Blogs

Predator control: Eyes on the backs of cows?

By Ty Higgins, Ohio Ag Net

In Africa, there is an effort underway to minimize the lion attacks on cattle. Now, in that region of the world the initiative isn’t to save the cattle, but to stop the farmers from shooting the lions that are preying on the livestock. Nevertheless, I found this particular study very interesting and something that some Ohio livestock producers may want to look into.

According to ScienceAlert.com, scientists have come up with a solution that will reduce the number of lions being shot by farmers in Africa…painting eyes on the butts of cows.

It sounds a little crazy, but early trials suggest that lions are less likely to attack livestock when they think they’re being watched and less livestock attacks could help farmers and lions co-exist more peacefully.

The new technique is being tested by scientists from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia, after they noticed that lions tended to back off when their prey, such as impala, looked at them.… Continue reading

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Eating like an Olympian

Ever since my junior high days I have been a runner. I joined the track team because it seemed like the thing to do at the time. Since then, I have never stopped running.

I cannot say how many of my stories have been mentally crafted during a late night run on back country roads guided by moonlight and accompanied by the crickets and rustling corn leaves in the lonely rural farm fields around me. My running keeps me in reasonable shape (even during farm meeting/banquet season) and helps keep me in tune with the seasons and agriculture around me — whether it is watching planting progress, smelling the corn pollinating, looking on as combines roll through the fields, or running through the frozen, snow-covered landscape in winter. Running also helps me organize my thoughts, plan my day and (believe it or not) relax for a bit.

And, although I do not really follow competitive running all that closely, I really have admiration for those who excel at distance running and the unbelievable dedication and hard work required for success.… Continue reading

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Helping farmers become better versions of themselves

By Ty Higgins, Ohio Ag Net

It is often said that farmers are eternal optimists. But sometimes (okay many times) in a farming career, that optimism is overshadowed by higher input costs, lower crop prices and days when it feels like nothing can go your way. Yes, even farmers need a good, swift kick in the pants every now and again to keep trudging forward when that proverbial towel would be so easy to throw in.

Farmers across the country are getting that pants kicking from fellow farmer Andy Johnson, founder of FarmStrong Coaching, who farms alfalfa in Colorado.

“FarmStrong Coaching is a passion project that was born out of my need to belong to something,” Johnson said. “You know as farmers we sit in our tractors and it looks really glamorous to some, but it’s a lot of time just sitting there by yourself and I wanted a way to connect with something else out there.… Continue reading

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Is the backyard chicken boom good or bad for agriculture?

Mankind and poultry have enjoyed a long and storied relationship over time. The most noteworthy of these relationships, of course, is that of humans managing a domesticated animal for the production of meat and eggs. In recent years, the small size, numerous benefits and desire of some consumers to forge ever-closer connections with their food has led to a resurgence of a forgotten chapter in the history of poultry and mankind — the backyard chicken.

This spring that subject matter commanded the attention of a group of all ages gathered in a chilly room at the Pettisville Grain Company. The group intently listened to a lone man sitting on a stool in the corner with nothing but a microphone for two hours. The speaker, clad in bib overalls and a yellow hat, travels the country sharing the backyard poultry gospel to throngs of those passionate about their poultry. His name is Andy Schneider, but he is better known as the Chicken Whisperer. … Continue reading

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“Northern pike!”

“Northern pike!”

I opened up my eyes to my six-year-old’s gruff voice with his face about an inch away from mine on the first morning of a recent trip to my family’s cabin on a lake in southern Michigan. I looked across the room to the clock: 6:40 a.m.

He had been up until nearly midnight the previous evening and I figured my son would sleep in for a while as result. Not the case. By the time I had poured a cup of coffee he had his fishing pole in hand and was headed to the dock.

Leading up to the trip, we had talked about the various fish species we could possibly catch in the lake, but the one of most interest was clearly the northern pike. We spent several days researching the fish online to see what baits could work best, the preferred habitats and its habits.

