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Soil Nutrients

Soil Nutrients

Definition of Good Soil

The soil is a dynamic body, teeming with microorganisms whose activities vary from day to day and from season to season with changes in temperature, moisture, and food supply.

Soil is the material on the earth’s surface that can support the roots of plants and provide nutrients for plant life. Plants are dependent on water, the sun, and the soil’s nutrients to give them energy for vegetative growth and reproduction. The health, vitality, and yield of the plants are directly related to the nutrient content of the soil in which they are grown.

Healthy Soil

The condition of our soils is important because all life on earth is dependent on soil. A close look at healthy soil reveals that it is teeming with life and activity. It is rich in organic matter, insects, earthworms, air, water, and nutrients. Healthy soil retains nutrients and has a texture that allows water and air to permeate it. The four major components of soil are mineral matter, organic matter, water, and air. The mineral matter such as stones and rock powders usually originates from the bedrock that lies beneath the soil. Organic matter (humus) is the decayed remains and waste products of plants and animals.

Fertile Soil

Healthy soil must be fertile and for soil to be fertile, it must have nutrients readily available and a pH value at a recommended level for the plants that will be grown in it. The pH level of the soil refers to its acidity or alkalinity and each plant has it own preferred value range. Soil pH is one of the most important soil properties that affect the availability of nutrients. In the desired pH range of 6.5 to 7.5, nutrients are more readily available to plants and microbial populations in the soil increase.

Minerals in the Soil

It is important to note that the mineral composition of the soil is what makes the difference between rich fertile soil and poor infertile soil. Plants need minerals to be in an available and balanced form. Minerals are what create sweetness, flavor, and nutrition in fruits, grains, and vegetables. Without balanced minerals, it is possible to achieve high production, but not the highest quality nutritional food.

Nutrition brings genetic potential.

History of Soil and Nutrition in the USA

In the western movement of farmers to the American frontier, the search was always for good fertile land. Virgin soils were the most continuous attraction drawing people to the wilderness in the west. Those pioneers who were the most successful in finding the best soil actually felt, smelled, and tasted it before putting down stakes.

Year by year the farmers lived on the soil and eventually discovered that their unrotated crops diminished their returns. They had not replenished the soil nutrients their crops had used up. With the offer of virgin soil farther west at nominal prices, many farmers moved on after a few years. Unfortunately the economics favored using up the nutrients in the soil without replacing them. They had not learned the lesson that soils are dynamic. They were not committed to maintaining soil fertility by encouraging soil life and replacing the nutrients and minerals their crops had used.

Today in America sustainable farmers and growers are very aware of the importance of building healthy, balanced, nutrient-dense soil for their present use and also for succeeding growers. They know that the health of their soil correlates directly with the mineral density of the crops and produce they harvest. They also know there is a strong connection between soil, food, dinner plate, and human health. Healthy soil results in healthy food and healthy food results in healthy humans.

There is a link between soil quality and nutritional decline. Unfortunately, from 1940 to 1991, the produce quality in the United States has dropped. The USDA confirms this loss of nutrients. On the average, fruit lost 60% of its mineral density and vegetables lost nearly 80%.

We need to work hard at reversing this trend of declining nutrition in our foods and make sure that we grow nutritious, wholesome foods. The number one goal for growers must be the production of top quality herbs, fruits, and vegetables that are full of nutrients and vitality and taste delicious. The largest sphere of influence with which to raise the quality of our current produce is the soil. In the end, we must garden and farm from the bottom up. The beginning of great gardens and produce acres that produce healthy, nutrient-dense produce is the soil.

Good Soil Management

The road back to healthy soil includes managing residue and seeding cover crops, both done in the fall after harvest. Residue management is an excellent way to incorporate nutrients back into the soil. This involves chopping or shredding the stalks of the previous season’s plants immediately after harvesting them. These stalks have pulled many minerals out of the soil to nourish the plants. Minerals, nitrogen, sugars, protein, and saps are left in the stalks and it is beneficial to return them to the soil.

Digestion in the soil is as important as digestion in the human body. Just as human bodies need enzymes to break down food, so the soil needs microbes to break down the corn stalks, vines, and other plants that were growing in gardens. The residue needs to be turned back into the soil because it contains nutrients for next year’s crop.

Use a good microbial package such as Lancaster Ag’s d-Compose for fall application and distribute across residue and entire garden to aid digestion in the soil. A bacteria product, like d-Compose that contains enzymes, will break down the residue. Shallow incorporate the plant residue and d-Compose into the soil by tilling no more than 6-inches deep. There are several tillage methods that work well.

Seeding a cover crop before putting a garden to bed for the winter adds many benefits to the soil. After incorporating the residue, seed a cover crop such as Jerry Forage Oats. The cover crop’s roots will hold the nutrients that were just applied. It is a way to feed soil by providing readily available nutrients when residue goes into the soil, thus adding nitrogen and organic matter. Plus, a cover crop also prevents wind, water, and soil erosion during the winter months.

In the spring, inoculate cover crops with d-Compose. Then turn under the cover crops well ahead of planting time. The nutrition in cover crops is now available in the soil for spring plants.

Trace Minerals in the Soil

Minerals in the soil need to be plentiful, available, balanced, and diverse

Minerals are as essential to healthy soils and plants as air is to young infants when they begin to breathe. No one would think of closing off an infant’s airway, but that is in essence what we are doing by not applying minerals to our soils.

Minerals are important for beneficial bacteria to flourish in the soil, fungi to form, algae to develop, plant root exudates to grow, and roots to elongate. All of these are needed for increased plant resistance to stresses from disease, insects and weeds, and an increased ability of the plants to efficiently use soil water.

Plants have a marvelous immune system, similar to a human’s immune system. When that immune system is supplied with resources such as minerals, it will combat diseases and ward off insects. Thus, it is possible to control insects and diseases with nutrition instead of relying on fungicides and insecticides.

A focus on disease and insect prevention through nutrition requires a balance of trace minerals. It is important to plan for ways to get trace minerals back into the soil because plants that have trace minerals applied along with their general fertilizer program, will have better health and more sustainability. A major benefit will be higher quality grains, fruits, and vegetables with more potency and pungency.

The lack of trace minerals in soils will definitely have an adverse effect on plants. They will be starving for these nutrients if trace minerals are not put in the soils every year to feed the soil biology. Soil nutrient deficiencies need to be addressed so that this trend can be reversed. Feeding soil life with full nutrition and a broad spectrum of trace minerals is the place to start.

Trace minerals determine the quality of the plants grown and that has an ongoing domino effect on humans who consume the plants. These minerals are very vital for humans to survive, function, and enjoy good health. Thus, to improve human health, our soils need to be improved with trace minerals.

Listing of Soil Nutrients and Minerals

Here is a listing of soil nutrients and minerals that will improve our soils and preserve this rich natural resource for future generations. The following entries that describe soil nutrients will help us on our sustainable journey to a greener tomorrow.

The 3 Essential Soil Nutrients

The three essential nutrients in soil for proper plant growth are nitrogen (leaf growth), phosphorus (root growth) and potassium (overall health). Plants use large amounts of these primary nutrients for growth and survival. These nutrients must be replaced in order to maintain the proper soil conditions for ongoing plant production.

  • Nitrogen: helps plants with rapid growth, increases seed and fruit production, and improves the quality of leaf and forage crops
  • Phosphorus: affects rapid growth, encourages root growth and blooming, aids in proper plant maturation, helps plants withstand stress, and is vital for mineral absorption and sugar production
  • Potassium: helps photosynthesis, aids in the building of protein, affects fruit quantity, reduces diseases, and determines size and bulking

We are awed by the complexity of the many elements needed in the soil for good healthy life to exist at that level.

It is interesting to note that all of these elements are supplied through the natural system in amounts that are adequate and balanced.

When we neglect the natural system, deplete the soil or add detrimental ingredients, we upset the balance of nature and create a domino effect of problems that begins in our soils and consequently extends to our plants and eventually to our own human health.

Secondary Nutrients

Also important in soil are these secondary nutrients; calcium, magnesium and sulfur. Large amounts of calcium and magnesium are added when limestone and rock powders are applied to acidic soils. Sulfur is produced by the microbial life in the soil in a form that plants can use. The slow decomposition of soil organic matter helps to keep the proper amount of sulfur in the soil.

  • Calcium: an essential part of plant cell wall structure; provides for normal transport and retention of other elements; gives strength to the plant,; counteracts the effect of alkali salts and organic acids in the plant; and along with phosphorus, is the nutrient that is the most important for farmers to apply to soil for quantity and quality of plants
  • Magnesium: essential for photosynthesis, activates many plant enzymes needed for growth, and is an essential mineral to be added to forage crops for optimum animal herd health in many ways
  • Sulfur: produces protein, improves root growth and seed production, aids in chlorophyll formation, promotes development and activity of enzymes and vitamins, helps with vigorous plant growth and resistance to cold, and is vital in the digestive tract in livestock production

Trace Minerals

In all there are 40 minerals that plants need for proper, healthy growth. Many of these are needed in only very small quantities. We call these trace minerals. Many are abundantly available in the soil, but they need the action of microbes to make them usable by the plants. The following are five of the most essential trace minerals in the soil.

  • Boron: essential for seed and fruit development, helps in the use of nutrients such as in calcium uptake in the tissues, regulates other nutrients, aids in the production of sugar and carbohydrates, required so that calcium can perform its metabolic chore.
  • Copper: important for reproductive growth, key to elasticity in the plant, controls mold, interacts with iron and manganese
  • Iron: draws energy to the plant leaf by absorbing heat from the sun; essential for the formation, maintenance, and synthesis of chlorophyll and RNA metabolism in the chloroplasts
  • Manganese: breaks down carbohydrates; aids in nitrogen metabolism; is synergistic with iron; brings the electrical charge into the seed, creating the magnetic force to draw the other elements into the seed
  • Zinc: regulates plant growth and consumption of sugars, essential for the transformation of carbohydrates, contributes to test weight, helps to make acetic acid in the root to prevent rotting

Additional Details about Important Nutrients


Soil Nutrients

We have been aware of the importance of microbes in our life since the Germ Theory of Disease, based on the findings of Louis Pasteur and other scientists. Now we recognize the idea that one certain bacteria causes us to get a cold is naïve. The etiology of disease is much more complex than that. Two men may be exposed to the same bacteria, but only one will be affected, perhaps because of a weakened immune system or other factors.

Microbes affect us much more for good than they do for ill. We need them in our bodies to aid digestion and in our soils to make nutrients available for plants. “Whether in our bodies or in the soil,” writes Paul W. Kaiser, “microbes demand a complete meal. They reject cheap, adulterated foods and fertilizers. N-P-K (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium) chemical fertilization of our soils causes biological problems.” We want to keep our microbes healthy and happy by supplying them with the minerals they need in a readily available form and by avoiding the use of harsh chemicals. Here at Lancaster Ag we follow this principle in developing our soil treatments and foliar sprays.

Microbes are also essential in the composting process. By inoculating the materials we compost with an assortment of microbes and by checking moisture levels and other conditions often, we can substantially add to the value of the organic matter being composted. Our Fall Dry Blends use this type of beneficial compost.

Note: If conditions are not controlled properly, the resulting compost can do more damage than good to our soils. For example, this is the case with mushroom soil.

Another way we help our soil is by inoculating the soil in the autumn with strains of microbes that are known to be of benefit. Our Bio-D and D-Compose will boost the levels of different microbes and will supply them with foods that they need to flourish. This can be supplied directly as a liquid treatment to the soil or it can be applied as part of the mix in our Dry Blends.



Carbon is a non-metal element that occurs in all organic life and is the basis of organic chemistry. It is a basic element of our life-sustaining universe. Carbon is contained in all proteins, sugars, starches and other carbohydrates. Without carbon, there would be no fats, oils, vitamins, amino acids, enzymes or hormones. Some of these compounds are very basic to the life cycles and functions of plants, animals and people. Carbon is so linked to all of life’s processes that life cannot exist without it. It has the interesting chemical property of being able to bond to itself as well as to a wide variety of other elements, forming almost 10 million known compounds. Some of these compounds give flavor to many fruits.



In the soil

In the soil: Calcium is the king of nutrients. It has the responsibility of moving the soil’s nutrients into the plant. It must be present in sufficient quantities in the soil so that plants receive the proper quantities of calcium, phosphorus and all other nutrients. Calcium levels at 70-75% of the soil exchange capacity indicate proper amounts of calcium are present. This will improve the root system, the stem and the leaves of the plants. Proper levels of calcium improve soil texture (flocculation) by causing the soil particles to be loosely bonded to each other, rather than sticking closely to one another. Soil that is properly flocculated allows more air and water to enter the soil structure. When air and water enter the soil structure, they provide the soil structure with oxygen and nitrogen as well as other nutrients. A proper level of calcium provides an environment that is conducive to the life of soil microorganisms.

Effects of low calcium

In most plants, calcium deficiency is first observed in the roots of the plant. When calcium is deficient, the root growth is reduced and root rotting is noticed before there are symptoms expressed by the vegetative part of the plant. When calcium deficiencies are severe, growing points are distorted, look spotted, fail to grow, and even die.

In livestock

Livestock with effective calcium levels will exhibit some or all of the following characteristics: better bone and tooth formation, improved nerve function, effective muscle contraction, better blood coagulation, and increased cell permeability. Calcium is essential for milk production and for formation of eggshells in poultry.

Calcium is very important to animal life. It is a large factor in proper bone and tooth formation and proper skeletal growth. Calcium somewhat regulates cell permeability, meaning adequate calcium must be present to cause nutrients to be able to enter into the cell, thus providing for proper cell development. As a result, this function gives proper nerve function, muscle contraction, and blood coagulation. The calcium content of milk shows the importance of calcium for milk production in mammals. Inadequate calcium in animal diets will cause general unthriftiness in mild cases or serious illness in extreme situations. Calcium regulates proper eggshell and skeletal formation in poultry.



In the soil

Magnesium should occupy 10-20% of the soil’s exchange capacity. It is a key element in photosynthesis, because it resides at the heart of the pigment that contains molecular chlorophyll. If photosynthesis declines, crop quality and yield will also decline. Magnesium is a constituent of chlorophyll, aids in phosphate metabolism, and activates several enzyme systems. Magnesium and calcium are the keys to proper air and water in the soil. Magnesium helps to hold the soil together and tighten it up.

Improper magnesium levels lead to poor crop growth. An effective solution is to apply magnesium sulfate. In contrast to low levels, excessive magnesium results in heavy tight soil, weeds, and low levels of nitrogen. This can be corrected by applying gypsum.

In livestock

Magnesium in cattle is absolutely essential for normal skeletal development because it is an ingredient of bone material. It is an enzyme activator and helps to decrease tissue irritability & grass tetany.



In the soil

Phosphorus is the catalyst of life. A catalyst is something that must be present for the consumption of other things; however, the catalyst itself does not become completely used up in the process. All nutrients, with the exception of nitrogen and sometimes potassium, must be compounded with phosphorus to be provided to the plant. It is the job of phosphorus to compound all these nutrients, combining them with itself so that calcium can carry everything into the plant. Organic phosphates are the compounds that provide the energy for most of the chemical reactions that occur in living cells. Therefore, enriching soils with phosphate fertilizer enhances plant growth. Phosphorus contributes to root, flower, and fruit development.

Phosphorus is contained in all tissues and it is the workhorse of plant nutrition. It is responsible for cell division, cell growth, and photosynthesis. Phosphorus is used in a 1:1 ratio with potassium. Soil must have good phosphorus uptake to build good sugar levels in plants.

Effects of low phosphorus

Low phosphorus levels retard soil life and contribute to low sugar levels in plants. It also results in poor quality produce because phosphorus is needed to move other nutrients in the plant. This condition can be corrected by applying soft rock phosphate. Colloidal sources of phosphorus will not leach out of the soil.

In livestock

Phosphorus is integral in livestock bone and tooth formation. It is important for metabolism and cell membrane structure. Phosphorus is a component of RNA and DNA, is required for protein synthesis, and contributes to the metabolism of several enzyme systems.



In the soil

Nitrogen is a governing factor in the decay of plant materials. It is used to form chlorophyll, proteins, and amino acids and to stimulate growth. Ammoniacal nitrogen is the form of nitrogen used by a plant for reproduction. If sufficient ammoniacal nitrogen is not present, plant reproduction will be hindered. Every cell in plant life requires nitrogen.

Effects of low nitrogen

If nitrogen levels are decreased adversely, soil reactions are slowed and there will be lower protein levels. The end results will be less growth and decreased quality. Low nitrogen can be corrected by applying compost, manure, fish, or by planting cover crops. Work with the soil biology to increase overall biology and boost the ecosystem of the soil.

Note: Over-applying nitrogen will result in excessive growth and will cause soil runoff into streams.

