Friday, August 31, 2012

Out-of-state Hay May Harbor Red Imported Fire Ants

If you buy hay from some parts of the southern U.S., you might get stung—not just once but many times—by red imported fire ants.

An Ozark County farmer recently learned that lesson the hard way while unloading hay he’d bought from a farmer in Florida. Unlike most ants, which usually flee when disturbed, these bugs went on the attack.

Red imported fire ant.
Drought has left many Missouri cattle producers short on feed and forage, prompting some to buy hay from out of state, including from sellers in Florida and other southern states that are home to burgeoning populations of red imported fire ants.

An aggressive, stinging insect native to South America, the red imported fire ant (RIFA) is a significant pest throughout much of the southern U.S., infesting several hundred million acres in more than a dozen states, according to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

The ants can spread to new locations as stowaways in bales of hay, nursery stock and other products that contain or have been in contact with soil, said Richard Houseman, University of Missouri Extension state entomologist.

Under USDA regulations, hay in areas with established RIFA populations must be inspected and certified before being shipped out of a quarantine zone.

But many hay buyers are unaware of the risk and do not realize that a seller may have skirted federal regulations, said Stacy Hambelton, MU Extension agriculture business specialist in Ozark County.

“I don’t think this is an isolated case,” he said. “There are literally hundreds of truckloads coming in with the possibility of fire ants.”

“Farmers should consider purchasing hay from northern parts of the country where fire ants don’t exist,” Houseman said. If that’s not possible, then make sure the hay has the required certificate from APHIS indicating that it has been inspected. As a further precaution, inspect the hay yourself upon arrival.

“People should treat all hay as if it’s at risk and take the highest possible precautions,” he said. “This is a real risk and they need to be vigilant about inspecting that hay.”

Red imported fire ant mounds
 near high-voltage electrical
unit in Fayetteville, Ark
This isn’t the first time these ants have showed up in the Show-Me State. In 2009, red imported fire ants went undiscovered long enough to build their distinctive mounds on a residential property in the town of Kennett in the Missouri Bootheel.

As far as anyone knows, however, there are no established populations of red imported fire ants in Missouri. But the recent high traffic in out-of-state hay dramatically increases the odds that some ants will escape notice long enough to become established in parts of southern Missouri, where winters may be mild enough for colonies to survive year-round.

An established colony will eventually produce winged ants called alates, some of which may start new colonies up to a quarter-mile away. Once red imported fire ants start producing daughter colonies, they can be very difficult to eradicate.

While painful, attacks by red imported fire ants are rarely fatal to people or livestock, but the ants still pose a serious economic and ecological threat. They can damage soybeans and other crops, and their mounds may disrupt farm operations and damage equipment. Red imported fire ants disrupt natural ecosystems by displacing beneficial native insects and killing small mammals, reptiles and ground-nesting birds, Houseman said.

“They have a major impact in residential areas,” he added. “They produce unsightly mounds, enter residential structures and deliver a potent sting when they are threatened or disturbed.”

Worker ants out foraging for food will typically respond to threats by attacking en masse, latching on to victims with their mandibles, then maneuvering their abdomens into place to deliver repeated jabs with their venom-filled stingers. Their unusual alkaloid venom produces an acute burning sensation—hence the name “fire ant”—followed by the formation of itchy or painful white pustules that may take days to disappear.

Underground colonies can undermine sidewalks, roads and bridges, inflicting extensive and costly damage, Houseman said.

The ants also have a mysterious attraction to electrical equipment, he said. They will nest in circuit breakers, air conditioners and similar items. They have shorted out traffic signals and disrupted power in buildings. According to a study at Texas Tech University, fire ant damage to electrical and communications equipment in that state totals hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Houseman urges those who suspect the presence of red imported fire ants to contact their local MU Extension center and the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

You can find out if a particular location is under quarantine through the APHIS website by viewing a quarantine map or entering a ZIP code at this website.  The site contains extensive information about imported fire ants, including guidelines for producers and purchasers of baled hay.

APHIS has also released a two-page advisory for producers, sellers and buyers of baled hay, which can be downloaded at

You can also view a video about fire ants here.
(by Curt Wohleber, MU Senior Information Specialist; photos courtesy of

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Workshops Share Techniques to Improve Digestibility of Feed Alternatives

With 2012 bringing both the warmest and driest April-through-July stretch in 118 years, pastures, crops and even established trees are suffering from the drought. In response to the reduction in forages, some cow-calf operators across Missouri are considering significantly reducing or liquidating their herds.

For those livestock farmers struggling to find feed sources, Justin Sexten, University of Missouri beef nutritionist, the Missouri Corn Merchandising Council and the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association are working together to explore alternative forages. The coalition will be hosting workshops around the state to demonstrate how to improve digestibility of corn stover and lower-quality hay by 15 percent while doubling the feeds’ protein content.

Incorporating a specific treatment process called ammoniation, producers can treat corn stover at a cost of approximately $25 per ton of forage. The added nutritional value makes it an economical choice in a season filled with climatic and economic challenges. To help walk producers through the process, the university and the state’s corn and cattle organizations are offering free workshops in select regions.

“The livestock industry is our No. 1 customer,” said Gary Wheeler, vice president of operations and grower services for Missouri Corn. “Through these free forage demonstrations, we are working to help connect corn growers with cattlemen for the good of all parties involved.”

Sexten will also demonstrate treatment of processed corn stover with hydrated lime. Similar to ammoniation, stover digestibility is improved with this process and the protein content remains unchanged.

Farmers interested in purchasing or selling corn stover, cornstalks or hay as a feedstock are encouraged to visit the following online forage directories:
Workshop schedule:
    • Sept 11 at Joplin Regional Stockyards, 5:30 p.m.
    • Sept. 13 at Brent Martin’s farm in Anutt, 3:30 p.m.
    • Sept. 18 at the MU Thompson Research Center Field Day near Spickard, 9 a.m.
    • Sept. 20 at MU Beef Research and Teaching Farm in Columbia, 6 p.m.
    • Sept. 25 at MU Forage Systems Research Center Field Day near Linneus, 9 a.m.
    • Sept. 27 at Triple V Farms in Perryville, 6 p.m.
Media contacts:
  • Mike Burden, Senior Information Specialist, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211. 573-882-5919,
  • Becky Frankenbach, Director of Communications, Missouri Corn Merchandising Council, Jefferson City, MO 65109. 573-893-4181,
  • Sami Jo Freeman, Director of Communications and Membership Services, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, Columbia, MO 65211. 573-499-9162,

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Coney Garth: Effective Management of Rabbit Breeding Does on Pasture

SARE Farmer/Rancher Grant

FNC10-824 Madison, WI – Julie Engel

Objective: Rabbit meat is healthful — high in protein but low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium. I want to graze, breed, and manage meat rabbits in a cage-free, hare-pen-free colony setting where they thrive entirely on grass and vegetable scraps.

