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Worms. Are They Really Special?

3-29 worm

Spring brings a sense of renewal and new life. Farmers are in the fields planting, people are buying flowers for their garden, and earthworms are working to keep soil quality top notch.

Earthworms are not necessary to have in soil, but if they are present, it is a good indication that the soil they inhabit is healthy and nutrient-filled. There are over 7,000 species of earthworms, but they are separated into three varieties: Litter, Topsoil, and Subsoil dwellers. Litter dwellers live in crops or forest litter, and usually not in agricultural fields. Topsoil dwellers live, as stated, in the topsoil, surviving on materials decomposing within. Subsoil dwellers have permanent burrows 5 to 6 feet deep. They will go to the surface for food sources, but return below the soil.

These beneficial creatures are major decomposers of organic matter. In farm fields, they feed off of crop residue, bacteria, and fungi in the soil. The materials are digested and excreted in casts. Casts are the feces of earthworms; they show up on the soil surface in little piles. Casts are nutrient-rich, containing high nitrogen, phosphorus, and other mineral levels. The earthworms’ digestive process also gives casts healthy microbes and a neutral PH.

Not only to they improve soil quality, but they help to aerate it by creating paths and burrows to move around. Aerating the soil reduces compaction, and allows areas for water to drain more effectively. Earthworms can shred, mix, and move the soil around very effectively. They can turn over the top 6 inches of soil in 10 to 20 years.



“Earthworms.” PennState Extension

Edward, Clive. “The Living Soil: Earthworms.” USDA

Farming the Wind

Farming the wind

Take a drive in the country and you may find giant monolithic wind turbines scattered throughout farm fields churning in the wind. These turbines capture the energy from the wind by rotating the blades, which is then able to be transformed into electrical energy.

While wind power seems to be gaining popularity lately, it was actually really prevalent among farmers back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Farmers harness wind power in order to pump water to their field and generate power for their homestead. Electricity eventually took over, but with rising costs and environmental awareness, renewable energy sources are making a comeback.

While there are some disadvantages to wind power: high starting cost, possible eye sore, and the fact that wind is controlled by Mother Nature, which means it does what it wants. However, there are several advantages, especially to farmers, for looking into wind energy.

 Farmers have the landscape naturally built into their operation. Flat, wide open spaces are best for wind collecting. Research should be done to make sure your location is in an area that makes putting wind turbines in beneficial. There are wind resource maps available on the USDAs website to see if you are in a good location.

Large wind turbines usually span less than half an acre of land. This includes the actual unit itself, as well as access roads to get to it for maintenance. Farmers are still able to have large rolling fields surrounding the turbines. The units themselves require minimal maintenance and operating costs.

You can choose between stand-alone turbines, which would just create energy for your own operation, and a turbine connected to the electrical grid. If you have a stand-alone turbine, you can supplement electricity on your operation, perhaps reducing the need of diesel generators, or lowering your electrical bill. If you are fortunate enough to have excess electricity, you could get paid by the electric company to send it back onto the grid.

Connecting to the grid would make the most sense if you were letting a developer install on your land and leasing the turbine. You will be paid regular royalty fees for housing the unit, which can stabilize cash flow. Plus, you can receive tax credits for utilizing wind technology.


“Farming the Sky.”

“Farming the Wind: Wind Power and Agriculture (2003).” Union of Concerned Scientists

Huttes, Celeste. “Farming With the Power of Renewable Energy.” Successful Farming

“Wind Energy Profile.”

3 Ways to Dehorn Calves and Why

3-15 dehorn

Cows are often represented in cartoons and on advertisements with horns, yet in real life that is generally not the case. Certain breeds have been selectively bred to not have horns, but the majority of cattle are dehorned at a young age. Cattle are safer to be around (both for herd mates and farm workers) without horns.

Calves are born with little bud protrusions where their horns will grow. Studies show that the younger the calf, the less pain they felt, and the quicker they recovered. The more horns grow, the more difficult and painful they are to remove. At 2 months, the horns attach to the frontal bone of the skull and the sinus cavity. If the dehorning process waits until after this time, the calf will have a hole into their sinus cavity until they heal.

Local anesthesia is always given prior to dehorning. Often, a sedative and pain relievers will be administered as well (depending on the operation). Calves are always watched carefully for a few days after the dehorning process for discomfort and infection.

While there are several different methods for dehorning, the following 3 are the most popular and effective.

Chemical Dehorning – Best practice states this should be done on newborn calves. A caustic, chemical paste is applied to the horn buds, which eats away at the cells of the horn, preventing them to grow. The reason why this is best on newborns is because they don’t move as much, and are less likely to rub the paste on themselves or another animal. It’s best to cover the area with duct tape to prevent this from happening.

Hot Iron – The iron head is a hollowed circle that fits over the horn bud. These are available in different sizes, be sure to choose one that will fit over the entirety of the bud. If the iron is too big in circumference, it will cause unnecessary pain and not be as effective. The iron destroys the horn producing skin at the base of the horn, and the bud will fall out once the area is healed.

Dehorning Spoon or Tube – This method involves a sharp metal tube that cuts into the skin and removes the bud with a scooping motion to cut from underneath.

As with all medical procedures, it is best to consult with your local veterinarian for this process.


Anderson, Neil. “Dehorning of Calves.” The Beef Site

“Disbudding Calves.”