In livestock

Nitrogen is a main constituent of animal tissue and flesh, along with carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.



In the soil

Complacency about potassium levels in the soil is dangerous. Potassium is a catalyst in chlorophyll production; a governor for taking free nutrients from the air such as carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen; and is needed so that plants can make starches, sugars, proteins, vitamins, enzymes, and cellulose. Additionally, potassium is essential for protein synthesis and formation. Potassium improves the flavor and color of fruits and vegetables and promotes drought tolerance, winter hardiness, and disease and insect resistance. It contributes to stem and root growth and is necessary for the translocation of sugars, the proper color of fruit, and the bulk (size) of a crop.

Effects of low potassium

Insufficient potassium results in negatives such as low energy for crops, lack of drought tolerance, smaller stalks, and lower yield.

Effects of high potassium

In contrast, too much potassium from excessive manure application results in grassy weeds, reduced calcium uptake in plants, lower plant health and quality, and poor livestock health. This can be corrected with hi-calcium limestone.

In livestock

In livestock potassium is a major cation (positively-charged element) of intracellular fluid and is required for muscle activity. It also aids in enzyme reactions involving creatine and influences carbohydrate metabolism.



In the soil

Sulfur is a constituent of proteins and resembles oxygen, but is less active and more acidic. It is essential for formation of sulfur-containing proteins and its release in the soil is governed by the size of the organic matter held in reserve.

Sulfur remains a key element in crop proteins. Sulfur is necessary for the formation of high-quality protein. It is a requirement for nitrogen fixation in legumes and is vital to vitamin synthesis in all plants. These two actions are important determinants of crop quality. Sulfur gives onions, garlic and mustard their distinctive flavors.

Effects of low sulfur

If sulfur levels are adversely low, plant proteins will be incomplete, humus will not form properly, and soils will have low energy. These conditions can be treated with gypsum or sulfate of potash-magnesia.

In livestock

In livestock, sulfur helps to contain amino acids. It is a component of biotin, thiamin, and coenzyme and is important in lipid metabolism, carbohydrate metabolism, and energy metabolism.



In the soil

In healthy soil boron provides translocation of sugar, regulates flowering and fruiting, and helps cell division, salt absorption, and calcium uptake. It is necessary for hormone movement, pollen germination, carbohydrate metabolism, water use, and nitrogen assimilation in plants. Boron is a trace mineral that can leach depending on the soil biology. It is necessary for proper shaping of the fruit of plants, such as filling the tips of the ears of corn, and is needed in the building blocks of protein.

In livestock

In livestock, boron functions in the synthesis of glycogen and the maintenance of body fat in animals.



In the soil

Copper is vitally important to root metabolism and is essential for disease resistance and elasticity of cell walls. It also helps to form compounds and proteins, amino acids, and many organic compounds. Copper provides the catalyst component in enzyme systems, helps produce dry matter via growth stimulation, and prevents development of chlorosis.

In livestock

Copper is necessary for hemoglobin formation in livestock and is essential in enzyme systems. It assists in hair development and pigmentation, bone and collagen development, conception, sperm production, and ovulation. It is also necessary for lactation and normal growth.



In the soil

Zinc is absolutely vital to the life processes of soil microorganisms. It aids in the promotion of normal growth, increases moisture uptake, and regulates plant sugar use.

In livestock

Zinc is needed for bone, hair, and feather development and for normal protein and RNA synthesis. It is a factor in sperm production, reproduction, feed utilization, healing of wounds, vitamin A metabolism, hemoglobin production, and immune system function and metabolism.



In the soil

Manganese plays a major role in photosynthesis and chlorophyll synthesis. Carbohydrate metabolism and seed formation will not occur without it. Manganese accelerates seed germination, fruiting, and ripening of crops. It also assists in the assimilation of nitrates.

In livestock

Livestock need manganese for normal bone formation and activation of enzyme systems. Manganese helps provide for amino acid and protein metabolism, fatty acid synthesis, and cholesterol metabolism. It is needed by the hormone and immune systems and is required for growth and reproduction.



In the soil

Iron is an indispensable carrier of oxygen that is required in the production of chlorophyll. It aids in the prevention of chlorosis and is necessary for immune system function and normal growth.

In livestock

Iron is a constituent of hemoglobin, the iron-containing compound in the blood that transports oxygen. It plays a role in cellular oxidation, is a component of certain enzymes that are involved with oxygen transfer, and helps the immune system and normal growth.



In the soil

An advantage of selenium is that it transfers easily from the soil to the plant. This makes application easy.

In livestock

Selenium is an antioxidant along with vitamin E. It is involved in the absorption and retention of vitamin E and is essential to the immune system. Selenium is required for normal growth and for reproduction. It prevents degeneration and fibrosis of the pancreas in poultry.



In the soil

Molybdenum is essential for plants, but only in trace amounts. It governs microorganisms that are needed to set the stage for anion nutrient uptake and assists nodulation in legumes.

In livestock

Molybdenum is required for the conversion of nitrogen to protein.



In the soil

Cobalt in the soil benefits soil microorganisms, is a precursor to enzymes, and is a biostimulant. This means it is required by nitrogen-fixing bacteria, especially on the root nodules of legumes. Cobalt is needed for the synthesis of nutrient-dense feeds and foods. These nutrient-dense compounds are necessary to resist insect and disease attacks.

In livestock

Cobalt is a component of vitamin B12. Rumen microorganisms use cobalt for the synthesis of vitamin B12 and the growth of rumen bacteria. Cobalt is needed for normal growth of the animal and healthy animal physiology. As in the soil, cobalt is a precursor to enzymes.



In the soil & in livestock

Chlorine is essential to growth in some plants. In livestock, it is a major anion involved in osmotic pressure and acid base balance. Chlorine is a chief anion of gastric juice, where it unites with hydrogen ions to form hydrochloric acid.

The Importance of Soil Analysis

Soil is the material on the earth’s surface that can support the roots of plants and provide nutrients for plant life. Plants are dependent on water, the sun and the soil’s nutrients to give them energy for vegetative growth and reproduction. The health, vitality and yield of the plants are directly related to the nutrient content of the soil in which they are grown.

Soil Sampling

The purpose of soil testing is to determine the nutrient density of the soil and the relation of the different nutrients to each other. A soil test is used as a road map for treatment of our soils. By reading this road map, we can understand where we presently are and gain a vision for what we need to do in the future. With regular soil testing and recordkeeping, we can see the changes and the nutrients that we used to bring about the changes. We recommend that soil samples be taken every two or three years. Under some circumstances, such as very poor fertility, the growing of high-value crops or severely out-of-balance soil, Lancaster Ag may recommend soil testing more frequently.

There are several things to consider when taking a soil test. These things include proper depth, representative sampling of the area, the time of year and how fields were previously sampled. The proper depth is important to give the correct pounds of nutrients per acre. Sample depth should be 5.25 inches. The cores of soil taken need to represent the area or field that is being sampled. To be able to compare this year’s sample to that of previous years, fields should be sampled in the same way every time. Fields should be sampled at the same time of year, preferably during July and August.

Soil Reports

Our soil testing service provides us with information using Ammonium Acetate, Bray II, Water-Soluble and/or Soluble methods. The Ammonium Acetate and Bray II methods provide the standard measurements in pounds of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium in the soil. These numbers are compared to each other by mathematical calculations that provide the base saturation of the cations of the soil. The Soluble Test section near the top of the printed test results shows nutrient levels that are actually available to the root for plant nourishment. As the energy produced in the soil by the interaction of the nutrients of the soil becomes available, the root of the plant exchanges hydrogen for nutrients. The sun provides the energy for the whole process of plant growth. These tests are designed to give us the best possible understanding of our soils.

Interpreting Soil Tests

A soil test is a snapshot of the condition of your soil at a given time. When you look at test results, remember that the soil is a living, changing and dynamic entity. Many soil labs and firms that sell fertilizer reference soil testing as a precise science. They suggest that if you take enough samples, you can build exactly the right program to give you the maximum economic yield. It is correct that very sophisticated equipment exists to permit a lab to determine in parts-per-million the presence of various elements or compounds. Many growers who regularly use those soil tests apply the same program regardless of the soil test results. At the other extreme, some companies are now purchasing soil application equipment with on-board computers that automatically adjust the rate of flow of three or four separate fertilizers according to the soil test results. An important question to ask is, “How was the soil test number used to decide which elements to apply and how much of each?”

In other words, the real challenge is to interpret from a set of numbers on a paper what energy frequencies and levels will be available to the next plants to grow in that field. A further challenge is to predict the impact of warmer-than-normal temperatures, excess moisture or a lack of moisture on available energy.

Consult your Lancaster Ag representative for a complete soil nutrition program.

A soil test is important but only provides approximate information to answer these questions. A test for the levels of biological life and the species of biological life present in a soil would be very helpful as well. These tests are presently very expensive and time- consuming, thus they are not widely used.

Most commercial and university soil labs use a test that measures the holding capacity of a soil (the cation exchange capacity) and then determines how much nutrient is actually being held by the clay and humus colloids. This test uses several chemical solutions to extract elements from the soil being tested.

According to this theory, soil, clay and humus are negatively charged and will hold positively charged mineral nutrients. The higher the clay and humus content of the soil, the higher the CEC or greater the number of nutrients the soil can hold. The nutrients deemed to be present are the ones removed by the extract solution.

There are two limitations of this test. First, the abilities of the soil extract solution and the plant rootlet to remove the nutrient from soil colloids are probably not the same. Secondly, no consideration is given to the energy made available to the plant during the growing season by the soil biological system. For example, if a soil is biologically dead, much less energy will become available than in a well-mineralized, biologically alive soil. There is a tendency for this test to overestimate nutrient availability.

In summary, the cation exchange test is helpful if it is used as an approximate inventory of potential plant food. It might be regarded in the same way a mining company looks at a mining essay report.

We use the Morgan Soil Testing System, sometimes referred to as the LaMotte Test, in addition to CEC. test procedures. The distinctive feature of this test is the employment of a single extracting solution. It is a 10% solution of sodium acetate in 3% acetic acid and has a pH of 4.8. This provides a weakly ionized, organic acid buffered with its sodium salt.

In theory this should extract nutrients from the soil sample in a manner similar to that used by a plant rootlet. It is thought that the LaMotte Test gives a better approximation of nutrients actually available to the plant than the CEC. test.

The soil is a dynamic body, teeming with microorganisms whose activities vary from day to day and from season to season with changes in temperature, moisture and food supply. Nitrate and ammonia nitrogen contents of the soil are especially variable. A rapidly growing crop depletes the soil of its nutrients that are required for plant growth. There are also seasonal fluctuations in the soil acidity that influence the availability of plant nutrients to some extent. The degree of acidity is associated with the leaching of bases and production of nitrates. Acidity is normally at a minimum in early spring and a maximum in midsummer.

All of the above factors must be taken into consideration in the interpretation of the tests. For general soil diagnosis, tests on samples taken in early spring are most reliable. Soils studied during the growing season give test results closely related to the performance of the crop. These results are particularly valuable in determining immediate need for supplemental fertilization.

Tests in the autumn, after the crop is harvested, best indicate whether or not the fertilizer has been in excess of crop needs. Fall testing has the added advantage of allowing ample time in which to obtain materials and make plans for spring work. Choosing the time of the year when the sample is taken depends upon the purpose for which the test is conducted.

The following is an example of how the two tests can be used together to complement one another. If the CEC test shows a medium-to-high base saturation of calcium, but the LaMotte Test shows low available calcium levels, we will use biological products to enhance the soil bacterial action in the breaking down of any added lime, which then will make the calcium available.

When using a LaMotte Test, the soil test data should be considered with reference to the limiting effects on crop growth that may be expected from other factors.

Other factors can include poor aeration, a restricted root system caused by undesirable soil structure or soil tilth, deficient drainage, low organic matter content, unfavorable seasonal conditions, plant pests and plant disease. Irrespective of the chemical fertility of the soil, the crop expectation is less than normal when any or several of these factors are present.

If you are evaluating any soil test, balance is more important than building high readings. The highest yields with the lowest input costs come from balanced fields.

When using a CEC test to evaluate soil fertility, the following base saturation levels will indicate a well-balanced soil:

Nutrient Desired % Base Saturation

Calcium 70-80%

Magnesium 10-15%

Potassium 2-4%

Hydrogen 5-10%

Sodium 1- 1.5%

Dr. Carey Reams was a strong advocate of the LaMotte Soil Test. He recommended the following levels of soluble nutrients as being desirable, using the Morgan Testing System extract solution:

Soluble Calcium 2000-8000 lb./acre

Soluble Magnesium 285-1145 lb./acre
(We want a ratio of 7 parts calcium to 1 part magnesium.)

Soluble Phosphorus 100-200 lb./acre
(Our soil test report reads in pounds of phosphorus per acre, to convert to P205 and K20 values, not the straight soil test readings.)

Ammoniacal Nitrogen 40 lb. per acre
(This is nitrogen combined with hydrogen and is cationic in energy form.)

Nitrate Nitrogen 40 lb. per acre
(This is nitrogen combined with oxygen and is anionic in energy form.)

Nitrogen exists in the soil largely in the form of partially decomposed, organic residue that contains proteins. Microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi gradually transform this nitrogen into ammonia compounds. Organic nitrogenous fertilizer materials and legume crop residues are readily attacked due to their high protein content.

The chief reason the ammonia test fails to reveal more than small amounts present under normal field conditions is due to the rapid change of ammonia to nitrates by bacterial activity.

High tests for nitrate nitrogen in field soils are to be expected only when the root system of the crop is not yet fully developed.

High nitrogen test results indicate a large reserve of readily available nitrogen for the use of the crop. Rapidly growing annual crops require a large reserve during the period of most active growth. The gradual processes of nitrogen liberation are rarely sufficiently rapid to meet their requirements at the time. Crops with perennial root systems such as sod grasses, shrubs and trees take up nitrogen through a much longer period of the year, therefore low nitrate tests do not necessarily indicate a lack of available nitrogen.

Low tests are to be expected at the end of the cropping period, during winter and early spring and after a period of heavy rainfall. Under such conditions, when all other factors are favorable, the absence of nitrates may not necessarily indicate poor availability of soil nitrogen, but the crop is likely to respond to the addition of a readily available nitrogenous fertilizer.


An erg is a measure of soil energy release equal to grams/sec. Ergs are directly equal to conductivity units on the conductivity meter, micromhos/cm/sec. The ergs test will tell if there is enough energy reaction going on in the soil to grow a plant. It will change during the growing season. Ergs should be between 40 and 150 at planting time. If it is too low, it means there is not enough energy coming out of the ground to support the plant. This means a waste of energy and money. At pollination time, the ergs should reach the maximum needed. It should not be less than 100 or more than 400. It is best to keep an average around 200.


pH is usually considered a measurement of acid or alkaline properties, but it can also be used as a measure of resistance. Technically it is the negative logarithm of the hydrogen ion concentration. In practice a pH of 7 means that there is an equal resistance between anions and cations. pH does not indicate if calcium needs to be added to a fertility program; it only indicates frequencies. Ideal soil pH is from 6.5-6.8.


pNa is a measurement of the sodium ion activity level. This reading is taken to check for potential salt toxicity levels. It is best to have the pNa of a soil read between 2.6 and 3.0. Readings below 2.5 have sodium ion activity above the desirable level. A low reading means high salt.

Final Note

In conclusion, the practical value of any soil test is limited chiefly by the qualifications of the person who is responsible for translating the data into amounts and kinds of fertilizers, manures, lime and other soil amendments or treatments that are most likely to be effective in promoting profitable crop production.

Read More on the Importance of Soil Sampling

Soil Test

Obtain a soil test kit from your Lancaster Ag Representative or call us at 717-687-9222. Take a soil sample between July and September following the kit instructions. We recommend soil sampling your soil every two or three years and that each following sample is taken during the same month of the year. Send your soil sample to your Lancaster Ag Representative for testing and yearly product recommendation.

Procedure for Taking a Soil Sample

Please Note: All equipment must be clean

Step 1 – Choose Locations

Choose various areas in the field that represent the soil in the whole field. Suggestion: 15 locations in a 20-acre field. Crop land and pasture land should be sampled separately.

Step 2 – Prepare Equipment

Use a clean spade, auger, or soil probe. Stainless steel probes are available for purchase from Lancaster Ag at cost. Use a clean plastic bucket in which to place the samples.

Step 3 – Collect Samples

Scrape away any surface residue. Bore down 5 inches with the probe and place sample into bucket or dig a 5-inch v-shaped hole with a spade. Cut a slice of soil making sure to include soil from top, middle, and bottom of hole. Place in bucket.

Step 4 – Mix Samples

Thoroughly mix all of the samples together in the bucket.

