Delmarva Farmer Columnists


Cold weather readiness (Jan. 17, 2017)

Pig Tales

By Dr. Rich Barczewski, Associate Professor, Delaware State University

While this winter has been relatively mild so far, cold temperatures are to be expected this time of year.
For livestock producers in our region, colder weather should stimulate some additional activities as we make sure that our animals are safe and secure.
One of the first things we need to realize with colder weather is that most farm animals are perfectly equipped to handle cold weather as long as we provide them with several essential items.
First, during periods of cold weather, nutritional needs, especially in the form of energy, will go up.
Swine producers will routinely increase the amount of feed they feed their breeding animals during periods of cold. If the animals are housed outside, additional bedding may be provided in some sort of shed that will serve as a wind break and a shelter so that the animals can get out of any inclement weather.
Most animals can do well in the cold as long as they have some sort of wind break.
When forced to stand out in an open space, many animals create their own micro environment by lowering their heads and placing their backsides toward the wind. In this way they protect their heads from the wind by using their bodies as a shield. When provided with the appropriate areas, cattle, horses, sheep and goats will often seek out hedgerows, tree lines and even woodlots as additional places to avoid the wind.
Many folks do not realize that closing animals inside of a building that is not properly designed can actually result in the animals getting pneumonia. In cases where properly ventilated buildings are not available, most livestock would do better outside with a windbreak instead of being closed in.
All animals regardless of the environmental temperatures need access to clean, fresh drinking water. This is especially important for hobby farmers to realize as watering systems on very small operations tend to be prone to freezing and ice or snow is not a suitable source of water for any livestock.
Larger operations often provide water through some sort of frost free device. Over the years, there have been many technical advances in frost free watering devices and some are available that do not require electric.
However, with any frost free waterer, there is an expected flow rate to keep the water flowing through the system and this may be impacted by the number of animals using the specific device.
Be sure to read the directions that come with any frost free watering system to make sure you have the appropriate situation to avoid them freezing.
Cold is one thing to deal with but snow, sleet and freezing rain is quite another. I have always been amazed at how our area dairy farmers have been able to get the milk trucks to the farm. Cows have to be milked twice a day and that obviously can be a challenge during serious snow events, but on top of that, milk trucks need to get to the farm on a daily or every other day basis.
Unlike some commodities, milk is perishable and it is critical that it be picked up from the farm and returned to the processing facility on a regular basis.
From the consumer end, it is kind of funny when you realize that milk is one of the things that is depleted from the grocery stores soon after it is announced that there is a snow storm pending.
Most households do not want to be without milk if they are holed up following a storm for a few days.
All livestock producers need to be prepared to insure access to their animals in the event of a major snow event.
In cases where producers rely on purchased feed, it is always a good idea to make sure you have enough feed on hand to get you through any tough times.
Likewise, if you have any young stock on hand, that require supplemental heat, you may need to have back-up systems in case of power outages.
Being prepared during times of weather extremes is an important part of good animal husbandry. Making sure you can adequately feed, house, and protect your livestock is a major responsibility of producers.
We may not be able to control the weather, but with proper planning, we can be ready for just about anything that Mother Nature throws our way.

Restoring duck habitat helps sustain ‘Circle of Life’ (Jan. 17, 2017)

Keeping the Farm

By Jenny Templeton, Soil Conservationist, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Virginia

The American Black Duck (Anas rubripes) is one of the Chesapeake Bay’s most iconic species and long-prized among hunters and outdoor enthusiasts on the Delmarva Peninsula.
Once the most abundant dabbling duck in eastern North America, their populations declined by more than 50 percent between the 1950s and ’80s. While we can’t point to a single cause, habitat loss and degradation are considered primary factors in the decline of black duck populations.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service has put these birds in their sights to help reverse this trend and increase their numbers in the tidal marshes and mudflats of the Atlantic Flyway.
Working with partners like Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and state wildlife agencies, NRCS has developed strategies to address this habitat loss in the Delmarva.
However, the success of these efforts will depend on the commitment of private landowners like you.
Financial assistance is now available for Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia landowners and agricultural producers interested in restoring salt marsh habitat through the Working Lands for Wildlife Initiative.
This targeted effort employs science-based solutions to restore and protect habitat for declining species on farms and in working forests.
Focal conservation activities in the Delmarva will include:
Transitioning from crop production to planting salt tolerant species: Black ducks thrive in the brackish areas between salt and fresh waters with adjacent croplands — sites traditionally found along coastlines.
Low-yield, saltwater intrusion areas can often be easily converted to habitat beneficial for black ducks and a host of other saltmarsh species.
Discontinuing agricultural practices and planting and promoting more salt-tolerant native plant species in these areas will provide direct habitat, a natural filter that will improve water quality.
The practice also creates a physical buffer to block encroachment, a significant threat for black ducks, which are extremely sensitive to human disturbance.
Wetland restoration: Habitat can also be enhanced by developing/restoring wetlands. Wetlands previously converted for agricultural and timber production can be restored by recreating micro-topography and restoring the natural flow of streams and floodplain wetlands.
Restoration efforts include eliminating artificial drains and ditches and recreating the natural flow of waterways that have been straightened or altered.
Installing shallow wildlife ponds also offers excellent habitat potential for all types of waterfowl, including the black duck.
Invasive species control: The number of wintering ducks depends on the availability of food to support them.
Invasive species (most notably Phragmites) choke out native vegetation that black ducks and other wildlife and waterfowl need to thrive.
Controlling phragmites can lead to the restoration of native plants, ensuring plentiful food to support healthy black duck populations.
Additional habitat enhancement strategies include plantings to help manage riparian buffers, livestock exclusion from stream banks, and restoring natural fire-dependent ecological communities through prescribed burning.
These conservation efforts will have far-reaching impacts on a host of other wildlife species that thrive in similar environments.
When habitat is restored for the black duck, waterfowl like the northern pintail, mallard, teal, and other bird species also benefit along with downstream fisheries.
In fact, the presence of black ducks and other wildlife can be a strong indicator of a healthy ecosystem.
If you’d like more information about this important and exciting initiative, please call or visit your local NRCS office.
Though applications are accepted on a continual basis, interested Virginia residents should contact the Accomac Service Center by Feb. 17 to be among the first considered for this special Environmental Quality Incentives Program funding.
Delaware and Maryland landowners can get details on application deadlines and program offerings by visiting and respectively.