The Wonderful Barn, Leixlip, Co. Kildare

The Wonderful Barn was built in 1743 as a famine relief scheme by Katherine Conolly of Castletown, widow of William ‘Speaker’ Conolly. Described as ‘arguably one of the finest follies to be found in Ireland’, it was conceived not only as a functional grain store but as an architectural eye-catcher which would provide an eastern terminating vista from the grounds of Castletown.

The Wonderful Barn

The eccentrically designed barn, which rises to a height of 70 feet in a tapering cone, is encircled by a cantilevered staircase with a crow’s nest viewing gallery. It is adjoined by a courtyard area in which two conical pigeon houses are found and also by Barnhall House which was constructed shortly before the barn complex.

Today the Wonderful Barn stands sandwiched between the M4 Motorway and a housing estate and, with its associated buildings, is in direly in need of a vision and a plan to secure its future. Sadly Barnhall House was badly damaged in a fire in recent years however, Kildare County Council with support from the Heritage Council has undertaken considerable works to repair and restore the Wonderful Barn and is actively seeking new uses for the buildings in association with third parties including the Irish Georgian Society, the Irish Landmark Trust and the Castletown Foundation.

Winter vegetables

Winter vegetablesWhen you’re happily beavering away in the veg garden over summer in Paston and Oundle, it can seem like the long days of abundant flowers and fruit will never end. But one day, inevitably, you cut the last pumpkin and pull up the bean plants and it is, undeniably, winter.

There’s no need to stop enjoying your plot just because the weather has turned cold, though. Embrace winter as part of your veg-growing year and you’ll find your patch can be as productive from November to February as it is for the rest of the year.

You’ll need to begin planning in early spring, as these are plants which need a long time in the ground. Start by choosing some of the great winter veg we offer as seeds or plug plants in our garden centre: here’s our pick of the best.

  • Parsnips: sow fresh seed direct into the ground: the sweet, pale roots taste better after being kissed by frost.
    Recommended varieties: ‘Tender and True’, ‘Gladiator’.
  • Cabbages: super-hardy savoys have fabulous flavour and texture: follow with crunchy spring cabbages for an April treat.
    Recommended varieties: ‘January King’, ‘Duncan’ (spring cabbage).
  • Brussels sprouts: plant early, mid-season and late varieties to pick fat sprouts from September to February.
    Recommended varieties: ‘Trafalgar’, ‘Rubine’.
  • Celeriac: knobbly roots with the fine flavour of celery but much easier to grow: keeps well, too.
    Recommended varieties: ‘Prinz’, ‘Monarch’.
  • Kale: if you want an easy-to-grow cabbage substitute, pick young kale leaves for a taste sensation.
    Recommended varieties: ‘Dwarf Green Curled’, ‘Cavolo Nero’.
  • Winter salads: sow spicy winter baby-leaf mixes under cloches, or pick from the new range of Japanese salads.
    Recommended varieties: Mizuna, Mustard ‘Red Frills’.
  • Chard: sow in September and you’ll be picking spinach-like chard all winter. Protect with cloches in bad weather.
    Recommended varieties: ‘Rhubarb’, ‘Swiss Chard’.
  • Leeks: ramrod straight leeks are as hardy as anything: plant seedlings deeply for long white shanks.
    Recommended varieties: ‘Musselburgh’, ‘Bleu de Solaise’.
  • Rhubarb: force clumps of big, beefy rhubarb for tender pink stems from February onwards.
    Recommended varieties: ‘Timperley Early’, ‘Victoria’.

5 Ways to Make Coop-Cleaning Easier

Admit it: Raising chickens is fun, but cleaning the coop can be a hassle. However, it’s a necessary part of the chicken keeper’s job, preventing health problems and decreased production in the flock. Because I work a couple side jobs in addition to a full-time farming and breeding program, I need a coop-cleaning method that’s fast and efficient. Fortunately, there are many ways to clean a chicken coop, based on your location, housing and the number of birds you keep. Here are some methods you can try on your farm.

5 Ways to Make Coop-Cleaning Easier - Photo courtesy iStock/Thinkstock (

1. Hay
Although in Florida, where I live, many chicken coops have dirt floors, I like to cover the dirt with barn lime to dry the ground and kill bacteria, then add a layer of hay overtop to minimize health issues. Hay is easier to manage than straw and is clean and dust-free, unlike pine shavings. Plus, hay is economical and easy to obtain. Although you’ll need to change it out weekly, it can be dumped straight into the compost bin.

Diatomaceous earth is often used in coops to keep mites at bay, but I prefer barn lime. Poultry experts recommend against DE because it causes respiratory illness in chickens and is harmful to their lungs. Barn lime, on the other hand, is made of crushed limestone, or calcium carbonate, which aids in the formation of eggshells. Bear in mind, barn lime is different from hydrated lime; hydrated lime should not be used for animals.

To clean the coop, we rake the ground and move the old hay to the composting bin, then rebed with barn lime and fresh hay. We clean the coop every two weeks in hot, dry weather and once a week during the wet season. For a chicken coop of 100 chickens, it takes us about 1 hour to re-bed.

2. Dropping Boards
Chickens naturally head to the coop at night to roost, so you’ll typically find a hefty number of droppings waiting for you in the morning. Minimize your morning work by placing dropping boards under the roosts. Dropping boards are plastic trays or wooden boards that can easily be installed into your chicken coop by nailing, screwing or just placing them on the ground. You’ll need to measure your coop fit the appropriate size dropping boards. As an alternative, some chicken keepers build their coops with dropping pans, wooden boxes under the roost to aid in easy cleanup.

You can find manure scrapers on the market to clean the dropping boards, but a spare taping knife or spatula can be used instead. To clean, use the scraper to pull all the droppings into a bucket. Voila! You’ve cleaned the coop! Compost the manure and use it as a natural fertilizer in the garden.

3. Removable Roosts
Many coops are constructed with built-in roosts, but you can opt for removable ones for easier cleaning and disinfecting. Use undiluted distilled vinegar or Oxine, an animal-safe product effective against bacteria, fungi and viruses, for disinfecting the roosts and inside the coop.

4. Deep Litter Method
For colder climates, the deep litter method is a wonderful way to keep your coop warm and easy to manage. As the name implies, the deep litter method is a way to allow your litter to build up and compost over a period of time, from a couple months to a whole season. As the litter and manure composts in the pen, it provides warmth to the chickens. For the colder states, the litter can build up the entire winter. To start the deep litter method, sprinkle barn lime to help with odor and fly control. Top with 4 to 6 inches of pine shavings or hay. Every few weeks, stir the litter, adding more barn lime and fresh shavings or hay to the mix. For natural mite and lice control, you can mix in ash once a month.

5. Tarp Method
My friend Hope E. Tolda, owner of Fancy Feathers Farm, uses the tarp method on her farm and is able to clean 15 coops in less than 1½ hours. Lay a tarp on the coop floor and top with straw. When the straw needs to be changed, fold the tarp and dump the manure and straw into the compost pile. Pressure wash the tarp and disinfect it with vinegar or Oxine before rebedding the coop.

Slow Tools, Fast Change

Cars, houses, meal sizes: for the past few decades, all have been getting larger. The same goes for farming equipment. In this era of “bigger is better,” it’s not easy to find farming tools suitable for small-scale operations. In fact, it’s almost impossible.

That’s why Griffin is teaming up with Stone Barns Center on the Slow Tools Project, a partnership that is re-imagining and re-inventing tools to bring appropriately scaled, lightweight, affordable and open-source tools to the swelling ranks of young farmers.

“The re-emergence of small-scale farming has created a need for small tractors and other tools and implements capable of performing traditional and newer farming tasks more efficiently and ergonomically,” says Griffin. Today’s small farmers simply cannot purchase the equipment they need to work a 30-inch greenhouse bed, for instance. They end up having to buy standard, cumbersome pieces and adapt them for their needs, hurting efficiency and very often their backs.

The Slow Tools project is bringing together a small group of engineers and leading farmers to design, build and make available through open-source systems a host of new tools. Among the partners are Eliot Coleman, an organic farmer, inventor and author from Four Season Farm in Maine, Ron Kholsa, organic farmer and egineer of Huguenot Farm in New Paltz, Josh Volk of Slow Hand Farm in Oregon, and Jack Algiere, our Vegetable Farm Manager. They have identified 34 tools in need of development, beginning with a small electric tractor that will serve as the “motherboard” frame to which other tools can be attached. Other inventions to follow will be the solar-powered “Horse Tractor,” which could have a significant impact among cultures dependent on draft animals and where drought limits water availability, and a compressed-air grain harvester and processor.

“We believe that these essential pieces of equipment will help reduce the risk of failure that so many young and beginning farmers face,” says Jill Isenbarger, executive director of Stone Barns Center. “The challenges they deal with are significant: high land prices and connection to markets, for instance. Tools shouldn’t be one of them.”

Technologies for Farmers

To disseminate IARI technologies to the ultimate users ATIC is regularly publishing a Six monthly farm magazine i.e., Prasar Doot which is popular amongst the farming communities. Besides this, publications on package of practices of Rabi and Kharif crops, Fal fool evam Sabjiyon ki Utpadan Takniki are being publishes by the centre. To make the farmers aware about government schemes and facilities, a publication entitled “Krishi evam Gramin Vikas-Yojanayen evam Suvidhayen” has also been published by the centre. “Kisan Jigyasa evam Samadhan” containing the Frequently Asked Questions along with their answers is very popular among the farmers. Farmers who purchase the seed from the centre are provided a leaflet free of cost related with production technology of the crop. ATIC is regularly organizing crop/horticultural, medicinal plants demonstrations in its crops cafeteria so that visiting farmers can see live performance of IARI varieties. Over the period, ATIC through its transfer of technology efforts has developed a number of champion farmers who have excelled in different areas of agriculture and agricultural enterprises. Now they are motivational force for other farmers and working as ambassador to promote and disseminate IARI technologies amongst the farmers of their areas.Information and advisory needs of visitors are also being catered through information museum, plant clinic, farm library, exhibits and biofertilizers etc. displayed in the centre. The demands of IARI products, technology and services are increasing day by day in the market, besides farmers, industry has shown a lot of interest in IARI Research products. ATIC is providing a mechanism for getting direct feed-back from the Technology Users to the Technology Generators. The feed-back strengthened the ATIC activities and provides a ground for need based technologies. The ATIC has also developed functional linkages with various agencies working for the farming community to effectively cater the information needs of the different stake holders.

