Easter Seals and Mid-Atlantic AgrAbility Project restore passion in local farmer’s life

April 18, 2014 under CANR News

Pursuing a passion is exhilarating, but attempting that same task with pain or limitations can be a safety concern and sometimes seem impossible.

Easter Seals Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore and the Mid-Atlantic AgrAbility Project (MAAP), a project funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the leadership of the University of Delaware, the University of Maryland and Rutgers University in collaboration with several non-profit disability and health organizations, did not want a spinal injury to stop Don Cunningham, of Greenwood, from pursuing his dreams of farming with his son.

Cunningham’s injury occurred during his time in the Air Force.

A primary consideration for Cunningham, who farms 1000 acres in Sussex County, was minimizing the bouncing and vibration he experienced while operating his tractors and allowing him a rear view of his equipment without the need to turn his head, something he was no longer able to do since his injury.

The AgrAbility Project referred Cunningham to the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation who provided him with an ergonomic suspension replacement seat and a remote controlled mobile video camera system. The seat positions and supports the body to help absorb excessive vibrations and shock. The armrests and high back provide stability for tractor operators with back problems or balance difficulties. The video camera system offers a rear view without the operator leaving the cab or even turning his head.  Cunningham received equipment for multiple tractors that he uses for a variety of tasks.

“After the equipment modifications, I logged close to 60 hours in one tractor over a ten day period, more hours than the entire previous year,” Cunningham said. “I never thought that such simple equipment modifications could make such a difference in quality of life. Now I am able to pursue my desire of farming with my son without the fear of compromising my physical safety. AgrAbility provided me the means to a brighter, more productive future.”

The MAAP is part of a national program that promotes independence for farmers, watermen, loggers and poultry growers who want to continue to farm despite physical limits and health conditions. The MAAP’s program goals are to inform, educate and assist farmers and agricultural workers with limitations, as well as their families, so that they can continue to lead successful careers in agriculture.

“The equipment modifications to my tractors restored my desire of farming without limitation,” Cunningham said. “I had always wanted to farm with my son after retiring from the Air Force; however, I was limited in the ability to operate most of the equipment required to contribute to this farming operation.”

For more information about the Mid-Atlantic AgrAbility Project, visit www.mid-atlanticagrability.com, or contact Easter Seals at 1-877-204-3276 (FARM).

Easter Seals offers a range of services, including children’s therapies, assistive technology, recreational camping, day programs for adults with physical or intellectual disabilities and respite services for caregivers. To learn more about how Easter Seals helps children and adults with disabilities, call 1-800-677-3800 or visit www.de.easterseals.com.


UD students get hands-on animal experience during lambing season

April 17, 2014 under CANR News

UD students spent the month of March on Lamb WatchStudents in the University of Delaware’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences 417 Capstone Course spent the beginning of the spring semester on the farm in the early morning hours of the day or into the early evening on “lamb watch,” keeping an eye out to see if any of the pregnant ewes in the UD flock were about to give birth.

Under the guidance of Lesa Griffiths, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, and Larry Armstrong, farm manager, the students spent the month of March — which was peak time for lambing this year — watching over the 52 ewes, which produced 93 lambs. The figures were up from the 81 lambs from 42 ewes last year.

The 30-member class was divided into groups with four or five students per group and an honors student liaison, as the class is also an Honors Program capstone course. Each student had to sign up for six lamb watches during the lambing season in addition to their regular lab meetings once a week.

The earliest shift was from 6-7:30 a.m. and the latest was from 8-9:30 p.m. Each student had to write in a barn journal to provide an update on what they did and what they noticed for the next students scheduled to arrive at the farm, and Griffiths said that before spring break, there had been over 320 entries in the journal.

Griffiths said that if a lamb was born on a group’s watch, that group would take care of the lamb for the semester.

“They are responsible for making the decision as to when it’s appropriate to ear tag and dock their tails. They weigh and record birth weights, 10-day weights, 30-day weights, and they’ll administer their vaccines,” said Griffiths.

She added that this real world, hands-on experience is critical to the development of the students.

“They really learn because when it comes to animal care, there is a much greater responsibility in terms of making sure the task gets done and playing your role,” said Griffiths. “You really have a responsibility and a level of accountability to the other people in your group and to the animals. I think the students learn a lot of people skills, communication skills and time management skills, as they have to relay information accurately and quickly.”