Results: My rabbits rely solely on the pasture for their nutrition in the summer, and on hay, vegetable scraps, and sunflower seeds in the winter. Rabbits actually are very efficient grazers, shearing grass at about two inches and chewing the stem to the end.

Feeding rabbits a grass-based diet reduces feed costs. I first tried raising them on fresh pasture, using the hare-pen method, which is a pen set up in a pasture that allows them to graze grass. I found that unsatisfactory because the does are still caged, feed must still be purchased, and the pen doesn’t allow the rabbits to graze effectively. After two years I came up with a new system, using pasture land already in rotation with other animals, providing an opportunity for owners of these lands to diversify. My Coney Garth (i.e., rabbit yard) system uses a mobile, intensely managed pasture allocation where rabbits thrive entirely on grass and vegetable scraps.

I experimented with several fencing systems to try to keep rabbits from escaping, discovering after much trial and error that a physical barrier fence worked better than an electrified one. I had zero percent escape loss during the months of October, November, and December, the only months the fence was in operation. However, this fence is heavy and time consuming to work with. I will look to make improvements.

I did not achieve my goal of 400 fryers slaughtered in 2011, in part because of dealing with escapees. I am hoping the new fence will improve production.

One downside: Rabbits dig holes in the pasture, perhaps escaping or causing danger to other animals in the pasture.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mulching With Wool: Opportunities to Increase Production and Plant Viability Against Pest Damage

SARE Farmer/Rancher Grant

FNC10-797 Cincinnati, OH – Melinda O’Briant and Katie Charlton-Perkins

Objective: To move unsalable wool from the agricultural waste stream and provide a new market for  growers by using wool as a mulching agent to enhance plant health and increase production of Solanaceae on organic farms.

Results: Turner Farm is a certified-organic farm with about 6 to 8 acres under cultivation. It grows a variety of seasonal vegetables, corn, pumpkins, and flowers, with output distributed to a 50-member CSA. Turner Farm also raises lambs, which involves shearing 40 ewes and three rams, resulting in accumulation of 260 pounds of raw, unsalable wool each year. A small portion of this wool is used for felting classes, but most is stored. We decided to try mulching our crops with it. One pelt covers about 4 square feet of garden at about 4 inches thick.

We experimented with using the wool to mulch eggplants. Initially, we believed the lanolin in the wool might deter the flea beetle, a problematic pest on the farm, by interfering with its breathing. Although beetles did not seem deterred, the plants that received the wool mulch were more resilient than those that received hay mulch. These eggplants also had darker leaves, greater vitality, and higher yield. The soil under the wool mulch seemed cooler than that under hay mulch.

Over the course of our experiment, we measured row production, saved leaves, and took photos to document the differences. Impressed by preliminary results, we further investigated the use of sheep wool as mulch by expanding its use to other plants. Results in 2010 were impressive. A row of sweet potatoes mulched with wool produced 536 pounds compared to just 145 pounds in the row mulched with hay.  The wool row also had less deer damage, which might suggest that it serves as a natural repellent. Overall, all  plants that received wool treatments had on average higher row yield, row weight, and nitrogen content.

In 2011, the average weight and average number of Revolution peppers was highest with the wool-mulch treatment. The same was true for Black Beauty eggplant. Soil-moisture content was higher with both the wool and hay treatments than in the control, or no-mulch, treatment.

Wool had the most insulating effect, with less temperature fluctuation than in hay mulch or no-mulch treatment. Nitrogen levels in the tissue samples were highest in the wool mulch treatment and lowest or deficient in the hay mulch treatment.  Nitrogen levels were lower, but normal, in the control treatment.  To learn more click here.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Growing Microgreens

As the local foods movement is growing, new opportunities are opening up for small producers to expand. One relatively new item of interest is microgreens. Microgreens are young, tender greens that are used to enhance the color, texture, or flavor of salads, or as a garnish for main dishes. Microgreens can have surprisingly strong and intense flavors for their small size. Usually these greens are harvested at around two inches in height, but that is dependent on the plant variety. These miniature greens differ from spouts; only the top of the plant is harvested and the roots are not used.
Courtesy of
Burpee Seed Catalog

Growing microgreens can be relatively easy, because of the short growth time involved in production—one-to-three weeks for most varieties. There are few pest and disease problems. Microgreens can be grown using soil or soilless media.

To grow: Use a tray filled with a growing media such as peat, vermiculite, and perlite, about 1-2 inches deep. Spread seed over the top and cover with a light layer of soil. (Some growers do not cover the seeds with soil media; it depends on the type of watering system a grower plans to use.)

Mist the seeds gently to keep them moist, but not over wet. To grow in soilless media, different items can be used, including burlap materials, paper towels, or even Sure Grow pads, which are manufactured for this specific purpose. On this media, the seeds are spread and then kept moist as well. Each medium is a little different, and growers will need to do more research to determine which type best serves their purpose.

Lettuce varieties are not usually used because they are too delicate. Cabbage, beet, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, radish, swiss chard, and amaranth varieties are good species choices. Other varieties have been used successfully as microgreens, including carrot, broccoli, beet, lemongrass, popcorn, basil and onion. This list is continually expanding as more growers try new species. A variety of seeds can be planted in the same tray if they have similar germination rates. Many seed companies are knowledgeable about which types of crops grow best as microgreens and may even sell a microgreen mix. The mix may be more expensive, but it is a good way to start and learn more.

Growing microgreens can take anywhere from seven days to several weeks, depending on the speed of germination and the growth rate. Once the microgreens reach the first true leaf stage, usually around two inches tall, they are ready for harvest.

To harvest: Hold the tray vertically and use clean scissors to cut the stems above the soil. This is the most time-consuming part of microgreen production. Because of the short growing time, there is a quick return on the small farmers’ investment in seed, labor and other materials. Microgreens sell for a very high price in upscale grocery stores, and restaurant chefs are also showing interest. Chefs will often use these microgreens as garnish to enhance the dining experience.

According to a local grower, Carl Saunders, small farmers looking into growing microgreens first do their research and start out small. He recommends starting with a budget and knowing first where you are going to market your product because microgreens have a short growth cycle. He also says he particularly likes the book; Microgreens: A Guide to Growing Nutrient-Packed Greens by Eric Franks and Jasmine Richardson, published by Gibbs Smith in 2009.

If selling at a farmers’ market, it is a good idea to offer samples and have recipes available. This will encourage customers to try a new item such as microgreens.

Find a local chef or store that is interested in buying locally-grown microgreens and then discuss what price they are willing to pay for the product. There may also be a certain crop or mix that they would prefer be grown. Be sure to be knowledgeable about the product. Do your homework before meeting with a chef or a store manager.

