As we move into longer and hotter days it's a good idea to keep in mind the changing needs of your herd. Heat stress can reduce population, fertility and milk. Here are 10 ways to keep your cattle herd cool this summer.
Water needs change each season. Stored hay and feed has less water and pasture grazing has a high moisture content. Even so, it's important to provide cattle access to feed and clean water at all times. For reference a mature lactating cow will consume more than 20 gallons of water in a day.
2.) Cooling systems:
Using evaporative cooling with exhaust fans, circulation fans is an easy way to keep the air moving and the cattle cooling. Equip barns with fans or a cooling system to minimize heat stress.
3. Sprinklers, soaker lines and misters:
Adding a sprinkler over a clean area of the barn can cool the area 10-15°. These can also be automated and can keep flies down as well since it makes it harder for them to fly.
4.) Additional venting:
Add ventilation to barns to provide more air flow. Keep the barn doors open and fans circulating. Overheating can cause stress, sickness and even death. Adding additional ventilation can help like ventilation in the tunnel and cooling cells.
5.) Moving day:
When working or moving your herd, remember to move them slowly - at their own speed, to minimize stress. Also, keeping vaccinations, sorting, and other changes to cooler days. Additional stress can be extreme for severely affected animals and can suppress the immune system .
Work cattle early in the morning or evening when it's cooler. Pay close attention for stress signs, especially in cattle with higher risk factors like ones that have not shed/long haired or were previously sick.
6.) Dietary considerations:
Adding minerals, high quality forage, some fats, and feeding them at specific times can be key to keeping them healthy. Cattle won't want to eat or ruminate during the hottest times of the day. Feed them when it's cooler and they will eat better.
7.) Minimal amounts in the holding pen:
Keep smaller amounts of cows in the holding pen. This will allow them to keep their temperature down, and have air circulate letting them keep cooler.
Shade not only keeps them cool on hot days but it could also help them avoid sunburn. They might not stay in the shade though because of flies or other environmental factors but it should be available. If you don't have trees or natural shade you can add shade tarps or netting for additional shade.
9.) Prevent pests:
Rotating between fly control methods is the best way to keep down the population and reduce damage and stress to your herd.
10.) High quality or low quality forage:
Providing high quality forage during heat stress helps them produce less heat during digestion. Offering high quality reduces the amount of heat load on the animal.
Extra tip: This isn't going to keep your cows cool but it's summer, don't forget to put up some hay for the winter.
1.) You can Farm by Joel Salatin
This book gives the rundown of how to be successful and profitable in a small farm business, aptly subtitled "The Entrepreneur's Guide to Start & Succeed in a Farming Enterprise." There are many ideas that can help you even if you aren't selling at market.
2.) The Market Garden by Jean-Martin Fortier
Micro-farming on 1.5 acres and feeding more than 200 families this book is all about efficiencies. They talk about low tech options but high yield. It is a great read with pictures, check lists and many innovative ideas.
3.) The lean Farm by Ben Hartman
Work smarter, not harder is the key takeaway from this book. Hartman is farming on just 1 acre and using innovative and progressive farming techniques which he talks about in this book. He is helping to bring farming to a new generation of farmers.
4.) Dirt to soil by Gabe Brown
The soil is the star of this book. Through his family trials he has found some innovative solutions to some of the pressing agricultural challenges we come up against today. The question asked here is, "How can we get more life from the land?"
5.) The resilient Farm and Homestead by Ben Falk
A land designer and site developer took some land that would not conventionally be used for farming and made it thrive. He has a team of researchers and this book gives loads of helpful information and strategies on his work. You'll find gravity fed water systems, site design, agroforestry, fertility management and more.
Flowers are a great option to sell at the farmers market. Not only are they beautiful but you can make a fair profit on them. You have the option to sell loose cut flowers as well as making up bouquets to have on-hand. Other farmers at market might also be selling flowers but by making your bouquets unique will help you stand out and bring more people to your booth. Here is a list of the top 10 flowers to sell at market:
A showy flower that makes a lasting impression.
Growing tip: They like full sun and neutral PH soil.
A very easy flower to grow. They grow quickly and bloom heavily.
Growing tip: Do not seed until the last frost has passed.
A free flowering annual that is extremely easy to grow.
Growing tip: Don't over water.
A spring blooming perennial that grows between 4-28 inches tall in many different colors.
Growing tip: Plants the bulbs deep; 8 inches. Plant different varieties with varying bloom times.
A big, bright large stemmed flower and can grow over 16 feet tall.
Growing tip: Plant in full sun. They are heliotropic, and follow the sun through the day.
An oldie but a goodie.
Growing tip: Deadhead to keep them blooming and wear sturdy gloves.
A short-lived perennial that may not come back every year. They come in wide variety of colors and heights.
Growing tip: They prefer cooler soil so don't use a seed mat.
Also called bachelor's button. It is an annual that grows about 1-3 feet in height.
Growing tip: Drought tolerant once established they will benefit from mulching with bark.
A showy perennial flower that is either a bulb or rhizome.
Growing tip: Especially bearded irises do not like shade.
These can be a little challenging to grow but are well worth it once they get going.
Growing tip: Watch the watering. Too much can cause pythium.
If you have the space, adding flowers to your farm can bring a profit and make your market booth look more appealing. This list is a great place to start but keep your eyes out for types of flowers that no one is selling and bring those. Whatever you don't sell you can always sell to the local florist.
These whiteface cows have an easygoing disposition which makes them easy to care for and almost like pets. They are very hardy, have good heat and cold tolerance although might need a little sun protection at times. The downside is they are not cheep and depending on your area hard to find but a great option.
Known more for their milk production than beef. They make excellent for butter, are very hardy and docile. They are big and live a long time. They do take longer to mature. Make sure that you are getting them from a good source and they are not a freemartin.
Finding the right person for the job is hard for any business but it is especially hard to find good help on the farm. Here are a few tips to help you find the best workers.
1) Provide candidates with clear expectations
Give the low-down on the job and your expectations. If you're able to communicate what they need to accomplish and what is expected you can find out a few important things.
1.) Are they the right person for the job.
2.) Are they are going to be happy working for you.
3.) Are they going to stay (so you don't have to repeat this process as often).
2) Test for motivation
It's important that you find the person who is best suited for this job. That might not be a close friend or even a friend of a friend. Lots of people will tell you whatever you want to hear to get the job but you should make sure that they are motivated to work in this type of job and have the qualifications.
Possible questions to ask:
Of course you want to talk about the job and a potential employee is qualified for the job but there is a lot more that you can find out and save yourself many hassles down the road.
It's also good to note what questions you are not allowed to ask. Things like age and race are off limits. Here is a helpful list of questions that are off limits to ask. https://www.betterteam.com/illegal-interview-questions
3) Provide follow up
It's a good plan to know this before you start interviewing. When will you be getting back to applicants? What can they expect? What is the process? Here is a list of steps to take.
Steps to take before you have your first interview:
4.) Be prepared
There are many resources out there that give information on hiring and firing. Here is a link to a guide that covers farm hiring from A to Z and tackles many of the hard parts of hiring/firing.
The guide covers:
5.) Places to post jobs:
Here are a few places to post jobs that you have around the farm. If you have suggestions we would love to hear them!
Additionally, here is a blog post on hiring immigrants through the H-2A program. https://www.farmaid.org/blog/fact-sheet/immigration-and-the-food-system/
Finally be part of the team. Sure, you're the boss but it shows a lot if you work a long side your employees at times. You could also plan employee fun time (when there's time) to bond as a team and show your employees that you care.
Best of luck with hiring for the coming growing season!