Backyard Chickens 101 Workshop

Spring and Easter bring baby chicks to the farm supply stores, before you purchase some do you know the basics? Which breed should you purchase? How big of a coop will you need? These questions and more will be answered during the April 25th Backyard Chickens 101 Workshop. 

Pasture: Evaluation and Management of Existing Pasture

Bob Hendershot, Retired State Grassland Conservationist

As we begin to move into spring, we need to start thinking about spring forage growth and how we will be managing our pastures over the course of the new year.

Pasture management is very important for grazing animals; cattle, horse, llama, and sheep owners. By managing pastures more effectively, land managers can increase forage production, lower production costs, improve aesthetics, and promote a healthier environment. The benefits of a well-managed pasture include reducing environmental impacts of your operation, including movement of soil and manure to water bodies; improving property aesthetics, which makes for good neighbor relations, and increases property value; and providing feed and recreation for your horses. Using a rotational grazing system can enhance these benefits.

For optimal health, horses and llamas need to eat 1 to 1.5% and cattle and sheep 3 to 4 % of their body weight in hay or pasture daily (15 lbs. of dry matter intake for a 1,000 lbs. horse; 30 to 40 lbs. of dry matter intake for a 1,000 pound beef animal).

Evaluation of Current Pasture: 
Begin by evaluating your pasture. Move hay feeders and water troughs to encourage even plant growth and reseed with grass species that can stand up to  hoof  action (such as orchardgrass, Kentucky bluegrass, meadow fescue, festulolium, fungus free or novel endophyte tall fescue, and perennial ryegrass). When planting, check to see if bare areas are heavily compacted. If you can’t push the blade of a trowel into the ground, loosen the soil with a tiller before reseeding. Next, eliminate areas of standing water by regrading the area or installing drains after checking with your local government environmental agency to be sure that it is not a wetland. Eliminating standing water will benefit your pasture; it will also be an aid in disease control, since mosquitoes and other insects tend to breed in standing water.

Identify plants in your pasture and see if what you seeded last spring is present. You would like to see plant diversity with a minimum of 3 to 4 grasses and 2 legumes each making up more than 10% of the forage stand. You also want to remove poisonous plants with an herbicide or cultural means. If the pasture is less than 50% desirable plants it is time to strongly consider a complete renovation, 51% to75% over seed and more than 76%  frost seed. Walk your pastures and take photos, good notes and evaluation forms in May, July, and October.

Resting pastures is critical! Recovery time for grasses ranges from 10 to as many as 60 days, depending upon season, weather, and soil characteristics. Generally expect to wait at least 14 days for grasses to regrow to grazing height in spring, and 30 or more days in summer. A good rule of thumb is to avoid exceeding 7 days on any one paddock. Divide your total pasture area into a minimum of 5 paddocks, and rotate animals to a new paddock at least once a week. This system will allow each paddock to rest for 28 days. If it is not possible to do all the divisions at one time do it in stages over a several year period. Two paddocks are better than one and three better than two.

A rule of thumb is to graze animals when grass is 6 to 8 inches high. Rest the pasture when it is grazed down halfway (3 to 4 inches high). Maintaining (3 to 4 inches) will keep 1200 to 1600 lbs./acre of dry matter leaf area that will capture 100% of the available sun light for maximum plant growth. “Graze ½, leave ½.” Grazing 50% only removes 2-4% of growth but grazing it 60% removes over 50% of growth! Grazing plants too short removes the growing points of grass and it will take longer for the pasture to recover, allowing more weeds to invade, and increase the chance for consumption of toxic plants. However, a Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass and white clover pasture can be grazed beginning at 4 inches of height. Bluegrass and ryegrass are tolerant of shorter grazing heights, and the sunshine will stimulate white clover growth. The worse disaster is over grazing the farm.

In springtime when grasses are growing quickly, you may need to move the animals through the rotation faster or work in a mowing regime as well in order to prevent plants from getting too mature and unpalatable before they’ve been grazed. If you make hay, you may choose instead to withhold 1/2 of your pasture from your grazing system so that you can harvest a first cutting from it. After regrowth, this area may be added back into your rotation system.