Figure your seed costs, other materials, labor and processing to be sure that this is going to be a profitable venture.  Also, be sure not to over-commit yourself—start small and expand slowly.
(by Joyce Rainwater, Lincoln University Small Farm Outreach Worker)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Growing Biomass Crops in Iowa

SARE Farmer/Rancher Grant

FNC10-806 Waukee, IA – Randy Kasparbauer

Objective: To grow giant miscanthus (Miscanthus giganteus) on a plot and analyze costs, impact on soil and  natural habitat for wildlife, and potential profits.

Results: The perennial grass giant miscanthus has great potential as a biomass crop in Iowa, but farmers are reluctant to grow it because it’s new to them, and they’re not convinced they can make a profit because of the labor-intensive planting and harvesting required.

Giant miscanthus can produce up to 10 tons of biomass per acre per year. It is noninvasive and propagates 
from roots that continue to grow over time. We are growing a small plot in moderately good soil to both evaluate it and show local farmers how it can be established, harvested, and propagated.

In 2011, our first year growing the plot, the miscanthus did very well. Plans this year are to dig up some rhizomes for later propagation. By the time the project is completed in 2013, we expect to have completed a soil study, an analysis to determine whether miscanthus can help preserve natural resources, and an analysis to determine profitability.

All harvested biomass will be evaluated by a forage testing laboratory in Iowa. We’re working with the IKM-Manning Community High School’s agronomy program to give young people a chance to learn about this work, since these future farmers will be important in growing renewable biomass.

Miscanthus certainly isn’t a perfect solution for biomass production, but rather one piece of a biomass solution that will include corn stover, trees, and other crops. It is well-suited for buffer strips next to waterways and public areas, replacing switchgrass in land coming out of the Crop Reserve Program, or as an alternative crop for land on which farmers no longer can produce grain because of soil degradation.

Learn more at growingmiscanthus.blogspot.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Integrated Pest Management for Small Hive Beetles

SARE Farmer/Rancher Grant

Project number:  FNC10-843 Festus, MO – John Henry Nenninger

Objective: To find a cost efficient and easy-to-implement way for hobby beekeepers to eliminate the small hive beetle without using chemicals.

Results: The main objective is to eliminate the small hive beetle, a major pest of beehives.  This should be achieved by using a “no chemical integrated pest management process” and must be cost efficient and easy to implement for a hobbyist beekeeper.

I wanted to work on a method that will stop small hive beetle larvae from reaching soil, where the larvae will pupate into adult beetles.  The method will suppress the development of adult small hive beetles but won’t eliminate the beetle entirely.  Early in the test it became apparent to me that I needed to find a way to capture the adult small hive beetle inside the hive. I set out to test different types of glue that I could use inside a corrugated piece of cardboard. I found one product that seems to work the best. I am continuing the testing using this glue product.

Through this discovery process, I tested different methods of killing the small hive beetle, including oils, gels, saline solution, and plain water. I had a test site in front of my house on concrete where I dropped the larvae onto a pea rock salt mixture to determine how long it can take the larvae to crawl out of the mixture. I used a new test procedure where I suspended the base 2 feet in the air over a metal sheet pan that catches any of the larvae that make it through the pea rock salt mixture.

I also tested for the surface temperature necessary to kill small hive beetle larvae and adults. I bought a  device that measures the surface temperature of different objects.

Two major components of my study did not develop — the honeybee breeds supplied to me did not produce at the level advertised, and arrangements with landowners for land management were not maintained at levels needed for the honeybee.

My tests led me to new discoveries, and in the future I’m planning to buy different bees and continue these studies.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Comparing Prairie Grass and Small Grain Straw for Mulching Vegetable Crops

SARE Farmer/Rancher Grant

Project Number:  FNC08-742 Brodhead, WI – Tony Ends

Objective: To compare a biodegradable mulch alternative to the rolled plastic mulch made from polyethylene film.

Comparison of oat and wheat straw 
and switchgrass as mulch
Results: We started producing vegetables for direct market sale in 1994 on Scotch Hill Farm. We grow more than 100 varieties of vegetables, including sweet corn, on 10 to 12 acres per year. On another 29 acres, we grow oats, wheat, hay, rye, and now switchgrass.

Controlling labor costs through reliable, cost-effective methods of suppressing weeds is vitally important. Rolled plastic mulch from polyethylene film has increasingly helped vegetable crop farmers control weeds since the 1950s. However, extracting and disposing of plastic mulch after the growing season poses challenges for most growers.

In addition, much of it ends up in landfills, which are filling up and closing. Consumers worry about lack plastic mulch leaching chemicals into soil during and after production.

We’ve used both black plastic and straw mulch to reduce labor expenses for seeding and cut cultivation time. Our SARE producer grant for comparison of oat, wheat, and switchgrass straw mulch took place in 2009 and 2010. We compared the performance of prairie grass straw to oat and wheat straw as organic mulch alternatives to black plastic for fresh market production of a variety of vegetable crops.

We also compared our own experience establishing 3- to 5-acre fields of oats, wheat, and prairie grass and their integration into our primary production and rotation of vegetable crops. All three mulch types were equally effective in delaying the emergence of weeds. Switchgrass seemed to host no plant disease, though some plant disease was detected in both the oat and wheat straw.  Learn more by clicking here.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Extending the Season and Increasing Quality of Produce with Low Tunnels Year-rounding

The North Central SARE Farmer/Rancher Grants will be announcing its call for proposals towards the end of this month.  With that in mind, I am going to run a series of past awarded grant projects so you can read about the types of proposals that have been funded in the past and the results from their projects.  If you're interested in learning more about the SARE Farmer/Rancher Grants, I will host a webinar on Monday, Sept 10th from 7-8:30 pm.  More about this later.  In the meantime, I hope you learn much from this series of posts.  (debi)

Project Number:  FNC10-811 - Springfield, MO – Curtis Millsap

Objective: To explore using low tunnels as an economical way to extend the growing season.

Results: Locally produced food is growing in popularity as consumers’ interest in knowing where and under what conditions their food is grown is increasing. In the Midwest, though, most producers stop growing after the first frost and don’t have produce for up to six months a year. Also, there’s a two to three month period in the summer when it’s too hot to produce lettuce. High tunnels or heated greenhouses are too expensive, so we are exploring the potential of low tunnels to extend the growing season.

Galvanized electrical conduit bent
into half circles form the frames
for the low tunnels.
Millsap Farms is a 20-acre diversified farm near Springfield, MO. We raise 5 acres of vegetables, bedding plants and vegetable starts, along with some livestock. We sell our produce through farmers’ markets, grocery stores, our farm stand and the local community supported agriculture program.

