Dec 2015


Managing livestock pastures on your acreage well ensures good quality grass for your animals and minimizes the amount of weed control or overseeding needed each year. Winter is a good time to look back on the quality of your pastures during the past year and plan for any improvement or changes in use needed in the year to come.

Understanding Grass Growth Stages and Grazing Pressure - University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension specialists explain the three stages of grass growth and how grazing at the various stages impacts grass in your pastures. Produced by the University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service for the Barnyards and Backyards Property Improvement Project

Pasture Grazing: Knowing When It's Time to Move Your Animals -University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension specialists discuss pasture grazing intensity - light, moderate and heavy - and how to know when it time to move on to the next pasture. Part of the Property Improvement Project of the Small Acreage Issue Team.

Should You Reseed Your Pasture?-How to decide if your pasture needs reseeding or just time and management. Content is suitable for non-irrigated pasture and rangeland in the Mountain West and Great Plains. Produced for the Barnyards and Backyards Property Improvement Project by the University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service.

Forest Products Utilization Service from the Nebraska Forest Service

By Adam Smith, Nebraska Forest Service - Forest Products Utilization

Wood Pellets. Nebraska Forest Service Forest Products Utilization Program. Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2015.
Biomass from forest improvement, rangeland improvement, urban forests, manufacturing by-products and riparian management can be used for mulch, fuel pellets, wood boiler fuel and other products.

Wood is an abundant and renewable local resource that contributes to the global and local economies. Here in Nebraska we are fortunate to have diverse forest ecosystems including ponderosa pine, Midwestern hardwoods, eastern red cedar, and flourishing urban forests. A thriving market for timber and specialty forest products derived from our forest resources is crucial to sustainable forest management. Environmentally sound forest management can reduce the risks of devastating wildland fires, outbreaks of diseases and pests, and encroachment of invasive species that threaten Nebraska’s rich forest resources all while providing local jobs and supporting regional economic development.

The Nebraska Forest Service Forest Products Utilization program can help facilitate market development for the state’s forest products resources and businesses. It is our goal to connect businesses to potential markets in a variety of ways. As Forest Products Utilization staff, we are able to support demonstrations of available markets for a variety of forest products, connect new and existing businesses with state economic development personnel, and identify potential partnerships between producer and purchaser groups. By working to build interest in the state’s forest resources and demonstrating their uses to a wide range of stakeholders, the Nebraska Forest Service aims to enable sustainable and NFS Forest Products Utilization Program Milling Railroad Ties in Nebraska healthy markets, leading to sustainable and healthy forests. We are pursuing a triple bottom line that benefits the citizens, environment, and economies of Nebraska communities.

In order to sustain Nebraska’s forests, we offer a wide range of financial and technical assistance to landowners, businesses, and communities. Sawmills, private landowners, facilities and buildings, and other forest product businesses are just some of the groups that may benefit from these opportunities. Furthermore, there are a number of additional resources offered through the Forest Products Utilization program including primary and secondary processors directories, a timber buyer’s directory, and of course, the Timber Talk Newsletter.

By providing assistance to businesses and creating demand for the state’s forest products, our program works to facilitate sustainable and healthy markets, leading to sustainable and healthy forests. Maximizing the potential of Nebraska’s unique forest resources in order to maintain thriving forests is the goal of the Nebraska Forest Service Forest Products Utilization program. We hope you won’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions. 


Decommissioning Illegal Water Wells

By Sharon Skipton, Nebraska Extension Water Quality Educator
Photo of well decommissioning. Decommissioning Illegal Water Wells, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2015.
Old wells that are in disrepair pose a major threat to groundwater quality, including groundwater that supplies drinking water wells. There are thousands of these wells on farmsteads, acreages, and other rural areas throughout the state. State law refers to these as illegal wells, and requires them to be properly decommissioned.

Old wells that are in disrepair pose a major threat to groundwater quality, including groundwater that supplies drinking water wells. There are thousands of these wells on farmsteads, acreages, and other rural areas throughout the state. State law refers to these as illegal wells, and requires them to be properly decommissioned.

While these wells are no longer in use, the remaining well shaft provides a direct connection from the ground surface to the underlying aquifer. This connection can allow surface runoff to flow directly to the water-bearing zones, often carrying fertilizers and other chemicals such as pesticides and petroleum products into groundwater. Small animals can fall into these wells, further adding to the contamination. Contaminants that enter an old, out-of-service well can move with the natural groundwater flow into in-service wells on the property or a neighbor’s well. Once groundwater is contaminated, it is difficult, if not impossible to clean it up.

It is not unusual for an old well to be located in a cropped field. This location provides the potential for groundwater contamination from applied fertilizers and pesticides. Other locations of wells that are especially susceptible to contamination include those in road ditches or livestock yards.

An old windmill can be an excellent indicator that an illegal well exists.  Other signs include:

  • concrete pads where the legs of a windmill tower once stood;
  • depressions where an old well pit or the walls of a dug well may have collapsed;
  • an old stock tank in an over-grown area;
  • a small area that is fenced-off, especially if there are also pipes sticking out of the ground;
  • flat stones, a concrete slab, old boards, metal sheets, or other items that could be covering an old well shaft.

Sometimes there are no signs. One landowner discovered a 36-inch diameter, 50-foot-deep dug well when the front wheel of his tractor dropped into it. He did not know until then that the well was there, despite having grown up on that farm.