Experiment with portable electric fencing systems to subdivide pastures into paddocks. Paddocks are grazing areas subdivided from the pasture field. Ensure that the permanent perimeter fencing is sturdy and reliable. Portable or temporary fencing allows flexibility in how much area you give your horses daily. It also facilitates mowing and haying operations due to the ease of picking it up and getting it out of the way. Over time you may find that you are placing your fences in the same places, and you may choose to erect permanent fencing in its place.

Keep grasses in their “vegetative” state with a combination of grazing and mowing. Harvesting grass before it gets too tall will prevent it from becoming reproductive, also known as “going to seed.” Mature grass is coarser, stemmy, and not as palatable or nutritious as leafy, actively growing plants. Clip weeds before they form a seed head to reduce the weed seed in your pastures and control woody plants such as tree and shrub seedlings, which may invade open areas. Ideally, a paddock should be mowed as soon as possible every time animals are removed and rotated on to the next paddock. Just like grazing, you should allow grasses to grow to 6 to 8 inches and mow to 3 to 4 inches if not actively grazing to keep pasture grass healthy.

Soil test pastures to determine the need for fertilizer and lime, and follow recommendations. If pasture is new or has not received lime and fertilizer for many years, you may wish to test for 2-3 years in a row to establish a healthy fertility level. After that, a test every 3 years is sufficient. Remember that if soil pH is too low, any fertilizer you apply may not be accessible to the grass, resulting in a waste of money! Fertilizer is the least expensive way to improve profitability of a pasture. Twenty pounds of additional forage dry matter can be grown with the addition of one pound of nitrogen. Fertilizing a pasture is much different than fertilizing a crop or even a hay field. Grazing animals leave 75% to 95% of the phosphorus and potassium in the pasture where the animals place it is the management issue.

“Drag” or chain harrow pastures as needed to break up and spread manure piles. This will help manure to be broken down more quickly, spread fertility more uniformly, and dry out parasite eggs more quickly. During wet weather, parasites may not be controlled by this method, so manure should only be spread during dry weather periods.

Animals should be fenced out of wetland areas because they can cause damage to these fragile environments. When thinking about fencing, you should consider safety first. Fences should be clearly visible and not located at the base of a hill where animals can easily run into them.

– Flack, S. Undated. Pasture Management for Horses. Cambridge, VT.
– Herd, R.P. 1986. Pasture Hygiene: A Nonchemical Approach to Equine Endoparasite Control. Modern Veterinary Practice 67(1): 36-38.
– Hill, C. 1990. Horsekeeping on A Small Acreage: Facilities Design and Management. p. 106.
– Peterson, P.R. 1997. Developing a Grazing Management Plan for Horses. Crop and Soil Environmental News.
– Russell, M.A., White, H.E., and Antoniewicz, R.J. 1993. Pastures for Horses. Horse Industry Handbook. 730-1-730-9.
– Singer, J.W., Bobsin, N., Bamka, W.J., Kluchinshi, D. 1999. Horse Pasture Management. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science 19(9): 540-545,585-586,588-592.
– Washko, W. 1968. An Outline for Pasture Improvement. University of Connecticut.

Sheep Records: The Key to Profitability

Melanie Barkley, Livestock Extension Educator, Penn State Extension (previously published on the Penn State Extension, Animals and Livestockpage)

As a follow up to one of last weeks articles, Sheep Selection Tools, a good set of production records will serve as help tool in managing a profitable flock as well as assist you in making appropriate management decisions.

A key to profitability of any livestock operation is a good set of records.

Choosing what type of records to keep for your sheep operation initially starts with looking at what influences profitability of the flock. Once you decide what affects the profitability, then you can start collecting the records that help you make better informed decisions. These decisions might include tasks such as how to select the best performing sheep in your flock, how to identify sheep that should be culled, or how to identify expenses that could be decreased.

A research study at North Dakota State University, “Critical Control Points for Profitability in Sheep Production,” identified four key points that determine net profit for sheep operations: sufficient volume of production to be efficient, low unit cost of production, adding value to the lambs by feeding them to market weight, and labor efficiency. So, the question now is what types of records should a producer keep in order to address these profitability points?