Since my childhood, my brothers and I have shared a similar affinity for the allure of the elusive “fish of a thousands casts.”… Continue reading

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Sailing on a farm pond (and the lessons that result)

By Joel Penhorwood, Ohio Ag Net

They say the dog days of summer are a good time to spend on the water. My brothers and I would agree, though we’ve learned some lessons the hard way in recent years through our adventures in boating.

There’s something about sailing that has always called out to me. That’s a problem for a midwestern farm kid whose biggest interaction with the sea in his formative years was swimming in the waterway behind our house after a heavy rain — hardly a suitable body of water for the magnificent ship I envisioned sailing.

A couple of summers ago, while working at the Ohio State Fair, I came across an ad on craigslist for a small sailboat in the Columbus area up for sale. The sky opened up and cherubs seemed to sing when my wandering eyes found the advert. A sailboat that I could afford!… Continue reading

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The worst joke I’ve ever heard

By Ty Higgins, Ohio Ag Net

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not the kind of guy to really speak my mind…unless I am truly compelled to. It isn’t that my views are all that different or that I care about what others think. It may be because what seems to be right in my head may be too much common sense for the world we live in. Simple will always be better for me and in that respect society and our government have passed me by. With that said I am not an economist and politics aren’t my strong suit. Now on with the blog…

As I have mentioned before I live in Suburbia, USA. It is a great neighborhood and everyone gets along just fine. We watch after each other’s homes when someone goes out of town, we mow each other’s yards when someone can’t get to it and so on.… Continue reading

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Happy summer solstice!

To take notice of God’s grandeur never fails to give a thrill.

Such is true for summer solstice when the sun stands still.

Then oh the bonfires, fireflies and stars that glow

Lighting  farm fields and cattails and gardens that grow,

The sun sinking low before the shortest summer night,

Is nothing short of magic in the fading June twilight.

Today is the 2016 summer solstice — the longest daylight all year — and a rare pairing with a full moon.

The folks from “The Old Farmer’s Almanac” are definitely taking note of the unique situation that has not happened for nearly 70 years. They are teaming up with Slooh (a space exploration organization) to offer a live Web broadcast this evening of the rare summer solstice full moon.

“Having a full moon land smack on the solstice is a truly rare event,” said Bob Berman, Almanac astronomer. “We probably won’t push people off pyramids like the Mayans did, but Slooh will very much celebrate this extraordinary day of light with fascinating factoids and amazing live telescope feeds.”… Continue reading

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Time for a rain dance?

The promise of big rains mid-week has fizzled out for some areas of the state with growing concerns about worsening dry conditions early this growing season.

According to the USDA’s NASS, much of the state has fallen into negative rainfall totals compared to the normal levels. The towns of Ashtabula and Sydney currently have the greatest rainfall deficits with -5.71 and -4.64 inches, respectively. Gallipolis is 2.59 inches above normal, but is the exception. Statewide, the surpluses are vastly outnumbered by the rainfall deficits.

Jim Noel with the NOAA/ National Weather Service Ohio River Forecast Center said that the summer weather pattern is in full swing with temperatures slightly above normal and rainfall below normal this week and warmer weather next week with more hit-or-miss rains.

“All indications are a warmer and somewhat drier July for Ohio. The pattern of June that is warmer than normal and wetter western corn and soybean belt and drier in eastern areas (including Ohio) will last into July,” Noel said.… Continue reading

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Despite being generations removed, the city has farm envy

By Ty Higgins, Ohio Ag Net

Within the city limits, you may find more weathered wood, barn doors and farm décor these days. For some it may be a way to go back in time to simpler days and for others it may be a trend they saw on HGTV. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that those that dwell in the city have a major case of farm envy.

rustic-living-room

You might have read about a friend of ours that makes his living taking down old barns that have been sitting empty for decades. Removing these structures is at the request of the landowners, mostly because they no longer have a use on the farm and after years of sun, rain, hail and wind have become an historic eyesore.

What you may not know is that once these old heaps of rotten wood are taken down, they go from a nuisance to a novelty in a matter of seconds, as “reclaimed” barn wood is being utilized in brand new homes in an upscale subdivision near you.… Continue reading

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How do you pronounce triticale?

