First Aid Guide for Draft Horses


Accidents, injuries, and illnesses are part of horse ownership. When an emergency arises, you’ll need to know how to respond, especially when a veterinarian can’t be reached or can’t get to the horse for an extended period.

Accidents, injuries, and illnesses are part of horse ownership. When an emergency arises, you’ll need to know how to respond, especially when a veterinarian can’t be reached or can’t get to the horse for an extended period.

“For this reason alone, every horse owner should be able to administer basic first aid,” said Steve Adair, DVM, an associate professor of equine surgery at the University of Tennessee (UT).

Being proficient in administering first aid means you’ll be able to handle minor cuts and scrapes on your own and that you’ll be able to provide basic care to keep your horse comfortable until the veterinarian arrives.

In his role at UT, Dr. Adair has worked extensively with draft breeds. For 30 years, he and other veterinarians at the University of Tennessee have overseen the famous Budweiser Clydesdales’ health. In this article, he highlights first aid appropriate for draft horse owners.

Horse’s vital signs

Regardless of the injury, infection or illness, it’s critical to familiarize yourself with a horse’s vital signs. Monitoring a horse’s temperature, pulse (heart rate) and respiration rate (TPR) provide insight into the severity of the situation and can provide an early indication of illness.

Dr. Adair says the resting temperature for a healthy adult horse is 99.5-101.5 F. Always include a thermometer in your first aid kit and have extra batteries on hand for digital models.

The heart rate for a horse at rest is 28-44 beats per minute. A horse’s pulse can be observed without a stethoscope, but Dr. Adair recommends keeping one in the barn to make the process easier. If you don’t have a stethoscope, find the horse’s pulse and count the pulsations for 15 seconds. Multiply that by four. If you have a stethoscope, listen for the heart’s “lub dub” sound. Every beat counts as one.

To evaluate the horse’s respiration rate, watch the horse’s chest move in and out. One exhale and inhale equals one breath. The respiration rate is 10-24 breaths per minute.

“If you suspect the horse is not feeling well, check his vitals twice a day and up to every few hours,” Dr. Adair said.

In addition to monitoring a horse’s TPR, also check the horse’s mucous membrane (gum) color and capillary refill time. Normally, a horse’s gums are pink in color and are moist to the touch. While inspecting his gums, press a finger on the gum line and slowly count how long it takes for color to return after the pressure is released. Gums that are shades of red, blue and even white can indicate a problem. An abnormal color combined with longer capillary refill times, typically means the horse is in shock. Share this information with your veterinarian immediately.


Horses have a natural knack for acquiring cuts, scratches or gouges. Wounds are typically classified by where they are on the horse’s body, for example, head, limb, body. The size of the gash and the amount of blood don’t always accurately depict the severity of the injury. If the wound is severe enough to require veterinary attention, follow your veterinarian’s instructions until he or she arrives because there are instances where they will advise you not to clean a wound.

Horses that are bleeding profusely need immediate attention. Catch the horse and apply pressure to the wound to slow or stop the flow of blood. Never put yourself in danger of getting hurt while tending to a horse’s wounds. Have a handler hold the horse if possible and have plenty of room to stay clear of a thrashing horse.

Prevention is always recommended. Check horse stalls, barns and run-in sheds for sharp edges and take care of dangling tree limbs to limit the opportunity for trouble. Horses will find a way to get injured in even the most well-tended environments. Ask your veterinarian for advice on how to handle potential lacerations before they occur.

Splints and bandages

Various bandage types and applications are available. In the first aid context, they are commonly used to reduce swelling in the legs or as protection for a wound.

“You should be able to apply a bandage or splint in case of lacerations, punctures or broken legs,” Dr. Adair said.

Bandages, for example, may be needed to treat progressive lymphangitis (big leg), a condition that is more common in draft breeds than light breeds. It is identifiable by the noticeable swelling on the rear legs that begin at the hoof and extend all the way up to the stifle. Big leg starts from an infection in a skin wound that spreads into the lymphatic system. Wraps are one part of a treatment protocol for the condition.

The best resource for learning the difference between wraps and how to apply them is your veterinarian. Local cooperative extension and related horse husbandry organizations may also offer workshops on the basics of applying wraps.

Intravenous injections

Giving an intravenous injection is not a task that should be taken lightly or done without speaking with your veterinarian first. However, there may be instances, especially with draft horses, when it may be necessary to administer an IV injection.

Anti-inflammatory medications are often a component of a treatment regimen of big leg and other conditions more prevalent in draft horses including laminitis and myositis.

“You should know how to give an anti-inflammatory intravenous (IV) injection such as banamine,” Dr. Adair said.

It is important to understand dosing and the proper technique for administering IV injections. Giving too much or in the incorrect location can be toxic. Ask your veterinarian for training on how to properly give an injection and only administer under veterinary advice.


Learn to develop a working knowledge of basic first aid techniques. Though such knowledge is never a replacement for veterinary care, it is an essential skill that could one day save your horse’s life.

“Always seek advice from a veterinarian if possible,” Dr. Adair said.

Ask your veterinarian for resources and or training to learn important first aid techniques.

Must-haves in your first aid kit

Keeping a well-stocked first aid kit means that you’ll have the right tools to help your horse in the event of an injury, illness or accident.

Treating wounds quickly is key to reducing the opportunity for infection. Depending on the severity, treatment limits the amount of blood lost. Dr. Adair recommends the following items for treating lacerations and other wounds:

  • Gauze pads
  • Roll cotton
  • Brown gauze
  • Adhesive tape (Elastikon, VetWrap, etc.)
  • Non-adherent wound dressings
  • Leg wraps
  • Scissors
  • White tape
  • Duct Tape
  • Surgical soap (such as betadine scrub)
  • Eye wash
  • Exam gloves

Monitoring your horse’s vital signs is critical to determining the severity of an illness. Keep these items in your first aid kit for easy access:

  • Stethoscope
  • Thermometer and spare batteries for digital versions
  • Stethoscope
  • Hoof Pick

In emergency situations, you may need to free your horse from an entanglement. Dr. Adair suggests including the following items in any first aid kit:

  • Flashlight and spare batteries
  • Hack saw (for trailer in case of wreck and you should cut partition or divider)
  • Utility knife or seatbelt cutter (in case of wreck and you must cut head tie)

The 11 Best Meat Delivery Services of 2021

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, many families are re-thinking the way they shop for groceries, particularly meat. Consumer behavior and outbreaks linked to meatpacking plants have caused disruptions throughout the supply chain. Many Americans who venture out of their homes to purchase groceries are confronted by empty store shelves.

Thankfully, meal delivery services make weathering the experience more enjoyable. Not only can you avoid the new protocols such as mask wearing and sanitizing grocery carts, you can find everything you need for hearty meals at home, all from your computer. A meat delivery service is also likely to have a wider selection than would be available from your corner store – everything from organic and grass fed beef and boneless chops to dry-aged steaks and wild caught salmon.

We researched some of the most popular meat delivery services available online and reviewed them based on metrics like variety of cuts, meat quality, price point, specialty services, average cost of shipping, and more.

Snake River Farms

The Snake River Farm meat delivery service is an immediate standout because of its special offerings. Not only do they specialize in dry-aged USDA prime cuts of beef, they are also one of the only to offer American Wagyu beef, which is renown for its flavor and marbling, which creates a buttery texture. All cows come from sustainable and human farms in the Pacific Northwest. Its other offerings, which include Kurobuta Berkshire pork raised on Midwestern and Idahoan farms, are just as outstanding.

Snake River Farms is known for its exclusive (and pricey) cuts of rare beef, notably its Wagyu. Offerings include American Wagyu tomahawk steaks, in addition to wagyu hot dogs and burgers. Products are characterized as Gold Grade (highest quality and accordingly high price tag) or Black Grade (still outstanding but slightly more affordable). They are known for the chef-curated variety and gift packs.

Snake River Farms advertises several sustainable ranching practices such as rotational grazing and composting of cattle waste. Even their shipping foam is compostable or can be used as a fire starter. The company is additionally a founding member of the organization Beef Counts, which provides food to needy families.

As for shipping, costs will vary depending on how soon you want your goods. Like most meal delivery service kits, meat comes vacuum-sealed and frozen.