When I think of production efficiency, there are several criteria that come to mind. For rams, they should be more than just fast growing, muscular, and structurally correct. Any ram needs to be reproductively sound. Records that will prove his merit would include the percentage of ewes he settled in two heat cycles, growth and performance of his offspring as lambs and the performance of those lambs as sires and dams. For ewes I might look at total weaning weight of her lambs at a given age as well as post weaning growth, muscling and structural correctness. To arrive at this information, producers should keep detailed lambing records: birth date, sire, dam, sex, type of birth, birth weight. Producers should also collect weaning weights and post weaning weights. Additionally, ultrasound scan data for loin eye area and/or depth plus fat thickness is very useful for evaluating production parameters.

To address sufficient volume of production to be efficient, we need to realize that not only do we have certain expectations of each individual ewe and ram in the flock, but we also need to lamb out a large enough flock that we can spread the expenses across a larger number of ewes. Some expenses are fixed regardless of the number of sheep on the farm, while others are flexible and will vary based on the number of sheep. An example of a fixed expense would be a mortgage payment. A flexible expense example would be feed. The mortgage cost stays the same, but the feed cost increases as the number of sheep increases.

Operation expenses will have a large impact on the overall profitability of an operation. The NDSU research study looked at net profit across a number of years and their data suggests that producers should spend time looking closely at measuring and controlling operation expenses. Feed costs are typically one of the biggest expenses in an operation so practices such as sheep selection to decrease grain consumption (an expensive feed resource) and methods to increase and improve pasture production can make a difference in the bottom line at the end of the year.

A low unit cost of production takes into account two aspects of the operation: total production and total costs. You can consider your unit cost of production in several ways, depending on the product that you are selling. For producers selling feeder lambs, you might look at cost to raise a lamb to weaning age. If you are looking at selling market lambs, you might want to consider the cost per pound of gain. For breeding stock you might look at the costs associated with raising a replacement ewe.

Adding value to lambs by feeding them out would take a closer look at cost to finish a lamb to a specified weight compared to the value of that lamb at marketing. Low cost weight gains on pasture could be compared against feeding efficiencies (pound of feed needed for a pound of gain) in a feedlot. Pasture growth rates will be slower and thus lambs take longer to reach market weight compared to fast growing feedlot lambs who are consuming more expensive grain rations.

Labor efficiency can be largely dependent on the operation facilities. Obviously, there is a cost to improving facilities, but that cost can be justified if labor cost is reduced by more than the cost of the improvement. For example, handling small square bales can be very time consuming. By purchasing a round bale feeder and switching to large bales a great savings can be realized in the amount of time spent feeding forages to the sheep. However, if this switch also requires investing in new equipment to handle the larger bales the lower labor cost may not justify the additional expense.

A key to any record keeping system is to choose a method that is both easy to use as well as easily accessible. Whether you are using a handwritten system or a sophisticated computer program, they need to be kept up to date in order to make the best use of the records. Income and expense records can be very valuable when they are compared over a number of years.

As we start this new calendar year, are there ways that you can do a better job of keeping records for your operation? Do you need to become more efficient at keeping records? Do you need to keep more detailed records? Or, do you need to develop a new system for keeping those records. Plan now to be more profitable this coming year!

Think Ahead about Weed Control in Alfalfa


Jeff Stachler, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Auglaize County (previously published in Farm and Dairy: February 22, 2018)

As alfalfa stands age, they become thinner. The thinner alfalfa populationallows weeds to encroach the field. Weeds can also be a problem if weeds were not properly managed prior to seeding the alfalfa.

After the establishment year, the weeds that are most frequent in an alfalfa field are winter annual weeds such as common chickweed, henbit, purple deadnettle, shepherd’s-purse, field pennycress, yellow rocket, birdsrape mustard, bushy wallflower, and cressleaf groundsel.

Another group of weeds that can get established are perennial weeds such as quackgrass, dandelion, curly dock, and Canada thistle. Summer annual weeds such as pigweeds and lambsquarters are usually not a problem after the establishment year but can be.

Controlling weeds
There are three reasons for controlling weeds in alfalfa. One is the weeds can become dense enough to compete against the alfalfa and reduce yield, although this usually does not happen unless the stand is thin.

The second reason for controlling weeds is to improve forage quality. Many weeds, although not all, have a lower feed value than alfalfa. Lastly, weeds that are poisonous to livestock need to be removed from the field.

