Tag Archive: Prepare

Farmers Prepare for the New Food Safety Standards

If you are a farmer, you have most likely heard about the Food Safety Modernization Act, or FSMA, by now. If you are not a farmer, you probably do not know that food safety regulations are going through a big change. The FSMA, which was passed in 2011, is considered the largest update to food safety regulation in over 80 years.

The proposed produce safety rule under the FSMA is very robust, establishing the minimum standards for worker training, health and hygiene, agricultural water use, animal soil amendments, on-farm domesticated and wild animals, equipment, tools, buildings, and sprout production.

But this new rule will not apply to all farmers. The commodities they produce and the value of their produce sold will ultimately dictate whether they will need to comply.

First, the rule does not apply to produce that is not a raw agricultural commodity, or commodities the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified as “rarely consumed raw.” Secondly, if a farm has an average value of produce sold of $ 25,000 or less within the previous three years, they are also exempt.

If the farmer produces an agricultural commodity in which the rule applies and the value of their produce sold is over $ 25,000, it is still possible the farm will be exempt from most of the requirements.

Fresh cucumbers, for example, are considered a raw commodity. But cucumbers that will undergo further processing, such as for pickling, would be eligible for exemption from the produce rule. Photo by Molly Jameson.

For instance, if the average annual monetary value of food sold directly to qualified end-users was more than the average annual value of the food sold to all other buyers within the previous three-year period, the farmer would meet the first half of exemption eligibility.

What is a “qualified end-user”, you ask? They are considered the consumers of the food, or restaurant or retail food establishment, located with the same state as the farm that produced the food (or no more than 275 miles).

But even if farmers meet the above exemption eligibility standards, they must also meet the second requirement. That is, the average annual monetary value of all food sold during the three-year period must be less than $ 500,000, when adjusted for inflation.

If this all sounds confusing, you are not alone! This is why the FDA developed a chart to help farmers determine if they will be exempt: Standards for Produce Safety – Coverage and Exemptions/Exclusions for Proposed 21 PART 112.

Whether farms will be exempt from the FSMA produce safety rule or not, it is always a good idea to follow good agricultural practices and to have a farm food safety plan. To learn more about food safety on farms, view the EDIS document Food Safety on the Farm: An Overview of Good Agricultural Practices.

If you are a farmer, or know someone who would benefit from having a food safety plan, the UF Small Farms Academy Extension Agents are offering a Building Your Own Farm’s Food Safety Manual Workshop in Tallahassee to help growers develop their own food safety manuals.

The workshop is tailored to fresh fruit and vegetable farms, fields, or greenhouses and is partially supported by a grant through the Florida Specialty Crops Block Grant program from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service.

The registration fee is $ 35 for the first person representing a farm and $ 15 for an additional attendee from that farm. The workshop is limited to 20 farms on a first come, first serve basis.

The workshop will take place at the Amtrak Station, County Community Room, 918 Railroad Ave, in Tallahassee, FL, on Tuesday, May 23, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Register on Eventbrite by following this link: https://farmfoodsafetymanualworkshop.eventbrite.com

Please note, this class will help farmers develop their farm’s food safety manual, but it does not fulfill the new FDA FSMA one-time training requirement.


Author: Molly Jameson – mjameson@ufl.edu

Molly Jameson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/05/12/farmers-prepare-for-the-new-food-safety-standards/

10 Tips to Prepare your Pig for Show

This is Peyton's first year in the swine project. He is a Jackson County 4-Her. "I practice with my pig everyday!"

This is Peyton’s first year in the swine project. He is a Jackson County 4-Her. “I practice with my pig everyday!”

In the Florida Panhandle, it’s Fair Season!  Whether you are an exhibitor or a spectator, we are sharing some tips for you related to the Swine Project.  For spectators, it is important to understand the risks associated with disease and animals.  Though rare, influenza can spread from pigs to people.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that anyone who is at high risk of serious flu complications should avoid pigs and pig barns.  For everyone else, just use good sense- don’t take food or drinks into the barn area.  If you have young children, avoid taking toys or pacifiers into the barn area and make sure everyone washes their hands afterwards; most fairs provide handwashing stations just outside the barns.  The CDC has some great tips for parents planning on attending livestock exhibits on their website.

