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Use of Warm Season Forages to Improve Management of Winter Feeding Areas for Beef Cattle Alexandria Straight
Every year farmers are presented with a decision about how many livestock to overwinter. Forages are limited, and often this decision is made by assessing how much stored feed the producer will have available. The areas where livestock are overwintered is often concentrated and abused with machine and hoof traffic. Naturally, these areas also become a catch of excess nutrients. Winter feeding sites are typically chosen in areas that are easily accessible from stored feed or provide shelter for livestock. During the summer months when livestock are moved to pasture these areas become weed and nutrient wastelands.
West Virginia producers need to develop a management plan to trap the excess nutrients in those areas and increase forage availability that in turn should save money.
Management plans of winter feeding areas should accomplish several objectives:
Minimize livestock feeding in concentrated areas during late fall, winter and early spring when frequent snow and rain runoff occurs
Improve soils in winter feeding sites by utilizing excess nutrients to produce forages
Extend the grazing season by planting forages in areas normally left out of grazing rotations
These objectives can be met by planting warm season annuals in winter feeding areas. Warm season annuals have a different growing habit than cool season perennials. With adequate moisture and fertility they will rapidly produce forages during the summer slump when cool season forages are dormant. They should be planted in May to June or when soils are above 65 degrees and will provide forages until the temperatures drop in September to October. They provide an excellent option to provide increased amounts of grazeable forages, or preserved feeds like baleage or dry hay. Warm season annuals are also fast growing and produce a high volume of material that will utilize the concentrated nutrients (animal waste left from winter feeding), provide cover for runoff and increase soil productivity.
Popular warm season grasses are: sorghum, Sudan, sorghum-Sudan, pearl millet, and crabgrass. Each forage has its own set of unique characteristic and you can contact your local WVU Extension Office for more information.
WVU Extension agents and West Virginia producers have teamed up to study the benefits of planting warm season annuals on winter feeding sites over the next three years. In 2016, sites in Ritchie, Grant, Pendleton, Pocahontas and Putman County planted a total of 16.5 acres with brown-midrib Sudan grass. Over the course of the summer, agents measured rainfall, plant growth, soil and forage quality and tons of dry matter per acre. Sudan grass was chosen for this project due to its cost and availability. It achieves 90 percent of growth in June, July and August and should be grazed after it reaches a height of at least 24 inches tall. Project yields for Sudan grass hay is 2 to 5 tons per acre and 12 to 15 tons of baleage at 35 percent DM per acre.
Making ‘Record-Keeping’ A New Year’s Resolution Stacey Huffman
As the end of the year approaches, many people start thinking of New Year’s resolutions. We often set personal or family goals, but how many take the time to set goals for their farming operations? Women in agriculture understand the importance of record keeping and farm management, but so often the juggling act of balancing family and community needs on top of the continual farm tasks make it hard to make record keeping a priority.
Make this year different. If you don’t have a record keeping system, or if you’ve been lax, take the time to reflect on how important record keeping can be. How many hours do you spend in the high tunnel so that you will have produce for the market? How many late nights do you spend in the barn during lambing or calving season? Make those hours count, not just in the satisfaction of helping a new baby lamb be born, but on paper as well.
There are numerous resources out there to help with your new resolution. There are computer resources, such as the Excel spreadsheets through WVU Extension (http://www.anr.ext.wvu.edu/), and software such as Quicken Books. But if you’re not as tech-savvy or would like to keep things basic, get together an easy to follow paper system. Many farmers have found that a plastic bin hooked to the door works easily to dump your pockets of any receipts or notes as you come in the door from your days chores and errands. Although you may have a list of things to do as long as your arm, take the hour or so at the end of each month to sort, organize and report all those receipts and notes.
Making a New Year’s resolution is easysticking to it is the hard part. But we owe it to ourselves and our farms to make the step.
‘Accidental Partnerships’ Jesse Richardson, Associate Professor, WVU Law School
A recent Washington Post article reported on a huge lawsuit involving two lifetime friends who started a business. One of the now former friends says he is a co-owner, while the other says he is an owner. This dispute shows the danger of what I call the accidental partnership. If there is no written agreement, or if the written agreement is unclear, courts could find that a partnership exists. Even if a written agreement clearly states there is no partnership, if the business operates as a partnership, the courts could find a partnership.
This rule matters because in a partnership each partner is personally liable for the liabilities of the other partners. If one partner buys expensive equipment, for example, and the partnership cannot pay for it, all of the partners’ personal assets, such as homes and automobiles, can be sold to pay for the equipment.
The same situation exists if one partner has an accident in the scope of the business that injures someone. For example, if a group of producers bands together to purchase feed in bulk, alternating which producers picks up the feed or seed, they are probably partners. If one of the producers has an accident while picking up the feed, all partners are personally liable. Similarly, producers who band together to market products may be partners.