  • New wheat varieties developed by IARI, with higher yield potential and better resistance to rusts, are increasingly becoming popular with farmers in the northern, eastern and central plains of the country. The country was losing up to 10% of wheat yield due to rust disease. The strategic research done at the Institute in identifying different wheat varieties resistant to races of pathogens has saved wheat losses to the extent of 6.8 m.t., worth Rs. 2,500 crores annually. The percentage share of IARI varieties in total breeder seed production in the country varies from 20.4-32.9% in wheat.

  • Aromatic fine quality high-yielding rice variety, ‘Puss Basmati l’ developed by the Institute yields an advantage of 2 tlha at farm level and gives a net income of about Rs. 20,000 per ha. Due to the consumer acceptance, Basmati rice export has increased coincidently over the years. At present, ‘Puse Basmai-l’ constitutes nearly 60% in terms of volume and almost 50% (Rs. 1000 crores) of the foreign exchange earning through the export of Basmati rice. ‘Pusa 44’, developed by the Institute for Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu became very popular in Punjab on account of its stiff stem, non-lodging habit, high input response and suitability for combine harvesting and very high yield potential (10 tlha). Hybrid rice, ‘PRH- 10’, the first basmati quality hybrid in the world, significantly outyields ‘Puse Basmati l’ and has been taken up by large number of seed companies. The recently released varieties like ‘Pusa Sugandh-2’ and ‘Puss Sugandh-3’ and ‘Pusa Sugandh-5’, with improved productivity from 2.5 tlha to 5-6 tlha have spread over more than 10,000 ha.
  • Improved varieties of chickpea, pigeon pea and mungbean developed by IARI have contributed significantly to rainfed crop production. These varieties are of short duration and most suitable for crop rotation, leading to increase in foodgrains production and improvement in the protein status in Indian diet. Improved oilseeds varieties developed at IARI have contributed significantly to the national oilseeds production. Widespread adoption of the IARI variety ‘Puss Bold’, was instrumental to the success of the Technology Mission on Oilseeds.

  • Vegetable varieties and germplasm support of the Institute has led to the development of a seed industry, which has helped in the spread of IARI varieties throughout the country. The cultivation of these varieties is highly profitable to the marginal and small farmers, and generates direct and indirect employment for the rural and urban population. Further, many of the IARI varieties are early or late-sown, giving a price premium advantage throughout the year. This has also diversified the food basket and increased the consumption of vegetables, both in rural and urban areas. The Institute has developed 200 improved vegetable varieties of 43 crops. More than two dozen hybrids have also been developed in commercially-important vegetable crops. More than 50% area is under cultivation of veg of the Institute.

  • The Institute has developed improved technology for vegetable production like low-cost polyhouse for raising off-season nursery, low-cost polyhouse cultivation technology for high-value vegetable crops, easy and economical hybrid seed production technology in important cucurbitaceae vegetables, onion production technology in kharif season, cauliflower cultivation in different seasons, cultivation of unusual exotic vegetables etc. Growth of the seed industry in the country has been possible mainly due to the availability of high quality breeder seed of more than 160 varieties of field and vegetable crops developed by IARI.

  • A breakthrough in increasing irrigation efficiency was achieved through techniques developed at IARI. The Institute has developed and popularized the High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) pipe-based sprinkler unit. The drip irrigation system developed and popularized by the Institute is contributing significant increases in the area under fruits and vegetables and their production every year. The Institute has designed a prefabricated concrete lining technology suitable for several irrigation projects for the sandy and sandy loam areas of northern India. This technology has the potential to save 5 million ha-m of surface water, which will irrigate 10 m ha of additional crop area and increase foodgrain production by 10m t annually in the country.

  • Technologies, such as pesticidal oxime ethers, alkane polyol alkanoates, azadirachtin and reduced azadirachtin concentrates (insecticides); mancozeb, thiophanate methyl substituted a-pyrones (fungicides), substituted aromatic alkenes (nematicide), Rabdosia based mosquito larvicide, neem oil EW, water dispersible granules of DDT and temephos, floating granules of butachlor, carbaryl EC and controlled release products (pesticide formulations); natural and synthetic stabilizers for azadirachtin, di and tetrahydroazadirachtin, preparation of 5-substituted-1,3,4-oxadiozole-2-thiols as urease and nitrification inhibitors, and trichloro-benzenes (pesticide adjuvants) are available for commercialization.

  • IARI has provided technological support for agro-based industrialization and exports. Rice variety ‘Pusa Basmati-1‘ has led to the modernization of rice mills and exports. The horticultural crops, through increased production, have induced a growth in the processing industry and exports of value-added products. The private agro-chemical industries got a boost from the indigenous technologies for pesticides and agro-chemicals developed at the Institute for commercial adoption. The technology in respect of two bio-formulations, namely, Kalisena SD and Kalisena SL, found effective against c’evastating soil borne pathogens, and promoting plant growth and crop yields, has been translerred to Mis Cadila Pharmaceuticals Ltd. by the Institute for marketing these bioformulations in India and abroad.

Timesaving Tips Around the Barn

Work smarter, not harder, management experts tell us. That’s easy for them to say–they’ve never had a barn full of horses to look after. If you’re like most horse owners, you devote every minute you can spare to ensuring your horses’ well-being. You don’t begrudge them the hours you spend pushing brooms, filling buckets and cleaning stalls. After all, you knew what you were getting into when you became a horse owner.

But could you be doing things more efficiently? Is it possible to provide even better care for your horses while still having time for the rest of your life? In other words, can you work smarter, not harder, around the barn?

Sure you can. There are timesaving techniques and tools out there that can help you complete your barn chores faster without sacrificing safety and cleanliness. We’ve collected some favorites here and arranged them by work category, focusing on the universal (and traditionally time-eating) chores of stall cleaning, watering and feeding, general maintenance, grooming and tacking. Some of our suggestions require specific equipment, but others call for nothing more than changing a routine or two to better utilize your existing resources.

Stall Cleaning
You could immediately reduce your stall-cleaning time by 100 percent–and improve your horses’ health in the process–by turning your herd out 24 hours a day. But since that’s not feasible for everyone, here’s how to cut the time you spend wielding a pitchfork without compromising the cleanliness your horses require.

Switch to a deep-litter system. If you bed on shavings, this European practice can help you establish a thick, clean bed with minimal daily labor. At each cleaning, remove only the visible piles of manure and wet spots–don’t dig down to the floor or turn the bedding over. Toss slightly soiled bedding to the sides of the stall, and put a thin layer of clean bedding in the center. Eventually, “banks” of dry shavings will form around the outside of the stall, and you can use these to refresh the center, eliminating trips to the shavings heap. Properly maintained, a deep-litter bed is dry, has no odor and is very cushioning to the legs. You will have to completely strip the stall once or twice a year, however.

Invest in the right tools for the job. A heavyweight pitchfork and a too-small wheelbarrow make for inefficient stall cleaning. Shop for multi-tined, lightweight forks that will allow clean shavings to fall through, along with oversized wheelbarrows that can reduce the number of trips you must make to the manure pile. Consider a mechanized manure sifter that separate clean shavings from dirty, saving both time and money.

Purchase stall mats or other floor coverings. Floor coverings, such as mats and grids, reduce the amount of labor involved in stall cleaning in two ways: by facilitating drainage and by reducing the amount of bedding needed. Properly installed, graded mats or grids channel urine to a drain or through the floor, eliminating the hours you’ve been spending each month digging out wet spots. They’ll also protect floors, cutting down on (or even eliminating) the heavy work of repairing holes or uneven surfaces each year. Mats have one additional advantage: Since they provide cushioning of their own, they require less bedding on top.

Establish a cleaning system. Clean stalls from front to back, back to front or side to side–it doesn’t matter what your pattern is; just stick with one method for more efficiency. Simplify waste removal by placing a tarp outside the stall door and tossing everything into the center. When the tarp is full, pick it up by the corners and place it in the wheelbarrow or carry it to the manure heap.

It goes without saying that your horses must have access to ample, clean water at all times. Still, there are some changes you can make to reduce the amount of time you spend delivering liquid refreshment to your beasts.

Add more water containers. The simplest and cheapest way to cut down on the time you spend watering is to add a second water bucket to each stall, as well as additional troughs in each paddock. Fill all the containers in the morning, and you may be able to skip the afternoon refill if the water is still clean.

Extend pipes to stalls. The next level of watering convenience requires a plumber’s help. Run pipes from the main water line along the outside of the stalls in the aisleway, above door-frame height. For quick and easy watering, install an on/off valve at each stall, and run short hoses from the valves to just above each water bucket. This kind of pipe system must be drained in the winter to prevent freezing, but during the summer it can save hours of hose-dragging.

A less frost-prone, but more costly, variation is to have pipes installed in the floor of the aisleway, with a spigot at each stall and a “dedicated” hose running through a hole cut in the stall wall above the bucket.

Go fully automatic.If you can afford it, automatic waterers are the way to go. With safety features to prevent shock, insulation to guard against freezing and gauges to measure a horse’s water intake, these equine water fountains are perhaps the most common and effective time-savers available to horsekeepers. They offer the added benefit of ensuring that your horses always have access to water and are available for both stalls and pastures.

If your horse had his way, he’d be eating all the time. Grazing on pasture is his natural feeding pattern, after all, and even when it comes to concentrates, experts agree that giving small amounts at intervals during the day is the optimal schedule for your horse’s digestive well-being. Still, from a time-management perspective, the “little and often” approach can be tough to follow. Here are some ways you can cut the time it takes to feed your horses without compromising their health and happiness.