Armstrong noted, “After lambing, the students take an integral part in the challenges that arise from raising one of the world’s oldest domestic animals. The labs have been structured, yet are organic and fun at the same time.”

He added that the students “have done an amazing job of learning management skills and protocols from Dr. Griffiths then helping me to apply their newly learned skills in very real world situations. They learn, teach each other and confidently perform tasks that will put them above and beyond others in their future careers.”

Casey Foreman, a senior in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said that lamb watch was mostly to make sure everything was proceeding as normal with the ewes and to notify Armstrong or Griffiths if one was having problems delivering.

“The ewes are usually able to give birth without any assistance. Once she has had the lamb, we can go in and clean off the lamb’s nose and mouth to make sure that it is able to breathe. Then we leave it alone so that the ewe can clean it off and begin to take care of it,” said Foreman.

Foreman, who has witnessed three births this lambing season, said her favorite part about the class is working with the animals. “We get to interact with the lambs, weighing them to keep track of their growth, giving them ear tags, and docking their tails. We also have to move the ewes, with their lambs, to different parts of the barn as the lambs get older. From the maternity bay with the pregnant sheep to a jug, an individualized pen where the mom can bond with her baby, and then to a mixing pen where groups of ewes and their babies are brought together again.”

During one particularly difficult lambing session this year, they had to call the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center for assistance, and it just so happened that the center sent a familiar face — Kaitlyn Lutz, a UD alumna who graduated in 2007 with a degree in animal science and pre-veterinary medicine and is a second-year resident at New Bolton.

“To walk in and see her there was really nice,” Griffiths said, “not only because she’s an alum but because she’s interested in small ruminants and it’s not always easy to find a veterinarian with expertise in sheep.”

Lutz said that she currently trains veterinary students on all livestock species — sheep, goats and dairy and beef cows — and because UD is a client, she explained, “The involvement I have here is all on the veterinary side and we come down once a week to take care of any lambing issues and any sick animals. And if there are students here, they get to become involved.”

Lutz said it is great to come back to UD and see the facilities and interact with the people. “It’s really nice to have that involvement and then to also know that when I come back, I can be so proud of what the University of Delaware has to offer,” said Lutz. “All of the facilities are great, the people here are great, and it’s nice to bring vet students here to teach them using such a great facility with good management and have that interaction now that I’ve learned more — and am still learning from the people here.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


New AGcelerate program provides CANR freshmen with support

April 10, 2014 under CANR News

UD's new AGcelerate program sets students on the path to successLast fall, University of Delaware faculty members Erin Brannick and Tanya Gressley welcomed the inaugural 30-member class to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) AGcelerate Program.

Funded through the President’s Diversity Initiative, the AGcelerate program is designed to foster a sense of community, to prepare students for academic success by giving them peer and faculty mentors, and to help them make important contacts in the real world to secure internships and promote career development.

“We just opened it up to freshmen this year and we have about 30 freshmen enrolled. We paired them all with peer mentors, so we have 22 peer mentors that are a part of it, also,” said Gressley, associate professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS).

Brannick, assistant professor in the department, added that the program is “tailored for individual support. We have students that may want to be a part of this program for the tutoring that’s offered here on South Campus.”

Brannick added that group tutoring sessions are held once a week on Tuesdays, from 5-7 p.m. in 049 Townsend Hall.

In addition to tutoring, the students also get mentoring from peers and can request a faculty mentor, in addition to their regular faculty member adviser.

Brannick explained that the peer mentoring is more focused on having the freshmen learn the ropes of the University, while the faculty mentors help give the students career attention and career planning advice.

The program also brings resources directly to the students. For instance, Joyce Henderson, assistant director at the University’s Career Services Center, spoke to program members about opportunities available to them.

“We do a weekly discussion thread through our campus site that usually relates to either campus resources or to how students learn and study, giving tips and advice about any detailed support that they can share with each other,” said Brannick. She added that the group also has weekly prize giveaways, such as gift cards to bookstores or restaurants on Main Street, to encourage the students to contribute to the discussions.

