Agriculture News
Steuben County
May 2021
Dear Readers:

May brings more consistent warmer weather (we hope!) and an opportunity to enjoy more time outdoors. May is also Celebrate Beef Month, and we have many beef producers in our county and region. Look for locally raised meat when shopping to support our farmers.
Please read on for the newest happenings from CCE on agriculture, horticulture, and natural resources topics.

- Ariel Kirk, Agriculture Educator
Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Committee
Ed Merry
Chris Comstock
Allison Lavine
Gary Mahany
Cody Lafler
Kevin Costello
Joe Castrechino
Legislative Representatives
Hilda Lando
Fred Potter
Managing Forage Digestibility to Combat High Commodity Prices

By Joe Lawrence, Cornell Pro Dairy
Article sourced from Cornell Field Crops Newsletter

Forage quality is important, it is hard to attend a meeting or read an agricultural publication without hearing this point and while there is a risk of becoming numb to the message, this spring presents yet another reminder of how critical this can be to controlling production cost on a dairy.

In a recent article (Higher Grain Prices and Lower Starch Diets) Rick Grant revisited the results of a past study at Miner Institute comparing diets with varying forage and fiber byproduct levels, the article can be found in the March 2021 Farm Report. Dr. Grant concluded the article by stating “This study showed us that we can feed higher forage diets when the forage contains highly digestible NDF. As we enter a period of higher grain and feed prices, we need to re-focus on the fact that cows can do very well on higher forage diets if the forage quality is high. And if fibrous byproducts happen to be priced competitively, we should be prepared to take advantage of their high fiber degradability.”

While striving for forage quality should always be the goal, the current price dynamics do offer an added incentive to optimize forage quality and specifically fiber digestibility entering 2021.

Hay Crops-
Key factors in hay field management remain constant. As always it really boils down to optimizing yield and quality while securing the needed quantity of forage for different groups of animals on the farm. As each season presents ample chances to make low quality hay, the emphasis should be put on securing needed inventories of lactating quality feed before shifting the focus to obtaining lower quality inventory. Dynamic Harvest Schedules discusses ways to adjust management to achieve these goals.

The next step to assuring access to the right quality forage, at the right time, for the right group of animals is planning out forage storage as discussed in Strategic Forage Storage Planning.
Alfalfa and grass, or a mixture, are still the most common sources of hay crop on dairy farms and both have the potential to offer a very highly digestible feed source but understanding their differences is important to successful management.

There remains a tendency to focus in on Crude Protein (CP) when evaluating hay quality and while CP should not be completely ignored, there are better metrics for analysis. Fiber digestibility is a key area of focus and is certainly relevant in the context of higher commodity prices.

In a recent Hoards Dairyman article Dr. Dave Combs wrote, “Good forage is the combination of the right amount of fiber at the right amount of digestibility.” This is relevant to the grass and alfalfa discussion and research from Dr. Jerry Cherney at Cornell helps explain this.

In a study comparing the first cutting growth of grass and alfalfa in New York (NY), the Neutral Detergent Fiber (NDF) level of grass was found to be approximately 20 percent higher than alfalfa. However, when the NDF digestibility (NDFd) (on a percent of NDF basis) was measured, the grass NDFd levels averaged approximately 20 percent higher than alfalfa. In other words, grass has more total NDF but it is also more digestible. If this is understood it can be accounted for in proper ration development.
What the two crops did have in common was the rate of increase in NDF and corresponding rate of decline in NDFd as the crop matured. The levels of both were relatively constant until around May 10th (Ithaca, NY) at which time NDF levels began a linear increase while NDFd began a linear decrease. Between May 10th and May 30th NDF increased by 20 to 25 percent while NDFd declined by 15 to 20 percent for both crops.

An article from the University of Wisconsin, Understanding NDF Digestibility of Forages, provides a good comparison of the NDFd potential of Alfalfa, Grass and Corn Silage. Relative to the other two, grass has the highest potential, however, it can also measure the lowest levels if mis-managed, a higher risk, higher potential reward scenario. In contrast, alfalfa has the lowest potential of the three at the high-end but does not drop as low as grass on the low-end. Carrying this idea into mixed stands, Dr. Cherney has found that as little as 5% grass in a mixture can result in increases in NDFd that are meaningful to the cow and stands with approximately 30% grass optimize yield and quality.

The Cornell study exploring the springtime changes in fiber referenced above also helps shed light on why using CP as a quality indicator can be misleading with these crops. Crude Protein was tracked in the alfalfa and grass throughout the month and CP in both crops declined at a similar rate from May 10th to May 18th, from a starting point of 23 percent CP down to approximately 18 percent. At this point the lines diverged with the alfalfa CP value flattening out at approximately 18 percent and staying at this level through the end of May. In contrast, the CP content of grass continued a linear decline at a rate of 0.45 percent per day which resulted in a final measurement of approximately 14 percent at the end of May.