Streamline delivery. Instead of running back and forth from stall to feed bin, put all feeds and supplements into a large, wheeled cart with several compartments. With this system, you can roll down the aisleway, stopping at each stall to dole out rations. The process is made even more efficient by adding small, swing-out doors or other openings over the feed buckets.

Make gravity work for you. Stack hay bales in well-ventilated lofts with strategically located “drops” over each stall or hayrack. With this arrangement, you can toss flakes to their destination with minimal time or effort. This also works for feeds stored in the loft. Run individual PVC pipes (six inches or larger in diameter) into each stall, and pour grain down the pipe directly into the feed bucket for each eagerly awaiting horse. Just make sure you inspect the feed buckets daily for signs of contamination or indications that a horse has stopped eating.

Prepare meals ahead of time. A popular time-saver at racetracks is to prepare “bag lunches,” thus reducing measuring and scooping time. Whoever makes up the morning feeding also doles out the lunch and/or dinner rations in separate canvas bags. These are hung outside the stall when the morning feeding is delivered. Feeding the next meal simply requires dumping the contents into the bucket.

Install automatic feeders. If you want to spend the money, you can automate your feeding routine. Automatic feeders on the market can hold several days’ worth of concentrates, and some even hold hay. Just fill them up once and let the timer do the rest of the work. The benefit of automatic feeders is they can be set to dispense a small amount several times throughout the day, but the drawbacks are the maintenance and extra vigilance they require. You must check that automatic feeders are working properly every day, or risk a hungry–or worse, overfed–horse.

Feed concentrates in the field. Bringing in field-kept horses just to eat their daily rations can be a huge time-waster. If you choose to feed in the field, however, you’ll need to make sure that each horse gets his fair share and that no feed is wasted. Feed tubs that latch onto fences are a good start; these not only conserve feed but also prevent ingestion of soil or sand, a possible colic producer. If you’re good at construction, you can build standing stalls with individual feed tubs along a fence line. Your horses will soon learn to claim a stall at feeding time, and chains across the back of the stalls will keep bullies in until the slowest eater has finished.

Keep a bale-opening tool handy. Wrestling the twine off a bale of hay can be a real time-waster. Hang a pair of tin snips (special scissors for cutting metal) or a farrier’s knife on a nail next to the hay shed or loft ladder; either will safely and easily cut even the toughest baling twine. Be faithful about putting this tool back when you are done.

Maintenance and Record Keeping
The maintenance required around a farm can range from simple daily house-keeping to backbreaking, once-a-year heavy work. With horses needing constant care, these are the kinds of jobs that tend to get pushed to the bottom of a “to do” list. Cutting the time it takes to handle routine maintenance will let you get to the end of that “to do” list a lot faster.

Banish the brooms. Rather than push a broom for hours, invest in a quality vacuum and leaf blower. Use the blower for outdoor jobs only, such as cleaning driveways or gutters; indoors, a blower will stir up unhealthy dust. Instead, use a vacuum for aisles and rafters. A heavy-duty shop vacuum will do, but for really efficient cleaning, try a model specifically designed for cleaning barns or industrial buildings.

Buy synthetic tack for daily use. Cut down time spent on leather care by using synthetic tack for your everyday riding. Man-made materials are easily hosed clean, and your show tack will stay nice for dressy occasions.

Maximize storage space in tack and feed rooms. Spend a rainy afternoon overhauling your storage areas. Prefab shelving, wire racks and cabinetry, available at most hardware stores, will go a long way toward making sense of your mess. While you’re at it, hang a halter and lead shank on each horse’s stall so they’ll always be there when you need them, saving extra trips to the tack room.

Invest in high-quality, high-tech fencing. As much as you may love the traditional look of wooden board fences, they take a lot of time to maintain. Installing synthetic fences made of PVC and other polymers is more costly in the short term, but over time you’ll save on maintenance and repair. Properly installed electric fencing–particularly “tape” and poly-cord varieties–is also a mostly maintenance-free option.

Buy an appropriate-sized tractor and accessories. All but the smallest of farmettes can benefit from some sort of tractor for the hauling, dumping and dragging associated with heavy maintenance work. As a rule, it’s better to have slightly “too much” tractor than not enough, so set your minimum requirement at 20 horsepower and work up from there.

With the appropriate accessories, a tractor can speed nearly every farm job: Pull the tractor into the barn and muck out directly into a dump cart or manure spreader; cut grass and brush around the barn and in the pastures with mover attachments; drag fields and rings with a chain-link harrow; use a front-end loader to straighten fence posts.

Auto-water your ring. Use a simple lawn sprinkler to water down your riding ring quickly and inexpensively and keep dust at bay. Just remember to move the sprinkler before puddles form.

Start a binder system for your records. For each horse, purchase an inexpensive three-ring notebook, with pocket inserts and loose-leaf paper. Put official documents, such as Coggins test results, into the pockets, and record all other relevant information on the loose-leaf paper: Put veterinary visits on one sheet, show results on another, and so on. The idea is to have all of the horse’s vital papers and information readily available in one place. Start a similar binder for farm expenses, such as feed bills and hay deliveries.

Computerize your system. Consider one of the many software programs designed to organize horsekeeping data. Some are intended for large operations, others are better suited for smaller farms, so shop around with your specific needs and computer capabilities in mind. A computer program does require you to enter information on a regular basis, but it also means that records and data are easily and instantly retrievable.

Grooming and Tacking
So the chores are done, and you’re ready to ride? Make the transition even faster by streamlining your grooming and tacking procedures. A few basic changes can whittle your pre-ride routine down to 10 minutes or less:

Move everything at once. Elaborate wheeled carts with saddle racks and baskets can bring everything you need for grooming and tacking right to the horse, eliminating extra trips to the tack room.

Vacuum instead of brushing. Not only will grooming go faster with a vacuum, but your horse will be cleaner. It may take a few days to accustom him to the sound and sensation of the machine, but eventually your grooming routine will be pared down to a quick curry and a five-minute vacuum treatment. A good wet/dry shop vacuum will do, but a heavy-duty model designed for horses will last longer and make less noise.

Use both hands. It may sound obvious, but put a tool in each hand and you’ll cut your grooming time in half.

Teach your horse to lift both feet from one side. Pick out the left and right hooves from the same side. All but the stiffest horses (and grooms) find this no problem. In fact, same-side picking is standard practice at many racetracks. If you worry about developing “sidedness” this way, alternate the side you pick from. – See more at:

7 Clean-up Tips for Your Cluttered Barn

There are two things you should think about when organizing your barn and outbuildings. First, dedicate some time to thinking about your work flow. Knowing how you use your barn space will help you use your body more effectively to reach that needed tool or material, as well as save both time and stress by allowing you to find everything more quickly. Second, organizing your barn doesn’t need to be a complicated, drawn-out process requiring heaps of time. As you’ll see below, small changes can make a huge difference in farm workflow.

7 Clean-up Tips for Your Cluttered Barn - Photo courtesty Elena Elisseeva/iStock/Thinkstock (

1. Customize for You
“I’m only 5 feet, 4 inches, so I do everything from building shelves to hanging hooks based on my height,” says Kathy Zeman, who runs Simple Harvest Farm Organics in Nerstrand, Minn. Customization can come in many forms: Think about your personal needs and how your outbuildings can best serve them. For example, if you need to be mindful of back issues, hang more shelving and pack things in smaller, lighter boxes so you’re not putting undue strain on your back.

2. Hang It Up
Getting things off the floor creates multiple benefits, from preventing tripping hazards to keeping materials cleaner and intact. If you’re short on wall space, take advantage of your barn ceiling: Hang bundles of hoses or drip tape with rope from the rafters for winter storage.

When hanging things in hard-to-reach places, make sure you have a ladder of suitable height handy.

“I have several ladders that I keep in different places so I’ll have one where I need it and don’t need to lug it around,” Zeman says. “I always hang my ladders and never keep them on the floor. This makes it easier to keep the area underneath clean and also serves as a safety technique so kids don’t feel the urge to climb.”

3. Group Like Materials Together
A simple organizing technique is to arrange tools or materials with others of a similar use. “We have one shelf with everything for the farmers’ market, another with our beekeeping supplies, another with all things soap making, et cetera,” says Yvonne Brunot, who runs Right Mind Farm, a diversified farm operation, with her husband, Ed Safford, in Walingford, Vt. “Sometimes there may be some overlap, but this way we can easily and quickly put our hands on what we need at that moment.”

4. Identify and Consolidate Tools
“I host a lot of work parties on my farm and appreciate all the extra helping hands, but folks typically don’t know where all the tools are, so I try to make it easy by consolidating everything in one place,” says Clare Hintz, who runs Elsewhere Farm in Herbster, Wis. Placing one hook per tool—and perhaps labeling or color-coding the tool—clearly communicates to helpers how many of each tool you have so things can be accurately and quickly returned at the end of the day.

Color-coding with bright paint also helps with field cleanup at the end of the day.”I paint the handles of my tools bright fluorescent colors, which is an easy reminder when you leave something out in the field or are looking for that shovel at the end of the day,” Zeman says.

5. Think Multiple Purpose
Creatively arranging outbuilding space for multiple purposes allows you to get more accomplished in your limited space. “My outbuilding serves a variety of functions throughout the year, from drying garlic to packing produce to a classroom for interns and other workshops,” Hintz says. She built large, sturdy tables that can be quickly cleared off for her upcoming projects.

6. Recycle Creatively
Castoff tools can take on a second, functional life in your outbuildings. Kim Marsin and Rachel Reklau, of Sweet Home Organics, a garden seedling business based in St. Charles, Ill., don’t have a permanent barn or outbuilding on the property, so they’ve learned to be creative in utilizing and stretching the space in their hoop greenhouses. “We repurpose pallets as table tops and hardening off spaces for our seedlings,” Marsin explains. “We just finished building raised beds to go underneath our seeding tables to maximize the space.”

