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Sandhills Calving System - Not Just for Beef

Nancy Glazier, Small Farms & Livestock
Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops

June 27, 2013

The snow pack is still plenty deep in the pastures, but it's not too early to think about calving, or kidding or lambing. If you have livestock birthing on pastures, think about the Sandhills System. I have a new appreciation for this system after visiting the Sand Hills (both names are used) last fall on the beef tour with Mike Baker, Cornell University beef cattle extension specialist. That part of Nebraska is expansive with rolling hills. There are ample acres to implement this system with low stocking density due to lower yielding land. And the hills are certainly sandy; the tour bus actually got stuck.

The Sandhills calving system separates cow/calf pairs from the rest of the herd. Dr. David Smith, veterinarian, University of Nebraska at Lincoln has done has done research on this. He states the primary reason is to keep the newborns away from the disease-carrying older animals to reduce the risk of scours (diarrhea). This also reduces the pathogen load with fewer animals in the paddock. Scours causes the biggest death loss of calves; they are the most susceptible for the first 2-3 weeks, and then the risk tapers off.

Here are the principles: Pregnant cows are grouped together. After one to two weeks of calving, the pairs stay in the first paddock with the remaining cows moved to a new paddock. After the next week, any cows still pregnant move to another paddock with pairs remaining. This continues on until all calves are born. After the youngest calves are 4 weeks old, the pairs can be recombined into one group.

Our pasture land is not as vast, but the principles of the calving system can be utilized here. Birthing outside in the right location may be healthier than inside a barn. The system requires additional management; paddocks need to be sized to carry the pairs for the expected residency (time period). If pastures are not growing, that means hay needs to be fed. If they are growing that means estimating the forage available for the time period for the number of livestock. Birthing season may be like a lopsided bell curve with a few early births, followed by the majority of the herd, then stragglers. Ideally, fall would be the best time to start planning for this method and leave the pasture area taller at the end of the grazing season for groundcover and possibly feed. The same birthing practices are still needed for healthy newborns.

Prevention is best approach. Vaccinate routinely and maintain adequate nutrition. If you're not ready to attempt this with the whole herd, maybe try this with the heifers. They may have lower antibody levels and poor maternal skills.

If you have questions on this, let me know. I know a producer that utilizes this for his heifers, maybe you could visit his system!


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Upcoming Events

Weed Resistance Management Demonstration and Plot Tour

Event Offers DEC Credits

July 23, 2019
1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Waterloo, NY

Come join us on July 23 in Seneca County at Quinten Good's farm for a demonstration and walking tour of 16 different pre- and post-emergence treatments in soybean and 12 different treatments and combinations in corn.
  • Tall waterhemp and marestail are two weeds that are resistant to glyphosate and ALS herbicide modes of action in the WNY and Finger Lakes regions.
  • Each year the number of acres with resistant weed populations expands.
  • For herbicides to be an effective tool in weed management, we have to know what chemistries & application timings are most effective against these resistant weeds.

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Income and Real Property Tax Primer-A Learning Circle for Women Non-Operating Land Owners of Ag Land

July 24, 2019
9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Portageville, NY

For many of us taxes can be a mystery, let's have a conversation with the experts about the tax considerations agricultural landowners need to think about. 
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Pasture Walk with the Finger Lakes Graziers-Cancelled!

July 29, 2019
12:45 - 4 pm

The Finger Lakes Graziers pasture walk has been cancelled due to some scheduling conflicts. 
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Announcements

RMA Announces Additional One-time Changes to Prevented Planting Provisions

June 29, 2019

RMA Announces Additional One-time Changes to Prevented Planting Provisions
for 2019 Crop Year

In response to delayed and prevented planting resulting from above average rainfall and wetness, the USDA Risk Management Agency has made a one-time change to the 2019 crop year prevented planting rules that effectively allows silage corn, if planted as a cover crop following local agricultural expert guidelines, to be acceptable as a post-prevented planting cover crop. Under this one-time rule change, producers are allowed to produce this crop while retaining their prevented planting payment. This change couples with previously announced one-time changes to the prevented planting rules - including expanded acceptable uses for post-prevented planting cover crops and a change in the cover crop haying and grazing start date rule - serve to help those struggling to meet their forage needs due to the weather.

Read the full article from the New York Crop Insurance Education Program.

The USDA-RMA states that "For crop insurance purposes, a cover crop is a crop generally recognized by agricultural experts as agronomically sound for the area for erosion control or other purposes related to conservation or soil improvement." PRO-DAIRY specialists Joe Lawrence and Karl Czymmek and Dr. Quirine Ketterings, Professor and Director of Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program have released a letter stating "Corn on Prevented Planting acres meets these objectives."


New Guidance for Mortality Disposal Issued

NYS Department of Ag and Markets has posted guidelines on disposal of livestock carcasses, in response to reports that some rendering companies have halted pickups from farms.

https://nwnyteam.cce.cornell.edu/submission.php?id=761&crumb=dairy|1

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