Porter Road

Hailing from Nashville, Porter Road has diverse offerings of pork, lamb, chicken, and prime beef, all from farms in Tennessee and Kentucky. Beef cattle are pasture raised and free to roam, primarily grass-fed but grain-finished. Like some other subscription boxes, it uses plant-based packing foam that doubles as a fire-starter. The company is one of the few to deliver meat fresh, though some cuts will arrive frozen. Options range from a la carte (which include typical far such as pork chops, New York Strip, ground beef and ribeye, in addition to special offerings like lamb chops, Denver steak, and fresh andouille) to themed boxes (beef boxes, pork boxes, or “best of” subscriptions). Subscriptions vary from delivery every 2, 4, or 8 weeks. Subscription boxes also have the flexibility of adding on items such as chicken on a box-by-box basis.

The most basic subscription box comes in at $50, with specialty offerings such as the breakfast box and the Grill Master Box coming in at $70. A recent “Stay at Home” bundle, which includes dry-aged ground beef, will net you an impressive 11 pounds of meat. Like many other services at this time, demand is high, so shipping delays and inventory lags are common.

Butcher Box

Butcher Box is a newer subscription service that places an emphasis on grass-fed, grass finished beef from free range cows. Grass fed beef is higher in antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, and vitamins, imparting a richer, meatier flavor compared to its corn-fed counterparts. Grass-fed and finished beef produce less methane and are more sustainable, since cows do not live on feedlots.

Though Butcher Box specializes in grass-fed beef, it also offers vegetarian fed heritage pigs and organic, humanely raised chicken. All their meat products go through processing facilities with fair labor practices.

Butcher Box has a variety of boxes to choose from – all beef, beef and pork, beef and chicken, or a custom creation. Boxes come in two different sizes depending on how many mouths you want to feed with it. Prices begin at $129 monthly, but the best deal is the Custom Box, which allows you to pick and choose from cuts like top sirloin, chick roast, chicken breasts, ground beef and more. Shipping is free, which makes it a standout from some of the other services. Meat comes frozen and vacuum sealed. Keep an eye out for introductory promotions like free add-ons for the life of your subscription.


Rastelli’s started as a humble, local operation in New Jersey but has expanded to shipping across the United States. The butcher shop has always put an emphasis on finding the best quality meat possible and sharing a genuine love of food. Consumers can get beef, seafood, and poultry delivered right to their doors knowing that their meat meets strict quality and sustainability standards. For example, Rastelli’s sources their salmon sustainably from the Faroe Islands.

Rastelli’s also delivers on price- a box of boneless, skinless chicken thighs will only run you $35. On the higher end, you can purchase a ribeye box for $179. Uncommon for meat delivery services, Rastelli’s even offers a plant-based sampler box for $99. There are two main options: buy as you go or subscribe to a monthly box of your choosing. The latter option will net you a discount of 5%. The bottom line: if you like high quality meat and supporting a small business, Rastelli’s is a good bet.

Crowd Cow

If you are looking to support local businesses as you consume high quality meat products, Crowd Cow might be a good option for you. The company strives to rethink the meat commodity system by connecting its customers to independent ranches and farms spread throughout the United States and around the globe. Their offerings are diverse, including both American and Japanese Wagyu beef, grass fed beef, chick, pork, bison, and lamb. For those who love seafood, there is also a selection of sustainably sourced, wild caught fish available. As a functional meat directory, consumers have the option of searching for products by type of meat or farm.

Customers have the option of purchasing items from an a la carte menu with offerings such as bone-in pork chops, whole pasture raised chickens, ground beef, Wagyu, and more. They also have store-curated subscriptions with themes like steak and chicken, or combinations thereof. All packaging is recyclable and compostable. For those interested in transparency, each purchase comes with an information card about where the meat is from and how it was raised. With Crowd Cow, you have the comfort of knowing exactly what you are feeding your family while supporting small farm owners across the globe.

Holy Grail Steak Company

The Holy Grail Steak Company is aptly named. If you are looking to experience the very best of beef and you are willing to expand your budget, then the Holy Grail Steak company might be a good option for you. As a fairly new addition to the meat delivery industry, Holy Grail Steak Company is high end and sells prized cuts of American Wagyu in addition to A5-grade Japanese Wagyu. Available fare includes Kobe beef and Hokkaido Snow Beef. Customers have the option of searching through collections like USDA Prime, Wagyu (Japanese and American), and Akaushi.

The Holy Grail offers some of the most impressive offerings on this list but be prepared to pay for it. A 12 pound pack of Wagyu burgers are $169, while steak starter packs (four steaks) run around $249. Customers have the option of making a one-off purchase, making custom orders, and sending curated boxes as gifts. Shipping free on orders over $199, which is easy to do. You also have the option of purchasing gift cards so giftees can create boxes based on their personal preferences. No matter which method you choose, prepare to enjoy meat products that are truly special.

Omaha Steaks

Omaha Steaks has earned its reputation as one of the most prolific meat delivery services, referring to themselves as “America’s Original Butcher.” Indeed, Omaha Steaks has been on every carnivore’s radar for a long time. They have adapted well to evolving consumer tastes and offer a range of grass-fed and grain-finished beef, though their signature items are still grain fed. Unlike many other of the subscription services listed here, Omaha Steaks does not offer organic products. What they may lack in transparency, however, they make up for in sheer volume and diversity of product offerings.

The range of products listed on the website can be overwhelming. You can expect, of course, many different cuts of steaks, which include “king cuts” capable of feeding an entire family. In addition to steak, you can peruse cuts of veal, bison, pork, seafood, and chicken. Outside of meat, there is charcuterie, meal kits, side dishes, desserts, wine, and hot dogs. There are not subscription options per se, but you can opt into monthly grilling or steak boxes. Shipping prices vary based on order total and preference, but shipping times do not appear to be affected by COVID-19. Omaha steaks occasionally runs free shipping promotions, so keep an eye out.

D’Artagnan Foods

If you consider yourself a foodie who enjoys the finer things in life, you will likely enjoy a D’Artagnan box. D’Artagnan is a boutique meat purveyor who prides themselves on their ability to connect customers to fine cuisine. On the menu, you will find classic offers such as American Wagyu and USDA Black Angus beef, in addition to lamb, chicken, duck, and turkey. All meats are antibiotic and hormone free, pasture/sustainably raised, and held to the strictest quality standards.

Their non-meat offerings are what really set D’Artagnan apart. Explore their menu, which includes caviar, foie gras, and charcuterie. An impressive truffle and mushroom collection makes the meat delivery service truly unique. In addition to build-your-own and curated boxes, you also have the ability to search offerings by cooking method (grilling, sous vide), cut, and more. Price wise, D’Artagnan is on the higher side, reflecting the offerings of higher end products. They have a helpful selection of articles for cooking different cuts of meat using different methods. If you are looking to elevate your eating experience (or elevating the eating experience of a friend), D’Artagnan is a good place to start. Keep an eye out for specials like their Freezer Sale, which offers 25% off select products.

Chicago Steak Company

Of the options listed, Chicago Steak Company has most in common with Omaha Steaks. Chicago Steak Company focuses on prime cuts of meat shipped free to your door. It specializes in Prime cuts of beef, which make up the top 2% of all beef cuts. They also sell USDA choice on their site, so look at labels carefully when building your order online. Steak offerings include both wet and dry aged options, with most stating aging times of 4-6 weeks. Available steak options include basic fare such as Top Sirloin, Filet Mignon, New York Strip, Ribeye, and more. Their beef burgers are generously portioned and come in three different types of beef.

All beef is harvested in the Midwestern regions of the United States. For those who are interested in learning more about cooking techniques and the variety of cuts of meats available, the website also includes helpful articles and tutorials. Like Omaha steaks, they do not offer subscription boxes in the conventional sense. They pride themselves on offering high quality steaks, so don’t expect to see much else on their list of offerings. Occasionally, they will offer promotional incentives, particular surrounding holidays (Christmas, Father’s Day, Easter, and more).

Kansas City Steak Company

Just like barbeque, steaks from different regions impart a different flavor, marbling, and other characteristics. The most discerning of carnivores will appreciate the nuance available from a Kansas City Steak. A Kansas City strip, named for the Midwestern cows from which they originated, have excellent marbling, a tender mouthfeel, and a rich flavor.

In addition to their signature Kansas City Strip, steak lovers will also love their UDSA Prime offerings in addition to brisket and beef tenderloin Chateaubriand. Aside from their beef selections, enjoy other meats such as ham, steak burgers, Bacon-wrapped pork chops, and lamb. Like Omaha Steaks, sides such as stuffed potatoes and even desserts are on the menu. Curated gift boxes centered on themes such as Game Day, Father’s Day, and wedding gifts are also available. Short on time and forgot to get someone a present? E-gift certificates are available with instant delivery to your friend or loved one’s email address. If you are looking for a good all-around meat delivery service with few frills, a decent price point, and a good selection, Kansas City Steak Company is a fair contender. Keep an eye out for promotions, like 15% off when you spend $125 or more (not hard to do when stocking up).


