Monday, January 26, 2015

Northern Shenandoah Valley Grazing Tour Planned for Late February

Virginia Cooperative Extension is hosting a bus tour to see cow/calf operations in the Piedmont that graze their livestock more than 300 days per year.  The tour will take place on Thursday, February 26 (with a snow date of February 27).  Anyone wishing to attend should register in advance by February 20.  There is a $20 registration fee which is due in advance.  Checks should be written to “VCE-Shenandoah County” and mailed to VCE-Shenandoah County, 600 North Main Street, Suite 100, Woodstock, VA  22664.  For questions, call Extension Agents Bobby Clark (540-459-6140) or Corey Childs (540-635-4549). 

The tour schedule is as follows:  Thursday, February 26, 7:00 a.m., Bus departs Page Cooperative Farm Bureau in Luray, VA, for Woodstock; 8:00 a.m., Bus departs the Shenandoah County Extension Office in Woodstock, VA, for Front Royal; and 8:45 a.m., Bus departs from the Target Parking Lot in Front Royal, VA, for Piedmont.  Our first stop is the Jay Marshall Farm near Marshall, VA.  Mr. Marshall runs a 100 head cow/calf operation on about 200 acres.  He has a single herd of cattle with both spring and fall calving cows.  Mr. Marshall does not always achieve 300 grazing days per year but he has occasionally.  He does not supplement any grain to his cattle.  The second tour stop will be Carl Stafford’s Farm near Brightwood, VA.  Mr. Stafford runs 30 cow/calf pair on 100 acres.  For the past decade, Mr. Stafford has fed less than 30 round bales of hay to his herd.  Many winters he has fed no hay and no grain.  During the tour we will discuss how these farmers extend their grazing season, look at the cattle herds, discuss reproductive efficiency, weaning weights, replacement heifers, grazing systems, fertility programs, cost of hay, and related topics.  We will also discuss a few other operations that have successful cow/calf herds and graze more than 300 days per year.  Lunch and refreshments will be provided on the tour.       

There are 48,000 head of beef cows located on 1,574 farms in the Northern Shenandoah Valley.  On average, cattlemen graze these cattle about 230 days per year and feed hay (or haylage or corn silage the remaining 135 days). Technologies exist that extend the grazing season to 300 days or more.  Extending the grazing season would reduce the farmer’s cost of producing, harvesting, and feeding hay.  In addition, grazeable forage is typically better quality than hay.  Thus, grazing cattle typically need fewer supplements than cattle eating hay.  Other benefits include more uniform distribution of farm nutrients, reduced damaged areas (due to hay feeding), and improved water quality. 

Extending the grazing season will not fit every farm in the Northern Shenandoah Valley.  For example, a longstanding farmer that has 100 cows on 175 acres and has 250 acres of row crops, custom bales hay, and plows snow for VDOT might need to reduce their herd size (and gross revenue from cattle sales) by 25 to 35 percent to achieve 300+ days of grazing with little reduction in fixed cost.  However, a beginning farmer with access to 100 acres of grazing land may have a different economic outlook.  The current high prices of cattle also likely make owning a few more cows more profitable even if a farmer needs to purchase a significant amount of hay.  However, these high prices will not last forever.         

We estimate that at least 20 percent of the cow/calf farms in the Northern Shenandoah Valley could increase their profitability by about $25 per head by extending their grazing season to 300 days.  This would improve net farm income on these farms about $240,000 per year. 

            A special thank you to the following agribusinesses for helping to sponsor this meeting:  AMVAC, BASF, Bayer Cropscience, Binkley & Hurst, CFC Farm & Home, Dow AgroSciences LLC, Farm Family Insurance, First Bank & Trust Company, Helena Chemical Co., Hubner Seed, James River Equipment, Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District, Mathias Brothers, MidAtlantic Farm Credit,  Monsanto Company, Page Cooperative Farm Bureau, Pioneer Seed Company; Rockingham Cooperative Farm Bureau, Southern States – Front Royal, Southern States – Luray, Southern States – Winchester, Sygenta, The Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund, Valley Fertilizer & Chemical Company, Virginia Farm Bureau, Wightman Insurance Agency, and Winchester Equipment Co.

Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. An equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.

