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Friday, July 10, 2015

University of Minnesota Extension Small Farm Survey Results 2015

Thank you to those that provided feedback on the University of Minnesota Extension Small Farms Survey!

The University of Minnesota Extension Small Farms Team developed this survey in order to better understand the needs and interests of our audience. The goal of this effort is to utilize the feedback to strategically plan educational events and team activities on a local and statewide level.

The 314 responses help us focus our efforts on what small farmers in Minnesota are doing and where help is needed. Following is a link to the University of Minnesota Extension Small Survey Results:

Be sure to let me know if you have any further questions regarding the survey results or about the University of Minnesota Extension Small Farms Team.

Small Farms U hosts a Pasture Walk on the St Paul Campus

Source: Wayne Martin, Extension Educator, Alternative Livestock Systems

On Tuesday evening, August 4, 2015, Small Farms U at the University of Minnesota will host a pasture walk on the St Paul Campus. A small flock of sheep are grazing on a field just east of the Dairy Barn. The pasture needs to be renovated, and planning in August can help prepare for that activity in the fall.

Tom Gervais, MN NRCS Grazing Specialist, will lead the discussion on the current state of the pasture forage, and what can be done to improve it in the coming fall. He will also address a number of topics on pasture management, including but not limited to the following:

Pasture Management 6:00-8:30 p.m.
  •  Rainfall simulator
  • Evaluating pasture condition
  • Improving pasture condition
  •  Useful products for pasture management
  •  Importance of weed management
  • Financial and Technical assistance – where and how to get it

Discussion led by Tom Gervais - MN NRCS Grazing Specialist. Registration is from 5:30-6:00. Please rsvp so that we know you plan to attend. Cost of the workshop is $10/adult, $15/couple or business partners, and $5/student. Please contact Wayne Martin at, or (612) 625-6224.

Meet in the parking lot at the Beef Barn, corner of Gortner and Buford Avenues.

Subsurface Drip Irrigation (SDI) Field Day

Source: Rod Greder, Wright County Extension Educator

University of Minnesota Extension and NRCS are hosting a FREE subsurface irrigation field day on July 22nd from 10-2. See attached flyer for more information on topics, speakers and activities.

More information is available at the following link:

Benefits of subsurface drip irrigation include:
• Water application efficiency
• Energy savings
• Yield increases
• Less nutrient movement

Please call 763-682-7381 if you have questions.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Sheep/Lamb Management Workshop

The Annual Spring Sheep & Lamb Management Class is on Saturday, April 4, 2015 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Registration begins at 9:30, and the workshop will begin at 10:00 and end around 3:00 p.m. Lunch will be provided. Pre-registration is needed in order to plan for food and handouts.

The following topics will be discussed:

  • Sheep industry overview

  • Breed selection

  • Facilities

  • Lambing

  • Reproduction/genetics

  • Disease

  • Marketing

In the afternoon participants will gain hands-on experience with giving shots, trimming hooves, tail docking, inspecting ewes for health status.

Location: St. Paul Campus Beef Barn, Corner of Buford and Gortner.

To register, contact Wayne Martin at 612-625-6224, or at
$20/adult, $30/couple or business partner, $10/students.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fly Control for Livestock

By: Mike Boersma, Extension Educator & 4-H Program Director, Murray & Pipestone Counties

I am sure you have noticed the abnormally high insect populations this summer. High populations of biting insects are not only a nuisance-and sometimes a health risk-for humans, they can also lead to reduced weight gain and feed efficiency and increased incidence of diseases like pinkeye in livestock.

There are a variety of fly control options available and the preferred method will vary from one producer to the next. The most effective method depends on livestock species, livestock numbers, facility design/pasture size, availability of working facilities, and a variety of other factors. Often, finding a combination of control measures that work well for your management system will be the most effective way to control flies.

Insecticide-impregnated eartags are a popular option for cattle producers looking for season-long control. While these eartags can work well, it is important that producers insert tags in early summer and remove them by early fall to help avoid insect resistance to the insecticide. Also, varying the brand of tag and insecticide used will help to reduce insect resistance.

Back rubbers and dust bags also work well but they must be placed in an area that the livestock will pass through on a regular basis. This could be an open gate, doorway, or some other structure that animals must pass through. Locations adjacent to feed, water, or other areas that livestock visit regularly are the most effective.

There is a long list of pour-on insecticides for producers to choose from as well and these can be very successful. However, their effectiveness on outdoor livestock can be short-term, especially during rainy periods.

Finally, many feed companies offer mineral supplements or lick tubs that can also aid in fly control. Many of these are designed to control fly larvae in manure but may not be effective against adult insects.