We are exploring the potential of temporary low hoops with light coverings, sometimes referred to as quick hoops, as a way to extend the growing season, meet consumers’ desire for local food year-round and increase producers’ profits. The hoops are bent out of 10-foot galvanized electrical conduit into 6-foot diameter half circles, stuck into the ground 6 to 12 inches on each side and then covered with either a floating row cover or plastic.

Low hoops covered with lightweight
row cover provide a low cost, low risk
method of season extension.  In winter,
they protect crops from frost; in summer
they protect crops from intense heat.
We initially installed about 1,600 linear feet of hoops, covering a 6-foot wide bed of vegetables, for about $1,000 materials and $300 in labor. This covered 9,600 square feet of growing space for less than 15 cents per square foot. At the end of November, after several frosts in the upper teens, we were harvesting bok choy, beets, carrots, arugula, lettuce, spinach, green onions, kale, mizuna, and two types of turnips.

The potential of this approach appears tremendous, but further experiments are needed. There is only minimal information on the best way to build, maintain and cover these temporary structures. Among the details needing further research is the best kind of row cover, one that lets in enough light during the darkest time of the year but doesn’t promote overheating on occasional warm, sunny winter days. We will be expanding our research to additional beds, and testing different types of row covers to answer these and other questions.  Learn more at Curtis' blog.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Management and Culling Strategies for Cows During Drought

With water and feed resources for cattle limited by hot, dry weather, management and selective culling is important to maintain a viable herd and maximize performance of the limited resources, says a University of Missouri Extension specialist.

Weaning spring calves early is one way to reduce nutritional requirements for cows, says Patrick Davis, livestock specialist in Johnson County.

“Early-weaning calves can take place as early as 45 days of age,” he said. “Early weaning will reduce cow forage intake by 0.4 to 0.7 pounds per 100 pounds of cow body weight, which is an average savings of 7 pounds of dry matter per day.”

It is important that the early-weaned calves go through a full vaccination schedule and precondition period for 45 days prior to sale, he added. “This allows the calves to get over the rigors of weaning and be healthy at sale time.”

Important things to assess at weaning time that can be used as culling factors on these spring-calving cows are age, body condition and pregnancy status.

Pregnant cows should be retained. Place the others in a group considered for culling. Next, consider the cow’s body condition and age.

“Younger cows that are in condition score 5 or 6 should be retained,” Davis said. Older cows in condition score 3 or 4 (which show visible signs of ribs and backbone) should be placed in a group considered for culling.

“If thinner pregnant cows are maintained in the herd, separate those from body condition score 5 and 6 cows,” he said. Thinner cows will need supplement and free-choice pasture or hay to return to condition score 6 by the next calving season.

“When determining pregnancy status of the cows, you may notice that your first-calf cows are coming up not pregnant,” he said. That’s not surprising given the heat, decreased pasture resources and the continued growth of these cows.

Should you cull these cows because they are not pregnant or do you roll them over into the fall calving herd?

“To make this decision you have to take into account the present resources and the cost of purchasing or developing a replacement heifer,” Davis said.

If resources are available to carry this cow over to the fall-calving herd and it is cheaper than developing or purchasing a heifer to replace her, then retain her in the herd, he said. But if resources are limited or she is bred to fit into the fall calving herd and comes up open, then cull the cow.

Another culling criterion is calf performance. “The main objective of a cow-calf operation is weaning as many pounds of calf as possible. Look at pounds of calf weaned by the cow for this year and previous years.” Consider culling cows that wean fewer pounds of calf.

These tips for identifying animals for culling will leave the cattle producer with cows that require minimal feed resources to maintain condition, have adequate condition to become pregnant during the subsequent breeding season and produce a high-performing calf during the next production cycle,” Davis said.

For more information, contact your local MU Extension center or go to
(by Milly Carter, MU Extension West Central Region)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Value Added Producer Grants

"Producers can greatly enhance the bottom line of their businesses and improve their economic prospects when they improve the value of their products, thus expanding their markets and customer base," Vilsack said. "The Value Added Producer Grant program (VAPG) has a proven track record of doing just that and I am pleased to announce that we are inviting producers to apply for these grants by the deadline. The funds in this program enable America's farmers, ranchers and rural business owners to find ways to expand their product offerings, revenue streams and create more economic opportunity by bringing additional value to what they already produce."

Applicants have until October 15, 2012 to apply. Vilsack emphasized that far too many producers are missing out on significant economic opportunities when their products are enhanced further away from the farm. "When our producers keep their value-added activities closer to the farm, it not only improves their bottom line; it strengthens our rural economy and strengthens our rural communities."

USDA Rural Development is making up to $14 million in grants available for projects that help farmers and ranchers produce bio-based products from agricultural commodities. The grants, which are competitively awarded, are available for planning activities or for working capital expenses, but not for both. The maximum grant amount is $100,000 for planning grants and $300,000 for working capital grants. Generating new products, creating and expanding marketing opportunities and increasing producer income are the goals of the VAPG program.

For example, Unruh Greenhouse LLC in West Union, Iowa received a VAPG working capital grant to process and package local produce for nearby grocery stores, universities and hospitals. Schmidt Farms Inc. in Rawlins County, Kansas received a working capital grant to expand the market for their product lines which includes beef, chicken, and eggs. The company is a family farm that has been in the meat business for the last 25 years. They have been marketing their home grown beef directly to customers. Schmidt Farms is building and expanding the market not only for their beef, but also for their chickens and eggs. The product lines will be marketed as being produced locally and produced farm fresh. Beef produced is promoted as being all natural and chickens as being free range and antibiotic free.

Businesses of all sizes are encouraged to apply, but priority will be given to operators of small and medium-sized farms or ranches that are structured as family farms, beginning farmers or ranchers, or those owned by socially-disadvantaged farmers or ranchers. Grants are available for projects up to 36 months in duration.
For information on how to apply, see page 48951 of the August 15, 2012 FederalRegister.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bugs, Bugs and More Bugs

There is still room for a couple of more folks to attend the IPM for Vegetable Production Workshop to be held at the Southwest Research Center in Mt. Vernon next week Aug 22-23.  This workshop has been held already in Jefferson City, Warrenton and Kansas City and was highly received.  Participant comments about the workshop included:  "Great to be able to see the predatory insects so now I can identify them and not kill them."  "Loved seeing LIVE the predator insect sucking the life out of that tomato hornworm!"  "Now I know what trap crops to plant for next year."

The cost is $30 which includes 1 lunch and snacks as well as some IMP materials and wealth of resources for you to take home.  RSVP to Sharon Naylor at 573-882-3776 or email Debi Kelly.

