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Extension > Small Farms News > February 2012

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

University of Minnesota Extension Offers Workshops for Small-farm and Acreage Owners

By Nathan Winter
Extension Educator, McLeod and Meeker Counties

Do you have the dream of owning acreage in the country? Do you have an existing acreage that is need of a plan and strategies for the best possible results? The Living on the Land Workshop Series, offered by University of Minnesota Extension, will equip you with the education and resources to be successful.

The eight-week course is designed to arm landowners with agricultural information to enable them to be good stewards of their land. The course will begin with goal-setting and individual property inventory, then address soil, plant and water basics.

The Living on the Land curriculum addresses a growing need for information regarding small acreages. The series incorporates knowledge and experience from a team of instructors to address topics including: what do you have and what do you want, what you can do with your land, water quality, protecting household drinking water, how plants grow, what to do about weeds, lawn and pasture maintenance, getting down and dirty with soils. The series also includes a farm tour.

The series will be taught by Extension educators and natural resource professionals at two locations. Both workshop series will be held on Thursday evenings from March 8 - April 26 from 6-9 p.m. One location will be in Hutchinson at the McLeod County Fairgrounds 4-H Café and the other location will be in Mankato at the Historic Courthouse in the Conference Room.

Early registration is $175 until Friday, March 2 and all registrations received afterwards will be $200. The registration fee includes participation of two people, for example a husband and wife team or two siblings, who may attend together and share materials. Benefits include useful educational publications, an educational farm tour and dinner, a site visit/consultation from a University of Minnesota Extension educator in your area, as well as the tools to help you succeed with your goals and dreams on your country acreage.

Register now because space is limited at each location. Contact Nathan Winter for a hard copy of the brochure and other questions regarding the Hutchinson Location at 320-484-4303 or by e-mail at Contact Diane DeWitte at 507-304-4325 or by e-mail at for more information on the Mankato location and registration questions.

View the 2012 Living on the Land Workshop Series Brochure.

Any use of this article must include the byline or following credit line:
Nathan Winter is an agricultural production systems educator with University of Minnesota Extension.

Fertilizing Grass Pastures

By Jerrold Tesmer
Extension Educator, Fillmore and Houston Counties

Are you looking for ways to get more out of your pasture? Have you ever soil tested your pasture? Do you treat your pasture like a valuable crop?

As with other crops, adequate fertilizer is needed for optimal economic production. This might mean being able to increase the number of animals grazing a particular pasture or have pastures last longer into the summer or fall. Soil testing is particularly valuable for determining phosphate and potash needs.

Nitrogen is usually the first nutrient we think of for grasses and grass mixtures. Grasses grown for pasture are a perennial crop. Nitrogen fertilizer guidelines are based on expected yield. The expected yield will vary with such factors as intended use, management intensity, and soil texture.

Nitrogen Guidelines for grasses and grass mixtures in Minnesota.

Nitrogen Table.bmp

Expected yields of 4 or more tons of dry matter per acre are reasonable for situations where soils have good water holding capacity and intensive management practices such as rotational grazing.

The time for nitrogen fertilizer application should match the growth pattern of forage grasses. The majority of grasses found in Minnesota are cool season grasses. With cool season grasses, the majority of growth takes place in late spring and early summer. Therefore, early spring application is suggested for these grasses.

Split application of nitrogen fertilizer is an option for intensive management situations when expected yields are greater than 4 ton per acre. If split application is an option, 75% of the nitrogen should be applied in early spring and 25% in late August.

The listed rates for rates for phosphate and potash can be taken from the results of your soil test. The needed fertilizer should be broadcast to established pastures in early spring for cool season grasses.

Phosphate fertilizer guidelines for grasses and grass mixtures.

Phosphorus Table.bmp

Potash fertilizer guidelines for grasses and grass mixtures.

Potassium Table.bmp

In some field crops, other nutrients have been found to be of value. Research trials in Minnesota have shown that forage grasses and grass mixtures have not responded to application to other nutrients in a fertilizer program. Therefore, none are suggested.

For more information on fertilizer recommendations in Minnesota consult "Fertilizer Guidelines for Agronomic Crops in Minnesota" BU-06240-S Revised 2011, Daniel E. Kaiser, Extension Soil Scientist; John A. Lamb, Extension Soil Scientist; and Roger Elieason, Director, University of Minnesota Soil Testing Laboratory. For more information, visit online:

Lambing Preparation

By Mike Boersma
Extension Educator, Pipestone and Murray Counties

Lambing season is quickly approaching for many sheep producers and this can be an exciting and challenging time of year. Adequate preparation is essential and will make lambing season more successful and less stressful. Here are a few points to keep in mind as lambing season approaches.

First, is the lambing barn ready? No two lambing barns will be identical and there is no "correct" set-up, since each operation will have slightly different needs and resources available. However, regardless of the type of facility, producers should make every effort to create a relatively warm environment free from cold air drafts on the animals. There is a fine line between creating a warm environment and creating a place with poor air exchange and high humidity. The lambing barn still needs to have a level of fresh air exchange-the key is to provide the fresh air without creating drafts directly on the animals.

Another consideration is to be sure the lambing pens are ready. Lambing pens should consist of a mostly enclosed area that provides about 25 square feet of space for the ewe and her lambs. These pens should be clean and free of manure and should have a heat lamp or other supplemental heat source in one corner for the newborn lambs. The ewes should be kept in these pens for 1-3 days, or until their lambs have nursed and are able to get up and going on their own.

