept. 11, 2015, for grazing during spring 2016. During this spring, calves were randomly assigned to replicated groups (winter wheat or winter rye), but balanced by breed group to reduce potential breed bias. Twelve-month old dairy steers started grazing the wheat and rye pastures on April 25, 2016. Forage samples were collected when steers moved to new paddocks which was about every three days.

in soil. Pennsylvania soils had the highest levels of available phosphate, nitrate, and ammonium. The higher nutrient availability could have provided soil microbes with readily available nutrients and therefore required less effort from the microbial community to obtain nutrients. In contrast, the lower nutrient availability in Minnesota and Iowa led to greater enzyme levels to facilitate nutrient turnover during the season.

Digestibility of the winter wheat and rye also was very high (Figure 2). As the wheat and rye matured, the digestibility was lower; however, the dairy steers grazed each paddock and wheat and rye four times in a two-month period.

150 grazing days, the steers gained an average of 1.68 lbs/day. There was no difference in the rate of gain on the two pastures. Grazing enhanced pasture production, as biomass in the enclosures was only 1.85 kg m-2 compared to 12.16 kg m-2 in grazed areas. Rye and wheat were planted in fall 2015 and mob grazed for 14 days in early spring 2016 with plots designed for moving the steers daily. Preliminary data showed higher steer weights after grazing on rye compared to wheat plots. For rye, grazing had a positive effect on plant biomass and grain yield, which averaged 1.2 tons/hectare. By comparison, grazing in wheat plots reduced biomass and grain yield, which averaged 2.6 tons/hectare. In Iowa, organic steers brought from the Minnesota organic dairy were raised on an organic pasture and rotationally grazed throughout the year on an average rotation of eight days. Pasture biomass production, in general, was greater in the grazed areas of the paddocks, with one of the higher-producing paddocks averaging 2,372 lbs/acre biomass in mid-season, compared to 1,677 lbs/acre in the non-grazed enclosure. Soil Quality Six surface soil samples (0-15 cm) from each sample plot and enclosures were collected for nutrient availability and biological activity among the sites in spring 2016. Microbial biomass carbon, and enzyme activity for acid and alkaline phosphatase, beta glucosidase, and arylsulfatase were found to be highest in Minnesota, intermediate in Iowa, and lowest in Pennsylvania. These three enzymes are directly related to the phosphorus, carbon and sulfur turnover

Social Aspects Three farmer focus groups were conducted in summer 2016 to understand farmers’ experience and interest in livestock-crop integration. Groups were convened in Kutztown, Penn., Greenfield, Iowa, and Morris, Minn. Recruitment prioritized livestock farmers who were currently growing, or interested in introducing, small grains for grazing. The farmers in these groups expressed concerns about: economic risk of transitioning to a new system; potential food safety risks associated with livestock proximity to crops; demands on time and labor; physical demands of livestock/complex management; federal subsidies for conventional mono-cropping systems disincentivize integration; and, lack of local markets/educated consumers to fully support alternative systems. Researchers plan to address these concerns through this study. The integration of livestock in organic cropping systems is a prerequisite for long-term agricultural stability. We are studying methods to integrate crops and livestock to determine this model’s effect on animal performance, crop productivity (including small grains for grazing), soil quality, food safety and social acceptance. During the third year of the project, organic row crops will be harvested, and crop/livestock budgets will be produced. Brad Heins is an assistant professor of organic dairy management at the University of Minnesota’s West Central Research Center in Morris, Minnesota. Kathleen Delate is a professor of organic agriculture at Iowa State University, and directs the Organic Agriculture Program there.

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At the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania, dairy steers grazed an eight–acre pasture in 2015, subdivided into four rotationally grazed strips that were each one acre. The steers were allowed to graze each one-acre paddock for about 14 days. Over the

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Crude protein (Figure 1) was very high in both the winter wheat and winter rye across the grazing season, which lasted until June 14, 2016 for these grasses. From early May through the end of the grazing season, the crude protein was lower than at the start of grazing; however, the steers were probably more efficient at utilizing the protein when it was lower compared to high protein levels observed during late April.

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SWINE RESEARCH AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA TACKLES ANIMAL WELFARE CONCERNS Scientists studying swine are trying to help pork producers respond to animal-welfare concerns

Tom Meersman Reprinted with permission from the Star Tribune


David L. Hansen | U of MN

Gestating (pregnant) sows at the U of MN West Central Research and Outreach Center, Morris. All gestating sows are housed in bedded, group-pens from weaning to about 110 days of gestation (5 days before farrowing).

of a sudden you’re down to 2,500 sows with pretty much the same cost structure as you had before,” he said. The farmer must either make less money on the smaller herd, he said, or spend more in construction costs to build an addition to the barn. The reality for producers, Johnston said, is that in most markets they’re not getting paid any more per pound for pigs or sows raised with more space, even if that might be better in some respects for the animals. Sherrie Webb, director of swine welfare at the National Pork Board, said there are benefits and drawbacks to both individual stalls and group housing. Individual stalls allow each sow to get the exact amount of nutrition that she needs, and the animals can be monitored more closely for health problems. But group pens allow more freedom of movement and the ability to interact socially with other sows. “Most of the time that’s positive, but pigs do have to establish social hierarchy and groups,” Webb said, “and it sometimes results in aggressive behaviors that can be detrimental to their well-being and cause injuries.” That’s something that Yuzhi has studied in Minnesota: whether there may be ways to reduce aggression by mixing the same or different ages of sows in group housing, or changing the manner or time that they are introduced to each other and providing “escape” places in the pens where less aggressive sows can avoid fights. Webb said that research in Minnesota, which produces more pork than any other state except Iowa and North Carolina, is key as the industry tries to accommodate consumer demands for changes. Nine states, not including Minnesota, have regulations that require group housing for sows, she said. There are no published data on how much of the national pork industry has switched to group housing for sows, Webb said, but it’s clear that animal welfare is a growing research interest, whether it be in livestock production, companion animals or laboratory animals.

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Other recent projects at the center in Morris have aimed at reducing the environmental footprint of the swine industry by using solar and wind technology and conservation. One study tested piglets to determine whether the traditional practice of keeping temperatures constantly at 86 degrees in pig nurseries could be dropped 10 degrees at night. Scientists found that cycling temperatures made no difference in growth rates, health or behavior of the animals, and could save producers 20 to 30 percent of heating and electric bills. One of the largest studies focuses on floor space for pigs as they grow to market weight. Commercial operations typically provide about 8 square feet per pig, Johnston said. Minnesota and four other universities are now analyzing results of identical studies to see what happens when hogs are raised in five different floor plans with space ranging from 7.6 to 11.6 square feet. The diet, number of pen mates and feeder spaces were all the same, Johnston said, so the only difference was the amount of space per pig. “We measured growth rate, feed intake, and efficiency of gain,” he said, as well as lesions on pigs because of fighting or injury. The researchers also placed cotton ropes in the pens, which curious pigs will chew on, to collect and analyze saliva and hormones that indicate stress levels. The goal, Johnston said, is to provide data so that producers can choose the best floor space allowance for animals to do well, while still being economical. Those kinds of changes may not go far enough for animal welfare advocates, but Webb said it depends on the goals. “If the objective is that pigs should not be raised for food at all, then it’s hard to find common ground,” she said. “But if the objective is to achieve good welfare and look for ways to continuously improve how we raise pigs, then we may be able to bridge that gap and address some of those concerns.”