 If you are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services, or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact Robert A. Clark, Senior Extension Agent, Agriculture and Natural Resources, at the Shenandoah County Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension at 540-459-6140/TDD* during business hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. to discuss accommodations five days prior to the event.  *TDD number is 800-828-1120.


Virginia recycling program kept more than 128,000 pounds of plastic pesticide containers from landfills in 2014.

Virginia recycling program kept more than 128,000 pounds of plastic pesticide containers from landfills in 2014.

Read more:

First Meeting of the Young Grower Alliance of Virginia

Alson H Smith Jr Agricultural Research & Extension Center
595 Laurel Grove Rd, Winchester, Virginia 22602
Please join us for introductions, and an agriculture themed movie with discussion afterwards.

PIN Tags for Breeding Stock

As of Jan. 1, 2015, individual identification of breeding stock headed to harvest will transition from backtags to the use of official, USDA-approved eartags.

The eartags, called official premises identification number (PIN) tags, must be applied on the farm to individual breeding swine being marketed into harvest channels to link the animal to the sending premises. PIN tags are not required for feeder pigs, growers or market hogs.

*840 and EID tags do not meet this requirement.

In support of the Swine ID Plan, most major U.S. packers and processors will require PIN tags as a condition of sale for breeding stock beginning Jan. 1. To date, packers that will require the tags include: Johnsonville, Hillshire Brands, Calihan Pork Processors, Bob Evans Farms, Wampler’s Farm Sausage, Pine Ridge Farms, Pioneer Packing Co., Pork King Packing and Abbyland Pork Pack.

What is a PIN?
A premises identification number (PIN) will locate a specific animal production site. The standardized PIN is a USDA-allocated, seven-character alphanumeric code, with the right-most character being a check digit. For example: AB23456. Note that PINs are not the same as location identification numbers (LIDs) administered through a state's or tribe's internal system.

For more information go to: or call (800) 456-7675.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Winchester Regional Commercial Tree Fruit Production School

The next meeting of the Winchester Regional Commercial Tree Fruit Production School will be held on Friday, February 13, 2015, at the Best Western, Lee-Jackson Inn Banquet Convention Center, Winchester. This building is located at 711 Millwood Avenue, Winchester, Virginia 22601. The program will begin at 8:25 a.m. Registration will begin at 8:00 a.m.
This session will re-certify you for two years on your Virginia private pesticide license (category 90). The offering also will re-certify for West Virginia credits. In order to receive re-certification credit, you will need to sign in by 8:30 a.m. and sign out at the end of the program.
There will be a $15.00 registration fee for the event and will include lunch and morning refreshments. Registration form with payment (checks made payable to VCE- Frederick County) by February 6, 2015. Walk-in attendees and those not submitting pre-payment, will be charged $25.00 at the door. If you have any questions or need registration form, I can be reached at the Frederick Office or by email:

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Care of Livestock and Pets, Farm Equipment and Yourself During Extreme Cold

A Wind Chill Advisory is in effect throughout Virginia until tomorrow morning as a very cold air mass begins to build in the region later today.  Wind chills will drop below zero as early as this afternoon.  Temperatures will remain below normal all the way through the end of the week.

I put this list together last year in preparation for the coming polar vortex.  We are not quite at those levels currently but I do feel that with our first extended really cold spell of 2015 and significantly low wind chill temperatures it is appropriate to share this again.
Take the extra care to provide for your pets, livestock, equipment and especially yourself during this week’s forecasted a cold snap. I have attached links to a few helpful facts sheets or links that may provide some useful information and helpful tips.  There are sections for Pets and Livestock, Equipment and Personal Care.  If you need additional assistance please let me know.  Please remember to try to check on your neighbors or others that you know may have difficulty in dealing with these severe weather events.

 I apologize if you are receiving this in duplicate emails I have combined several lists to reach as many people as possible.

Animal Emergency Preparedness

When record cold, with ice and snow hit, animal owners should be aware and ready to protect their pets and livestock and do the proper things to help them through this unusual cold spell.  Following are a number of concerns and recommendations:

•             Hypothermia and dehydration are the two most probable life-threatening conditions for animals in cold weather.

•             Many animals, especially indoor/outdoor pets, probably do not have an adequate winter coat for protection in these very low temperatures.

•             Wet conditions and wind-chill add greatly to the cold-stress for animals (and people).

•             Pets should be brought inside or into protected covered areas, provided with plenty of bedding and food and drinking water.