Workshop Agenda

DAY 1 (August 22, 2012)
9:30 - 10:00 am - Registration

10:00 - 10:30 am - Introductions of instructors and participants and workshop overview

10:30 - 11:00 am - What is IPM? Discussion of challenges and examples of successes with IPM

11:00 am – Noon - The PAMS Approach: PREVENTION (focus on pest-free seeds, transplants, and sanitation)

Noon - Lunch          
1:00 - 2:00 pm - The PAMS Approach: AVOIDANCE (emphasis on trap crops to reduce/avoid insecticide use)

2:00 - 3:00 pm - The PAMS Approach: MONITORING (emphasis on insect ID, monitoring tools, and economic thresholds)

3:00 pm - Break

3:15 - 4:15 pm - The PAMS Approach: SUPPRESION I (focus on cultural practices and physical controls)

4:15 - 5:15 pm - The PAMS Approach: SUPPRESION II (focus on the pests’ natural enemies - with live demo)

DAY 2 (August 23, 2012)

08:30 - 10:30 am - Hands-on activity: Farm visit (Ms. Jessie Cox farm; Mt. Vernon)

10:30 – 11:00 am - Drive from Mt. Vernon to MU SW Research Center    
11:00 - 11:15 am - Break

11:15 am - 12:15 pm - The PAMS Approach: SUPPRESION III (Introduction to pesticides + Vegetable Prod. Guide for Commercial Growers) 
12:15 - 12:25 pm - Workshop review and evaluations

12:25 pm - Workshop adjourns


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Managing Missouri Fish Ponds During an Extended Drought

Here is a new MU Extension guide sheet titled "Managing Missouri Fish Ponds During an Extended Drought".  The first few paragraphs are below.

Many Missouri ponds are watershed ponds that rely on surface runoff to maintain proper water levels.  Continued drought combined with high temperatures can have devastating effects on fish ponds. Drought conditions tend to reveal poor pond construction and magnify the potential for a fish kill. Even ponds that have been properly designed and constructed within a watershed can have problems.

Ponds that typically are the first to have problems are those in very small watersheds or on marginal soils. A small watershed is one where the area surrounding the pond is too small to provide enough runoff to maintain the pond’s water level during years with average rainfall. In Missouri, the recommended watershed-to-pond acreage ratio is between 15-to-1 and 20-to-1, which means a watershed must be at least 15 acres to provide runoff for a 1-acre pond.

As pond levels decrease through seepage, evaporation and lack of runoff, several problems can occur:
* Fish may become stressed as the pond becomes more crowded and they are confined in smaller areas of water.
* Waste metabolites such as ammonia, carbon dioxide and nitrates become more concentrated, which can further stress and even kill fish.
* Less dissolved oxygen is available for the fish to breathe as they and other aquatic organisms are crowded into smaller volumes of water.
* Unwanted aquatic vegetation and algae begin to grow as nutrient levels in the pond become more concentrated.

Other sections of this University of Missouri Extension Guide Sheet include:
* Pond water level
* Aeration and pond oxygen
* Warning signs of oxygen depletion
* Reducing the chance of a fish kill during a drought
* Fish diseases and stress
* Observe your pond and quickly react to changes

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tips for Coping with Drought-Related Stress

Disasters create stress in our lives. For people in agriculture, drought adds to other stresses already experienced by farm families. Studies show that stress may be even greater for young farmers, those holding an off-farm job and women in farm families.

Drought stress may be different than stress in other disasters because a drought is an extended event and does not have a single moment of impact. The anxiety builds over time and becomes chronic, making it less noticeable to ourselves and those around us. The drought may not be viewed as seriously as a tornado because the damage is not as visible. Its impact is worsened for already stressed farm families and communities.

Signs of Stress
* Irritability and anger
* Feelings of anxiety and worry
* Headaches or gastrointestinal complaints
* Increased risk-taking behavior
* Changes in eating and sleep habits
* Increased alcohol or drug use
* Forgetfulness
* Fatigue
* Sense of helplessness
* Lack of concentration
* Avoidance or denial
* Sadness

How to Deal with Stress
Farm families should remind themselves that these stress reactions are common and are normal responses to an unusual situation.

If stress goes unrecognized, it can affect our mental and physical health. If we learn to cope with stress, we can better face the challenges each day brings and can be even stronger when we face other difficult circumstances in life. Focusing on our own strengths and our community of support, we can take steps to help ourselves and our family:

* Acknowledge and talk about feelings.  Family, friends and neighbors can be helpful listeners and may share some of the same worries. Participating in church or spiritual renewal activities also can be sources of comfort and assistance in difficult times.
* Eat healthy and get adequate sleep. Engaging in recreation or a favorite hobby, getting away for a few
hours with friends, reading a good book, volunteering to help others, and finding time to laugh can help.
* Nurture personal relationships. Couples should make time to be alone, to talk and to have fun. Families should re-establish important rituals such as mealtimes and holiday celebrations. Children may need additional support ― listen and be reassuring.

The good news is that, with time, we will return to what is normal or perhaps a “new” normal for us and our families.

When and Where to Seek Help
If stress, anxiety, depression or physical problems continue for more than a few weeks or if someone is having feelings of extreme hopelessness or extreme anger, talking about suicide or is violent, it is important to seek help immediately. Contact a physician or community mental health center as soon as possible.

For More Information, Contact:
Missouri Department of Mental Health or call 1-800-364-9687
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Friday, August 10, 2012

13th Central Missouri Vegetable & Greenhouse Tour

Wednesday  August 29th, 2012  Rain (?) or Shine

Come join us!
Meet at the Central Missouri Produce Auction to visit 4 nearby growers of quality fresh produce. This event is free.  The theme this year is ‘responding to the drought’, and will feature irrigation and greenhouse shading options.

Special offerings this year!*
We’ll have a 50 passenger bus to do the route. We’re calling it ‘The MVGA Irrigation Express’ **
Free lunch! Must confirm your attendance by Aug. 24th.***

Schedule: (you are welcome to arrive up until noon)
10:00 am - Gather & visit ‘on your own’ the auction
11 until 11:45 - Grab your lunch
11:45 to Noon - A few words from your sponsors and tour organization directions & comments
Noon to 12:30 - Dave Trinklein (MU State Floriculture Specialist) Shading options for greenhouses and high tunnels; why it is important for summer tomato growth and fruit quality
12:30 - Load bus
12:45 - Leave to first farm*
* Tour will conclude about 4:00 (about one hour per farm). See details below.

Some features this year include:
Mark Troup with Missouri Department of Ag will be on hand to talk about grading of fresh produce. Mark has years of inspecting experience and has recently been trained for GAP certification inspections.
- Lincoln University’s vegetable research program.
Tomato disease discussion including special guest Bob Pierce with MU’s nematode lab.

Central Missouri Produce Auction (located on Highway E, 12 miles south of US 50 or 10 miles north of Versailles)
37808 Highway E Fortuna MO 65034
Auction Facility - 660-337-6227 (Auction days only)

Stop 1 (but we stay on the bus)
Mark Zimmerman.
Mark grows a variety of field vegetables, greenhouse tomatoes and ornamentals. But today Mark will describe the well he put in a few years ago and how and where he has installed underground piping.