Producers should also prepare themselves to deal with sick or weak lambs. Attentiveness is key here, as weak or chilled lambs can recover much sooner if caught early. The longer the lambs are cold and/or the longer they go without adequate colostrum (first milk) intake, the less likely they are to make a full recovery.

In an ideal situation, the lamb should nurse within the first hour after birth to receive the full benefits of the colostrum from the ewe. If the lamb is unable to nurse, it may be necessary to tube-feed the lamb, which can be done with a clean syringe and a small hose. However, tube-feeding should only be performed by skilled producers, since improperly inserting the tube could pose serious risks to the lamb. It is important that producers prepare ahead of time for weak lambs by having frozen colostrum and milk replacer on hand.

In addition to these simple practices, it is also important that sheep producers work with their veterinarian to develop a proper vaccination and lamb health program. Have the necessary vaccines and antibiotics on hand at lambing time, along with syringes and other equipment. If producers take the time to prepare these few things in advance, their foresight should be rewarded with a successful lambing season.

Any use of this article must include the byline or following credit line:
Mike Boersma is an agricultural production systems educator with University of Minnesota Extension.

Preparing for Kidding Season With Dairy Goats

By Laura Kieser
Extension Educator, Carver and Scott Counties

It is s a sure sign that spring is on its way when baby goats start arriving. Because goats are seasonal breeders by nature, we usually see most kids born February through April. Some producers in MN have already started kidding season with kids being born in January, and some herds have kids born as late as June. The two months prior to kidding/parturition is an ideal time to deworm and hoof trim does. Parasite control during the dry period will help prevent high levels of parasite exposure for newborns as well as the doe. It is also important to check and treat any external parasites. Hoof trimming is very important and helps the doe to be more mobile and comfortable as she walks around with her ever-growing kids en-utero. By trimming the hooves during the dry period, less stress is placed on the doe when it is time to give birth.

Late pregnancy is also an ideal time to give yearly booster shots of vaccines utilized in the herd. Vaccines give protection to the doe as well as ensure high levels of antibodies in the doe's colostrum. Colostrum is the first milk produced by the doe, critical for the kids to consume to provide passive transfer of antibodies. The most common vaccines would be for enterotoxemia (also known as overeating disease) and tetanus. Enterotoxemia is caused by Clostridium perfringens types C and D. A tetanus booster can be combined with the Enterotoxemia vaccine.

Additional selenium and Vitamin E may be given during late pregnancy if the soil in the area is selenium deficient. This will provide the doe sufficient levels for her needs and prevent white muscle disease in the developing kids. It is necessary to consult your veterinarian to obtain injectable selenium and vitamin E.

Nutrition needs to be continually monitored during late pregnancy. The doe should maintain her condition and weight. The developing kids grow rapidly during the last several weeks of pregnancy, as do the metabolic demands on the doe. It is important during the early dry period to provide good quality roughage to supply the dry doe's metabolic needs while ensuring an active, normally functioning rumen. Two to three weeks before freshening, her metabolic needs change dramatically and the doe requires more concentrated forms of energy, such as grain in addition to the good quality forage.

Any use of this article must include the byline or following credit line:
Laura Kieser is an agricultural production systems educator with University of Minnesota Extension.

Breeding Heifer Development

By Mike Boersma
Extension Educator, Pipestone and Murray Counties

Proper management of replacement heifers is one aspect of cow/calf production that is easy to overlook. But, research shows that heifers calving early in their first calving season will generally continue calving earlier in subsequent breeding seasons. This will result in cows that wean heavier calves when compared to their later-calving counterparts.

There are differing opinions regarding pre-weaning management and how these factors affect heifers later in life. Many experts believe that heifers receiving one growth-promoting implant at 2-3 months of age will not be negatively affected as cows. However, heifers receiving high potency implants or multiple implants tend to experience poorer reproductive performance later in life. So, if replacement heifers can be selected at a young age, it may be best to not implant heifers that will be used for replacement. If heifers are implanted, aggressive implant strategies should be avoided.

Creep-feeding of potential replacement heifers is another subject that tends to stir up debate among beef producers. In general, avoid feeding large amounts of grain-based creep feeds to potential replacements as these calves will tend to store excess fat in their udders. This excess udder fat has been shown to negatively affect future milk production. On the other hand, feeding smaller amounts of a low-starch creep feed can benefit calves by increasing weaning weight and training calves to eat from a bunk prior to weaning. The key is to monitor body condition of the calves and avoid adding excess body fat at an early age.

A good rule of thumb is to ensure that replacement heifers weigh 60-65% of their mature body weight by their first breeding and 80-85% of their mature body weight by their first calving. So, a heifer that will weigh 1300 pounds when mature should weigh 780-845 pounds at her first breeding and between 1040-1105 pounds when she has her first calf. Proper management and planning are important to ensure that heifers gain weight steadily during this time and are not rapidly gaining or losing weight just prior to or during breeding season as that negatively affects pregnancy rates. Likewise, rapid weight gain or weight loss between breeding and calving can result in unhealthy calves, calving difficulty, and other complications.

Keeping these basic heifer development principles in mind should result in heifers becoming pregnant earlier in the breeding season. This will result in earlier calving in the first calving season, earlier re-breeding, and heavier weaning weights over the life of the cow. Given the climate of today's marketplace, properly managed replacements can be a very valuable asset. On the other hand, mismanaged replacements are more costly to an operation than ever before.

beef cattle.jpg

Any use of this article must include the byline or following credit line:
Michael Boersma is an agricultural production systems educator with University of Minnesota Extension.

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