Have you ever wondered where the country’s best steakhouses get their meats? It’s likely from Debragga. Many of New York’s top restaurants procure their meat from there, a sure sign that you are getting products of the highest quality. Dry-aged steaks are where Debragga really shines. Dry aging is a process by which butchers hang cuts of meat in a climate controlled, humidity-controlled environment. The process can take weeks or even months. As the moisture evaporates from the steaks, enzymes break down and intensify the flavor profile of the meat. The time and effort involved in dry aging makes them a special, once in a while splurge.

Debragga is, at its core, a high quality butcher shop. Dry-aged and Wagyu cuts are their specialty, but you can also find veal, sausage, pork, smoked meat, lamb, and poultry on the menu. All Debragga meat products are free from hormones and antibiotics, and they deliver nationwide. If you are hesitant to leave your home as states reopen, Debragga recently started selling “Eat Well At Home” kits to help people get weeks of provisions during COVID-19. In all, Debragga is a no-frills butcher shop that offers high quality meat at an according price.

The 14 Best Mail Order Steaks of 2021

As Americans get used to the idea of spending more time at home this summer and into the fall, family meals are becoming more important. The idea of sitting around the table for a meal, once unattainable during busy schedules, has become our new normal. Gather around the table (or around the yard) with friends and family and enjoy a wide range of meats available from mail order steak services.

Using mail order options, you can avoid the grocery store and have high quality, USDA prime meats delivered straight to your door. As an added bonus, a mail order steak service is likely to have a better selection than what you can find from your local grocery store – tender American and Japanese Wagyu, Black Angus Prime, and even Kobe beef are options on the sites we break down here. Find your perfect match based on metrics like meat quality, price point, specialty offerings, variety of cuts, and cost of shipping.

Snake River Farms

Simple Elegance Collection

Leading the charge is Snake River Farms, and immediate standout for its specialty cuts and outstanding meat quality. Here, you will find USDA Prime, dry-aged cuts of beef in addition to American Wagyu style offerings. Wagyu, prized for its unique flavors and intricate marbling, is so tender that it is often likened to butter in texture. Wagyu is where Snake River Farms really shines, with special offerings like American Wagyu tomahawk in addition to Waygu burgers and hot dogs. All cows are raised on sustainable and humanitarian farms in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to beef, you can also enjoy special offerings like Kurobuta Berkshire pork, raised on farms throughout the Midwest and in Idaho.

All products are characterized as either Gold Grade (highest quality) or Black Grade (still high quality, but more affordable). You have the option of building your own meat packs or enjoying a selection of chef-curated boxes. Shipping costs vary based on the amount you order and how quickly you want to enjoy your food. A common theme in mail-order meat services, your selections will arrive frozen and vacuum-sealed. As an added bonus, Snake River Farms packaging is compostable, plant-based, and can even be used as a fire starter, cutting down on environmental waste.

Chicago Steak Company

If you are looking for an all-around quality mail-order steak service at a reasonable price point, Chicago Steak Company is a good place to start. Focusing on prime cuts of meat delivered to your door, Chicago Steak Company strives to bring the best to every home in America. USDA prime comprises 2% of all beef cuts and is known for its rich flavor. In addition to prime cuts of beef, Chicago Steak Company also offers USDA Choice, so look at your cart carefully when making selections online. If steak is what you’re here for, you’re in luck. Chicago Steak Company offers both wet and dry aged selections, with an average aging time of 4 to 6 weeks. Choose from classic cuts like Filet Mignon, Top Sirloin, New York Strip, and Ribeye. Other offerings, like their steak burgers, are generously portioned and ready to throw on the grill for the perfect summertime meal.

Unsurprisingly, all Chicago Steak Company beef cuts come from cows hailing from the Midwest. They do not offer subscription boxes, but you can choose from monthly theme boxes or curated gift boxes in addition to making your own selections. Look for promotional incentives around holidays like Father’s Day and the Fourth of July.

Omaha Steaks

As the quintessential and original mail-order steak service, Omaha Steaks has earned a spot on this list. As the self-proclaimed “America’s Original Butcher,” Omaha Steaks is well known by every carnivore. Unlike some other steak delivery services, Omaha Steaks has done a good job evolving with changing consumer tastes, with an increased selection of grass-fed products on the menu. If you prefer grass-fed to grain-fed, look through the options carefully, as their signature products are all still grain fed. While they do not offer organic products, they do have a staggering diversity of offerings, beef-based and beyond.

Their steak selection does not disappoint, with all the classics in addition to “king cuts,” which are monstrous portions capable of feeding a family of five. Outside of the eponymous offerings, you can find veal, bison, seafood, chicken, and pork. You won’t find a more diverse selection of products on this list, with side dishes, wine, desserts, and charcuterie also on the menu. For gifts, choose from a wide selection of curated and theme boxes. Your shipping cost will vary based on the amount of food you order and how quickly you want to tuck into it. All items come vacuum sealed and frozen.

Holy Grail Steak Company

Holy Grail Steak Co. is the only online source of genuine Kobe Beef and other rare, exclusive high-end steaks-a one-stop, steak nirvana that delivers a never-before-available portfolio of world-class steaks right to your doorstep.

If you’re looking for the, well, Holy Grail of steaks, you will likely find it at the Holy Grail Steak Company. If you are looking for a piece of meat that is truly special and are willing to pay an according price for it, Holy Grail Steak Company might be the right mail order steak service for you. A new player in the mail order steak industry, Holy Grail Steak Company is high end and specializes in elite cuts such as Japanese and American Wagyu, USDA Black Angus, Akaushi. Japanese Wagyu is all A5-Grade and includes offerings like prized Kobe and Hokkaido Snow Beef.

Though the Holy Grail Steak Company has some of the most prized offerings of the services on this list, be prepared to pay for it. Steak starter packs, which include four steaks, measure in at around $250. A 12 pack of Wagyu burgers will run you $169. Due to their relatively high price point, customers have the option of making one-time purchases, creating custom orders, and ordering curated gift packs and theme boxes. Shipping comes free for orders over $199, an easy feat to accomplish. Not sure what to get? Consider a gift card to let your loved ones build their own boxes based on their preferences.

Porter Road

The Midwest is known for both corn and cattle, and Porter Road takes advantage of both in their meat delivery options. Originating and shipping from Nashville, all Porter Road offerings (pork, chicken, lamb, and prime cuts of beef) come from farms sprinkled throughout Kentucky and Tennessee. All beef cattle and pasture raised and free to roam on their Midwest Farms, are primarily grass fed, but are grain finished to accomplish superior marbling. Unlike many other of the services listed here, Porter Road delivers many of their cuts fresh, though some will be frozen. You can build your box a la carte with typical options such as ground beef and ribeye in addition to more specialty items like fresh andouille and Denver steak. Alternatively, you can choose from theme boxes and subscriptions. If you opt for a subscription, choose delivery every 2,4, or 8 weeks.

Subscription boxes offer you some flexibility, such as adding additional items onto a single order. Basic subscriptions start at $50, with other offerings such as the grilling box clocking in at $70. Larger bundles, like the recent “Stay At Home” bundle, will yield you a staggering 11 pounds of fresh, high quality meat. If interested, order soon, because COVID-19 is creating higher demand and some shipping delays.


New York-Based Debragga produces some of the country’s highest quality cuts of meat – so much, in fact, that many of the New York City’s top steakhouses order their cuts from Debragga. When you order from the butcher shop, you have the comfort of knowing that your meat will be top quality. Though Debragga has diverse offerings, their dry-aged steaks are where they really differentiate. Dry aging is a process in which a butcher hangs various cuts of meat in a perfectly climate controlled environment. As the moisture leaves the steak, its enzymes break down and impart a rich, meaty flavor. The dry-aging process can take weeks or even months, so be prepared to pay a premium for it (worth the occasional splurge).

Unlike some of the services listed here, Debragga is essentially a butcher shop who expanded its operations to nationwide delivery. They are known for their dry-aged and Wagyu cuts of beef, but on their menu of offerings you will also find sausage, veal, pork, lamb, poultry, and even smoked meat. Delivery is available nationwide, and all products are hormone and antibiotic-free. If you’re looking for high-quality meat, special cuts, but no frills or gimmicks, Debragga will not disappoint.