Step 5 – Fill & Label Bag

Place 2 cups of soil in the soil sample bag provided, up to the line. Clearly print the following on the bag: full name, complete address (including house number and name of street or road), number of acres or square feet of area, name or number of sample.

Step 6 – Draw Map

Making a map of the locations in your fields where you obtained your samples is very helpful. Send one copy with the sample and keep one copy for your records.

Step 7 – Mail Sample

Mail sample bag to Lancaster Ag Products, 60 N. Ronks Road, Ronks, PA 17572. After your sample reaches us, a copy of your results will be available in 7-10 days. Please contact us at 717-687-9222 to discuss recommendations. A copy of your results will be mailed to you and a copy will be kept on file at Lancaster Ag.

Procedure for Taking a Tissue Sample

Please Note: Tissue samples are time-critical

Step 1 – Collection

Pull 20 leaves from a plant or tree. The type of information you want will determine the location on the plant or tree from where you will pull the leaves. Please be consistent.

  • Information about the past: pull leaves from the bottom, mid-branch
  • Information about the present: pull leaves from the midplant, mid-leaf
  • Information about the future: pull leaves from the top, new branch, mid-leaf

Step 2 - Storage

Place leaves in bags that breathe, such as brown paper bags or bags that have holes, so that the samples start to air dry before they get to the lab. Ask your Lancaster Ag Representative for special bags for your tissue samples.

Step 3 - Labeling

Write full name and complete address (including house number and street or road name) on the bag. Include a description of your fertilization practices up to this point.

Step 4 - Delivery

Your Lancaster Ag Representative can deliver the samples after a farm visit, if schedules permit, or please ship them to Lancaster Ag. Please Note: Producers out of the local area need to use one-day shipping service.

Step 5 - Analysis

Lancaster Ag processes the samples for analysis the same day they arrive in our office. These samples are timecritical.

Procedure for Taking a Forage Sample

Please Note: Forage samples are time-critical

Taking a Sample from a Baled Product

  • Thrust the probe into the center of the bale
  • Pull a sample from as near the center as possible
  • Place samples in a plastic bag

Taking a Sample from a Loose Product

  • Reach into the pile to a depth of several inches
  • Pull samples from several different areas
  • Place samples in a plastic bag

Mail samples to Lancaster Ag Products, 60 North Ronks Road, Ronks, PA 17572 or bring samples to the Retail Store as soon as possible. Lancaster Ag will have your test results in approximately two days from the time we receive your sample.




Our goal is to build up the life in your soils so that the seeds you sow will grow into crops that are highly mineralized. If you feed your soils and improve the biological life there, you will have better quality plants. At Lancaster Ag we stay close to the natural system by using naturally occurring mineral sources that benefit soil life and are readily available to plants. We use the research of Dr. William Albrecht and Dr. Carey Reams to balance nutrients for the farmers and growers we serve.

How can we provide all the myriad of nutrients and minerals in a proper balance for our animals? Highly mineralized crops are the best nutrients for livestock. Our supplements are easily assimilated, because they include natural plants and herbs so that the livestock are supplied with what they need to thrive. In your pastures, your livestock will be well supplied with nutrients that boost their immune systems from grazing on nutrient-dense legumes and grasses.

Pasture Evaluation

Herdsmen need a proper pasture evaluation to assess the value of a pasture that is providing forage for grazing livestock. They need to determine if the pasture will provide the amount of forage needed or if some type of overseeding is needed to thicken the stand. Pasture evaluation begins by assessing one-square-foot areas around the pasture. Observe the kinds of plants that are growing there and what percentage of the soil is covered.

A pasture evaluation should include the following observations:

  • Bare Spots - What are the reasons? Animal traffic, soil fertility, compaction or shading?
  • Density – Are there enough plants growing in the pasture to intercept at least 85 to 90 percent of the sunshine before it reaches the soil surface? Monitor density carefully so that cows’ dry matter intake is as efficient as possible with every bite.
  • Fertility – Are soil fertility and soil biology at optimum levels? Having the proper proportions helps to provide a dense production pasture.
  • Species – Is the proper forage species growing in the pasture to match the type of animal grazing? The grass-legume ration, short-tall growing species, and cool vs. warm season forages are main considerations.
  • Poisonous Plants – Have poisonous and unpalatable plants in the pasture and barnyard been eliminated?
  • Standing Water – Is there proper drainage in the pasture so that there is no standing water? This will encourage the more productive forage species and control diseases and insects.
  • Yield – What is the over-all yield of the pasture? Yield determines the stocking rate the pasture will take, how long it can be grazed in each rotation, and how long into the fall the pasture can be grazed.
  • Important Note: The grazer should understand the role of plant and animal interactions as well as their influences in pasture production.

Pasture Renovation

Fall is the time to pay attention to pastures. In conventional farming, an option for pasture renovation is to kill all existing grasses and start over with new seeding. In organic farming, the goal is to thicken up the existing grazing stand by using no-till.

An excellent time to interseed is before grass comes out of dormancy in the spring. Fall is when the grasses are dormant. Another good time to interseed is during a dry spell, just before the rains come. This is when the old grasses are dormant.

The new seeding has a better chance of survival when there are many large bare spots in the pasture. It makes sense that new seeds will not fare as well when sown among green healthy grass that is already established. A rule of thumb is: the thicker the stand, the less new seeding that will be established.

Having mentioned that rule, there is a seed variety that we at Lancaster Ag have observed that does do well when sown among a thick stand. We have seen much success with no-tilling Greenfast Mixture into existing pastures. That mixture is available at Lancaster Ag by calling 717-687-9222.

When dealing with a pasture of thick fescue grasses, the best approach might be to get rid of the thick stand. Fescue is a tougher grass than some of the other varieties. Our suggestion is to kill it or plow it down in the fall and start over with a permanent grass mixture. Here are some options of other varieties to consider: HillSide Mixture, Star Mixture (CFU), King’s Haymaster Mixture, King’s Grazing Mix and the Barenbrug brand mixtures.

Farmers need to analyze the situation in their pastures then decide between two options. They can thicken up the species that they already have growing, especially if there are big bare spots. Or, they can entirely get rid of a species that they do not like.

If there is residual refusal in grazing, it is wise to consider a new variety of grass. For example, cows might not like grazing on endophyte grass, tall fescue or orchardgrass. A new grass species can also make a difference in solving fertility problems. In those cases, the soil must carefully be analyzed. Lancaster Ag representatives can give recommendations on new species and fertility problems.

Summer annuals are used to renovate pastures in the spring. When farmers seed in April, they can have stock grazing in June or July. Then early in the fall some yield from the summer annuals will need to be sacrificed in order to sow permanent pastures. Farmers can expect to get one or two cuttings from summer annuals to put into the silo. Grazing to 6 inches is allowed and then in several weeks stock may graze again to 6 inches. One round of grazing may need to be sacrificed in order for the field to be in better shape for the fall seeding. The growth of summer annual grasses slows down as soon as cooler weather comes in early fall, but they do survive until the first frost. Depending on weed pressure, disc or no-till can then be used in fall seeding.

Call us at Lancaster Ag about the best mixture to use for your specific situation. It is good to use mixtures because certain grasses do well in certain conditions. A mixture will cover several conditions. For example, triticale is excellent for spring and fall when there is plenty of moisture, but is dormant in the summer. Thus, the mixture should also contain summer annuals such as sorghum sudangrasses that do well during the dry season.

Dry Matter Measurement

It is important that farmers know the amount of dry matter an area of pasture has to offer. Mastering this evaluation helps to maximize pasture efficiency. The one mistake common among farmers is wasting pasture by offering too large an area of pasture at one particular time.

Dry matter yield per acre is a big challenge in pasture density. When the density of a pasture is correct, grazing becomes more efficient and weed pressure is eliminated. There are several ways to measure dry matter (DM) in a pasture. Use one or more of these methods to better manage your pasture operations:

  • Eye: train the eye to determine pasture yield, dry matter, and quality
  • Direct Method / Hand Clipping: clipping, drying, and weighing samples
  • Indirect Method / Pasture Ruler: measuring the average pasture height
  • Indirect Method / Rising Plate Meter: calculating both height and density

Grazing Management

Managing pastures is a daily requirement for cattle growers. First, you should determine how much forage the grazing animals need on a particular day. Evaluate forages and grains fed in the barn, then determine the quality and amount of DM needed to be grazed on that day.

The different seasons play a big role in this determination. For example, in the spring when grass is growing strong, you need to graze faster so that the grasses do not get ahead of your cattle. In the summertime, you can focus more on yield and graze slower. Stage your grazing by taking the season of the year, yield, quality and DM into consideration.

Properly managed pastures can be very effective and dramatically change your bottom line. In order to achieve proper management, you must be keenly aware of all of the circumstances that affect pastures, such as rain, sunshine and the number of cattle grazing.

Options for Improving Pastures

If there is poor pasture even after fertilization, the cause is often too hard grazing and too short grazing. Productive grass is lost. Here are a few organic options to remedy poor pastures.

  • Practice rotational grazing, especially if there are desirable grass species in the pasture.
  • Wait to graze until the grass has come up and is established.
  • Intensively manage with break wires and back fencing. This will relieve small tender grasses and allow them to regenerate faster.
  • Establish cow lanes for cattle traffic instead of using the entire pasture.
  • No-till more seeds into existing stands in the spring.
  • Plow down the old grass if the grass species are undesirable.
  • Use spring grains, peas, or mixes, i.e. Milk Max Mix, Pea Oats, Pea Tritlage, or Oats Plus Mixture.
  • Or use summer annuals, i.e. teff for horses, sorghum sudans, or straight sudans for cattle.
  • In the fall, sow a favorite pasture blend again.

Forage Management

Forage Management

Good forage management will result in productive pastures and hayfields, as well as maximum economical-growing legumes and grasses producing high-quality leaves for livestock feeding. The forage species used by graziers and hay producers are legumes, such as alfalfa, red clover, white clover, crimson clover and the vetches, as well as cool season grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass, orchardgrass, timothy, tall fescue, smooth bromegrass and ryegrass.

Light, temperature and soil moisture are the three environmental conditions most critical to growing forage species. Knowing how forage species respond to different environmental conditions determines which management practices are needed to maintain a productive sward. Choosing specific forage species for grazing, haying and cover cropping that will survive extreme conditions is important for good management.

Energy Management

The storage organs of legumes and grasses are their roots, rhizomes, corms and lower stems. Energy management of these storage organs is the key to the productivity of legumes and grasses in a conventional three to five mechanical harvesting system or in season-long grazing. Forage management systems should be designed to promote storage of carbohydrates/sugars in the storage organs/plant cells from which regrowth will occur. Carbohydrates are the foods that plants utilize to build new stems and leaves that we call plant growth. Carbohydrates are made in green plant cells by mixing water and carbon dioxide. Sunlight is the power source for this reaction.

The amount of carbohydrates that are stored in the storage organs of legumes and grasses follows an up-and-down cyclic pattern similar to the wooden structure of an old roller coaster. Carbohydrates are used in the spring for initial growth, then rise as more foliage is added. When the forage is harvested, the carbohydrates take a sharp drop and do not start accumulating again until there is 6-8 inches of new growth. This cyclic up-and-down level of carbohydrates in the forage plant continues throughout the growing season.

Knowing where different forage species store their carbohydrates is fundamental in the management of all forages. The management practices that you use should not abuse the plant structure that will begin the new growth in a plant after harvest. Take note of the following list of where specific forage species store their carbohydrates.

Principal storage organs:

  • Roots: alfalfa, red clover, and birdsfoot trefoil
  • Stolons: ladino clover
  • Stem bases: tall fescue, orchardgrass, reed canarygrass, and perennial ryegrass
  • Roots and rhizomes: smooth bromegrass, reed canarygrass, tall fescue, and Kentucky bluegrass
  • Corm: timothy (the corm is special bulb-like storage organ)

The buds that form on the crowns of alfalfa and red clover are the sites for regrowth for later harvests. Since the crowns are situated below the soil surface line, it is possible for alfalfa and red clover to survive shorter harvest heights than the cool season grasses. The legume that is the exception is birdsfoot trefoil. In trefoil the amount of carbohydrate that accumulates at any point of time during the growing season will be at a lower level than found in alfalfa or red clover. Allowing leaves to remain on the base of the trefoil plant after cutting or grazing will ensure its survival.

Orchardgrass, perennial ryegrass, smooth bromegrass and timothy should have a 3-inch stubble remaining after harvest. Tall fescue and bluegrass can be harvested closer, but leaving a 3-inch stubble will allow faster recovery. The cutting height for reed canarygrass is weather related; the more moisture available, the lower the harvesting height and the more frequent the harvesting times.

Here are general rules about recovery after harvest. Tall-growing forage species that have all or most of their leaves high on the plant will depend on food reserves stored in the roots and/or plant base for new growth after the top growth is removed at harvest. Short-growing species that have some leaves remaining after harvest are not as dependent on stored food for recovery.

High Quality Forages

Providing high-quality forages is the key to milk production and sound herd health. Grazing on lush young grasses gives production that is among the best! The cow uses acetic acid produced in the rumen by forage fiber digestion to produce milk and butterfat. Grains that are fed to supplement forages are broken down into propionic and butyric acids in the rumen, which the cow uses for body maintenance needs. Thus, it is not grain that will bring high milk production; rather, it is highly digestible forage.

In the past alfalfa was the queen of forages and corn silage was another mainstay of many dairy farms. Alfalfa gives protein and corn silage gives high-energy content. Available today are improved grasses, which if managed well, will produce higher protein than alfalfa and higher energy than corn silage.

Highly digestible fiber allows cows to eat more and give more milk without the high levels of grains, which can foster acidosis and degenerative diseases. It is a challenge to manage your grasses so that by harvest or by grazing you gain the optimum quality from the different grass species. It is very helpful to know the traits of each variety, then plan ahead by using that knowledge.

These improved, highly digestible grasses include ryegrasses (annual, Italian, & perennial), festuloliums, orchardgrasses, bromegrass, tall fescues, BMR sorghum sudan, BMR forage sorghum. These grasses, if harvested in the vegetative stage, are higher than alfalfa in digestibility of the fiber and range from 65-80 percent digestibility, whereas alfalfa’s digestibility is 50-55 percent. Thus, there is a potential for greater milk production with the improved grasses. Please note that NutriDense corns are also higher in digestible nutrients than common corns.

Managing High Quality Forages

  • Apply a Fall Dry Blend of minerals, traces and biologicals to improve soil life and nutrient level
  • Apply liquid fish- and biological-based fertilizers to spark growth at green-up in the spring and again after each cutting
  • Grow alfalfa or clovers with the grasses to gain the benefit of nitrogen fixing, which will also spur growth
  • Harvest at the vegetative stage. Grazing, with intensive management, can accomplish this. Cutting for haylage, baleage or hay should be done at the proper stage of growth. That way not as much will be lost from rain on grasses as will be lost with alfalfa and clovers. Digestibility will decrease if grasses are allowed to mature.
  • For best herd health, do not feed more than 20-25 lb. of corn silage. Keep grain levels under 35 percent of ration dry matter. This considers corn silage as half grain and half forage.


Overseeding is spreading seed over an already existing growing crop or plant cover. It means sowing seeds where other plants are already growing without first clearing and cultivating the ground. The goal is for both crops (existing and new) to grow together. This promotes new growth or replaces one type of grass with another. Please note that the introduced crop can consist of two or more different species.

The usual type of overseeding is in a pasture where new grass seed is spread on top of existing grass and sown into an old sod. Overseeding is also used when adding a cover crop into a growing small grain or a vegetable garden. A seeder that incorporates the seed to a proper depth in the soil is needed rather than tillage that disturbs the growing crop.

The newly introduced plants will have a higher chance of survival if they have shade tolerance. Achieving good seed-to-soil contact is vital in assuring the success of germination of the seed and growth of the plants.

Frost Seeding

Frost seeding is an economical way to thicken a low-density plant stand or to introduce a new species into a plant stand. The technique in frost seeding is to spread seed on top of the soil when the soil is undergoing a freeze-thaw cycle. The surface of the soil will be honeycombed and have the appearance of the inside of an English muffin.

Weather conditions needed to make frost seeding successful are present one or two weeks in late winter to early spring. The specific sequence of weather conditions is: a rain event or melted snow saturating the soil surface, a clear cold night in which temperatures drop well below freezing, and finally, a clear cold morning. Existence of these weather conditions allows the soil to honeycomb, thus provides the small nooks and crannies that the seeds fall into. Soil thawing by the sun will grease over the soil and ensure seed-to-soil contact at the proper planting depth.

Other conditions that should be present to ensure success of frost seeding are: having open bare soil surface; using small rounded seed; starting seeding early in the morning when the soil crunches under foot; and finishing seeding before the frost on the plants thaws. Ground that is covered with a growing crop could be insulated from the effects of freezing from the cold air above. The species that have the most success are red clover, timothy, Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass and festuloliums. Alfalfa can be successfully frost seeded if the freeze-thaw cycle expands the soil more than normal and there are larger holes.