For exhibitors, one component of your project will be learning to show your animal.   Showmanship is judged on your ability to exhibit an animal to its best advantage. These skills take a lot of time and practice to gain, but having a well-trained animal will make it easier.  Participating in a swine showmanship workshop is a great way to prepare.  Contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office to find out when the next clinic will be held in your area.

Top 10 Tips for Preparing for a Swine Show:

  1. Make sure you have the proper tools and supplies and gather them in one place. A show box that can be locked is best, but anything you can use to keep everything together will work.  Your show box should include items such as:
  • Brush
  • Mild soap
  • Water hose
  • Work clothes and boots for use when washing your pig
  • Crop or cane
  • Wash cloths and towels
  • Rubber feed trough
  • Shovel
  • Water bucket
  • Feed
  • Bedding (if not provided by the show)
  • Oil or powder if coat dressing is allowed (some shows will not allow coat dressing)
  1. Practice driving your pig as often as possible. Driving means guiding your animal from one place to another with a cane or crop.  When using a cane, you will be using the curved end to touch the animal.  To move you pig you lightly tap it either on the rear or on the shoulder.

    Proper placement of your crop or cane is very important. NEVER beat your pig with it!

    Proper placement of your crop or cane is very important. NEVER beat your pig with it!

  2. Brush your pig daily for at least two months before the show. Brush the hair in the direction it lays naturally.  Pigs “love” to be rubbed and brushed and they will look forward to it.
  3. Make sure to wash your pig one or two times before the show. You will need to wash them the day before the show or at the show.  Use a stiff brush and a mild detergent.  Make sure to never get water in your pig’s ears as it will affect its equilibrium.
  4. When working your pig, pay attention to how he walks. If the hooves are too long, you may need to trim them.  Do this two to three weeks before the show and ask an experienced person to help you.  Trimming too close will cause them to be lame.
  5. When trimming hair, make sure to clip off all the long hair from under the ear a few days ahead of the show. For a winter show, if your pig has long hair, you can clip the underline to make the pig appear trim in the middle.
  6. Gather your show clothes. Clean pressed jeans or slacks and a neat button-down or sport shirt, not a T-shirt. 4-H attire is always nice! Tuck in your shirt, and wear a belt for added neatness. It is best not to wear a cap since it may take the judge’s concentration away from the animal. Wear leather shoes or boots for safety and appearance. If the animal steps on your foot, it is much easier for the foot to slip off a leather boot than a tennis shoe and leather shoes are thicker.
  7. Make sure you have all the proper registration and health forms. Place them in a folder or plastic sleeve to keep them clean and protected.
  8. Have a plan for transporting your pig. Transporting at night or early in the morning during hot weather is best.
  9. A good showman knows about their project animal. Sometimes the judge will ask questions to make a final decision on the top showman, so be prepared! Questions may include the weight, gender, breed, age, or parts of the animal. They may also include carcass composition, swine management practices, feeding and nutrition, or marketing systems.

The UF Animal Sciences Department is offering a Swine Field Day and Sale October 22nd.  The field day will include instruction on showmanship, feeding and fitting youth hog. These fact sheets offer even more information to help you successfully raise and show your hog:

Once you have mastered how to show a pig, you may want to consider enrolling in the 4-H Hog and Ham Project, a statewide 4-H program which takes the participant through the total process of pork production from beginning to end. Youth select a feeder pig and grow it to harvesting weight, all the while keeping records of feed amounts and costs, health care, expenses and weights. After harvesting and processing the the hog, 4-H’ers cure the hams and prepare bacon and sausage for smoking. The project concludes by participating in a retail comparison project, completing a record book, and presenting a demonstration or illustrated talk to the other participants.

Do you have a passion for pigs?  If so, consider serving as a volunteer to help the next generation gain life skills through the swine project.  We need your knowledge and experience to mentor youth enrolled in the swine project.  For more information, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org.


Author: amgranger – amgranger@ufl.edu


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/10/20/10-tips-to-prepare-your-pig-for-show/

Free “Brace for the Storm” Workshops Help Homeowners Prepare for Disasters

Free “Brace for the Storm” Workshops Help Homeowners Prepare for Disasters

Aluminum shutters help protect windows from flying debris during windstorms.