If comparing CP alone, the late cut alfalfa (at 18 percent CP) would be considered superior to the late cut grass (at 14 percent CP); however, from a fiber standpoint they would both be problematic by this time. Understanding this relationship and adjusting harvest decisions accordingly can be especially impactful when trying to maximize forage utilization in the diet during times of high commodity prices.

Optimizing the harvest timing of first cutting can be managed by understand the stand composition (alfalfa vs. grass) and progress of the crop. This differs by year as spring conditions can vary significantly. More information can be found in the following article, Time To Check The Progress Of Your First Cutting. Several CCE Ag Teams around NY offer first cutting monitoring programs and send out weekly updates during the month of May, contact your local CCE Ag Team for more information.

Corn Silage-
The 2020 growing season can be generalized by below average rainfall which challenged the corn crop in many areas; however, one benefit realized was the positive impact the drier weather had of corn silage fiber digestibility. When considering a number of potential influences on corn silage fiber, aside from unique traits like BMR, we know that rainfall tend to have one of the most significant impacts on digestibility. More information can be found in Corn silage forage quality: Hybrid genetics versus growing conditions.

With 2021 growing conditions still an unknown, it is difficult to know what the 2021 crop has in store for fiber digestibility or overall yield and quality performance. Although it is difficult to predict the growing season, our understanding of fiber digestibility can help us plan ahead and manage for the best outcomes when feeding the 2021 crop.

As discussed, in general higher levels of rainfall leads to lower levels of digestible fiber with perhaps the largest impact related to rainfall just before corn tasseling. With this information, by August we should have a relatively good idea as to whether fiber digestibility is going to trend higher (like 2020) or lower (like 2017) as demonstrated in the data from the NY VT Corn Silage Hybrid Evaluation Program annual overview.

This could help planning in two ways. First, it may influence harvest decisions, specifically chop height. Penn
State summarized a number of chopping height studies and found that on-average NDFd increases by 2.5 percent for each six inches the cutting height is increased. In a situation where the 2021 growing season results in a high yielding crop but there are concerns of below average fiber digestibility, increasing corn silage cutting height may be a worthwhile consideration. Conversely, if 2021 is similar to 2020, with limited rainfall, securing adequate forage inventory may be of more concern. Understanding that this will likely be offset by higher overall digestibility in the crop suggest a lower harvest height could be worth considering.

Second, having some level of confidence in whether fiber digestibility will be above or below average prior to harvest will provide a glimpse into what diet adjustments may be needed when switching to the new corn silage crop.

An inherent challenge of a dry year is that while digestibility is often higher, overall yield is often lower. This creates a scenario where cows are likely to consume more of the forage, particularly if striving for a high forage diet to combat high commodity prices, while inventories may be stressed. Planning ahead and using this information may aid in decision making regarding how many acres on the farm are harvested for silage versus grain or if purchasing additional corn silage (standing in the field or post-harvest) is warranted.

Although this article has focused on high forage diets to combat higher commodity cost, this information can also help in planning for what commodities may be needed in the new diet. Regardless of price trends this opens the door to watch markets for relative deals on these inputs throughout the late summer and early fall to lock in favorable prices for the period this silage will need to be fed.

  • Considerations in Managing Cutting Height of Corn Silage, Penn State
  • Corn silage forage quality: Hybrid genetics versus growing conditions, Cornell University
  • Dynamic Harvest Schedules, Cornell PRO-DAIRY
  • Higher Grain Prices and Lower Starch Diets, Miner Institute Farm Report, March 2021
  • NY VT Corn Silage Hybrid Evaluation Program annual overview, Cornell University
  • Strategic Forage Storage Planning, Cornell PRO-DAIRY
  • Time To Check The Progress Of Your First Cutting, Cornell PRO-DAIRY
  • Understanding NDF Digestibility of Forages, University of Wisconsin
Feeding Small Grains to Beef Cattle, Penn State Extension
Amy Barkley, Livestock Specialist
Southwest New York Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops Program

Prepared by Dr. John Comerford, retired Penn State professor
Authored by Daniel M. Kniffen and John W. Comerford

Note- Tables are located at the end of the article

Cattle feeders for all classes of cattle are encountering corn prices that are at or near record levels. Alternative feeds may provide an alternative feedstuff and in many cases will make financial sense as an ingredient in the ration. One of the options is the use of small grains.

Price and Value:
The first issue to consider for replacing corn with small grains is how to make an equivalent exchange for both feed value and price. Table 1 describes the protein and energy value of some selected small grains as compared to corn.