Triticale has gained more popularity as a solid cover crop option with some feed and grazing value as well. The story from the Bolender farm in Brown County shows how valuable the crop can be. The hybrid cross of wheat and rye has many merits but is a significant challenge for folks in the ag media (or at least me anyway). I don’t know how to pronounce it.

My initial guess is that you say: “trid-eh-kale.” So, when I do interviews or have professional conversations about the crop that is what I say, though I have been corrected numerous times by others pronouncing it several different ways. Some say “trid-eh-kal-ee” while others use “tri-te-kal,” “tridi-kal,” “tridi-kale-ee,” or “tri-te-kal-ee.”

After several debates about the correct pronunciation I have come to no definitive conclusion on how to say it. As a result, I often end up sort of nervously muffling the word in conversation because of my fear of mispronouncing it and sounding unprofessional.… Continue reading

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Is organic worth it? It depends…

When someone asks me if buying organic is worth the extra cost, I tell them, “It depends.” To simply issue a blanket statement that organic production is better for the environment and better for you is simply inaccurate, though it is a message regularly touted as gospel by many in the organic industry. But, of course, we all know that “it depends” is a poor marketing ploy.

The truth is, though, that “it depends” is a necessity of working with Mother Nature. Every factor of production on every farm (organic or not) has a wide range of complex components that make any claims or consumer-held beliefs that organic food is more nutritious, safer and better for the environment very misleading.

Demand for organic production continues to grow. In recent years, organic food sales have risen by double digits annually and organic food revenue has tripled over the past decade to a record $36 billion in 2014.… Continue reading

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Being an ordinary farmer is what made Grandpa extraordinary

By Ty Higgins, Ohio Ag Net

As I write this, there is a greasy DeKalb hat and a pair of Liberty overalls hanging on the wall of my office. Yellow work gloves are tucked into the back pocket of those overalls and a big pair of pliers is nestled in the side pocket. The front pocket of those bibs is filled with a blue handkerchief, a pouch of Half & Half tobacco and a corn cob pipe that has been charred by a thousand matches and smells like most of my childhood memories.

These items and those memories are what I have left from my Grandpa “Popeye” Thompson, who recently passed away, leaving a gaping void in the Licking County agriculture community.

Some of my greatest childhood moments happened when someone would connect the dots and figure out that I was Popeye’s grandson. The smiles on their faces made me realize that they had, in one way or another, been impacted by knowing my Grandpa.… Continue reading

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Clover cover crop helping with weed control (so far)

After the trees are planted in the spring, a major source of summer labor on my family’s Christmas tree farm is weed control.

Weeds can rob young trees of exposure to sunlight, moisture and nutrients. The first year of planting trees on the farm (many years ago) we did not emphasize weed control and lost nearly the entire crop.

Since then my dad, brothers and I have spent countless hot, buggy, summer hours mowing between trees. This is most important in the youngest trees, which are also the easiest to mow off while riding on a mower. Imagine looking for an 8-inch tall tree in 8-foot tall weeds. Mowing takes considerable time and fuel and can also cause significant damage to larger trees by breaking branches and scarring the trunks. We do some spraying, which helps, but there are drawbacks and limits with that weed control method as well.

As an experiment, we are trying a Dutch white clover cover crop planted ahead of tree planting.… Continue reading

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Farmers are more valuable than their CAUV

By Ty Higgins, Ohio Ag Net

There was recently an article in The Columbus Dispatch about concerns that cutting farmers’ property taxes in Ohio could cost homeowners and schools millions of dollars.

The topic at hand is CAUV, or Current Agricultural Use Value, that lawmakers in Columbus are once again debating.

From 2008 to 2014, farmers were burdened with a 307% increase in taxes due to higher crop prices. In comparison, the jump in crop prices was a mere 100% increase within the same time period.

Using more updated data just last year, CAUV was adjusted lower to an average of $1,279 an acre.

The argument has been made for decades that when taxes are lowered on one aspect of the economy, that another segment will have to pick up the tab. That is the argument being made by advocates for public education groups in Ohio, who fear that the drop in farmland taxes will become a problem in the form of higher taxes for homeowners and less money divvied out in school funding from the state.… Continue reading

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Bonkers, the Pygmy goat

By Kim Lemmon, Ohio’s Country Journal

Every set of Pygmy goat kids born at my place has one silly member. This year was no exception.