Aluminum shutters help protect windows from flying debris during windstorms.

Here in the latter half of June, temperatures have heated up and summer thunderstorms have swept through on a regular basis. As we are reminded often,  hurricane season has begun. While we haven’t had a major storm in 11 years, northwest Florida is still a prime target.

Be Ready Florida is a statewide program dedicated to helping citizens and visitors to the state prepare their homes, businesses, and families for the onslaught of a major windstorm. In order to teach individuals how to best prepare, three free, two-hour online BRACE for the Storm workshops are scheduled for June 29. The workshops will be held from 10 am-noon, 2-4 pm, and 7-9 pm. Registration is online here.

According to their website, “During each workshop participants will gain valuable insight on how homeowners can undertake one or more windstorm mitigation projects on their homes to strengthen it against Florida’s next wind disaster. The importance of mitigating homes against the damage caused by a flood or wildfire will also introduced.” The workshops also discuss how mitigation techniques can save money on homeowner’s insurance.

Be Ready Florida also offers an online directory of contractors, suppliers, funding sources and inspectors that homeowners can access to find help with home projects. In Escambia and Santa Rosa County, homeowners can also contact Rebuild Northwest Florida, a nonprofit organization that uses FEMA funds to offset the cost of home wind mitigation.

To see examples of common wind mitigation building materials and techniques, such as storm shutters, insulated concrete forms, a wind-rated garage door and a tornado shelter, you can visit the Escambia County Extension office at 3740 Stefani Road in Cantonment. To schedule a tour or receive more information about the demonstrations found there, contact me at ctsteven@ufl.edu


Author: Carrie Stevenson – ctsteven@ufl.edu

Coastal Sustainability Agent, Escambia County Extension

Carrie Stevenson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/06/17/free-brace-for-the-storm-workshops-help-homeowners-prepare-for-disasters/

Hurricane Season Is Upon Us Again… Time to Prepare

Hurricane Season Is Upon Us Again… Time to Prepare

The beginning of hurricane season—June 1—is very nearly upon us. It’s been more than ten years since northwest Florida was on the receiving end of a destructive hurricane. However, we’ve been no strangers to devastating floods, tornadoes, and even an ice storm over the past few years. No matter what natural disaster lurks around the next corner, there are steps every single resident can take to reduce the impact storms have on your family and property.

Aluminum shutters are one of the many preventative measures panhandle homeowners can include in their hurricane preparedness. Photo: Carrie Stevenson

Aluminum shutters are one of the many preventative measures panhandle homeowners can include in their hurricane preparedness.
Photo: Carrie Stevenson

The week of May 15-21 has been designated “Hurricane Preparedness Week,” and there will be lots of information in the media about the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season, including preparation checklists and mock hurricane drills. As part of the effort led by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), we will be sending out daily reminders and tips over Extension social media outlets during Hurricane Preparedness Week to remind readers of practical tips for preparing.

The main thrust of the message is fivefold: Know your evacuation zone http://flash.org/hurricane-season/ ; have an insurance checkup http://www.flash.org/homeownersinsuranceguide/ ; build a disaster supply kit http://www.redcross.org/get-help/prepare-for-emergencies/be-red-cross-ready/get-a-kit ; strengthen your home http://www.rebuildnwf.org/ ; and help your neighbor http://www.fema.gov/community-emergency-response-teams .

In Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, residents can contact Rebuild Northwest Florida http://www.rebuildnwf.org/ to learn how to mitigate windstorm damage at a quarter of the actual cost. Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training is available in many communities, which builds teams of neighborhood leaders to help with immediate response before professional emergency personnel can arrive.

It is easy to be complacent when we haven’t had a big hurricane in a while. However, it’s important—especially for newcomers to the area—to be educated about your options and make a plan in case it’s ever needed.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out NOAA’s information at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/hurricane_preparedness.html or the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) website http://hurricanestrong.org


Author: Carrie Stevenson – ctsteven@ufl.edu

Coastal Sustainability Agent, Escambia County Extension

Carrie Stevenson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/05/08/hurricane-season-is-upon-us-again-time-to-prepare/

Prepare Now to Protect Delicate Shrubs and Tropical Plants

Prepare Now to Protect Delicate Shrubs and Tropical Plants

North Florida’s gardeners are facing a new set of challenges dealing with the effects of cold weather. However, a little planning and creativity can make plant protection in the landscape a relatively simple process.