Crowd Cow

Crowd Cow is a unique player on this list, as it serves almost as a meat directory. If you are interested in transparency and supporting local businesses as you consume high-quality meats, then Crowd Cow could be the perfect fit for your needs. The company claims to rethink the way we purchase meat by helping connect customers to independent ranches and farms sprinkled throughout the United States and around the globe. As you might expect, they have a diverse menu of offerings which includes American and Japanese Wagyu, grass fed beef, pork, bison, chicken, lamb, and more. All seafood is sustainably sourced and wild-caught. Customers also have the option of researching by meat type and location of the farm.

Offerings come a la carte, or you can choose from curated boxes based on theme (chicken, beef, pork, and combinations of all the above). All packaging is recyclable, compostable and plant-based. Your meat will come with an information card where you can learn about its origin, including how it was raised. When you order from Crowd Cow, you can enjoy knowing exactly what you are eating, all while supporting independent farmers across the world. This makes it a perfect choice for the conscious carnivore.

D’Artagnan Foods

For the purveyor of good taste and fine foods, D’Artagnan stands out as the option for the Epicurist and Gastronome. D’Artagnan foods is a boutique meat and fine foods supplier that prides itself on its ability to connect the discerning customer to equally discerning fine food products. Here, you will find fare such as USDA Black Angus Beef and American Wagyu, in addition to chicken, duck, turkey, and lamb. All their meat is hormone and antibiotic-free, sustainably and pasture-raised, and held to the strictest standards for quality.

Though we are here for the meat, their diverse non-meat offerings are what really set D’Artagnan apart of the options listed here. Explore their fine foods offerings, which include luxuries such as fois gras, caviar, and charcuterie. They also have an impressive menu of truffles and mushrooms. Aside from a la carte and curated boxes, customers also have the option to search for cuts of meat by cooking method (grilling, sous vide), and cut. You can expect to pay a little more for D’Artagnan foods compared to services like Omaha Steaks, but this reflects the inclusion of higher end products. They occasionally run sales to clean out excess inventory, so check the site frequently or sign up for their emails.

Kansas City Steak Company

KC Steak

Different regions of the country produce steaks that produce different flavor profiles, a reflection of different pastures and feeding practices. Kansas City Steak Company’s most famous offering, the Kansas City Strip, offers the best of Midwestern cattle, imparting a rich texture, tender caramelization of fat, and taste that will please even the most discerning of carnivores.

Aside from their signature cuts of Kansas City strip, beef lovers will flock to their USDA Prime steaks, in addition to barbeque-ready favorites such as brisket. For those looking beyond steak, there are also offerings like chicken breast, ham, steak burgers, and bacon-wrapped pork chops. Like some other meal services listed, sides like stuffed potatoes and desserts are also available. Gift boxes are available with themes such as Father’s Day, Game Day, and more. If you are looking for a last minute gift idea, consider buying an e-gift certificate, which instantly generates an email to your recipient.

If you are searching for a good meat company with a diverse selection, Kansas City Steak Company is a solid choice. Frequent promotions, such as 15% orders of $125 or more, are the icing on the cake. Sign up for the emails to be the first to know about sales and nab the best selection.

Butcher Box

If you are looking for the best all around subscription service for mail-order delivery, Butcher Box is it. A relatively new player to the game, Butcher Box places its emphasis on 100% grass fed beef products from free range cows. Grass fed beef products are known for their distinct flavor and higher proportion of healthy fatty acids. Additionally, grass fed cattle produce less methane gas and eat much more sustainable than their feedlot counterparts.

Though 100% grass fed products are a Butcher Box specialty, they also have offerings such as vegetarian-fed pigs and USDA organic chicken products. They also believe in supporting meat processing plants that have fair labor practices, so you have the comfort of knowing that both your meat products and the labor who produce it are treated fairly.

As a true subscription service, Butcher Box has a wide variety of options, from all beef to beef and chicken and beef and port. Boxes come in a variety of sizes based on your family size or freezer space. Prices start at $129 a month. Best of all, shipping is free, which makes it stand out from some of the other meat delivery services listed here. Introductory offers are a good deal, so consider providing your email address for perks like free bacon for the life of your subscription.

Steaks and Game

Steaks and Game hails itself as the ultimate destination of meat lovers. Take a look at their website and you will soon see why. Diverse offerings such as Wagyu beef, Kurobata pork, and grass fed steaks and tenderloins make up an impressive menu. Unlike many of the meat delivery services, Steaks and Game is your go-to spot for wild game like elk and venison, in addition to exotic meats such as alligator, ostrich, turtle, and antelope. If you are looking for a truly diverse selection, availability of rare game, and are in it solely for the meat, then Steaks and Game stands out from the competition.


Greensbury offers 100% organic, free range, and sustainable seafood. Their diversity of selection may pale in comparison to some other meat services, but they are the perfect match for the conscious consumer. They work only with small organic farms and fisheries and are committed to making their products as sustainable as possible. When you choose Greensbury, you have the comfort of knowing that your purchase helps maximize animal welfare and promotes healthy oceans. Sign up for their emails and receive 10% off your first purchase. All products come flash frozen to lock in nutrients and come to your door via expedited shipping, packed in dry ice.

La Frieda

La Frieda is a family owned business that operates on a smaller scale than many other meat delivery services. Their reputation as a no-nonsense, family butcher shop has led to national critical acclaim, with the New York Magazine hailing them as “the magician of meat.” Don’t expect to find anything exotic on the menu – choose from prime and dry-aged cuts of beef, succulent burgers and a smattering of pork, lamb, and poultry. If your preference is high quality meat without the pomp, then La Frieda is likely a good option to support your inner carnivore. Gift packs are also available for purchase.

Fossil Farms

Fossil Farms prides itself on supplying America with sustainable, healthy alternatives to conventional meat practices. Their specialty is wild game, with sustainable options including ostrich, pheasant, camel, hen, quail, duck, goose, squab, bison, emu, yak and more. You will also find some more traditional contenders on the menu, such as American Wagyu, Angus Beed, Berkshire pork, chicken, and turkey. If you are looking to expand your carnivorous horizons, want to shop for more nutritious meat products, and are committed to finding sustainable meat solutions, then Fossil Farms is a good place to start. Shipping from the NJ location is available nationwide, and local customers have the option of shopping in store.

Handling Manure: Cold Weather Implications

Not testing manure for nutrient content is like buying fertilizer without asking for the analysis.

One thing is certain in animal agriculture. There is manure, and it happens year-round. But handling that manure changes with the seasons. The weather has major impacts on manure application strategies, and winter manure handling brings additional considerations. Snow cover, winter precipitation, frozen ground, and winter melts all complicate the management of manure.

Climate change predictions indicate that wetter winters, more extreme storm events and weather variability will create increasingly challenging conditions for farmers needing to apply manure outside of the growing season. Manure management in the Northeast is only going to get trickier.

Peter Wright, formerly of New York State National Resources Conservation Services, addressed some of these concerns at the recent Dairy Environmental Systems and Climate Adaptation Conference, held at Cornell University. The impacts of climate change, Wright said, will be accompanied by increased environmental regulations, including water quality management. Decreasing the carbon footprint of agriculture will become a main focus, and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and eliminating runoff concerns will play a major role in farm manure management decisions. With all of these pressures, managing manure with as little detrimental impact as possible will require changes in handling.


Manure is a nutrient-laden, all-natural fertilizer, and its use in crop production is an important part of the equation on most farms. Whether deposited by rotationally grazed livestock, spread in its solid form, stored and applied in its liquid form, composted, separated or anaerobically digested, manure in all of its forms needs to be handled appropriately.

Proper manure management will help to reduce runoff from fields, as well as to reduce odors and greenhouse gas emissions. Nitrogen and phosphorus, both present in manure and both of which contribute to eutrophication of waterways, can run off of fields,. In addition, volatilization of nitrogen left on the surface of the soil causes the release of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas.

“It is critical for farm managers to understand that while we may not notice a loss of a pound or so of phosphorus per acre, if there are enough farm acres in a watershed, this is enough phosphorus to potentially have significant impact on water quality,” Karl Czymmek, Senior Extension Associate, Prodairy Field Crops and Nutrient Management, Cornell University, said. “It is also critical to understand that phosphorus losses happen with or without manure application: fields that are fertilized and have runoff or soil erosion are contributors too.”

While manure isn’t the only contributing factor to runoff, proper manure application, year-round, is warranted. Managing manure through daily spreading, which is less and less common as farm size grows, eliminates the need for manure storage, but applying manure under adverse conditions is not an acceptable practice. If precipitation is predicted in the next 24-48 hours, soil is saturated, snowmelt is predicted, snow coverage exists, or when the ground is frozen, spreading manure isn’t a good practice.

piles of manure in cold weather
Photo courtesy audaxl/istock

Spreading manure in the summer, when the crops can actively utilize the manure nutrients, will become one standard method of reducing winter manure application concerns. Increasingly warmer summers will be conducive to double cropping, Wright said. Because less than optimal weather conditions for applying manure in the colder months are expected to increase, increasing manure storage volumes, separating out manure solids and covering liquid manure storage need to become standard practices, Wright said.

