Monday, October 18, 2010

Ohio Sheep Dairy Symposium

A Sheep Dairy Symposium will be hosted by the Ohio Sheep Milk and Cheese Initiative on Nov. 6, 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at Ohio State University's Agricultural Technical Institute, 1328 Dover Road, Wooster, Ohio.

The Ohio Sheep Milk and Cheese Initiative has been funded by a
NCR-SARE grant to explore sheep dairy opportunities in Ohio. The symposium is sponsored by ATI, Ohio State University Extension, Innovative Farmers of Ohio, NCR-SARE and the Small Farm Institute.

Topics of discussion include enterprise budgets and financing options, market potential, cheese makers, grazing practices and nutritional requirements.

Speakers include Yves Berger, researcher with University of Wisconsin Spooner Agriculture Research Station, who will speak on dairy sheep genetics, milk production and nutrition; and Pat Elliott, farmer and cheese maker from Everona Dairy in Rapidan, Va., who will share how she started her working sheep dairy.

Registration is $25 per person, due by Oct. 20. For more information on the symposium, log on to

Thursday, October 7, 2010

U of Minnesota Extension dean honors William Wilcke

NCR-SARE Regional Coordinator and University of Minnesota Extension agricultural engineer, William Wilcke, was presented with the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Campus-based Faculty this week at the organization’s annual conference.

The award was presented by University of Minnesota Extension Dean Bev Durgan. “Throughout the years, in times of weather emergencies like floods, early frosts and tornadoes, Wilcke is consistently first to respond with information on recovery options for grains,” said Durgan.

Wilcke’s programs experience widespread use by grain farmers throughout the state. Wilcke has developed a nationally recognized program on the post-harvest handling of crops. He led the effort to develop the award-winning software “WINFANS: A Computer Program For Selecting Crop Drying Fans and Determining Airflow.”

Among a wide variety of activities to advance sustainable agriculture, Wilcke has served as Regional Coordinator of NCR-SARE since 2002. In addition to serving as the key staff person to the Administrative Council as it develops program goals and makes funding decisions, Wilcke has provided oversight and has promoted NCR-SARE to a broad audience. He has served as a faculty member at the University of Minnesota since 1989, and is currently serving as a Professor and Extension Engineer in the Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering Department in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resources Sciences.

Additionally, Wilcke has served on the Board for the Minnesota Institute of Sustainable Agriculture (MISA), coordinated the sustainable agriculture development efforts, served as leader for the Extension crops system specialization, contributed to national and regional Extension leadership programs, and was the acting administrator for MISA.

“Wilcke is extremely respected by the Extension educators and specialists who have worked with him throughout his career,” added Durgan. “His quiet yet professional style is a trademark appreciated by colleagues and customers alike.”

Since 1988, the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program has helped advance farming systems that are profitable, environmentally sound and good for communities through a nationwide research and education grants program. The program, part of USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, funds projects and conducts outreach designed to improve agricultural systems.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Source: Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

AMES, Iowa -- The concept of “life cycle assessment” was first applied to manufacturing processes but is increasingly being used to examine agriculture. It’s a technique to analyze the environmental impacts associated with a product, process or service.

Iowa State University researchers used the life cycle assessment concept to estimate the amount of nonrenewable energy needed to produce pigs in Iowa. The project was supported by a two-year grant from ISU’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and a U.S. Department of Agriculture Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant.

The research took into account all direct and indirect energy inputs in the construction and operation of a pig facility, plus the growing and processing of feed ingredients.

Comparisons were made between a conventional confinement system with mechanical ventilation and liquid manure handling, and one that uses bedded hoop barns for grow-finish pigs and gestating sows.

The two housing systems required similar amounts of nonrenewable energy but each uses energy differently according to Pete Lammers, a former ISU doctoral candidate in animal science. Lammers now is a livestock specialist for the National Center for Appropriate Technology in Des Moines.

Lammers said raising pigs in conventional confinement facilities requires the use of more energy to heat and ventilate the buildings. “Using bedded hoop barns for gestation and grow-finish reduces this energy use by almost 70 percent,” he said.

However, pigs raised in hoop barns require more feed, which ultimately leads to the two systems performing similarly in terms of energy use. “Earlier ISU research showed a hoop barn-based system requires 2.4 percent more feed. In addition, the nitrogen value in the solid manure is less than what’s available in liquid manure collected at a confinement facility. That means more fertilizer nitrogen must be applied to corn fields,” Lammers said.

The researchers found the largest single use of nonrenewable energy in pig production is growing the feed. Approximately 50 percent of the nonrenewable energy associated with growing and processing a typical corn-soybean meal diet can be attributed to synthetic nitrogen fertilizer for corn production.

So although conventional facilities require more energy to operate fans, lights and heaters, the amount of energy related to crop production is slightly less when compared to hoop barn-based pig production.

Mark Honeyman, animal science professor and coordinator of Iowa State’s research farms, said the research showed a huge drop in the use of nonrenewable energy for pig production over the past 35 years.