7. Purge Regularly
When you have decent-sized outbuilding space, it’s all too easy to accumulate stuff, especially others’ castoffs that you “might use someday.” Over the years, this adds up to clutter, which negatively impacts how efficiently you can use your outbuilding space. “I find the more extra stuff I have around, the harder it is to keep things organized and clean, so I operate under my ‘five-year rule.’” Zeman says. “If I haven’t used it in five years, I gift it to someone else, ideally a new farmer starting out who could really benefit from it. I’ve rarely actually needed any of it once I got rid of it, and the positive impact of the extra space is well worth it.”

An extra bonus to all this outbuilding efficiency: You’ll save money! By knowing where things are and having easy access to them, you’ll avoid those extra trips to the local hardware or farm-supply store because something you need is “lost somewhere in the barn.”

Farming Simulator 16 – Tips, Tricks, and Strategies to Get You Started

So you’ve started up your own farm. That’s fantastic, but where do you go from here? As peculiarly entertaining as it may be to meticulously guide heavy machinery around a field or two, it can be a little tricky to figure out what to do when you get behind the wheel for the first time. That’s why we’ve put together some helpful tips and tricks to get your farm going.

First steps

  • Get familiar with the controls – There’s no real tutorial to speak of, so you’ll want to learn what the button icons mean as soon as possible. From bottom-left to bottom-right: the steering slider, switch vehicles, detach tools, activate tools, hire assistant, honk the horn, and throttle (i.e. forward/backward, general speed).
  • Then get familiar with your tools – Your harvester is pretty easy to figure out from the start (it’s the big yellow thing and it already has the appropriate header attached) but you also have one tractor and a few things that can attach to the back of it – a cultivator (the flat-looking green thing), a sowing machine (the red thing), and a tipper (the green bin on wheels).
  • Start harvesting immediately – You’ll have two fields of your own right away – one that’s full of wheat and ready to harvest, and another that needs to be cultivated. It’s very important that you start harvesting that wheat right away, otherwise you run the risk of it going bad.
  • Cultivating is also a good idea – You can use your tractor to cultivate your fields and make them ready for sowing. You can also save time by hiring an assistant to drive your harvester, having them harvest your first wheat field, and manually cultivating the second field yourself.

  • Sell all your starter grains – Every time you begin a new game you’ll start with 5’000 Wheat, Canola, Corn, Sugarbeet, and Potato. Sell all of it for quite a bit more starting cash.
  • Buy a second tractor before you buy anything else – If you harvest your first field and sell off as much of your starting grains as you can, you should have more than enough to buy yourself a second tractor. Definitely do that, because having a second machine around to cultivate, sow, and haul will be extremely useful.
  • Only sow wheat and canola to start – When you have a sowing machine attached to your tractor you can tap on the seed button (it’s the one highlighted in blue) to switch seeds. Stick with wheat and canola for a while, because harvesting everything else requires tools you won’t have yet.

General farming

  • Make liberal use of assistants – It costs roughly $1 of in-game cash per second when you have an assistant using your vehicles, but it saves you so much time it’s easily worth the price. You can certainly do everything yourself, but if you add a couple of assistants to the mix you can harvest, cultivate, and sow a single field at the same time – just make sure you leave enough space between vehicles or you might cause a pile-up.
  • Assistants can be used for more than just working fields – If you’re in the middle of harvesting and you need to unload a tipper, you can attach a tractor to it and have an assistant haul it over to your silo for you. They can also sell your grain if you tell them where to go (hint: the location highlighted in blue pays the best). They can also refill sowing machines and fertilizer spreaders, refuel, and even take your vehicles to get washed. Most of these actions are contextual and can be triggered by pressing the Hire Assistants button, but you can also open up the map and direct them from there using the Functions icons at the bottom of the screen (drive, refill, refuel, and wash).
  • Cruise control is a less effective but cheaper alternative to assistants – It’s not a real replacement, but if you pull up on a vehicle’s throttle all the way it will keep going forward until you slow it down – or until it crashes. You can use this to line your tractor or harvester up, turn on the attached tool, and pretty much sit back while it does its thing. Then once you reach the end of the field you can turn it around and repeat the process. Just keep an eye on it so you don’t end up in a pond or something.
  • Top everything off when you have some downtime – Your assistants will automatically refuel the vehicles they’re driving and refill any attached tools that might need it whenever they run dry. But if you refuel/refill yourself (or make an assistant do it) in between tasks, you’ll save a bit of time in the long run.

  • Can’t tell if a field is ready for harvesting? Check the map! – Any fields you own that have been planted will show up on your map with a green icon depicting the seeds planted in them. When they’re ready to harvest, those seed icons will change to yellow.
  • Store unused tools in nearby empty fields – The fields you don’t own aren’t actually in use, so feel free to dump your stuff there when you’re not using it. It’s closer, faster for your vehicles to gear-up, and just generally more convenient.
  • Check current prices before attempting to sell your grains – You can see how much each grain type is selling for (and at which location) from the Prices option in the menu (its next to the map button). If something isn’t selling for a whole lot, wait a bit and the price will eventually start to go back up. Conversely, if the price has skyrocketed then sell, sell, sell!

Misc tips

  • Keep an eye on your harvester’s capacity – The bigger the field, the faster it’s going to fill up your harvester. Keep a tipper nearby and unload it – just stop alongside it right side and the harvester should unload automatically – when it starts to get too full. If you have an assistant driving the harvester you can also manually drive a tractor with a tipper attached alongside it while it harvests, and it’ll unload while moving. You can also honk when your harvester is full to have a tipper automatically move to you, take your crops, then move back to its starting location – providing the tipper is either empty or contains the same crops as your harvestor.
  • Save up for a Tedder and a Baler – It’s expensive, but once you get a baler and Tedder you can start cutting the grass in nearby overgrown fields and making hay bales for your cows and sheep, which in-turn will allow them to produce milk and wool, respectively. And milk and wool sell for quite a bit.
  • Don’t over-extend yourself – Try not to have too many fields growing crops at the same time – at least until you have a small fleet of harvesters and tractors – or else you’re just going to end up losing crops because it takes you too long to collect them.

  • Check in on your assistants – They’re a big help, but sometimes your assistants will get themselves stuck. Whether it’s because they got too close to one another while tending a field or because they decided to try and drive through the back of the gas station, it’s going to happen. Just check in on them every now and then, and take over for a bit to get them unstuck.
  • Remember to pick up what you buy – Whenever you buy equipment that isn’t a vehicle you’re going to need to drive down to the shop to pick it up. Don’t just buy something and then leave it in the parking lot!
  • Keep an eye out for special requests – Sometimes you’ll see a red circle with an exclamation point in it sitting in the top-left corner of the screen. Tap on it, and you’ll be able to take part in a limited-time challenge for some extra cash.

Keeping up the harvest

Keeping up the harvestPlanting a veg garden really kicks off the year. By the end of March you’ll have bought new potatoes and onion sets from our Paston and Oundle garden centre and tucked them into their new homes, and with a bit of luck you’ll be getting out those seed packets you chose from our extensive range of fruit and veg to sow the first hardy crops like carrots, peas, cabbages and beetroot.

But what happens when that first flush of productivity is over? Once you’ve harvested those new potatoes it’s still only June, there’s half the growing year left but you’ve got bare patches opening up all over the place.

Planting for a continuous harvest throughout the year is one of the holy grails of veg gardening. With a little planning and some tricks of the trade you too can avoid boom and bust, evening out your harvest so there’s always something to pick somewhere on the plot. Here’s how:

  • Successional sowing: Fast-growing veg like baby-leaf salads and carrots are ready within weeks, so repeat sow just half a row at a time every month through the season to keep them coming.
  • Intercropping: use every inch of space by sowing quick-growing carrots, spinach or beetroot among slower-growing brassicas: that way while they’re growing, you get an extra harvest from the same space.
  • Plug plants: in our garden centre you’ll find a huge range of young vegetable plants, ideal for dropping into gaps opened up by harvesting lettuces, cabbages or leeks for a near-instant second harvest.
  • Sow different varieties: many types of veg, like carrots, calabrese and sprouts, have early, mid-season and late varieties: sow all three and they’ll mature at different rates, extending your harvesting time.
  • Remember winter: you won’t feel like sowing crops for winter while it’s still spring, but if you don’t your harvest will stop dead in October. Plant purple-sprouting broccoli, winter cabbage, leeks and parsnips in March to keep the veg garden pumping out the harvest through the chill.

Gasoline Tractor

In 1892 John Froelich built the first gasoline-powered tractor that propelled itself backward and forward. His invention helped pave the way for modern farming.

John grew up in Froelich, a Clayton County town named after his father, Henry. John ran a feed mill and elevator and tinkered with machines. Mounting a gasoline engine on a well-drilling rig gave him the idea to mount an internal combustion engine on a tractor. A few weeks later, the tractor— a forerunner of John Deere tractors— was shipped to South Dakota, where it threshed 72,000 bushels of wheat in 52 days.

Froelich, with other investors, founded the Waterloo Gasoline Traction Engine Company in 1893. This company eventually became the John Deere Tractor Works.

Like many inventors, Froelich received little recognition for his work during his lifetime while others profited from his creations.

The Science and Technology of Agriculture

 Throughout history, scientific and technological advances have greatly impacted the agriculture industry. Early farmers improved their crop production by inventing the first hoes. Today, farmers improve crop production through the use of global positioning systems. How did these changes happen? How did people learn about new ideas? How have these ideas changed farming methods?

Early advances were shared by word of mouth. As new ideas were tried out and applied to growing crops and livestock, they were shared and passed to the next generation as parents taught their children. Neighboring tribes exchanged ideas with one another and with new settlers. In more recent times, scientists studying at universities devote their lives to research and development of farming products and practices. Iowa farmers and agricultural scientists have benefited and contributed to the ever-evolving science of agriculture.

New Ideas and Inventions

One milestone in the evolution of technology in Iowa occurred with the completion of rail lines across the state. By 1870 transportation had been greatly expanded—which made it easier for farmers to market their products outside the Midwest. Transportation advances greatly impacted the life of an Iowa farmer. Another event that affected farm life was the commercial production of barbed wire. As the land became more settled and there were fewer and fewer acres of open prairie, farmers needed a way to keep their own cattle at home. Barbed wire was the answer. Instead of grazing on open prairie, cattle were fenced in the farmer’s own field and fed with corn. This allowed Iowa farmers to transition from cattle grazing to cattle raising.