In mid-March, a wether was born that immediately caught my attention with his fun antics. If he isn’t chewing on my jacket or jumping on a toy in the goat pen, he is knocking his brothers and sisters off my lap so he can take a seat. He is so much fun.

This particular wether is destined to go to a 4-H home when he is weaned, and I generally let my customers pick the names of their goats. This particular kid wether is going to be a 4-H project for a young lady. She is very excited about her goat project, and I am excited for her because I know a kid this tame and silly will provide much fun and entertainment for his owner’s family.… Continue reading

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Will La Niña send markets soaring?

The 2016 soybean and corn crops in the U.S. could face a serious shortfall if they get the full brunt of a La Niña.

This winter I had the great pleasure of talking with Elwynn Taylor from the Iowa State University. He is watching what the strong El Niño does next. He had this to say over the winter.

“If the El Niño manages to stay with us at least until the first of July, we have a 70% chance of an above average crop yield for the whole Corn Belt. If it switches out of El Niño to a La Niña, it is a 70% chance of a below normal average yield with extremely volatile weather. We hope the El Niño stays with us because it is the friend of the Midwest farmer. Should it disappear, keep track of it. It takes about a month before its effects go away,” Taylor said.… Continue reading

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The Reese garden mud hole barometer: A value analysis

When I was growing up, a neighbor had one of those Mule Barometers to monitor the weather. It said something like: “If tail is dry — Fair; If tail is wet — Rain; If tail is swinging — Windy; If tail is wet and swinging — Stormy; If tail is frozen — Cold.”

In what has become an annual tradition in our garden, my six-year-old son has unknowingly constructed something similar. On days when there is even a hint or suggestion of spring in the air, his greatest desire is to spend endless hours digging a mud hole in the garden. When he completes what he estimates to be a significant milestone in the excavation process, he immediately recruits me to begin hauling buckets of water from the barn to dump into his newly expanded mud hole. With great delight for the both of us — and any area buddies my son recruited to stop by and assist with the endeavor — we watch the resulting water fall flow through the shallower areas of the hole into the deeper trenches of his garden creation.… Continue reading

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Giants and miniatures stand out at Ohio Equine Affaire

By Kim Lemmon, Ohio’s Country Journal

Despite the gloomy and cold weather Equine Affaire drew crowds to the Ohio Expo Center. There was plenty of shopping, demonstrations and learning opportunities, but my favorite part of the event was seeing the draft and miniature six-horse hitches.

Watching horses around the 18-hand height and horses just more than 30 inches performing similar maneuvers during the Fantasia show was quite an experience. Of course, I already have a pre-existing love for draft and miniature horses and driving so that probably encouraged me to choose these hitches as my favorite part of the performance.

I have spent some time watching both of the men prepare their hitches and drive them and it is clear they are both talented drivers with talented horses. It was very fun to see such opposites in sizes perform a discipline that I enjoy so much.

A thank you goes out to all the equine performers, demonstrators, etc.… Continue reading

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Is the EPA funding an anti-ag PR campaign?

Unfortunately it seems only coincidental that the story about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funding an anti agriculture PR campaign appeared on April Fools’ Day. If the insistence on WOTUS, the unending regulatory battles and general disdain between agriculture and the agency were not clues enough to see the true agenda of the EPA, some Washington state farmers aren’t being fooled any more.

In a story from the Capital Press on April 1, it was reported that two billboards in Washington that accuse farmers of polluting water violated a federal rule by failing to properly recognize that the Environmental Protection Agency funded the group that put up the signs. A coalition of environmental groups collaborating with the Swinomish Indian tribe put up the billboards in Olympia and Bellingham, Washington to promote “What’s Upstream,” a media campaign developed by a public relations firm to blame agriculture for water pollution. The groups used funding from an EPA grant to pay for the billboards, but didn’t credit the agency’s financial support, which is a standard requirement for recipients of EPA grant funds, according to the story.  Continue reading

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