In addition, Brannick said many of the students enjoy the fact that the group is close-knit. “The students have indicated that another major factor for them is just the friendships and that idea of camaraderie in the group and feeling like they have other people to go to when they need help, or knowing who to approach when they’re looking for assistance beyond what they can find on their own,” said Brannick.

The group also participates in off-campus excursions, such as going to Milburn Orchards in the fall, and in service learning activities, such as planting beach grass at the Delaware shore.

Gressley said the hope is that students who are taking the program as freshmen will come back and serve as peer mentors for the next group as they continue their college careers.

There are also funds allocated to “support travel to conferences and internships and in the future we hope to kind of team up a little bit to help get them internships in their fields,” said Gressley. “This year is predominantly about academic success but then as they mature, we want to get them to hit the ground running. Once they’re running, we’ll focus more on leadership skills and career building.”

Brannick added that the program is designed to “support students as they develop so it’s everything from hitting the ground running and finding everything that you need around campus to being successful and to wanting to stay at UD and at our college. And there is that next phase about how to develop themselves while they’re here to become leaders.”

The AGcelerate program is teaming up with Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) to host two booths at Ag Day on April 26 and they will host a MANRRS reunion panel on May 2 in the Townsend Hall commons from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., with a panel discussion from 11 a.m.-noon and lunch from noon-1 p.m.

AGcelerate has open enrollment and is open to CANR students in all fields of study.

Those interested in applying for the AGcelerate program should email the group at AGcelerate@udel.edu.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


UD Cooperative Extension team presented award at national conference

April 10, 2014 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Dennis Calvin, chair, eXtension Governing Committee, and director, Penn State University Extension (left) presents the Be, Grow, Create Outstanding Institutional Team Award to (from left) UD's Michele Walfred, Adam Thomas and Christy Mannering.A University of Delaware Cooperative Extension team has been honored by eXtension as a 2014 Be, Grow, Create Outstanding Institutional Team Award winner. The award was presented at the National eXtension Conference and National Extension Directors and Administrators joint meeting on March 26 in Sacramento, Calif.

The UD team includes Carrie Murphy, Phillip Sylvester, Deborah Delaney, Kathleen Splane, Nancy Gainer, Adam Thomas, Christy Mannering and Michele Walfred.

Ask an Expert implementation was a major focus of the team’s work. Jeff Hino, from Oregon State University, worked with members who personalized a marketing concept developed by Oregon State and developed a video for use in a multimedia presentation at the Delaware State Fair.

The team developed the implementation process and the timeframe for delivery. By the time they rolled out Ask an Expert at the State Fair, over 30 staff and volunteers had been trained to respond to questions, “question wranglers” were in place, and a web presence had been developed.

All Extension staff participated in Adobe Connect training in relation to Ask an Expert prior to the State Fair. Since the rollout time period, the team has continued to enhance Ask an Expert with a question of the week feature and additional training sessions as new staff come on board.

At this year’s Delaware Extension Annual Conference, the Ask an Expert sub-committee members were selected and received the Director’s Leadership award.

Terry Meisenbach, eXtension communications and marketing leader, said, “The University of Delaware team, with the help of eXtension leadership members, was able to grasp the multitude of resources available from eXtension. Through Adobe Connect poll pods and a Qualtrics online survey, the team identified some immediate and short-term goals for eXtension implementation. They quickly met that first round of goals and the goals they’re considering now focus on social media development and online course development using Moodle.”

Elbert Dickey, eXtension executive director, added, “An Outstanding Institutional Team has demonstrated the planning, creativity, and commitment to making eXtension a ‘fit’ for its state and institution. An Outstanding team also helps eXtension know just what its state and institution brings to eXtension.”

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


April 11-13: Lawn mower tune-up

April 7, 2014 under CANR News

The University of Delaware’s Alpha Gamma Rho (AGR) fraternity for agriculture and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Club are once again offering a push lawn mower tune-up service on Friday, April 11, and Saturday, April 12, rain or shine.

The event will be held at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) campus, with pick up on Saturday and Sunday, April 13.

Over 6,300 mowers have been serviced at the event since 2000.

The tune-up — provided by trained students and alumni members of the clubs — includes washing the mower, an oil change, spark plug replacement, air filter cleaning, and blade sharpening. Service performed is tune-up only; no repairs will be performed and no riding mowers will be accepted.