•             Livestock should be provided with wind-break (natural or man made) and roof shelter, and monitored for signs of discomfort (extensive shivering, weakness, lethargy, etc.)

•             It is very important that livestock be provided extra hay/forage/feed as up to double the energy/calories for normal body heat maintenance may are required in extreme cold.

•             It is critical that animals have access to drinking water.  Usual water sources may freeze solid in low temperatures and dehydration becomes a life-threatening factor.  Many of our animals, especially the young, may not know how or be unable to break several inches of ice to reach water.  In general, animals tend to drink less in extreme cold, risking dehydration.  Research with horses shows horses drink more water if it is warmed during winter weather.

•             Adding a warm sloppy bran mash, sloppy moistened beet pulp or soaking pelleted feed in warm water is a good way to add water to your horses’ diet and provide some “comfort food” in the cold weather.

•             Special attention should be paid to very young and old animals.  They may be less able to tolerate temperature extremes and have weaker immune systems.  Make sure that young animals are capable of nursing and check teats for frostbite or skin irritations that may limit suckling.

Fact sheets from places that deal with these severe temps more often than we do.

Personal Safety and Care

What should I know about personal protective equipment (PPE) for working in the cold?


Protective clothing is needed for work at or below 4°C. Clothing should be selected to suit the temperature, weather conditions (e.g., wind speed, rain), the level and duration of activity, and job design. These factors are important to consider so that you can regulate the amount of heat and perspiration you generate while working. If the work pace is too fast or if the type and amount of clothing are not properly selected, excessive sweating may occur. The clothing next to body will become wet and the insulation value of the clothing will decrease dramatically. This increases the risk for cold injuries.

•             Clothing should be worn in multiple layers which provide better protection than a single thick garment. The air between layers of clothing provides better insulation than the clothing itself. Having several layers also gives you the option to open or remove a layer before you get too warm and start sweating or to add a layer when you take a break. It also allows you to accommodate changing temperatures and weather conditions. Successive outer layers should be larger than the inner layer, otherwise the outermost layer will compress the inner layers and will decrease the insulation properties of the clothing.

•             The inner layer should provide insulation and be able to "wick" moisture away from the skin to help keep it dry. Thermal underwear made from polyesters or polypropylene is suitable for this purpose. "Fishnet" underwear made from polypropylene wicks perspiration away from the skin and is significantly thicker than regular underwear. It also keeps the second layer away from the skin. The open mesh pattern enables the moisture to evaporate and be captured on the next layer away from the skin. The second layer covers the "holes" in the fishnet underwear which contributes to the insulation properties of the clothing.

•             The additional layers of clothing should provide adequate insulation for the weather conditions under which the work being done. They should also be easy to open or remove before you get too warm to prevent excessive sweating during strenuous activity. Outer jackets should have the means for closing off and opening the waist, neck and wrists to help control how much heat is retained or given off. Some jackets have netted pockets and vents around the trunk and under the arm pits (with zippers or Velcro fasteners) for added ventilation possibilities.

•             For work in wet conditions, the outer layer of clothing should be waterproof. If the work area cannot be shielded against wind, an easily removable windbreak garment should be used. Under extremely cold conditions, heated protective clothing should be made available if the work cannot be done on a warmer day.

•             Almost 50 percent of body heat is lost through the head. A wool knit cap or a liner under a hard hat can reduce excessive heat loss.

•             Clothing should be kept clean since dirt fills air cells in fibres of clothing and destroys its insulating ability.

•             Clothing must be dry. Moisture should be kept off clothes by removing snow prior to entering heated shelters. While the worker is resting in a heated area, perspiration should be allowed to escape by opening the neck, waist, sleeves and ankle fasteners or by removing outerwear. If the rest area is warm enough it is preferable to take off the outer layer(s) so that the perspiration can evaporate from the clothing.

•             If fine manual dexterity is not required, gloves should be used below 4°C for light work and below -7°C for moderate work. For work below -17°C, mittens should be used.

•             Cotton is not recommended. It tends to get damp or wet quickly, and loses its insulating properties. Wool and synthetic fibres, on the other hand, do retain heat when wet.