Stop 2
Anna Mary and Lamar Reiff
Blackberries are the focus here. Anna Mary grew wonderful quality blackberries right through the heat and drought. Hear how irrigation was critical to the fruit quality, even keeping white drupes from being a problem.  

In route discussion
Hear from Norman Kilmer of Morgan County Seeds about some of the irrigation equipment supply shortages that occurred in the spring/early summer. What’s on the horizon for 2013?

Stop 3
Philip Shirk
Philip is one of the few growers in this area using overhead (sprinkler) irrigation. He uses it for the sweet corn. Yes it is one of the few vegetable where we say there are real advantages to using it, but there are some negatives to. Come learn from this grower on his experiences with overhead irrigation and sweet corn. Philip also grows a wide variety or ornamentals and vegetables. In the fall he grows many mums.

Stop 4
Elmer and Samuel Leid
The Leid’s have been regular tour features over the years as innovators, But this year, it’s because their pond ran dry. This has happened very little over the many years they have grown vegetables in that field and irrigated from the pond. Elmer can describe how past years stacked up and how they responded to this year’s problem. The Leid’s grow a wide variety of field vegetables, as well as greenhouse and high tunnel tomatoes.

Sponsored by:
Morgan County Extension Center
Missouri Department of Ag
Central Missouri Produce Auction
Morgan County Seeds
University of Missouri Extension (MU Extension)
* (thanks to) Missouri Vegetable Growers Association
** This should reduce the time needed to be spent at each farm, as a we’ll have some discussion about the upcoming stop in route, on the bus. First come first serve on getting a seat! After 50 you’ll have to tag along behind.
*** Just call (573-634- 2824 Cole County Extension Center) or e-mail ( with your name and the number attending.  Lunch is roast beef, mashed potato, gravy, homemade bread, green beans, and soda or water.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sustainable Food Production Series

The Growing Growers program is offering a package deal on its programming. This series is designed to increase participant’s knowledge and skill in sustainable fruit and vegetable production in the Kansas City region. Participants will attend six workshops and receive numerous books and resources that complement workshop content.


Insect, Disease and Weed Management - August 20, 2012
First Steps in Farm Business Planning - October 2012
Plant Propagation and Production Planning - March 2013
Understanding and Managing Soil - April 2013
Farm Equipment and Irrigation Workshop - May 2013
Post-Harvest handling - June 2013

Books you will receive as part of the series are:

Building Soils for Better Crops
New Organic Grower
Drip Irrigation
Resource Guide for Organic Insect and Disease Mgmt.
Sustainable Vegetable Produce from Start to Market
Food Safety Begins on the Farm
Scholarships are available on a first come – first served basis for 20 participants.

Call Platte County University of Missouri Extension at 816-270-2141 to register and secure your scholarship.  $280.00 without scholarship - $100.00 with scholarship funds.  Sorry, no refunds will be given.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

SE Missouri Agritourism Bus Tour - Aug. 24 - 25

What: Friday daytime – A one day bus tour in the Cape Girardeau / Perryville area featuring 4 premier agritourism destinations with a focus on business planning and marketing strategies that have helped make these businesses successful.

Shryocks Callaway Farms
Friday evening after the tour – a wine and cheese networking reception, followed by dinner and a series of mini-workshops that include business and marketing planning, networking in the tourism industry and liability and insurance issues. There will be panel discussions on “marketing agritourism” with panelists from: corn maze and pumpkin farm; on farm bed and breakfast; canoe float/campgrounds/fee fishing operation; vegetable and fruit farm and specialty meats

Saturday morning – learn about the Mississippi River Hills Association. Nestled in the counties of Jefferson, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Perry, Cape Girardeau, and Scott, the Mississippi River Hills is two things: a place, and association of people who work together to promote and protect that place and the products produced there.

Then… explore southeast Missouri agritourism sites on-your-own for the day. You may choose from over 50 destinations including: farmers markets, wineries, roadside markets, bed & breakfast houses, specialty meat product businesses, fee hunting & fishing, historic & natural attractions.

Who should attend: Anyone currently involved in agritourism or anyone who is considering diversifying their farm that is interested in seeing and learning from a variety of agritourism entrepreneurs.

What you will see: We will tour each operation and focus on what has made it a success. The emphasis is on seeing what other agritourism businesses are doing. This is a great opportunity for peer networking, sharing and learning!

The bus will depart promptly at 9:45 am from the Auburn Place Hotel & Suites in Cape Girardeau. Registration begins at 9:15 am. A block of hotel rooms are being held at the Auburn Place Hotel & Suites at a discounted rate of $79.00. You may contact the hotel at (573) 651-4486. When making hotel reservations, please reference “Ag Conference” to receive the discounted rate.

Registration: Pre-registration is necessary and will be honored on a “first-come, first-serve” basis and should be received by August 3rd. No refunds after August 10th.

Registration Fee: $50.00 per person. Prince includes transportation during the tour, guides, wine and cheese reception and dinner. Lunch will be provided by Missouri Farm Bureau Insurance Companies. For additional information call (573) 893-1417.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Drought-Related Issues in Forage, Silage and Baleage

The extreme drought of 2012 in the Midwest region has forced livestock producers to be concerned with drought effects such as high levels of nitrates in forage and drought-damaged crops for silage and baleage. Many producers are now searching for alternative feeding options for livestock. In addition to safety and herd health issues, these factors affect the business decisions for each operation.

In response to producers’ concerns, University of Missouri Extension has developed this list of producers’ questions answered by extension crop and forage specialists.

Drought issues related to feeding livestock

What amount of nitrogen or manure applied to hay is likely to cause a nitrate toxicity problem?
The more nitrogen supplied to the crop, the more likely nitrate toxicity will occur. Hay fields fertilized with nitrogen at rates of 75 pounds per acre or less typically have tested in the safe range this year.

Are the nitrates in forage substantially higher in the morning than in the afternoon?

If we get some rain, what happens to nitrate levels in corn?
Initially, nitrate levels will increase for a few days following a rain. However, nitrate levels will decrease to normal levels about 10 days after a rain if the crop begins to grow again.

After doing a nitrate quick test of feed sources, when should a farmer consider sending in a sample for a quantitative test?
If a nitrate quick test shows any reaction at all, a quantitative test (need to explain what quantitative test is) of the feed should be done before feeding it to livestock.

Silage and baling
How does feeding value of drought-damaged corn silage compare to that of traditional corn silage?
Because drought-damaged corn usually has less grain, its feeding value is lower than corn produced in a normal season. However, the ratio of grain to fodder in the silage does not change as much as is often anticipated. Typically, the feeding value is about 85 percent of that of normal corn silage feeding value.