Any of these options, as well as many more, can be effective in certain situations and it is important for producers to evaluate the management system that will work best for them. Regardless of which option is chosen, producers should remember to wear gloves and other protective clothing when handling pesticides.

Also, some insecticides may have a withdrawal time for certain livestock. Finally, remember that variation among different control options and different insecticides will help minimize insect resistance and will lead to continued effectiveness in future years.

Monday, June 23, 2014

On Farm Food Safety Workshop

By Jake Overgaard
Extension Educator, Winona County

We've seen the headlines linking spinach, sprouts, melons, or what-have-you with an e. coli outbreak. The impact of an outbreak on an individual farm and the industry in general is significant. Also, with the recent Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) legislation, and more scrutiny from buyers and the public, addressing food safety risks on the farm is becoming more important. This is especially true as more local producers are selling to co-ops, restaurants, grocery stores, farmers markets, and through CSAs. As a grower you might be wondering...

  • When would I need a certification to sell fresh produce?

  • How will FSMA affect my operation?

  • How can I create a food safety plan for my farm?

To address these questions and provide more information regarding on-farm food safety, the UMN On-Farm GAPs Program and UMN Extension - Winona County, have put together a workshop for commercial produce growers. At this workshop, you will...

  • Learn about GAPs, GAP Certification, and FSMA.

  • See how Whitewater Gardens implements GAPs on their farm

  • Practice writing risk assessment statements and standard operating procedures.

  • Learn about additional resources available to you.

Location: Whitewater Gardens, Altura, MN
Date/Time: June 26th, 9 am to 4 pm
Cost: $15 (Includes lunch and refreshments)

For more info and to register, visit the registration page: 

We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Creep Feeding Calves: When Does it Pay?

By: Mike Boersma, Extension Educator & 4-H Program Director, Murray & Pipestone Counties

Creep feeding can be a good way to provide supplemental nutrients to calves in a time when their demands are growing rapidly. The process usually involves allowing calves access to feed or additional high quality forage with fences that exclude the rest of the cow herd. When done correctly, creep feeding provides an extra boost of nutrition for the calves without adding stress to the pasture or additional nutritional demands on the cows.

Creep feeding can be a controversial topic among beef producers, as some feel that the effects of creep feeding are not economical and can even be detrimental to the future of the calves, while other producers feel that creep-fed calves will be heavier, healthier, and transition better to the feedlot setting. Both of these views are correct in certain circumstances.

First, creep feeding isn't always economical. In years when feed prices are high relative to calf prices, it may not make sense to spend the extra money on feed if the returns are low. Also, if you have high-milking cows with enough available forage, it is not usually economical to creep feed because the added calf weight can be gained through healthy cows.

Therefore, creep feeding spring-born calves in May and early June will not have much benefit for the average producer, since forage is usually plentiful and cows should still have adequate milk production to raise their calves. Creep feeding becomes more advantageous for spring-born calves later in the summer when forage growth and milk production decline or in early summer for producers who calve in January and February since these calves are older and their mothers' milk production is declining.

Finally, it is not advisable to creep feed early-maturing, smaller framed calves, especially on a high energy diet. This will cause the calves to gain unwanted fat and will result in low performing cattle in a feedlot situation. This is especially true for heifer calves to be kept for replacement. There are many research studies that prove high fat levels on future replacement heifers at a young age could severely hinder their ability to become productive, functional cows in the future.

On the other hand, creep feeding is a definite advantage when feed prices are low relative to calf prices. Also, in dry years when pasture production is low or when cows are not producing much milk, it is a good idea to provide supplemental nutrition to the calves. This will not only benefit the calves, but also the cows since the calves will likely be eating creep feed instead of grazing on the limited grass the cows desperately need. The pasture will also benefit through reduced grazing pressure.

Calves out of young cows will also benefit from creep feed. These cows usually produce less milk and have a higher energy requirement themselves since they are still growing. Creep feeding these calves will also keep the young mothers in better condition which will help the cows to breed back sooner for the following year.

Finally, purebred cattle producers will likely experience more benefit from creep feeding. The added feed will increase weaning weights and overall bloom to the calves, which will generally bring a premium price when sold as young bulls or replacement females.

So, as you contemplate whether or not to creep feed your calves, keep in mind that there isn't always a simple answer. What is economical for your neighbor's herd may not benefit your own operation. Consider your goals and expectations before creep feeding and make sure the economics are in your favor. In order to spend the extra money on feed, there should be a plan to capture that value back when the calves are marketed.

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