Interseeding is the practice of sowing the seeds of new species of legumes and grasses into an existing crop with the use of a seeding device that places the seeds at a proper depth. Reasons for interseeding are to increase the production of worn-out stands for several more years, shorten the time the field will be idle between crops or change the dominate species because of a change in management systems. The goal is to have a pasture or hayfield that is a producer of good quality forage.

The interseeding should be done at the proper time so that the new seedling will grow. The existing crop is also expected to grow and provide a grain or forage crop.

The most common kinds of interseeding are when soybeans are seeded into a growing stand of wheat or grass is seeded into a thinning legume stand. Another example is interseeding red clover or birdsfoot trefoil, which are nitrogen-fixing legumes, into pastures or hayfields with orchardgrass and smooth brome that continually need nitrogen to maintain production.

Keep in mind when interseeding into an existing stand, the existing grasses must be challenged or mowed short so that the introduced grass species does not have a challenge with moisture, nutrients or shading. It is very important that the introduced grasses have a chance to get established.

Forage Seeding

When seeding, growers need to take into account whether they have heavy or light soil and how firm their seedbed is. Forage legumes and grasses do best on fertile, well-drained soils with good moisture-holding capacity. The seed needs moisture to swell and oxygen to germinate. Plant legume and grass seeds in firm soil: ¼ inch below the soil surface in heavy soils and ½ inch deep in light, sandy-type soils. When growers plant too deep in heavy soil, the seed is starved for oxygen. They look for some seed lying on the soil surface, which is a indication that the seed has not been planted too deep.

In order for the seed to absorb the water that begins the germination process, there needs to be good seed-to-soil contact. Grass seeds need to take in twice their weight in water and legume seeds three times their weight for germination to occur. A seed placed in an open space or planted too shallow may get enough water to swell but not enough to continue the process of germination.

Seedbed Preparation

The two ways to properly prepare a firm seedbed for planting forage seeds are conventional tillage or no-till.

No-till seeding’s primary tillage tool is the no-till drill. The seeder prepares a narrow seedbed by using one or more disks right before it drops the seed into the soil. No-tillage seeding maintains a firm seedbed since the soil has little disturbance.

Conventional till breaks up the soil surface by plowing, chiseling and/or disking. Secondary tools such as disks and cultimulchers are then used to break down and firm the soil for planting. Special attention should be given to soil type and seedbed firmness when setting equipment for seeding. Is the soil heavy or light? Will the seeder sink into a soft seedbed after it has been set for placement of seed depth? Also note that there needs to be compensation for soil texture and firmness when the seeder is placed on asphalt or gravel to make adjustments in preparation for seeding.

Setting the equipment properly and compensating for the type and firmness of soil is very important. Many farmers are discouraged with their percentage of seed germination or emergence. They conclude that they planted bad seed. But in the end they discover that the seed was planted too deep for their type of soil. We recommend that you make your first pass through the field and then stop to examine the seed depth/placement before continuing.

Advantages of No-till

  • Lower cost for field preparation
  • Less fuel and labor
  • Planting into a good seedbed
  • Less soil erosion

Advantages of Conventional Tilling

  • Already have equipment to do the job
  • Soils warm up faster when tilled
  • Adding soil amendments such as limestone and minerals to correct deficiencies
  • Reduction of insects and diseases
  • Adds oxygen to the soil
  • Increases microbial activity

Nurse Crops

A nurse crop is an annual crop used to assist in the establishment of a perennial crop. Its purpose is to fill out the area, shade soil from excessive sunshine, help retain moisture, prevent erosion and discourage weeds. An example is small grains that are seeded alongside the primary perennial crops such as legumes and grasses. Perennials should be planted with large spacing. By using a nurse crop, less ground is exposed during the establishment of the legumes and grasses.

Legumes will grow better during establishment if nurse crops or weeds do not shade them. Alfalfa growth is greatly retarded from shading by companion grain crops or by weeds. Red clover is less severely damaged by moderate shading. This means that red clover is more readily established in winter grain crops than alfalfa.

Forage Crop Harvesting

When harvesting forage mechanically or grazing with animals, there is a compromise between maximum yield verses maximum quality of the forage. Harvest the legumes and grasses at a stage of growth in which both yield and quality are at the highest point in the plant. Neither yield nor quality should be sacrificed. Also harvest at a level where the carbohydrate reserves will not be depleted.

When mechanically harvesting, use the flowering legumes and heading grasses as indicators for the first harvest. For legumes watch for these stages: alfalfa and birdsfoot trefoil 1/10 bloom, red clover ½ bloom, white clover 8 inches tall and vetches early bloom. To harvest the cool season grasses mechanically, watch for the boot stage in orchardgrass, bluegrass, reed canary and ryegrass. For timothy and smooth brome, harvest at heading. Later harvests are then scheduled after a 28-35 day rest period to build up carbohydrate reserves. Subsequent cuttings of timothy and brome should be made again after heading.

In harvesting by grazing, farmers need to approach the harvest in a completely different way. First, determine what you want to accomplish. From a management perspective, know what you are after: top yield, high- quality or both.

Top & Bottom Growth

Top & Bottom Growth

Leaves are food factories. They use sunlight to combine carbon dioxide, water and minerals in order to make plant food. Leaves convert the water and minerals gathered by roots into plant food. Roots also store food that is essential for regrowth. Short tops mean short roots. Short roots mean less future grass production and less drought tolerance.

It is important to note that overgrazing destroys both leaves and roots. The mistake many graziers make is forcing livestock to graze too hard on the third and fourth rotations, leaving forage too short to recover quickly. This quote will help you determine when to stop the grazing. “If you can see a golf ball out there in the pasture in June, you will not have good grazing the rest of the summer.”

Leaving just 2-3 inches of residual is acceptable in the spring when cool season forages are growing fast. Cows need to graze close to keep pastures from getting ahead of them and to help clovers compete with grasses. Be aware, as the temperature rises, forage growth slows. You need to decrease stocking rates or move your herd to new grass sooner, leaving 4-8 inches of top growth so forages can recover faster.

Seed Inoculation

It is important to inoculate seeds in many different ways. The industry standard has been the addition of rhizobia, a type of common soil bacteria, to legume seeds prior to planting. However, we are finding that inoculation of grasses, corn and vegetables is equally important.

To understand inoculation better, consider this analogy: a fragile, newborn baby is placed into an unhealthy environment not protected from danger. Like the infant, seeds are young and fragile and do not have many built-in defense mechanisms to ward off predators, diseases or insects.

Lancaster Ag has designed its own bacteria inoculant to inoculate seeds, not only the legume rhizobia bacteria, but using other bacteria as well. This inoculant defends the young, vulnerable seeds and provides nutrients, moisture and minerals so that the seeds can establish and grow prolifically.


Most soils in the Northeastern United States are acidic. Because the grasses and legumes commonly grown for hay or pasture are sensitive to acid soils, livestock growers need to pay attention to nutrient balance in their soils.

Apply limestone to fields before seeding to make the calcium soluble. If a soil sample calls for four to five tons of limestone per acre, Lancaster Ag highly recommends the application of limestone at 1,000-2,000 lb. increments over time.

There is evidence that applying all the limestone to the surface of the soil is as effective as incorporation. Fineness of grind, water content, total neutralizing power, soil magnesium levels and cost of material determine what type of liming material to use on a field. Limestone fineness determines the effective neutralizing power or quickness in balancing the soil. Water is a weight to the liming material and does not contribute to neutralizing the soil acidity. Pure calcium carbonate, used as the standard from which other materials are measured, has a neutralizing power of 100.

Nutrient Requirements

Nutrient requirements for establishing and maintaining forages can be determined by taking soil samples. Legumes and grasses are heavy feeders of phosphorus and potassium. At planting apply the amount and type of nutrients called for in the soil sample. Broadcast over the field, then work into the soil at seedbed preparation.

Lancaster Ag focuses on a broad spectrum of nutrients in the blends we have developed for legumes and grasses for fall and spring application. Along with this, we apply a broad spectrum of microbes giving a multi-pronged approach to making nutrients available.

Through the recycling of nutrients from roots and crop residue, there are nitrifying bacteria that focus on making nitrogen available from the atmosphere through hydrogen and oxygen. There are also bacteria that make phosphorus available in the soil. Thus, we encourage livestock growers to consider using one of our blends on acreage for hay or pasture instead of a single mineral fertilizer.

When considering nutrient applications on grasses, think beyond only fertilizer. Consideration should also be given to bacteria, organic matter and humus. The higher the bacteria and humus count in the soil, the better the grasses can flourish naturally, providing a broad spectrum of nutrients.

Large quantities of bacteria in our soils provide nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium for legumes and grasses, gained from crop residue and root die-off. When this happens in the soil, along with having adequate amounts of calcium and limestone, there are many other nutrients that are automatically made available.

However, money wise, when planting a new seeding of forages, applying limestone to a field goes further for a successful stand of a legume or grass than money spent on fertilizer alone.

Animal Nutrition & Health

Animal Nutrition

Nutrition: The Basis for Health

Good health is a blessing for which we should all be thankful. We should strive for excellent health for ourselves and for the animals under our care. The level of both human and animal health that we experience depends to a large extent on our actions. One of the most important factors that influences the condition of health is nutrition. In order for a flock or herd to reach its full potential for both production and health, it is necessary to provide a balanced diet that is proper for the type of animal being raised. Supplying animals with a nutrient-dense diet containing feeds grown on well-balanced, biologically active soil is the foundation for superior livestock health.

Soil: The Foundation

Soil health and balance is the basis for plant and animal health. If we experience disease problems in either crops or livestock, it is important that we take a step back and re-examine the soil fertility program of our operation. Disease and pest problems are most often the result of nutrient deficiencies that ultimately can be traced to issues of soil nutrient imbalance.

Although there are many natural remedies that can be applied to both crops and livestock when disease problems appear, it is important to take a larger view of the picture and find the root causes of these problems. The application of quick fix remedies or Band-Aids will at times have a positive effect on an afflicted individual, crop or group. Unfortunately, if the underlying issues of soil imbalance are not addressed we will find ourselves facing the same problems repeatedly.

Remember to start at the beginning. Construct a strong foundation of healthy soil, then crop and livestock well-being will naturally follow. Investment in soil improvements must be viewed in the larger context of disease prevention for both plants and animals, not just what will be returned as an increase in crop yield for this year. This requires both a look at the bigger picture and taking a holistic view. We need a long-term outlook rather than merely looking for the quick fix. With time and patience, we will see the benefit of building a strong foundation of healthy soil that will be reflected in improved crop and livestock health and production.

This requires both a look at the bigger picture and taking a holistic view. We need a long-term outlook rather than merely looking for the quick fix. With time and patience, we will see the benefit of building a strong foundation of healthy soil that will be reflected in improved crop and livestock health and production.

Feed quality is a direct reflection of soil balance and health. Feeds rich in absorbable minerals and vitamins promote strong immune system function that in turn minimizes health problems. Well-mineralized feeds with high Brix readings indicate that the soil fertility program in place on a farm is working. A refractometer can be used to get Brix readings for both standing and harvested crops. Keeping track of Brix values over time can show how well the farm is making progress in its soil fertility program. High Brix readings are an indication that feed energy and mineral content are being maximized for the animals. High-quality feed ingredients minimize the need for added supplements.

Overview of Ration Formulation

The art and science of nutrition provides an animal with the proper nutrient balance required for its needs. The goal of matching feeds and supplements to animal requirements is carried out in different ways depending on the approach used by the livestock farmer and his advisors. Computerized rations are only as accurate as the numbers that are used in their calculations. Feed samples represent an estimate of gross nutrient content but do not tell us how digestible or absorbable the nutrients are. Standard values of nutrient requirements for animals represent average needs for the type of animal under consideration; they do not make adjustments for individual animal differences.

The well-defined science of animal nutrition becomes more of an art when we look closely at the assumptions that are used to calculate the ration numbers. This is not to say that computerized ration sheets do not have a place, only that it is important to keep the numbers in perspective. Lancaster Ag does use a computerized ration program to calculate the feeding needs for herds that prefer this service but we try to find a happy medium between the science of ration balancing and the art of good animal husbandry.

We must always remember to pay close attention to what the cows or other animals are telling us. If our sheet gives the batch size for 50 cows and all the feed is gone in two hours, the cows are obviously telling us that they will eat more than the computer says they will. Good herdsmen will perceive small changes, both positive and negative, in performance and contentment of the herd before production numbers confirm their suspicions. This is the art of stockmanship – listening to what the animals are telling us.

A basic concept of animal nutrition that is too often forgotten is to supply animals with a diet that is appropriate for their makeup. Cattle are ruminants; they were created to eat forages. This simple fact is ignored in the quest for higher milk production. Forage should make up 60-80%+ of the diet fed to cows. We have seen dairy cow rations containing 60-70% grain or seeds, being fed with the idea of increasing production by boosting nutrient density in the diet. The high-grain diets fed to dairy cattle in much of the USA have led to many of today’s common health problems. Rumen acidosis, laminitis, liver abscesses, immune suppression and other chronic health conditions of dairy cattle are the direct result of feeding an unnatural ration that is too high in grain.

Dairymen are misled by short-term increases in milk production when feeding a high-grain diet and do not consider the long-term costs associated with this practice. The long-term costs of feeding a high-concentrate diet include more lameness, decreased immune function resulting in more infections and decreased productive life or earlier culling for the cows. Common sense tells us that the cow is a ruminant and thus should be fed a high- forage diet. Good animal husbandry tells us that feeding a high-grain diet has a negative effect on herd health. Too often this fact is overlooked as dairymen pursue a higher bulk tank average. We must remember to listen to what the cows are telling us. Increased disease problems and high cull rates are cries for help and are not to be ignored as a normal consequence of high production.

Forage Quality & Balance

One of the key factors that determines the success of a dairy farm is the quality of forage that it produces. High-quality forage provides good nutrient balance when feeding cattle a diet that is high in roughage. This is true either when grazing or feeding stored feeds. The need for grain is minimized if cows have access to large amounts of high-quality forage. If on the other hand, we must use low-quality forage in the diet, the task of supplementing the ration becomes much more difficult. It is not completely possible to make up for low-quality forage by adding supplements and feeding grain. The amount of indigestible fiber in low-quality forage takes up too much space in the ration and rumen to allow enough room for the amount of additional supplement needed to balance the ration.

We also must keep in mind that we want to maximize forage and minimize grain feeding to keep cows healthy. Ultimately,s we return to our starting point the soil. In order to produce the high-quality forage necessary to feed a high-forage diet we must grow our crops on well-balanced, fertile soil.

Feed Evaluation

Feed Samples

Taking a feed sample establishes the feed quality of a feedstuff. It is our road map for our present situation. Feed samples need to be taken in a way that ensures a representative feedstuff sample, because the recommendation for the complete diet will be based on this sample. If the sample is not a good representation of the feedstuff, there is the risk that the suggested diet will be considerably off-target.

Feed Analysis Reports

A feed analysis report gives us the nutrient value of the sampled feedstuff. This report is like a road map in guiding us to our end destination. The number of the relative feed quality (RFQ) expresses the complete nutrient value of a feedstuff. This value gives a complete expression of nutrient value in order to compare one forage to another. The one with the higher RFQ is generally the better forage.

1. The first important component of the forage is the energy content. For lactating dairy cows, this is measured by evaluating the fiber content of the feedstuff. The energy content of the forage determines how productive the cow can be, if this is the only feed she were fed. If a higher-energy diet is desired, grains are usually added to the diet.

2. The second major component of feed is the protein. The crude protein is a measurement of the total amount of protein that is in the feedstuff. The crude protein content is analyzed by measuring the nitrogen content of the feedstuff and multiplying the result by 6.25. There are also some measurements that show us the protein fractions, which make up the total protein. This is one way that the quality of the protein is expressed. Some of the fractions are an expression of how quickly the protein is available for absorption by the animal. Other fractions show us how much has been damaged by the storage process. There are also fractions that tell us how much is available to be used by the animal.

3. The third major component of feed is the mineral content. The ratio of minerals gives us another indication of the quality of the protein, as well as the overall quality. These ratios also affect the digestibility of the fiber, thus improving the energy of the feedstuff. These ratios vary depending on the kind of feedstuff that we are analyzing.


The purpose of animal nutrition is to observe which nutrients and which levels of nutrients are most conducive to promoting a healthy animal and a profitable monetary return. The challenge in dairy nutrition is to take part of the forage that cannot be changed when fed to the cow, then add other ingredients to it in an attempt to optimize the diet. The success of this attempt is directly related to the quality of the forage. The ruminant was created to eat forage, which makes forage the basis for all dairy nutrition. The quality of forage can make or break the success of dairy nutrition. The better the nutrient value of the forages used in the diet, the less that needs to be added to bring the ration to the desired nutrient content.