Richard Morris, UD farm manager and adviser for AGR, said it is a good idea to have a lawn mower tuned up every year in order to make it last longer. He also noted that the event has a lot of repeat customers and most of them are easy to find.

Jason Morris, a sophomore in CANR, said that there will be around 30-40 volunteers this year, including current members of AGR, each of whom will volunteer for a minimum of 15 hours, and SAE, and also some AGR alumni.

The cost of the tune-up is $38. Payment in the form of cash or check may be made at drop off.

Drop off times are from 2 to 8 p.m. on Friday, April 11, and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 12.

Customers can pick up their mowers on Saturday from 1 to 6 p.m. for the first 300 mowers taken on Friday, or on Sunday, April 13, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the remaining mowers.

All mowers must be picked up by 2 p.m. on Sunday. The owners of any mowers not picked up by Sunday will be charged a storage fee.

Richard Morris said that he wanted to “thank the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources for letting us take over their parking lot and for having the full support from the dean and the college.”

Lawn mowers may be dropped off and picked up in the parking lot behind Worrilow and Townsend halls on UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources campus at 531 S. College Ave., just north of the Fred Rust Ice Arena. Look for signs for the tune-up.

For more information, contact Tim Schofield of AGR at tschof@udel.edu or 610-883-0531.

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


UDairy Creamery to hold annual Alumni Weekend ice cream flavor contest

April 2, 2014 under CANR News

UDairy creamery flavor contestIn honor of Alumni Weekend at the University of Delaware, the UDairy Creamery is featuring its annual ice cream flavor contest.

The contest will determine the 2014 limited edition “Dela-bration” flavor that members of the campus community can create.

UD alumni, employees and students have the opportunity to submit flavor ideas they think should make up “Dela-bration,” the official ice cream of Alumni Weekend.

The winning flavor will be available to taste and purchase during Alumni Weekend.

The new flavor will also be announced at the Alumni Weekend Lunch with the YoUDee mascots on June 7 on The Green.

In addition to free access to Alumni Weekend activities, the creator of the winning flavor will also receive an UDairy Creamery prize pack.

Last year’s winning flavor was submitted by Gretchen Wolfe, of the Class of 2001, and featured vanilla ice cream with chocolate chips, almonds, chocolate covered pretzels and dark chocolate fudge.

Her description read, “This flavor symbolizes the cycle of a UD student becoming an alumnus. Students start as a blank slate (vanilla), go ‘nuts’ (almonds), get wrapped up in studies (pretzels), find out how sweet life can be (fudge), and then leave a little bit of themselves behind on campus (the chocolate chips).”

Entrants are encouraged to consider varieties of flavor combinations for their “Dela-bration” flavor submission — Neapolitan or chocolate swirl, brownies or ginger snaps, or fruit or fudge? They can let their imaginations run free and enter for a chance to win free access for them and a guest to all Alumni Weekend activities from June 6-8.

Submit ideas online at this site or pick up an entry form at UDairy Creamery, located off of South College Avenue at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources on the north side of the Fred Rust Ice Arena.

UD Alumni Weekend

Held the first weekend after Commencement each year, Alumni Weekend is a tradition that is growing in popularity and in size.

The weekend encourages alumni, friends, and families to return to campus and celebrate the qualities that make UD unique. It also provides an opportunity to reconnect with friends and professors and to witness the remarkable changes at the University over the past few years.

More than 5,300 Blue Hens and friends attended in 2013, participating in activities such as Mug Night, the Blue Hen 5K, reunions, President Patrick Harker’s State of the University address, the R&B Lounge and the Alumni Wall of Fame Ceremony. More information is available at the Alumni Weekend website.

UDairy Creamery

The UDairy Creamery, established in 2008, produces premium ice cream made with the milk from the cows on the farm at UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Founded on science, sustainability and entrepreneurship, the UDairy Creamery encourages discovery learning, with UD students involved in every aspect of making and selling ice cream “from the cow to the cone.” Get more information at the UDairy Creamery website.

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


UD Botanic Gardens announce annual benefit plant sale

April 1, 2014 under CANR News

Hydrangea, Redbud Forest pansy, Mentors' Circle,  S. College Ave. by Lane McLaughlin 7/7/03The 22nd annual University of Delaware Botanic Gardens Benefit Plant Sale will be held on Friday and Saturday, April 25-26, on the South Campus in Newark.