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Mama pigs at the University of Minnesota have a somewhat cushy life compared to those in most conventional hog farms. The pregnant sows live together in small groups with straw bedding, unlike the traditional swine housing of individual stalls and slotted flooring above concrete manure pits, where sows have only enough room to stand up or lie down during their 114 days of gestation. Studying group housing for pregnant sows is one of the ways that researchers at the U’s West Central Research and Outreach Center are helping pork producers and processing companies respond to public pressure about animal welfare in the swine industry. Recent studies include housing options for pregnant sows, aggressive behavior of swine in confinement, and how different amounts of living space affect swine behavior, growth rates, stress and other factors. “A lot of our effort has been to address societal concerns about pork production,” said swine scientist and operations director Lee Johnston. “Those concerns are raised by consumers and market chains, and producers in turn are asking themselves and us how to respond to those market signals or satisfy those questions and demands.” Some questions are about animal welfare, he said, and some are about nutrition and feed additives. Protests against confinement of pregnant sows and treatment of pigs are not new, but they were brought to the surface again two weeks ago when the international animal welfare group Mercy for Animals presented undercover video of what it called cruelty to pigs and sows by a Hormel supplier in Oklahoma, the Maschhoffs. Both Hormel and Maschhoffs said they have strict codes of conduct and policies related to animal care, and both launched investigations. At the U’s center near Morris in west-central Minnesota, Johnston and associate professor Yuzhi Li, an expert in swine behavior and welfare, have been on the forefront of animal welfare and nutrition issues for the swine industry. The center has barns that accommodate about 60 breeding sows, 900 nursery pigs and 800 finishing pigs (those from about 50 pounds to full-grown market weight of about 280 pounds). The farm is nowhere near the size of some commercial operations, Johnston said, but it’s large enough to conduct research that pork producers don’t have the time, space, money or expertise to study on their own. Some studies are financed by the National Pork Board and the Minnesota Pork Producers Association, but funds also come from state and other sources. Yuzhi said there’s a difference between how activists and scientists approach animal welfare concerns. For advocates, she said, animal welfare is primarily a moral value to be achieved, whereas scientists measure animals’ performance, behavior and health. “We want to assess and evaluate animal welfare objectively, even though it’s a value issue,” she said. “We want to be sure animal welfare is safeguarded based on science and knowledge, rather than just saying that animal welfare is bad or good.” Johnston said there are economic considerations as well, and sometimes a disconnect between living conditions that consumers want to see — lots of space for sows and pigs — and the reality of what producers can manage or afford. “If we have a farm with 3,000 sows and we go to a pen configuration with 20 percent more space, all

Dylan Schuster




NITROGEN CREDIT FROM LEGUME COVER CROPS IN HIGH TUNNEL PRODUCTION Liz Perkus, Julie Grossman, Mary Rogers and Steve Poppe U of MN West Central Research and Outreach Center, Morris Season-extending high tunnel production has been expanding rapidly across the U.S. High tunnels are an important tool that small-scale vegetable producers in the upper Midwest can use to grow good quality, high value crops. High tunnels extend the growing season earlier in the spring and later in the fall, and in some cases, allow year-round crop production with little to no additional heat. High tunnels also create hotter summer conditions needed to produce high quality tomatoes and peppers in Minnesota. Another benefit of high tunnel production is protection; the plastic cover protects fruit from rain-drop propelled soil splattering, minimizing the spread of soil borne plant pathogens which can reduce yield and market value of the crop. High-tunnel production is characterized by increased productivity, but due to intense cultivation strategies and fertilize intensively, these practices lead to some unusual soil health problems such as high salinity and low organic matter content. Our high tunnel project at the West Central Research and Outreach Center evaluates inclusion of shortlived, fall planted cover crop legumes to improve soil fertility and quality in high tunnel environments. The long term goal for this integrated project (Research, Education), based on extensive feedback from growers, is to develop a comprehensive and economically viable model to address soil health issues in high tunnels across a wide geographic area, resulting in increased adoption of practices such as legume cover crop incorporation that promotes sustainable management of organic high tunnels. Our project is designed to have far-reaching implications for how farmers manage their high tunnels for optimal soil health and economic returns. Objectives 1. Evaluate fall-planted legume cover crop mixes for nitrogen credit potential 2. Assess weed suppression ability of cover crop mixes

High tunnel pepper research at the West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris.

3. Determine the effect of cover crop mixtures on pepper production After the final pepper harvest three cover crop treatments were grown in the high tunnel from late August to early May. Inside the high tunnel during the winter months, temperatures can fluctuate quite drastically. There is no snow insulation to protect the plants from cold temperatures and plants have limited access to moisture. Even though these factors can stress cover crops we successfully overwintered the crop, cut down with a mower and incorporated into the soil with a rototiller in early May, 2016. Cover crop treatments in the high tunnel were 1) bare control, 2) red clover, 3) pea/rye mix, and 4) vetch/rye/tillage radish mix. All 3 cover crop mixes have a legume, and we’re trying to use the legume’s ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen to eliminate need for nitrogen fertilizer. At the time we incorporated the cover crops into the soil, we estimated that the bare

Contributed Photo

control contributes no nitrogen fertilizer, red clover will contribute 78 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer/acre, pea/rye mix will contribute 139 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer/acre, and vetch/rye/radish will contribute 125 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer/acre over the growing season. The recommendation for peppers in this soil type is 100 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer/acre, so in 2/3 treatments we exceeded the recommendation. We did not add any fertilizer besides the cover crops to the tunnel this year and harvested 1490 pounds of marketable peppers from a 30 by 48 ft tunnel through September 14, 2016. There was no difference in pepper yield between treatments. Upon harvest, these peppers were delivered and used by University of Minnesota, Morris Food Service. For more information about high tunnel research at the U of MN, visit http://www.extension.


Minnesota Congressman Collin C. Peterson Ranking Member, House Agriculture Committee

The House Agriculture Committee recently held its first hearing of the 115th Congress. “Rural Economic Outlook: Setting the Stage for the Next Farm Bill” Collin Peterson was the first in a series of hearings the Committee plans to hold this year as it prepares to write a new farm bill. The hearing was an opportunity to hear from agriculture economists on the state of the farm economy. While agriculture has, no doubt, had some good years the last several have been trending the wrong direction. The last

farm bill’s safety net was written for the high farm prices farmers were receiving at the time. Unfortunately, this safety net is not adequate to deal with the economic conditions facing farmers right now. We were fortunate that last year’s tremendous yields helped to offset low prices. But I worry that if crop prices stay low and we return to an average crop, or see any changes in demand, farmers could be in for some sobering news next time they meet with their banker. Farmers of all sizes – from younger, beginning farmers just starting out to those who have farmed the same land for generations – could feel the impact. And the simple fact is that farmers can’t produce a crop without adequate financing. Depressed farm prices have a ripple effect throughout the rural economy, which has until recently been an economic bright spot, and there are going to be calls for Congress to provide some

relief. Doing so through a long term solution, with passage of a new farm bill, rather than a short term fix, is the best way to move forward. This is why I am urging Congressional leaders to act on a new farm bill sooner rather than later. The dairy program is one particular area that we know needs to be adjusted and I plan on taking a fresh look at the way the program is structured. The current safety net is an improvement over the previous bill but sign up has been poor and there are real concerns about its effectiveness. Calls to fix the dairy program will only increase as prices continue to fall. I’m also going to be taking a look at reforming the current Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) system and expanding program acres, while ensuring rental rates better reflect what

is happing in the market. Doing so will potentially help with crop prices but it will also improve water quality and wildlife habitat. The bottom line is that we need a new farm bill with a strong safety net, including a solid crop insurance program, to help people weather this downturn, however long it’s going to last. I’m hopeful we will be able to write a bill based on what is needed in the countryside and not driven by some arbitrary budget number. It’s not going to be easy. Every farm bill I have been a part of has been more difficult to pass than the previous one. There are myriad reasons for this but, given the challenges that are sure to lie ahead, I believe 2017 is our best opportunity. I’m ready to get to work.

