Winter temperatures can be rough and cold spells can pose an environmental threat to livestock. Farmers will also need to ensure that their water source does not become frozen over the winter.
Winter temperatures can be rough and cold spells can pose an environmental threat to livestock. Farmers will also need to ensure that their water source does not become frozen over the winter.
“Every dog has its day!”
Aside from being the perfect pets and playmates, dogs are adaptable to many environments and have often played different service roles in society. Dogs serve on the police force, can aid in tracking and rescue; others act as assistance animals, working alongside therapists and doctors to support people with visual impairment, anxiety, diabetes, and more. Although their talents are plenty, dogs have most commonly accompanied humans in the labors of the land. In fact, dogs have been an integral part of agriculture work for centuries.
First things first: dogs are among the most loyal animals we know and will always put their keeper’s safety before their own. This makes them excellent protectors. Gifted with keen hearing and night vision, they are naturally intuitive with sharp instincts that are always alert to their surroundings. This means that a guard dog is always the first responder for any potential dangers that might arise on or near a farm. Whether fire or flood, a farm dog will keep the family in the know so they can continue working safely.
Other than environmental dangers, there are added risks in the agricultural world when it comes to prey and predators. If a farm has livestock, trained protection dogs called Livestock Guardian Dogs are recommended, as some breeds have natural instincts to keep sheep, goats, and cattle safe. These dogs can even keep away bears—or at least put themselves between the farmer and the threat to buy time. When it comes to poultry supervision, it is best recommended to keep birds inside a fenced area with patrol dogs on the outside perimeter to shoo away any sly foxes or cunning coyotes from coming after chickens, turkeys, or ducks.
Guard dogs will also chase away deer from fruit trees and will let the farmers know when any visitor, welcome or not, arrives.
Dogs are also very skilled herders on the homestead. With dedicated training and attention, herding dogs are essential on farms where there are a lot of open pastures or great distances to cover. Herding dogs need a lot of mental and physical exercise, so keeping them busy and channeling their energy into fieldwork is important. They are among the most intelligent breeds and can perceive the most subtle of whistle commands and hand signals to move a flock or seek out stray animals.
Cattle dogs tend to become quite attached to their shepherds rather than the herd itself, which creates a professional environment and makes it easier for dogs to get their job done. That said, it has been proven that both hard work and dogs give a sense of purpose to humans, so having a dog in this role is a perfect combination to boost the farm’s morale. Be cautious, though; it has been reported that some herding dogs develop their instinct so well that they playfully herd the children of the farm!
Any agronomer knows that not all problems present themselves on the surface, and it’s good to have a dog who doesn’t mind getting dirty to control vermin. Like rats and other rodents, vermin pose significant challenges for the farm as they can carry disease and contaminate feeds that will later affect the livestock. Many dogs, mostly terriers, have been trained over decades to be talented ‘ratters’ due to their small size, agile movements, and ability to burrow. If vermin become a problem in the garden, a well-trained terrier can solve the problem quickly.
Almost all farmers, homesteaders, and agriculturalists care about the environment and its wellbeing. Believe it or not, dogs can make a positive impact.
The industrial dog food market contributes significantly to the carbon footprint. However, many ranch dogs tend to eat raw meat or a blend of leftover human food like eggs and dairy products that don’t go directly to the pigs. This alone can help cut the environmental impact and waste and reduce the footprint of the meat industry.
Even their poop can be composted as manure in the gardens and fields if done properly.
Lots of folks think that a dog is a dog, but which mutt is right for your farm? We know that when it comes to working dogs, each canine has unique qualities. When deciding on a dog, researching characteristics and behavioral traits is often required, as it is not always as obvious as it seems. For example, just because ‘shepherd’ is part of their name, German Shepherds are much better guard dogs, while many smaller breeds, like Pembroke Welsh corgis, are surprisingly talented herders.
One of the most versatile dogs is the Airedale terrier. The Airedale terrier is a good example of a dog that does well in almost all fields. As terriers, they are excellent at sniffing out rats, but they are also natural-born protectors and can be trained to drive livestock.
Among the top-rated dog breeds for farm life are Australian cattle dogs, Border Collies, Dachshunds, Dutchies, Great Pyrenees, and Jack Russell terriers. This is not to say that other dog breeds shouldn’t be on farms, but they should either be supervised companions or work as support staff. A working dog should be chosen as best suited to the farm’s characteristics.
“Dogs’ lives are too short, and that is their only fault.”
With so many good reasons to invite a dog to the ranch, there are some factors to acknowledge before having a furry friend join the crew.
