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By Margo Hale, NCAT Southeast Regional Director, Armed to Farm Program Director, and Agriculture Specialist

Last week, I shared a few thoughts about getting started with livestock.

In the Getting Started with Livestock Podcast, NCAT Livestock Specialist Linda Coffey and I discussed our farm goals, how our livestock enterprises help us meet those goals, and how the goals influence our livestock management. On my family’s farm, we want our livestock to make money, so we are always looking for cost-saving ideas. We also want our livestock enterprises to be easily managed without too much labor. We are a busy family and have focused on time- and money-saving systems.

I want to share with you a few pieces of infrastructure and equipment we have on our farm, why they work for us, and ways they don’t work. I always find it helpful to see how other farmers feed and water their animals. Maybe you will get ideas that you can implement on your farm—or you can send me ideas for improvement.

Watering Systems

As Linda and I discussed in the podcast, providing water is one of the first things you must figure out. On our farm we have a pond, a well, and county water. We also collect rainwater from our barn and sheds. We use all these resources to water our animals on different parts of our farm, depending on how we have our pastures divided and animals separated.

We try to find cost-effective ways to do most everything on our farm, so we like to use recycled materials and captured rainwater as much as possible. In one of our pastures, we have gutters on part of a shed and small shelter that empty into a tub. One of our friends had new gutters installed on her house and gave us the old gutters to use around the farm.

Barn with gutter attached

 

White water tubs for livestock

We did have a regular stock tank here, but it was too tall for our young goats to reach. We had an old IBC tote that we weren’t using, so we cut it in half to use as a waterer. This works great for the goats, but when cows are in this pasture, they tend to stand in these low totes, dirtying the water. It doesn’t take much rainfall to fill this water tub. We do have a water hydrant nearby that we can use to fill the tubs if there hasn’t been enough rainfall.

Metal barn with barrel for water catchment and gravity-fed bowl waterer.

We have a small pasture next to our barn that we use when we have pigs and when our goats are kidding. Our free-range laying hens like to hang out in the barn, so they use this waterer, too. There is a 55-gallon barrel that captures rainwater and fills the bowl waterer, pictured above. The gravity-fed bowl is mounted over a small concrete pad, so the animals (pigs especially) don’t make a muddy mess around the waterer. We don’t often graze our cows in this small pasture, but when we do, this waterer doesn’t work too well. Several cows can empty that 55-gallon barrel quickly!

 

We use a similar set-up at our chicken coop (pictured above right). We have a coop with nest boxes and an enclosed run built on the back side of our shop. The hens have free range of our pastures, but we shut them in the coop at night. Once again, we use gutters on their coop roof, draining in to an elevated 55-gallon barrel. There is a hose from the barrel to a water bowl with a float. Our winters are fairly mild so we can use this system year-round. On occasion, the bowl and hose freeze and we have to carry water to the chickens. We have used this for our flock of about 20 chickens for about seven years, and I’ve only had to put water in the barrel a couple of times.

Hay-feeding Systems

We are in hay-feeding season on our farm, so I will share with you the equipment we use to feed hay.

A metal hay feeding ring with goats standing on the hay inside.

We use a hay ring (above) to feed our cows, but this is problematic if you have goats or sheep. We have a few young goats with our cows right now to keep them away from our billy. They prefer to eat standing on top of the hay, soiling the hay and causing a lot of waste.

Elevated round bale feeder with goats eating hay.

We have an elevated, round bale feeder that we use for our goats. This keeps the hay off of the ground and the goats cannot get on top of it. The cows are able to easily eat out of it, too. This reduces the amount of hay they waste.

Elevated square bale feeder with goats eating hay.

We also have an elevated square bale feeder. We don’t feed many square bales (remember we want low labor), but do use them when we have goats in a small pasture right after they have kidded or are just feeding a few goats. Once again, keeping the hay off of the ground reduces waste.