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USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Morris, Minn.

Ag scientists are interested in measuring many factors or variables that effect crop growth and yield at the end of the growing season. Planting date, stand, variety, water availability, fertilizer, weather, and type of tillage are a few of the variables that are measured and recorded. Details of plant development, such as plant height or leaf area, are often measured through the growing season. Measuring plant height doesn’t require sophisticated tools: a yard stick, pencil and notebook will do. However, when it comes to crop development and health, high tech approaches are being explored, including one that measures and analyzes reflectance of light energy from the plant. Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) is a number that can be used to quantify the reflectance from a plant canopy. NDVI has been used in remote sensing, i.e., satellite imagery, to measure ground area covered with green plants and to assess the health of the plants. The development of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS – a.k.a. “drones”), along with sensor electronics and imagery software, allow these measurements to be made on a smaller field or plot scale from lower elevations, such as, 30 to 450 feet above ground.

Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS a.k.a. “Drone”) sensors are shown. The photo displays a.) Dual sensor to the left and b.) A quad sensor for measuring light reflectance from crop canopies that is currently mounted on the bottom of the sUAS.

= (NIR – Red) / (NIR + Red). This results in a number between negative 1 and positive 1. In a healthy crop, red reflectance is small relative to the NIR, so the result is a high NDVI. If the crop is less healthy, the plant reflects more red light and the resulting NDVI is lower. Incidentally, if we measure the reflectance of light from water, the NIR is small and the red reflectance is high, so the NDVI calculated can be negative. How do we measure the reflectance to calculate NDVI? A standard digital camera captures red, green, and blue wavelengths (RGB). Sensors to measure reflectance can be built with modified digital cameras that record RGB and NIR wavelengths. Image analysis software is used to “stich” together many images, each of which is made of many pixels. The NDVI calculation is performed on each individual pixel. Geographic Information System (GIS) software can

be used to create a map of a plot or field displaying the NDVI values. The photo below shows the sUAS payload that the USDA-ARS “Soils” Lab in Morris is experimenting with to measure crop reflectance. The sensor on the left (a.) is a dual-channel sensor. A coin in the image helps to show the scale. Technology continues to change and recently a quad sensor (b.) was added to the sUAS. It captures RGB, NIR and two additional channels with additional wavelengths to collect more detailed plant information. We have discussed one method of measuring light reflectance from crops and calculating NDVI which is one measure of plant heath. This is an evolving technology that may help scientists, ag consultants and farmers to quantify crop heath and aid in crop-management decisions.

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How is NDVI Calculated? Although I’m not an expert on the physics of light or plant reflectance, I will attempt to describe the basic science behind the technique. To calculate NDVI, we measure light reflected from the crop. Light energy is made of various wavelengths. A rainbow is an example of light being divided into wavelengths. Raindrops in the air divide sunlight into various wavelengths. These range from relatively short wavelengths of, say, 400 nanometers (nm) which appear as the color violet, up to about 700 nm, which appear red. When a health plant is growing (photosynthesizing), and producing chlorophyll, it absorbs more red light, so red reflectance is low. Near infrared reflectance (NIR) is light reflected from the crop that has longer wavelengths which, incidentally, are not visible to the eye. A healthy plant absorbs more red light and reflects a large amount near infrared light, i.e., low red reflectance and higher NIR. A crop canopy that is less healthy reflects less NIR and reflects more of the red light because the red is not being absorbed. The NDVI calculation uses the measurements of crop reflectance (Red and NIR) to create a single number. The formula for calculating NDVI is; NDVI

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HOW MUCH LIVING SPACE DO MODERN MARKET PIGS REQUIRE? tions. In this study, we evaluated the growth performance and welfare of pigs weighing between 60 and 300 pounds that were provided 7.6, 8.6, 9.6, 10.6 or 11.6 square feet of floor space per pig. Regardless of whether pigs were provided 7.6 (crowded) or 11.6 square feet of floor space (liberal space), daily weight gain (range = 2.12 to 2.19 pounds), daily feed intake (range = 5.85 to 6.04 pounds) and pounds of feed required for one pound of weight gain (feed:gain ratio, range = 2.74 to 2.84) were not affected by the floor space allowances studied. We also collected data on measures of pig welfare in the five floor space allowances studied. We hung cotton ropes in the pens for pigs to chew on. By chewing on the ropes, pigs moistened the ropes with saliva which we collected and measured salivary cortisol concentrations (a measure of chronic stress in pigs). There were no differences in concentration of cortisol in saliva of pigs from different floor space allowances. Likewise, the numbers of scratches on the pigs’ bodies were not different among the five floor space allowances which suggests that more crowded pigs did not inflict any more harm on each other than pigs with more liberal space allowances. The similarity of salivary cortisol and incidence of scratches suggests that the welfare of pigs was not compromised by floor space allowance as low as 7.6 square feet nor was it enhanced by floor space allowance as high as 11.6 square feet. Based on previous equations, we predicted pigs would not feel the negative effects of crowding until pigs reached 210 pounds body weight. So, about 62% of the total weight gain in

Lee Johnston WROC

Modern pork production systems are continually improving their efficiency of producing pork. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, pork producers responded to market demands by modernizing their barns which allowed them to match barn size and design to the volume of pigs they produced. New and remodeled barns were sized to accommodate an average litter size of 9 to 10 pigs weaned. At that time, market pigs were sent for processing at a body weight of about 250 pounds. However, over the last 10 to 15 years, we have seen significant advancements in genetics, nutrition, and management of pigs such that productivity of sow herds has increased. Now, many pig farmers are producing 11 or more pigs per litter and market pigs are harvested at a body weight of 280 pounds or heavier. This increased productivity many times is occurring in barns that were sized for levels of production common in the late 1990’s. As a result, finishing pigs can experience crowded housing conditions during some portion of their lives close to market weight. In dealing with this issue, pork producers can reduce the size of their sow herd to match the spaces available in finishing barns or build more finishing barns. Both choices have economic implications for the farmer. Research conducted in the 1990’s and early 2000’s determined that finishing pigs marketed at about 250 pounds required about 8 square feet of floor space to optimize growth performance. But these studies never considered pigs marketed at weights of up to 300 pounds. One would assume that a bigger finishing pig would require more floor space but this assumption has not been tested. Given the economic decisions farmers would need to make to avoid crowding of heavier finishing pigs, we decided it was wise to determine if pigs marketed at heavier body weights (300 pounds) do indeed require more floor space than the 8 square feet recommended for pigs marketed at 250 pounds. To answer this question, we conducted two experiments. Study 1 was conducted at four research stations (Michigan State University, Ohio State University, Kansas State University, University of Missouri) in addiROB NEEDHAM, Owner Master Plumbing License #061981-PM tion to the West Central Graceville Research and Outreach Center (WCROC) using the same set of instruc- (320) 748-7174 or (320) 808-8347

research indicates that pig farmers can continue to populate their existing barns with pigs that will be marketed at heavy weights in the same way they did when pigs were marketed at much lighter weights. This practice will optimize output of pork from existing production systems without compromising the welfare of individual pigs. Collaborators on this study were: Dale Rozeboom, Michigan State; Steve Moeller, Ohio State; Bob Goodband, Kansas State; Marcia Shannon, University of Missouri; Sarah Schieck, University of Minnesota Extension, and Adrienne Hilbrands, WCROC This research was supported by the Pork Checkoff through the Minnesota Pork Board. For more information about swine housing research at the WCROC, visit

