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A new Phosphorus Index for NY: Part 1. What farmers need to know.

By Karl Czymmek and Quirine Ketterings

In the past 20 years, more than 600 dairy and livestock farms in NY have come under regulations and invested millions in best management practices. Annual fertilizer phosphorus purchases have been cut substantially and many dairies have made large reductions in phosphorus (P) fed to cows which reduces P in manure. Many other farms have made environmental improvements through state programs and their own initiative as well. Combined, these changes have resulted in millions of pounds less P applied to land annually and as a result, soil test P across NY is no longer increasing. Yet, in spite of the improvements, we have seen an increase in occurrences of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) in NY, a trend that is also being experienced across the US and around the world. No one is certain exactly what is going on. It is likely there are multiple causes. What we do know is that in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, phosphorus tended to accumulate in the environment resulting in “legacy phosphorus” in fields, stream banks and beds, and in lakes. We also know that annual rainfall is increasing, and storms have been getting more intense. More rain means more runoff and more runoff means more nutrient loss. It appears that some aspects of water quality have gotten worse, though many farmers have made significant improvements over the past decades. This tells us we have more work to do. The NY P Index (NY-PI) sits at the heart of this issue and is designed to help farmers implement practices related to manure and fertilizer phosphorus management that reduce the risk of phosphorus loss from fields and farms.

The first NY-PI was released in 2001 and like many things 18 years old, was in need of change. The updated version (NY-PI 2.0) incorporates new science and does a better job of addressing phosphorus loss risk while still giving farm managers options for recycling manure nutrients on crop fields. The process of updating the NY-PI was a broad partnership among faculty and staff in the Nutrient Management Spear Program (NMSP), PRO-DAIRY, and the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University, along with NY Departments of Agriculture (NYSDAM) and Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Feedback from certified nutrient management planners and farmers was sought multiple times along the way.

The team tested the new NY-PI with field information from more than 300 NY farms across 40 counties, representing more than 33,000 fields. Some important facts: 90 percent of the fields had a Cornell Morgan soil test P (STP) below 40 pounds per acre, where additional P is recommended for crop growth. Fields with extremely high STP levels, represented by only a small fraction of the fields in the database, are a result of many years, in many cases, decades ago, where phosphorus loads to fields exceeded crop phosphorus removal. In a separate assessment of 18 dairy farms for which whole farm data were available, analysis showed that almost all fields on these farms were able to receive manure, though many fields needed some combination of risk reduction practices. Next month, we will explore how the P index works.

Corn Silage Hybrid Evaluation Program: 2019 Results Summary

By Joe Lawrence

The New York and Vermont Corn Silage Hybrid Evaluation Program continues to provide side by side evaluation of corn hybrids grown under a range of growing conditions representative of those experienced in the Northeast. In 2019 the program evaluated 75 hybrids from 14 different seed brands. Each hybrid was planted in replicated plots at three locations based on relative maturity.

The growing season was defined by wet conditions early that delayed planting. The weather then changed with average to below average precipitation later in the season and below average heat (measured as GDDs) across the region. A defining difference between trial locations was the timing and amount of rainfall. While all locations realized some level of improvement in growing conditions relative to the wet start, the impact on the crop at each location varied. It is also important to recognize that due to the late season, September had a greater impact on crop performance than may be typical.

Data from 2019 trial locations indicates forage quality falling somewhere in between 2017 and 2018, similar to the weather indicators. So while we may take a hit from 2018 quality levels we would expect better forages than 2017. Continue reading 2019 Corn Silage Results.

Overtime Calculator and Other Tools Available

On January 1, 2020 New York farms will have to pay overtime wages (1.5 times the ‘regular rate of pay’) for nearly all employees that work over 60 hours a week. Researchers and extension educators from Cornell University Agricultural Workforce Development, Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cooperative Extension and PRO-DAIRY, have developed several tools to help New York farms manage through these changes.