Research and Development

Researchers who are involved in the industry of dairy nutrition continue to improve ways of testing forages relative to the digestion of the rumen. These testing methods help determine which varieties of forages are the most conducive to milk production in dairy cattle. Additionally, the companies involved in supplying the seeds of forage-producing plants continue to develop forage varieties that meet the increasing demands for improved digestibility.

Understanding Fiber - by Jerry Brunetti, founder of Agri-Dynamics and speaker on soil fertility, animal nutrition, and livestock health.

Fiber is forage plant cell walls. The mineral element calcium is critical for building healthy, normal and digestible cell walls. The components of the fiber in forages are the following complex carbohydrates:


Rapidly digested by microbes. It is in the form of a water-soluble gel like the ingredient Grandma uses to make jams and jellies. It is nearly a sugar and is highly digestible. The great benefits are that it promotes acetic acid production, acting like other fiber sources, and it generally will not promote acidosis. Legumes have the potential to produce large amounts of this high-energy fiber. To stress the benefits, here is a quote:

Maybe some of the herds that have a very high level of milk without the use of special bypass protein (supplements) really are feeding alfalfa that is very high in pectin, with the result that the total production of bacterial protein is greater.

- Marshall E. McCullough, October 25, 1992 issue of Hoard’s Dairyman


A digestible cell wall component that is more complex and more slowly digested than pectin, but is not quite in the category of cellulose. May be complexed or tied to other fiber fractions, making it more or less digestible. Generally considered a digestible fraction.


The chief substance making up the cell wall. It is considered relatively digestible, but not as rapidly as pectin. This is what we like to see in the alfalfa stem—a stem full of white pith.


Not considered to be digested by rumen microbes to any great extent. It is the portion that adds strength and stiffness to plants. It is necessary to provide effective fiber to stimulate the cow to ruminate. An excess of lignin can be a problem because it provides relatively no nutrients, and it becomes filler, using up valuable space in the cow’s rumen.

The bottom line on fiber quality is how much of the fiber is actually digestible. One way to estimate the digestibility of your forages is to note the spread between ADF (acid Detergent Fiber) and NDF (Neutral Detergent Fiber) on your forage analysis. An ideal spread for alfalfa will be ADF plus 12 points; for example, 28% ADF and 40% NDF. Grasses will naturally have a wider spread, so take that into consideration. Most importantly, the goal for alfalfa should be a solid-stemmed (not hollow), soft-textured forage plant. The pith that fills the center of the stem is high in digestible fiber. We should keep in mind that although the test for ADF and NDF may be actual laboratory measurements (if done wet chemistry vs. NIR), they do not always predict true digestibility and performance.

Midwest Bio-ag farm experience leads us to believe that a proper mineral balance may also be a meaningful gauge to judge fiber quality. Calcium to potassium ratios in alfalfa should be kept as near 1:1 as possible. An alfalfa that tests over 1.5% calcium, over 0.35% phosphorus, over 0.35% magnesium and is not excessively high in potassium (not much over 2%), with a 10:1 nitrogen to sulfur ratio, will normally perform very well, regardless of the ADF/RFQ. I have seen forage with 35% ADF or more perform like prime forage when it is balanced in minerals.

Do not overlook the trace element boron in your soil program if you hope to promote the uptake of calcium. Fertilizing according to the balance of the major cations (calcium, magnesium and potassium) is a must. Soluble calcium and sulfate sulfur will need to be a part of your fertility program. It should be the common source of soluble potassium. Potassium chloride muriate of potash, 0-0-60, 0-0-62, with its high solubility and excess addition of chloride will have to stay off your hay fields.

Grazing Introduction

Introduction to Grazing

Grass Grows Green: Proper grazing will keep it growing.

Leaves are food factories. They use sunlight to combine CO2, water and minerals to make plant food. Roots gather water and minerals to be converted by the leaves into plant food. Roots also store food, which is essential for regrowth. Short tops mean short roots. Short roots mean less future grass production.

Please note: overgrazing destroys both the leaves and the roots know when to stop grazing.

The biggest mistake most graziers make is forcing stock to graze too hard on the third and fourth rotations, leaving forage too short to recover quickly. Here is a guideline: “If you can see a golf ball out there in your pasture in June, you are not going to have good grazing for the rest of the summer.”

Animal Grazing

Leaving 2-3 inches of residual is fine in spring when cool season forages are growing fast. To keep pastures from getting ahead and to help clovers compete with grasses, graze cows close. However, as the temperatures rise, forage growth slows. Decrease stocking rates or move cows to new grass sooner, leaving 4-8 inches of residual so that forages can recover faster.

A grazing management system is actually management of the plant growth cycle. Use permanent and/or temporary fence to allow forage growth and quick grazing. Remove the animals, allow the plants to grow, then graze the forage again. Essentially, intensive grazing in grassland farming substitutes fencing and grazing management for cropping equipment, fuel and associated labor and expenses.

Tips for Good Pasture Management

  • 90-95% of plant food is from the leaves.
  • Plants have these goals in life: to grow up, set seed, and reproduce themselves.
  • The goal of intensive rotational grazing is to keep plants in the leafy growing stage, which is the most productive stage and very highly nutritious.
  • Plants should never be grazed twice during the same time period because it depletes the root reserves.
  • This grazing time period should be short: one day is best, six days maximum.
  • Rest periods need to be the proper length. They may be short during spring and in warm and moist weather, long during mid- to late-summer and in hot, dry weather.
          Short rests 10-20 days
          Long rests 30-45 days (may go as high as 60 days)
          Drought 60-150 days
  • To begin grazing, heights should be approximately 6” for cattle and a little shorter for sheep. This is a general statement. Grass heights will vary, but should be pre-boot to boot state.
  • Percent grass and/or legume in sward, i.e. percent protein, can be changed by regulating the grazing heights.
  • Height should be 1”-1½” when animals go off pasture.
  • When the rest periods are too short, yields are cut.
  • When the rest periods are too long, feed value is lower and regrowth reduced.
  • To provide the necessary rest periods a minimum of 8-10 paddocks are required and 20-40 are much better.
  • Square paddocks are best—they use less fencing and provide better distribution of grazing effects.
  • Most pasture sites will not require renovation or reseeding.

If these practices are followed, forage production, forage quality, the grazing season length, sward condition and moisture-holding capacity and water retention will all improve. Most importantly, feed costs will be reduced.

Animal Grazing

Areas of Concern Affecting Nutrition

There are three areas of concern that can have an impact on the nutrition of animals and their overall wellbeing. Unfortunately these conditions can exist for long periods of time without farmers and livestock producers realizing what is causing the problems that they are experiencing with their herds.

Stray Current

The primary instigator of stray current is stray electrical voltage, which shocks animals and is an irritation that should not be happening. Stray current has affected many herds across the country. Since it is prevalent on farms, livestock producers need to be vigilant. Either the utility company and/or the property owner can cause stray current.

Some problematic areas that should be tested on dairy farms are milking parlors and tie-stall barns; holding areas; metal pipes and beams; electric or metal fence; and metal or plastic water tanks. Observing the herd is very important. Some visual signs that stray current might be affecting livestock are…

  • Extreme twitching of tails even if few or no flies are present
  • Shifting of feet and lifting feet off of the ground one at a time in the parlor
  • Shuffling back and forth in the stall
  • Jolts or jerks of the head
  • Jumpy at the milk machines
  • Patterns of rhythms and waves in a row of cows as the current moves down the barn
  • Refusal to enter the milking parlor or holding area
  • Looking around before drinking from the water tank
  • Only lapping at the water and not drinking long and deep
  • Refusal to drink at certain water cups
  • Standing too long / not laying down after being milked or fed

Stray current can be harmful to animal health in a number of ways, such as high somatic cell counts, chronic mastitis, incomplete milk letdown, poor breeding efficiency, low conception rates, nutritional stress and even death. There can be a domino effect of low water consumption due to stray current. Reproduction is impacted and the end result is low milk production.

An important note: Stray current can also affect farms that do not rely on electrical power.

If you see multiple signs of the symptoms described above in your herd of cattle, take action. Consult with your Lancaster Ag Service Rep and he will guide you to one of our stray current specialists who can investigate the problem for you.

Hard Water

Farmers and livestock producers need to be concerned about the source, amount and quality of water available on their operations. Paying careful attention to drinking water quality for cattle and other livestock is very important because water influences nutrition and livestock health. Thus, frequent water sampling and testing are highly recommended. Testing will show hardness as well as salinity, nitrate-nitrogen levels, other excess nutrients and the presence of bacteria.

One of the physiochemical properties of water is hardness. Hard water is mainly due to high concentrations of calcium and magnesium, but small traces of iron, manganese, zinc, strontium and aluminum are also present. One visual way to detect problems with hard water is low pressure and restricted water flow caused by the accumulation of mineral deposits from the calcium and magnesium.

Water is measured in grains of hardness. The degrees of hardness in water are: (gpg = grains per gallon)

0-3.5 gpg = soft

3.5-7.0 gpg = moderate

7.0-10.5gpg = hard

over 10.5 gpg = very hard

On farming operations where the water is extremely hard, there can be effects on the livestock. There can be reduced water intake of cattle resulting in reduced milk production. Declination of the absorption of nutrients in animals can also occur, which can lead to reproduction problems. Producers might also observe an increase in the intake of free-choice minerals.

The harder the water, the more severe the problems. When the water tests at very high levels of grains of hardness, there is an acceleration of the problems and more supplementation of nutrition is needed to maintain optimum health. The following are examples.

10 – 12 gpg

Reports of increased uptake of free-choice minerals in certain seasons. It can be up to a third more mineral intake. If the free-choice minerals are not offered, there have been consistent reports of decline in the health of livestock.

15 -17 gpg

Reports of livestock consuming 50 percent more minerals as well as declining herd health and reproduction problems.

20+ gpg

Reports of ongoing and chronic herd health with 75 percent more consumption of mineral nutrition.

Problems caused by hard water vary greatly from farm to farm. Experience teaches that it depends on the type of free choice minerals, free choice mineral salt, kelp, and other feeds and forages being offered to livestock that account for the difference. It also depends if the farmer is supplementing minerals to his soils. That will result in more minerals in his forage and will lessen the effect of hard water on his herd. Many farmers are able to deal with the detriments of hard water by fixing the water problem or feeding high-quality forage These observations are based on the accumulative experiences of our staff at Lancaster Ag. The late Dr. Dan Skow, who was a veterinarian with 45 years of experience in biological agriculture, also observed them.

Grazing in Wet and Marshy Areas

Grazing In Wet And Marshy Areas

Stagnant ponds and marshy pastures are historical problems on farming operations. Bacteria thrive in these kinds of dirty and/or stagnant waters. The National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other conservation organizations encourage farming communities to install stream bank fencing and enclose old ponds with fencing. Lancaster Ag also strongly recommends fencing off marginal areas in marshy pastures and investing in good water pipes so that fresh, clean water is available to cattle in these areas.

Drinking contaminated water affects the nutrition of cattle because it inhibits the uptake of minerals. That means even if a producer is feeding livestock the optimal mineral amount, a deficiency of minerals can still show up. Dirty drinking water causes somatic cell count issues, mastitis, intestinal organ problems, fatty liver syndrome and liver fluke.

Fatty liver is caused by the incomplete metabolism of body fat resulting in the accumulation of fat within the cow’s liver. The characteristics are reduced milk yield, loss of body weight, loss of appetite and on occasion, nervousness. Poor environmental conditions can cause stress in cattle and lead to fatty liver syndrome.

Liver fluke is caused by a parasite that attaches itself to grass blades and is then ingested by grazing cattle. Wet areas on farms are a high risk, especially with mild temperatures and above average rainfall. Liver fluke wreaks havoc on cattle and results in reductions of the following: weight gain, milk productivity and fertility. It can lead to compromised immune systems, condemned livers and even death if left unchecked.

Slaughterhouses have reported an ongoing problem of up to 25% rejected cattle because of fatty liver and liver fluke as the result of poor drinking water, grazing on wet pastures and overly grain-fed animals. Lancaster Ag recommends providing clean drinking water and feeding free-choice and Thorvin Kelp for 60 days or beyond.

Lancaster Ag uses the one humate in our products that is approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). In addition, we recommend feeding Thorvin Kelp to young stock from birth as prevention for a multitude of problems and for overall good nutritional health.

From many years of serving livestock producers, our staff has learned about the relationship between poor drinking water/grazing in wet areas and fatty liver syndrome and liver fluke. The best prevention is to keep cattle from grazing on areas such as pond borders, riverbanks, stream banks and marshy ground. Pasture rotation should be a part of a strategic grazing management approach. When there are persistent problems, please seek professional veterinarian advice for diagnosis and remedies.

Water Quality is Crucial

by Steve (Howie) Combs

Water Quality

An often-ignored major component of milk production evaluation is water quality and the negative effect impurities can have on herd health and performance.

Considering a milking cow’s body composition is between 60–68% water and that milk itself is 81–89%, any factor reducing water consumption will reduce matter intake and consequently making less nutrients available for maintenance, growth and production. Milking dairy cows normally consume 25 to 30 gallons of water per day, a figure that is affected by air temperature, ration composition and mineral content of the available water supply.

Research has indicated the following criteria can be used as a guideline for water quality.

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) measures soluble mineral salts present. Since this is a measure of total solids and not specific contaminants, elevated levels have varying effects on milk production. Levels below 2,000 ppm normally do not affect health or production. Levels between 2,000 and 4,500 have been shown to reduce water consumption. Further testing is recommended for levels over 4,500 to determine and treat this specific contaminant.

Hardness is the measure of positive ion concentration and not a specific contaminant. Levels less than 60 ppm are considered soft, 61 – 120 ppm moderately hard and 120 – 180 ppm is hard water. Unless hardness is primarily due to a single element levels below 135 ppm do not affect water consumption. Excessive levels of any single element can affect the absorption of others, resulting in reduced performance. Excess calcium, for example, reduces the absorption of selenium. Excess iron levels impact copper and zinc absorption, but more importantly, affects water taste with an odor of sulfur. As sulfonated water is heated, as in lengthy exposed pipelines, odors can become obnoxious. Excessive levels of manganese have resulted in nervous and muscular dysfunction. Chlorine, a popular and effective method for reducing biological contaminants in water, can reduce water consumption in excessive levels. Reduced levels over 4 ppm can result in the production of chloroform upon contact with organic material. Higher concentrations can reduce rumen bacteria population which reduces digestion of forages. A residual level of less than 0.5 ppm is considered safe.

Nitrates. Cattle drinking from ponds are subject to surface infiltration or drinking from streams with upstream manure exposure of any kind can contain unsafe levels of nitrates. Dangerously high spikes can occur during periods of excessive rainfall. Nitrates are absorbed in the bloodstream and reduce the oxygen carrying ability of red blood cells. Moderate chronic exposure to nitrates can result in infertility and abortions, with acute levels resulting in death. Nitrate levels less than 50 ppm are considered safe for consumption, with chronic levels over 125 ppm harmful and 250 ppm lethal.

Bacteria. There are many strains of bacteria that can be present in drinking water, either well or surface. Coliform groupings found in intestinal bacteria are used as indicators of further contamination, but can be lethal at elevated levels. They are measured in “colony forming units” with levels over 10 being the base level for performance reduction in adult cattle.

There are many factors physical and chemical that can result in reduced performance in dairy herds. The wrong contamination of any of these can quickly reduce milk production to non-profitable levels. Let’s not allow one of the most basic and often over-looked nutrients, water, to reduce another well managed dairy herd with a balanced feeding program to become less satisfying while operating below its potential.

History of Our Nutri-Min Products

Nutri Min

In 2010 Lancaster Ag worked at significantly redeveloping our line of animal mineral blends. At that time the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) was reviewing labels for agriculture products and we were proactive by improving our mineral blends and consequently, updating our labels. Our goal was to comply so that our labels will meet NOP’s standards and will meet their approval for everything listed. This process has brought on a new high-powered lineup of animal mineral products in Lancaster Ag’s Nutri-Min line.

By the summer of 2010 we were ready to replace our custom animal mineral line with a new line called Nutri-Min. Why did we choose the name Nutri-Min? This name describes nutrition through colloidal minerals. Colloidal minerals can be easily absorbed and readily used. We have developed our Nutri-Min products using chelated vitamins and minerals and many colloidal minerals and traces, such as kelp, reed-sedge peat, diatomaceous earth, aragonite, conditioner, probiotics, herbals, botanicals, and similar ingredients that are highly absorbed when passing through an animal’s system.

After reformulating our products with these ingredients, we feel that we now have some of the best minerals on the market today. It is true that in the United States we have lost the feeding qualities in many of our animal feeds, causing problems in animal health and eventually in human health. The good news is that our Nutri-Min Mineral Blends can be your solution to this dilemma.