Dogs will inevitably dig holes. They will bark and scratch and chew and wag! They might hoard bones and other treasures and do all sorts of doggone things that dogs do. However, all these habits can be avoided with proper training and care.
Although most often benevolent, dogs are natural predators to smaller animals, especially poultry, and this should be considered when deciding which one to get. Regardless, there are many D.I.Y. solutions to ensure that dogs do not get wound up on the wrong side of the fence with their snouts dirty.
Having a dog on the farm means investing adequate time in consistent training practices and learning. Depending on the breed, some canines will pick up tasks quicker than others, but no matter the dog or the job at hand, owners should prepare to spend quality time with the paw patrol to show them the lay of the land.
Loyalty in All Seasons
A light wind swept over the corn, and all nature laughed in the sunshine –Anne Bronte.
As autumn draws near, the agricultural industry prepares to harvest one of the most important crops of the year: corn. With over 15.1 billion bushels produced during 2021 in the US alone, corn averages 95% of the total feed grain production in the country. This large production volume also makes the US the primary exporter of corn worldwide, with a record-breaking $18.7 billion obtained from 2.4 billion bushels exported in 2021.
The most widely accepted theory of the origins of corn—also known as maze—goes back about 9,000 years ago in what is today the Balsas River Valley in south-central México. Similar to many other fruits and vegetables that we are accustomed to seeing at our markets, corn is a product of selective breeding. Early farmers looked to optimize yield and valuable product derived from teosinte, a grass belonging to the Zea genus, considered the mother of corn as we know it today. This artificial intervention of choosing the most optimal kernels to plant led to the domestication and mass cultivation of maze throughout the Americas, becoming an important food source for its inhabitants.
Corn was first brought from Mexico into the southwestern United States around 4,000 years ago, likely from being passed along between local inhabitants to hunter-gatherers living further north. A second corn variant, with larger cobs and kernels, arrived from the Pacific Coast about 2,000 years later. From then on, it was expanded through the region by Native Americans, especially in Iowa, where production concentrated due to its ideal geographical and climatic characteristics. To this day, Iowa remains the nation’s largest producer.
Back in the day, the adage “knee-high by the 4th of July” was a saying that had a positive connotation; it meant that, were the corn as high as the farmer’s knee come Independence Day, the yield of that year would be high. However, this traditional “measuring” is no longer the norm. With the many genetic changes and artificial interventions made to corn over the centuries, that saying, although it remains popular, no longer reflects the reality of corn growth today. As a result, it has been replaced by the more accurate description “as high as an elephant’s eye,” taken from the song Oh, What a Beautiful Morning from 1943’s musical “Oklahoma!” to reflect just how tall corn can grow in today’s world.
Corn breeding has made it more resistant to unfavorable conditions, and early planting Has allowed for more growth time. Today, corn can be found in over 90 million acres of land, mainly concentrated in what is known as the “corn belt.” The belt refers to a stretch of rich, fertile soils of about 1,500 long, throughout the Midwest, in many states: Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, South Dakota, Ohio, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, and Missouri.
The US produces six types of corn with various food, seed, and industrial uses: dent, flint, sweet, flour, popcorn, and pod corn. Of these variations, dent is mainly used for stock feed and, most importantly, for ethanol production as biofuel. Although ethanol could be considered a clean source of energy, recent studies by the National Academy of Sciences showed that it is likely 24% more carbon-intensive than gasoline. However, the FDA considered this a relatively green production and noted a 39% lower carbon intensity than gasoline in a study released in 2019.
Aside from being an integral part of the American food supply chain, corn in its refined form has a myriad of usages, from soap, ink, and shoe polish to makeup, medicines, and nanotech. As a result, corn is a powerful driver of local and national economy, strengthening the value of rural communities, developing and growing jobs, and maintaining its impact on diverse industries, which accounted for an output of $47.501 billion in 2020, according to a study conducted by the Corn Refiners Association (CRA).
On May 15, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation creating the United States Department of Agriculture. The former president valued agriculture as “the largest interest of the nation” and, thanks to his vision, he was able to lay the foundations that govern agricultural policies today.
The 16th President and one of America’s Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln is known for many milestones during his presidency. However, one crucial aspect of his life, which shaped his visions for the America of the time, was how agriculture and rurality played such an important role in his life.
Lincoln’s background was on the Western frontier. He lived with his family on acres of land used for pioneer exploitation, in comparison to settled cultivation. Lincoln was born in a log hut in Central Kentucky, but it was no woodsy fairytale. As a child, he grew up on a 30-acre farm where only half could be cultivated due to the natural landscape and geography characterized by hills.