Weeds having low to moderate toxicity include yellow rocket, field pennycress, henbit, purple deadnettle, and curly dock. Cressleaf groundsel is the most poisonous weed to have in an alfalfa field and is becoming more prevalent, especially in western Ohio, so be careful.

Fall control
The best time to control winter annual weeds and perennial weeds is in the fall, when alfalfa is dormant, or now, before alfalfa begins to grow in the spring. Applying herbicides before new growth occurs is called a dormant application.

With the warm weather in the forecast, alfalfa may begin to grow. Do not apply these products to frozen or snow-covered ground. There are only four active ingredients having postemergence and preemergence activity on weeds.

These are Velpar (hexazinone), metribuzin, diuron, and Sinbar (terbacil). There are two premix products able to be applied as a dormant application and they are Tripzin ZC (metribuzin plus pendimethalin) and Velpar AlfaMax Gold (hexazinone plus diruron).

Only the metribuzin in Tripzin ZC will control emerged weeds. The pendimethalin only kills weeds as that are germinating.

Comparing products
The Velpar, metribuzin, Velpar AlfaMax Gold, and Sinbar are fairly similar to each other as to how effective they are at controlling weeds that may be present at this time, although Velpar is a little better on most weeds.

Tripzin ZC would have similar activity to metribuzin, except will provide more residual control of grass and small-seeded broadleaf weeds. Metribuzin controls grasses the least.

Sinbar is the weakest on dandelion. Velpar is a little weaker on henbit than the other two herbicides.

Velpar is the only one that controls nightshade, although it is not perfect. Metribuzin and Sinbar are a little more effective on smartweed than Velpar. Velpar is definitely better on wild radish, although not complete.

Based on this information, Velpar and Velpar AlfaMax Gold should be the most effective on birdsrape mustard, although I’m sure it is not complete control. There is little information as to how effective Velpar and metribuzin are at controlling cressleaf groundsel.

I would give a slight edge to Velpar and Velpar AlfaMax Gold compared to metribuzin and I would expect Sinbar to be less effective. The Velpar most likely will not provide complete control of cressleaf groundsel.

Maximum rates
Use the maximum rates of these herbicides to control the most weeds. Velpar and Tripzin ZC can be applied to alfalfa in the spring, having less than two inches of growth, but injury will occur.

No adjuvants are required with these herbicides.

Metribuzin allows for the greatest rotation to other crops. Crops can’t be rotated after the application of Velpar, Velpar AlfaMax Gold, and Sinbar for two years, except corn can be rotated 12 months after Velpar, if deep plowed before planting

Electronic Logging Device rule compliance delayed for agriculture


BY  | MARCH 14, 2018 · 11:37 AM- Ohio Agricultural Law Blog

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued a second 90-day waiver from the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rule for agricultural transportation.  The agency had previously issued a waiver that was set to expire on March 18, 2018.  The ELD rule requires commercial haulers to utilize electronic technology that automatically records hours-of-service (HOS) data.

The reason for delaying the ELD rule for agriculture, according to the agency, is to provide more time for the agency to address agriculture’s unique needs.  Agriculture has argued that HOS provisions that mandate a ten hour off-duty period for drivers put agricultural commodities like livestock, fish, bees, and plants at risk by extending the transportation period.  Although the HOS rule contains several exemptions for agriculture, such as for personal conveyances and for transport of commodities within a 150-air mile radius of the source, many argue that the exemptions need further clarification and that electronic logging device technology does not recognize the agricultural exemptions.  In addition to delaying the ELD compliance date for agriculture, FMCSA also promises to provide further guidance on the Hours-of-Service exemptions and their relationship to the ELD rule.   The guidance should help drivers understand if and how the ELD rule applies to their transportation of agricultural goods.

FMCSA’s announcement of the new waiver is available here.  Read our previous post on the ELD rule here.  More information about the ELD rule and agriculture is here and the HOS exemptions for agriculture are here.

Ohio Noxious Weed Identification – Week 6 Giant Hogweed

Giant Hogweed

FamilyParsley, Apiaceae.

Habitat: Rich, moist soils along roadside ditches, stream banks, waste ground, along tree lines and open wooded areas.

Life cycle: Biennial or herbaceous plant.