These data show small grains will usually be a lower cost of protein as compared to corn, but, for most classes of beef cattle, protein will be a small or non- limiting nutrient. The most limiting nutrient will be energy, so the feeder should focus on the equivalent value of small grains as a source of energy and compare prices based on this feature.

Oats are generally lower in energy and have more fiber content than other small grains. The hull of the oats will represent 24-30 % of the weight of the grain (John and Boyles, North Dakota State University.) Thus, their value as a source of energy in high-grain diets will be limited. Because of the high fiber content coupled with a relatively high energy value, oats are most effectively used with younger cattle to transition them to a grain diet. This can include using oats as a creep feed for nursing calves. Feeding programs for club calves and junior steer projects will often include oats as a means of adding energy to the diet with a lower potential for bloat and acidosis as compared to corn-based diets, although weight gain will be reduced. Oats may be processed by rolling or crimping and processing can add 5% efficiency to their use by the animal. However, this improved efficiency may not be enough to offset the cost of processing. Oats are usually not effective in a finishing diet because the energy value is lower, the total intake of feed may be reduced, and the cost may be prohibitive. As shown in Table 2 corn will be a cheaper source of energy than oats when corn is priced at $4.00/bu and oats are more than $1.85/bu.

Wheat provides a highly-degradable, high starch source of energy for the ruminant. Both the energy and protein content is often higher than in corn. However, wheat cannot totally replace corn as the energy component of the diet because of a higher incidence of acidosis and founder. Therefore, as a general rule wheat should not replace more than 50% of the corn in the diet, particularly for feedlot steers.
Because of the high degradability of wheat energy, cattle should be switched to wheat rations slowly to allow adaptation by the rumen. It should take up to 2 weeks to shift feedlot cattle for corn to high-wheat diets. The fiber level of wheat is also low (about 3%), so the fiber content of the ration would need to be adjusted to keep it at least 6% in the total ration. Wheat should be coarsely ground or rolled to prevent fines. Wheat should never be fed as a finely-ground product because in will greatly increase the potential for acidosis and bloat. Generally, wheat should not be used in starter diets for young cattle or for replacement heifers.
Wheat harvested late and (or) in wet conditions may be sprouted. Several studies have shown sprouted wheat will be as good as, and sometimes better than, unsprouted wheat as cattle feed. An Idaho study showed a diet that contained 60% sprouted wheat (with up to 36% sprouted kernels) resulted in similar cattle performance and feed efficiency in feedlot steers.
Similarly, rye can be used in cattle diets using the same considerations as wheat since the grain formation will be similar. There will usually be less energy and protein in rye compared to wheat, so the total amount available in the diet for cattle may be less. Additionally rye is less palatable than wheat therefore it should be limited in the ration as it may reduce intake.

There may be some differences in animal performance in barley varieties for cattle fed limited diets containing barley. However, for feedlot cattle, no differences by variety would be expected. Additionally, there are mixed results for feeding low test-weight barley. In most cases, barley above 45.7 lbs/bu (Mathison et al., 1991) will perform similarly in feedlot diets. In general processing will increase the efficiency of use for barley compared to the whole grain. Barley can be ground or rolled, but, like wheat, should never be finely ground. There is a relatively high starch content of barley which implies fiber content of the diet should remain at 6% or higher, there should be no fines, and the diet should be introduced slowly to allow the rumen to adjust to the starch content. Acidosis and bloat are two symptoms of fines or non-adjustment. Barley has been used successfully as part of growing diets that include dry hay for up to 0.25% of total intake. In feedlot diets, barley has been used successfully to substitute for up to 2/3 of the corn in finishing diets, which is higher than that for wheat because the fiber content is higher and the starch content is slightly lower. Barley is generally the most flexible small grain substitute for corn provided price is compared and feeding standards are met.
Upcoming workshops and events

We are looking for volunteers to help in the Community Garden. Volunteer with a Master Gardner that promotes a safe work environment where learning is encouraged and supported. One of the primary focus areas of Steuben County AmeriCorps Seniors/RSVP is Food Insecurity.

This is a perfect opportunity to help address this issue in our community. Produce grown in the garden is given to local food pantries and to the Red Door free lunch site at the church. The garden beds are raised for easy accessibility. Volunteers needed Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 9-noon. Growers may choose to work for 1-3 hours on the designated days on one or more days.

For more information, call or email Mary Dugo here or 607-664-2298.
Did you miss our live discussion in late April? Contact Ariel Kirk by email here for a recording of the video that includes resources and practical examples from educators and other farmers and agribusiness professionals of what they learned and how they adapted during the pandemic.
** Your Advertisement Here! **

Dear Readers,
Through this publication, CCE Steuben serves farmers, agribusinesses, and county residents of all ages interested in current agriculture, horticulture, and natural resources topics. You can contribute a logo and/or have space for a promotional message to reach the local agriculture community.