Upon realizing that this lifestyle was not sustainable, Lincoln’s father moved the family to 160 acres of marshland in southern Indiana, where he later developed acres of corn, wheat, and oats. A young man himself, Lincoln was hired to work the farm and other tasks until he was ready to set out on his own. There is no doubt that this quality of life shaped the man into who he became as President of the United States. As he moved forward on his journey, Lincoln continued to shape frontiers and became a country lawyer. Given his experience and background, he became a figure that represented farmers and small-town democracy.
As his career furthered, Lincoln never strayed too far from his roots. He would attend state fairs and endorse them as places for bringing the community together, furthering discussions of how to improve agriculture throughout the country. Gifted with an innovative mind, Lincoln learned from his years of observing the field and would offer his wisdom on how to steer agricultural technology. One example is how Lincoln commented on the potential efficiency of using steam plows in contrast to horse-drawn machines.
Once he became President, and two and a half years after he signed on the creation of the USDA into law, Lincoln referred to the newly created Department as “The People’s Department”. This significant statement echoes the great value that American citizens put into farming and agriculture, and how working the land is the basis of economic and social development for communities all over the country. This moment in our political history allowed for great strides in agricultural development and significance, touching the lives of the citizens and improving their quality of life even today.
In his speech, Lincoln’s stated: “The Agricultural Department, under the supervision of its present energetic and faithful head, is rapidly commending itself to the great and vital interest it was created to advance. It is precisely The People’s Department, in which they feel more directly concerned that in any other. I commend it to the continued attention and fostering care of Congress.” He later appointed agriculturalist Isaac Newton as Commissioner of Agriculture. Newton had been a model farmer who worked as chief of agriculture in the Patent Office, who shared the same values and a close friendship with the President.
Committed to education and his values that farmers’ interests were the interests of the country, Lincoln pioneered for agricultural reform and different structures of labor management and landowning. To quote, he said: “…no other human occupation opens so wide a field for the profitable and agreeable combination of labor with cultivated thought, as agriculture.” Staying true to his beliefs, Lincoln continued to advocate as a nominee of the Republican Party in 1860 and would work towards many proposals’ fruition. Alongside the creation of the federal Department of Agriculture, other motions included the demand for homestead measures, federal aid in the construction of the railroad to the Pacific Ocean and grants to fund federal land as spaces for higher education in engineering and agriculture. Lincoln was, in all senses, a pioneer of his times.
In 1862, about half of Americans were either living or working on farms. Today, that statistic has drastically dropped to 2%, mostly due to the massive move into city and the new technologies, industries, and increased access to education that defined the later part of the XX century. Despite this shift, the USDA has continued its role of improving agriculture, food, science, natural resource conservation and economic development, maintaining Lincoln’s legacy and hopes for the future. In 2012, the Department celebrated its 150th and continues to move forward into the challenges and significant advances that have revolutionized agriculture in the XXI century.
With the difficulties brought along with the pandemic, a decline in national and global health was seen across the board. National Gardening Month is the perfect excuse to remind us that we can each play a role in taking care of ourselves and our surroundings.
As mentioned in a previous blog entry, there are over 2 million farms in the US, and about 96% are family-owned. Farms are a crucial aspect of American culture, but what about smaller projects? Here at Viscosity, we understand that small actions make a genuine difference. Whether it’s large-scale agriculture on farms, the neighborhood community plot, or small potted plants on the balcony, gardening offers plenty of benefits to individuals, as well as the collective community and the environment.
In some places around the country, the climate might not yet permit everyone to get out right away, but with the changing weather promising good growing seasons to come, it is time to begin preparing the ground. A good study will allow you to pick a project that fits into your schedule and your land. Once you have decided what kind of gardening projects you wish to embark upon this year, gather your materials and spring forward with your friends and family. Remember to be patient and celebrate the sometimes slow growing process.
Working the ways of the land is done year-round, each season offering a new task or project out in the field, and here at VISCOSITY, we have everything you need so you can do it all with the best protection at all seasons. Whether you work big or go for something smaller, there is no time like the present to get started – enjoy National Garden Month!
ATV is the acronym for all-terrain vehicle, a four-wheeler that can usually accommodate a single driver in a straddled seating position. ATVs are steered using handlebars, like a regular bike, with a thumb throttle to control acceleration and a brake handle or foot pedal to brake. They are designed to be maneuvered easily over challenging terrain and can sometimes be fitted with ROPS for protection against accidents. ATVs are often used for recreational activities as well.