Will nitrate levels in corn silage drop during the ensiling process?
Yes, typically nitrate levels drop 25 percent during the ensiling process if the silage ferments well.

Do nitrate levels in bagged corn silage get lower like nitrate levels of silage in a pit?
As long as the silage ferments properly, nitrate levels in bagged corn silage do not get lower.

Can drought-damaged corn be made into baleage (large round-bale silage)?
Yes, but it takes a bit of extra management. Be sure that the bales are compacted well, net wrapped (which keeps the stalks from poking though as much) and then wrapped with plastic to a final thickness of 6 to 8 mil. Corn should be baled at moisture content of 50 to 60 percent.

Will chopping silage at a higher level than usual, such as one foot high, lower the nitrate danger enough to make it safe for feeding?
Not necessarily. Nitrate concentrations are higher in the lower parts of the plant. Increasing cutting height can help lower the concentrations in the silage, but it does not guarantee that the nitrate levels in the feed will be safe.

What can I plant into dead or dormant cool-season perennial grasses that could provide winter grazing IF there is no rain in time to simulate a fall grass growth before the late October growing decline?
If it doesn’t rain until late October, there is nothing you can plant for winter grazing this year. If the drought kills a pasture, you could plant winter wheat or rye in late summer (early September), providing there is sufficient autumn moisture for establishment and growth.

What are some fall grazing forage options to plant if the drought “breaks” between now and mid-August?
See the previous answer. Winter annuals are the best.

My hay meadow received a rain shower last week. A lot of Johnsongrass has started to regrow in the meadow. If I cut it, will the nitrates persist in the hay?
Yes. The nitrates will not degrade unless you ensile the forage.

At what level of applied nitrogen or animal manure should I be concerned about the potential nitrate level in hay? Will it be the same issue in a pasture?
The levels are the same for pasture and hay. Any concentration above 0.25 percent can begin to cause problems, with concentrations above 1 percent causing the most serious problems. See MU guide G4661, Warm Season Annual Forage Crops for more information.

Will nitrate levels go down after hay is stored for a specific period of time?

What is the nutritional value of grasses or weeds — Switchgrass and foxtail in particular — that are still green at this time of year?
The nutritive value of forage is related to its stage of maturity. Typically, switchgrass and the summer annual weeds such as foxtail, barnyardgrass, goosegrass and crabgrass are reproductive this time of year; as such, they are “stemmy” and have low digestibility. But they can provide some roughage.

What are some alternatives for feeding hay?
Corn silage

Among alternative feedstuffs, high-nitrate corn silage is more readily available and offers the greatest energy content with the benefit of nitrate reduction. Corn silage necessitates that you modify your storage and feeding systems due to the wet nature of feed. If you make corn silage in bale form, you can use existing feeding and storage systems; however, waste will be higher than normal silage systems due to stalk refusal. If excessive dry-down occurred before the traditional corn silage harvest, baling wet stalks can lengthen the harvest window. Field reports indicate ear losses can be high with roller conditioners.

Corn stalks
Baling dry corn stalks after harvest can ensure accurate corn harvest estimates and increased nitrate-reduction time. Corn stalk grazing can limit field losses and waste hauling from feeding areas. You will need to add protein supplements to corn stalks. Chemical treatments such as calcium oxide (CaO) or ammoniation can improve forage quality and digestibility. Refer to these websites for more information on CaO treatment.

Soybean baleage
Soybean baleage will help maintain leaves on the plant during harvest. Harvesting dry soybean hay will result in high leaf losses and reduced forage quality. Immature pods contribute to the energy content of soybean hay; and pod formation will be variable. Therefore, you should perform forage testing to determine feeding recommendations. A delayed harvest of soybeans without pods will result in reduced forage quality due to advancing maturity. Observe herbicide grazing and haying restrictions

Poultry litter
In areas where broilers or turkeys are fed, you can feed poultry litter to extend hay supply and reduce supplemental protein needs. Litter must be staked and allowed to heat prior to feeding; but after storage it can be used as a supplement to hay or as a substitute. See North Carolina University Extension’s publication, Deep Stacking Broiler Litter as a Feed for Beef Cattle.

Traditional corn- and soybean-based byproduct feeds likely will be more expensive and in short supply. Consider alternatives such as wheat, peanut and cotton products. Wheat straw can be chemically treated similar to corn stalks. Gin trash and peanut hay offer alternative roughage sources. Remember, peanut and cotton hulls serve primarily as fillers and have low energy value, so price your supplements based on nutrient values rather than price per ton. If the local corn crop develops aflotoxin later in the fall, beef producers may buy infected corn at a discount.
Planting winter annuals such as oats, cereal rye and annual ryegrass in late August may offer some relief; however, you will need a timely rain to justify additional input costs. Be wary of herbicide carryover due to drought conditions.

Use MU Extension’s byproduct feed page to shop for alternative feed ingredients.

Can feed additives help reduce nitrate feeding risk?
Ensiling is the best option to use for high-nitrate feeds. Over time, in cattle, sheep, goats and buffalo, rumen microbes will develop increasing tolerance to nitrates. The best feed additive is a low-nitrate feedstuff, which will dilute nitrates. Bova-Pro is a commercial bacterial culture that claims to allow greater nitrate forage feeding levels. Results of an experiment using Bova-Pro suggest that tolerance to nitrate was increased; however, impact on reproduction was not observed.

What are recommendations for grazing corn?
Avoid grazing corn seven to10 days following a rain, because nitrates will increase. Waste will be high with grazing. Waste may be advantageous since most products left in the field will be high-nitrate stalks. Limit access to new and old stalks to reduce waste and regrazing stalks respectively

I have enough hay, but I also have access to corn silage. Should I chop the silage?
Use local distressed crops if silage fits your feeding system; then consider marketing excess hay as an alternative enterprise. Conversely, use silage to retain calves and move to a different marketing window, or dry lot cows or calves on a custom basis.

When are nitrate levels in forage too high for feeding forage by itself or mixed with hay?

If you can't read the chart very well, click here to see the chart and full extension publication.

Are high nitrate levels a bigger concern in specific classes of livestock?
As indicated in Table 1, young and pregnant animals are most susceptible to nitrate toxicity. Usually seven to 10 days after exposure to high nitrate feeds, pregnant animals will abort due to lack of fetal oxygen. Young animals are susceptible to nitrate toxicosis because their fetal hemoglobin has an increased affinity for absorbing nitrates. As with many other nutritional disorders, aged or poorly conditioned animals are at increased risk compared to well-fed or heavily conditioned animals

What are the keys to weaning calves early?
Work with your local veterinarian to develop a vaccine plan. In general, plan to vaccinate for blackleg and respiratory diseases 3 to 4 weeks before weaning. Revaccinate at weaning and fenceline-wean the calves. Because early weaned calves have a low feed intake, be sure to feed them a nutrient-dense diet. You may need to increase the nutrient concentration in their feed to allow adequate energy and protein intake. Make sure your facilities fit smaller calves by checking the calves’ ability to reach water and feed. Offer high-quality hay in feed bunks where feed is offered. Until calves are bawled-out and bunk-broke, feed them multiple times a day to encourage intake and check for sick animals.