We move the hay feeders to a different spot each time we feed a bale, typically feeding on an area that needs some extra fertility. There are many different ways to feed hay, but this is what works for us on our farm. Unrolling round bales is a great practice, but we don’t have enough animals for that to be efficient. They would waste too much before eating the majority of the bale. We have rolled out smaller portions of a round bale, but that was time-consuming.

Learning More

There is always trial and error before you figure out what systems work on your farm. I hope this virtual tour of our farm’s watering and hay-feeding systems will help you find what will fit your situation.

The ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture publications linked below have information about infrastructure and equipment for different livestock enterprises. As always, our NCAT Livestock Specialists are available to answer your questions and provide you with additional resources. Please email or call us at askanag@ncat.org or 800-346-9140.

ATTRA Resources

Small-Scale Livestock Production

Sheep and Goats: Frequently Asked Questions

An Illustrated Guide to Sheep and Goat Production

Hogs: Pastured and Forested Production

Hooped Shelters for Hogs

Poultry: Equipment for Alternative Production

Intensive Grazing: One Farms Setup (video series: Nine Chapters)

Managed Grazing Tutorial

Photos by Margo Hale

By Martin Guerena, Sustainable Agriculture Specialist

During these challenging times, home gardening has become one of the more popular past times for many people. But what about those of us who don’t want to be at the beck and call of an intensive garden while simultaneously wanting to enjoy the beauty and benefits of a beautiful garden?

While gardening vegetables allows some independence from local supermarkets and the extra expense of organic produce, some of us have the convenience of local farmers’ markets and stores that supply healthy organic food even during these times of COVID-19.  I am the type of gardener who appreciates a low garden management/hammock time ratio,  the amount of work it takes to care for vegetables makes me inclined to invest my labor strategically and support my local farmers. Additionally, California has been in a drought for the past 20 years and with climate change, there will be a significant challenge to the future water supply.  Instead of giving up on gardening, I decided to plant native and drought-tolerant plants creating a xeriscape of flowering plants for pollinators and other beneficial insects.

The beauty of the flowering plants is inspiring and contributes to our family’s quality of life, and knowing that they are providing habitat for beneficial insects is satisfying as well.  The plants in my garden are a mixture of resilient perennials and annuals which include: Verbena, Yarrow, various Sages, Blue Flax, Lavender, Telegraph Weed, Gumweed, Ceanothus, Flannel Bush, Penstemon, Sedum, Buckwheat, California fuchsia, California Poppy, Love in a Mist, and native grasses such as deer grass, creeping wild rye, California melic, and purple needlegrass. If you live outside of California you can check resources like the Sunset Western Garden Book and local native plants websites that describe plants suited for your conditions. They may also be a good source for seeds and seedlings.  You may also want to check ATTRA’s A Pictorial Guide to Hedgerow Plants for Beneficial Insects, which characterizes several of the most beneficial hedgerow plant species used in farmscaping for native pollinators, and insect predators and parasites in California. It provides plant names, bloom times, heights, and descriptions that note considerations for selection and establishment.

A layer of woodchip mulch placed around the plants keeps the soil covered and moist reducing the need to weed and irrigate frequently. I start irrigating about a month after the last significant rain in the spring and then every 3 to 4 weeks (with careful species selection, irrigation can be reduced further) until the beginning of the rainy season in late fall.

The insects I see on these flowers include bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, beetles and very tiny wasps that I see swarming and hovering above the flowers. Besides pollinators, many of these insects are predators and parasites of pests. Predatory species include praying mantids, ladybugs, green and brown lacewings, assassin bugs, soldier beetles, minute pirate bug, big-eyed bug, syrphid flies, tachinid flies, parasitic wasps, and spiders.

These beneficial insects require refuge plus a pollen and nectar source to feed and provide the ecosystem services of pest control on various insect pests. My stone fruits and pear trees rarely have any aphids or other insect pests through the season.