Growth habit: 8-15 ft tall

Leaves: Are lobed, deeply incised and up to 5 ft. across.

StemHollow, ridged, 2-4 in. in diameter, 8-14 ft. tall, with purple blotches and coarse white hairs. The hairs are especially prominent that circle the stem at the base of the leaf stalks.

Flower: Numerous small white flowers in June – July, borne in a large flat topped, umbrella-like cluster up to 2 1/2 inches across.

Fruit: (Containing the seed) is dry, flattened, oval, about 3/8 in. long and tan with brown lines.

Roots: Forked or branched taproot.

Similar Plants: Cow parsnip, Angelica, and Poison hemlock. Giant hogweed it much larger than Angelica and Poison Hemlock. It is similar sized as compared to Cow Parsnip, but Giant Hogweed has spots on the stem.

The Problem is….. This tall majestic plant is a public health hazard because of its potential to cause severe skin irritation in susceptible people. Plant sap produces painful, burning blisters within 24 to 48 hours after contact. Plant juices also can produce painless red blotches that later develop into purplish or brownish scars that may persist for several years. For an adverse reaction to occur, the skin, contaminated with plant juices, must be moist (perspiration) and then exposed to sunlight.










Whole Plant






Currently there are 21 weeds on the Ohio Prohibited Noxious Weed List:

  • Shattercane (Sorghum bicolor) – February 8
  • Russian thistle (Salsola Kali var. tenuifolia) – February 22
  • Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense L. (Pers.))
  • Wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa)
  • Wild carrot (Queen Anne’s lace) (Daucus carota L.)
  • Oxeye daisy (Chrysanthermum leucanthemum var. pinnatifidum)
  • Wild mustard (Brassica kaber var. pinnatifida)
  • Grapevines: when growing in groups of one hundred or more and not pruned, sprayed,cultivated, or otherwise maintained for two consecutive years. – February 15
  • Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense L. (Scop.))
  • Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum)
  • Cressleaf groundsel (Senecio glabellus)
  • Musk thistle (Carduus nutans)
  • Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
  • Mile-A-Minute Weed (Polygonum perfoliatum) – March 7
  • Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) – March 14
  • Apple of Peru (Nicandra physalodes) – February 28
  • Marestail (Conyza canadensis)
  • Kochia (Bassia scoparia)
  • Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri)
  • Kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata)
  • Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum)

Each week, for the next 21 weeks, I will post information and pictures on how to identify these invasive and harmful plants.

Sheep Selection Tools

Melanie Barkley, Livestock Extension Educator, PennState Extension(previously published in Penn State Extension, Animals and Livestock)

Sheep selection should involve more than just visual selection characteristics.

There are a number of tools available for selection, but the key is to combine operation goals with production benchmarks and visual appraisal to select the best sheep for your farm. Plus, producers should take a look at an often overlooked part of the selection process: culling strategies.

Not all sheep are created equal and not all farms are created equal. Before you even walk out to the barn to look at the sheep, the first thing you should do is define your market. Who are you selling to and what does your customer want? You will then be able to define what characteristics are important for your ewe flock to exhibit. Then, step two is to evaluate current characteristics exhibited by your ewes and decide what traits need improved upon. You might take out a tablet and a pencil and write down what you feel are the 5 most important characteristics of your ideal ewe. Compare that to what is most important to your customer.

Does your operation have any goals and production benchmarks? What type of selection principles do you need to employ in order to reach those goals? Where are you at currently with production and how do you reach your benchmarks? After you answer those questions, add one more question into the mix. Do you remember the typical job interview question “where do you want to be in 10 years?” This is a good time to sit down and think about what your sheep and your sheep operation should look like 10 years from now.

Let’s take a look at an example flock. This flock produces lambs for breeding stock. Buyers are looking for moderate sized sheep with good muscling, structural correctness and the ability to perform well on pasture. The producer also wants to increase the lambing percentage so there are more lambs to sell. So, where does this producer start when selecting replacement ewes and rams to breed to the flock?