There are other risk factors which that intensify the negative impacts of winter manure spreading. Sloped land, proximity of surface water, tile drainage systems, inlets and ditches, liquid manure and lack of crop residue or cover all negatively impact manure application. The method of manure application also has a substantial impact.

Applying manure

While more farms store their manure in some form prior to its field application, situations still arise when the manure storage is full, and the manure needs to be applied to the crop outside of ideal conditions. Although solid-liquid manure separation and coverage of liquid manure storage will help to increase storage capacity, in general liquid manure is more likely to run off when spread on fields than is manure in its solid form. No matter the form, some states ban spreading during certain months, while others have restrictions limiting the conditions under which application can occur.

“Manure spreading in Vermont is banned from December 15th through April 1st,” Scott Magnan, a custom applicator in St. Albans, said. “Adequate storage through those months is needed. The farms in the area have made huge improvements to structures and in management practices to control runoff. If broadcast spreading is needed late in the year we try to apply to low runoff areas away from stream and waterways.”

Contact with the soil is important in preventing runoff from occurring. During spreading of manure, the time period during which the manure can dry is critical. Liquid manure is more likely to runoff after surface application, no matter the weather conditions.

“The main concern is that manure runs off of the soil when rain or snow comes. A period of time when manure is in contact with the soil, crop residue, or cover crops, without precipitation, reduce s the chances of runoff losses,” Bill Verbeten, of Empire Ag Imagery LLC, and formerly of Cornell Cooperative Extension, said. “Partially or fully incorporating the manure into the soil,” and doing so when weather conditions are optimal, are best practices for manure handling.

In the winter, getting manure into contact with the soil is complicated by the freeze/thaw cycle, and by snow coverage. Spreading on snow should be avoided, and rain and melting conditions lead to runoff concerns. Because new snow coverage can obscure where manure was recently spread, marking the end-point when spreading frequently can decrease overlap.

“In the past we have spread on snow covered ground, but as environmental regulations become stricter, this practice is avoided. We have been able to inject manure into one to three inches of frost with our current injector,” Magnan said. “If the frost becomes much deeper, we can no longer pull through. We have also had issues with frost when the top starts to melt and the tractor spins out on the slick surface.”

Injecting or incorporating manure into soils with this critical one to three inches of frost is one of the best tools for winter manure application. Spreading, too, works well during this occurrence, if it is done where significant crop residues exists, and if local laws allow. Some residues, such as hay, offer more protection from runoff than others, and heavier residue is preferred.

“It’s a wonderful way to apply manure,” Wright said of frost injection. “But it may not be a way you can count on,” moving into the future, as changing weather patterns may create less of an opportunity for the proper conditions to occur.

Proper conditions for frost injection develop rapidly. Above freezing daytime temperatures, plus bare soil and night temperatures which that fall below freezing combine to create the frost layer. This frost layer can support heavy equipment without compaction.

Magnan is purchasing a new injector this fall, which utilizes uses disks instead of points. This “cuts and rolls” instead of “pulling and ripping” through the frost layers, and the machine is designed specifically for these harsh conditions.

Equipment and storage preparation

“Equipment preparation is important, and all tanks and pumps should be drained at night. Plug in the block heaters on the tractors at night. A few minutes spent at shutdown can save you hours the next day,” Magnan said. “Accurate spreader calibration means less chance of runoff from over-application. GPS equipment helps in accuracy, and flow meters and valves on tanks allow rates to be set.”

Wright advised that farmers plan on separating manure solids out, capturing value for use in bedding. This also decreases manure hauling costs “because you’re not hauling all that liquid.”

Storage for liquid manure should be covered, eliminating rainfall and capturing greenhouse gases. Without covers, and without designing storage to account for the increased winter rainfalls predicted for the Northeast region, manure storage facilities will be inadequate. With winter field conditions for manure application also increasingly limiting application windows, combined with increased environmental regulations, farmers will be facing a crisis if manure storage capacity isn’t adequate. Filled storage leads to application at “inopportune times,” Wright said.

pile of manure
Photo courtesy holdeneye/istock

Management of tile drainage systems is another area which that Wright recommends improving. Blocking drainage after harvest, to allow the soil to absorb nutrients, and the use of bioreactors, joined to every tile line, are needed improvements to nutrient handling. Both phosphorous and nitrogen discharges from tile drainage will increase with warming trends, Wright said.

“Tile can improve drainage, but it’s impact on manure runoff can be quite variable,” Verbeten said. Increased

Tile drainage areas are already known to be hydrologically active areas of concern. Applying manure to fields where tiles are flowing from field drainage is risky as runoff issues are highly likely to occur.

If winter weather conditions are not optimal for manure application, yet storage is inadequate, reducing the manure application rate, applying manure to fields with the least chance for runoff issues, and applying smaller amounts of manure more frequently, rather than a large amount at once, are some recommendations to decrease negative impacts.

“Manure management is among the top priorities for farms that are positioning themselves for the future. This will mean having manure systems that can function in a range of expected weather conditions and enough manure storage capacity to avoid applications in poor conditions such as when the soil is frozen solid or when significant rainfall or snow melt is expected,” Czymmek said. “Anything we can do to keep soil, residual nutrients and manure on the land will help us to maintain productivity of farm fields and will limit offsite degradation where the extra fertility can create problems.”

Cover Photo Courtesy Scott Magnan

Building Fences with the STOCKade Staple Gun


Whether on a livestock operation where it is important to keep critters in or on a vegetable farm where it is important to keep critters out, fencing is an unavoidable task.

Building and repairing a fence is one of those jobs that are as much a part of rural life as riding a tractor. Whether on a livestock operation where it is important to keep critters in or on a vegetable farm where it is important to keep critters out, fencing is an unavoidable task.

Anyone who has done fence work knows how exhausting it can be to drive nails or staples into an endless row of fence posts.

Andy and Sam Gardner know about fencing. At their Gardner Brothers Land, LLC, they feed out replacement heifers for dairy producers in the Northeast and along the mountains into Virginia. At any given time they may have as many as 600 to 1,000 head of curious heifers on the farm. They feed out the heifers, returning them to their home dairy when they are about to freshen.

In-between times, they do custom fencing for farms, businesses or government agencies.

The Gardner brothers are sold on the STOCKade ST400i staple gun. Although sold under the STOCKade name, it is made by a subsidiary of Illinois Tool Works. The 400i is the fuel cell version of the ST400, a pneumatic stapler that has been on the market for several years.

“With the 400i and the STOCKade insulators, we were able to install a line of fence with 500 insulators in less time with less fatigue on our guys and on us,” said Sam. Though they are still tweaking their routine to get the most efficient way to move between posts and install insulators, he said he is sold on the gun.

The stapler was developed for use at the sheep stations in Australia and New Zealand. The manufacturer since has begun marketing it elsewhere in the world. As part of their beta testing, several users in the United States were given units to try under local conditions.

“We don’t own one yet,” Andy said. “But we’re happy to have our hands on this loaner.”

Rick Jackmas, president of McArthur Lumber and Post, McArthur, Ohio, also recommends the ST400i stapler for fast, easy fence work. The unit shoots a 1.5- to 2-inch staple. “It will work with any type of wire that you would use that size staple with,” he said. “It will go in any rural fencing with any wood over 1.5 inches thick.”

Since most fencing jobs in this part of the world work with 1.75-inch staples, the unit fits right in with most users’ sweet spots. The unit is a top-loader for simple access.

“The 400i sets two, 2-inch staples every second. They are fully embedded in the wood with twice the pullout power of other staplers,” Jackmas said. “In fact, the staples are almost impossible to pull out.”

His business, McArthur, both sells the 400i and uses it for work for the states of Ohio and West Virginia and even for Victoria’s Secret.

“It takes 54 seconds to move between posts, putting four insulators per post,” Andy added.

He timed his efficiency on a run of 50 posts. “It took us just under a minute to install each post,” he said. There are two staples per insulator.

“I think it is very important to use the insulator that goes with the gun attachment,” Andy said. He noted that early vendor literature did not make it clear to use the insulator for high tensile applications.

“We are extremely satisfied with the product and will continue to use it in our applications/business, but I want the rest of the professionals out there like me to fully grasp what is being sold,” he said. “The prices are competitive so that’s not an issue.”