Covering plants to protect from frost. UF/IFAS Photo: Sally Lanigan.

Covering plants to protect from frost. UF/IFAS Photo: Sally Lanigan.

Many homeowners and landscape managers want to know when plants will need protection. The point of freezing is a good rule of thumb for most temperate zone plants.

It is worth noting there is a difference in the terms used for cold weather conditions. Frost, freeze and hard freeze all describe different circumstances.

  • Frost is when water vapour freezes on surfaces. It usually happens on clear nights with still air and can happen when reported air temperatures are above freezing.
  • Freezing is when cold air moves in and causes temperatures to drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. This condition commonly involves low humidity and wind, making drying out a big problem for plants.
  • A hard freeze is when temperatures dip below 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Some tropical plants will survive a few degrees below freezing for very short periods, but extended periods of freezing or heavy frost may require lights or other heat used safely in combination with covering the plant.

Some plants can be moved indoors for the holidays and incorporated into the interior décor, rather than cramming them last-minute into a chaotic bundle when a freeze looms.

Get prepared by identifying old sheets, blankets and drop cloths which can be used as covers for tender or tropical zone plants which must remain outside. Test potential covers beforehand to assure all plants will be thoroughly covered.

It is best if the covers enclose the plant entirely without crushing it. Heavy blankets are great insulation, but only a good idea on the sturdiest of plants.

A tomato cage or other support structure can be used to keep the weight off the plant. Covers also need to be secured at the ground with pins or weights to assure cold air does not enter from below and collect under the cover.

Finally, keep storage bins handy and remove the covers in the daytime if temperatures are above 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Monitor weather reports and react accordingly so tender and tropical plants see spring 2016.


Author: Les Harrison – harrisog@ufl.edu

Les Harrison is the UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension Director, Agriculture and Natural Resources. He works with small and medium sized producers in the Big Bend region of north Florida on a wide range of topics. He has a Master’s of Science Degree in Agricultural Economics from Auburn University and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Journalism from the University of Florida.

Les Harrison

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/01/21/prepare-now-to-protect-delicate-shrubs-and-tropical-plants/

It’s Wise to Prepare for Storms

It’s Wise to Prepare for Storms

Tropical storm season officially ends November 30. I’m not predicting a storm but even with our average winds during a typical thunderstorm, you’d be wise to prepare.

Falling trees and flying landscape debris during a storm can cause damage. Evaluate your landscape for potential tree hazards. Pruning or removing trees once a hurricane watch has been announced is risky and tree trimming debris left along the street is hazardous.

Photo credit: Larry Williams, UF/IFAS.

Photo credit: Larry Williams, UF/IFAS.

Now is a good time to remove dead or dying trees and to prune decayed or dead branches Also inspect trees for signs of disease or insect infestation that may further weaken them.

Professional help sometimes is your best option when dealing with larger jobs. Property damage could be reduced by having a professional arborist evaluate unhealthy, injured or questionable trees to assess risk and treat problems. Hiring a certified arborist can be a worthwhile investment. To find a certified arborist in your area contact the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) at 217-355-9411 or at www.isa-arbor.com. You also may contact the Florida Chapter of ISA at 941-342-0153 or at www.floridaisa.org.

Consider removing trees that have low wind resistance, are at the end of their life span or that have potential to endanger lives or property. For example, laurel oaks are relatively short-lived, usually showing considerable dieback as they reach 50 years. They tend to lose their strength and stability faster than most other oaks and have low wind resistance. Consider removing a big, old laurel oak within falling distance of your home before the next storm.

Tree species with the lowest wind resistance include pecan, tulip poplar, cherry laurel, Bradford pear, southern red oak, laurel oak, water oak, Chinese tallow, Chinese elm, southern red cedar, Leyland cypress, sand pine and spruce pine.