“This study showed a reduction of nearly 80 percent in nonrenewable energy use to produce one market pig in Iowa today, compared to 1975, which was the last time this topic was examined,” Honeyman said. “This can be attributed to improved genetics and nutrition, changes in housing and ventilation systems and an overall increase in production efficiency.”

Honeyman said the research shows the key to further reducing nonrenewable energy use for Iowa pig production is nitrogen management. “Strategies to optimize nitrogen stocks and flows among crops, livestock, manure and soil should be a priority for future research,” he said.

Peer reviewed papers on the research have appeared in “Applied Engineering in Agriculture,” “Journal of Animal Science” and “Agricultural Systems.”

To read more about the research conducted for this NCR-SARE Graduate Student Grant project, visit the SARE online reporting website at

Monday, October 4, 2010


Source: Laura Miller, Leopold Center

AMES, Iowa –The tallgrass prairies that once covered Iowa contributed to the state’s fertile soil, but Iowa State University researchers say this endangered ecosystem offers so many other benefits to landowners.

A prairie can reduce soil erosion and nutrient pollution, help stabilize the hydrology of a watershed, increase the number of beneficial insects, be used to graze livestock or grow biomass for renewable energy production. A prairie also provides habitat for many wildlife species and songbirds, and it can store carbon from the atmosphere to reduce greenhouse gases.

These are some of the benefits outlined in a new publication, Incorporating Prairies into Multifunctional Landscapes. The publication was written by Meghann Jarchow, a Ph.D. candidate in the ISU Department of Agronomy, and her advisor, Matt Liebman, ISU’s Henry A. Wallace Endowed Chair of Sustainable Agriculture. Both are members of a research team supported by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

The research team is developing multi-year cropping systems for Iowa that integrate annuals and perennials. Their work also is motivated by a concern to evaluate both the productivity and environmental impacts of cropping systems.

“Within the next few decades it is likely that the conditions surrounding agricultural production will have changed,” Jarchow explained. “As these changes occur, other types of cropping systems that are less reliant on stable weather, government subsidies, and low fossil fuel costs than corn and soybean are likely to become more desirable cropping system options. Prairies are one of those other types of cropping systems, which is why it is important for farmers and landowners to be familiar with these alternatives.”

Tallgrass prairies developed in Iowa more that 10,000 years ago. Before European settlement, prairies covered most of the central United States. Today nearly all of Iowa’s prairies have disappeared because of the growth of agricultural production, according to the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. It is estimated that less than 0.1 percent of Iowa’s native prairies remain.

The publication looks at ways that prairies can be incorporated into farms, how they affect nearby crops, and resources to establish your own prairie. Jarchow, whose background is in plant ecology, provided many of the full-color photographs in the publication.

The publication was sponsored by the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, Leopold Center and ISU Agriculture and natural Resource Extension. The publication can be downloaded, or printed copies requested at no charge, from the ISU University Extension Online Store at:

Friday, October 1, 2010

Annual National Small Farm Trade Show & Conference Features Farmers, Ranchers and More

Join a host of SARE grant recipients plus staff from the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program at the largest annual small farm trade show in the United States-The National Small Farm Trade Show & Conference(tm). Now in its 18th year, the Conference takes place on Thursday, November 4th through Saturday, November 6th, 2010, in Columbia, Missouri, at the Boone County Fairgrounds.

Can you farm or ranch while protecting the environment, making a profit, and benefiting your community? These speakers say, "Yes!" and will show you how to do it. There will be more than 30 Farmers Forum talks featuring North Central Region SARE (NCR-SARE) Farmer Rancher Grant and Youth & Youth Educator Grant recipients. Sessions are 25 to 55 minutes long and run continuously throughout the three-day event. You'll hear about composting, beneficial bees, agroforestry, heritage turkeys, community gardens, local food systems, freshwater shrimp farming, weed control with goats, elderberries, and much more. After the talks, meet the speakers and pick up free sustainable agriculture resources at the SARE Trade Show booths. Call NCR-SARE for Farmers Forum details: 1-800-529-1342.

Choose from 19 one-hour seminars at the show. Don't miss the Financial & Technical Opportunities for Your Farm seminar on Nov. 4 by Lauren Cartwright, NRCS Agricultural Economist, or the Improved Egg Quality seminar on Nov. 5 by Kelly Klober, poultry producer and NCR-SARE grant recipient.

Six short courses give you the opportunity to get in-depth information on topics ranging from sweet potato production to building a parasite resistant sheep flock. Attend a movable high tunnel demonstration offsite in Ashland, MO.

The National Small Farm Trade Show & Conference(tm) is sponsored by Small Farm Today(r) and sustained by Missouri Department of Agriculture, NCAT-ATTRA, SARE (USDA-NIFA), and Truman State University.

Show times are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Preregistration is $8 for 1 day, $12 for 2 days, or $15 for all 3 days, allowing attendance of the trade show, seminars, demonstrations, exhibits, shows, meetings, and Farmer's Forum. Three-hour short courses are an additional $35 each ($25 in advance before October 27). To register, call Small Farm Today at 800-633-2535, write National Small Farm Show, 3903 W Ridge Trail Rd, Clark MO 65243, or see for more information.