Controlling Bird Damage in Corn Fields

Crows, geese and other bird pests are a perennial problems for Delaware County corn growers.  Gravely soils near bird roosting and nesting areas are particularly vulnerable.  Cornell Cooperative Extension has been demonstrating the use of Avipel Shield bird repellent seed treatment to limit the damage birds cause to emerging corn.

Birds attack corn stands soon after the plants emerge by pulling the small plants to get at the corn seed still attached to the developing root system.  Planting corn more deeply (2 1/2 inches vs 1 1/2 inches) can help deter pulling, but achieving a uniform seeding depth in more gravely soils is not always possible.  Avipel treatment coats each kernel with a protective coating that causes birds immediate, yet temporary, digestive distress.  After attempting to eat newly planted seed, birds quickly look elsewhere, leaving newly planted fields

unharmed.  Avipel Shield’s active ingredient is an organic chemical found in a number of plant species, including aloe vera and rhubarb. While being a particularly effective agent for repelling birds, it is non-lethal to them.

Field scale demonstrations in Delaware County have shown sections of  corn fields planted with seed treated with the bird repellent had  more than 2500 more plants per acre greater than sections planted with untreated seed.

Demonstration Trials in Delaware County and across New York State will be continuing in the 2018 season.  (Thanks to NY Farm Viability Institute and New York Corn Growers for funding this project)

For more information email Dale Dewing [email protected]

Scissor Cut Results 5/10/18

Welcome to the first Forage Quality Scissors Cut report for 2018. This year we are sampling 41 sites in Delaware County and the NYC Watershed. The late, cold and snowy spring has delayed hay growth, but height measurements Chart of grass height measurements 2006-2018this week are surprisingly similar to other recent years.

The most advanced grass fields tested around 40% NDF this week, we recommend harvesting at 50% NDF. A rule of thumb is for grass to increase about 1 point of NDF per day, so with the forecast for the next couple weeks near average we would not expect any fields to reach target NDF in the next week. Grass maturity is behind average and we predict it will be ready for harvest a few days later than normal. Table 1 has each sample location, listed by Town and elevation, and lists the species sampled, average height, and neutral detergent fiber (aNDFom). NDF is the best predictor for forage harvest timing, we recommend grasses be harvested starting about 50% NDF and Alfalfa about 40% NDF, with mixed stands between 40 and 50 based on the alfalfa content. We have included 24 hour Neutral Detergent Fiber Digestibility (NDFD), a measure of how quickly and completely forage can be digested in a cow’s rumen, larger numbers are better. Also is a column for un-digestible Fiber (uNDF240), this is a measure of the fiber that will never be digested, and is correlated with how much of a forage a cow can eat, determining dry matter intake potential. Lower uNDF240 is better.  Click here for a printable version

Forage Quality Matters

A recent Hoard’s Dairyman article (Fight low milk prices with high-forage diets, April 25, 2018 page 278) highlights a feeding study at Virginia Tech comparing a 60% forage diet to a 40% forage diet. It concludes, “high-forage diets improved income over feed cost by $1.90 per hundredweight”. We know many Delaware County dairies currently achieve this level of forage feeding, and we know good yields of highly digestible forage is the key. A timely first cut is the essential first step to an adequate inventory of high quality feed. It’s our goal to provide this weekly crop progress report to support you in planning for a successful hay harvest season.

It looks like this week will be a good week to get corn planted, weather permitting, and to get harvest equipment shined up and ready. We will sample again on the May 15 and send results on or about May 17.

Signs of Clostridial Fermentation in Baleage Part I

It’s the wee hours of the morning and it’s time to feed the cows. You head on out to the skid steer and retrieve a bale of baleage. You’re now at the manger/TMR mixer and slice the bale open…. a rancid, putrid smell looms as the plastic is sliced away. You normally can’t miss the rancid smell but on this day your sinuses are quite full and you don’t detect the odor. As you slice through the baler twine the baleage has a tacky, sticky feel to it with some discoloration in the forage that’s not the norm but the light is dim as it’s the early hours of the morning and your gloves keep the sticky feel and rancid smell from your hands. You roll the bale on out and the cows go to town.

The following morning you retrace your same routine as you have everyday prior and head out to begin feeding the cows. As you pull up to the manger you notice a few cows are off. They seem uncomfortable. No cud chewing, no ambition to eat. Then you see that one of the cows has passed on to the green acres in the sky…

This is a farmers worse nightmare. A barn full of ill animals and only time and treatment will determine the outcome. The cause is an abnormal fermentation that took place during the harvesting/storage phase of the forage. Let’s start with what is “normal”. Normal fermentation takes place when anaerobic bacteria (those that live without air) convert sugars in the forage to lactic acid which in turn lowers the pH and preserves the forage as silage, with full fermentation completed within 6-8 weeks. This fermentation process is known as lactate fermentation.

One of the “abnormal fermentations” that could take place is clostridial fermentation resulting in botulism. Botulism is a disease caused by one of the most potent toxins known to man. This toxin is produced by Clostridium botulinum, a spore-forming anaerobic Gram positive rod. These spores are found everywhere in the soil and contaminate baleage during harvest, often by raking up dirt into the forage. In the absence of oxygen (as is found in wrapped hay ie: baleage) and a pH greater than 4.5 (poor fermentation), the spores enter a vegetative state, multiply and produce toxin.