In summary, the benefits of drought-tolerant gardens are:

  1. Harnessing of pollinators and beneficial insects.
  2. Attracts other wildlife such as birds and reptiles.
  3. Reduced water use and water bill.
  4. Less maintenance.
  5. Beautiful landscape.

ATTRA Resources

Get Ready to Apply for CFAP

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) will begin taking applications for CFAP on May 26. Processing and payments will be made on a first come first served basis, so it will benefit you to do as much preparation as you can!

As a reminder, the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) has $16 billion to help farmers who have lost revenue because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Application starts with Form AD-3114, which may not be even available until May 26. You can keep checking the USDA CFPA Page and/or check with your local FSA Office.

Filing Form AD-3114 starts the process. Once obtained you can file it:

  • In person, when/if available
  • By mail (although this probably puts you further back in line)
  • Electronically by FAX to your local FSA office
  • Electronically by email with scanned or photo-copy of signed form AD-3114
  • On-line directly with a possible computer-fillable Form AD-3114, BUT this method will require an FSA Level 2-eAuthentication account. Many farmers have such accounts, but if you don’t, you can get one at this link: http://www.eauth.usda.gov/ (and you should do so ASAP).

Finally, there will be a payment calculator tool available soon that can help you assess if the CFAP makes sense to you. A video demonstration of the tool is available at this link: video of CFAP payment Calculator.

We are here to help

It’s looking as if this process could be paperwork-heavy, so NCAT ag specialists are here to help. You can always reach out to us for assistance by calling 1-800-346-9140, e-mailing askanag@ncat.org, or by writing in on the live chat at attra.ncat.org.

Call or contact your local Farm Service Agency today!

No, the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) is not food for the nation’s hungry, but rather assistance for the nation’s food producers. Details of how U.S. farmers can apply for this assistance are still scarce, but the most important message is to begin the process ASAP if you are a farmer who has experienced a loss due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Here is a way to contact your local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office which will be implementing this program:

Find your Farm Service Agency office

You must make a phone call to your local FSA office to start the process.

Direct support for farmers and ranchers available via CFAP will include:

  • Direct support based on actual losses because of price and disrupted supply chains.
  • Assist with adjustment and added marketing costs resulting from lost demand and short-term oversupply in the 2020 marketing year.

CFAP is available to farmers regardless of size and market outlet, if they suffered an eligible loss. Disruption to markets and demand may be significant and the USDA is already warning that these payments may only cover a portion of the impacts on farmers and ranchers.

PARTICULARLY IF YOU HAVE NOT USED FSA PROGRAMS IN THE PAST, GET READY BY COLLECTING:

  1. Tax Identification Number: TAX ID
  2. Farming Operating Structure: TYPES
  3. Adjusted Gross Income

BE PREPARED TO FILL OUT POSSIBLY THE FOLLOWING SIX (6) FORMS.
DO NOT SEND FORMS WITHOUT FIRST CONTACTING YOUR LOCAL FSA OFFICE

  • CCC-901 (Español) If applicable, this certification reports income from farming, ranching, and forestry, for those exceeding the adjusted gross income limitation ($900,000)
  • CCC-941 (Español) Reports your average adjusted gross income for programs where income restrictions apply.
  • CCC-942 If applicable, this certification reports income from farming, ranching, and forestry, for those exceeding the adjusted gross income limitation ($900,000)
  • AD1026 (Español) Ensures compliance with highly erodible land conservation and wetland conservation
  • AD2047 Provides basic customer contact information
  • SF3881 Collects your banking information to allow USDA to make payments to you via direct deposit

As with all emergency assistance, there will be those that are more prepared then others and getting in line as early as possible is to your advantage.

Contact ATTRA for Help

If you need help contact us here at ATTRA as we are always ready to help.