  • Have you fully accounted for all applicable labor costs when estimating overtime impacts? Our overtime calculator accounts for employer taxes, worker's compensation and helps you track the impacts of changing overtime regulations on your farm business. We provide information on the net financial impacts to your business, plus several visuals and tables to help you compare changing costs.
  • Have you considered all relevant all options for how your farm business will respond to New York's new labor regulations? We outline the pros and cons of different approaches to managing through changing labor regulations in our extension bulletin “Adapting Your Labor Strategies to New York’s Revised Farm Employment Laws”.

Visit to download these tools. Contact Jennifer Ifft ( or Richard Stup ( for more information.

Drug Residue Trends in New York Dairies

For the past several years the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has promoted judicious drug use on farms. The concerns of antibiotic resistance and the continued levels of drug residue violations in meat and milk have led to the FDA’s new Veterinary Feed Directive and its five-year transition plan to move away from over-the-counter antibiotics, clarify drug labels and increase monitoring of drug use in food animals. The New York State Cattle Health Assurance Program (NYSCHAP) provides information in an article about NY Residue Violations to improve drug stewardship and reduce meat and milk drug residue violations. They also offer a voluntary, educational, on-farm "Best Practices" program: NY Food Safety and Drug Residue Avoidance Education Program.

NY Animal Agriculture Coalition Names New Executive Director

The New York Animal Agriculture Coalition (NYAAC) has promoted Eileen Jensen to Executive Director from her previous position as Director of Promotion and Outreach. Jensen will lead the organization's efforts to expand its programming that supports animal agriculture. NYAAC has several dynamic initiatives aimed at working with farmers to provide consumers transparent and accurate information about farms in New York State. In addition to the popular Dairy Cow Birthing Center at the New York State Fair, NYAAC is hosting a series of dairy dialogues across New York giving people the opportunity to learn more straight from the farmers. NYAAC also recently concluded its All-Star Advocates program to help empower a new generation of ambassadors in dairy. In 2020, Jensen will launch additional educational programs to help producers across the state.

Apply to Serve on the Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee (FRRCC)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is inviting nominations for membership on the Farm, Ranch and Rural Communities Advisory Committee (FRRCC). The purpose of the FRRCC is to provide policy advice, information, and recommendations to the EPA Administrator on a range of environmental issues and policies that are of importance to agriculture and rural communities. Nominations should be submitted no later than December 31. Submit nominations electronically with the subject line ‘‘FRRCC Membership 2020’’ to

Save the Date

Anaerobic Digestion Process Fundamentals and Management Shortcourse
January 15 – 16, 2020 | Cornell University, Ithaca NY
Registration deadline is January 13

This two full-day short-course provides participants with clarity about the underpinning operative microbiological populations and interactions that result in the desired product: Biomethane. Starting with the basics of anaerobic digestion microbiology, the course moves on to cover challenges and opportunities associated with maximizing microbiological degradation of varied sources of organic matter. Participants will learn not only what needs monitoring, but why. Important system design considerations that affect microbiological performance are included, and a light-hearted evening dinner session includes an open mic contest for participants to share digester stories, lessons learned, and ask questions.

Transition Cow Management Online Course
January 17 – March 13, 2020
Early bird registration deadline is January 6

In this course, you will learn the basics of transition cow management then quickly build from there. Topics include Transition Cow Physiology/Biology; Nutritional Strategies for Transition Cows; Fresh Cow Health Management; Metabolic Disease; and Non-nutritional Management. Please note - topics in the course were also presented in the 2018 Transition Cow Management Online Course.

Northeast Dairy Management Conference: Focus on the Future

March 11 – 12, 2020
Presented by PRO-DAIRY and NEDPA

This biennial conference offers high-quality programming targeted to progressive dairy farmers in the Northeast. Previously known as the NEDPA Conference, the mission remains the same – to provide the latest information on current trends and topics in the dairy industry through dynamic and informative sessions designed to re-energize businesses and improve performance. Registration is now open!

Want to get your organization even more involved? Find out how to become an exhibitor at the trade show and check out other sponsorship opportunities.

Contact Us:

For more information about PRO-DAIRY, visit

Julie Berry, Editor | Tom Overton, Director | Facebook

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