Pine species vary in their wind resistance, usually with longleaf and slash pines showing better survival rates than loblolly and sand pine. However, when pines become large, they may cause damage if located close to homes or other valuable structures.



Author: Larry Williams – llw5479@ufl.edu

Larry Williams is the County Extension Director and Residential Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Extension Office in Okaloosa County.

Larry Williams

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/09/03/its-wise-to-prepare-for-storms/

Ranchers Should Prepare for Hard Freeze January 7 & 8

Windchill forecast for Monday night through early Tuesday morning.

Windchill forecast for Monday night through early Tuesday morning.


The National Weather Service is forecasting wind chills below freezing for 48 hours from Monday night through Wednesday, with possible single digit wind chills on Monday and Tuesday nights.

The following is the NWS forecast for Marianna for Monday through Tuesday night.

  • Monday:  Sunny, with a high near 37. Wind chill values as low as 20. Breezy, with a northwest wind around 20 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph.
  • Monday Night:  Mostly clear, with a low around 16. Wind chill values as low as 5. Blustery, with a northwest wind 15 to 20 mph.
  • Tuesday:  Sunny and cold, with a high near 33. North wind 5 to 15 mph.
  • Tuesday Night Mostly clear, with a low around 18.
  • Wednesday:  Sunny, with high near 51.

Get the National Weather Service Forecast for your location: National Weather Service Tallahassee

Low temperature forecast for early morning on Tuesday, January 7.

Low temperature forecast for early morning on Tuesday, January 7.



Ranchers should provide extra energy feed and adequate water supply.  Temporary wind breaks and bedding materials can also help keep livestock warm.

Clemson Extension Extreme Cold Weather Tips for Livestock:

  • Hypothermia and dehydration are the two most probable life-threatening conditions for animals in cold weather.
  • Wet conditions and wind-chill add greatly to the cold-stress for animals (and people).
  • Pets should be brought inside or into protected covered areas, provided with plenty of bedding and food and drinking water.
  • Livestock should be provided with wind-break and roof shelter, and monitored for signs of discomfort (extensive shivering, weakness, lethargy, etc.)
  • It is very important that livestock be provided extra hay/forage/feed as up to double the calories for normal body heat maintenance may be needed in extreme cold.
  • It is critical that animals have access to drinking water. Usual water sources may freeze solid in low temperatures and dehydration becomes a life-threatening factor. Many of our animals, especially the young, may not know how or be unable to break several inches of ice to reach water. In general, animals tend to drink less in extreme cold, risking dehydration. Research with horses shows horses drink more water if it is warmed during winter weather.

Perdue Extension Extreme Cold Weather Tips for Livestock:

Mike Schutz, Purdue Extension dairy specialist, and Ron Lemenager, Extension beef specialist, provide some tips for livestock producers following winter storms.  Cattle are fairly tolerant to cold.  The problem is that people aren’t going to spend as much time observing them. With unusually cold temperatures and even colder wind chills, they will suffer and potentially get sick.

  • Producers should provide shelter from prevailing winds to ensure cattle’s safety. This can be done with wooden or shade cloth windbreaks, or temporary relief is possible by using round bales and farm equipment. Grazing cattle also should have access to natural or man-made windbreaks in the form of a shelter, building or tree line.
  • Beef cattle grazing in a pasture also benefit from bedding.  Bedding can be created by busting some straw bales throughout the pasture or unrolling old round hay bales.
  • Cattle aren’t likely to develop pneumonia if they are getting an adequate energy supply through their feed. Cattle consume 15 percent to 20 percent more feed in extremely cold conditions.  The rule of thumb for beef cattle is that the energy requirement increases 13 percent for each 10-degree drop in temperature below 30 degrees for cattle with moderate body condition and a winter hair coat.  Energy requirements increase 30 percent for each 10-degree drop in temperature below 30 degrees when cows are wet, thin or still have a summer coat.  This increased energy requirement cannot be met by putting more hay out. It will require switching to higher quality feeds or by supplementing with grain.



Author: Doug Mayo – demayo@ufl.edu

Jackson County Extension Director, & Livestock & Forages Agent

My true expertise is with beef cattle and pasture management, but I can assist with information on other livestock species, as well as recreational fish ponds.