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Study 1 was under conditions that were not crowded. This period of early growth in un-crowded conditions likely masked any negative effects of crowding that might have been present at the end of the growing-finishing period. Therefore, we conducted Study 2 at four research stations that focused on growth performance of pigs weighing about 300 pounds. Pigs weighing about 293 pounds were assigned to pens that provided 7.6, 8.6, 9.6, 10.6, or 11.6 square feet of floor space per pig. After a 2-week growth period the study was ended. As floor space increased average daily gain (1.89, 2.09, 2.09, 2.43, and 2.34 pounds) and average daily feed intake (6.68, 7.19, 7.10, 7.70, and 7.17 pounds) increased in a linear manner. Results of Study 2 suggest that the optimal floor space allowance for pigs weighing about 300 pounds is 10.6 square feet per pig. So, for these heavy pigs at the end of the feeding period close to market weight, more floor space (greater than the traditional 8 square feet recommended for 250 pound pigs) is required to maximize growth rates. In practice, pork producers probably do not have to build new barns or reduce sow herd size to prevent crowding of these heavier finishing pigs. Typically, farmers will “top” pens. “Topping” pens is the practice of marketing a small number (2 to 5) of the heaviest pigs from each pen a couple weeks before the remainder of the pigs are marketed. By removing a few pigs from each pen, more floor space is provided to the remaining pigs so that they are not crowded. Our


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PAGE 10 - SATURDAY, MARCH 11, 2017


FLY CONTROL FOR GRAZING AND ORGANIC DAIRIES control in various parts of the country. The fabric dislodges flies, which are drawn by light to sides, through baffles, are trapped and then die. The Cow-Vac is a new way to control horn flies on dairy cows. It can be placed at the entry or exit of the milking parlor or barn. As the cows walk through, the Cow-Vac will blow horn flies off the back, belly, face, flanks and legs into a vacuum system that collects them in a removable bag for disposal. An electrician will need to install a 220v outlet that can be reached by the 10’ power cord. For the cows at the Morris dairy, it took about 1 week to get cows conditioned to going through both fly traps. During the summer of 2015, we evaluated the efficacy of the Cow-Vac in on-farm organic dairy production systems to control horn flies, stable flies, and face flies. The study partnered with eight organic dairy farms in Minnesota, and herds ranged from 30 to 350 cows in size. The farms were divided into pairs by location in Minnesota and during the first period of the summer (June to July) the Cow-Vac was set up on one farm and during the second period of the summer (August to September) the Cow-Vac was sent to its paired farm. Farms were visited once per week to collect flies

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from the CowVac, as well as count and record flies on cows. The results of fly counts and milk production for the presence or absence of the Cow-Vac on farms are in the accompanying table (Table 1). Horn fly numbers on cows were reduced by 44% on farm in the presence of a Cow-Vac compared to the absence of a Cow-Vac. Stable fly and face fly numbers were similar on farm whether the Cow-Vac was present or absent on farms. Milk production was similar for farms with the CowVac compared to without the CowVac. In summary, these results indicate the Cow-Vac was effective in reducing horn fly numbers on cows and reduced horn fly growth rates during the pasture season

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SATURDAY, MARCH 11, 2017 - PAGE 11


Lee Johnston, Adrienne Hilbrands, and Julia Holen West Central Research and Outreach Center, Morris

Modern pork production systems are continually improving their efficiency of producing pork. Efficiency of production has improved mainly because each sow produces a larger litter than 10 or 15 years ago and pigs are raised to much heavier body weights (30 to 50 pounds) than previously. These improvements in biological efficiency have occurred in barns that have not increased in size to keep pace with the improvements in productivity. Consequently, pigs may become crowded in pens as they near market weight. Often, but not always, crowded pigs can display signs of chronic stress which can depress growth rate and immunity of pigs. There are several possible solutions that could decrease the negative consequences of crowding. Producers could simply stop implementing technologies improve production MORRISthat SUN T RIBUNE - F ARM efficiency. Yet, this hardly seems reasonable given the economic and environmental demands for efficient use of resources. Pork producers could just build more barns to accommodate

the increased production. This is a viable solution but requires a thorough economic analysis to ensure that the increased fixed cost associated with an additional barn will be covered by the revenue generated when pigs grow faster in the un-crowded conditions. Thirdly, farmers might be able to use a nutritional approach to help pigs cope with the stresses imposed by crowding. Zinc is a trace mineral that is required in all pig diets. Zinc plays an important role in maintaining a functioning immune system, supporting muscle growth and wound healing, and ensuring proper reproductive functions. Zinc has been shown to help animals adapt to stressful conditions. So, we wondered if additional supplements of zinc in the diet over what is normally included would help pigs withstand the stresses imposed by crowded pens and ultimately improve pig performance under crowded conditions. In our experiment conducted at the West CentralSaturday, Research Outreach Marchand 9, 2013 - Page 7C Center, we used 636 pigs assigned to 5 different treatments beginning at about 50 pounds body weight until pigs were marketed at about 290 pounds. The Control treatment included pigs

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housed in un-crowded conditions (7.9 square feet of floor space per pig) and fed corn-soybean meal based diets that contained the recommended amount of zinc (60 parts per million). The Crowded treatment included pigs housed in crowded conditions (6.5 square feet of floor space per pig) and fed exactly the same diet as Control pigs. Growth rate of the crowded pigs was significantly less (2.01 vs. 2.13 pounds per day) than that of the uncrowded pigs, as we expected. The remaining three treatments all housed pigs in crowded conditions but offered pigs additional dietary zinc at 40 or 80 parts per million from a highly digestible organic zinc source (amino acid chelated zinc) or a commonly-used inorganic zinc source (zinc sulfate). The Crowded control treatment demonstrated that pigs were stressed to the point that growth performance suffered. So, we could properly test if additional dietary zinc would help alleviate the crowding-induced stress and improve pig performance. Only in the last two weeks of the finishing period when pigs were the most crowded were daily weight gain of pigs and efficiency of weight gain improved with addition of the organic zinc source. However, over

the entire experiment, neither zinc source nor level of additional zinc improved growth performance of pigs compared with pigs that received no extra dietary zinc. We also measured carcass characteristics (backfat depth, loineye area, fat-free percent lean) and quality of loin chops (drip loss, marbling score, color measures) and found that neither crowding nor additional zinc affected these traits. In summary, we learned that supplemental dietary zinc does not seem to help pigs cope with crowded conditions often experienced in the finishing period. Pork producers’ best strategy to alleviate the negative effects of crowding are to continue marketing 2 to 5 of the heaviest pigs in each pen a couple weeks before marketing the rest of the pigs. This practice, known as “topping pens”, frees up space for the remaining pigs and reduces the effects of crowding. Topping pens makes good sense from economic, pig performance, and pig welfare perspectives. For more information about swine nutrition studies at the West Central Research and Outreach Center, visit research-programs/swine/nutrition.