A forthcoming liability manual produced by West Virginia University Extension Service will discuss these issues and more. More importantly, the manual will discuss ways to protect your operation from legal liability.
Why Your Farm-Related Stress Needs Addressed Jodi Richmond
Stress is a part of everyone’s life, however, farmers are particularly susceptible since their home is often their livelihood and they have nowhere to escape to relax. During the busy farm seasons they must continue to do household chores as well. Vacations and recreation activities are often skipped and one’s own mental health is often overlooked.
According to Family Development Resources, Inc., 75 to 90 percent of illnesses are stress related. Signs of stress include: headaches, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, clenched or grinding teeth which increases jaw or head pain. People under stress often become more irritable, frustrated, depressed or moody. Working long hours, weather, livestock health problems, government regulations, high debt loads, machinery problems, low yields and family disagreements often contribute to increased stress.
The best way to deal with stress is to identify what is causes it and determine positive solutions to solve or manage those issues. For example, proper risk management practices can prevent many stressors. Planning and maintenance may prevent equipment and facility problems. Life often creates challenges that cannot be foreseen, but insurance and other management strategies can lessen their severity. When faced with these challenges, try stay calm and think positively. Remember that things will get better and look for potential solutions, weighing the cost and benefits of each. Try to change “I can’t” to “maybe I could.”
Tips for Protecting your Family, Farm and Future Daisy Bailey
Liability is a scary term for most farm and business owners, but here are some tips that can help you ensure you are protecting the future of your family and farm.
How is your business structured? IS it a LLC, corporation or partnership? Certain business structures can help protect your personal assets if your farm/business were to be sued. Investigate what business structure would best benefit your operation and protect your family and farm.
Do you have insurance? Investigate and educate yourself about farm insurance with liability, as it can typically be added to an existing farm or homeowner’s policy. If you have insurance, revisit your policy on a yearly basis or when something changes in your operation. Reasons you may want to check with your insurance agent include hiring new employee, building a storage shed, adding an agritourism enterprise, just to name a few.
Be honest with your insurance agent. They cannot help you if you do not tell them everything you do on the farm. They are there to assist you in making sure your family and farm are protected in case of an accident or natural disaster.
Be vigilant in posting no trespassing signs or markings. An updated state code can be found here. If you do have unwanted trespassers on your property and they will not adhere to the posted property signs, file a police report, so it is documented in case they are injured.
Do your part to make your property safe. If you have a known hazard, try and fix it or make sure that it is properly posted and fenced off so people can avoid that area.
The Sun Will Come Up Tomorrow: Boosting Profitability in Lean Times – Dee Singh-Knights
Risk and uncertainty are common in farming, from changes in the weather to changes in market demand. Many producers continue to face challenging times with declining prices, high input costs and an uncertain financial market. But the sun will come up tomorrow! Get on with the task of staying profitable and weather tough business climates. Planning for profitability is important when business is good, but crucial when profit margins are tight!
Steps to take in 2017:
Set one-year and five-year goals as a basis for developing a business plan. If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.
Figure out a balance sheet/inventory assessment of everything you own (assets) and everything you owe (liabilities). This may not be pretty, but it’s at least a good place to start. As Tim Dolan from UMN states,”It can serve as a mirror of the past and a beacon for tomorrow.”
Know your cost of production for all your enterprises and for your total farm. The little things add up to big things. A one- or two-percent difference in your cost can significantly affect your bottom line. Remember, every dollar saved in expenses is a dollar added to your profits.
Create a road map for the year by making a long-range budget plan or projected cash flow plan. A lot may need to get done, but this will help you prioritize your efforts based on available funds.
Remember, assets do not pay the bills. Focus on generating cash and reducing your debt.
Do not become paralyzed when times are tough or wait for better times to make tough decisions. This is the time to trim the fat and weed out any inefficiencies in your business.
And lastly, keep the communication line open with other business partners, family and bankers. This ensures all stakeholders are working towards the same goals.
I am a Farmer but am I an Agripreneur? – Dee Singh-Knights
So, you own a farm or farm-related business, but have you ever considered yourself to be an entrepreneur, or in agriculture, an ‘agripreneur?’
Entrepreneurship, or agripreneurship can be thought of as the mindset and effort to create and develop a business by blending innovation, risk-taking and creativity with sound management within a new or an existing business. The very nature of agricultural work – where producers must be self-starters who can constantly innovate and solve problems on the fly helps cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit needed to be a successful. Yet, our agricultural producers and processors are generally not thought of as entrepreneurs and are generally ignored in the entrepreneurial landscape.