For all its benefits around commerce, communication, and information availability, broadband is the preferred option for most current internet users. Its reach extends from households and restaurants to health centers and even government through means such as fiber optic, Wi-Fi, Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), and satellite. It is now deemed a vital tool for everyday operations in all imaginable contexts, where users can access critical information and connect to different resources faster than ever before.
VISCOSITY Gets Smart
VISCOSITY Oil has also made smart innovations and has some interesting tools specifically designed to monitor your equipment effectively. Our Everlub™ Solutions can provide the information you need to keep working in fluid motion and you can learn more about them by sending us your query in our contact section. You can also follow us on Instagram and Facebook to stay informed about all the products and innovations VISCOSITY Oil has for you.
In previous entries, we have discussed the concept of Precision Agriculture and how technology is being integrated more and more organically into agricultural operations. Devices today allow farmers to deal with most, if not all, aspects of the farming process, and the intricacy of the new instrumentation provides accurate readings with minimal margins of error. However, no matter how advanced the tool may be, it would be useless if the information is not easily accessible, comprehensive, and, above all, available for everyone.
*Everlub FLUID-I is powered by Contelligent.
✓ Biomass and Biogas
Farms are in a privileged position to incorporate energies like biogas and biomass into their operations. Biomass is produced by burning solid crops and organic waste, transforming them into a source of heat, steam, electricity, and fuels such as biofuel and biodiesel, depending on the base material. On the other hand, biogas is produced through anaerobic digestion, a process in which the same organic waste that makes up biomass can be fermented in an oxygen-free digestor to release carbon dioxide and methane. These gases are later processed to create energy, becoming a renewable alternative to natural gas and coal. The leftover solid material can be used as a soil enhancer.
There’s some debate around bioenergy being considered “green”, as the chemicals released during biomass and biogas processes are harmful. An uncontrolled or inappropriate operation can release toxic gases into the atmosphere, defeating the purpose of environmental protection. Other concerns revolve around the overproduction of waste in favor of bioenergy production. However, it remains a cost-effective and renewable way to reuse and recycle byproducts in a controlled, favorable manner, pushing rural economy, innovation, and incentives to improve and refine processes to reduce emissions.
✓ Wind Energy
The agricultural industry has been using wind as an energy source through windmills for centuries to pump water and process grain. The modern wind power energy industry continues to grow steadily, and wind turbines are an option for farmers that want to modernize their operations with a clean, sustainable alternative. Investment options are open to establish wind farms alongside regular crops, or to lease part of fields to wind developers. Even though wind energy is a great alternative, it is still capital-demanding and heavily relies on geographical location to produce the expected results.
✓ Solar and Agrivoltaics
Solar panels are becoming increasingly accessible, and demand is rising for its usage in domestic and industrial settings. Farms are no different, and solar installation is now finding a niche not only for powering a farmer’s land but also for investing, leasing, and establishing associations that can provide bigger revenue inflows. The co-location of solar farms in agricultural areas, known as agrivoltaics, is a way to combine space requirements from solar companies with farmers’ need of diversifying revenue streams. Although agrivoltaics is still a work in progress that has many challenges and requires further studies and adaptation, it is an open opportunity to create new jobs and innovations while providing a secondary source of income.
Photovoltaics at a smaller scale is a solution for energy availability in remote areas, allowing farmers to power their equipment and devices. It is a great way to reduce carbon emissions and provide clean and sustainable energy that is easy to install and does not depend on power lines.
Solar also has governmental support. The United States Department of Agriculture as well as the Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) from the Department of Energy are now focusing on providing guidance, information, and support to adopt solar photovoltaics, aiming to increase investment and projects that can account for energy demand and fossil fuel emissions. Solutions of this nature are pushed firmly to reach neutrality goals and to help farmers and rural communities improve their livelihoods, production, and market opportunities.
Making the shift to renewable energy is not always easy, and it usually requires significant investment. However, the policies and innovations of today are expected to become the new normal of tomorrow. Early adoption, development, and learning will allow everyone across the value chain to grow steadily into a more sustainable energy production that benefits all sectors. VISCOSITY Oil will continue supporting these efforts and providing a service that will go hand in hand with your operations, regardless of how and when you make this transition, keeping work in fluid motion with you with the best protection always!