There are seven types of botulinum toxins. Types A, B, E and F can infect humans. Types C and D are found in poultry, wild birds, mink and their excrement. Type E is related to fish and avian. In instances where an outbreak of a known strain of botulism is suspected, an antiserum can be used for treatment, but oftentimes it’s just too late. Even miniscule amounts of the botulinum toxin can decimate a barn full of livestock. It is not uncommon to read about situations where hundreds of cattle and horses have died within hours of eating contaminated feed. In fact, if you have ever heard the rumor that baleage is not safe to feed to horses, it’s probably because of this reason as horses tend to be much more sensitive to the botulism toxin.


Clostridial fermentation can wreck havoc if fed to your livestock. It’s not worth taking the risk if you believe you may have some questionable baleage. The initial signs that will be noticed out on the farm of a clostridial fermentation in baleage will rely on your senses and experience. First is the smell. The bale will have an odor far from pleasant. It may smell “fishy” or “spoiled” . It will not be a pleasant smell. Second is touch. As you handle the baleage it will have a tacky, sticky or slimy feel to it. Again the odor will definitely permeate your clothing and skin. Last is sight, often but not always a clostridial fermentation will change the color of the baleage to a black, dark green/black or dark brown/green.

If there is any question in your mind if the baleage properly fermented hold off on that bale and retrieve a bale that doesn’t contain these characteristics. It’s not worth taking the risk of possibly creating a barn of sick or dead animals.

Call one of our extension agents to come on out and take a sample to be sent off for a fermentation analysis. We will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have. You can also email me @ [email protected]

This blog post is first in a series. There will be follow up posts getting more in-depth on types and causes of clostridial fermentation, diagnosis of abnormal fermentation and the particular consequences it may have on livestock health once consumed and how to avoid this fermentation in the future.

Can’t wait and want to learn more now? Below you will find some helpful links:





All Things Wool

Skirting Wool

CCE Delaware County and the Watershed Ag Council held an educational workshop on All Things Wool.  Nancy Meyers demonstrated how to shear a sheep so both the shearer and sheep are comfortable and safe.  Deb Dutcher demonstrated how to handle the fleece, including skirting and wool grading.  Participants had the opportunity to skirt fleeces and compare wool from different breeds of sheep.

Fun with Colors Quilting Workshop on April 25, 2018

Step outside the box and create a colorful quilt using bright fabrics!  Expert quilter Polly DellaCrosse will guide you through the process from start to finish during this all day workshop at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Delhi on Wednesday, April 25, 2018.

You will need to bring:

  • Sewing machine (let us know if you need to borrow one)
  • A variety of Fat Quarters that are color coordinated (minimum 10)
  • Coordinated backing fabric (1-1/2 yards)
  • Coordinated fabric (1 yard)
  • Small package of batting (45″ x 60″)
  • Coordinated thread
  • Embellishments (buttons, ribbons, use your imagination)

Finished projects can be displayed at the Delaware County Fair this summer!  Bring a dish to pass to share for potluck lunch.

Date:        Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Time:       9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Place:       St. John’s Episcopal Church, 134 Main St., Delhi, NY
Fee:          $5 suggested donation
Register:  Contact Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County at 607-865-6531 or [email protected]

GO Delaware County Beef Producers

Sheep and Goat International Night

CCE Educator Rich Toebe in collaboration with Dan Flaherty invited guests to participate in an evening of comradery and sharing during the Sheep and Goat International Night held on February 21st 2018 at Cornell Cooperative Extension Delaware County in Hamden.

Participants shared in food representative of these regions prepared by the speakers, and several shared their own experiences.  Sonja Hedlund shared her experiences at the 2010 Terra Madre as well as her visits to sheep and goat farms and cheesemakers in France, Georgia, and Italy.  Gayle Brown provided information on sheep and goat production in the Graubunden region of Switzerland.  Dan Flaherty shared his experiences helping sheep and goat farmers in Kyrgyzstan.  Kim Cassano translated and shared a video of a shepherd in Rost, part of an Island archipelago in outer Lofoten, Norway.

We hope to see you at the next event.

Drug-Take Back Program Launches at 5 New York Hospitals

Young farmers share their stories

Workshop offers insight on understanding heifer growth and performance based on local data

presenter addressing group

Rich Toebe summarized his results from measuring over 2000 heifers in Delaware County for a crowd of just over forty people last Thursday for the Understanding your Heifer’s Growth and Performance program hosted at the Delhi Fire Hall on February 1st.  He identified the most common challenges being faced by Delaware County farms.  Participants were able to follow along with their farm’s growth charts.

Mike Van Amburgh of Cornell Department of Animal Science identified the most common disrupters of heifer raising systems on dairy farms.  He covered nutrition at various stages, benchmarks to achieve to meet the physiological needs of the cow as well as financial performance of the business; and the real costs of calving in undersized, including the impact on milk production.

Julio Giordano, Asst. Professor at Cornell for Dairy Cattle Biology and Management, provided a refresher on heifer reproductive physiology and shared the most common challenges to a successful heifer reproductive program.  He then shared various breeding protocols that result in calving at an earlier age specific to the type of challenge the farm is facing.   

Rob Lynch of Cornell Pro Dairy finished the program speaking about management strategies that maximize heifer performance and revenue.   Mike broke the heifer growth period into three:  pre-weaned calves, post weaned calves, and the reproductive stage.  He then covered nutritional and breeding strategies to optimize performance and economic return in each of these three stages.

~ This event was sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension Delaware County and the Watershed Agricultural Council