There are many successful examples of agripreneurs in West Virginia Family Roots Farm, Bluestone Mountain Farm, The Custard Stand, Blue Smoke Gourmet Salsa, West Virginia Fruit and Berry, Gourmet Central, Flying W Farms, Gritts Farms, Mister Bee’s Potato Chips, WenWeave and Spring Gap Mountain Creamery, to name a few.
The farmers who run these agricultural operations have adapted to be well-rounded entrepreneurs, diversifying crops and livestock from raw commodities to transformation further up the supply chain. Many of these operations have built their small businesses without the benefit of formal entrepreneurial training. Rather, they have built their own entrepreneurial mind-set through combining knowledge, effort and life-long learning and experiences to help realize their business dreams.
We know that that many other aspiring and beginning agripreneurs exist in West Virginia that can potentially play a role in reducing unemployment, poverty rates and migration by strengthening West Virginia’s agribusinesses, increasing agriculture employment opportunities and enhancing rural economic activity. Formal entrepreneurial training for this target audience is an efficient way to speed up the learning curve, helping participants move from a production to an entrepreneurial mindset and gaining the skills necessary to transform them from accidental entrepreneurs to agripreneurs.
West Virginia University will open the WVU Women’s Business Center on the Morgantown Campus in January of 2017, thanks to a recent award from the U.S. Small Business Administration. The center will assist women entrepreneurs in starting and growing small businesses in West Virginia by providing training, mentorship and networking opportunities.
Your input is needed to help the center develop programming and services that will have the most impact in advancing women agripreneurs in business. Please weigh in by completing the following short survey to help us build the Women’s Business center that will grow the next generation of agripreneurs in West Virginia. It will only take a few minutes of your time, but it will help ensure that the programs offered will best serve women entrepreneurs in West Virginia. Please let us know your needs by completing this survey .
Selling Through Farm Stories Dee Singh-Knights
Stories are everywhere, and their value in direct marketing and agritourism can make or break your business.
Investing time in telling effective stories can result in both immediate and long-term benefits. So how can we all refine the stories we already tell and recognize the stories we encounter every day?
Stories add value. Value creates margin. Margin creates profits. Telling a story allows people to emotionally connect to your product, service or farm which often means they do not mind paying a little extra.
Giving people information alone about products rarely compels them to act; your promotional efforts need to reach people’s heart for it to be truly effective. Marketing research suggests that people use their heart 80 percent of the time to make decisions; therefore to be effective, you have to make people feel your message, not just understand it.
So what are some story-telling tips to help customers feel your message? A good story has the following elements:
- Hook – begin and gain attention with surprising statistic, provocative question or a personal or societal dilemma that you faced
- Connecting framework connect to something, or someone, familiar
- Visuals accompanying oral stories with visuals can help the story stick more fully in the listeners mind (farm tours, samples)
- Change – you have to change in some way from the beginning to end
- Stakes – why this moment mattered to you
- End or climax – know where the story is leading, such as a purchase, visit or change in behavior
- Simplicity but they should also be provocative; Brandon Sanderson said “the purpose of the story-teller is not to tell you what to think, but to give you questions to think upon” .
- Humor or drama these elements appeal more fully to listeners
Where can you find stories? Great stories are all around you as a small farmer. There are so many opportunities to tell stories about you, your farm or your products. Your future customers are wondering if you can be trusted, if you are knowledgeable, if you are authentic or if they can they connect with you. To address those concerns you may tell stories about:
- Your roots, including where you came from and your family heritage
- An experience or person that led you to your path
- Your values and principles, including what you love, value or appreciate and why
- A mistake, failure, or risk you took that paid off
- Your commitment and passion, and why they should care
Take a look at what your West Virginia neighbors are doing to share their story to help customers feel more connected to their farms while building customer loyalty Family Roots Farm, J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works, Swift Level Farm, and Smooth Ambler Spirits.
Sometimes life doesn’t exactly turn out as envisioned, and that’s not always a bad thing. We all have aspirations growing up that range from the almost statistically impossible, such as a race car driver, to more practical a nurse or doctor for instance. As we get older, the goals shift for some as college majors are picked and career paths emerge. So, how does a woman with an accounting degree from southern New Jersey who was raised in a housing development end up on a farm in Barbour County, West Virginia surrounded by 10,000 mums?
The answer is a little of everything family, wisdom, flexibility and a dream.
Lisa Sickler and her family own and operate Sickler Farms near Phillipi and offer a variety of produce, everything from consumer supported agriculture subscriptions to vegetable transplants and mums to hanging baskets. When asked if she ever thought she’d be there, her answer was a resounding “never in a million years.”
Much of her success has been found through the same advice she’d give novice farmers.
“You have to listen to the wisdom that knowledgeable people whisper in your ears,” she said. “You have to be flexible to realize and envision your dream, and you have to connect with resources around you to keep running with it.”