Felt-lined, rubber bottomed, leather-topped boots with removable felt insoles are best suited for heavy work in cold since leather is porous, allowing the boots to "breathe" and let perspiration evaporate. Leather boots can be "waterproofed" with some products that do not block the pores in the leather. However, if work involves standing in water or slush (e.g., fire fighting, farming), the waterproof boots must be worn. While these protect the feet from getting wet from cold water in the work environment, they also prevent the perspiration to escape. The insulating materials and socks will become wet more quickly than when wearing leather boots and increase the risk for frostbite.

Foot Comfort and Safety at Work has some general information how to select footwear. (Also, when trying on boots before purchase, wear the same type of sock that you would wear at work to ensure a proper fit.)


You may prefer to wear one pair of thick, bulky socks or two pairs - one inner sock of silk, nylon, or thin wool and a slightly larger, thick outer sock. Liner socks made from polypropylene will help keep feet dry and warmer by wicking sweat away from the skin. However, as the outer sock becomes damper, its insulation properties decrease. If work conditions permit, have extra socks available so you can dry your feet and change socks during the day. If two pairs of socks are worn, the outer sock should be a larger size so that the inner sock is not compressed.

Always wear the right thickness of socks for your boots. If they are too thick, the boots will be "tight," and the socks will lose much of their insulating properties when they are compressed inside the boot. The foot would also be "squeezed" which would slow the blood flow to the feet and increase the risk for cold injuries. If the socks are too thin, the boots will fit loosely and may lead to blisters.

Face and Eye Protection

In extremely cold conditions, where face protection is used, eye protection must be separated from the nose and mouth to prevent exhaled moisture from fogging and frosting eye shields or glasses. Select protective eye wear that is appropriate for the work you are doing, and for protection against ultraviolet light from the sun, glare from the snow, blowing snow/ice crystals, and high winds at cold temperatures.

What are some additional prevention tips?

•             To prevent excessive sweating while working, remove clothing in the following order:

o             mittens or gloves (unless you need protection from snow or ice),

o             headgear and scarf.

•             Then open the jacket at the waist and wrists, and

•             Remove layers of clothing.

As you cool down, follow the reverse order of the above steps.

Prevent contact of bare skin with cold surfaces (especially metallic) below -7°C as well as avoiding skin contact when handling evaporative liquids (gasoline, alcohol, cleaning fluids) below 4°C. Sitting or standing still for prolonged periods should also be avoided.

Balanced meals and adequate liquid intake are essential to maintain body heat and prevent dehydration. Eat properly and frequently. Working in the cold requires more energy than in warm weather because the body is working to keep the body warm. It requires more effort to work when wearing bulky clothing and winter boots especially when walking through snow.

Drink fluids often especially when doing strenuous work. For warming purposes, hot non-alcoholic beverages or soup are suggested. Caffeinated drinks such as coffee should be limited because it increases urine production and contributes to dehydration. Caffeine also increases the blood flow at the skin surface which can increase the loss of body heat.

Alcohol should not be consumed as it causes expansion of blood vessels in the skin (cutaneous vasodilation) and impairs the body's ability to regulate temperature (it affects shivering that can increase your body temperature) . These effects cause the body to lose heat and thus increase the risk of hypothermia.

In refrigerated rooms, the air speed should not exceed 1 meter per second. If workers are simultaneously exposed to vibration and/or toxic substances, reduced limits for cold exposure may be necessary.

Farm Machinery:

 It is a good idea to make a checklist of the seven or eight items to evaluate on each piece of machinery. Use the owner’s manual as a starting point, but a personalized list will be helpful to look back on year after year.

 The following list includes the basic winterizing steps to get all of your machinery ready for its next use. Try to check off these projects as soon after harvest as possible to protect equipment before winter hits.

 • Clean dust, dirt and grime off of equipment.

 • Conduct a visual inspection to see what might need repair. Make note of things like burned-out headlights and cracks in the windshield glass.

 • Change the oil and filters.

• Check the cooling system.

• Check the battery.

• Change the air filters.

• Properly lubricate or grease equipment.

• Top off the fuel and add a fuel stabilizer.

Fall is a great time to tune up tractors that will continue to be used throughout the winter. Lubricants and greases become thicker in colder temperatures, making it more difficult to operate equipment. A lighter fluid such as Cenex Superlube TMS® 10W-30 is a good engine oil for cold weather and winter work.

Farm machinery requires maintenance both on and off the field to keep it running smoothly year after year. Caring for equipment is one way to ensure efficient fieldwork and less downtime.