Mechanical corn picker New Ways of Farming

By the latter part of the 19th century farmers had learned to diversify their crop production and to raise livestock for profit. Iowa farmers had learned the value in planting corn and feeding it to fatten their livestock.

Advances in farm machinery production changed the way farmers worked. They were able to cover more land at a faster pace; and as manufacturers added seats to farm machinery, farmers found some relief from their backbreaking labors.

The development of better corn seed is one of the biggest improvements in the past 100 years. Farmers once shelled the kernels from the longest and best looking ears from the harvest and planted those kernels the next spring. However, plant scientists like Henry A. Wallace began experimenting with ways to produce even better seed. They learned how to use the pollen from one variety of corn to fertilize another variety to produce a hybrid. The new variety grew ears that were better than either of its “parents.” In the 1930s many farmers began buying hybrid corn seed. Today nearly all corn planted in the United States and much of the rest of the world is some hybrid variety.

Spreading New Ideas

Early in Iowa’s settlement by European farmers, a number of institutions were established to encourage agricultural advances. State and county fairs were held and became show places for the best in all areas of agriculture. They helped spread the news about new ideas and methods. And they encouraged farmers to develop new products and ways of doing their work.

Interests in agricultural advancement also was reflected in the early provision for a state agricultural college and model farm to promote better farming techniques. The formal program of instruction began at Ames in 1869, and the college eventually developed into a nationally recognized leader in scientific agricultural advancement. The college developed extension services, education to people who are not enrolled as students, to provide up-to-date assistance for women and men on Iowa’s farms. They learned about soil conservation, corn seed selection and cultivation, crop rotation and manure management.

The invention of radio and television made it possible for farm families to learn about new ideas. They learned about new kinds of technologies such as food-freezing processes that revolutionized food storage. They also learned about hybrid seed that boosted crop production, and soybeans that became a major crop addition. New ways of spreading information allowed farm families to hear about soil conservation programs also. They learned about cattle and hog breeding which in turn improved the livestock industry.

Conserving Resources

Over the years farmers have become more aware of conservation methods to prevent erosion and to protect the water. Some farmers have planted buffer strips—wide strips of grass—along waterways. These grassy strips trap soil and chemicals before they reach the water. Many farmers have changed plowing practices—plowing their fields less often and not as deep. This helps to keep soil from blowing away.

All these advances in the area of science and technology have resulted in fewer farmers working bigger farms. They have also meant Iowa’s farm families are producing more than in the past. Some of the changes that have occurred as a result of scientific advances have been good for Iowa; some have caused problems for Iowans. Many farmers use global positioning systems and agree that it is a new form of technology that benefits farmers. But advances in biotechnology and crop production has caused controversy. Iowa’s farmers continue to adapt to the changing technologies. And they continue to contribute to the science of agriculture.

Farming Technologies

Industrial Hemp (iHemp) is made up of varieties of “Cannabis Sativa” that contain less than 0.3% Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is an annual broadleaf plant with a taproot and is capable of very rapid growth under ideal growing conditions. The female flowers and seeds are indeterminate, meaning that there are both ripe and immature seeds on the same plants at the time of grain harvest.

Fibre hemp plants will grow to 2-4 meters tall without branching. In dense plantings (i.e.: seed drilled) the bottom leaves fall off due to lack of sunlight and the male plants die back after shedding pollen, generally 4-5 weeks into the growing cycle, lasting approx. 1 week.

The stem has an outer bark that contains the long, tough bast fibers. They are similar in length to soft wood fibers and are very low in lignin content. Hemp rope, textiles and clothing is made from these fibers. The core contains the “hurds” or “Shives” (short fibers), similar to hard wood fibers and these are used for building, particleboard (MDF) and pet bedding, as well as plastics.

For grain production the plant may branch and reach heights of 2-3 meters. Tall plants do not mean more grain and shorter plants are preferred for combing. In well structured and well drained soils the taproot may penetrate 15-30 cm deep (12”). In compacted soils the taproot remains short and the plant produces more lateral, fibrous roots.

Each iHemp variety has its own set of characteristics; small or large seed, low or high oil content, different oil composition, etc….

Varieties grown for fibre may contain from 15-25% bast fibres. As markets develop contracts to grow iHemp may specify the exact varieties that will meet specific market needs.

iHemp varieties tested in Ontario, Canada so far have all been of European origin with the exception of new Ontario-bred varieties such as “Anka” and “Carmen” and they come in 2 types; “dioecious”, which have male & female flower parts on separate plants (i.e.: “Kompolti” and “Unico B”) and “monoecious”, which have male & female flower parts on the same plant (i.e.: “Ferimon” and “Futura”). A 3rd type of cultivar, known as female predominant, is a dioecious type that has 85-90% female plants. It is believed that this type of plant can yield more grain. Most French varieties are a hybrid of predominantly female types.

Only varieties of iHemp that are named in the list of approved cultivars, published by Health Canada, are approved for planting in Canada. These varieties are known to produce plants containing less than 0.3% Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) under normal conditions. The THC level may vary with stage of growth and increase under environmental stress conditions. They mature to fibre in 60-90 days and to grain in 110-150 days. Using home-grown or “common” seed is illegal.

Dual Purpose Crops:
Most of the French and Romanian cultivars are suitable for grain and fibre production however these tall cultivars present some challenges for harvesting because growers need also to consider that weather conditions after grain harvest (late August or September) may not be suitable for retting & drying the stalks. The FIN 314 variety, which will grow to a maximum height of 0.9 meters (36 inches) and other short-stalked grain types (1-1.5 meters) are not suitable for dual production. Industry trends seem to be moving specifically towards grain or fibre varieties.

Soil Conditions:
iHemp responds to a well drained, loam soil with pH (acidity) above 6.0. Neutral to slightly alkaline (pH7.0 – 7.5) is preferred. The higher the clay content of the soil the lower the yield of grain or fibre. Clay soils are easily compacted and iHemp is very sensitive to soil compaction. Young plants are very sensitive to wet soils or flooding during the first 3 weeks or until growth reaches the fourth internode (approx. 30 cm or 12” tall). Water damaged plants will remain stunted, resulting in a weedy, uneven and poor crop.

Poorly structured, drought-prone sandy soils provide very little natural fertility or support for the iHemp plant. Extra nutrients and water will be required to achieve maximum yields on these soils, hence the extra costs make production uneconomical.

Climate for Growing:

iHemp requires lots of moisture; approx. 3-400mm (10-13”) of rainfall equivalent. If that amount of rainfall does not occur during the growing season it is important to make use of early soil moisture and to get early ground cover to reduce surface evaporation, as well as maintain good weed control. About ½ of this moisture is required during flowering and seed set in order to produce maximum grain yields. Drought during this stage produces poorly developed grain heads and continued drought results in low yields of light grain. During the vegetative growth period iHemp responds to daytime high temperatures with increased growth and water needs. After the 3rd pair of leaves develop iHemp can survive daily low temperatures as low as -0.5 degrees Celsius for 4-5 days.


iHemp requires approximately the same fertility as a high-yielding crop of wheat. Apply up to 110kg/hectare of nitrogen, depending on soil fertility and past cropping history. Research also supports the application of 40-90kg/hectare of potash for fibre hemp. Base your phosphorus (P205) and potash (K20) applications on a recent soil test. To interpret soil test information, follow the nitrogen, phosphate and potash recommendations for winter wheat in OMAFRA publication 811.

Hemp growers in some places may benefit from adding sulphur. It is important to balance the nutrients applied with then crop requirements and with each other. For example; excessive nitrogen, combined with inadequate potash, can result in stalk breakage and loss of crop !

Approximately 42% of the plant’s biomass returns to the soil in the form of leaves, roots and tops. These contain over half of the nutrients applied to the crop in the first place and many of these nutrients will be available to help feed the following crop.

Weed Control:
If hemp is planted into well-drained, fertile soil under nearly optimum temperature and moisture conditions, it will germinate quickly and reach 30 cm (12”) in 3-4 weeks from planting. At this stage it will give 90% ground shade. Weed growth is suppressed by the exclusion of light from the soil. A rapidly growing iHemp population of 200-250 plants per square meter will suppress nearly all weed growth, including twitch grass. For pre-plant site preparation guidelines, refer to OMAFRA Publication 75, “Guide to Weed Control”.

Weed suppression is not a permanent condition. Weeds may appear on the same field next year if the field is rotated out of iHemp production. Perennial grasses may be weakened or killed if iHemp is grown a 2nd year on the same ground however this practice increases the chance of crop diseases to develop.

Under grain production conditions weed suppression may be less complete; the lower plant population or uneven stands allow more light to penetrate the canopy, thus aiding the germination of weed seeds. Cross seeding may improve canopy distribution and subsequent weed control where early, shorter verities are grown. In conclusion; early planting, as soon as the soil is warm enough, is the recommended weed strategy.

Diseases and Pests:
More than 50 different viruses, bacteria, fungi and insect pests are known to affect the iHemp crop. However, iHemp’s rapid growth rate and vigorous nature allow it to overcome the attack of most diseases and pests.

Botrytis Cinerea (grey mould) and Scierotinia Scierotiorum (white mould) are common moulds affecting iHemp. Scierotinia also affects edible beans, canola and sunflowers. Mould spores may be spread by combines, other harvesting equipment and straw.

A 4-year crop rotation is recommended as a good practice to avoid disease build-up. Do not grow iHemp on the same fields following canola, edible beans, soybeans or sunflowers.

Wind and hail damage can be significant to the iHemp crop. Tall plants with lots of upper leaf mass can be bent quite easily by mid-to-late summer storms. Broken plants will recover partially if not broken too low. This results in significant variability in plant height and maturity at seed harvest time.