The main way growers compare minerals is by looking at numbers. For example, if a bag reads 16-8, that means it is 16% calcium and 8% phosphorus. That is known as a 2 to 1 mineral (2:1). A 12-6 is also a 2 to 1 mineral, but with less in the bag than a 16-8 mineral. However, numbers are not everything. It is more about what is absorbed and recognized by the cell wall.

Lancaster Ag has always taken the high road when sourcing calcium, phosphorus and other mineral ingredients. We look beyond the numbers and ask probing questions. What kind of calcium source is used? Is it limestone coarsely ground with poor absorption or is it fine ground? What about aragonite, which is derived from the ocean as deposits of sea animals that are very high in calcium?

Our Nutri-Min labels show that we use aragonite in many of our mineral products. An important fact to know is: anything that once lived is more absorbable than a natural mineral deposit. We also use a combination of calcium sources. This combination allows for both very quick calcium absorption and some to be absorbed slowly, thus giving the animal a more uniform absorption rate.

All of our Nutri-Min products have kelp on the label. Kelp is definitely not filler, but rather, it is a veterinary bill-reducer. Kelp is a trace element cocktail that is in a colloidal state (once lived) so it is very absorbable. For every dollar a grower spends on kelp as a constant feed ingredient, he has the potential to improve heard health. Benefits include improved breeding efficiency, decreased somatic cell counts, foot health and hair coat improvement and fewer lice. Plus, intestinal parasites do not like high iodine levels. Lancaster Ag uses Thorvin Kelp, which has double the iodine than other kelp brands.

Nutri Min Label

Kelp is very high in iodine and manganese. Iodine runs the entire system of metabolism by the thyroid gland. Manganese runs the entire reproductive system. It is in an enzyme for reproduction. Ninety percent of a cow’s manganese (Mn) is in her ovaries and a bull or male stores 90% of his manganese in his testes.

Diatomaceous earth is another product that is included in some formulations. DE, as it is called, is derived from diatoms, an item found in the oceans. Fish and whales feed on diatoms. DE is microscopically shaped and is a great source of minerals and trace elements.

The herbals, botanicals and probiotics are already blended into our minerals and there is no need to feed them separately. They will help to condition the microbes of the intestinal tract, and as a result, will provide a better manure system for your fields. Lancaster Ag builds a mineral package that has a full circle of mineralization in mind, not just production. The full circle is: cows > manure > soils > crops.

These special formulations provide the needs of healthy, growing and highly productive animals. They support all their systems for optimum health.

What is DE diatomaceous earth?

  • Found in the oceans
  • Derived from diatoms
  • Fish and whales feed on diatoms
  • Microscopically shaped
  • Great source of minerals & trace elements.

Terms to know:

chelation - the process by which trace elements in an animal’s feed are bonded to amino acids, ensuring their absorption into the animal’s body

proteineate - proteinate, are a particular type of chelate, in which the mineral is chelated with short-chain peptides and amino acids derived from hydrolysed soy proteins

colloidal - a substance in which microscopically dispersed insoluble particles are suspended throughout another substance

Heritage Feeds: Going Back to the Future with Heritage Feeds

Heritage Label

In Lancaster County we have a rich heritage in the way our forefathers worked the land and fed their livestock. They excelled in farming and their livestock thrived. This was accomplished without the use of GMO grains, antibiotics, hormones and fillers.

Our family stories tell us that our grandparents and great-grandparents took their wholesome produce, meats, butter, eggs and cheese from their Bird-in-Hand farms to the farmers markets in Lancaster City. Our family and other local farmers supplied the urban areas of Lancaster, Coatesville, West Chester and Allentown with fresh, nutritious foods.

That day is here again. The residents of our cities are demanding natural, whole, fresh foods that are untouched by GMO grains or pesticides. Using the farming concepts of the past, we at Lancaster Ag offer both complete certified organic feed and non-GMO feed in our Heritage Feeds line. Heritage Feeds are the perfect choice for farmers and growers looking for feeds with wholesome and nutritious ingredients. We offer the best because we firmly believe that good nutrition results in good animal health.

Heritage Feeds

  • Our organic feeds are PA Certified Organic
  • Our grains exceed USDA minimum test weights
  • Our feeds contain minerals from our own Nutri-Min line
  • Our feed formulas always remain standard
  • We custom mix according to specifications

The Objectives of the Heritage Feeds Program

Since the late 1990s GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in everything have been on the forefront of agriculture. There is a growing demand from consumers in our urban areas for good, healthy, nutritious meats. After much research across the whole country, countless hours and personal funding, it has been found that GMO crops do not have the nutrition that crops had before genetic modification took place. To add to that fact, Roundup itself removes many minerals from our food chain. These are the reasons that the GMO-free market is here.

In 2004 Lancaster Ag invested a significant amount of money to construct a feed mill to keep non-GMO grains separate from conventional grains. At that time, no feed mill could be found that made feed in this way. Out of necessity, we built our own so that we could manufacture a line of feeds without using GMO grains. In 2010 we named this line “Heritage Feeds.”

Since 2004 there has been a growing interest from consumers in meats and eggs produced without the influence of GMO crops. We coupled the values of GMO-free grains with good nutrition, using probiotics, botanicals and herbal products. For example, our feeds give poultry a good immune system with which to fight off disease and illness. Heritage Feeds produce the best quality meat the consumer can buy.

Test Weights of Our Grains

The grains that we use in our feed meet the USDA minimum test weight. However, over the years we have found that the USDA standard is not a good enough measure. We go beyond their recommended test weights to enhance the quality and longevity of life. For example, the USDA minimum test weight for oats is 32 lb. and for corn 56 lb.. We strive to go well above these minimum standards in the grains we use in our Heritage Feeds.

Unfortunately, mainstream feeds do not base their qualities on these standards. Rather they focus on buying their grains in the cheapest form available. Lightweight grain has little or no minerals: the lighter the grain, the less concentration of minerals there will be.

With our Heritage Feeds line we take Dr. Arden Andersen’s quote literally: “Nutrition will bring genetic expression.” The fact is that the heavier the grains, the more nutrient dense the foods will be that are produced by the livestock.

The Standard Formulas of Heritage Feeds

We do not change our Heritage Feeds formulas or concentration of minerals when the prices in the market fluctuate. We feel it is more important to have adequate nutrition than producing feeds based on price. We also believe in the old adage, “You are what you eat.” Therefore, if you want high-quality meat, you need to feed your livestock grains with high-quality and adequate nutrition regardless of the price.

Feeding high-quality minerals and feeds is expensive. On the other hand, hospital stays and chemotherapy treatment are also very expensive.

Most Common Ingredients in Heritage Feeds

Here at Lancaster Ag we have our own top-quality nutritional line called Nutri-Min that we manufacture in-house. These minerals were formulated with input from well-known experts, such as Jim Helfter, Dr. Dan Skow, Dr. Paul Dettloff, Dr. Richard Holliday and Dr. Arden Andersen. By listening to these men, we came to realize that diversity is the key.

As you look over our labels, you will notice that many ingredients in our various feeds are similar, but with varying amounts. We have herbals, botanicals, probiotics, amino acids, nitrates, proteinates and sulfate traces, as well as the major elements such as calcium, phosphorus and sodium. All of these individual ingredients play an important role in the health of the animal and eventually in the health of the consumer. You may call us for a complete listing of ingredients or a copy of our labels.

Grain Rations


Three Stages of Poultry - Grower Program

  1. Poultry Starter 21%
    All Poultry 0-3 weeks of age
    Corn, shelled 1030 lbs.
    Soybeans, roasted 725 lbs.
    Fish Meal ORG (8-6-0) 100 lbs.
    Kelp, granular 70 lbs.
    Poultry Starter Mineral 75 lbs.
  2. Poultry Grower 19%
    Broiler 4-7 weeks, Turkey 4-16 weeks
    Corn, shelled 980 lbs.
    Soybeans, roasted 545 lbs.
    Oats 175 lbs.
    Poultry Grower Mineral 100 lbs.
    Fish Meal ORG (8-6-0) 100 lbs.
    Aragonite 50 lbs.
    Flax Seed 50 lbs.
  3. Poultry Finisher 16%
    Broiler 8-10 weeks, Turkey 17-22 weeks
    Corn, shelled 1204 lbs.
    Soybeans, roasted 510 lbs.
    Oats 125 lbs.
    Poultry Grower Mineral 50 lbs.
    Aragonite 10 lbs.
    Soft Rock Phosphate 50 lbs.
    Salt 1 lbs.
    Flax Seed, whole 50 lbs.

Six Stages of Feed for Layers

  1. Poultry Starter with Mineral 21% 0-3 Weeks of age
    Corn, shelled 1030 lbs.
    Soybeans, roasted 725 lbs.
    Fish Meal ORG (8-6-0) 100 lbs.
    Kelp, granular 70 lbs.
    Chick Mineral 75 1bs.
  2. Pullet Grower 18% 4-8 Weeks of age
    Corn, shelled 1000 lbs.
    Soybeans, roasted 575 lbs.
    Oats 175 lbs.
    Layer Mineral 100 lbs.
    Fish Meal ORG (8-6-0) 100 lbs.
    Aragonite 50 lbs.
  3. Pre-Layer 16% 9-18 Weeks of age
    Corn, shelled 900 lbs.
    Soybeans, roasted 500 lbs.
    Oats 450 lbs.
    Layer Mineral 100 lbs.
    Aragonite 50 lbs
  4. Peak Layer 18% 19-34 Weeks of age
    Corn, shelled 1000 lbs.
    Soybeans, roasted 575 lbs.
    Oats 175 lbs.
    Layer Mineral 100 lbs.
    Fish Meal ORG (8-6-0) 50 lbs.
    Aragonite 100 lbs.
  5. Post Peak Layer 15% 35 plus Weeks of age
    Corn, shelled 900 lbs.
    Soybeans, roasted 450 lbs.
    Oats 430 lbs.
    Layer Mineral 100 lbs.
    Aragonite 120 lbs.
  6. Molt 12% 21-Day Program
    Corn, shelled 750 lbs.
    Soybeans, roasted 100 lbs.
    Oats 700 lbs.
    Layer Mineral 100 lbs.
    Alfalfa Meal 100 lbs.
    Wheat Midds 200 lbs.
    Aragonite 50 lbs.

Calf Ration

Corn, ground 735 lbs.
Soybeans, roasted 515 lbs.
Oats 500 lbs.
Molasses 150 lbs.
Nutri-Min Calf Mineral 100 lbs.

Dairy Ration

Corn 950 lbs.
Oats 400 lbs.
Soybeans, roasted 400 lbs.
Nutri-Min Dairy Mineral 250 lbs.

Sheep/Goat Ration

Sheep and Goat Feed 18%
Corn Shelled 1135 lb.
Soybeans, Roasted 550 lb.
Oats 250 lb.
Nutri-Min Sheep & Goat Mineral 65 lb.

Swine Ration

18% Pig Starter

Ground Corn 1000 lb.
Ground Soybeans 500 lb.
Ground Barley or Oats 150 lb.
Fish Meal 100 lb.
Dried Whey 100 lb.
Nutri-Min Pork Power Min. 150 lb.

15% Pig Grower

Ground Corn 1250 lb.
Ground Soybeans 350 lb.
Ground Barley or Oats 200 lb.
Fish Meal 50 lb.
Nutri-Min Pork Power Min. 150 lb.

13% Gestation

Ground Corn 1050 lb.
Ground Soybeans 300 lb.
Ground Barley or Oats 350 lb.
Alfalfa Meal 150 lb.
Nutri-Min Pork Power Min. 150 lb.

14% Gestation

Ground Corn 1250 lb.
Ground Soybeans 325 lb.
Ground Barley or Oats 200 lb.
Fish Meal 50 lb.
Argonite 25 lb.
Nutri-Min Pork Power Min. 150 lb.

14% Gestation

Ground Corn 1450 lb.
Ground Soybeans 300 lb.
Ground Barley or Oats 100 lb.
Nutri-Min Pork Power Min. 150 lb.

Animal Health

Animal Health: Prevention is the Key

Maintaining good livestock health is a key ingredient to successful farming. Working to improve soil fertility and produce nutrient-dense feed, followed by the application of proper nutritional practices will minimize the presence of disease in a herd or flock. Despite our efforts, animal health issues remain a challenge to many livestock producers. We must resist the temptation of searching for remedies that serve as a quick fix and remember to always work on preventing problems. This is not to say that we should not treat sick animals; but rather, we need to go deeper, find the root causes of problems and then work at eliminating them.

It is human nature to address the problem directly whenever we are confronted with a disease challenge. Once an animal or group has recovered (or not) and the illness is gone, our job is not finished. It is then that we must ask ourselves the hard questions, such as what needs to be done to prevent a similar situation from happening again. Soil fertility, nutrition, housing and management are issues we need to examine in order to find any shortcomings that need correction. The old adage An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is appropriate here.

Animal Health Overview

by Jerry Brunetti, founder of Agri-Dynamics and speaker on soil fertility, animal nutrition, and livestock health.

Maintaining herd health is too often a case of assuming that animals become ill at random, that medication is an inevitable part of all livestock operations and that there is a uniform response to treatment according to manufacturer’s data and research. This perspective is a gross simplification and ignores the complexity associated with an animal’s innate potential to remain healthy and heal itself, provided certain interferences are eliminated and specific requirements are provided for optimum physiological and metabolic activity. Herd health is no coincidence, but neither is it a matter of good luck!

Toxins - Unseen and Deadly

Contaminants that affect a variety of organs (i.e. rumen, liver, kidneys, lungs, uterus) and the blood itself are often overlooked. Nitrogen (or ammonia) can create blood urea nitrogen (B.U.N.) levels that can damage the liver and contribute to udder and reproductive infections by nourishing pathogens and suppressing immune activity. Nitrates in feed and water, excess protein (esp. soluble protein) and urea are all examples of what can provide such a source. Mycotoxins (mold poisons) can wreak havoc on rumen function, suppress the immune system (leading to other illness), destroy livers and kidneys and upset reproductive performance. Acidosis in cattle from too many carbohydrates (grain) or even low-pH water will abscess livers and create breeding difficulties. Rumen pH is ideal at a pH of 6.5–6.9. Heavy grain-fed ruminants often have a pH of 5.0–5.5, destroying rumen integrity and leading to poor productivity. Poor digestion, chronic infections, unhealthy feet, low fertility and unthrifty calves may suggest some kind of contamination.

Water - The Universal Solvent

Good water is nearly impossible to find. Water should be thoroughly tested for bacteria, nitrates, iron, sulfates, pH (acidity/alkalinity), pesticides, heavy metals, detergents and volatile chemicals. Even naturally occurring contaminants such as iron, low pH and sulfates can create unthriftiness in livestock.

The most important ingredient for livestock production in quantity and quality is good clean water.

Nutrition - The Pulse Of Productivity

Nutrition is clearly a critical consideration that pertains to any aspect of herd health. It is now recognized that nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc, selenium, copper and iodine are necessary to ensure optimum immune function and reproductive performance. Considerations such as digestible fiber and quality protein (amino acids vs. NPN) play an invaluable role in production and health. Rotational grazing provides livestock the essential digestive enzymes and vitamins as well as sunlight, oxygen and exercise.

NOTE: It is not recommended to feed antibiotics to healthy animals. Drug-resistant organisms have become a major threat in the agriculture world.

Poor nutrition for dry cows is usually the culprit for problems like milk fever, ketosis, retained placenta, calf unthriftiness and mastitis following freshening. Work closely with an open-minded, experienced nutritionist who recognizes the need to gather information and learn more.

Soils - The Missing Link

Soil nutrition is the most important consideration in animal health because properly balanced rations rely on forage and plant tissue analysis. Nutritional content of plant tissue is wholly dependent on soil fertility, which in turn, is dependent upon sound biological management practices. It is expeditious to network with an agronomist who can make appropriate recommendations to balance soils, ultimately providing your animals with grains and forages high in minerals, enzymes, amino acids, carbohydrates, lipids and vitamins, and low in NPN, mycotoxins, pesticides, heavy metals and mineral imbalances.

Our Lancaster Ag staff is able to assist you with your questions about animal and soil nutrition. Check with your Service Representative or call our Call Center at 717-687-9222.

Physical Evaluation of Livestock

Physical Evaluation of Livestock

Successful livestock producers and herdsmen are blessed with good powers of observation. They know when their animals are doing well and when they are not. The ability to sense whether a change in feeding or management is having a positive or negative impact on the herd should extend beyond typical measures of production (i.e. daily pounds of milk per cow). A good manager can see when the herd is being stressed even before it shows up in the bulk tank milk weight. Likewise, a positive change can show up as cows being more relaxed or healthy even though milk production remains unchanged. The ability to see beyond production numbers is to some extent intuitive, a God-given ability or gift. Plus different people do better with certain types of animals. However, if we apply ourselves, we can often improve our powers of observation. Here is an outline of things to watch for in cattle, so that you notice whether a change is having a good or bad effect on your herd. A detailed description of how to perform a physical exam on an individual cow will follow.