Doug Mayo

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2014/01/06/ranchers-should-prepare-for-hard-freeze-january-7-8/

September is Here: It’s Time to Prepare for Winter Weeds

Despite the fact that winter annual weeds are not currently growing, we are approaching the best time to prevent them from being seen in our North Florida lawns.


Carolina Geranium Photo Credits: UF/IFAS

Carolina Geranium Photo Credits: UF/IFAS

Common winter annual weeds include annual bluegrass (Poa annua), chickweed, henbit, hop clover, lawn burweed and Carolina or wild geranium.


Annual Bluegrass Photo Credits: UF/IFAS

Annual Bluegrass Photo Credits: UF/IFAS

These and other winter annual weeds germinate from seeds in late fall and early winter. The little seedlings go unnoticed but continue to slowly grow through the colder winter months. Approaching spring, as day length becomes longer and soil temperatures warm, these previously inconspicuous weeds put on a growth spurt.

Lawn Burweed: Close up of parsley-like leaves. Note sharp spines in leaf axils. Photo Credits: Weeds of Southern Turfgrasses

Lawn Burweed:
Close up of parsley-like leaves. Note sharp spines in leaf axils.
Photo Credits: Weeds of Southern Turfgrasses

During spring, the winter weeds may outgrow the lawn grass in our North Florida yards. They begin producing numerous flowers followed by thousands of seeds. For example, one chickweed plant can produce over 15,000 seeds.

In late spring or early summer with the onset of higher temperatures, the parent plants that started their lives from seeds the previous fall will die. But they leave behind a multitude of seed. These seed last the hot summer months dormant in your lawn. Then, in late fall and early winter, they germinate, beginning the entire cycle again.

Late September to early October, when nighttime temperatures drop to 55° to 60°F for several consecutive nights, is the time to apply a pre-emergence herbicide to interrupt the cycle of life for these winter annual weeds. This is just before seedlings emerge.

For season-long control, a second application may be needed about nine weeks after initial application. Not every lawn needs an application of pre-emergence herbicide. If your lawn has had no problem with winter annual weeds, there’s probably no need to apply a pre-emergence herbicide. Use pre-emergence herbicides only on lawns that have been established for at least a year. Many preemergence products interfere with grass seed germination. So, delay reseeding 6 to 16 weeks after application. This also applies to over-seeding a lawn with rye grass seed. Always follow label directions and precautions when using any pesticide, including herbicides.For specific pre-emergence herbicide recommendations,  please consult this Weed Management Guide.










Author: Larry Williams – llw5479@ufl.edu

Larry Williams is the County Extension Director and Residential Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Extension Office in Okaloosa County.

Larry Williams

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/09/03/september-is-here-its-time-to-prepare-for-winter-weeds/

Soil Test: Prepare Now for a Bountiful Harvest Later



SONY DSCTo be sure, this week’s warm spring-like weather and refreshing rains have reminded many gardeners that it is about time to prepare this year’s vegetable and flower beds. Before home gardeners fertilize or lime, however, it is vital to understand the condition of the soil.


One of the easiest methods to assess the condition of a gardens soil is to obtain a soil test. Soil tests effectively determine the pH and nutrient levels of the soil in a given area.  It is essential that the test be collected correctly so that it accurately reflects the nutrient levels in the garden.  All that is needed to take an accurate soil sample is shovel or soil probe, and a plastic bucket. Metal buckets will contaminate soil sample results, so a plastic bucket is an absolute requirement.  To collect your soil sample, follow these guidelines:





  • Identify the garden area(s) to be sampled. Use one soil sample bag for each area.  Uncharacteristic or problem areas (such as depressions, etc.) within the garden should be sampled separately. 
  • Using a shovel (or soil probe), remove soil from a number of locations. The more soil collected from the sample area, the more accurate the results will be.  Soil should be removed from the top 6 inches.
  • Discard any plant material (such as leaves or roots) and deposit the soil into the plastic bucket. When you are done collecting soil, mix all the soil in the bucket to ensure it is well blended.  You will have much more soil than you need to fill the sample bag, but a well-mixed representative sample is important for good results.
  • Spread the soil from the bucket onto newspaper and allow it to dry thoroughly. This may take up to 24 hours.  A dry sample is very important because moisture may affect the results.
  • Once dry, pack approximately 1 pint of soil into the soil sample bag (filled to the dotted line) These bags are available free from your county Extension office.. 