The sale will be held from 3-7 p.m. Friday and from 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday – the latter in conjunction with Ag Day — in the fenced area across from Fisher Greenhouse. Admission is free.

Those with interest can view the plant sale catalog at the UDBG website to see an array of summer’s grande dames of horticulture — the hydrangea, a prime selection of magnolias, maples and iris, along with hundreds of additional select treasures.

UDBG Friends enjoy an exclusive day to shop at the sale on Thursday, April 24, from 3-7 p.m. To enjoy other exclusive member benefits, join the Friends online or contact Melinda Zoehrer at 302-831-0153 or BotanicGardens@udel.edu.

Hydrangeas featured

The featured plants, hydrangeas, though a small portion of the many ornamental shrubs available to modern gardeners, embody all the best attributes of horticulture as a hobby and, for some, an obsession. This beautiful group of plants exhibits a stunning diversity of species and cultivated varieties that satisfy a wide range of tastes and garden settings. All members of the genus share a common name, but in some cases the similarities end there.

The impressive floral prowess of many hydrangeas is arguably their most exciting and endearing feature. Interestingly, the impressive diversity of the family means this characteristic is itself subject to a number of different factors. These traits, long admired by hydrangea aficionados, include flower color, size, shape and the season in which they are at their best.

Next, the specific growth habit, growth rate and mature size of the various hydrangeas dictate their appropriate landscape placement. Finally, their varying foliage characteristics, from spring through fall, combine to provide a plethora of exciting options. When it comes to hydrangeas, there is truly something for everyone.

The genus hydrangea consists of over 70 species worldwide, but the best choices for Mid-Atlantic gardens can be narrowed down to five main groups. Each group consists of one or more “hallmark” species that exemplify their prime ornamental features and any number of named varieties, known as cultivars.

The first four groups consist of shrubby plants and include Smooth hydrangea (H. arborescens), Oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia), Panicle hydrangea (H. paniculata) and the classic lacecap and mophead types (H. macrophylla and H. serrata), whose colorful blooms have graced gardens for centuries.

The fifth and final group includes the handsome pair of vines known as Climbing hydrangea (H. anomala ssp. petiolaris) and its cousin the Japanese hydrangea vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides).

Each group offers its own personality, distinct ornamental attributes and respective place in the garden.

About the hydrangea groups

First, Smooth hydrangea is a native shrub found in shady forest nooks throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Southern states. It becomes a prominent garden feature each May as large creamy flower clusters cover its leafy framework.

This plant, perhaps best known by the popular variety Annabelle, often droops to the ground under the weight of its floral might. Dedicated breeding work in recent years has led to the availability of pink flowered types such as Invincibelle Spirit and Bella Anna.

The second group also consists of a shrubby denizen of the southeastern United States. Oakleaf hydrangea is so-named for its deeply cut foliage that mimics the familiar look of many oak tree (Quercus spp.) leaves. This fascinating textural attribute alone would be a great reason to grow this species, however it also offers an excellent display of white, conical flower panicles in late spring.

Fall brings yet another season of interest as the leaves take on gorgeous shades of burgundy, orange and scarlet. Many selections have been made for flower size and growth habit over the years. These even include an intriguing cultivar with glowing chartreuse foliage known as Little Honey.

The next group of hydrangeas is one that has enjoyed renewed popularity in recent years. The Panicle, or PeeGee hydrangea, is a feature of older farmsteads and the confines of “grandma’s garden.” It is an Asian import that became quite popular during Victorian times. Athletic in its physiology, it is a plant of impressive growth rate that springs into aesthetic action during mid to late summer.

Prominent white flower panicles decorate the landscape at a time when most other trees and shrubs have faded into the background. Interest in this old favorite has been rekindled by newer varieties bred for compactness and reduced size at maturity — perfect qualities for today’s smaller gardens.

The exquisite, showy blooms of the fourth group represent the quintessential concept of the genus hydrangea. Bigleaf hydrangea (H. macrophylla) and Mountain hydrangea (H. serrata) are closely related species that serve similar ornamental roles. The first species has been cultivated for centuries and offers flowers in either a “mophead” (ball-shaped) appearance or a “lacecap” (flat or horizontal) arrangement. Cultivars have been bred in a dizzying array of color combinations, including white, pink, red, blue and purple.