What steps should I should take to extend hay supply?
Early weaning will reduce cow forage intake by 0.4 to 0.7 pounds per hundredweight of cow body weight. This results in an average savings of 7 pounds of dry matter a day following weaning. This savings extends forage supplies while allowing cows greater time to build body condition before winter. After early weaning and 90 days following the start of the 60-day breeding season, pregnancy diagnose cows and sort cows into the following management groups to prioritize culling order and forage resources.
·         Age, disposition, condition or terminal-age culls
·         Young, old, thin open cows
·         Adequately conditioned open cows
·         Low-producing or short-bred cows
·         Young, old, thin pregnant cows
·         Adequately conditioned pregnant cows

By prioritizing the forage supply and culling early, you will enable productive cows to use the available resources efficiently. Consider limit-feeding cows to increase efficiency. Limit-feeding will reduce waste and focus resources on high-nutrient demand groups. As hay prices increase, the cost of waste and inefficiency also will increase. You can increase hay supplies by 25 to 50 percent, depending on current systems, by reducing hay waste through improved storage and feeding practices. If you are feeding cows daily supplements, consider adding monensin to the supplement. Ionophores have shown 10 percent reduction in maintenance energy requirements; and monensin, the only ionophore approved for beef cows, increased energy content of poor quality hay by 15 percent in recent research at Oklahoma State University.

Drought questions affecting farm business decisions

Should I sell livestock or buy hay?
Cows without pasture will consume half a ton of hay per month. Purchased grass hay will cost between $100 and $200 per ton from now until the spring of 2013. Inventory your hay and cow numbers to estimate the cost of carrying cows until next spring. Most producers will find heavy culling justified or unavoidable. Sell cows and buy needed forage as soon as possible to avoid markets where prices are driven by glut and scarcity. An online Hay Days Available Calculator from the Noble Foundation can help you estimate your hay needs.

What are the tax liabilities if I sell cattle?
If you sell breeding cattle in excess of normal annual sales due to drought, and restock within the next four years, you can avoid paying income tax on the sales because all Missouri counties are included in the USDA drought declaration. Read more on IRS code 1033. In addition, if you sell any kind of cattle above normal volumes, you can defer paying the income tax due for a year under IRS code 451(e).

Will harvesting my corn for silage impact crop insurance payments I receive?
Crop insurance indemnities are not affected by harvesting corn for silage. In fact, harvesting damaged corn as silage offers additional revenue to the farmer without reducing revenue from insurance. Farmers who planted corn for grain but now want to harvest it as silage can do so after their insurance adjuster gives them permission. The adjuster will visit the field under consideration and give an estimate of yield that insurance will pay on or mark a strip of the field to be left until harvest. This strip, when harvested, will represent the yields of the entire field. Indemnities will be paid based on this yield. Two major cautions:
·         Never do anything before you contact your insurance company and receive their permission to harvest as silage;
·         Harvesting corn as silage will not reduce your insurance indemnity.

For insurance, how do I estimate potential yield with the in-field variability across the board this year?
Estimating yield for insurance purposes is the responsibility and sole prerogative of the insurance company. They are obligated to estimate yields according to best scientific methods. But if you disagree with their estimate of yield, your option is to let the crop mature until harvest. The time it would take to challenge an insurance adjuster’s estimate of yield would likely drag on beyond the appropriate time to harvest as silage.

What is the value of drought-stressed corn made into silage?
Drought-stressed corn silage generally has a feeding value of 85 to 95 percent of normal corn silage if a check of nitrate levels indicates it is safe to feed. The cost of other feeds is reflected in MU Extension’s weekly update of the latest relative feeding value of good corn silage going into a beef ration.

What is corn silage worth relative to corn?
Pricing 35 percent dry matter drought-stressed corn silage may be roughly based on the price of a bushel of corn:
·         If standing in the field, silage is worth five times the estimated harvest-time net price of corn per bushel. Example: 5 x $7 per bushel = $35 per ton.
·         If chopped, delivered and packed in silo, silage is worth seven times the estimated harvest-time net price of corn per bushel. Example: 7 x $7 per bushel = $49 per ton.
·         If dropped in the bunk in front of an animal, silage is worth nine times the estimated harvest-time price of corn per bushel. Example: 9 x $7 per bushel = $63 per ton.
Moisture levels, yields and shrink can differ dramatically from expectations. For tools to arrive at situation-specific prices, see MU Extension’s Missouri Dairy Business Update.

How do I estimate corn silage yield?
If little or no grain is expected, a rough pre-harvest estimate of yield is that 1 ton of silage per acre can be obtained for each foot of plant height, excluding the tassel.

How much corn grain should there be to justify combining the corn instead of chopping it?
The easy answer is to divide the cost of harvest by the market price. For example, if harvesting 1 acre of corn costs $30 and the market price of corn grain is $7.50 then a yield of 4 bushels per acre would pay for harvest.

However, corn yields of less than 30 bushels per acre may be difficult to harvest. A bushel of corn with normal-sized seeds contains about 73,000 kernels. If you assume a stand of 26,000 plants per acre and that each plant produces one ear, then it takes 2.8 kernels per ear to produce a bushel. So, a yield of 4 bushels per acre means the average kernel number per ear is 11. Even a yield of 30 bushels per acre translates into average ear size of 84 kernels — much smaller than the normal 600. Combines were not designed to efficiently harvest and shell such small ears, which are easily lost through the gathering mechanisms. Oddly shaped cobs and kernels may not flow normally through the rest of the combine. Kernels from sparsely populated ears can be larger than normal or much smaller than normal. If drought is relieved soon, then kernels will expand greater than normal and their shapes will be round because they do not have neighboring kernels to restrain their growth. If drought continues through seed filling, then seeds will remain small. Either of these abnormal kernels sizes may not thrash well from the cob. Smaller-than-normal kernels will have low test weights because they will contain relatively less starch and more cellulose.

So, low yield corn is difficult to combine, and increased harvest loss needs to be included in any calculations. Combine operators will need to pay special attention to machine settings. Unfortunately, wide variations for yield among areas in fields may make proper setting of combines difficult.

By University of Missouri Extension State Specialists
Joe Horner, agricultural economics specialist
Robert Kallenbach, forage production and management specialist
Craig Roberts, agronomy specialist
Justin Sexten, beef nutrition specialist
Laura Sweets, plant pathologist
William Wiebold, agronomy specialist