The best soil test value is the $ 7.00 soil test which includes analysis of phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), and magnesium (Mg) in addition to soil pH and liming requirement. The proper form should be filled out and mailed to the University of Florida with the soil sample and payment.  Results will usually be sent back within 1-2 weeks.   Click here to view a sample soil test report.

The soil sample report will include lime and fertilizer requirements. Remember that the recommended fertilization rates in the report are in pounds of nutrient, not pounds of fertilizer. For example, if it is recommended that the home gardener apply 2 pounds of nitrogen 1000 square feet and their fertilizer analysis is 10-10-10, they would need to apply 20 pounds of fertilizer. This is because 10-10-10 fertilizer contains 10% nitrogen.

For more information, consult your local county extension office, visit the UF/IFAS Extension Soil Testing Laboratory website, or the UF/IFAS publication Soil Sampling or Testing for the Home Garden.


Author: Matthew Orwat – mjorwat@ufl.edu

Matthew J. Orwat started his career with UF / IFAS in 2011 and is the Horticulture Extension Agent for Washington County Florida. His goal is to provide educational programming to meet the diverse needs of and provide solutions for homeowners and small farmers with ornamental, turf, fruit and vegetable gardening objectives. Please feel free to contact him with any questions you may have.

Matthew Orwat

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/02/08/soil-test-prepare-now-for-a-bountiful-harvest-later/

Tips to Prepare for Bull Buying Season

J & W Heartbreaker 2582433 was the high selling lot at the Florida Bull Test Sale back in January. This Simmental Bull sold for $ 4,750 because of the combination of excellent muscling, growth, and feed efficiency.

Doug Mayo, Jackson County Extension

As the College Football season winds down there is another season that is really going strong, Bull Buying Season.  All over the nation there are opportunities to purchase replacement bulls that can improve the quality and performance of your herd.  Before you go shopping, however, you need to do some homework.

The first thing to consider is what do you want from a bull?  A bulls job is fairly simple:  breed, reproduce, work for a number of years, make genetic improvement,  and provide salvage value to help purchase a replacement.  As you go out to purchase a replacement bull, it is important that you keep these roles in mind to help you make the right purchasing decisions.

Breed & Reproduce
While you fully expect a bull to have the natural desire to breed, this is not always the case.  Most of the bulls offered for sale at purebred ranches or bull sales are virgin bulls, so that you do not risk exposure to diseases.  Libido is not something that is normally tested, since it is usually not a problem with young bulls.     Even so, not every bull has the same libido, so it is a good idea to keep an eye on them once you turn them out to make sure they are willing to do the work you bought them for.  Sometimes the issue is not with libido, but actual physical injury or abnormality.    In the rare case that you do have a problem, reputable breeders will stand behind their product.

Another more serious issue that is not so obvious is the ability to actually reproduce or father calves.  Just because you see a bull out  working does not mean he is fertile.  Every bull should be tested for fertility prior to purchase. A veterinarian can perform a Breeding Soundness Exams (BSE) to ensure bulls are physically healthy, and can produce both the quantity and quality of sperm to get the job down.  BSE’s are normally performed on bulls prior to a sale, but if you buy direct from the ranch you may have to request it.  A BSE can’t predict the future, but it can certainly ensure that a bull has the ability to settle a cow.  Consider a BSE as breeding insurance.  You don’t want to feed open cows all winter only to find that the bull did not do his job.

Figure 1

If you make the investment in a high quality bull, you want him to stay in the herd as long as possible.  One of the areas that often gets overlooked is structural correctness.  Figure 1 above shows the proper angle for front and rear leg set.  While poor structure may have little effect on young bulls, over time as they grow older and much heavier, imperfections can cause a bull to become lame.  The act of breeding puts tremendous pressure on the rear legs, and a bull with swelling and pain may not cover all of the cows in heat.  Another key factor in the longevity of a bull is temperament.  Many bulls are culled early due to bad temperament.  Not just the ability to be handled by people, but also their interest in fighting other bulls and jumping fences.  While it may be very difficult to asses behavior in just a short drive through, it is important actually walk though a group of bulls and make sure there is not an issue at a young age.  In most cases bad-tempered bulls only get worse with age.

