Posted in Livestock, Youth

Collaboration and Teamwork

As we wrap up county fair related work and head back into other extension programming, I always reflect on the county fair experience. This year’s fair went very well, mostly due to the amount of teamwork and collaboration observed. It was a challenge this year with the Fillmore and Clay County fairs falling right on top of each other, but due to the excellent amount of preparation and teamwork that occurred, fairs went very well. First of all, when it comes to putting together a fair, there are many small, behind the scenes tasks that occur. I’d like to give a lot of credit to the entire staff of Fillmore and Clay Counties. Weeks before the fair, data is entered into the computer system, stall assignments are created, awards ordered, reminders sent to exhibitors about completing quality assurance, registration deadlines, etc. All of this preparation allows for a much smoother fair during the actual week of fair.

A highlight of this year’s Fillmore County Fair was a visit from UNL’s Chancellor, Ronnie Green!

Without the collaboration of staff, fair would not occur. Also, there is a lot of time spent from volunteers such as Council members and superintendents. From helping with winter and spring weigh-ins to helping answer questions and attend meetings, volunteers are engaged year-round to make the program the best it can be.

An article adapted from Belgrad, W., Fisher, K., & Rayner, S. (1995) best summarizes that “collaboration and teamwork require a mix of interpersonal, problem-solving, and communication skills needed for a group to work together towards a common goal.” The best teams I have worked with put their own agenda aside and work towards the greater good for the team. This article also provides tips for how to develop a collaborative team environment. There are five themes that must be present.

The first is trust. Being honest with the team helps each other develop respect within a team. Give team members the benefit of the doubt and work to eliminate conflicts of interest. Secondly is to clarify roles. When teach team member knows their key roles, they are able to perform more effectively and can figure out ways to help each other. Next, it is important to communicate openly and effectively. Work to clear up misunderstandings quickly and accurately. Its best to over-communicate, rather than not communicate. Learn to be a good listener and recognize team member efforts. Fourth, is to appreciate diversity of ideas. Be open-minded and evaluate each new idea and remember that it is okay to disagree with one another, but learn how to reach consensus. Often times, much is learned from those who differ from you.  Finally, balance the team’s focus. Regularly review and evaluate effectiveness of the team. Assign team members specific tasks to evaluate and provide praise to other team members for achieving results.

I would certainly like to take some time this week to thank the entire Clay and Fillmore county staff for the hours of time spent. Without the entire staff working together, fair would be miserable.  Also, I’d like to thank the 4-H Council members who have so freely given of their time during the whole year with various tasks and take time away from their own family to help manage the food stand, help clerk auctions, etc. Of course, livestock superintendents put in a large amount of time during the fair during check-in, the show, round robin, auction, etc. Special thanks to the fair board for their support of the 4-H program and the countless hours they spend setting up for events, etc. Businesses and financial donors help provide youth with incentives for their projects. There are so many other individuals and businesses who are helpful and do things without any recognition and to all of you, thank you!

This was the first year, my oldest McKenzie showed a “big” calf, so it was great being able to watch her and be a “mom”. 

This year, I’d also like to thank everyone for allowing me the chance to be a “mom” on beef show day and help McKenzie get her three calves ready.  It was valuable time I was able to spend teaching her and being able to create memories. One of the best quotes someone once told me has stuck with me: “It’s better to be a part of the solution, rather than a part of the problem.” I saw a lot of sportsmanship being conducted in a positive manner this year which is refreshing at a time when so many people in our country, find things that are wrong and focus on those. Congratulations Clay and Fillmore County 4-H and FFA programs on a great week!

Source: Belgrad, W., Fisher, K., & Rayner, S. (1995). Tips for Teams: a Ready Reference for Solving Common Team Problems. McGraw-Hill: New York.


