Source: Gary BrockScenes from the 39th Annual OEFFA Conference held in Dayton Feb. 15-17
DAYTON — Auglaize County dairy farmer Jordan Settlage says there is a great opportunity for farmers and scientists alike to do additional research on animal health and welfare.
Settlage was one of several speakers at a recent OEFFA (Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association) panel discussion called “Better On-Farm Research for Better Organic Farming” held at the Dayton Convention Center.
Going on the theme that organic agriculture needs quality research to sustain growth, the panel looked at the state of organic research in this region, shortcomings, successes and needs.
Settlage, an organic dairy farmer near St. Mary’s, says he and his farm family “Do a lot of on-farm and farmer-driven research. If we have problems or issues we want to find out the answers, my dad and I are both on board with that and trying out different things.”
He said they worked with Ohio State University a few years ago on the whole spectrum of farming and how many hours they work on the farm, “which was eye-opening for us, how much interaction with society we have or don’t have.”
On organics as a whole, there are things that personally he is excited about coming down the pipe in the next couple of years. One of those is research into animal welfare.
“For organic farmers, this is a great opportunity to jump on this. I think consumers as a whole are asking about how we are treating our cows. There is a great opportunity in place, like keeping calves with their mothers. They like that and the consumers will like that as well,” he said.
He said his farm is presently doing research on leaving dairy cows with their mothers. “We are in the early stages of that research, we’ve been doing this for about a year now.”
“There are no findings yet on the results on bottom-feeding, but I am just guessing that we will have calves that will live longer and more productive over their life span when raised by their mom over being raised in solitary confinement in a calf hutch. For us, that’s where we are going,” he pointed out.
“We are trying to work with nature — see what is working in nature.”
Settlage said they did a pasture experiment last year to see what $50 gets them in pasture, dividing up the field into several pasture plots.
“We try as hard as we can to be scientists, but at the end of the day we are farmers. We wake up in the morning, do our work, spend time with out kids…” he said.
On the issue of data collection, Settlage agrees with speaker Jeff Moyer of the Rondale Institute in Pennsylvania.
“Recording data is most important. If you don’t record it, it didn’t happen,” Moyer cautioned. “Then share this research. Then repeat it another year.”
“I know there are pitfalls when it comes to data collection. If you wait to the fall, you will absolutely forget what you did in the spring,” said Settlage. “This was a pitfall we had on our farm. I believe every farmer should be a researcher. Everyone should be doing a little research on their farms.”
Also speaking on the panel was Liz Maynard, Purdue University, and moderator Douglas Jackson-Smith of Ohio State University Extension.
Jackson-Smith pointed out that, “It is getting harder to get farmers and scientists to talk to each other since more and more scientists come from non-agriculture backgrounds. A way to solve this is to build partnerships. Scientists need to go on a journey of discovery of farm systems and how farms work in the real world.”