The crew working for Gardner Brothers Land is a professional bunch. “We hire good guys and pay them well,” Andy said. They also provide the crew with the best of equipment.

“We know we are spending good money on more efficient equipment,” Andy said. “But in the end we find we are saving money.”

Five Questions with Ruth Goodrich of Goodrich’s Maple Farm


Goodrich’s Maple Farm has records going back to 1793. According to their website, the Goodrich and Abbott families of East Cabot settled the valley in the early 1830’s and are located in the community along the headwaters of the Winooski River in Vermont.

Goodrich’s Maple Farm has been family owned since 1840. How has the industry changed since then?

We now have family records going back to 1793. The industry has changed immensely since then and especially in the last 15 years. Over the past 15 years, we have seen many changes in technology. Some sugarmakers are working with high concentrate of 35%, we have seen the introduction of 3/16″ tubing, which is showing phenomenal results in sap production and better vacuum pumps and systems are increasing yields.

Many people haven’t tried pure Vermont maple syrup. How would you explain the taste to them?

The taste of syrup is a blend of divine flavor and scrumptious sweetness with a unique aroma.

How has the implementation of the new grading system help the industry?

The new grading system is easier to use, based on light transmittency. It allows us to sell the darker maple syrup again in retail containers, which is so wonderful for baking and flavoring. The new descriptions translate into other languages around the world in a way that enhance sales. 

What are you doing to market your product primarily in the Northeast for worldwide consumption? With the quality difference between different kinds of maple syrup, how does Goodrich’s continue the quality control?

Maple sap is gaining popularity as a drink with wonderful health benefits.  We shipped 4000 gallons of frozen concentrate to a company based out of England for that purpose just last week.  As more and more people learn about the health benefits of maple, they are using it more in their daily diets. We have high standards for quality and cleanliness, and we also do direct overseeing of all aspects of the operation ensure quality control.

Technology and materials for making maple syrup are ever changing. In what ways has the company introduced new technology? Do you see it changing in the future?

We use all the latest technological improvements and devices.  We design sugaring equipment and are always looking for better ways to produce a quality product and making it a more efficient process. 

Five Questions is a monthly series that discusses industry-related topics with the people who influence the industry.

Preventing Farm Theft


Thieves are opportunistic. They seek out easy targets and choose items that can quickly be tossed in the trunk of a car or a truck bed.

“In a lot of cases things are stolen because they are in an unlit, unsecured spot,” said Adam Reed, a Pennsylvania State Trooper and public information officer.

Tracking details related to farm theft is difficult. The law does not distinguish between farm theft and other types of theft. Instead, reports of crime involving larceny or theft are based on dollar amount, not the type of property stolen.

Arrests reported to the Department of Criminal Justice Services are defined by Penal Law offense, for example, first-degree burglary, petty larceny and fourth-degree grand larceny. There is nothing specific in the law to distinguish a farm from another business. Similarly, reports of motor vehicle theft do not distinguish between farm vehicles and other vehicles.

Insurance companies that provide coverage for losses offer the best insight into the types of property stolen from farms. Between January 2012 and September 2015, Nationwide Insurance received 187 claims for farm-related theft or vandalism. “The most common items stolen were listed as personal items,” said Christopher Stollar, public relations consultant for Nationwide.

Of those farm-related thefts, Stollar explained that “personal items” cover a range of property categories. The 187 farm-related claims submitted to Nationwide included:

  • 58 claims for electronics, cash, jewelry and guns
  • 49 claims for tools
  • 26 claims for mobile equipment
  • 10 claims for copper pipe or wire
  • 7 claims for livestock

Farm thefts are largely driven by trends in the economy. David Swartz, district director of Penn State Extension for Cumberland, Dauphin and Perry counties said, “In the previous few years, I started to hear instances of animals taken from fields, especially young cattle because of the high prices of livestock. Now that prices are going down, I’m hearing less of that.”

“Anecdotally speaking, the rate of farm-related crimes has stayed about the same in Pennsylvania,” Reed added.

Statistics are scarce, but one thing is for certain, it’s important for farm owners to take action to minimize the opportunity for thieves to enter and make off with valuable assets.

The three “D’s”

Law enforcement agencies encourage farmers to implement the “three D’s” in an effort to reduce crime. An article posted by the Penn State Extension explains the three D’s are deterrence, delay and detection (

Deterrence strategies include lighting, gates, cables across field lanes, fencing, no trespassing signs, security systems and dogs. To deter thieves from stealing livestock, Swartz suggested avoiding pastures that border highways. “When possible plan crops for those areas and keep livestock closer to buildings,” he said. However, it’s not always practical because of the terrain, soil type or rocky outcroppings.

Detection techniques employ a system to alert you when someone enters your property. This can include dusk-to-dawn lights, lighting on timers, lights with motion detectors, cameras or other sensors. It could also include visual surveillance by employees and or neighbors.

“It’s often the case that dairy farms keep their young replacement heifers on rented land with an absentee landlord,” Swartz said. “If it’s dark and no one is living there, it can lead to an easy mark.”

Dusk-to-dawn lights and other signs of inhabitants discourage thieves from entering the property.

Delay is another technique that can diminish a thief’s opportunity. Anything that slows access to your property, equipment and livestock protects your assets. This may include cables across field lanes, fencing, locking doors on equipment and shops and possibly parking equipment away from public viewing when left in fields overnight.

Swartz acknowledged that reports of equipment being stolen from fields are out there, but it’s not a theft he personally has heard a lot about. “Nonetheless, it’s a good idea not to leave the keys in the ignition,” he said.

Finding a way to secure areas where tools are stored also makes it difficult for a thief. Securing tools can be especially tricky on farms with three-sided pole structures that were once very common in the Northeast. “Try to put a door in and secure the tools so they are not readily available,” Swartz added.


Photo courtesy: NatalyaAksenova/istock

Think like a thief

The best way to prevent a theft is to think like a thief and attempt to thwart their efforts. Consider what items thieves might find of value on your farm.

“As farm’s non-farm neighbors increase they don’t likely know the value of farm-specific equipment. However, they know the value of general tools and that they can be easily resold,” Swartz cautioned. That makes tools an ideal target. Maintain an inventory of the tools you own, a replacement value and keep them behind locked doors.

Then look for places where they can gain access to those items and use the “three D’s” to derail their plans.

While Stollar estimated that the majority of thefts are committed by people unknown to the farm owner, it’s not impossible for employee thefts to occur.

The Penn State Extension offers suggestions for limiting employee theft. If you have employees, be sure to manage your locks and keys. Keep a record of all locks, the location of each lock and the number of keys that exist for each lock.

Make a list of any employee that has each key and inventory all keys periodically. Do not issue keys for convenience and then follow through on proper return. Buy locks of highest security quality with keys that are not easily reproduced. These locks are pick-resistant and all keys are marked “Do Not Duplicate.” (

Nationwide encourages business owners of all types, including farms, to conduct background checks on applicants during the hiring process. It’s not a guarantee an employee theft won’t occur, but it can alert you to an individual who may have a criminal record for stealing.

Reporting a theft

Don’t wait to report a theft. As soon as you discover something has been stolen, call the authorities. Remember, it is a crime scene. “Don’t touch anything on the scene before the police arrive,” Reed said.

Once the police arrive, provide them photographs, written documentation and serial number of stolen items if possible. “We enter items with serial numbers into a database and flag it as stolen property,” he said. Doing so can help law enforcement officers recover items from pawn shops and other sales outlets.

While organized groups of neighboring farms isn’t common in the Northeast, it has worked out west for ranchers who have banded together to help one another. “It’s good to get to know your neighbors and to have an extra set of eyes watching,” he added.

Above all else, it’s important to be vigilant. “If you see anything out of place or you see a suspicious vehicle or person around the property, call the police,” Reed concluded. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Cover photo: sjharmon/istock

Sugaring for 2016

pile of sugar

On the surface, it would be safe to say that 2015 has been a good year. Technically though, the year, according to the sugar making industry, ended in June 2015. According to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, it’s Northeastern Regional Field Office reported that the region’s maple syrup production (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont) rose 7 percent from 2014’s from 2.78 million gallons to 2.96 million gallons. The state of Vermont remained supreme, producing more than 1.39 million gallons, which represents nearly 41 percent of the nation’s maple syrup.

Plus, signs are pointing toward more upward projection. The USDA reported that the 3.4 million gallons collected this year was more than three times the corn syrup in 1995.

“Looking at the bigger scope, the last 20 years in maple have been a boom,” said Gary Bilek, president of the Pennsylvania Maple Association. “We have seen new technology coming out (tubing, vacuum pumps, etc). We are going through what many in the farming community went through in the ’50s, where there was money put into research and productivity was increased on the farm, thus crops were more profitable. We’re finally seeing this in the maple industry. Our sales and the market as a whole have been good.”