Posted in Crops, Irrigation, Livestock

Farm Service Agency County Committee

It is important for one to stand for what they believe in and takes an active role in one’s community. Effective leadership is crucial to any community or organization.  An effective leader understands the issues at-hand, is knowledgeable in his/her area, knows the proper ways to motivate others, embraces change, can work in a variety of settings and with a variety of personalities, and involves the group or followers in important decision-making. That being said, remember that a leader is not only a political figure or someone that is well known, but a leader can be a farmer, local businessmen/women, or anyone in a community or organization.  For those individuals desiring to take on leadership roles, consider serving on the FSA County Committee. Details for how to step into this role follow.

photo of green leaf plants
Photo by Nico Brüggeboes on

Fillmore County USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Executive Director Ryne Norton announced that the nomination period for local FSA county committees began on June 15, 2018. Nomination forms must be postmarked or received in the Fillmore County FSA Office by Aug. 1, 2018. Producers play a critical role in the day-to-day operations of FSA, making important decisions on programs dealing with disaster and conservation, emergencies, commodity loan price support, county office employment and other agricultural issues.

“County committees are unique to FSA and allow producers to have a voice on federal farm program implementation at the local level,” said CED Norton. “It is also important that committees are comprised of members who fairly represent the diverse demographics of production agriculture for their community. I encourage all producers, including women, minority and beginning farmers and ranchers, to participate in the nomination and election process.”

Producers can nominate themselves or others. Organizations, including those representing beginning, women and minority producers, may also nominate candidates to better serve their communities. To be eligible to serve on an FSA county committee, producers must participate or cooperate in an FSA program and reside in the area where the election is being held.

This year, nominations and elections for Fillmore County will be held in local administrative area 2, which includes Bennett, Geneva, Grafton, Momence and West Blue Townships. To be considered, a producer must sign an FSA-669A nomination form. The form and other information about FSA county committee elections are available at, or from the Fillmore County FSA office. Visit for more information.

Election ballots will be mailed to eligible voters beginning Nov. 5, 2018. Read more to learn about important election dates.

Posted in Livestock, Youth

Sportsmanship & Youth Development


Webster’s Third International Dictionary defines sportsmanship as “conduct becoming to an individual involving fair and honest competition, courteous relations and graceful acceptance of results”.  Sportsmanship starts with parents teaching their youth how to accept a win or a loss, although in the 4-H youth development program, even if the youth receives a red ribbon, nothing is lost as long as some basic knowledge and skills were gained. Too often in our society we focus on the tangible results of a ribbon or trophy and don’t think about the process that youth went through to achieve the end results and what was learned from that process.

I often use the example that as a youth, I’ll never forget receiving a red ribbon for a market heifer; I was disappointed, but will never forget my dad asking me, what the judge said in the comments.  After we talked it over, I realized his reasoning and was able to understand the type of animal I should select the following year. That was a lesson I’ll never forget.  My parents instilled the value of hard work into my sister and I and any animal we showed we bought with our own money to build a small cow/calf herd or they came from our own herd. We rarely had the award-winning animal and were extremely excited to even receive a purple ribbon. The learning that occurred, memories and fun we had were just as valuable than if we would have received a trophy or plaque.

I enjoyed showing cattle and while purples were exciting to receive, the ribbon placing didn’t matter; it was the learning experience and fun had with friends!

For these reasons, it is really rewarding to work with youth who are happy with any ribbon placing- white, red, blue or purple. It really is just one person’s opinion on one particular day!

The 4-H Program focuses on providing positive youth development and developing young people as future leaders. A ribbon or plaque placing does not achieve this; rather it is the process, skills and effort that went into the project.  It is also important to mention that the entire 4-H program extends beyond the county fair and is done through educational workshops, career portfolios, leadership experiences and much more and is a year-round program.

Three reasons adults and teen leaders should be concerned with developing sportsmanship are:

  1. Youth programs are easier to conduct and are more positive experiences for everyone involved if good sportsmanship is demonstrated.
  2. The development of sportsmanship is an important part of youth development. Youth and adults who develop and show good sportsmanship get along better, and are much more successful on a long-term basis in becoming self-directing, productive, contributing, competent, caring, capable adults, than are those whose behavior is un-sportsmanship-like.
  3. Sportsmanship is one of the key elements of civilized society. Those who think of the “big picture” know the reasons for developing sportsmanship extend beyond an individual, a community, or a program. When societies allow sportsmanship to decline, their civilizations also decline.