$100.00 for the remainder of the year - December 2021

Contact Anne at 607-664-2300 or email her here for more details.
The 2021-2022 Cornell Guide for the Integrated Management of Greenhouse Crops and Herbaceous Ornamentals is now available for distribution.

This guide is intended for commercial producers and nursery growers.
There are three product options: print only, online access only, and bundle (a combination of print and online access).

Please contact Anne to order from our office:
607-664-2300 or
Dear Readers,
The article below is for our commercial berry producers: utilizing hummingbirds in the battle against Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) infestations.
Lamb and Goat Processing at SUNY Cobleskill
As of this printing, SUNY Cobleskill may still have some openings for processing at their facility. The costs associated are $30 for slaughter and $45 for processing, or $75 per animal.

Please contact Betsy Jensen for more details at 518-255-5676 or
Dairy Market Watch

Please find the latest issue of Dairy Market Watch here for those reading the email version of Ag News.
For those with mailed copies, it is included as an insert within your mailing.
Dear Readers, please see the message below from Tess McKinley, Executive Director of CCE Steuben, about opportunities for you and your agricultural workers regarding Covid-19 vaccinations:
Thank you for all that you have done during the pandemic. As essential workers, you have not stopped working and you have continued to nourish our families. We appreciate everything you do for our community. 

In partnership with Steuben County Public Health and Steuben County Emergency Services - Cornell Cooperative Extension Steuben County and the Steuben County Farm Bureau would like to let the farming community know of what resources are available in regards to COVID-19 vaccinations. The CDC has reported that even if you have already had COVID-19, getting vaccinated can help protect you, your workers and family for a longer period of time, at least for six more months from the virus. Below are resources to help you get vaccinated in Steuben County.

If you cannot get to a vaccination site
COVID-19 vaccine is available and bilingual nurses are willing to come to your farm to vaccinate you and your workers. 

You can reach out to either location below and an employee will reach out to you to schedule a time to come visit your farm. 

  • Finger Lakes Community Health by calling (315) 531-9102 or by filling out this form at the link: Click here for the link.

If you can get to a vaccination site
There are three sites in Steuben County that are either state or county run where you can get them regularly. There are also several pharmacies and grocery stores providing the vaccine:

  • Steuben County Businesses - COVID-19 vaccine is available at several businesses throughout Steuben County, you can find them here:

Need help registering for vaccine and navigating the website? Please call Steuben County Office for the Aging at 607-664-2298 or 2-1-1- HELPLINE by dialing 2-1-1 and someone will assist you.

Please reach out with any questions/concerns,

Tess McKinley

Executive Director
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Steuben County
(607) 664-2301 (Office)
(607) 664-2300 (Front Desk)
Dear Readers,
Please see this reminder from Jamie Earl, County Executive Director of USDA Farm Service Agency in Bath, NY:

Farm Service Agency is now accepting applications for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP 2.0). There was a sign-up in late 2020 and FSA has opened the program up for at least 60 days (as of late April). Producers who submitted an application under the last CFAP 2.0 have received top-up payments based upon the CFAP 2.0 applications. This program sign-up would be for producers who did not sign-up for the original CFAP 2.0 program. 

For more details or assistance with the application, please contact the local Bath FSA office at: 607-776-7398 

  • 6+ acres for lease for organic cultivation. Must have ag exemption. Call (607) 483-8758 between 10:30 AM and 5:00 PM, M – F.

  • Available For Rent: Steuben County SWCD has an Esch 10’ No-Till Drill for rent. Rates are $12-$25/acre based on number of acres planted. Delivery/pickup available. Please call (607)776-7398 ext.3 for more information.

  • Seeking conservation minded individual with interests in permaculture to rent 3-4 acre, gentle grade, southern exposure field for agricultural production in Steuben County, NY. Acceptable practices include organic vegetable production, small scale poultry, and organic greenhouse or high tunnel production. Other considerations will be determined by owner. Improved, uncultivated ground will require proper preparation for success. Currently no housing available on the property, but can be discussed with owner in the future. Contact CCE Steuben at (607)664-2574 for further information.

  • Attention Cattle Farmers: I have pasture/farmland for rent, 40-50 acres, reasonable rate. Located in Steuben County on State Rt. 63. Contact Marian Crawford at (585)728-5303.

  • Looking for a farmer interested in a lease agreement for approximately 40 - 50 acres in Howard at the intersection of CR69 and Dublin Road. Please call Bill at (484)794-1400 for more information.
Ariel Kirk, Agriculture Educator -