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MARCH 2021

Close call on Finger Lakes dairy farm is a reminder of hydrogen sulfide gas concerns around manure storages
Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) is a well-documented and extremely dangerous gas that can be found in manure storages and is a byproduct of bacterial breakdown of organic compounds inside a manure storage. It is heavier than air and can concentrate low to the ground or in confined spaces. Any extra source of sulfur on farm has the potential to increase H2S gas production once it reaches the manure storage. Farms that use gypsum based bedding and anti-slip agents have increased risk of H2S gas production. A significant amount of work was performed by the Yates County Soil and Water Conservation District and Town of Benton Fire Department to study the levels of H2S gas around manure storages. Results showed that farms using gypsum products almost always carried higher levels of deadly H2S gas during manure storage agitation and pump-out. Studies also showed deep bedded packs can carry high levels of H2S gas.

An incident occurred on a gypsum-using farm in the Finger Lakes region in late fall 2020. A dairy farmer was flushing out gravity flow gutters inside the barn, using recycled manure from the storage. The farm owner was holding the hose at the top end of the gutters while two small children were playing in the barn. Unknown to the farm owner, the children were at the bottom end of the gravity gutters, where H2S gas was concentrating. One of the children told their father her friend was sleeping and wouldn’t wake up. The farm owner quickly realized the danger of the situation and picked up the limp child to take her to fresh air. Luckily the child revived and is well, so a good ending to what was very close to a lethal situation. Continue reading Close call on Finger Lakes dairy farm.

Short on hay this spring?
A number of livestock producers are reporting short hay inventories coming into the spring and, while the warmth of the sun has us optimistic that winter will soon be behind us, the 2021 crop season is still a ways off. Strategies to deal with potential forage shortages started last fall with farms reducing animal numbers, extending grazing as long into the fall as possible, and planting winter cereal grains for spring forage. But what about additional strategies for this spring? Continue reading Short on hay this spring?

2021 Virtual Herd Health and Nutrition Conference
Cornell CALS PRO-DAIRY and the Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance are partnering to offer the 2021 Virtual Herd Health and Nutrition Conference. This event on April 5 and 6 offers education related to current herd health and nutrition management techniques for dairy producers, nutritionists and industry partners.

Each session by industry leaders will be presented virtually on Zoom and include live Question & Answer (Q&A) sessions. Registration is $80 per person and includes access to the live sessions, recording links and a virtual platform (app) that includes exclusive conference content.

This year’s sessions include:

  • Steps to Achieve More Zero Lameness Days - Dr. Gerard Cramer, University of Minnesota
  • Links Between Nutrient Partitioning, Metabolic Health, and Feed Efficiency - Dr. Heather White, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Pandemic Retrospective Dairy Market Analysis - Dr. Chris Wolf, Cornell University
  • Implications of VWP Duration and Timing of Pregnancy on Dairy Cow Reproductive Performance and Profitability - Dr. Julio Giordano, Cornell University
  • What Drives Financial Success on a Dairy - Dr. Michael Lormore, Zoetis
  • Innovative Approaches to Managing During the Pandemic Panel Discussion - Andy Dugan, Gold Star Feed and Grain; Dr. Kaitlyn Lutz, Keseca Veterinary Clinic; and Tonya Van Slyke, NEDPA

Scholarship for agriculture students

The New York Animal Agriculture Coalition (NYAAC) is offering a scholarship opportunity to New York residents who will be actively engaged in a college education in Fall 2021, either as a first-year college student or beyond. Applicants must major in an academic program related to Agriculture Education, Agriculture Communications, Agricultural Business and/or Animal Science. The scholarship is funded by farmers and farm businesses in New York State. Final award selection will be approved by the NYAAC Board of Directors. Two $500.00 scholarships will be awarded based upon the merit of the submitted application. Receipt of the scholarship will be given upon successful completion and proof of the Fall 2021 semester. Applications are due April 30, 2021. Scholarship recipients will be notified in May 2021.

After identifying gaps in previous aid, USDA announces ‘Pandemic Assistance for Producers’ to distribute resources more equitably
USDA is establishing new programs and efforts to bring financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and producers who felt the impact of COVID-19 market disruptions. The new initiative—USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers—will reach a broader set of producers than in previous COVID-19 aid programs. USDA is dedicating at least $6 billion toward the new programs. The Department will also develop rules for new programs that will put a greater emphasis on outreach to small and socially disadvantaged producers, specialty crop and organic producers, timber harvesters, as well as provide support for the food supply chain and producers of renewable fuel, among others. Existing programs like the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) will fall within the new initiative and, where statutory authority allows, will be refined to better address the needs of producers.USDA will reopen sign-up for CFAP 2 for at least 60 days beginning on April 5, 2021.

2020 farm employee compensation benchmark survey
Cornell Agricultural Workforce Development is conducting a 2020 Farm Employee Compensation Benchmark survey of all agricultural commodities to help farmers evaluate and offer competitive compensation packages to maintain high quality employee teams. Participants will receive aggregate and anonymous reports customized by farm type (dairy, fruit, vegetable, greenhouse, etc.) and be invited to a webinar discussion of the findings.

While pay is not the most important factor to retain and motivate employees, it does matter, and it can be difficult to find accurate and up-to-date information about employee compensation. If the compensation offered is not enough compared to other employers, then you’ll struggle to attract employees, and will have a revolving door of employees leaving for better opportunities. On the other hand, it’s good to know what others are paying to keep costs in line. This year’s survey will focus on key positions within agricultural industries including: herds persons, crop managers, and crew leaders. For questions, contact Lucas Smith by email at or Richard Stup, Cornell Agricultural Workforce Specialist, at The survey closes April 30, 2021.

​Paid leave required for COVID-19 vaccinations
​New York state passed and the Governor signed a law on March 12, 2021 requiring up to four hours of paid leave for employees to get vaccinations for COVID-19. Employees can use this leave up to two times (corresponding to 2 injections required by some versions of the vaccine) for up to 4 hours during each period, total of 8 hours, but the leave cannot be used for any other reason. The leave is not retroactive, so it can’t be applied to time taken before March 12. Required vaccination leave cannot be charged against any other paid leave accumulated, such as required sick leave. Employers must pay employees at their regular rate of pay for this leave and all costs are borne by the employer. Continue reading the COVID-19 vaccination update from Cornell Agricultural Workforce Development.

New York residents 30 years and older are eligible to schedule appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine starting Tuesday, March 30 at 8:00 AM. New Yorkers 16 years and older are eligible to schedule appointments beginning April 6. Visit the "Am I Eligible" screening tool website to schedule an appointment and for a  list of NYS operated vaccination locations.

March 2021 The Manager in Progressive Dairy
The March 2021 The Manager issue in Progressive Dairy focused on Managing inputs: A fresh perspective. Subscribe to Progressive Dairy magazine to receive The Manager for free. March The Manager issue articles included:

  • Is day-to-day variation in bunkers worth correcting?
  • Greenhouse gas footprint tools on farms
  • Double-cropping with forage sorghum and forage triticale in New York: Best timing for sorghum harvest and triticale planting
  • Food waste coming on the farm? Consider where the nutrients go and manure processing for nutrient export
  • Soil organic matter as a nitrogen source
  • In pursuit of improved nitrogen management for corn silage: Tracking field nitrogen balances
  • Biological control of corn rootworm with native NY entomopathogenic nematodes

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