As we get ready for another County Fair, let’s be reminded that the end result is not the ribbon placing, but the skills that each youth learned!

Source: Kathryn J. Cox, Ohio Extension 4-H Specialist, Youth Development, Developing Sportsmanship- A Resource For Preparing Youth And Their Families For Participation in Competitive Programs and Events, 2006

Posted in Crops, Livestock

Grazing Summer Annuals

McKenzie giving her calf a bath. We split the pen so that some of it is seeded to millet for grazing later this summer. 

Recently, my husband and I added fencing for my daughter’s 4-H second year bucket calves and hope she can eventually expand to a small cattle herd someday. That is what I did through my 4-H and FFA projects so hopefully she will want to follow in my footsteps. With an area of bare soil, my Dad recommended seeding some millet for grazing, not to mention holding soil in place to prevent dusty conditions. We had to water the area to get the seed up, but now have a decent stand. This past week, my colleague Brad Schick who is focused in the beef area published an article on Extension’s BeefWatch website which I’ve decided to share with you this week.

Brad shares how grazing summer annual grasses is a great way to add flexibility to an operation, but in order to make it worth your time and money some management decisions are required. Your goals and your location will determine what type of summer annual you should plant. His article will addresses the type of annual and planting date, timing of grazing, prussic acid and nitrate concerns.

The most common summer annuals for grazing are sorghum-sudangrass (often call sudex), sudangrass, pearl millet, foxtail millet, and teff. For forages that can be grazed slightly earlier, the sorghums and sudangrasses can be used, but should only be planted once the soil temperature is above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Generally, a late May to early June planting date will meet the 60 degree Fahrenheit requirement.

For millets and teff, the soil temperature needs to be 65-70 degrees F before planting. Planting into soil that maintains a lower temperature can cause stunted growth and reduce forage yield. Planting mid- to late June and into July should give good results with enough water. The millets and teff are fairly drought tolerant, and more tolerant to drought than the sudangrasses and sorghums.

Another consideration for planting is forage availability. A good rule to follow is that forage will be ready to graze 6-8 weeks after planting. To reduce the chance of forage getting ahead of the cattle, stagger plantings of a forage type by two weeks. By staggering planting, rotational grazing can be implemented and the forage will be grazed more efficiently. Staggering of planting can be done using one forage type such as sorghum-sudangrass, or using two or more types. For example, sorghum-sudangrass is planted on a portion of the field. Two weeks later on the next portion of the field, sorghum-sudangrass or a different annual such as pearl millet is planted as long as temperature requirements are met.

Maximizing the harvest efficiency while grazing annual forages is a significant factor when planning the annual type and planting date. However, issues can occur when cattle moves are not managed properly. Use a short, rotational system for grazing. Fields should have a minimum of three paddocks to allow for regrowth after the first rotation. A goal should be to graze the paddocks for about 7-10 days and allowing regrowth for at least 14-20 days.

Grazing sorghum-sudangrass should be delayed until plants are 18-24 inches tall in order to avoid prussic acid poisoning, which can cause death in cattle. Sudangrass, foxtail and pearl millet, can be grazed once they reach 15-20 inches in height. Another guideline is to graze all these summer annuals leaving about 6-8 inches of stubble during that 7-10 day rotation. If choosing between leaving cattle on a paddock for a longer or shorter time, just remember that retaining some leaf area will cause more photosynthesis and ultimately a faster regrowth.