Mountain hydrangea differs mainly in its smaller stature and proclivity toward the “lacecap” floral type. These species are the hydrangeas famous for exhibiting varying flower color depending on soil chemistry. Acid soils (higher pH) encourage flowers that tend toward blue, while neutral to basic soils (lower pH) lead to pink flowers. Newer reblooming varieties such as Endless Summer all but guarantee a captivating floral show from spring through fall.

Finally, two additional species typify a decidedly non-traditional concept of hydrangeas. Both are climbing vines quite adept at scrambling up walls, fences and even the sides of buildings. Though differing in small fairly obscure botanical traits, Climbing hydrangea and the Japanese hydrangea vine are used similarly in the landscape. Both offer lacey white flower clusters in late spring and add a new dimension to how hydrangeas beautify our gardens.

UD Botanic Gardens

The UD Botanic Gardens are open year-round to provide ideas and inspiration, or for a quiet stroll.

UDBG contributes to an understanding of the relationships between plants and people through education, research, cooperative extension, and community support.

Article by Jason Veil, UDBG curatorial graduate teaching assistant

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


UD group visits New Zealand to learn about differences in agriculture

April 1, 2014 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Students study in New Zealand learning about pasture growth through cooperative extension and classroom learningA study abroad program in New Zealand during Winter Session brought together undergraduate learning and Cooperative Extension experience, two major aspects emphasized by the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

This unique study abroad program blended classroom, experiential and extension education to deliver a unique discovery learning experience focused on New Zealand agriculture.

The five-week trip was led by Lesa Griffiths, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, and Susan Garey, animal science extension agent, who explained that the students divided their time between classroom learning and field experience as they traveled to farms and dairies to learn about the differences in farming and agriculture practices between the United States and New Zealand.

Garey said that she liked how the trip tied together the extension and undergraduate aspects of education. “We have the formal lecture in the classroom but getting out to the farm and looking at the blades of grass and seeing how pastures yields are measured and how you determine where to move the cows next in the grazing system, I just think really drives the point home to students.”

The students learned so much about New Zealand dairy and agriculture that two who went on the trip were able to present at Middletown High School at the annual meeting of the Delaware Holstein Association. The students talked about New Zealand agriculture and more specifically, about the dairy industry, such as typical farm size, how milk is marketed and the main products of the industry.

Pasture growth

Griffiths explained that the UD students learned a lot about pasture growth on their trip, both inside and outside of the classroom. Because the animals consume the grass available to them from pasture on farms in New Zealand, rather than being fed grain or harvested feeds, as is the case in America, understanding pasture growth is vital for that nation’s farmers.

The students stayed at Lincoln University in New Zealand, where they visited a 600-cow demonstration farm built to serve as a model for dairy farmers in the region.

Griffiths said the demonstration farm “serves more of an extension role — a place to try new pasture species, closely monitor pasture growth and animal performance, determine environmental impacts and share information with dairy farmers.”

Students learned from the farm manager about the concept of a pasture feed wedge, a graph of the current pasture status by ranking each paddock’s average pasture cover, she said.

“While the graph made it easy to see how much grass is out there for cows to consume, it was not so easy for students to visualize how the farmer gets his/her data on pasture grass production,” said Griffiths. To help farmers and students understand this, the farm staff would walk the pastures every Tuesday.

We showed up at the dairy and walked and measured weekly growth in each of the 21 paddocks. We stopped along the way and learned to evaluate the grass itself,” said Griffiths.

Jenna Wilson, a sophomore majoring in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences, said it was clear that the farmers cared dearly about their grass. “They really want the grass to produce well so that the animals produce well. They talked about when they cut it and when they grow it, where they grow it, and how they divide up the pasture.”

Garey added that the need for animals to feed themselves through pasture originated out of necessity because the farmers “don’t have the soil types to grow as much grain as we do here.”

Dairy differences

One of the biggest differences the group learned about was in the management of dairy farms. “New Zealand exports a lot of milk but one of the big cultural differences is New Zealanders are not large consumers of fluid milk,” said Garey, who explained that a majority of that nation’s dairy production is exported in milk powders that are headed to Asia, as well as in baby formula and in products such as cheese and butter.

