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On Farm Food Safety Workshop

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By Jake Overgaard
Extension Educator, Winona County

We've seen the headlines linking spinach, sprouts, melons, or what-have-you with an e. coli outbreak. The impact of an outbreak on an individual farm and the industry in general is significant. Also, with the recent Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) legislation, and more scrutiny from buyers and the public, addressing food safety risks on the farm is becoming more important. This is especially true as more local producers are selling to co-ops, restaurants, grocery stores, farmers markets, and through CSAs. As a grower you might be wondering...

  • When would I need a certification to sell fresh produce?
  • How will FSMA affect my operation?
  • How can I create a food safety plan for my farm?

To address these questions and provide more information regarding on-farm food safety, the UMN On-Farm GAPs Program and UMN Extension - Winona County, have put together a workshop for commercial produce growers. At this workshop, you will...

  • Learn about GAPs, GAP Certification, and FSMA.
  • See how Whitewater Gardens implements GAPs on their farm
  • Practice writing risk assessment statements and standard operating procedures.
  • Learn about additional resources available to you.

Location: Whitewater Gardens, Altura, MN
Date/Time: June 26th, 9 am to 4 pm
Cost: $15 (Includes lunch and refreshments)

For more info and to register, visit the registration page:

We hope to see you there!

Be Safe this Fall!

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By: Nathan Winter, University of Minnesota Extension Educator, McLeod & Meeker Counties

Recently, there have been a number of local injuries and fatalities in the agricultural sector. These injuries and losses are unfortunate and are difficult on all family and friends involved. Be sure that you and your family practice farm safety to ensure everyone's safety!

Although farm accidents have lessened in recent years, it is still a common occurrence for farm accidents to take place for farmers and farm workers. Agriculture ranks amongst the most hazardous industries according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Approximately 476 farmers and farm workers died from work-related injury in 2010 and 9,955 from 1992-2010. The leading cause of death for farmers and farm workers from 1992-2009 was tractor overturns. Approximately 243 agricultural workers suffer lost work-time injury every day.

According to NIOSH, an average of 113 youth less than 20 years of age die annually from farm-related injuries (1995-2002) The majority of those that die annually are youth between 16-19 years. The most common source of fatal injuries to youth is machinery (includes tractors), motor vehicles (includes ATVs), followed by drowning. There were 16,100 children and adolescents injured on farms and 3,400 due to farm work in 2009.

Sadly, most of these farm related accidents could have been prevented if appropriate safety measures would have been taken. Often, nature does not leave a big enough time period to get the work done so farmers and farm workers feel the need to hurry. Be sure to slow down and think about the safest ways to go about your work. Be sure that all safety equipment is working properly and that you follow safety procedures during operation.

Those at risk working on the farm range from young children to senior farmers. Nobody is left out and considered safe when working on farms. Quite often youth work at a very young age with very little supervision. These youth can also be innocent bystanders or passengers on farm equipment. Be sure to look out for their interests by keeping them safe. Youth should be given appropriate tasks that they are able to perform safely. Always think of how to safely operate the machines and equipment you are running before you start and be sure to show and tell the youth as well.

Those not engaged in agricultural activities also need to be safe on our rural roadways. Be sure that you are safely operating vehicles on these roadways to avoid collisions with farm equipment or other vehicles.

Good luck with the fall harvest and please remember to take things slowly and exercise safety in your daily work!

Keeping New Lambs and Kids Warm in Winter Weather

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By: Laura T. Kieser, Extension Educator, Carver & Scott Counties

January, February and March are typical months for sheep and goat farms to be welcoming new additions to the herd. The benefits of lambing or kidding in the early months of the year include higher rates of gain, lower disease incidents, and increased profits from spring and Easter markets. In order to take advantage of these benefits, producers have to make sure to keep these new babies clean, dry warm, and draft free. Common methods for assisting in keeping young small ruminants warm include: heat lamps, blankets or coats, extra bedding, and barn winterization.

Heat lamps are perhaps the first option that comes to mind when thinking about keeping new lambs or kids warm. Heat lamps provide heat similar to radiant heat, much like the sun's rays. Many supply companies offer options for safe heat lamps in barns. It is important to consider the risks of heat lamps in your situation. Lamps should be protected from hay and straw. Cords from lamps need to be protected from the animals as well. One popular method to use a heat lamp is to mount the lamp in the top of an empty 55-gallon drum. Then a hole is cut in the side of the barrel to allow lambs or kids to go in and out. In effect, this makes a small warming house for the young animals. When using a heat lamp it is important to use the proper sized bulb (usually 175 watts) and to keep the bulb at least six inches higher than the lamb or kid can reach.