A significant concern for grazing some summer annuals is prussic acid poisoning, also known as cyanide poisoning. The regrowth and young leaves of the sorghums, sudangrasses, and sorghum-sudangrasses produce prussic acid and can be deadly if cattle consume a high concentration. Graze when the plants have reached an appropriate height and time the grazing periods appropriately. Turning cattle out full and with plenty of water will reduce the chance of prussic acid poisoning. Nitrates in grazing situations are generally not a concern if the forage isn’t grazed too low because the lower one-third of the plant will contain the highest nitrate concentration. Nitrates are something to watch when grazing any summer annual grass, even beyond drought years.

Grazing summer annual grasses can be a great addition to an operation when annuals are chosen correctly and grazing plans are used. Finally, planting a few extra acres of summer annuals is a good option as part of a drought plan for either grazing or haying. It’s also a fall back to the annuals grazing program just in case growth and regrowth isn’t as productive as planned. Summer annuals are also a great option before reseeding an aging alfalfa stand. This can provide quality hay or grazing. Setting clear goals can make grazing summer annuals worth your time and money.

For more information on this topic, check out Brad’s article with resources at


Posted in Crops, Livestock, Youth

Celebrate Agriculture

My daughters, McKenzie and Meredith love caring for their calves, helping in the garden and learning about agriculture.

Growing up on a small farm in Saline County, I appreciate the work of our farmers and ranchers. My dad still farms and my girls enjoy visiting the farm and I hope I can instill the same hard-working values and beliefs my parents instilled in my sister and I. This is part of the reason, my husband and I have starting raising a few chickens and have bucket calves for the girls to care for. With my husband as the Fillmore Central ag education instructor and myself as an extension educator for UNL, we hope to be teaching future generations the vast opportunities available in the agricultural industry. This week marks the time to celebrate agriculture so I have included some of the Agriculture Council of America’s press release in my column this week as well as some of Extension’s work in agriculture literacy.

2017AgDay 625x90The Agriculture Council of America (ACA) will host National Agriculture Day on March 20, 2018. This will mark the 45th anniversary of National Ag Day which is celebrated in classrooms and communities across the country. The theme for National Ag Day 2018 is “Agriculture: Food For Life.”

On March 20, 2018, ACA will host major events in the nation’s capital including an event at the National Press Club as well as a Taste of Agriculture Celebration. Additionally, the ACA will bring approximately 100 college students to Washington to deliver the message of Ag Day. These events honor National Agriculture Day and mark a nationwide effort to tell the true story of American agriculture and remind citizens that agriculture is a part of all of us. A number of producers, agricultural associations, corporations, students and government organizations involved in agriculture are expected to participate.

National Ag Day is organized by the Agriculture Council of America. ACA is a nonprofit organization composed of leaders in the agricultural, food and fiber community, dedicating its efforts to increasing the public’s awareness of agriculture’s role in modern society. The National Ag Day program encourages every American to:

  • Understand how food and fiber products are produced.
  • Appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.
  • Value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy.
  • Acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the agriculture, food and fiber industry.

You might be glad to know that Nebraska Extension has a team of extension staff working on programming to educate consumers and youth about agriculture and tell the story of the American farmer and rancher. This is being done through agricultural literacy-focused festivals and programs, development of beef-booster curriculum, quality assurance programs and many others. In fact, over 26,000 youth learned about agriculture through ag literacy programs in 2017 alone and 216,000 individuals accessed web materials to teach/learn about food labeling, when food is still acceptable to eat and how to reduce food waste. Over 3,600 Nebraska youth were certified in Livestock Quality Assurance to implement good production practices ensuring animal care and well-being.

Check out the impact this group had in 2017 related to agriculture literacy. 

Posted in Crops, Livestock, Programming

Farm and Ranch Succession Workshop

Persons of all ages are invited to attend a “Farm and Ranch Estate Planning Workshop” hosted by UNL Extension.  This workshop will be held on Friday, March 23, 2018, 9:30 AM – 2:30 PM at Nebraska Extension in Saline County, 306 West 3rd Street, Wilber, NE.