Garey added that while dairies in America tend to milk their cows 305 out of 365 days of the year, the New Zealand dairies milk their cows around 223 days a year.

Wilson explained that a big difference between the two countries is that New Zealand farms tend to be more hands off and have fewer buildings for the animals.

“They don’t really interact as much with the animals as we do — except for dairying, obviously, because they have to bring them in twice a day. But a lot of the time, they just put the animals out in the pasture and leave them there until they need to shear them or breed them,” said Wilson.

Deer farms

Another difference between the two nations is that in New Zealand there are deer farms.

“At the deer farm that we went to, the farmer was raising them for the velvet. Antlers in the velveting stage get shipped to Asia for medicinal purposes. When they get older they use the deer for meat,” said Wilson, who added that these farms are easy to spot because they have very high fences to prevent the animals from jumping out.

Garey added that the deer on those farms are red deer, which differ from the white tailed deer found in Delaware.

Garey said the deer farms are what she calls a sign of “Kiwi ingenuity,” explaining that because deer — along with other animals — were brought to New Zealand from England, they had no known natural predators and their population exploded. Some New Zealanders decided to trap the animals and farm them in order to harvest either their velvet or their meat, usually focusing on one or the other.

“They do well in the harsher country so it’s a way to use the variability of land,” said Garey. “The south island of New Zealand is very diverse from the flat plains to high country and hill country. The high country environment is much harsher and that would not be good land, necessarily, for milking dairy cattle, but deer can do well in those environments.”

Because of the variability of the land, the farms also have multiple uses, sometimes housing sheep, deer and cattle, instead of focusing on one species.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


UD professor competes in Can-Am Crown Sled Dog Race

March 31, 2014 under CANR News

Professor Eric Benson competes in the Can-Am Crown Sled Dog RaceWhen the University of Delaware’s Eric Benson entered the 22nd annual Can-Am Crown Sled Dog Race in Maine, the only thing that he did not want to see at the end of the run was the Red Lantern, which is given to the slowest team.

Luckily for Benson, he had put in enough training and his dogs ran fast enough to avoid receiving that “prize.”

Benson, associate professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, and his six-dog team finished in 20th out of 26 teams, running the 30-mile race in 4 hours and 19 minutes.

Benson said that he was happy with the result, especially because he and his dogs do not race a lot.

Benson co-owns Maryland Sled Dog Adventures LLC with his wife, Catherine. Maryland Sled Dog Adventures focuses on teaching people about dog sledding and most of the events are on weekends, which also is when the races are usually held.

Maryland Sled Dog Adventures works many Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, teaching the children about dog sledding. While the opportunity provides the young people hands-on experiences and gives the dogs training, these runs are generally for short distances, not the long 30-mile slogs through the snow that CAN-AM race entailed.

“Our normal business has us doing a lot of short distance, stop, short distance, stop, which is kind of the exact opposite of what we want,” said Benson. “On a given day when we’re running things for Girl Scouts, we might total six or seven miles, when we needed to get up to 30 miles and have the dogs run continuously.”

To supplement the training, Benson said they “did a couple of trips this winter where we went up to Maine and we would run 18-20 mile stretches.”

The week before the race, the team trained in Edmonton, Canada, and did 16-30 mile runs every other day in order to train under similar geography and temperature conditions that they would encounter during the race.

All of the dogs on the team – made up of four dogs owned by Benson and his wife and two dogs owned by friends — are Siberian Huskies, while a lot of the other dogs in the race were Alaskan Huskies.

Benson said that this put his team at a disadvantage because while Siberian Huskies are a registered, pure breed, Alaskan Huskies can be bred with faster types of dogs. “What that lets people do is mix in German short haired pointer, German shepherd, whatever they want — even greyhound — to get the speed that they need. So in any race when they’re in the same field, they will be faster,” said Benson.

The dogs that raced in the Cam-Am were Benson’s dogs Acadia, Sammamish, Beaver and Vale, and his friends’ dogs, Lumos and Yoda.

The dogs trained with Benson throughout the winter, both locally and on trips to Maine. This winter was especially good for training locally because of the numerous storms.