While the concepts of climate and weather are related, they are not synonymous. They both refer
to atmospheric variables around temperature, wind, precipitation, and other factors; however, they cover
different periods of time. Climate observes of weather variations at specific locations over a long time,
usually about 30 years on average. On the other hand, weather deals with variations within a short-term
period, and observation is more frequent, as variations can occur even on a minute-to-minute basis.
In simple words, climate will determine the need to purchase an umbrella ahead of the winter
season, and weather will let you know if you need to take it when you go out on a given day.
Understanding climate conditions in our region can influence from the clothes we use to the best
place to install wind turbines. This knowledge, coupled with everyday forecasting, allows us to have
control over our lives and make decisions based on what to expect and how to prepare ourselves to deal
with these possibilities.
The same happens in agriculture. Hundreds of farmers across the country rely on climate
predictability to make decisions around their crops and have a general idea of the path they will be
following ahead of the changing seasons, depending on their location. Most importantly, they can
determine what, when, and where to plant, ensuring revenue streams and production estimations based
on their region’s general conditions.
Forecasting allows farmers to plan and have control over their work by providing short-term
information that can predict the overall state of the area and have clarity over important operational
aspects such as plant growth, humidity and irrigation, average temperature, and pesticide spraying
periods. Having this information can aid in decision-making to maintain a cost-effective operation,
allocating resources and efforts to small seasonal and daily actions, and staying ahead of potential
disturbances that may negatively affect production.
One very clear example is setting irrigation schedules. Suppose the weather forecast informs
there will be rain during the week. In that case, the farmer can rely on this information to readjust their
planning and take advantage of the natural water instead of running their irrigators, saving money and
maintaining crop integrity.
Agriculture is particularly vulnerable to changes; a delicate balance is needed to yield good crops
that even slight alterations can destroy. This new reality makes it harder to predict and decide the best
course of action to take during an unexpected event, exposing crops to abnormal climatic events for which
they are neither accustomed nor resistant. The proliferation of pests, production decline, water scarcity,
destructive wildfires, alteration of temperature and precipitation patterns, and other such consequences
become a risk, not only for crop owners’ livelihood but to us all, as these occurrences directly impact food
supply and availability.
The severity of these phenomena has forced the industry to look for ways to become more
sustainable and to find tools and resources that can provide accurate and faster readings to help farmers
In the US, the agricultural industry accounts for about 9-10% of greenhouse emissions, primarily
methane and nitrous oxide, with anthropogenic impact usually related to soil degradation, deforestation,
and loss of biodiversity. This contribution can be reduced by following regenerative and sustainable
practices that ensure production with less impact to the environment.
Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is now emerging as a viable alternative to tackle these changes.
Its three main pillars are Productivity, to ensure income and development for farmers; Adaptability, to
help farmers deal with current challenges and develop agricultural resilience; and Mitigation, to reduce
the impact of industry-related greenhouse emissions, erosion, and deforestation. These pillars help
manage solutions and processes at different levels within the industry, adapting policies and resources
depending on the country and the particular situation within the region while considering its ecosystem
and natural resources. Government and institutional participation, technology implementation, along
with the appropriate policies and investment efforts, can make a significant difference in the lives of
hundreds of farmers and protect our resources efficiently without disrupting economic and industrial
growth, food availability, and, most importantly, our planet.
Precision Agriculture tools, such as on-site weather stations, can provide accurate and complete
area readings directly to the farmer, allowing them to decide on aspects such as nutrient and fertilizer
spraying, irrigation, plague control, soil quality, among others. Digital tools such as apps and integrated
software can provide information directly from sources like the National Weather Service, sending alerts
and reporting on specific meteorological conditions and anomalies with reliable and updated data that
can be customized for the user depending on their location. Costs vary depending on complexity, but
there are some free and cheaper options, especially for apps, that ensure fast access to information.
Having these tools can help producers plan their strategies better, reducing the risk of loss and damage.
In our country, the USDA has recently announced a set of comprehensive agricultural
investments, along with the Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership. Through this initiative,
they expect to encourage, support, and finance climate-smart pilot projects that create new revenue
streams and market opportunities.
As the climate impacts the entirety of the value chain, companies are now taking the new reality
into account to shape their policies and develop more sustainable economies and markets. Many,
including VISCOSITY Oil, have committed to follow strict Health, Safety, and Environmental (HSE)
guidelines to ensure compliance with new industry standards, to reduce emissions, and align with national
and international efforts to move forward with decarbonization and environmental protection. This
collective effort will be crucial to maintain productivity, growth, and development for all involved,
ensuring food availability and resources for a cleaner, and greener, future.