The attitude is the first thing that one should take note of when observing any animal or group of animals. Are the cows alert, relaxed, depressed or nervous? Does the individual animal carry itself with ease? What is the ear position? Does the cow appear sluggish? An animal’s attitude is an important overall indicator of health and vigor. Be careful to initially observe the animal(s) in question from a distance so as not to influence its behavior. It is best if the animal does not know it is being watched. Calves that are feeling ill will often hang their heads and cough sporadically. If the same calves are approached in a direct or threatening manner they will often perk up, stop coughing and appear normal.

The next detail to evaluate is physical appearance. The eyes and hair coat are good places to start. The eyes should be clear and bright to indicate good health. In contrast, a dull or cloudy eye can be an indication that the animal is not feeling well. Excessive discharge from the eye is abnormal and indicates irritation, infection or both. Look at the eye position in the eye socket to get an idea of the state of hydration or dehydration. Sunken eyes usually indicate dehydration and a need to get fluids into the patient. The severity of the dehydration often correlates well with how badly the eyes are recessed.

The hair coat should have a glossy appearance or sheen to it. Dull hair coats and faded colors can indicate nutritional deficiencies and/or parasitism. Patches of missing hair or skin sores point to even more serious health issues. Livestock that consume free-choice kelp usually have very good, shiny hair coats. This may help them to resist infection problems from external parasites such as lice.

The next important area to consider is the appearance of the feet and legs. This is particularly important in the case of dairy cattle since they are often at risk for being fed a diet lacking in forage. The feet and legs should be straight with a small amount of set to the joint angles. There should be no noticeable swellings or sores present. If in doubt as to whether a part of the foot or leg appears normal, use the opposite leg on the same animal as a check or reference point. Try to observe the cow walking as this will reveal much more than when she is standing still. Subtle lameness is much easier to identify in the walking animal.

The last item to consider in the overview of the animal is the manure. Manure quality and quantity tell much about the state of digestion and health of the individual animal. Scant, dry feces indicate a slowing of digestion and/or dehydration. Loose, watery manure or diarrhea can indicate indigestion or bowel irritation. Calves and other young stock will frequently show soiling around the tail area if they are suffering from chronic diarrhea. This can be an indication of internal parasites such as coccidia and worms. The manure condition of a group of cows can also be used as an aid to evaluate the feeding program for the group. Undigested feed particles (grain pieces or long fiber) show that digestion is not as complete or efficient as it should be.

Disclaimer: The information given here is strictly for educational purposes. Lancaster Agriculture Products does not diagnose, prescribe, treat, or recommend for any health condition, and assumes no responsibility. In no way should this information be considered a substitute for competent veterinary care.

Physical Examination of the Dairy Cow

TPR – temperature, pulse, & respiration

The first step to complete a physical examination after visual observation is to measure the body temperature, pulse (heart rate) and respiratory rate. This is known as the TPR (temperature, pulse, respiration) for short. Measure temperature using a digital or mercury-free thermometer placed in the rectum. Mercury thermometers should be avoided as they can cause serious contamination problems if they break. The normal temperature of a cow is about 101.5° F (the range can be from 100° to almost 103°). Temperatures above 104°F indicate a fever and may require action to help bring the body temperature down. The normal heart rate or pulse is about 60 beats per minute for a cow. Respiration (breathing) rate is normally about 30 per minute. Like body temperature, increased heart rate and respiration rate often indicate health problems.

Normal TPR for Cattle

Temperature – 101.5°F (101 to 102.5)
Heart Rate – 60 beats per minute (50 to 70)
Respiration Rate – 30 breaths per minute (24 to 48)

Some increase in heart and respiration rate is normal during certain times. A heifer that becomes excited and is afraid will have an increased heart rate. Cows’ breathing also becomes more rapid and often doubles in hot weather. Take the specific situation into account when making these measurements. A heart rate of 100 or greater generally means serious trouble, especially when combined with other signs, such as sunken eyes or a hard quarter with watery milk.

Rumen Motility – Feel the Wave

Physical Evaluation of Livestock

Good rumen function is critical for optimum cow health. The rumen is the engine that powers the system of beef and dairy production. The rumen is much more than a large digestion vat that can convert high fiber; generally indigestible feed into energy-rich fuel for the cow. It is an ecosystem that depends on the regular intake of feed, water and other nutrients in the right proportion to attain best performance. Rumen health is directly linked to cow health. Cattle need a strong, healthy rumen to thrive. Observing rumen motility (movement) acts as a window that allows one to see how well the rumen is working. A healthy rumen has a strong wave-like contraction twice per minute.

Approach the cow from the left side to observe rumen motility. The rumen is the largest part of the cow’s digestive system and it occupies most of the left side. The paralumbar fossa (PLF) is the triangle formed behind (above) the last rib, its other two sides are the ends of the short ribs (loin) forming the top and a line from the front end of the hook bone (large hip bone) back to the last rib. (See figure 1.)

Gently place your hand in the PLF and wait to feel a rumen contraction. The movement of the rumen will lift your hand momentarily and then drop it back as the smooth muscle contraction travels past. In a healthy cow this process will repeat itself approximately every 30 seconds. If the contractions are slow or weak the rumen is probably not working properly. A complete absence of contractions is cause for serious concern. If you are unsure whether the rumen motility of a cow is normal, check one or two cows that are eating and feeling well. Repeat this exam on one or two healthy cows to get a feel for what normal rumen motility is.

Auscultation – Listening In

The act of listening to body organs is called auscultation. Veterinarians include auscultation as an important part of the physical examination and generally use a stethoscope for this purpose. Many herdsmen have been trained in this technique and stethoscopes are used more around livestock operations than in the past. Our intention is not to replace veterinary care provided by a licensed professional but rather to empower livestock farmers and their employees with tools to make better decisions about animal care. Knowing when to call for professional assistance is important. If you are unsure of how serious an animal’s condition is or how to help the animal, please call your local veterinarian for assistance.

Rumen, Stomach, and Intestines

Using the stethoscope start by listening in the left PLF for the rumen. This is the same area described above for feeling rumen movement. Rumen contractions can be heard as a rumbling sound that grows louder as the contraction wave moves toward the PLF. Practice listening to rumen contractions on healthy cows to get an idea of the sound. It is easier to detect differences in rumen motility by auscultation than by feel. Slow or weak rumen sounds mean that the rumen is not working properly. In an off-feed cow the rumen often slows down as the amount of feed available for fermentation decreases. A drop in blood calcium (i.e. milk fever) or the presence of toxins (like those from a case of E. coli mastitis) will also slow down and weaken rumen motility. The absence of rumen sounds is a serious finding. It means that either the rumen has stopped moving or something, like a displaced abomasum (DA), has pushed the rumen away from the body wall so that it can no longer be heard. In either case there is a need to take action to correct the situation. The rumen needs to keep working in order for the cow to be alive and productive.

It has been often said that a cow has four stomachs. In reality there are 4 compartments that make up the first part of the bovine digestive system. The rumen is the largest part where mixing and fermentation of feed occurs. In a large cow, it holds 50+ gallons. Much of the energy content in the feed is absorbed through the rumen wall in the form of volatile fatty acids (VFA’s). The reticulum is a pouch on the front of the rumen into which heavier feeds and hardware fall. It is the place where the esophagus (food tube) empties into from the throat. The omasum is the next compartment of the digestive tract. It absorbs extra water and some VFA’s. The abomasum is the fourth compartment and closely resembles the true stomach in other animals. The abomasum secretes acid for digestion and is prone to movement since it is not attached tightly to any other parts of the stomach. The normal position of the abomasum is near the bottom of the abdomen (belly) on the right side.

The rumen normally keeps the abomasum in place by not allowing the abomasum to move because the rumen is filled with a large volume of feed or forage. Any condition that decreases a cow’s appetite results in less rumen fill and this predisposes the cow to a displaced abomasum (DA).

Continuing to auscult the abdomen, you should next listen for pings on the left side. Place the end of the stethoscope 3”- 4” forward from the last rib in line with the center of the PLF. Strike or thump the cow’s side firmly with a finger snap of the thumb. You should hear a dull thud when performing this percussion about 3”- 4” from the stethoscope end. A dull thud or thump is normal. A high-pitched ping or ringing sound indicates a hollow space with an empty gas-filled area under slight pressure. The sound has a resonant quality that sounds like a cold basketball bouncing on concrete. Pings are one of the signs of a DA. Repeat the percussion at different points in a circular pattern around the end of the stethoscope. Move the stethoscope and repeat the percussion until the area has been covered from the PLF forward to the middle of the ribcage and halfway down the side from top to bottom. When only dull thuds are heard using this method, it is considered normal. If pings are heard, it is possible that the cow has a DA.

Next listen to the right side of the cow for intestine sounds in the area of the right PLF. Usually there is little or no sound and this is normal. Sometimes you will hear gas bubbles and gut movements if the cow has indigestion. Repeat the procedure on the right side for pinging the cow as described above. A right side ping can indicate a right DA (RDA). An RDA is a true emergency. The cow will need surgery to correct the condition. Another option is to put down the animal as she will deteriorate quite rapidly if left untreated. Often lower pitched boinks are heard when pinging the cow’s right side. These are not the same as a ping. A ping has a high pitch with a resonant quality. Boinks are heard when loops of bowel located near the right PLF have small pockets of gas in them. Remember to practice listening to healthy cows to get a feel for what is normal.

Heart and Lungs

The next part of the physical exam is to auscult the heart and lungs. The heartbeat is best heard from the left side. Place the stethoscope end near or under the point of the elbow (slightly forward) on the left side and listen for the lub-DUB sound of the heartbeat. The two-part beat should be regular and strong but not pounding. Calculate the heart rate by counting the number of beats in 15 seconds and multiply by four or count beats for 20 seconds and multiply by three. Remember that the normal heart rate is about 60 beats per minute and rates over 100 mean that the cow is seriously ill.

Next move the stethoscope end upwards from the point of the elbow to the middle of the chest and listen for breath sounds. The breathing will be loudest just behind the muscles of the front leg near the middle of the chest. This is above the place where the windpipe enters the chest and divides into smaller and smaller airways much the way a tree trunk branches into many limbs. Listen to a few breaths and move around the ribcage area taking notice of how the breathing sounds. Normal breathing is smooth and fairly quiet. It is hard to hear in cows with large, thick chests. Loud raspy or crackling sounds are not normal and may indicate pneumonia. Wheezes and rubbing noises are also bad signs. Spend some time listening to the breathing and heartbeat of several cows so you will have a better feel for what is normal and what is not. Our goal is not to have you take the place of a veterinarian but with practice, you can get an indication of whether a cow is in serious trouble or not. Please call for veterinary assistance if you are unsure of a cow’s condition or how to best help her.

Udder and Milk

Nursing Cows

We will continue the physical exam by checking the cow for udder problems and mastitis. A quick visual exam can reveal enlarged quarters or injuries to the gland or teats. Palpate any quarter that looks swollen or red. Heat is a good indication of inflammation. The degree of hardness of a quarter also indicates how severe the mastitis is. Be careful when checking injuries or swollen quarters as the cow may kick in reaction to pain.

Next check the milk by stripping some from each quarter into a strip cup or area that can be easily cleaned. Look for clots, chunks, blood or a watery secretion. Run a California Mastitis Test (CMT) to see how many quarters are affected and how they compare. Every dairy farm should have a CMT kit and use it on a regular basis. Early detection and treatment of mastitis is critical to achieving a high cure rate. This is especially true when using organic treatment methods.

External Lymph Nodes

External Lymphnodes

The cow has several superficial lymph nodes that are just under the skin and can be seen and/or felt. Enlarged lymph nodes can develop in response to infection in the local area or they can be signs of serious systemic illness. Severely swollen external lymph nodes can be an indication of cancer in cows. The most prominent lymph nodes in the cow are just ahead of the stifle joint on the cow’s side. These nodes are usually 1.5”- 2” long and 0.5”- 0.75” wide and can easily be located and palpated (see diagram). A second pair of lymph nodes is located just ahead of the point of the shoulder where the neck meets the body with one lymph node on each side. A third set occurs above the rear quarters of the udder and can be felt from behind the cow. Enlargement of any of the superficial lymph nodes should be noted and watched over time to see if any lymph nodes are getting larger or smaller.

Rectal Exam

The final part of the physical exam is the rectal exam. This is one of the most valuable parts of the physical exam because it gives much useful information. The amount of manure and consistency tell what a cow has been eating and how well the feed is being digested. A small amount of dry manure indicates that the cow has been off feed for a while. Watery diarrhea with undigested feed indicates serious indigestion.

A number of internal organs can be palpated during a rectal exam. A veterinarian routinely checks the uterus and ovaries during reproductive exams. Dairymen who perform artificial insemination (AI) will be familiar with locating the cervix. Completion of an AI course offered by one of the cattle breeding companies is a good way to learn the basics of finding and manipulating the cervix. We recommend that livestock producers become familiar with the technique of AI before attempting uterine infusions. The size and fullness of the uterus in a fresh cow can indicate if there is an infection present. Palpation of the ovaries to determine stage of the estrus cycle, detection of cysts and pregnancy diagnosis are best left to your regular herd veterinarian. It is important to utilize the help of an experienced professional to diagnose pregnancy and treat reproductive problems.

Other organs that can be evaluated during a rectal exam include the rumen, intestines, bladder and kidney. The rumen lies to the left side and often extends back into the pelvis. Check rumen size and the consistency of the contents (feed) during the rectal exam. A small, shrunken rumen with no obvious fiber mat present is an indication that the cow has not been eating for quite awhile and needs serious help to get the rumen functioning again. A cow with an overfilled rumen may indicate a blockage of the gut or damage to the nerves that make the gut work. Bloat of the rumen will also be obvious during a rectal exam. The intestines are located to the right of the midline and forward from the front of the pelvis. Normally they are not obvious, as they tend to be soft and indistinct. Loops of bowel with gas and/or fluid under pressure can indicate a serious condition like an obstruction. Occasionally you can palpate a DA when doing a rectal exam, most often a right side DA. Remember to palpate a few normal cows for comparison if you are unsure what you are feeling is normal. The pulse can be easily felt by turning the hand over (palm up) and feeling with the fingertips along the backbone at the front of the pelvis. The aorta travels from the heart just below the backbone to the front of the pelvis where it divides into the two main arteries that supply the back legs. The split of the aorta forms a V-shape and the pulse should be strong at this point. A rapid, weak or irregular pulse can indicate serious problems of the heart and circulation. There are also several small lymph nodes located near the V. Normally these are difficult to feel. Enlarged lymph nodes the size of ping-pong balls to softball size in this area can be an indication of cancer in the cow.

The bladder and left kidney can also be palpated during the rectal exam. The bladder is located directly below the reproductive tract. Size of the bladder is directly related to how much urine it contains and can range from baseball to basketball size. The bladder feels like a ball that is very soft and pliable. A cow will sometimes urinate in response to moderate pressure applied to the bladder during a rectal exam. The left kidney is found under the backbone forward of the pelvis. Kidney infection often leads to swelling of this organ.

This completes the basic physical examination of the cow. We do not expect that every dairy farmer will have the desire to learn or master this material. Our intent is to give the animal caretakers or owners the tools they need to make well-informed decisions concerning animal care. Always remember to work with your local veterinarian for disease prevention and treatment.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated the statements in this catalogue. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease condition. In the event of any animal health concern, always consult a licensed veterinarian.

Disclaimer: The information given here is strictly for educational purposes. Lancaster Agricultural Products does not diagnose, prescribe, treat or recommend for any health condition and assumes no responsibility. In no way should this information be considered a substitute for competent veterinary care.

Garden & Produce

Garden & Produce

God saw all that he had made and it was very good. Genesis 1:31


We are blessed by our Creator who loves us and provides for our well-being. He has created a good earth for us to live on and has entrusted us to care for it. As we learn more about the condition of our soils and the environment, we acknowledge our great responsibility to leave a greener tomorrow than what we found today. This quote is a challenge to all of us…

“We have not inherited this earth from our parents to do with it what we will. We have borrowed it from our children and we must be careful to use it in their interests as well as our own. “ – Moses Henry Cass

Healthy families are another wonderful blessing that our Heavenly Father gives to us. At Lancaster Ag we focus on gardening so that we can improve human health. When we plant our own gardens or rows of produce on our acreage and grow nutrient-dense food, we are assured that we are doing our best to raise healthy families. Our goal for our family members is for them to live long, vigorous, and productive lives.