Genetic Improvement
For most ranches the greatest improvement to the genetic performance of a herd comes from the bulls they purchase.  In just three generations, the bulls that sire calves influence 87.5% of the genes in a calf crop. (Sire 50% + Grand Sire 25% + Great-grand Sire 12.5% = 87.5%).  Since bulls contribute so much to the genetics of the herd and are normally purchased from another ranch, they are the simplest tool to use to improve the muscling and performance of your herd.  While visual appraisal of physical traits like structural correctness and muscling are very important, indexes called EPD’s are the best tool to use to evaluate the potential performance of a bulls offspring.

EPD’s or Expected Progeny Differences are an estimate of the performance of future offspring of a parent, compared to progeny of other parents in the breed.  Today there are numerous traits that are measured and estimated with EPD’s.  The numbers can seem overwhelming the first time you really try to compare bulls.  The value of EPD’s is the huge data base that allows a fair comparison with every herd within a given breed.  It would be helpful if EPD’s were reset to “0″ each year.  That would mean an average animal would be zero and a negative number would mean below average.  However, that is not considered wise marketing by the breed associations   So, you as the buyer have to know the averages to be able to judge  the potential of a bull.  Most breed associations offer a tool to help producers sort out the sea of numbers created for each animal.  Percentile tables are available to provide a guide.  Figure 2 below is a partial sample of the percentile chart for non-parent Angus Bulls.  The 50% line is the average for the breed, so if you look at a young Angus bull with a weaning weight EPD of 53 you can see from the table that he is actually in the top 25% of the breed.  But a bull with a weaning weight EPD of 45 would be below average for the breed.  This is just one trait and there are many that are measured.  This is why it is really helpful to develop some target EPD’s before you start shopping.  It also is helpful to view performance data first, to sort out the bulls you are interested in, before going to the sale or ranch.  The main thing is to know the numbers that matter before you ever start shopping and fall in love with that beautiful, fat bull that ultimately won’t improve your herd.

Figure 2

Salvage Value

If you have not been keeping up with bull prices, they have risen dramatically the past few years.  The American Angus Association reported the US average sale price for Angus breeding bulls was $ 4,627 from October of 2011 through March of 2012.  The average price at the Florida Bull Test Sale held in January was $ 2,858.  Several bull sales in the Southeast this fall have averaged from $ 3,000 to $ 3,500 per bull.  Part of the reason for the rise in price is the demand caused by the expansion of the US beef herd.  Another reason is the increase in the salvage value of bulls sold at the market for slaughter.  Figure 3 below shows the average prices for slaughter bulls in Alabama the week ending November 16.  So you can see why a budget of $ 1,500 for yearling bulls or $ 2,000 mature bulls is no longer adequate.  Bulls that will truly improve the quality of your herd are going to be much more expensive.  As you cull older bulls however, you will also have more money put down on their replacements.

Figure 3

Where to Buy Bulls
There are a number of reputable purebred cattle breeders in the Tri-State region that sell replacement breeding bulls.  There are also bull sales that offer bulls from multiple herds.   Your County Agent can provide you with contact information for purebred ranches or bull sales in your area.  For the 13th year, the University of Florida has evaluated the performance of breeding age bulls in the Florida Bull Test.  The majority of the 93 bulls enrolled in the test will be sold at auction on Saturday, January 19, 2013.  For more information on the performance of these bulls, and the upcoming sale you can go to their website:  Florida Bull Test.

But no matter where, you decide to go to purchase your replacement bulls, have a plan before you start.  Only purchase bulls that have had a BSE to ensure fertility.  Visually evaluate the bulls for muscling, correctness of structure, and temperament.  Know the EPD values of your chosen breed and have a cheat sheet to help decipher the above average bulls.  Be prepared to pay more than ever before for a good bull that will positively impact the performance of your herd for years to come.

Doug Mayo

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2012/12/01/tips-to-prepare-for-bull-buying-season/