Harvesting Fibre:
Air-dry stem yields range from 2.5-14.0 metric tons of dry, retted stalks per hectare (1 to 5 tons/acre) at 12% moisture. Approx. one ton of bast fibre and 2-3 tons of core material can be decorticated from 3-4 tons of good quality, dry-retted straw.

Yield of fibre depends on both the stalk yield per hectare and the fibre content of the stalk. Varieties differ in the amount of actual fibre content and on the ratio of bast fibre to core material (hurds). Dioecious varieties originating in southern Europe give the highest stalk yields. For textile applications, cut the iHemp in the early flowering stage or while pollen is being shed, but before seed sets. Fibre that is cut after seed harvest will have lignified considerably and is usable only in some non-woven industrial fibre applications. In dioecious varieties the male plants die back after shedding pollen. This results in lower fibre yields if the straw is cut after grain has matured.

On small acreages, good quality sickle-bar mowers and hay swathers have been used to cut iHemp. Frequent plugging has been a constant problem with this equipment. It is important to keep knives sharp and in good repair at all times. As acreage increases, more sophisticated equipment may have to be imported or developed.

Retting (turning):
Retting is the process of beginning to separate the bast fibres from the hurds or other plant tissues. This is done in the field, taking advantage of the natural elements of dew, rain, wind and sun, or under controlled conditions using water (most common in China), enzymes or chemicals. The method chosen depends on the end use of the fibre or hurd. To date, suitable industrial processes of water and/or chemical retting have not been developed.

Successful field retting requires a delicate balance of nightly dews and good daytime conditions. Planting date and selection of variety are factors in predicting a suitable harvest date for your region.

The length of the retting process is critical for optimum fibre yield and quality. It normally takes 21-28 days to complete but dry weather and low dew conditions may require longer retting periods. In fact, the process can take a little as 2 weeks.

The “windrows” are turned vigorously once or twice with tines (rakes) to facilitate even retting of the windrow and to knock the leaves off the stems. It is important that the retting process be complete before baling, so that the fibres reach the desired colour and do not rot or discolour in storage. In wet conditions a 3rd turning may be necessary.

Baling and Storage:
Baling can be done with any kind of baler. Large round, soft-core balers may are more satisfactory, allowing bales to fry more quickly in storage. For some industrial processes, the buyer may require a uniform large, square bale, to fit into the processing system however this may present a challenge in preventing spoilage if the bales are stored for later delivery, as square bales are packed more tightly, allowing less air passage than round bales. Note: Sisal or Hemp twine must be used to tie bales because polyester and plastic twines become contaminants in the processing of hemp fibres.

Bales must be stored indoors under dry conditions to stop the retting process before the fibres become rotted. Stalk moisture should be less than 15% at time of baling and should continue to dry to about 10%. Hemp straw also absorbs air moisture quite readily.

Hemp Seed and Fibre Harvesting:
When iHemp is grown for both grain and fibre it is necessary to re-cut the tall stalks after combining. A combine can be modified to perform both functions at the same time by mounting a sickle-bar mower under the header to operate close to the ground.

It is expected that as markets for grain and fibre begin to differentiate dual harvesting will cease to be a common practice. Growers of small acreages will most likely continue to combine and cut stalks as 2 separate operations.

If straw is to be harvested after combining it is important that the weather conditions must also be suitable for drying the stalks for baling.

Combining Seed for iHemp:
Combining iHemp gives a special challenge to both the combine and the operator. In tall varieties large quantities of plant material are put thru the combine. iHemp straw contains very tough fibres that tend to wind around the moving parts. Fine fibres work into bearings, causing friction that can lead to bearing breakdown and combustion. These factors cause heavy machinery wear, high maintenance costs and a great deal of time loss and frustration on the part of the operator. Early grain varieties like “Fedora 19”, “FIN314” and “Fasamo” are shorter and easier to combine.

iHemp seed is harvested when the seed begins to shatter. At this optimum harvest time about 70% of the seeds are ripe at about 22-30% moisture. Later combining increases grain losses due to shattering, bird damage and lower quality grain. Mature fibres tend to wrap more tenaciously around moving parts on the combine.

Raising the cutting blade to about 1 meter (40”) or as high as the header will cut effectively, reduces the amount of material entering the combine. With shorter varieties use a “closer-to-normal” header position. The header knife must be kept sharp at all times to minimise winding of fibres on the sickle bar. Replacing the slatted feeder conveyor with a belt helps reduce the amount of fibre that winds on the feeder shaft. Exterior rotating shafts and pulleys that may come in contact with stalks should be protected when harvesting taller varieties.

Proper setting of the combine improves the yield and quality of the grain and reduces wear on the combine. Experiment with ground speed, concave openings, air and cylinder speeds. For conventional combines use the following:

  • 250rpm Cylinder speed
  • 1070rpm Fan speed
  • ⅛” sieve
  • ⅜” chaffer
  • Concave set tight

Run feeder housing chain loose in the corn position and close the pre-cleaner. Lower the beater gate, remove the curtains and install a speed-up kit for the beaters. Individual combine operators might find different settings work for their machines. Rotary combines seem to be less satisfactory for harvesting hemp grain because of tendency to plug more readily.

Some “volunteer” hemp (also called “Ditch Weed”) will likely appear in the fall or spring following the iHemp crop. These plants are illegal and must be destroyed before being discovered by local drug enforcement authorities. Thorough cultivation or seedbed preparation is effective.

Battle to keep development away from Wonderful Barn

But supporters of council plans say the bizarre building, with its spiral outer staircase reminiscent of a fairground helter skelter, will be given a new lease of life as a trade-off for the development of 430 houses nearby.

The dispute over the building and surrounding lands zoned for residential use has rumbled on for years.

Both sides agree the Wonderful Barn is an extraordinary structure.

The cone-shaped building with its highly complex snail shell interior has fascinated connoisseurs of 18th-century European architecture and is a landmark for motoristsusing the N4 primary route west.

It was conceived as a famine relief project by Laura, widow of the Speaker Connolly, and its main role was as a grain store.

However, a pigeon house is incorporated in the building. As James Howley points out in his book The Folies and Garden Buildings of Ireland, the principle was that the birds would consume any spilled grain, which would then be indirectly recovered as pigeon meat.

In his letter to Kildare County Council, Desmond Guinness says the land surrounding the Wonderful Barn should be kept free ofhousing.

“Elton Court [an existing housing estate] is fortunately well screened from the barn but encroachment by new housing on the fields around it would be disastrous.

“No amount of botanical names for the trees, or new-speak such as ‘the council promotes an improved awareness of sunlight’, can alter the one plain truth that housing is already uncomfortably close to the barn,” Mr Guiness wrote.

The lands are owned by Bayzana Limited. Its directors are listed at the Companies Office as Lebhras O’Corrigain of Garroustown, Termonfeckin, Drogheda; Patrick Conlon of Tully Road, Kildare Town; and Peter Brill of 22 Ailesbury Lawn, Dundrum, Dublin. A company spokesman was unavailable forcomment.

The plan is to hand over the barn and lands in exchange for a parcel of nearby land for housing.

Kildare County Council wants to restore the barn, completed in 1743 and now in disrepair. There are plans for extensive landscaping, a park, a playground and various other amenities that would give the public access to the barn for the first time.

Councillor Catherine Murphy (Labour) said the council had tried to protect the barn while meeting its responsibilities to allow sensitive development around it.

“The land that it is proposed to put houses on is zoned residential and it has been since 2001. So it isn’t a question that the council has an entitlement to refuse planning for houses if it is a reasonable plan.

“That is why we are doing the area action plan for the Wonderful Barn and the surrounding area – to make sure it is as sensitive as it can be,” she said.

“I know that all of us would like to see everything being preserved, but I think when you are in an area like this you have to try and strike abalance.

“What we have tried to do is keep a sufficient amount of land around the barn to keep it in a reasonable setting, and to have the money to make sure it stays in goodcondition.”

Desmond Guinness disagrees. He says a huge estate of 430 new houses could attract 800 cars to the area and 2,000 residents.

“Castletown nearby already suffers from rubbish dumping, burnt-out cars, drinking parties with cans and bottles left behind and trees being destroyed by fires lit in their roots,” Mr Guinness said.

He also referred to a letter from Gabriel Gleeson of the Historic Properties Division, Office of Public Works (OPW), who wrote in 1994: “I wish to confirm that we share your concern on this issue and consider that housing in the immediate area of the Wonderful Barn would be entirely inappropriate.”

Duck Hunting Tips: 6 Old Tricks that Still Work

Waterfowlers have proven to be some of the most resourceful of all sportsmen throughout history, with their combined approach of calling, decoying, and plain old woodsmanship. Here are six old-school tips worth remembering as you prepare to hit the water for ducks and geese this fall.

Add motion – Before motion decoys, hunters used jerk strings and pumped their legs in the water to send ripples through their spread. Another great trick is to mount an electric trolling motor to your blind or on a wood frame painted to blend in, set it near your spread, and let the propeller run just below the surface. The motion will provide silent but continuous motion to your decoys and keep water from freezing, too.

Fake a water hole – Virginia water fowler Kurt Derwort can be found most days of the season hunting geese on the state’s famed Eastern Shore, where on frozen mornings old-timers used to use large sheets of plastic-cut in irregular shapes—to mimic a shallow depression of water in a field. To make the trick work for ducks or geese, Derwort says to find a depression, remove any big stalks and weeds, lay the plastic down, and put the weeds and a few decoys around the edge. Sprinkle the plastic with water to give it more reflection and shine. From the air, it will look like open water when everything else is frozen.

Muddy the waters – Ducks feeding in the shallows upset the bottom and make the water muddy. Clear water will look unnatural to ducks pulling a fly-by, so stir the muck up in your spread by stomping through it and grinding your feet around during slow, flightless periods. Skim the submerged soil with a paddle, or if you’re on an ATV, drive it in figure eights to stir up silt, which will linger for at least a half hour.

