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March is Frost Seeding Time!

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

February 16, 2016
March is Frost Seeding Time!

With the snow falling today (2/16/16), it's hard to imagine that frost seeding time is right around the corner. March is usually a great time to add some legumes into your pastures or hayfields. It is a way to improve pastures without losing a production year. Added legumes will boost production and fill in thin patches or bare spots; they will provide needed nitrogen to the grasses already growing, and provide protein for the livestock. Little or no tillage is involved which reduces the potential for soil erosion. Hopefully, you did your homework last fall by checking the forage quantity, types and groundcover. If not, take a walk after the snow melts!

Frost seeding is the same as any other type of seeding or planting, seed-to-soil contact is critical. What works with this technique is the freeze-thaw process in late winter/early spring. As the days get above freezing and nights are below freezing, this action works the seeds down into the soil in preparation for germination. Spreading seed on frozen ground reduces the potential to rut up the pasture. This can be done early morning or late in the day.

Legumes work best for frost seeding due to the shape of their seeds. Success will vary farm to farm, but clovers will establish better, specifically red clovers. They are shorter-lived in a pasture; a way to offset that would be to frost seed red clover with slower-establishing birdsfoot trefoil. By the time the clover dies out, the trefoil will be growing well. Another way would be to routinely frost seed half of your pastures every year. It can be an inexpensive improvement. Alfalfa can be frost seeded, but don't try to seed into a field with alfalfa (even a thin stand) growing. The existing plants have an allelopathic (toxic effect) on alfalfa seedlings; they won't let them grow and become established. Suggested rates are below. The price of seed is relatively low, so don't skimp.
Red Clover - 6 to 10
Ladino Clover - 2 to 4
Birdsfoot Trefoil - 5 to 8
Alfalfa - 6 to 10

Frost seeding grasses may have limited results, but is more successful with bunch type grasses like orchardgrass. Try seeding some on a small scale. If the pasture is tall or matted, your success with grasses or legumes may be limited. An option to try is to broadcast the seed and let livestock in - carefully - for a flash or quick grazing. Between their minor munching and hoof action, the seed will have a better chance of reaching the soil. Also, a light disking or harrowing could scratch the ground enough to let the seed get down the soil to grow. You may need to frost seed grasses and legumes separately due to the seeds different shape.

Equipment for frost seeding can be as little or as big as needed. The size of the pasture or field will dictate what's needed, unless you have time to walk a large field with a small cyclone spreader. A broadcaster can be mounted on the back of an ATV or small tractor.
Fertilization will help seedlings get established as well as existing grasses. Wait until late summer if a soil test shows phosphorous or potassium is needed.

Sometimes overgrazing or continuously grazing will leave bare or thin spots, or kill the existing legumes. Frost seedings can be done to improve the stand, but this will only be a short term fix. Rotationally grazing is the best way to improve a stand for the long term. Frost seeding will return legumes to the pastures; dividing the pasture into at least four paddocks will provide forages time to rest and regrow through the growing season. Grazing needs to be carefully managed early season to prevent damage to the tender seedlings, yet allow light to reach them.

Who can predict what this spring will be like? Dry spring conditions will discourage seed germination. Unfortunately, there is no way to control this. With the seed in place, there is a chance that it will germinate and grow when sufficient moisture is there. 











calendar of events

Upcoming Events

Beginning Farmer/Hobby Farmer Workshop $5/pp, class size is limited, so pre-register by April 15th!

April 27, 2019
9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Canandaigua, NY

This hands-on workshop is for beginning or part-time farmers who would like to improve their farm machinery skills, learn to properly and safely maintain their equipment to protect their investment. If you have been thinking about buying a tractor, new or used, two-wheel or four-wheel drive, compact or utility or more come join us. Topics include: selecting the right size/type tractor for the job; basic maintenance; staying safe around tractors and equipment; attaching implements properly; and information about ROPS and SMV's. There will be time for questions.

Pre-registration requested by April 15, 2019 email Amy with your name, address, and phone number or call 585-394-3977 x 429.
Fee: $5.00/person. Class size is limited.

