cows in field

Recent Odairy Discussion, December, 2011

Robust and practical discussions about cutting and wrapping corn as baleage; controlling gophers; treating Coccidiosis; high grain prices and grain self-sufficiency; sprouted barley as sole grain source; and impact of communication towers on lifestock health.

By Liz Bawden, NODPA Producer Representative and Newsletter Co-Editor

Added December 5, 2011. The unusual weather during the growing and harvest season this year prompted a discussion about cutting and wrapping corn as baleage. A farmer had experienced a poor crop due to late planting and drought, and asked if others had tried this approach. Other producers responded that it did work well for them, only that the tough stalks tended to poke holes in the plastic wrap occasionally. One farmer suggested that it needed a longer time to dry down after cutting, and took longer to ferment.

A producer asked for effective means of controlling gophers in pasture and hay fields. There were many responses; some suggested traps, others suggested high-velocity .22 shells. Another suggestion was to force car exhaust down the hole with a piece of pvc pipe taped to the exhaust pipe of the truck or car. That suggestion met with some worry that it would violate the standards set by the NOP -- the only rodenticides they list as being allowed are Vitamin D3 and sulphur dioxide-type smoke bombs. Other suggestions were: set up nesting boxes for owls around the fields, use Bazooka bubble gum as a bait, spread a heavy dose of manure (especially down the holes), use predator urine (cat, dog, fox, etc) especially around burrow entrances.

Coccidiosis was a problem in young stock 6 weeks to 8 months of age on two different farms. One farm treated the heifers with Pivot, homeopathy (he did not specify which remedies), Dr.Paul's Eliminate, free choice kelp and humates, trace mineral injections, and good management practices (feed best quality hay, rotate lots, molasses barrels). The other farm treated their heifers with Agri-Dynamics Neematox or Vermitox, and rotated the group to other paddocks.

High grain prices (and fears of higher prices) have some farmers looking at increasing their self-sufficiency in grains for the coming year. One farmer blasted those who do not grow their own, or at least put up storage to buy at harvest. Other producers know they have serious issues with their soils, and know that cropping those fields is a risky venture. One producer says he will dust off his tillage and planting equipment for 2012; others without a shed of equipment wonder if the experiment in grain self-sufficiency will just be too costly.

A producer explained his method for feeding sprouted barley as the cows' only grain source. He follows the design of an Australian company called Fodder Solutions. Basically, a tray is filled with barley seed, kept in a hydroponoic, controlled environment, and is ready to feed on the 7th day. By keeping a rotating stock, the farmer can give the benefits of fresh green feed year round to the herd. The sprouting process makes the barley more digestible. Other farmers said they were successfully using this technique. One was using other grains, and one had difficulty keep the sprouting mats from molding in the summer.

A farmer is considering allowing the installation of a wireless communications tower, and asked the list about any health impacts for the livestock and citing information to eliminate stray voltage problems. "Be very cautious" was the answer from one producer, who stressed that location of the tower relative to the barns and livestock is critical. This producer warned that "this could be the beginning of the end for your contented cows". Another producer has been fighting the installation of a tower very close to a house on their farm. She says the research on the exposure to these emissions links low level, long-term exposure with childhood leukemia. Another producer believes the greatest problem to be the introduction of unwanted earth currents during thunderstorms, which might or might not wreak havoc on milking. He advised that the electrical service for a facility should be a 4 wire with separate ground on the same phase as your farm and/or a 3-phase delta. Another farmer has had a tower located 1/4 mile from their barn for a few years, and have noticed no effects. All producers suggested researching the facts and contracts to protect yourself; some suggested contacting legal and electrical professionals.