Multiply with mud hens – Another old trick is to hunt a marsh at low tide and flip a shovelful of mud onto an existing mud mound or in a very shallow spot to make it look like a duck floating among a scattering of real decoys. Derwort says mud hens or mud ducks are a cheap way to make it look like there are more bodies in your spread than you’ve actually put out.

Ratchet it up – One of the best pieces of water fowling gear to carry along with your calls and shells is a pair of ratchet cutters. Whether your blind needs a quick spruce up just before legal shooting light or the ducks prefer landing in another part of the lake and a move is in order, cutters allow you to quickly and quietly snip limbs up to a half inch thick that can be used to brush-in a favored spot or set up an impromptu blind along an open bank where the ducks are waiting to land.

Look lazy – On warm, still, or cloudy days when ducks can see every detail and flights are few and far between, add a few sleeper decoys to your mix, as well as field decoys lined up on a log. Real ducks tend to loaf like this on such days, and adding these dekes to your mix will make your spread appear far more realistic. A cordless drill enables a quick and easy setup. Just drill a few holes in an existing log and insert your decoy stakes into the holes. Sleeper decoys will also help add to the realism of your goose spread—and can be effective straight through the tail end of the season once ice becomes a factor. A spread of standing, floater, and sleeper decoys can be just the ticket to fool late-season birds that have been shot at for weeks on their way down the flyway.

Sheep Raising and Management Tips

Robin Rye’s article on sheep raising in the September/October 1974 issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS was basically good, but we feel that a few points should be emphasized for good sheep management. Our advice is based on personal experience with caring for both commercial and purebred farm flocks in Minnesota, Wisconsin and California.

First, when you start your small homestead flock, we suggest that you buy a purebred (but not necessarily registered) meat-type ram: blackfaced Suffolk, Hampshire or Shropshire, but choose wool-type ewes of whatever whitefaced breed is most suited to your climate. That way you’ll get lots of wool for sale or hand spinning, yet meaty lambs for the table.

Although it may seem more natural to let your ram run with the flock all year — as Ms. Rye recommends — we don’t encourage you to do so, for two reasons. First, he can hurt both the pregnant ewes and newborn lambs. We’ve seen males butting females and their young, and even trying to mount ewes directly after lambing. Why take the chance?

Perhaps the main reason for separating your ram from the rest of the flock, however, is so that you’ll know when the offspring are due and be able to prepare for the event. (Some ewes can come in heat all year round, and it’s the presence of the ram that triggers ovulation.) A ewe will give birth about 147 days after she’s bred, so turn the male in with the flock about five months before you want your lambs born. The ideal time of year depends on your climate. In the Midwest we loosed our ram at Thanksgiving, but here in California we do so in mid-August.

We would also like to share our experience in feeding pregnant ewes. Remember also that by controlling the time of breeding and lambing you can feed your sheep more economically. For the best use of fodder, flush the ewes (feed them extra grain or hay) 17 days before and 17 days after you turn your ram in with them. This will increase your twinning rate. Throughout pregnancy, the sheep need only good pasture or alfalfa hay.

Give the ewes grain again just before lambing and make sure they have adequate alfalfa or forage until the young are weaned. Between that time and their next breeding the animals need not be fed much. They can lose weight during this period and stay perfectly healthy, since the nonpregnant, non-lactating female has a much lower nutritional requirement. Most small pet flocks are overfed, which is bad for them and makes breeding difficult.

Although Ms. Rye objects to the docking of sheep, we feel it’s important. If you’ve ever seen a young animal with its rear end eaten raw by maggots — and this condition can kill a lamb — you’ll agree with us. It’s easier to keep the rump clean when the tail has been docked, and the operation, properly done, is safe, painless and bloodless.

How to Raise Sheep

So, you’re thinking about raising sheep. It can be fun and rewarding. Sheep are docile, gentle animals and they are multipurpose, providing meat and wool, and even milk. There are some basics to master before you get your first flock, so read on.
Lambs and sheep in a pen - Mint Images - Henry Arden/Mint Images RF/Getty Images
Mint Images – Henry Arden/Mint Images RF/Getty Images

Why Raise Sheep?

People have raised sheep for milk, meat and wool for thousands of years. Sheep have some advantages over other types of livestock: they’re relatively small and easy to handle, compared with cows and pigs. They don’t need a lot of space. They don’t need perfect pasture, and they eat brush, grasses and weeds that grow in poor soil.

Sheep manure will fertilize the soil. They are gentle and docile (although rams can be aggressive at times) and they are trainable (you can teach them to come when called, to follow you, and to stand).

They don’t need much space, either: even one acre can support a small flock – three or four ewes and their lambs.

Choosing a Breed

The first thing you need to decide is the purpose for which you want the sheep. Are you raising them for meat or wool (or just as pet lawnmowers)? Or are you taking the less common route and raising them for milk? The reason milking sheep is not common is that sheep don’t yield nearly as much milk as cows or goats.

You will need to consider your climate, so ask around locally as to what breeds are being raised by other farmers.

There are hundreds of breeds of sheep, but some of the most popular are listed here.

Dual-purpose (meat and wool):

  • Corriedale
  • Dorset
  • Polypay
  • Tunis
  • Columbia


  • Hampshire
  • Katahdin
  • Romney
  • Suffolk

Buying Sheep

Make sure that you purchase sheep directly from the person who raised them. Look at the flock the sheep comes from. Talk with the farmer about the sheep’s history.

Check the sheep’s physical condition: eyes should be clear and bright; teeth should not be worn or missing. The lower jaw must not be undershot or overshot. Check the head and neck for lumps or swelling, which may mean an untreated worm infestation or abscess. The sheep’s hooves should be trimmed properly and the sheep should not be limping (make sure other sheep in the flock are not limping either, because this may mean they have foot rot, which can infect your sheep).

The sheep should have a wide back and deep body and not be too thin or too fat. Potbellies indicate worm infestation. If buying an adult ewe, make sure the udders are healthy and not lumpy (which can indicate mastitis and can damage her milk production for future lambs).

Care and Feeding of Sheep

You can use a characteristic of sheep to your advantage. They love grain, peanuts and apples. Be careful not to make sheep think you are chasing them. They have only one defense against predators or danger: to bunch together and run to escape. So you must learn how to get the sheep to come to you, because if you try to drive them into, say, a barn or other enclosure, they will feel trapped and avoid going in. Lure them in with their favorite treats, coaxing them to follow you.

Sheep are ruminants, meaning they eat plants like fresh grass and hay. Their main feed is pasture grasses, salt, a vitamin and mineral supplement, and fresh water. While the pasture grass is growing, they can feed themselves. If there is a drought, or in winter, you will need to supplement their diet with hay and/or grain. Use a feeder rather than putting the hay on the ground where it will get wet and dirty.

Sheep need salt – it can be granulated or loose. Never use a salt block.

Fencing and Shelter for Sheep

The best type of fence for sheep is a smooth-wire electric or woven wire fencing (not electric). You can also use electric net fencing for temporary paddocks. Rotating sheep into different paddocks keeps them on fresh pasture.

Sheep don’t need much protection – they prefer to have a simple, south-facing, three-sided shed to protect them from the worst of the rain, cold, snow and wind. Using a light, portable shed allows you to move it to their current paddock. Its size should be 15 to 20 square feet per adult sheep.

Tips for Cow Rearing

Cow Rearing
Livestock and cow rearing are closely related each other for improvement and development of agricultural sector. It is said that marital development of a nation depends on how much milk they can take. Today Agriculture has developed in those places of the world where milk production and their uses have been established as industry. In our country, cow rearing is being established almost as an industry. There are five types of improved cow breed. These are Holstein Friesian, Jersey, Sahiwal, Shindhi, Red Chittagong etc. The production efficiency of these breeds is almost good and their production efficiency will be increased if they are reared and bred in a scientific method.
Housing for Cow
Housing of cow is called cow barn. In our country, cow is reared by keeping in cow barn. Cow barn should be built up on high and dry place so that faces can properly be cleaned out and the barn become dry. Cow barn should be built up in such a way that lighting and proper ventilation will be available and rain water, temperature, humidity etc. can be controlled. Cow barn must be the safe shelter for cow. Cow barn should be larger in size. In every cow barn, feed and separately water should be managed.
Caring for Cow
The objective of caring for cows is to keep them for more efficient. During pregnancy, parturition and milking, care should be given with special importance. Special emphasis should be given on regular washing, dehorning, hoof trimming of cows etc. This caring keeps the cow healthy and affects the production performance. During pregnancy, special care should be taken because the calf is growing inside the body of cow. In this time, cow should be provided sufficient amount of concentrates. Before and during of parturition, care should be provided to cows by keeping them in separate place. Cows are kept in a flat area. During pregnancy and parturition, proper care should be provided to cow. Fetus may be damaged if careless during pregnancy. Moreover, cow may lose the breeding and pregnancy ability. Cow should be observed for 2-3 hours in a quiet environment during showing symptoms of parturition. If the parturition is not going smoothly, it is worth calling a veterinary doctor. Colostrums must be provided to calf for increasing disease prevention ability and helping the calf growing properly. Cow gives colostrums for 5-7 days and after that gives milk. During milking, keep the cows free from any excitement and milking should be performed quickly. Another objective of cow rearing is to keep cow free from any insects and flies.
Feeding of Cow
Quality feed is necessary for cow’s body growth, development and repairing of cells and tissues, heat and energy production, fat storage, milk and meat production, achieving breeding ability, fetal development during pregnancy, etc. Special importance should be given on adequacy of carbohydrate, protein and fat during feed supply, because all kinds of feed nutrient are very important for cow’s body growth. To meet up the animals’ requirement, all kinds of nutrients have to be available in mixed feed with sufficient quantity and properly balanced. So, balanced feed is required for cow for their complete development and production. Generally, cow’s feed can be classified in to three groups, such as Roughages, concentrates and feed additives. Roughage includes mainly straw, green grass, tree leaves, hay, silage etc. Concentrate includes mainly cereal grains, wheat bran, rice polish, oil cake etc. Besides, bone meal, various vitamins –mineral premix is included in vitamin and mineral. The feeds have to be collected according to requirement and supplied to the cow. The amount of feed required to supply cow can be calculated by Thumb-rule method. Such as-
  1. Daily straw and green grass has to be provided to cow that how much it can intake a day.
  2. 1.5 kg concentrates have to be provided to cow for its body maintenance and 0.5 kg concentrates have to be provided along with straw and green grass daily for 1.0 liter milk production.
  3. 40-50g bone meal and 100-120g common salt will need to be provided.
  4. Moreover, clean, organism free feed and drinking water has to be provided to dairy cow.
Hygienic Rearing of Cows and Disease Prevention:
Hygienic rearing may be defined as the hygienic means which have been followed for livestock production. This are-
  1. To facilitate lighting and ventilation during house making and protect disaster.
  2. To keep feeder and drinker neat and clean.
  3. To avoid rotten, stale and dirty feed and water.
  4. To provide always fresh feed and water.
  5. To follow the microorganisms free method during breeding and parturition.
  6. To drain out faces and urine quickly.
  7. To separate sick cow and dispose dead cow.
  8. To follow deworming practice regularly.
  9. To apply vaccination program against the infectious disease etc.
Regular Observation of Cow and Treatment:
Sick animal can be identified by regular observation. Regular vaccination program is applied to cows for preventing different diseases. Cow may be affected by black quarter, anthrax, foot and mouth disease, goiter, rinderpest, mastitis, parasites etc. It is wise to take advice from a Veterinary doctor if any disease outbreaks.