Cost to attend is $20.00 per farm operation and $10.00 for each additional family member.  Please preregister by Tuesday, March 20, 2018 by calling Nebraska Extension in Saline County, phone (402) 821-2151, to ensure that there are enough handouts, food and other materials.  The registration fee will include your meal, handouts, and presentations.pexels-photo-315653.jpeg

One presentation will focus on the decisions and situations which should be addressed when thinking about how your farm or ranch estate will be passed.  Topics will include: the need for planning, proper family communications, who makes the decisions, concept of fair versus equal, preparing to meet with an attorney, and much more.  The presentation is designed to give some basic information to those that haven’t yet started to think about their succession or transition plan for their assets.

In addition, an agriculture attorney will be making his presentation to give agricultural families the basics of what they need to start planning their wills, trusts, and other end of life documents that need to be in order.  The objective is to start the process of having the farm succession or transition planned.

Allan Vyhnalek, UNL Extension Educator for Farm Succession, will present.  He was just assigned to the Ag Economics Department recently to work on farm and ranch succession and transition.  Joe Hawbaker, Omaha based attorney, will make the legal presentation.  He has worked with farmers for over 30 years and will cover the legal aspects of end of life decision making. Hawbaker will cover estate planning basics, including incapacity planning, then succession tools and how to use a decision tree.

Participants at previous events always report that they wished they would have started sooner, when asked about the value of attending the presentation.  The consequences of not having an appropriate plan in place can jeopardize the financial stability and the future of the family.  More importantly, we need to have our wishes known to others so the legacy of the farms and ranches can be passed to the individuals or entities intended.

For more information or assistance, please contact Randy Pryor, UNL Extension Educator, phone (402) 821-2151.

Posted in Crops, Livestock, Programming

Public Forums Address 2018 Farm Bill

Producers, landowners and other agricultural policy stakeholders seeking information on the 2018 farm bill are encouraged to register for a series of five forums scheduled at locations across Kansas and Nebraska. Experts from K-State Research and Extension and Nebraska Extension will discuss farm bill issues and policy options, and gather input to share with policymakers to help inform the continuing developmentmoney bag

A new federal farm bill is due this year and is under development in Congress. With action completed on a federal budget including some agricultural programs, the farm bill process could pick up quickly with proposals and legislation fully debated in the coming weeks.The meetings will provide an overview of the current debate and current economic conditions in agriculture which help frame the discussion and will look at crop and dairy commodity programs, conservation programs, and nutrition programs and other policy issues, as well as proposed crop insurance changes.

Leading the discussion will be Mykel Taylor and Art Barnaby from Kansas State University and Brad Lubben from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Taylor is a farm management specialist with expertise in producer decision-making, including in-depth analysis of the 2014 farm program enrollment decision. Her analysis of past decisions and outlook will provide perspective on the commodity programs, the potential changes and the decisions ahead in 2019. Barnaby is a national expert in crop insurance with keen insight on the features and performance of crop insurance. His work will explore the proposed changes and the potential ramifications to the program and to producer crop insurance and risk management decisions. Lubben is a noted expert in agricultural policy with insight on both the farm bill issues and the process. He will help frame the debate and the expectations for new programs and policies to provide perspective on the broader budget and policy challenges facing members of Congress in writing the new farm bill.

Each meeting will run from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. with refreshments and lunch served. The closest meetings to our area include:

-MANHATTAN, KS.: March 1, Pottorf Hall – CiCo Park, Manhattan, KS     Host: Rich Llewelyn, or 785.532.1504

-MEAD, NEB.: March 5, ENREC near Mead, Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center, Ithaca, NE    Host: Keith Glewen, or 402-624-8030

-HASTINGS, NEB.: March 7, Adams County Fairgrounds, Hastings, NE     Host: Ron Seymour, or 402-461-7209

The registration fee is $20 if pre-registered five days before the date of each meeting, and will increase to $30 after the deadline or at the door. The fee covers the meal, refreshments and meeting materials. To register, visit and clicking on the meeting you wish to attend. Further information is available on or by contacting the meeting host at each location.