The link between human health and the food we eat has been known for a long time. Americans are beginning to realize that a large part of our epidemic health problems stems from two things: lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in our diets and the decreased amount of nutrients found in present-day produce. Recognizing that the challenges of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and various emotional and mental disorders that are connected to food in some way, we recommend returning to a healthy lifestyle through the variety of foods we eat. Growing our own salad greens, root vegetables, green vegetables and fruits in nutrient-dense soils is a great start.

The Value of Gardens

At Lancaster Ag we count it a wonderful privilege to work with all the gardeners and produce growers who use our programs and products. It is truly a pleasure to service your needs, make recommendations and troubleshoot your problems. Currently this is an exciting segment of our business and one to which we are deeply committed.

Reuben’s father, Stephen Stoltzfus, experienced a terminal health crisis in 2001. That is what has driven our company’s research efforts to create a healthy environment and fine-tune sustainable agriculture. Through owner Reuben Stoltzfus’ own health issues, he has developed a determination to find answers that improve soil, plants and human health. Our passion is promoting healthy living through farming and gardening.

We recognize the value of gardens and farms that produce truly healthful food. There is order in the natural system that God has created by which people can live off of the land to sustain their life and health. At Lancaster Ag we are constantly learning about the conditions of soils, environment and climates with which our Creator has blessed our Earth. The challenge for us is to be faithful stewards, manage our natural resources well and leave the land better than the way it was passed on to us. By carefully and methodically enriching and balancing the soil, we will bless future generations and pave the way for a healthier nation.

Gardens in the 21st Century

Garden & Produce

A return to gardening is an exciting and innovative trend in the 21st century. Even though it means counting the cost of the time and effort involved, then paying the price and following through, the benefits are great. Lancaster Ag services many gardeners who are part of thousands of people opting for healthier lifestyles by working the soil and planting backyard gardens.

Gardeners need to be willing to become knowledgeable about the process, then work hard to be successful. Gardening involves preparing and fertilizing the soil, planting seeds, monitoring growth, watering plants and weeding rows. Later, the produce must be harvested and the excess preserved for future use. In spite of the hard work, gardening is easier than spending time in hospitals and better than spending money for major medical care. It is like the old adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

For most gardeners the number one reason to garden is for the food. Naturally, food nourishes the whole being. In spring, summer and fall it is a feast for the eyes when bowls of steaming fresh vegetables are passed around the family kitchen table just minutes after being picked from the garden. Snacking on crisp raw vegetables recently harvested is an incomparable delight in freshness that cannot be found in the industrial food chain.

Gardening is a physical activity for the entire family. Multiple generations can work together. Young children, retirees and those in between can share the many tasks of gardening. It is great exercise for people of all ages as grandparents and grandchildren pick peas and beans, working their way down the rows side-by-side, with the parents picking up the heavier work. Gardening for the most part must be done outdoors. The fresh air and smells of the earth invigorate the body and soul.

There are also financial benefits to planting a garden, especially when feeding a large family. At harvest’s end when the canning shelves are filled, it is satisfying to know that the family has high-quality, nutritious food to eat all winter long. What started with a packet of seeds has blossomed, grown and filled many canning jars. When there is such a bountiful harvest so that there is more produce leftover than a family can possibly use, the excess can be sold at a roadside stand. The extra income provides money to pay for improving the soil in the garden. Neighbors and passersby are glad to purchase the freshest vegetables available.

God has entrusted us with caring for His Earth. The soil that He created is a resource for us, one that He has gifted to us so that we can sustain human life. As gardeners and farmers, we have an obligation to work the land carefully and responsibly. We have the awesome task of being stewards, which means actively managing what God has given us. Gardening is caring for God’s creation at its best.

Garden & Produce

The spiritual nurture that gardening provides comes from walking and talking with God in the garden. He desires daily conversations and fellowship with us. Our praise and thanksgiving for the timely rains he sends and His bountiful harvests go directly to the heart of God. Connecting with God first thing in the morning as we work in the garden before the noonday heat, starts the day right. We exercise faith in His mighty power when we depend on Him for rain, sun, warmth and the sprouting of new life. When the seedlings break through the soil, it is the miracle of life played out over and over again.

For some people it is emotionally satisfying to work in the soil. Turning over the dirt around the plants helps the mind to deal with the disappointments of yesterday and anticipate the joy in upcoming events. Some say that gardening is a soul thing that goes down to the core of one’s being. Others say the love of gardening is a gift from God. Still others say that it refreshes and delights. They are drawn to the garden and are nurtured by the time they spend there watching things grow.

Benefits of Family Meals

Tending a garden and eating family meals together go hand-in-hand. The interconnection of working together to tend the garden and then sitting down to a feast that comes directly from the labor of one’s hands is rewarding. The fresh, sweet tastes of food that is nutrient-dense make the hard work worthwhile. Enjoying good health and a happy family life are benefits from eating together around the table on a regular basis.

An important part in family life is working together to prepare the food for the table or to preserve it at the end of the harvest. Even the very young children in the family can be given tasks such as breaking green beans in half or picking silk from an ear of corn. Children are more eager to be involved if they know they are valued and their work is praised. If they see Mom and Dad working together to can peaches or make applesauce, they want to be a part of the scene. When young and old work together in the kitchen to cook daily meals using fresh whole foods from the garden, the children learn skills they will use for a lifetime. Plus, it teaches them to eat the many different nutrients needed for a healthy diet and to eat their colors.

Family meals enhance communication and ensure the worth of each person. Parents listen to their children talk about their playmates and school activities, while parents share about on-the-job happenings and whom they met at the auction or store. All members of the family take turns sharing about their day’s events. Mealtimes are a great time to teach and learn! Research shows that the children whose families eat together on a regular basis make more positive choices in life.

Buying Fresh and Local

Presently most produce in the United States is shipped an average of 1500 miles before it is sold. In order to reverse this situation, one of the healthy choices that many families in our country are making is to buy locally. Raising a garden on a large scale obviously does not fit with everyone’s lifestyle and circumstances. Being able to buy the extra produce from neighbors’ gardens or from local produce growers or farmers has many advantages for the whole community. Here are ten reasons to think local first and buy from local, independently owned businesses whenever possible.

  • Eliminates the middleman – more of the food dollar goes directly to the grower
  • Strengthens the local economy – keeps food dollars local
  • Creates local jobs – small businesses provide the most jobs to residents
  • Better service – local people have a better understanding of the produce they are raising and selling
  • Supports community non-profit groups – small businesses contribute more than large businesses
  • Makes a community unique – one-of-a-kind businesses are not based on a national plan, but rather, their own interests and the needs of their customers
  • Saves on fuel – very little transportation costs by not shipping food across the country or internationally
  • Provides freshness at its peak – food starts losing nutrients as soon as it is harvested
  • Better appearance and taste – fruits and vegetables are picked when they are ripe
  • Assures that harmful growing practices are not used – consumers can speak directly to growers about their applications and soil conditions

Demand for Real Foods is Increasing

Real foods are nutrient-dense herbs, fruits and vegetables raised in soils rich with balanced minerals and alive with biology. Nutrient-dense is the key word in the definition of real foods because both the soil in which fruits and vegetables are grown and the foods themselves are nutrient-dense. This means it is important to put minerals back into our soils and make those soils sustainable for future generations.

When there is a lack of sufficient minerals in our foods, the eleven vital systems in our bodies suffer. Keeping our bodies well tuned with real foods will go a long way to prevent serious health problems in these systems: endocrine, immune, reproductive, musculoskeletal, nervous, circulatory, digestive, lymphatic, respiratory, urinary and skin.

The high cost of real food is of great concern. Buying local and planning summer meals around seasonal vegetables ripe in the garden or from nearby roadside stands and farmers markets are ways to save on the food budget. Another way is to cook meals from scratch by using fresh, whole ingredients instead of opening pre-packaged food. Eliminating food waste is also a savings of the food dollars that a family has to spend. Over forty percent of America’s food is thrown away and of that amount, only three percent is recycled in creative ways such as compost piles.

Small family farms help communities stay vibrant. Many people today are worried about the great distances their food travels before they consume it. When farmers and produce growers can sell their real foods locally, it lessens the dependence on long supply lines for food and profits the local economy. For example, the Buy Fresh, Buy Local initiative in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania reported this finding in April 2012, “If all Lancaster County households shifted 5 percent of their grocery budgets to local foods, our local economy would capture an additional $45 million annually.” That is a significant influx of cash.

Lancaster Ag encourages you to transform barren backyards into lush gardens. When your body craves fresh vegetables, simply step outside your back door, walk 30 feet and pick the ingredients for a real foods dinner. When you follow Lancaster Ag’s Garden Programs your garden will flourish. This means carefully following the programs step-by-step, nurturing your soil and using our beneficial garden products. Then your family will enjoy the health that comes from a diet of real foods.

Soil Conditions in Gardens and Fields

Garden & Produce

In conclusion, we must garden and farm from the bottom up. The beginning of great gardens and produce acres that produce healthy, nutrient-dense produce is the soil. The number one goal for gardens and produce acres is the production of top quality herbs, fruits and vegetables that taste delicious as opposed to low-grade, inferior produce. Unfortunately, from 1940 to 1991, the produce quality in the United States dropped. On the average, fruit lost 60% of its mineral density and vegetables lost nearly 80%. The largest sphere of influence with which to raise the quality of our current produce is the soil.

The condition of our soils is important because all life on earth is dependent on soil. A close look at healthy soil reveals that it is teeming with life and activity. It is rich in organic matter, insects, earthworms, air, water and nutrients. Healthy soil retains nutrients and has a texture allowing water and air to permeate it. The four major components of soil are mineral matter, organic matter, water and air. The mineral matter (stones, gravel) usually originates from the bedrock that lies beneath the soil. Organic matter (humus) is the decayed remains and waste products of plants and animals.

It is important to note that the mineral composition of the soil is what makes the difference between rich fertile soil and poor infertile soil. Plants need minerals to be in an available and balanced form. Minerals are what create sweetness, flavor and nutrition in fruits, grains and vegetables. Without balanced minerals, it is possible to achieve high production, but not the highest-quality nutritional food.

Read a more detailed discussion of minerals and soil nutrients here.

We at Lancaster Ag are awed by the complexity of the many elements needed in the soil for good healthy life to exist at that level. It is interesting to note that all of these elements are supplied through the natural system in amounts that are adequate and balanced. When we neglect the natural system, deplete the soil or add detrimental ingredients, we upset the balance of nature and create a domino effect of problems that begin in our soils, extend to our plants, then to animals and eventually to our own human health.

Lancaster Ag offers a quality line of garden products and programs that enhances the natural system and enables growers to raise nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables that benefit human health.

Measuring the Quality of Fruits and Vegetables

Dr. Carey Reams, an agricultural and human health consultant, discovered an easy, efficient and inexpensive method of determining produce quality. He realized that minerals in the food give energy to people and that those minerals are actually carriers of energy. Humans need minerals, not for the elements themselves, but for the energy associated with those elements.

Dr. Reams discovered that a rise in plant sugars as measured on an instrument called a refractometer indicated a corresponding rise in mineral density. The units of a refractometer are measured in degrees Brix (°Bx). One degree Brix corresponds to 1 gram of sucrose in 100 grams of solution and thus represents the strength of the solution as a percentage by weight. The general rule is the higher the Brix value, the higher the quality.

Human Wellness

Human Wellness

Our Philosophy

The healthy living philosophy we have at Lancaster Ag is health & wellness by living a holistic lifestyle in every aspect of life. This starts with soil but affects our whole body. When we talk about the need to put nutrients back in the soil, it is not just about the importance of cutting down on weed growth or for plants to grow well. It is also about growing the highest quality, nutrient-rich foods to benefit to our bodies. This is edifying human and animal health!

Three keys to generational wellness are choosing healthy foods, exercising to reduce stress and teaching your children & grandchildren by example. Kids will eat anything if they are exposed to a variety of foods beyond sweets, junk and fast food. It is all a matter of what people learn and are exposed to. A healthy balance of fresh fruits, vegetables, protein & grains are vital to nutrition at any age.

Achieving the Holistic, Healthy Lifestyle


Human Wellness

When our soil’s nutrients are depleted, our foods are also missing vital nutrients. Our bodies operate similar to the soil, so there is a need to supplement (add or enhance what exists) with multi-vitamins, probiotics and a digestive enzyme.

Different lifestyles require different nutrition and supplementation. Vegan and vegetarians need different nutrition than carnivores and vice versa. Therefore, the supplementation for each may vary.


Just like soil, when our body doesn’t have adequate hydration our cells wilt and don’t function as well as they are designed to. Adequate water intake is half of your body weight in ounces of water– if exercising and sweating you need more. The best water to hydrate with is distilled or reverse osmosis water. Lemon in water is a good detoxifier. It’s a good practice to start your day with lemon water to jump start your body. Water alkalizing machines are on the market to further increase the goodness of the water we consume.

How to start adopting a new healthy holistic lifestyle

Beginning a new healthy lifestyle takes time. We don’t suddenly become healthy or unhealthy overnight, rather over the course of years. Our bodies need time to adjust and learn new healthy habits, so don’t be discouraged in the beginning.

Take the time your body needs to gain balance. Beware of products or diets that claim to come easy or fast with results. For example, if you are low in iron, you will need a consistent, long-term diet that is rich in liver and dark green leafy vegetables to allow absorption and aide in the body’s ability to process iron rich foods. However, if the beef liver is full of antibiotics and hormones, that counteracts the natural nutrients. When your body isn’t used to consuming dark green leafy vegetables, you could experience digestive issues that disappear over time once your body has adapted.

“Diet” vs. Lifestyle Change

A fad diet is a short term solution to a long term problem. If you cut foods and calories, you can throw your body into starvation mode which can actually make you retain and gain weight. Another possibility is once off a “diet” you go back to old eating habits which often add to even more weight gain than before you began the diet.

Holistic Healthy Lifestyle

Human Wellness

Our holistic healthy lifestyle needs balance; everything in moderation – work & play – eating & treating – quality sleep & regular activity.

We are here to help and serve your families. Phone and in-person consultations are available. Please contact Charisse Wenger at Lancaster Ag with any questions 717-687-9222.

We would also love to hear about your successes as you embark on a new healthy holistic lifestyle. Please submit letters and questions to Charisse as well.

The Human Wellness Team at Lancaster Ag

Dr. Wilbert Streeter D.O.& Charisse Wenger, Health Consultant

Dr. Streeter graduated in 1976 from Chicago Osteopathic Hospital. He has 39 years of experience. A DO is a Doctor of Osteopathics Medicine – meaning he treats the whole body not just the symptoms for wellness and prevention.

Common Ailments & Helpful Products

Human Wellness

It is important to share and understand experiences that have worked for others. Here are common health issues that we frequently address.

Digestive issues: IBS, diverticulitis, constipation – especially in women can be positively affected by food. Dark green leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, probiotics, digestive enzymes, magnesium, fiber or our Fiber-Wise are a few of nature’s ways to help digestion function properly.

Thyroid: The thyroid is essential to women’s health, as it plays a key role in ovulation, menstruation and having healthy pregnancies. Iodine and tyrosine is necessary to support the thyroid and endocrine system. Temperature below 97.5⁰F can be an indicator of a thyroid issue.

Hormonal imbalance goes hand in hand with thyroid problems. Lugol’s and Eco-Thyroid can have positive effects for those with thyroid problems. For hormone imbalance our evening primrose oil, Pro-Femme Support, Myomin and Estrodim work well

Lyme’s disease can be terribly debilitating and affects each person differently. If you had a medical problem prior to being infected with Lyme’s, that existing condition can worsen with Lyme’s. This causes some people to be misdiagnosed for years.

Quick, accurate diagnosis of Lyme’s is crucial in beginning treatment. Don’t be afraid or put off going to the doctor. Constant supervision once diagnosed is necessary.

The following products are often helpful in fighting the virus and bacteria, as well as providing relief to someone diagnosed with Lyme’s: Samento and Carnivora (for stimulating the kidneys, anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial), Uva Ursi (for stimulating the kidneys) or KB8 (for kidney flushing), milk thistle (to protect the liver), oregano oil and grapefruit seed extract.

Immune problems such as low white blood cell count or being sick often require support. We’ve seen individuals have positive changes with vitamin D3, lithium oratate, B12, colloidal silver and colostrum.

Cold & Flu – Relief has been found with oregano oil, colloidal silver, grapefruit seed and Sambucol.

Heart health struggles such as heart disease, stress or cardiovascular induced high blood pressure, clogged arteries and circulatory issues. Positive condition changes have been found with Cardimax, celery seed extract, Hawthorn, NAC, Larginine and more.

Please note: ALWAYS check with your physician before starting supplements and/or starting new lifestyle changes. Accurate history of health issues as well as tracking of medications is vital to the process when seeking advice on a holistic lifestyle and supplements from a health consultant.