Sign up for the
Weekly Harvest Newsletter!

Published every Wednesday, the Weekly Harvest e-newsletter is a free Web digest of sustainable agriculture news, resources, events and funding opportunities gleaned from the Internet. See past issues of the Weekly Harvest.
Sign up here

Sign up for the Weekly Harvest Newsletter

What Is Sustainable Agriculture?

Master Publication List

Search Our Databases

Urban Agriculture

Energy Alternatives

Beginning Farmer

Field Crops

Crop Insurance

Horticultural Crops

Livestock & Pasture

Value-Added Food Products

Local Food Systems

Food Safety

Marketing, Business & Risk Management

Organic Farming

Pest Management

Soils & Compost

Water Management

Ecological Fisheries and Ocean Farming

Other Resources

Sign Up for The Dirt E-News

Home Page

Contribute to NCAT


Newsletter sign up button

· Privacy Policy · Newsletter Archives

RSS Icon XML Feeds

RSS 2.0: Events, Breaking News, Funding Opportunities Atom: Events, Breaking News, Funding Opportunities


NCAT strives to make our information available to everyone who needs it. If you are a limited-access or low-income farmer and find that one of our publications is just not in your budget, please call 800-346-9140.


How are we doing?


Home  > Question of the Week

Question of the Week

Permalink The farm I just purchased previously struggled with foot rot within their sheep flock. How long will it take the foot rot organism to leave the ground?

Answer: Sheep foot rot is a disease in which two species of bacteria work together to infect the foot. One, the "trigger" bacteria, predisposes the foot tissue to infection by the other. The trigger bacteria is gone out of the environment after two weeks once the sheep are removed. In muddy environments, it would be better to wait three weeks. The actual bacteria that cause infection are ubiquitous in the soil.

Before you repopulate the property with more purchased ewes, make sure that the premises (lambing jugs, mix pens, handling equipment, stock trailer) is steam cleaned or scrubbed down with a disinfectant solution such as Novasan (chlorihexadene).

When purchasing more ewes, walk through the seller's flock and check for any sign of animals limping. Ask the seller if he or she has ever had any foot rot cases. Once purchased, it would be best to quarantine them for one month, checking their hooves once a week for any sign of infection.

For more information, consult the following resources:

Contagious Foot Rot, Utah State University Extension

Foot Rot in Sheep and Goats, Purdue Extension

You will also find lots of useful resources in the Livestock and Pasture portion of ATTRA’s website, located at

Send feedback » Permalink


Permalink What is the difference between wild and cultivated ginger? Can I grow it in a northern climate?

Answer: Both wild and cultivated gingers are tropical plants and are therefore very sensitive to freezing temperatures that are common in northern climates. Wild ginger also has less flavor than the cultivated varieties.

There has been some success in growing “baby ginger” as an annual greenhouse crop in northern climates as far north as Maine. Baby ginger is the swelled rhizome of root ginger. Baby ginger matures into golden-skinned root ginger if cured. Shaped like root ginger, its thin skins are bright white with pink blush points on the tops of the roots.

There is a grower profile in the Maine Organic Farmer and Gardener Association newsletter that can be accessed at
. This profile has a lot of information on how to produce ginger in the greenhouse and includes information on where to get rhizome cuttings.

Northeastern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) also funded a farmer research project on growing ginger in hoop houses and greenhouses in northern climates. Old Friends Farm found that the ginger grew surprisingly well in the hoop houses and was more cost-effective than the greenhouse-grown ginger. For more information on this project, you can read the final report, complete with planting information, at
For information on growing other roots species, such ginseng or goldenseal, check out the ATTRA publication Ginseng, Goldenseal, and Other Native Roots at

Send feedback » Permalink


Permalink What is the nutritional value of King Ranch bluestem for cattle? My grass-fed stocker steers don't seem to like it. Is shredding it a good idea?

Answer: King Ranch bluestem is a very poor-quality grass. It generally runs about 7% to 10% crude protein, which is too low for stockers to gain on. Its Total Digestible Nutrient level is also very low. In general, most people experience what you have—very low palatability.

By shredding it, do you mean chopping it with a flail chopper and leaving it in the field? Or chopping it and feeding it in a feed bunk? Either way, your cattle may eat it better, but they will not gain very well. With grass-fed beef, you want them to gain well in order to marble well. I would not recommend forcing them to eat it if you want your stockers to do well.

Are there any other feeding options you have available to you? Although it will take three to four years, with increased soil fertility, coastal Bermuda grass will come back into bluestem pasture and crowd it out. You have to primarily apply increased nitrogen, but you should take a soil test first to understand where you are deficient and then apply nutrients accordingly. To find soil-testing laboratories in your area, consult ATTRA's Alternative Soil Testing Laboratories database at

Other considerations will include how many stockers you are running, their weights, the weight you expect them to finish at, and their breeding.

For more information, refer to the following ATTRA publications:

Ruminant Nutrition For Graziers
This publication provides managers with tools and references to consider biological and climatological variables and make decisions that ensure the ecological and economic viability of a grass-based ruminant livestock operation.

Nutrient Cycles in Pastures
This publication provides basic descriptions of pasture nutrient cycles, as well as guidelines for managing pastures to enhance nutrient cycling efficiency for productive forage and livestock growth, soil health, and water quality.

Organic and Grass-Finished Beef Cattle Production
This publication highlights the practices producers are using to provide customers with nutritious food from pasture- and rangeland-based farms and ranches.

Send feedback » Permalink


Permalink I am a small-scale farmer and find the idea of social media marketing intimidating. Do you have any tips on how to get started?

Answer: Internet-based communication tools, known collectively as “social media,” are gaining popularity for large and small businesses alike, including farm businesses. Social media platforms such as blogs, Facebook, and Twitter are great ways for businesses easily to share information about products and services, network with new people to build a loyal customer base, and stimulate market traffic.

The use of social media is growing due to the far-reaching use of computers and wireless technologies. It’s been estimated that four out of five Americans currently use the Internet, creating a vast opportunity for online communication between producers and consumers. Social media allows direct communication with customers that is personalized and targeted.

Farmers also use social media to put a face on how food is grown. Farmers share photos and stories about how their farms are operated, making a personal connection with consumers. Farmers can use social media to inform people about agricultural issues that matter to them, using Facebook and Twitter for activism or support of the local and sustainable food movements. Social media also is used to keep farmers engaged with other farmers—sharing ideas about crops, pest control, and marketing strategies.

For more tips on social media marketing, read the ATTRA publication Social Media Tools for Farm Product Marketing, found at

Additional resources that you may find useful include the following:

The Agchat Foundation supports farmers with connecting communities through social media. It offers an annual training course for farmers on how to use social media and also provide tips on its website, at

The Farmers Market Federation of New York put out a series of educational opportunities on social media techniques to help people connect with local farms and farmers markets. The factsheets from the webinars and YouTube videos are available at Information provided includes tips on Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook, blogs, YouTube, Hoot Suite, and Stumble Upon, as well as general info on social media and marketing.

Tractor View is blog that offers several blog posts on how farmers can use social media tools effectively. It is available at

The University of Vermont’s New Farmer Project offers several webinars on marketing and social media, which can be found at

The University of Missouri Extension
office published two reports about how social media can be used for marketing at farmers markets. They can be found at

Send feedback » Permalink


Question of the Week Archives