HEALTH CARE COSTS SHOULD BE PART OF FARM BUSINESS PLAN Ag economist urges farmers to track their expense

Sue Dieter Morris Sun Tribune Health care costs are quickly becoming one of the most significant costs for farm families, and farmers need to include it in their management strategies. That’s according to Dr. David Kohl, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. Kohl gave a seminar on “Agriculture & Economics 2017 & Beyond” on Feb.21 in Morris. Kohl told the roughly 200 people at the seminar that he was visiting with a farmer in Nebraska just before may indicate potential it per steer ($593 vs. $442) Christmas, and the compared farmertowas lookhealth benefits of grassconventional fed Consumers whocosts steersfor because of lower ingbeef. at health care his family. rated the beef found no sig- feed costs, mainly pasture. “He had a computer spreadsheet nificant difference for Therefore, a low grain - various plans forration a family of five overall liking for the conmay reduce feed ventional organic beef. costs sacrificing rangedandfrom $21,000 to without $36,000. AnThe organic beef had sig- profit in an organic dairy other one had a $12,000 deductible, nificantly higher flavor lik- system, assuming the $24,000 ing than the annual conventionalpremiums,” grass-fed steers Kohl can be beef. However, marketed at atopremium stated. Heconsumers asked the farmer work rated the grass-only beef price based on the producwith his farm management instructhe lowest in overall liking tion system. tors to put those costs into a per and flavor. The conventional steers For profitability, bushel basis. grain had some advantage over costs were substantially the grass-only steers, and The results from that farmer higher for the organic the conventional dairy showed healthsteers care premiums steers, andthat therefore, grew much faster resulted in a net loss per and required less time27 to were 14.5 cents a bushel on corn, steer (-$644/steer). The slaughter. However, grasscents on beans, 24 cents on wheat. higher cost of production only steers required fewer resources than conventional steers. Organic dairy producers trying to seek relief from high grain prices, with a little “extra” pasture may be able to

make a profit from feeding organic dairy steers versus selling them to conventional markets. The most important point for reducing inputs and increasing profits in organic dairy systems is to produce high quality forages and maximize dry matter intake on pasture.

in business sustainability and the game of life.. “Waiting until November to ask your accountant how much taxes you’ve gotta pay is so 1950s.” “But then you know what? The plan leads to strategies,” Kohl said. Especially at a time when it’s hard to predict what’s coming next.

And in this economic reset, “you gotta prioritize your priorities.” The half-day seminar in Morris covered almost every topic of the ag economy, from immigration to international trade agreements and the new administration. Kohl’s presentation was sponsored by AgCountry Farm Credit Services.

For more information, contact Brad Heins, Assistant Professor, Organic Dairy Management, 320-589-1711 or

Sue Dieter | Morris Sun Tribune

Members of the Morris Area FFA attended a seminar by Dr. David Kohl on Feb. 21 Blake Engebretson shares what he learned from the four-hour seminar.

Dr. David Kohl spoke in Morris on Feb. 21

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Sue Dieter | Morris Sun Tribune

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for the organic steers is due to the extremely high value of organic corn ($15.90/bushel, January 2013). The grass-only steers had the highest prof-

Kohl encouraged farmers to do the same with their health care costs, as part of their business planning. But Kohl acknowledged that, health care “is what’s hitting our farmers and hitting them hard.” Kohl advocates for business planning for farmers at every opportunity, calling it a tool for turbulent times that can put them a step ahead

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PAGE 12 - SATURDAY, MARCH 11, 2017




What impact will covering the land with cover crops or perennial grasses have on a farmer’s financial bottom line? The Land Stewardship Project (LSP) has developed a new tool that can help answer that question. The Cropping Systems Calculator is for farmers, ranchers, non-farm landowners and natural resource professionals who want to crunch the numbers and find practical ways to achieve continuous living cover on the land. “We already know that growing cover crops, diversifying rotations and establishing more perennial pasture grasses on the land is good for water quality and wildlife habitat,” said LSP’s Robin Moore. “But that does little good if farmers can’t afford to make these changes to their operations. Now the Calculator can help figure out the financial pluses and minuses of covering fields beyond the typical 110-day corn-soybean growing season.” The Calculator was developed as part of the Chippewa 10% Project ini-

Wasserman-Olin, who developed the tool in consultation with various other economic experts, as well as farmers. The Calculator’s default figures were gathered from the University of Minnesota’s farm financial and production benchmark database--otherwise known as FINBIN--that covers a 10-county area encompassing the Chippewa River watershed region. These defaults can be easily changed by the users to more accurately reflect the realities of their own enterprises, thus allowing them to customize the Calculator to their situation. “The Cropping Systems Calculator is not expected to provide an exact amount of income a farmer can rely on earning the following season, but rather a good estimate of the range of returns possible,” said Wasserman-Olin. “The goal of the Calculator is to give farmers a way to make informed management decisions that aren’t simply based on doing it the way we’ve always done it.”

Members of the Chippewa 10% team have spent that past few months working with crop and livestock farmers in the Chippewa watershed to test and fine-tune the Calculator under real world conditions. One of those farmers, Byron Braaten of Starbuck, Minn., was surprised when the Calculator showed that planting row crops wasn’t the only practical choice on his operation. “If you feed it your honest numbers you get an honest answer, and at least on my farm, it supports more cover crops, more diversity,” said Braaten. “We’re brainwashed into thinking that corn and beans are the only way to make money, but this tool helped me see what is profitable on my farm, what works with my numbers.” The Cropping Systems Calculator is available at For more information, contact Robin Moore at 320-269-2105 or


In a 1787 letter to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson penned the words, “Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.” Today, less than 2 percent of the United States’ population is directly involved in agricultural production, while 100 percent of the American people benefit from it. Early in the twentieth century, farmers accounted for 40 percent of the workforce. Consumers around the country are thought to be at least three generations removed from the farm, having few ties to experiencing production agriculture firsthand. With this elevated level of unfamiliarity, many people are questioning agricultural practices and are losing trust in the nation’s system. Efficiency and productivity have become the focus of American farmers in growing an abundant, affordable, and safe food supply. Today’s farmers produce 262 percent more food with 2 percent few inputs (labor, seeds, feed, fertilizer, etc.) compared to 1950. There are 2 million farms that dot America’s rural landscape, operated by families, individuals, partnerships, and corporations. The company now known as Riverview, LLP began as a family-owned crop and beef farm in 1939, but has since grown into a multi-faceted, ever-changing partnership. In the mid-1970s, the family business was incorporated under the name of Riverview. This new

company continued farming and raising beef cattle until the late 1990s when the company’s business structure changed to a limited liability partnership (LLP). Operating as an LLP allows Riverview to have multiple owners and provides opportunity for employee and neighbor ownership at a variety of investment levels. Riverview, LLP is 70 percent employee owned. The remaining 30 percent are neighbors, community members, and extended family. Riverview’s agronomy team raises crops to feed the cattle, while focusing on production-farming techniques and being good stewards of the land. Taking care of the environment is important to the success and longevity of any farming operation. Like most farmers, Riverview focuses on sustainability and taking care of its natural resources. Riverview takes measures to have a low impact, such as limited agitation of manure, injecting manure directly into the soil, and keeping barns clean to keep odor at a minimum. Water appropriations are monitored by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The DNR works with farmers to make sure there is enough water in the aquifer to supply the farm, which includes a study on the regeneration rate of water into the aquifer. Erosion control is addressed in a variety of ways that cater to the climate of that particular geographical area. Cover crops are planted in Nebraska’s sandy soils, while double-cropping in Arizona reduces wind and water erosion. In Minnesota, cover crop trials this win-