Blankets or coats for small ruminants are available for purchase from various supply companies. Coats can also be made at home as part of a 4-H project. Some people use dog or puppy coats for kids. Others use fleece or water resistant material. It is important to make sure to size a coat correctly for a lamb or kid. Straps or material can become a hazard if the young lamb or kid can get tangled in it. It's helpful if coats can be made of washable materials. This makes the coats re-usable throughout the current year and into future years.

If producers are not comfortable with using heat lamps or coats, the remaining options are management decisions. To decrease drafts around young lambs and kids, be sure to provide and refresh bedding often. By refreshing straw, you are keeping the animals dry, and also increasing a layer of insulation. Consider evaluating the barn that lambs or kids are housed in. Make sure that the structure is draft free at the animal level, but at the same time has proper ventilation to allow air exchange and decrease humidity. If barns are closed up too tightly, lambs and kids can be susceptible to respiratory diseases.

In general young lambs and kids will thrive when born in January, February and March when their environment is kept dry, clean and draft free. These conditions will allow producers to have lambs and kids that grow rapidly, are healthy and meet marketing goals.

By: Julie Sievert, Extension Educator, Sibley County
Christian Lilienthal, Extension Educator, Nicollet County
Mike Donnelly, Extension Educator, Rice & Steele Counties

Do you have the dream of owning acreage in the country? Do you have an existing acreage that is in need of a plan and strategies for the best possible results? The Living on the Land Workshop Series, offered by University of Minnesota Extension, will equip you with the education and resources to be successful.

The eight-week course is designed to arm landowners with agricultural information to enable them to be good stewards of their land. The course will begin with goal-setting and individual property inventory, then address soil, plant, water and animal basics.

The Living on the Land curriculum addresses a growing need for information regarding small acreages. The series incorporates knowledge and experience from a team of instructors to address topics including: what do you have and what do you want, what you can do with your land, protecting water quality, what to do about weeds, lawn and pasture maintenance, getting down and dirty with soils, and caring for and managing your animals. The series also includes a farm tour.

The series will be taught by Extension educators and natural resource professionals at two locations. One of the locations is in Gaylord at the Sibley County Service Center. In Gaylord, the series will be held on Monday evenings from February 4th to March 25th. The second location is in Northfield at the Northfield Community Resource Center. In Northfield, the series will be held on Thursday evenings from March 7th to April 25th. Both workshops will run from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. with light meals provided at each session.

Early registration is $175 until Monday, January 28 for the Gaylord location and Thursday, February 28 for the Northfield location. All registrations received after those dates will be $200. Each registration is valid for up to two people representing a single farm who will share materials. For example, a husband and wife team or two siblings may attend together. Benefits include useful educational publications, an educational farm tour, soil tests, a site visit/consultation from a University of Minnesota Extension educator in your area, as well as the tools to help you succeed with your goals and dreams on your country acreage.

For more information about the series in Gaylord, please contact Julie Sievert at 507-237-4100 or or Christian Lilienthal at 507-934-0360 or For questions regarding the Northfield location, please contact Mike Donnelly at 507-332-6109 or

Register now--space is limited at each location. Additional information and the Living on the Land workshop series brochure can be found on the Small Farms website.

Heat Stress and Your Livestock

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By Mike Donnelly
Extension Educator, Rice and Steele Counties

How are your livestock handling the summer heat? Although this summer's heat is taking a toll on our personal sanity and electrical bills, it is important to remember that livestock don't handle heat stress nearly as well as humans. Cattle are most comfortable when temperatures are below 80°F. When the thermometer creeps past 90°F cattle have difficulty coping, and proper precautions are necessary to avoid health effects and potential death loss.

Two of the most common ways to alleviate heat stress in cattle, include increasing air movement and providing plenty of available water. The following tips based on a University of Nebraska Extension publication can help you keep your livestock comfortable and beat the summer heat:

  • Increase available water. As temperatures rise above 80°F, livestock will consume more water because it is the quickest and most efficient way of reducing body temperature. To compensate for increased water intake and to prevent dehydration, adding extra watering tanks may be necessary. Additional water sources should be added to livestock pens prior to spikes in the temperature so they can become accustom to new drinking sites.

  • Improve air flow. Particularly inside barns, adequate airflow can almost be nonexistent. Increasing air flow is necessary to decrease the effect of heat on livestock. Adding fans and opening the sides of barns are two simple ways of increasing the air flow available to your animals. Increasing airflow through the roof of a building may also be an option.

  • Provide shade from direct sunlight. If no buildings or trees are available to provide shade from the sunlight, constructing a netted area to block the sun can be another option. In addition, when shade is provided over the feeding area, it is easier to maintain proper feed intake during hot summer days.