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2019 Pastured Poultry Seminar, lunch included so please register by May 10th! $25/person

May 18, 2019
Registration begins at 8:00 a.m.w/ coffee & donuts with the Program running from 9:00 a.m. - 5 p. m.
Attica, NY

The main speaker this year is Eli Reiff of Mifflinburg Pennsylvania. Eli raises broilers, turkeys, sheep, and beef, all on pasture. Topics to be covered will include the pasture, feed and nutrition, marketing, costs, and much more. As we grow as farm operators and get bigger, we may not pay as much attention to the basics as we should. So those areas are where we will start, and then expand to cover the group's interests.

Mike Badger, Director of the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association will also be available for a round-table discussion. Plans are to have representatives from Farm Bureau, NYCAMH for farm health and safety, Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce, and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wyoming County, as well as others.

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Calling all 9th-12th graders! 4th Annual Precision Agriculture Day at Genesee Community College

May 21, 2019
9:00 am - 1:30 pm Register by Friday May 10th! $15/per person includes lunch
Batavia, NY

Calling all 9th-12th graders!  We have an exciting new program for students interested in technology, science, engineering, and agriculture!
Would you like to:
  • Learn about how Drones collect information
  • Check out some potential career opportunities that have new and ever-changing technology
  • Learn how these technologies can be used in our own backyards in WNY
  • Discover potential and exciting career opportunities

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Producers Previously Enrolled in the LGM Program Now Eligible for MPP

Dairy Producers Previously Enrolled in the Livestock Gross Margin Program Now Eligible for 2018 Margin Protection Program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced that dairy producers who elected to participate in the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy Cattle Program (LGM-Dairy) now have the opportunity to participate in the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy) for 2018 coverage. Sign-up will take place March 25 through May 10, 2019.
Eligible producers can enroll during the sign-up period at their local USDA service center. To locate your office, visit

Smart Farming Team Technical Assistance Grant Application

The Labor Ready Farmer Project is offering grants to provide up to 12 hours of Technical Assistance (TA) consulting services to farms who want to make improvements to their farm's processes in hiring, training, managing or evaluating employees. Applicants will choose from one of the following four areas for TA assistance and identify a specific project. If selected they will be matched with a "Smart Farming Team" of consultants who will provide one on one technical assistance.
Please complete this application and send to Nicole Waters, Beginning Farm Project Coordinator for the Cornell Small Farms Program. The form can be submitted by email, mail or in-person at the address listed below. Please feel free to call or email with any questions.

Nicole Waters - Beginning Farmer Project Coordinator
Plant Science Building, Room 15b
Tower Road, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
Phone: 607-255-9911

Applications accepted on a rolling basis.

USDA Announces January Income over Feed Cost Margin Triggers First 2019 Dairy Sa

WASHINGTON, March 6, 2019 ? The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced this week that the January 2019 income over feed cost margin was $7.99 per hundredweight, triggering the first payment for eligible dairy producers who purchase the appropriate level of coverage under the new but yet-to-be established Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program.

DMC, which replaces the Margin Protection Program for Dairy, is a voluntary risk management program for dairy producers that was authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill. DMC offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced last week that sign up for 
DMC will open by mid-June of this year. At the time of sign up, producers who elect a DMC coverage level between $8.00 and $9.50 would be eligible for a payment for January 2019.

For example, a dairy operation with an established production history of 3 million pounds (30,000 cwt.) that elects the $9.50 coverage level for 50 percent of its production could potentially be eligible to receive $1,887.50 for January.

Sample calculation:
$9.50 - $7.99 margin = $1.51 difference
$1.51 times 50 percent of production times 2,500 cwt. (30,000 cwt./12) = $1,887.50

The calculated annual premium for coverage at $9.50 on 50 percent of a 3-million-pound production history for this example would be $2,250.

Sample calculation:
3,000,000 times 50 percent = 1,500,000/100 = 15,000 cwt. times 0.150 premium fee = $2,250

Operations making a one-time election to participate in DMC through 2023 are eligible to receive a 25 percent discount on their premium for the existing margin coverage rates.

"Congress created the Dairy Margin Coverage program to provide an important financial safety net for dairy producers, helping them weather shifting milk and feed prices," FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce said. "This program builds on the previous Margin Protection Program for Dairy, carrying forward many of the program upgrades made last year based on feedback from producers. We're working diligently to implement the DMC program and other FSA programs authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill."

Additional details about DMC and other FSA farm bill program changes can be found at

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.|1