ter are evaluating the effectiveness and validity of future cover cropping options. Tiling methods are used to maintain the water table for healthy plant growth and conserve topsoil by reducing runoff and the nutrient’s mobility. This also creates a soil space free of excess water and raises soil temperature for faster plant growth while potentially increasing crop yield and field traffic ability of equipment. Riverview grows a variety of crops in rotation, including corn, wheat, alfalfa, soybeans, and edible beans. Crop rotation is important to soil health and is done on all Riverview farmland. Riverview grows approximately 25 percent of its feed needs and the rest is purchased from local farmers. Corn and alfalfa are the primary crops grown and are harvested as haylage and silage. Haylage is harvested 4 times per year and takes place in the summer months. The crop is first cut with mowers, merged into large windrows, then chopped directly into a truck. Corn silage is harvested in late summer and early fall by chopping crews using choppers, trucks, packers, and dozers to get the corn silage from the field to the dairy site. Haylage and silage are both stored onsite in large piles that are packed and covered with plastic in order for proper fermentation to occur and to meet the dairy’s feed needs for the entire year. Dry corn, soybeans, and edible beans are harvested in the fall and are directly marketed as commodity crops. Liquid manure is held in manure lagoons and used as fertilizer after fall harvest. Soil is tested to determine the appropriate application rates needed for fertility and tilth of the

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All Weekend • Free Admission • Ortonville High School

• Agronomy • Chemicals, Fertilizer, & Seed • Bulk Fuel Delivery • Feed • Gas Station Sales & Service • Shop Service & Repair

Friday, March 18 • 11:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 18 • 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

• 8 a.m—11 a.m. Kiwanis Breakfast

• 12:30 p.m—1:30 p.m. Kids Tractor Pull • 1:00 p.m. Swing Time Band • 10 a.m—4 p.m. Daycare provided • 1:30 p.m—2:30 p.m. Just for Kix Dance (Toddlers to age 8) • 2:30 p.m—4 p.m. Building Competition • 11 a.m—12 p.m. “Simple but effective and Robotics Demo Walleye Techniques” (Mike Frisch) SPORTSMANS PRIDE all WEEKEND • 11:30 a.m—3:30 p.m. Race Cars on Display (Free Will donation)

(Meet Derek Rieck and Laramie Piekers)

• 1 p.m—2 p.m. Pet Talk • 2:30 p.m—3 p.m. Banners at Sunset, Taps & Salute (Q&A with author Jay D. Ross)

• 3:30 p.m—4:30 p.m. Tech Talk

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soil. Manure samples are tested to find nutrient levels prior to application, after which manure is applied at recommended rates determined by the University of Minnesota. Riverview maintains a manure management plan and follows all regulations to take care of the soil, crops, and water. There is always concern over large-scale production farms creating too much odor. Riverview mitigates much of this issue by covering its lagoons with impermeable synthetic covers which help contain the odor. Liquid manure is applied to fields by both Riverview and custom pumping systems by direct injection into the soil in order to reduce odor and nutrient loss. Dry manure solids are primarily used for bedding, and excess tons are transported by trucks throughout the year and are stockpiled in fields. Typically these fields are of greater distance from the dairies that are more difficult to reach with the drag hose system used in liquid manure application. After the fall harvest, dry manure tons are applied with tractors and spreaders at a specific tonnage rate across the field. Following application, the field is tilled to incorporate the manure solids. Both liquid manure and dry manure are offered to local farmers outside of Riverview as a fertilizer source to be purchased and applied. Riverview utilizes numerous trucks, chopping crews, and liquid manure pumping crews for the various field applications and harvests throughout the year. These systems are owned and operated by local farmers and are a vital part to Riverview’s agronomy system as a whole. Riverview welcomes the opportunity to share our story with anyone who would like to learn more. Please contact us via our website, www.riverviewllp. com, or call 320-392-5609 to set up a free tour.

Cards can be picked up from the Chamber booth! Must be completed and turned in to the Chamber booth for a drawing on the hour, every hour from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, and from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. One entry per person, per day to qualify for the Grand Prize Drawing on Sunday at 3:30.

Find them backstage of the auditorium ALL WEEKEND LONG!

Raffle at the Chamber Booth! WIN:

• 4K Drone w/camera—Yuneec “Breeze” • PIZZA for 6 months—S & D One Stop, Ortonville -Gasoline for a year—S & D One Stop, Ortonville • 4 Paintball Tickets - with MN Pro Paintball • MN Zipline Outdoor Adventure Ticket • Great Lakes Aquarium Tickets • MN Renaissance Ticket Need not be present to win.


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Marti Koehl Riverview, LLP

tiative, a collaboration of LSP, the Chippewa River Watershed Project and various other groups and agencies. The initiative is working to help farmers and other landowners develop profitable methods for protecting water quality in the Chippewa River watershed, which is in west-central Minnesota. The Calculator is an Excel-based tool that allows the comparison of two crop rotations, each up to six years in length. It provides average yearly returns as well as a year-by-year breakdown for each rotation. Another feature of the Calculator is that it allows a comparison of various grazing systems on a per-acre basis. A producer can compare types of cattle (cow/calf, stocker, feeder-to-finish, custom grazing) as well as grazing management style (continuous, basic rotational, managed intensive rotational, mob). In fact, the Calculator is relatively unique in that it can compare row-cropping to various grazing systems on a per-acre basis, according to LSP’s Rebecca



SATURDAY, MARCH 11, 2017 - PAGE 13

RENEWABLE AND EFFICIENT ENERGY SYSTEMS FOR DAIRY FARMS The typical mid-sized dairy farm uses a large amount of energy during milking activities. This is due to the frequency of milking and the energy intensive nature of harvesting milk, keeping it cool, and cleaning the equipment with hot water. Renewable energy systems generally become more economically efficient as the amount of energy used increases, making dairy farms a great place to incorporate renewable energy. Dairy farms have not typically been set up with energy efficiency in mind and often use relatively expensive fuel sources like heating oil or propane to heat water. One of the difficulties encountered with renewable energy systems is the intermittent generation of wind and solar energy whereas the energy load on a dairy farm is very consistent since cows are typically milked twice or three times every day (very large dairies may milk continuously). An efficient way to store energy has long been sought to tie energy production and consumption together. A dairy farm’s need for both electricity and heat provides an ideal situation to generate electrical energy on-site to meet current electrical load requirements, displace conventional thermal fuels with electrical energy, and evaluate thermal storage as a solution to the time shifting of wind and solar electrical generation. Our team at the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC) in Morris, MN has been monitoring water and energy usage since the fall of 2013 with our two dairy production systems. The dairy operation at the WCROC milks between 200 and 270 cows twice daily and is representative of a mid-size Minnesota dairy farm. The cows are split almost evenly between a conventional and certified organic grazing herds and all cows spend the winter outside in confinement lots near the milking parlor. The existing dairy equipment is typical for similarly sized dairy farms and included none of the commonly recommended energy efficiency enhancements such as a plate cooler, refrigeration heat recovery, or variable frequency drives (VFD) for pump motors when this project started in 2013. The goal of our project is to increase renewable electric energy generation on Minnesota dairy farms by establishing a “net-zero” energy milking parlor. A data logger (Campbell Scientific CR3000) was installed in the utility room of the dairy milking parlor in August 2013 and has monitored 18 individual electric