When the sheep are lambing, the producer should be tracking data such as birth weight, birth type and weaning weight. The producer can also record body condition scores at certain times throughout the year to assess a ewe’s ability to maintain body condition on pasture. Because the buyers want heavy muscling, the producer can use ultrasound scanning to assess loin eye size and backfat thickness. Lighter muscled animals that don’t meet a minimum production benchmark can be sent to the sale barn. The data collected by the scanner is also useful as a marketing tool to show buyers the amount of muscling in the animals. All the performance data mentioned so far can also be evaluated through NSIP/Lambplan to develop genetic breeding values that are a more accurate measure of performance.

Because the producer wants to increase lambing percentage, he or she may focus on selecting replacements that were born as twins. But, the producer also needs to be aware of other factors that affect twinning besides genetics. Nutrition is a very important part of the equation, so evaluation of feeds and feed quality will be important.

The last step is for the producer to visually appraise the animals for structural correctness: level top, level dock, correct set to legs, strong pasterns. You might also consider body capacity and muscle shape and design. Short hipped, round muscled animals tend to walk with a short stride and can have problems at lambing time. If your sheep have many hills in their pasture, freedom of movement can be very important. Purebred (sheep) should also exhibit certain breed characteristics. Refer to the breed standards for more information on what a (sheep) should look like.

Once the sheep has passed all these selection parameters it is now ready for marketing. Think about what characteristics of your sheep and farm set you apart from others so that your customer prefers what you produce? Focus on those characteristics in your marketing efforts.

Let’s throw in a couple points on culling strategies. If there are families of ewes within your flock who never produce twins, perhaps it is time for them to hit the road. Young ewes will often produce just one lamb in their first pregnancy. However, they should have the ability to produce twins once they are more mature. Or is there some other reason why this ewe doesn’t produce twins? Is she normally too thin? Is she prone to internal parasites? A yes answer to either of these questions is certainly reason to cull this ewe and remove her genetics from the flock.

Sheep selection is an important part of building the genetics in your flock to meet your production goals. Set some production benchmarks that you want to achieve this year, in two years and even ten years down the road.

Opportunities to learn about Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) in Hocking and Jackson Counties

by – SEOhioWoods

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) was first discovered in Ohio in 2012.  Since then it has been found at several locations including the Hocking Hills State Park in Hocking County and  Lake Katharine State Nature Preserve in Jackson County.  This nonnative invasive pest has the potential to cause widespread mortality in Ohio’s hemlock forests.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (Divisions of Forestry, Parks, and Natural Areas and Preserves), The Nature Conservancy, Ohio State University Extension, the Hocking Hills Conservation Association and others have joined forces to bring to offer an educational program “Hemlock Woolly Adelgid-A pest threatening Ohio’s Hemlocks at two locations in April:

April 5, 2018

Camp Oty’ Okwa  –  Hocking County

Directions to Camp Oty’Okwa


April 10, 2018

Canter’s Cave 4-H Camp/The Elizabeth L. Evans Outdoor Education Center – Jackson County
Directions to Canter’s Cave 4-H Camp


Both programs begin at 5:30 PM with optional hike to view magnificent hemlock forests. The indoor portion of the program will begin at 7:00 PM

Join us to:

  • Experience the magnificent hemlock dominated forest
  • A closer look at recently attached HWA on hemlock in Washington Co. 10-29-14
  • Understand the importance of hemlock trees to tourism and the environment in Ohio
  • Learn the significance of hemlock stands in the Hocking Hills and Lake Katharine State Nature Preserve (the Rock Run area of Jackson County)
  • Become aware of the serious threat that Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA), a nonnative invasive insect, poses to hemlock trees in the eastern US



  • Receive updates on the current status of HWA in Ohio
  • Learn about Ohio’s Efforts to proactively manage HWA
  • Join in our effort to detect this pest and spread the word
  • Hemlock at Lake Katharine State Nature Preserve

For more information about Hemlock Woolly adelgid visit:

Generations of maple syrup making

Originally posted in Farm and Dairy- 

Bonhomie Acres
Kelly and Dan Brown, Knox County-area maple syrup producers.

March 18 might be new date for complying with Electronic Logging Device rule

Peggy Kirk Hall, Asst. Professor, Agricultural & Resource Law


Late last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a 90-day waiver to the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rule for livestock and agricultural commodity haulers in response to a multi-party petition by agricultural groups. The waiver is set to expire on March 18, 2018. Agricultural groups are now awaiting the agency’s response to a second petition they’ve filed, which seeks another waiver and limited exemption from the ELD rule for agriculture before the March 18 waiver expiration date. There is also talk that Congress will delay the ELD rule for agriculture, as proposed by H.R. 3282, but time is running out for a legislative fix.