“We did some training here with snow,” Benson said. “We normally assume that we will do all of our training in this area with the wheeled carts, but this year, I think we had seven or eight times we were able to get out and sled. Previous years, we’ve had zero.”

sleddogsbAs for his role on the team, Benson said that for this particular course, the first eight miles were on an old railroad track that was converted to a trail and so from the beginning he had to slow the team down by pumping the brakes in order to save their strength.

After the flat beginning, the team moved into hills and Benson said he started what is known as pedaling, pushing the sled with one foot while the other stays on the sled’s runner. “You give a stride to help the dogs along. The other thing you do is sometimes you carry a ski pole and as you’re running along, you’ll use the ski pole to help add a little bit of energy to the team,” said Benson.

Towards the end of the race, at about mile 22, the elevation started to rise. “From mile 22-28, it was a tough run. A lot of helping the team, a lot of running up the hills, a lot of pedaling, a lot of poling,” said Benson.

As for how he got involved in the sport, Benson said it started when his dog Zoe, who has long since retired, wouldn’t tire out on normal walks around the block. They got into it with a very simple cart and two dogs — the other was named T-Bone — and then started adding dogs and equipment to get to where they are today.

Benson said that it is a little tricky to balance such an intensive hobby with his job as a professor, but that sometimes the two worlds collide nicely. “I did bring some of the sled dogs in last fall for my emergency animal management class when we were talking about working dogs, and that was actually a neat tie-in,” said Benson.

“Working dogs, including sled dogs, are managed very differently from companion animal dogs and having had the sled dogs, I really understand a bit more about that,” he said. “We’re kind of in a transition zone because our dogs are still pets, which is not traditional working dog mentality, but we’ve transitioned more toward a traditional working dog structure and so that definitely fit well for discussions in the emergency animal management class.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Catherine and Eric Benson

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


Cooperative Extension employees receive Delaware Award for Heroism

March 18, 2014 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Mark Manno and Doug Crouse awarded for their role in helping to prevent a suicideMark Manno and Doug Crouse of University of Delaware Cooperative Extension have received the Delaware Award for Heroism for their role in helping prevent a suicide at UD’s Paradee Center in Dover in December 2013.

Those in the Paradee Center at the time of the event, Marianna Freilich and Christine Vennard, were also honored for their role in preventing a tragedy.

Manno, state 4-H program leader, explained that with a rash of teen suicides in Kent County last year, Delaware 4-H had held a number of staff training workshops addressing the issue.

“We had done staff training in August on suicide prevention and the science of suicide, and then we joined the Sussex County Health Promotion Coalition to co-host training with guidance counselors, principals and staff from Sussex school districts in early December at the Carvel Center, so we were pretty much in the loop on the issue,” said Manno.

Still, he said, “To have that transpire was difficult and it is fortunate that nothing bad happened.”

When asked how he knew what to do in the situation — a man had entered the Paradee Center in Dover saying he wanted to take his own life — Crouse explained, “Sometimes I just think in life that your human side takes over and I saw a person there that I knew needed help. I feel that just taking the time to talk to someone sometimes can help, and that’s really all I did — I just took the time to start talking to him.”

Both Manno and Crouse, Extension agent and 4-H and youth development director for Kent County, were modest when talking about the award.

We just did what most people would’ve done. We just tried to help the guy. I mean that’s what we do, we help people,” said Manno.

Crouse added, “When it was first mentioned to us that they were going to present us this award, I thought, ‘I didn’t do anything to receive an award.’ I guess someone saw something in this process that they recognized as worthy of recognition so I appreciate that person for taking the time to write up the award but, again, I never did it for the award.”

If there was one thing Crouse wanted people to take away from the story, it is that the human side will always take over and that it is a good thing to help others.

“Every time everyone talks to me about it, I shrug it off like it was no big thing. I guess the main thing I probably have pointed out to people is that it’s OK to help,” said Crouse. “Unfortunately, we live in an environment where we are fearful of so much, but I keep coming back to this — the human side of you takes over and you just feel compelled to help people, and I am that type of person. I will help anybody if I think I can.”

The two have also been invited to a formal statewide recognition program in which they will be recognized by Gov. Jack Markell for their actions.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.