loads, 12 water flow rates, 13 water temperatures, and 2 air temperatures for the last 2.5 years. Average data values are recorded every 10 minutes. The milking parlor has gas and electric meters which measure the total consumption of natural gas and electricity within the parlor. The data is used to evaluate energy and water usage of the various milking appliances throughout the day and total daily usage over a month or year. Not every load in the dairy barn is measured. Loads that are not measured are small, occur in unused parts of the barn, or are not directly related to the milking operation. These loads fall into the category of miscellaneous loads and are estimated by subtracting all the measured energy use from the total energy used measured by the utility electric meter. Overall, the milking parlor currently consumes about 250 to 400 kWh in electricity and uses between 1,300 and 1,500 gallons of water per day (see figures). The milking parlor currently consumes about 110,000 kWh per year (440 kWh/cow/day) in electricity and 4,500 therms per year in natural gas. A majority of the electricity use in our dairy facility is for cooling milk (27%), followed by our ventilation system and fans (16%). Our dairy also uses about 600 gallons of hot water per day, with a majority of hot water used for cleaning and sanitizing the milking equipment after each milking, followed closely by cleaning the milking parlor facilities after each milking. The energy and water usage fluctuates throughout the year because our dairy calves 60% of our cows from March to May and 40% from September to December each year. Therefore, water and energy usage increases dramatically in April each year. One energy efficiency upgrade was installed in the milking parlor in September 2013. The upgrade was a Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) for the vacuum pump. Before the upgrade, the vacuum pump used 55 to 65 kWh per day. After the installation, the vacuum pump used 12 kWh per day, resulting in a 75% decrease in energy usage. The data show a large drop in daily electricity usage by the pump providing a vivid example of the kind of energy savings that can be achieved with relatively simple equipment upgrades. This example also hints at the potential for large decreases in the energy needed to harvest milk if the whole system is re-engineered with energy efficiency in mind. Furthermore, our dairy has 2 bulk tank compressors: one scroll compressor and one reciprocating compressor because of our organic and conventional dairy systems. The scroll compressor is the newest


Robin Trott University of Minnesota Extension Educator The first question you should ask yourself when planning a new garden is “Why do I want a garden?” Maybe you have a shady spot where grass won’t grow, but hostas and ferns would. Perhaps you have fond memories of your grandmother’s cottage garden, full of color and texture. You might be hoping to reduce your food bill by producing some of your own fresh fruits and vegetables. Your reasons for planting a garden and the eventual use of that garden space are instrumental in determining your garden site and the plants you choose. Plants in a butterfly garden are chosen to attract, retain, and encourage butterfly populations. Nectar producing plants that bloom throughout the summer will attract the most visitors. It is most important to select plants that bloom in mid- to late summer, as this is when butterflies are most active. Dill, Petunias, Asters and Heliotrope are good annual choices to include in a

butterfly garden. Asceplias, buddleia and purple cone flower are great perennial selections. All of these plants do best in full sun. English Cottage Gardens tend to be informal compact spaces close to a front or back door. They are historically composed of a colorful mix of annuals and perennials designed to delight, rather than impress. Plants are spaced very close together to discourage weeds, and appear random and carefree. They are usually filled with old favorites, including: peony, cosmos, foxglove, snapdragon, pansy, bachelor’s button, columbine, bleeding heart, and hollyhock. A Kitchen garden is the place to grow the things you bring into the kitchen: herbs, vegetables, fruits and berries, and even the cutting flowers for your table. Most of these plants require full sun. Kitchen gardens are placed within close proximity to the kitchen, so the spontaneous cook can hop out and harvest herbs and food as the need arises. Raised beds and square foot gardening ideally suit the kitchen garden. Remember, 001543834r1

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compressor and uses 15 kWh per day versus 40 kWh per day for the reciprocating compressor. Based on milk production for the 2 dairy herds, the scroll compressor costs $0.73 kWh/cwt versus $1.08 kWh/ cwt., indicating the scroll compressor is more efficient than the reciprocating compressor. In terms of fossil energy use in our dairy production system, milk harvesting operations used more energy than herd feeding and maintenance. This suggests that fossil energy use per unit of milk could be greatly reduced by replacing older equipment with new more efficient technology or substituting renewable sources of energy into the milk harvesting process. To implement energy efficiency on dairy farms, dairy producers should begin an energy audit to gather farm energy data and identify energy efficient opportunities that could be made on their dairy farm. Energy monitoring will uncover electricity saving opportunities on dairy farms. Some of the energy efficiency options that may be installed on dairy farms include refrigeration heat recovery, variable frequency drives, plate coolers and more efficient lighting and fans. A majority of these upgrades would have immediate to 2 to 5 year paybacks. Dairy farms should make all electrical loads as efficient as possible or practical. All thermal loads could be converted to electricity by the use of heat pumps to that allow for cooling of milk. In the future, we have plans to harvest energy from our manure lagoon and store electricity as heat by use of heat pumps. A dairy farm may also add renewable energy options to improve the energy efficiency on farms. These may include solar thermal collectors to pre-heat water, solar photovoltaic panels for generating electricity, small-scale wind turbines for electricity, and large, insulated tanks for thermal energy storage. We will install a 50 kW DC ground mount solar photovoltaic array, and 2-10 kW wind turbines to meet our dairies energy demands. A 2,200 thermal storage system employing an electric heat pump will also be installed to recover heat from the milk refrigeration system and solar thermal collectors. Our “Greening” of dairy energy project will investigate an efficient energy storage technology and system that could significantly improve the feasibility of renewable energy on dairy farms. More information and dairy energy project updates may be found at our website http://wcroc.cfans. energy-dairy

many flowers are edible, and are unique additions to your salads. These include: Anise Hyssop, Bee Balm, Borage, Chives, Scented Geranium, Gladiola, Johnny-Jump-Up, Lavender, Lemon Marigold, Nasturtium, Pansy, Pinks, calendula, Rose, Sunflower and Violet. Gardening in the shade doesn’t have to be a challenge. There are many plants that thrive in shady areas, and add light and texture to dark spaces. Hostas and ferns are typically planted in shady spaces, but there are plentiful choices for the shade gardener. Astilbe, bleeding heart, pulmonaria, Virginia blue bells, ligularia and forget-me-nots all do well in part-shade – shade conditions. Whatever your reasons for planting a garden, good planning ahead of planting will get you off on the right foot and hopefully forestall any problems you may encounter. If you want to learn more about gardening, join the Douglas County Master Gardeners at their spring horticulture Education Day, Let’s Get Growing, April 8 from 8:00 AM-3:30 PM at Alexandria Technical and Community College. Good luck with all your garden plans! Until next time, happy gardening!