When she and her husband purchased the land in 2008, they started with an old house filled with trash and aspirations of becoming cattle producers with a booming cow and calf operation. However, after talking with a representative from the Natural Resource Conservation Service, things began to change.
Sickler recounted that he told them they could plant an acre of asparagus and then ran over some numbers about the profitability of such far more than the forage they were looking at producing for a herd of cattle. After receiving more information and getting connected to a grant to build a high tunnel, the farm took off in the direction they never imagined when they bought the land. All of a sudden, they were producing vegetables. Not cattle.
Shortly thereafter they were connected to West Virginia University Extension Service people and programs.
“Lewis Jett, Tom Basden, Dee Singh-Knights and our local agent Josh Peplowski have all been at our fingertips when we needed them,” she said. “We had no idea these kind of resources existed to people while we lived in New Jersey, and the amount of knowledge and encouragement we’ve received is amazing.”
Sickler participated in the WVU Extension Service Annie’s Project program on the local level and also attends the WVU Extension Service Women in Agriculture conference yearly.
“Those programs are a beneficial way to learn someone can spark an idea that you don’t have to follow exactly, but rather tailor it to suit your operation and run with it,” she said.
Today, the Sickler Farms operation boasts two greenhouses, five high tunnels and eight fields. They sell their goods at several farmers markets across North Central West Virginia and host a variety of agritourism activities that they are hoping to expand upon.
And although a produce farm may not have been to plan, Sickler hasn’t been happier. She values giving members of the community a wholesome connection to agriculture, and she reflected a definite trend of consumers wanting to know who grows their food and how. For her, it’s just another benefit to a plan that went perfectly not to plan.
“Each and every day I get to work the land with my husband and our son who is a full-time farm employee,” she said. “There’s a certain charm about being in a high tunnel in the middle of winter and being surrounded by green, living things.”
You can learn about Sickler Farms from their website and keep up with what’s happening on the farm through their Facebook page .
Food safety is serious business. And while consumers are demanding more local, distinctive foods, the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act is going to be a game changer in terms of how we do business, or more importantly, how customers perceive we should be doing business when it comes to food production in West Virginia.
The FSMA gives the FDA a mandate to create a science-based system that addresses the hazards of getting food from the farm to the table. The system puts greater emphasis on preventing food-borne illness. The reasoning is simple the better the food system handles producing, processing, transporting and preparing foods, the safer our food supply will be.
With an average of 3,000 people dying from foodborne diseases every year, the FDA is clear about one thing – to keep consumers safe, the food industry needs to shift its focus from reactive to preventive. After nearly five years of work, the produce rule became final in October of 2015.
So what does the produce rule mean for you and your operation? It means you have to understand food safety risks affecting your farm and implement the recommended practices to reduce those risks. While many small operations are not required to comply with FSMA regulations per se, if you are selling produce in the marketplace, your customers may prefer that you do.
Understandably, producers are concerned about the cost of compliance and are overwhelmed by the aspects of the regulations. You may be already doing many food safety tasks on your farm, but going forward, you need to reassess your practices to ensure all your food safety bases are covered. Set incremental food-safety goals for improvements and how to document them. The good news is the FDA has offered staggered implementation times, allowing many small farms up to four years to become compliant.
In West Virginia we are putting together an inter-agency, multi-disciplinary team to help producers build a culture of food safety in the state. With the help of grants from the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, we will begin food safety training in January of 2017. It will be a ‘one-stop-shop’ for food safety education producers need to stay well-positioned in the local food movement, to meet buyers’ expectations of safe foods and how to move from training to compliance in a cost-effective manner.
We realize that the major issue in food safety compliance in West Virginia is consistent documentation and record keeping. The project team will ensure that you receive simple and user friendly ways to keep relevant records.
The release of the final, nationally approved training curriculum from the FDA is scheduled for October of 2016. Once we get official word, we will provide training that meets USDA Good Agricultural Practices, Good Handling Practices and FSMA standards. We will conduct mock on-farm audits to see practical applications of GAPs and GHPs; provide follow-up coaching to support you in implementing GAPs/GHPs and keeping appropriate documentation; provide voluntary Food Safety Program Certification for farms meeting local standards for food safety compliance; and provide continuing, annual education and recertification. For more information, contact Dee Singh-Knights at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-680-9925.
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- January 2017 Use Warm Season Forages to Improve Beef Cattle Winter Feeding Areas
- January 2017 Make Record Keeping a Resolution
- January 2017 Accidental Partnerships
- January 2017 Why Farm Related Stress Needs Addressed
- January 2017 Tips for Protecting Your Farm, Family and Future
- January 2017 The Sun Will Come Up Tomorrow
- January 2017 Agriprenuership
- January 2017 Hot Topic in Agriculture
- January 2017 Featured West Virginia Woman in Agriculture
- August 2016 WIA Newsletter -- Food Safety is Serious Business