Tips for Managing Dairy Cows in Cold Weather

Winter can be a rough time for the milking herd. There can be freezing rain, snow, wind chill, very cold temperatures, warm ups, then cold temperatures again. All of these conditions can take a toll on the dairy cow and milk production.

However, dairy cows will do quite well in cold temperatures if they are dry, protected from wind, and properly fed and watered. According to Neil Broadwater, Regional Extension Educator for Livestock, here are some reminders for dairy producers in taking care of their milking herd during very cold weather:

  • Water. Dairy cows need water, or they won’t eat, which will affect the cow’s health and milk production. Be sure waterers or water tanks are not frozen. Cows can draw water at a rate of 3 to 5 gallons per minute, so the water supply and system needs to keep up with demand. Don’t allow the water to get too hot or cold. The best temperature for drinkable water is between 40 degrees and 65 degrees F.

Use a thermometer to check waterers with heaters to detect whether or not a heating element is working properly. Even a small limitation in water intake will decrease dry matter intake by 1-2 pounds daily which could limit peak milk production by 2-5 pounds. Lactating dairy cows require 4.5-5 pounds of water (includes both drinking water and moisture in the consumed ration) per pound of milk produced.

  • Feed. A dairy cow’s need for nutrients goes up as the temperature drops and winter winds increase. Watch body condition. Cows in less than moderate condition will find it much harder to stay warm. Their energy requirements will be higher. Under diverse environmental conditions, it is critical that dietary energy be adjusted. Producers should ask their feed consultant to calculate a “standby” ration for the dairy herd that can be mixed and fed during those extremely cold weather days. Keep on hand in a convenient location for easy reference for those days when this ration is needed.
  • Managing Wind Chill. Wind speeds of 5 mph or less or temperatures as low as -20 degrees F can be tolerated. On the other hand, with extremely high winds (35 mph) and temperatures as high as 15 degrees F, wind chill could be a problem.

Therefore, any time cows exit a parlor into wind chill conditions of -25 degrees F or lower, preventive steps need to be taken to prevent frostbite even when the teat is dry. Protection from winds around parlor exits and feed bunks located outside buildings should be provided.

  • Free-Stall Ventilation. Do not close eave inlets during cold weather. This will restrict the ventilating rate and create wet, damp conditions and lead to respiratory health problems in the cows. Wet, damp conditions will be evidenced by fog, condensation or frost on building surfaces, and high humidity. During severe cold weather and blizzard conditions, eave inlets can be partially closed to reduce airflow and the amount of snow blowing into the barn. The guideline is to have a minimum inlet opening during severe cold weather of one-half inch for each 10 ft of building width. When normal winter weather returns, eave inlets should be reopened to the standard one inch per 10 feet on both sides of the building.
  • Stall Barn Ventilation. Proper maintenance of barn wall fans is important for good ventilation. Keep all fans, shutters, and other equipment clean and properly lubricated. Adjust and replace belts as required. Even during the coldest of temperatures, for stall barn ventilation to work properly, fresh air inlets must still allow air into the barn to replace “old” air being removed. Extension Ag. Engineers recommend four air exchanges per hour for enclosed environments during the winter.
  • Prevent Drafts. Cows need a dry, draft-free resting area. Check for drafts near doors, windows, and haymow openings if housing the herd in a stall barn. In free-stall barns, drafty conditions at cow level can be reduced by patching curtain holes, minimizing gaps at the ends of curtains, and sealing around doors to eliminate small gaps where the wind blows through.
  • Teat Dip during cold weather? Research shows that consistent use of an effective teat dip is a very important mastitis control procedure. Having dry teats when the cow leaves the parlor is extremely important during cold weather. Omitting teat dipping does not assure that teats are dry.

Dairy scientists suggest that in severe cold, even the thin milk film should be dried before the cow is turned out of the parlor. Instead of not teat dipping, teat dip using a 30-second contact time and then wipe teats dry. This procedure does add a few additional seconds per cow during each milking. However, the benefits of teat dipping in the reduction of intramammary infection can continue to be realized.

Teat irritations, such as chapping or cracking of the teat skin can inhibit milk let-down which, in turn, reduces milk production and can cause an increase in mastitis. Teat dip before and after milking with a dip that disinfects and conditions skin.

Use germicidal dips that contain from 5 to 12 percent skin conditioners or the skin-conditioning equivalent. Teat washing with water in cold weather should be avoided because it removes the skin’s natural oils and washing and drying can be abrasive.

If a dairyman desires to not teat dip, then it is even more important to pay extra attention to bedding, housing cleanliness and thorough drying of teats.

  • Bedding. Ample amounts of bedding material should be placed in free-stalls. It is important to have good, dry bedding. Cows who are kept dry have a better chance of staying comfortable than those who stay wet during cold spells.
  • Semen. Cold weather increases the danger of cold shocking of semen. Cold shock causes loss of motility, sperm metabolic activity and fertilizing ability of sperm. Cold shock occurs when semen is thawed and then subjected to cool or cold environmental temperatures before reaching the cow.

Inseminate the cow within minutes after semen has been thawed. The period of time between straw removal from liquid nitrogen and semen deposition in the cow should be as short as possible. If at all possible semen should be thawed and handled in a warm room or at least inside out of cold or subfreezing weather.

Six Tips for Safely Handling Raw Milk

1. Clean it- Before sitting down on my stool to milk, I wipe off Miss Oakley’s udder with a hot, wet towel. She likes to lay in the mud, so sometimes it takes a bit of elbow grease to get her teats clean and pink again. Some folks use bleach to wash their cow’s udder, but I can’t stand that stuff, so hot water is good enough for me.

raw milk safety

After washing her down, I spray the first 2-3 squirts of milk from each teat onto the ground (Some folks prefer to spray it into a small cup). The reason for this is to flush out any bacteria or dirt that may be in the tip of the teat.

2. Contain it- Next, I grab my stainless steel milk bucket. The type of container you use to store your raw milk is very important. Plastic is a big no-no for me, since it’s very difficult to properly clean, AND it tends to hold onto off-smells and tastes. You don’t want to bring a glass container out into the barn, since it will shatter the first time your cow (or goat) gets fidgety.

Stainless steel buckets can be a little spendy, but trust me, they are worth the investment. They are easy to sanitize, and will survive lots of kicks from a persnickety cow. And make sure you get one with a lid– my lid has saved my milk many times from curious dogs/cats, and dust/dirt/poop/hay that is perpetually floating in barn air.

3. Strain it- It’s never fun to take a big gulp of fresh milk and end up with a hair in your mouth, so always strain your fresh milk ASAP. Floaties WILL happen, no matter how hard to try to prevent it while you are milking…

How big of a floatie is too big? There are some days when it’s just better to throw in the towel and donate your milk to the chickens or pigs… I’m usually fine with a couple bits of hay or a random hair, but if you get a big clod of manure floating in your bucket, it’s best to just skip bringing it into the house that day… Bonus: your chickens will love you forever.

4. Cool it– It’s important to get your fresh milk as cold as you can as fast as possible (40 degrees F is ideal). Some folks put a small, reusable ice pack in the bottom of their bucket to cool it as it comes out of the cow or goat. I personally haven’t found that to be necessary, but I do bring my bucket inside right away and get it strained, and into the fridge.

Rapid cooling of the milk prevents the bacteria count from rising, and it keeps the milk tasting better, longer. However, keep in mind that once raw milk has naturally soured, it’s still good and can be used for lots of other stuff.

5. Store it- Only store your milk in glass containers- never plastic. I get my one-gallon jars from Azure Standard (or save big pickle jars- just be sure to wash them thoroughly.)

Place your jars of raw milk towards the back of the refrigerator (avoid the door, since that area tends to be warmer.) If you have home dairy animals, you’ll find that your raw milk jars fill up your fridge rather quickly. So, you might want to keep your eyes open for small, dorm-size fridges at yard sales.

6. Sanitize it– Cleaning your home dairy equipment thoroughly is a MUST. After I pour my milk into the jars, I immediately run cool (not hot) water over my bucket and filter to wash off the milk solids which can cause build-up if allowed to dry.

I don’t use bleach to wash my equipment (have I mentioned that I hate bleach?), but I do like to run everything through my dishwasher which sanitizes the equipment. If you don’t have a dishwasher, you may hand wash it with a bit of soap and very hot water.

Allow each piece of equipment to air-dry. Don’t dry anything off with a towel, as this can transfer any bacteria that might be hanging out on your dish towel onto your milking equipment. Make sure everything is completely dry before replacing lids.

So, there you have it. My routine is nothing fancy, but it has ensured that our milk has stayed great-tasting so far.