Mulling solar energy? Check this out

Tony Nye - OSU Extension

I don’t know about the rest of you, but after this week I am tired of snow, ice, slippery roads, and idiots that just don’t understand the laws of physics between vehicles, high speeds and slick roads. If you were that such idiot that about wiped me out on my way home Wednesday night, I hope your experience stuck in the snow was enjoyable and fun-loving. I needed a clean pair of shorts after my near wrecking experience, but I at least made it home just fine.

p.s. to that driver, I think there is a story about a tortoise and the hare? Let’s see, I think the tortoise won. My suggestion is next time slow down and let someone else be that hare.

Moving forward, it would be nice if we could get lots of sunshine during all this cold weather. At least it would make us think it was nicer outside. Speaking of sun, have you ever considered solar energy?

Many farmers consider investing in on-farm solar energy systems to stabilize energy input costs. Farmers interested in installing solar energy systems can learn more about the technology and potential cost savings during an OSU Extension workshop on Feb. 24 at Der Dutchman in Plain City.

Solar energy systems offer many benefits, including the positive environmental impact of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and reduced future energy costs. Energy inputs are important to agriculture, with energy-related expenses representing an average of more than 13 percent of farm production expenses in 2005-2008.

Solar energy stabilizes future energy costs, is associated with low maintenance costs, and is free to the producer after the initial investment in installation is recovered. However, it is critical to understand the assumptions used to calculate the payback on the initial investment.

In order to help producers understand whether on-farm solar is a good fit for their operations, the workshop will offer information on important factors to consider while predicting return on that initial investment. Other important financial considerations including tax credits, financing options, and funding opportunities, will also be discussed.

The workshop is from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Der Dutchman, 445 S Jefferson Ave, Plain City.

The workshop is free to attend but does require registration. Breakfast and lunch are included with registration. Space is limited. Please register by Feb. 19. To register, contact OSU Extension Madison County at 740-852-0975 or

Another upcoming program you might consider is an advanced Estate Planning program for farm families. This is your last chance to get signed up!

Estate planning for farm families

This program will be held Wednesday, Feb.17 in our Clinton County Extension Community Room, 111 S. Nelson Ave., Wilmington. This program will cover the following topics:

How to expand your farm estate for your heirs without estate tax inclusion.

How to transfer your elderly parents’ farm without nursing home recovery.

How to set up a grain hauling operation to minimize legal liability and risk.

How to establish a Family Farm Operating Agreement with siblings and children.

How to design retirement plan options for family farms: SEP/IRA, 401 K, Defined Benefit Plan, etc.

The program will be resourced by Chris Bruynis, OSU Extension Educator in Ross Co., Richard K. Shirer, a registered representative and financial advisor of Park Avenue Securities, LLC (PAS), and farm estate tax attorney, Douglas R. Jackson.

There is no charge for this event, but please RSVP by calling 614-932-0854 by Monday, Feb. 15.

Protect animals during cold

Finally this week, I hope you have taken extra precautions to protect our farm animals from the extreme cold weather. Here are just some very basic things to keep in mind to help livestock survive extreme winter conditions.

Remember water is very important. Water is a main concern in winter livestock management. The necessity of a clean and reliable year-round source of water cannot be overemphasized. Novice managers often mistakenly believe that animals can meet water requirements by eating snow or licking ice.

With daily water requirements varying from three gallons (sheep) to 14 gallons (cattle), one can see that livestock would need to spend every waking hour eating snow to meet their requirements. Ice and snow consumption also lowers body temperature and increases maintenance energy needs, so it should be discouraged.

Be sure to supply plenty of feed that can also provide adequate energy. Animals need more calories to maintain their body heat when temperatures plummet, and adding sufficient roughage or grain to their diet can help them stay at good weights. Trace minerals should be incorporated into their winter diet, as well as vitamin supplements if necessary. Monitor feeding times to be sure all animals are eating appropriately and have good access to the proper food.

Don’t forget shelter that is draft free and dry. Barns and coops should be winterized properly to remove drafts without blocking all ventilation, and additional shelter can be provided with windbreaks in fields or pens. Enough shelter should be available so all animals can be accommodated without overcrowding, and extra bedding can also help insulate the livestock and keep animals more comfortable as temperatures drop.

Don’t forget to watch the health of your animals. Familiarize yourself with the signs of hypothermia and frostbite that could affect your animals, and be ready to get them prompt veterinary attention if they show any signs of distress. Pregnant stock should be watched especially closely so they do not suffer any ill effects during poor weather.

Tony Nye is the state coordinator for the Ohio State University Extension Small Farm Program and has been an OSU Extension Educator for agriculture and natural resources for 28 years, currently serving Clinton County and the Miami Valley EERA.

Tony Nye

OSU Extension