  • Install misters or sprinkler. Throughout Minnesota it is a common practice to add sprinklers or misters to your livestock barns and pens during the summer. However, proper placement and installation is necessary to avoid subsequent problems. For cattle, be sure these additional water sources are installed over a clean, preferably concrete area. This prevents cattle from lying down in the mud, which can sometimes lead to bacterial problems, especially in lactating cattle.

  • Control insects. Biting insects, such as flies can further stress out livestock and interrupt their cooling. If pastures or buildings draw insects to cattle during times of extreme heat, provide proper insecticides or considering relocating your livestock.

Having a plan in place before hot temperatures strike is the most effective way to avoid the effects of heat on livestock. Each farm is different; make sure your heat stress management plan fits your operation. For more information on helping your cattle beat the heat, contact your local Extension office or the Farm Information Line at 800-232-9077 or

Fly Control for Livestock

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By Mike Boersma
Extension Educator, Pipestone and Murray Counties

Summer fly control is an important aspect of raising livestock. While it is challenging to assign an exact dollar value to the benefits of proper fly control, it is undoubtedly important. High fly populations are not only a nuisance; they can also lead to reduced weight gain and feed efficiency and increased incidence of diseases like pinkeye.

There are a variety of fly control options for producers and the preferred method of fly control will vary from one producer to the next. The most effective method depends on livestock species, livestock numbers, facility design/pasture size, availability of working facilities, and a variety of other factors. Often, finding a combination of control measures that work well for your management system will be the most effective way to control flies.

Insecticide-impregnated eartags are a popular option for cattle producers looking for season-long control. While these eartags can work well, it is important that producers insert tags in early summer and remove them by early fall to help avoid insect resistance to the insecticide. Also, varying the brand of tag and insecticide used will help to reduce insect resistance.

Back rubbers and dust bags also work well but they must be placed in an area that the livestock will pass through on a regular basis. This could be an open gate, doorway, or some other structure that animals must pass through. Locations adjacent to feed, water, or other areas that livestock visit regularly are the most effective.

There is a long list of pour-on insecticides for producers to choose from as well and these can be very successful. However, their effectiveness on outdoor livestock can be short-term, especially during rainy periods.

Finally, many feed companies offer mineral supplements or lick tubs that can also aid in fly control. Many of these are designed to control fly larvae in manure but may not be effective against adult insects.

Any of these options, as well as many more, can be effective in certain situations and it is important for producers to evaluate the management system that will work best for them. Regardless of which option is chosen, producers should remember to wear gloves and other protective clothing when handling pesticides. Also, some insecticides may have a withdrawal time for certain livestock. Finally, remember that variation among different control options and different insecticides will help minimize insect resistance and will lead to continued effectiveness in future years.

Age Appropriate Tasks for Youth

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By Jerry Tesmer
Extension Educator, Fillmore and Houston Counties

Each year, about 100 farm children die across our country as a result of work-related injuries. Sometimes parents overestimate their child's ability to perform dangerous jobs. Before asking your child to perform any task or chore, ask yourself: Is my child physically and mentally prepared to handle the task at hand? Most child development experts suggest waiting until a child is at least age 12 or 13 before you allow them to operate a tractor or perform other potentially hazardous jobs. Even then, kids need adequate training and supervision.

Slow-Moving Vehicle Emblems

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By Jerry Tesmer
Extension Educator, Fillmore and Houston Counties

Farmers know the limitations of their machinery. The general public may not! Tractors generally travel no faster than 25 miles per hour. Machines at this speed are identified to motorists on the road with a Slow-Moving Vehicle (SMV) Emblem. The SMV emblem has a central orange triangle. The orange triangle was designed to be eye-catching during daylight hours. The orange triangle is bordered by red strips of reflective tape. The red strips are visible as a hollow red triangle when illuminated by low beam headlights up to 600 feet. Check you SMV signs this spring before field work begins!

Take a Break

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By Jerry Tesmer
Extension Educator, Fillmore and Houston Counties

Research shows that after every two hours of work, we should take a 15 to 20 minute break. This break can relieve stress and increase focus of what we are doing. Data shows that injuries occur more often in late morning or late afternoon after farmers have been working for several hours. A short break in the middle of the afternoon will decrease your chances of having a serious farm accident. After such a break we are more rested and more mentally alert.

Instead of thinking of downtime, think of a nap as a good risk management tool. The average farm accident can cost upwards of $20,000 in medical bills and lost productivity. Operator downtime pays because there are fewer errors, injuries, and even deaths when a body is well rested.

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