  1. Call our toll-free ATTRA helpline (U.S. only)
    800-346-9140 (English) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m Central Time
    800-411-3222 (Español) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific Time
  2. Ask online, using the green chat box at the bottom of the ATTRA webpage.
  3. Via email to askanag@ncat.org

 

By Jeff Schahczenski, NCAT Agricultural and Natural Resource Economist

I have been awakened to a re-evaluation of risk and uncertainty. Going to the grocery store has – hopefully only for a short time – become more risky.  I also have been thinking more and more about how are personal and societal understanding and measurement of uncertainty is changing. It is more risky to go to the grocery store because of the increased level of uncertainty that we will arrive home healthy. Have these changes in risk and uncertainty brought on by this pandemic impacted the need and desire to re-examine crop insurance?

Federally subsidized crop insurance fundamentally address two categories of risk. First, there is production risk, which derives from the uncertainty of yield related to the disruption of the normal growth of crops and livestock as affected by weather, disease, pests and other factors. This is the historic and most common form of crop insurance referred to generally as “multi-peril” insurance. This risk does not seem likely to be largely impacted by the pandemic.

The other major risk category is called price or market risk and is caused by the uncertainty of what the price of the product will be at the time it is produced and ready for sale. This risk also sometimes includes the uncertainty of the costs of the inputs needed to produce the product since this risk is also market-based. These risks will likely be impacted significantly by the pandemic.

Fortunately, at least for a major proportion of agriculture producing major commodity crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat, and cotton, there is widely available revenue protection which covers both production (yield) and market (price) risks. Unfortunately, there are also many types of crops and livestock products for which revenue insurance is not available at all or not available in the county in which the farmer farms. For example, in California in 2019 only about 1,600 of a total of 32,590 policies sold were revenue-based, leaving much of California agriculture without protection related to market or price risk.[1]

The exception to this case is the unique policy known as Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP), which does provide revenue protection based on the historic revenue history of a whole farm rather than a specific crop or livestock product. Though available nationwide, this policy has not been widely utilized because of several factors which NCAT and others have been working to improve. Nonetheless, if price or market risks continue to rise over the next few years, WFRP may become an option to consider for the many producers of crop or livestock products for which revenue insurance is not available.

Quarantine

Another word that has entered our lives forcefully is quarantine. In federal crop insurance the definition of quarantine is very specific and in most cases unless specifically added to a policy (called an endorsement) it is not an insurable cause of loss and thus generally not covered under most policies. RMA defines[2] quarantine as specific action taken by a public authority for a specific pest that:

  • Requires the destruction of your insured crop or the plants on which your insured crop is growing; or
  • Does not permit the insured crop to be harvested, sold, transported, transferred, or otherwise restricts it from movement from the location where it was produced to the location of any buyer.

Fortunately COVID-19 virus is not a pest that has led to crop or livestock related quarantines, but the consideration of this topic is becoming more important for future public policy consideration.

Adjustments to Date

As of the date of writing, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Risk Management Agency (RMA) has made some adjustments to the normal process of acquiring crop insurance for the 2020 production year. For the most part these adjustments have been to encourage movement toward avoiding actually meeting with your crop insurance agent. Since the closing sales dates for most crop insurance products has passed, the adjustments are being made to delay the delivery of important paper work such as filing of documents such as production reporting requirements, written agreements (a special policy option), and, importantly, payment of premiums. For details see the RMA website under the What’s New link (https://www.rma.usda.gov/News-Room/Whats-New) or call or email your crop insurance agent.

Stay Tuned for a Different Future

When life changes rapidly we have hopes to return to a sense of stability but we also usually learn new ways to adapt and even change the structure of our lives. Crop insurance, like all insurance, is a function of our personal and public common risk aversions. Some of us are gamblers, some of us are not. And the general idea of pooling our resources to protect against risk is in part the essence of insurance, if not of government in general.

Visit our ATTRA website for some resources to explore or re-explore the risky business of farming and ranching and the role crop insurance might play in your future success.

[1] Source: Risk Management Agency, Summary of Business accessed on March 30, 2020.

[2] Source: RMA, Quarantine Endorsement Pilot  at https://legacy.rma.usda.gov/policies/2011/11-qe.pdf