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PAGE 14 - SATURDAY, MARCH 11, 2017


SWAN LAKE WEATHER STATION UPDATES Steve Wagner, Electronic Engineer and Larry Winkelman, IT Specialist USDA-Agricultural Research Service Morris, Minn. The USDA-ARS “Soils Lab” has been collecting weather data at the Swan Lake Research Farm for nearly two decades. We are grateful to the Barnes-Aastad Soil and Water Conservation Research Association, a local agricultural research support group that originally purchased the Swan Lake Research Farm and leased it to us for our research. This arrangement has given the Soils Lab and many cooperating scientists consistent access to the farm for short- and long-term research projects, including the weather station site. Types of weather data collected include wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, relative humidity, air temperature, soil temperatures, solar radiation and precipitation. This data is sometimes referred to as “micrometeorology” or “micromet” data because we are interested in weather conditions on a small scale in terms of space and time. Recording weather conditions at the Swan Lake Research farm is important to the various scientific experiments on the research farm. The Soils Lab makes the data available to other researchers and the general public via the lab’s website and

more recently through a National Ag Library (NAL) website. To access weather data from the Soils Lab website (https://www.ars. soil-management-research/), click on the “Weather Data – Swan Lake Research Farm” link (figure 1). This displays a page where you can select the current year or previous year’s data. Daily data displayed include minimum and maximum air temperatures and relative humidity, total solar radiation, mean wind speed, total precipitation for the day and minimum and maximum soil temperatures at the two and four inch depths (figure 2). The Soils Lab is participating in a relatively new national program known as “Long Term Agroecosystems Research” (LTAR). The Swan Lake Weather Station is now part the LTAR national network of locations recording weather and other scientific measurements. The LTAR sites record data which is transferred to and stored at the National Ag Library. The LTAR sites are displayed on the NAL website map shown in figure 3 (https// One goal of the LTAR program is to collect and make data available on a near real-time basis. The Soils Lab has used data loggers to collect the weather data automatically since the station was established at the farm, however, uploading the data was only semi-automated.

In the fall of 2015 we automated the

ARS computer via file transfer proto-

This is an example of the Swan Lake Weather Data accessible through a link on the Soils Lab Web Site. Interesting features include the Growing Degree Days, rain fall amounts and the soil temperatures.

This National Ag Library web site displays a national network of weather stations that includes the Swan Lake Research Farm. This web site provides near real time access to weather data records at Swan Lake and network sites across the country.

The Soils Lab web site is one way to access the weather data at the Swan Lake Research Farm. This is also a good site to learn more about the research going on at the Lab.



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col (ftp). On the NAL side, additional software or scripts transfer the data from the ftp site to the NAL servers (computers) automatically each hour for storage, display and retrieval. Air temperature, mean wind speed, relative humidity, precipitation, baroSWAN LAKE continued on PAGE 15

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transfer of weather data from Swan Lake to a personal computer (PC) at our lab and eventually to the NAL to satisfy the near real time goal. A dedicated PC runs Microsoft Scheduler to automatically run a small program or “script” to upload the data to another



SATURDAY, MARCH 11, 2017 - PAGE 15

SWAN LAKE Continued from PAGE 14

metric pressure and solar radiation are currently available on the NAL website. One advantage to automating this process is allowing access to this data an hour after it’s collected (near real time). For example, we can check how much rain we received in the past few hours without driving to the farm. As long as all the technology works, and is reliable, the updates can be made without the need for human intervention. Many of the experiments at the Swan Lake Research Farm are done in cooperation with scientists at the University of Minnesota, South Dakota State or North Dakota State University. So, it is also useful for these cooperators to access the data remotely. Scientists also have access to weather data for a larger region or the nation. LTAR sites are displayed on a map on the NAL website (figure 3). To view data for a particular site, select

a station from the drop down list and specify a range of dates at the left side of the page. In the LTAR network, the Swan Lake Farm Weather Station is labeled as “Upper Mississippi River Basin”. Figure 4 shows an example of selecting the Upper Mississippi River Basin - Morris and selecting the days in January for graphical display. Winter precipitation is measured with an All Weather Precipitation Gauge. It is important to note that snowfall events are recorded as rainfall equivalent, rather than snow depths. Selecting the Data tab displays daily data in a text format with an option to expand the view to hourly data. In this article, we have discussed two ways to access weather data from the Swan Lake Research Farm. You are welcome to contact the Soils Lab if you have any questions or would like Here is an example Swan Lake Weather Station data graph generated and displayed on the National Ag Library web site. This site provides a new path to access weather station data from the Swan Lake further information. Research Farm.

FORAGE QUALITY OF ALTERNATIVE GRASSES AND MILK PRODUCTION OF GRAZING DAIRY CATTLE included a diverse mix of cool season perennial grasses and legumes such as perennial ryegrass, white clover, red The University of Minnesota, West clover, chicory, meadow bromegrass, Central Research and Outreach Cen- orchardgrass, meadow fescue, and ter has been studying BMR sorghum alfalfa. The second pasture system sudangrass and teff grass, as organic (warm system, System 2) was a combidairy farmers in Minnesota are begin- nation of the cool season perennial mixning to incorporate these grasses in tures and warm season annuals BMR their grazing programs and are inter- sorghum sudangrass and teff grass. ested in learning more about them. We Perennial pastures were established wanted to determine how the forage in 2012. Warm season annuals BMR quality of annual warm season grasses sorghum sudangrass and teff grass compare to perennial cool season were planted in individual paddocks pasture mixtures, as well as how they during the third week of May of each influence milk production and health year. Forage samples were collected parameters in grazing organic dairy daily throughout the grazing seasons of 2013-2015. Dry matter was analyzed cows. For our study, 90 organic dairy immediately after sample collection. cows were used in a study to com- Forage samples were tested at Rock pare two different pasture systems River Labs in Watertown, WI for the at the West Central Research and forage quality characteristics neutral Outreach Center in Morris, MN. The detergent fiber (NDF), total tract NDF first system (cool system, System 1) digestibility (TTNDFD), crude protein (CP), and mineral content. Forage quality was similar between cool season perennial pasture grasses and the warm season species evaluated in this study (Figure 1). Cool season pasture had higher average crude protein (23.0%) than the warm season grasses, but BMR sorghum sudangrass and teff grass still had adequate levels of protein for lactating cow diets (18.5 and 17.5%, respectively). Dry matter was higher in Figure 1. Forage quality of cool-season and warm season grasses cool season pasture (23%) Brad Heins and Kathryn Ruh WROC

and teff grass (24%) than BMR sorghum sudangrass (20%). TTNDFD was similar between all types of forage. The mineral composition varied between the different grasses. There were no differences in milk production, components or SCS between cows grazing only cool season pastures and cows in a system that incorporated warm season annuals. Average milk production was 32.3 lb for the cool system and 32.5 lb for the warm system. When cows switched from grazing cool season pasture to BMR sorghm sudangrass, production significantly increased by 2 lbs per cow per day (Table). There was also no difference in body condition score, body weight, or activity between systems. Cows in both systems follow similar trends in production including decreased production during times of high temperature and humidity. In 2015, cows in the warm system achieved higher production than cows in the cool system during July and August. During the first year of the study,

cows in the cool season system needed to be supplemented with stored feed in a TMR due to a shortage of forage biomass in pasture, while cows in the system incorporating warm season grasses were still able to graze. The following year there were no difference between pasture systems. Therefore, warm season annuals in grazing systems for dairy cattle may be beneficial in certain years to compensate for weather that affects pasture production. Warm season grasses like BMR sorghum sudangrass and teff grass may be incorporated into a pasture system for grazing organic dairy cattle without sacrificing forage quality. Milk quality and production can also be maintained when warm season grasses are incorporated in a grazing system for organic dairy cattle.

Production of cows grazing cool season pasture and alternative forages



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The Morris Sun Tribune/Hancock Record salute to agriculture in west central Minnesota