The ELD rule, which became effective last December 18, requires commercial haulers to utilize electronic technology that automatically records hours-of-service (HOS) data rather than using the current practice of recording data on paper logs. Congress directed the Secretary of Transportation to adopt regulations requiring ELD use in commercial motor vehicles that are involved in interstate commerce and operated by drivers who are required to keep records of duty status (RODS). The purpose of the rule is to create a safer work environment for drivers by making it easier and faster to accurately track, manage, and share the data.

The intent of the 90-day waiver for agriculture was to provide the agency more time to clarify the rule’s applicability to agriculture, which included considering agricultural exemptions from the rule. Agricultural groups also asked the agency to review and clarify the HOS, RODS and Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) exemptions for agriculture. While it hasn’t yet responded to the second petition to extend the ELD waiver, the FMSCA did recently provide additional explanations of the ELD rule’s application to agriculture, along with clarifications of HOS and CDL requirements. That information is available on the agency’s website.

How does the ELD rule apply to agriculture?

Here’s a summary of the FMSCA’s explanation of how the ELD rule applies to agricultural situations:

  1. The following are “agricultural exemptions” from HOS regulations, which would also remove the vehicle or driver from the ELD rule:
  1. “Covered farm vehicles,” which means vehicles that are:
    • Registered in a state with a license plate or other designation that allows law enforcement to identify it as a farm vehicle;
    • Operated by the owner or operator of a farm, or an employee or family member of the owner or operator;
    • Used to transport agricultural commodities, livestock, machinery, or supplies to or from a farm;
    • Not used in for-hire motor carrier operations;
    • 26,000 pounds or less and operating anywhere in the country, or26,001 pounds or more and operated anywhere in the state of registration or operated across state lines within a 150-air mile radius of the farm.
  2. Drivers who transport agricultural commodities, including livestock, live fish and bees, within a 150-air mile radius of the farm.
    • Once a driver operates beyond the 150-air mile radius, HOS regulations apply and the driver must use an ELD for movement beyond the 150-air mile mark.
    • Note that FMCSA has recently published proposed guidance on this exemption for vehicles traveling to pick up an agricultural commodity or returning from a delivery point and for trips beyond 150 air-miles from the source of the agricultural commodity. The proposed guidance is here.
    • Also note that drivers transporting commercial bees or livestock in interstate commerce are exempt from the HOS 30-minute break requirement when bees or livestock are on the vehicle.
  1. If a vehicle or a combination of vehicles (truck and trailer) has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), a gross combination weight rating (GCWR), a gross vehicle weight (GVW), or a gross combination weight (GCW) of 10,001 pounds or more and the operation is not otherwise excepted as described above, FMCSA regulations generally apply to the driver but the driver is not subject to the ELD rule in the following situations:
    1. A driver operates within a 100-air mile radius of the normal work reporting location and works no longer than 12 hours per day. This is the same exception that applies to preparation of a logbook.
    2. A driver uses paper RODS no more than 8 days in any 30-day period.
    3. A vehicle is older than model year 2000.
  2. Non-business related transportation of horses and other animals:
    1. The ELD rule does not apply to the transportation of horses and other animals to shows and events, as long as the transportation is not business related or for-hire (even if prize and scholarship money is offered).
    2. Note that FMCSA has recently updated its guidance for non-business related transportation of horses, available here.

What if the ELD rule applies to an agricultural situation?

Drivers who are subject to the new ELD rule must understand and be able to use ELDs by the required deadline, which FMCSA states includes knowing how to annotate and edit RODS, certify RODS, and collect required supporting documents. Drivers must also know how to display and transfer data to safety officials when requested. For information about meeting the ELD requirements, visit the FMSCA’s ELD page.

For more information on FMCSA regulations and agriculture

Learn more about the ELD rule and other FMCSA regulations that might apply to agriculture in this excellent publication by our colleagues, Tiffany Dowell Lashmet at Texas A&M and Beth Rumley at the National Agricultural Law Center: Outline for Analyzing Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Regulation: Applicability for Agriculture.