Bilek’s state as well as the rest of the Northeastern region have been busy. Taps in the Northeastern United States totaled 10.23 million, up 4 percent from last year, and accounted for 86 percent of the nation’s maple taps.

The USDA stated that the syrup yield per tree tap averaged 0.287 gallon in 2015, up 2 percent from 0.281 gallon in 2014. The highest yield was 0.31 gallon per tree tap in Vermont, followed by Maine with a yield of 0.3 gallon. The New England states, including New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut, have an average yield of 0.3 gallon per tap in 2015.

Total U.S. Production: 3,414,000 Gallons
Total U.S. Production: 3,414,000 Gallons

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Northeastern Regional Field Office

More maple, more demand

Bruce Bascom, principal owner of Bascom Maple Farms in New Hampshire, is also optimistic about the future. While at the North American Maple Syrup Council and International Maple Syrup Institute (NAMSC/IMSI) Annual Meeting last October, Bascom said the processing companies he spoke with are experiencing a sales pop as demand for the maple is up.

“At the moment, the market is expanding in the U.S… a little faster than production is expanding,” he said. “In the last couple of years, the reverse was true. For example, three years ago, prices were higher and there was more syrup being added each year with new trees and new technology.”

Bascom explained that since maple syrup sales are on the rise, the market demand for it could double in North America along with production in a relatively short time frame (10-15 years). “That has not always been the case,” he said.

The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, a private organization that regulates the price, production and marketing of maple syrup, shares Bascom’s assessment. The group reported overall consumption of 7 percent at 10 million pounds per year. Canada is the largest producer of maple syrup, with the United States serving as the federation’s largest export market.

Several factors come into play when accessing the increasing demand, noted Jacques Letourneau, chief executive officer of the Canadian-based Island Pond Maple Factory, a buyer of U.S. maple syrup, noted.

“The U.S. economy is getting better, more people have money to purchase these items and it’s been positive for our business,” he said. Island Pond Maple Factory had been looking into purchasing more U.S. syrup in the coming years. In July 2014, Quebec’s Bernard and Sons purchased more than 22,000 gallons of U.S. syrup from Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania and parts of the Midwest, and has a presence in the Northeast.

Letourneau forecasted that he doesn’t see the growth of demand dying down anytime soon. As for the supply, he said that it’s a bright side for the United States. Especially when the price is regulated by the world’s largest producing entity, Quebec.

“It’s a nice thing to have when 80 percent of the world’s production comes from a province where the market sets the price before the first pound; there’s money to be made no matter what,” Letourneau said about the U.S./Canadian dynamic. “It’s all the motivation for supply plus there’s a world population that wants it. It’s like riding a wave. Everything is in place for growth. That is the climate we’re seeing.”

The nutritional movement

Arguably, the increased global demand for maple could have been sparked by the efforts to promote the awareness of healthy eating and living, or as Bilek phrased it, “the nutritional movement.”

“The nutritional movement is not going to go away. People are more aware of health concerns, wanting to live longer and the cost of medicine now,” he said. “It is not unreasonable to say that I might live to be 90 or older. That wasn’t true in the past. Natural vs. processed sugar… that’s as far as you got to go to explain it. But you have to educate people about that. That’s our job. And it’s a big job.”

For more than five decades, Rob Lamothe, of Lamothe’s Sugar House in Burlington, Connecticut, has been perfecting the art of the maple syrup sell. Along with his wife Jean, Lamothe usually spends a typical Sunday morning after church preparing their farm market booth with maple items that include syrup jugs and maple lollipops for the kids.

“You touch a lot of people at farm markets,” he said of the experience that nets several hundred dollars in added revenue in the span of three hours. “You take your products to the consumer and you can talk to them directly. Marketing is a big deal. If I can get the kids to come over for the lollipops, I got the parents.”

Part of that marketing is getting the word out on maple syrup’s nutritional value. In 2012, the IMSI published a comprehensive journal titled, “The nutrition and health benefits of pure maple syrup,” promoting the natural sweetener ( The 200-plus-page document explains maple syrup’s health value by showcasing subject-related white papers as well as fact sheets and resource information.

Sugarmakers agree that the much-need marketing efforts of the Federation, IMSI, North American Maple Syrup Council, and other state and regional associations are paying off.

“The growth nationwide of maple is due to the movement of buying organic and locally,” Bascom said. “Maple is a real food and a non-artificial product, and it’s on the upward swing.”

bold predictions table

It’s a big world out there

Most sugarmakers and buyers agree that despite the steady growth of the industry there’s still room for improvement. Considering that the average American consumes a little more than two ounces of maple syrup per year, more consumer exploration is needed.

“The industry is still pretty small and doesn’t have the scale of other ag markets,” Winton Pitcoff, coordinator of the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association, said. “Social media makes it easier to the get the word out and it involves less expense. There are a lot of untapped markets that are outside the borders of maple production.”

Just as important as a strong consumer base, Lamothe said, is a strong core of maple producers. Lamothe noted that the veteran sugarmakers and buyers are well positioned – via experience – to take on the ever-increasing demand.

“With the global market expanding, we can put in as many taps as we want and it won’t satisfy the market, but I still think the market is good and solid,” he said. “The individuals who make maple syrup are salt of the earth folk; they put 30-40 years into this, they’re good people.”C

Milk Prices: 2017 End-Of-Year Update


Early in the year, economists predicted that milk prices would raise nearly $2 per cwt during the year, but oversupply increased production and “baggage” from the previous two years tempered excitement over increased prices.

Guarded optimism was the common theme among industry experts.

Halfway into 2017, the outlook remained the same.

“Prices have by and large done what was expected with Class III pricing hitting $17,” said Andrew Novakovic, Ph.D. and the E.V. Baker Professor of Agricultural Economics at Cornell University.

While prices have risen in some cases, the increase has not been as much as the anticipated $2.

“We’ve seen an increase of $1.82 over this time last year,” said Catherine deRonde, an economist at Agri-Mark. “We’re expecting to see the price up to the $18 range by September.”

Even though that’s slightly less than expected, Novakovic said it’s far better than no increase at all. deRonde added that strong demand – specifically for high fat products – is keeping prices up further out into the future.

The oversupply of milk – particularly in the Northeast – is putting downward pressure on prices, deRonde said. The abundant supply may have a new outlet with the reported sale of the vacant Theo Muller plant in Batavia, New York.

On June 9, 2017, The Batavian reported that HP Hood will likely buy the 363,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art milk processing facility that has been vacant since December 2015.

“That would be a positive sign for dairy farms in New York and help move more raw milk off the market,” said Steve Ammerman, the public affairs manager at the New York Farm.

International markets continue to impact prices. “We have exposed ourselves to more and more international trade and that drives pricing,” Novakovic said. “Our prices domestically increase (or decrease) with prices in world markets.”

Big questions remain about export markets, which have a profound influence on milk prices and the current issue with ultra-filtered milk going into Canada is a prime example.

“As that market was closed off to New York dairy producers because of the change in Canadian pricing policy for the product, it put more milk on the market and is costing processors tens of millions of dollars,” Ammerman said.

With President Trump looking to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, there are pros and cons to consider.

“There are potential opportunities, especially with Canada, but we must be careful not to upset markets that already exist,” Ammerman said. “Mexico is the No. 1 importer of our dairy products, and a more restrictive trade policy with them could mean more difficult times for our farmers. Trade really is key to boosting milk prices.”

No one has a crystal ball that can accurately predict what will transpire in the remaining half year and into 2018. Hopefully, the higher milk prices in 2017 can help farmers stabilize and dig out of debt from challenges compounded in the past two years

“At this point, we’re predicting 2018 will look much the same as 2017,” deRonde said. “Hopefully demand and export will continue to support the movement of milk.”

Beef in Winter Options and Preparation


Winter in the Northeast is bound to be cold, with snow or freezing rain, no matter where your farm is located. But some areas experience substantially more precipitation, snowfall and colder temperatures than others.

No matter where or how cattle are kept in the winter, they need to be able to eat enough to produce the energy needed to stay warm and healthy and they need to be kept dry. It’s not the cold or even the snow cover that negatively impacts healthy cows: it’s the moisture, mud and wind. Although cattle with adequate body condition can handle cold weather, getting wet, experiencing a wind chill or standing in mud are detrimental to even the hardiest cows. But these factors can be handled successfully in many beef management systems.

Some farmers are going to keep cattle outside all winter, 24/7, either in areas with natural shelters such as trees, or with built shelters from the wind and rain. Others bring animals into the barn during severe storms only, whereas some farmers will opt to keep the herd confined in the barnyard for the duration of the winter season. Feedlot producers may need to adjust bedding management for the colder months and establish wind breaks around the lot to keep the cattle comfortable and dry.

Farmer Louis Tommaso, of L.L. Pittenger Farm in Andover, New Jersey, has managed his herd of approximately 70 beef cows, a mix of Hereford, Simmental and Piedmontese genetics, outdoors year-round, in the northwestern corner of New Jersey, not far from the southern New York and eastern Pennsylvania borders for the past 15 years. The pastures include forested areas, where trees act as natural windbreaks and provide shelter from precipitation. Several areas also have lean-to structures available during inclement weather.

“They prefer the woods over the shelter,” and will choose the woods when given the option, Tommaso said of his herd.

Winter pasture

Some pastured herds graze rotationally on stockpiled forages even when snow is on the ground, receiving supplemental feed as needed. Others are primarily fed while on pasture, with feeding areas adjusted to prevent any heavy use areas.

Tommaso pastures his animals in a rotational system using 20 acres of pasture land. He grows hay on 20 acres of cropland and corn silage on another 20 acres, to supplement the herd. The animals are primarily grass-fed, but do receive small amounts of supplemental corn silage, free-choice, along with fed hay.

Tommaso provides two feeders in his pastures, one for corn silage and one for hay. In the fall, the amount of supplemental feed is increased as the animals rely less on pasture grazing and to help condition the animals for the winter season. Tommaso does not stockpile forage and supplements the herd with his stored feeds to provide for their energy needs while out on pasture during the cold winter months.

Certain pasture forages, such as sudangrass, become toxic after a frost event and need to be avoided for several weeks afterward to prevent prussic acid poisoning, Melanie Barkley, Penn State Extension livestock educator, cautioned. Producers pasturing herds outside of the primary growing season need to be careful to monitor for frost events, she said.

It’s becoming more common for beef producers to actively practice winter grazing by stockpiling forages on some pastures. Healthy cattle are able to graze through almost a foot of snow, although it is not recommended for calves or pregnant cows. One challenge for producers is not knowing exactly how much forage is available in the snow-covered pasture; ice coverage can also be a concern, according to Jenn Colby, pasture program coordinator at the Center for Sustainable Agriculture, University of Vermont.

Colby said that making stored feed available while the herd is on stockpiled pasture will allow them to balance their nutritional needs and prevent concerns. Winter grazing of any type requires active, daily management, she said, to appropriately manage changing conditions.

Other producers might want to consider keeping cattle off of pastures in the winter, Ashley McFarland, Cornell Cooperative Extension regional livestock specialist, said. McFarland recommended that cattle be overwintered in a barnyard or a sacrifice lot, since there typically is not enough feed left to graze on New England area pastures and grazing what is there can impact next season’s growth.

Feed and water needs

“Animals will eat more in the colder temperatures, in order to provide extra calories for heat energy. Cattle require more feed in the winter months than they do out in the warmer months,” McFarland said. “They will also require more feed outside than if they were in a barn.”

No matter what is being fed to meet the nutritional needs and maintain body condition – pasture, hay, corn silage or other rations – or how the animals are housed, the amount of feed needed will be more than what they normally would consume in milder conditions.

“The forage consumed needs to be adequate in protein and energy to meet nutritional needs of the cattle. Most average to high quality forages will do this unless cattle need to improve body condition scores and the forages available are not high enough quality to do this,” Barkley said. “Cattle will need additional feed resources during colder temperatures and during cold rains. A cold rain is when the temperatures are in the 30s and low 40s. The additional feeds are needed to account for the energy to keep the animals warm.”

When feeding on pasture, hay can be bale grazed in different parts of the pasture to prevent damage and spread out the manure. Hay not eaten is then trampled into the pasture, improving soils. Feeders can be moved around paddocks to avoid the development of heavy use areas, too. Tommaso is careful to provide sufficient spacing for all herds to maneuver around the feeders and avoids low-lying areas when mud or ice is a concern.

Water is as important as feed and during the winter animals still need adequate amounts of water. If they do not drink enough water, they will limit their feed intake and not be able to meet their energy needs. Water that is frozen, or overly cold, will not be consumed as readily as warmer water.

The watering system at L.L. Pittenger Farm is an automatic flow system that feeds into several 150-gallon tubs, equipped with heaters. But Tommaso can’t put in underground piping, so the automatic flow system will freeze in the cold winter and is not used once the temperature drops. In the winter, he hauls water out to the pastures twice each day, filling the heated waterers manually.

“Producers utilize a variety of methods to keep water from freezing,” Barkley said. “Constantly flowing water systems, such as spring development or streams and water systems that vector heat from the ground are both options, as well as heating elements placed in watering systems to keep water temperatures just above freezing.”

Colby stated that although cows can eat snow, it takes more energy for them to do so than just drinking water. The animals have to expend their energy to bring the snow up to body temperature. A centralized watering system, protected from freezing, is recommended.

Winter herd health

“Beef producers should pay attention to body condition on their cows and first-calf heifers,” Barkley recommended. “Both should be body condition scored, with the goal of having cows reach a body condition score of five to seven and heifers of six to seven, by calving time. Cows and heifers with lower body condition scores at calving tend to take longer to rebreed and thus would calve later the following year.”

Adequately maintaining body condition during the winter begins with fall feeding and culling any questionable animals from the herd. Overwintering animals that have the energy reserves needed for cold weather survival is always the best option.

“In prepping them for the wintertime, it’s critical to get good body condition on them,” Tommaso said, noting that while he doesn’t formally use body condition scoring, he doesn’t want to see any ribs or hip bones and is “looking for a nice layer of fat going into the winter.”

His culling decisions combine body condition and the availability of his feed supply going into the winter months. Other prep means ensuring the animals are parasite-free before winter.

“Doing a hard cull before winter will allow the winter months to go much smoother for the farmer,” McFarland said, recommending consideration of body condition scoring, udder issues, feet issues and overall health issues.

Nutritional deficiencies and cold stress can contribute to winter lice, McFarland said, which can spread rapidly through the herd, requiring treatment. Pneumonia is another cold weather concern. Mud can get caked into hooves and cause hoof rot.

“Producers should also consult with their veterinarian for parasite control as well as vaccination schedules,” Barkley said. Observe cattle daily for signs of illness and “watch for any cattle that stand away from the herd or have their ears hanging down. They will often appear listless, also.”

Winter calving

Even the experts have different opinions on winter calving. Depending on the region, it may or may not be recognized. Tommaso calves in the winter, with calving occurring any time from January through September in his herd. Part of that is due to natural service breeding, as using a bull provides less control over conception timing than artificial insemination, he said. Pregnant cows are kept with the general population, which is sufficiently supplemented to meet their pregnancy needs.

“Particularly in the wintertime, when we go out each day to feed, as the cows gather at the two feeders, we’ll observe the herd closely,” he said, looking for signs of calving and if possible, getting the cow into a shelter to give birth. But calves are often born on pasture and he has not lost any in the past three winter seasons. Unless there are excessive amounts of snow or a rain or freezing rain, mom and calf typically do very well with pasture birthing.

“Calving inside is recommended if you are insisting on having calves born in the winter months. Winter calving is not recommended, nor is it a common practice, in the Northeast,” McFarland said. “Calving during the cold months is very hard on calves due to the unpredictable weather. Calves born into mud will tend to get chilled or stuck into it. This is a setback for the calf and it will possibly need to be treated for an illness.”

Barkley, however, does see a lot of winter calving being done successfully in Pennsylvania, primarily in late winter into early spring, from March to May.

“When calving in the winter, cows should have access to an area that blocks the wind. This could be a natural windbreak or something manmade. This can be as simple as round bales, a wooden wall, or something more substantial such as a barn,” Barkley said. “Cattle are much healthier calving outside as compared to calving inside a barn because of issues related to pneumonia or scours. Calves can thrive in most conditions as long as they receive adequate amounts of milk,” although mud is a concern due to its chilling effect.

There is no one right answer to winter calving decisions, or to winter beef herd management practices. Each producer has to make decisions based upon their own specific land base, infrastructure and overall management philosophy.

Keeping the herd healthy all winter long begins before the cold weather arrives. Having enough feed stocks to provide the additional energy needed during cold weather; offering some protection from wind and moisture; beginning the winter with healthy stock in good body condition; and assessing the herd daily – all of these practices help to ensure that beef herds and their farmers can thrive through the cold winter months.