If there is an unused well on your property, begin the decommissioning process today. See more, including estimated costs for well decommissioning and information on financial assistance available from Natural Resources Districts to help defray the cost.

Decommissioning Water Wells to Protect Water Quality and Human Health, Nebraska Extension


Healthy Eating During the Holidays

By Kristen Houska, MS, Nebraska Extension NEP Associate

Healthy Eating During the Holidays, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2015.
Even though pumpkin pie is not a food group, it still can be enjoyed in a healthier way throughout the holiday season.

In my family during the holidays, we like to have foods made from family recipes.  It reminds us all of sitting around my grandparent’s huge table growing up, enjoying each other’s company while having seconds of pretty much every dish on the table.  Now, as an adult, I still like to go for the second helping during the holiday season, but I like to include some healthier options to make me feel better about doing so.  Here are 5 helpful hints to allow you to enjoy your holiday eating while still making it healthful.

  1. Replace oil with applesauce:  When baking, use applesauce for half of the oil in the recipe. You will still get the same end product while cutting down on fat, and adding some fiber and vitamin C.
  2. Choose your decadent treat: If Aunt Jill’s cheesecake is your favorite dessert and you look forward to it all year, go for it and have a slice.  Do you need to have a piece of Cousin Frank’s pecan pie then too?  Probably not. Even though it is delicious, stick to choosing one treat to enjoy on purpose.  This way you will still enjoy your holiday fix while not overdoing it.
  3. Eat your colors: Many healthy foods come in amazing colors that all look great together on your plate. Sweet potatoes, broccoli, spinach and beets are all examples of colorful winter vegetables to add to your holiday meals.
  4. Manage your portion sizes: As I confessed before, I am a two portion taker during the holidays.  I do this in a couple of different ways.  1). If it is a dish higher in fat, sugar or salt I take smaller portions both times.  2).  If it is a healthier dish, I make sure to take more of it the first time to make less room on my plate for other holiday treats. The second helping is then a smaller size as well.
  5. Eat the food groups: No, pumpkin pie is not a food group of its own during the holiday season, but eating from the five MyPlate food groups will help keep your holiday eating on track.  Making sure you have a fruit, vegetable, grain, protein and dairy at each holiday meal will help you to eat a well-rounded diet while still enjoying all of the wonderful foods being served.

Even though pumpkin pie is not a food group, it still can be enjoyed in a healthier way throughout the holiday season.

Healthy Eating During the Holidays, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2015. Pumpkin Pie

8 Servings

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
  • 1 c. non-fat dry milk
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 3/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice*
  • 1/4 c. all purpose flour
  • 1 c. water
  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9-inch pie plate with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients except water. 
  • Slowly stir in water until well mixed. Pour into prepared pie plate.
  • Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until a knife inserted 1-inch from the center comes out clean.

* Substitute 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg for pumpkin pie spice if desired. 

Healthy Eating During the Holidays, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2015.

Nutrition Information Per Serving: Calories 150, Total Fat 1.5 g (3% DV),Saturated Fat 0.5 g (3% DV), Sodium 140 mg (6% DV), Total Carbohydrate 29 g (10% DV), Dietary Fiber 2 g (7% DV), Sugars 23 g, Protein 6 g, Vitamin A 180%, Vitamin C 4%, Calcium 15%, Iron 8%

Pumpkin pie is a great addition to a holiday meal because of the high amounts of vitamin A and beta carotene found in it, and this no-crust version helps to cut down on calories and fat.  Do you have a healthy recipe you love to share with your family?

This post was edited by Morgan Hartline MS, RD, LMNT, SNAP-Ed Program Coordinator and Jessica Meuleners RDN, LMNT, NEP Extension Associate with help from Donnia Behrends MS, RD, Extension Educator and Natalie Sehi MS, RD, LMNT, Extension Educator


A Holly Jolly Landscape

By John Fech, Nebraska Extension Educator - Horticulture

Image of evergreen holly. A Holly Jolly Landscape, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2015. surprisingly, many ancient cultures in the temperate world revered evergreen plants.  According to Sandra Mason, Extension Educator with the University of Illinois, during the blinding cold of winter evergreens look as green and cheery as a summer's day. Ancient Romans believed holly warded off lightning strikes and witchcraft. Early Celtics used holly in their winter solstice celebrations. Holly continues in its long tradition as a winter decoration inside and outside the home.

Garden centers and florists sell lovely holly branches for winter decorations. Cut holly branches will last for weeks even out of water. To dress up those empty outside containers, stick in a few branches of holly, redtwig dogwood and evergreens.

Holly for fruit display in the landscape requires a bit of sex education. Hollies come as male or female plants. Both are needed for heavy fruit set. However, a single male can pollinate several females. How do you know if it's a male or female? Look under the leaves of course! Actually you would have to look closely at the flowers to sex an existing plant or wait to see which one has fruit. Fruit is produced only on the females. When purchasing hollies their sex is usually quite clear with their sex-appropriate names.

Image of holly foliage in winter. A Holly Jolly Landscape, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2015. Hollies for Nebraska Landscapes
The Meserve hybrid hollies are known for their winter hardiness and durability. However any of the evergreen hollies appreciate a protected site out of wind and a bit of afternoon shade in summer. Soil should be moist, slightly acidic and well drained. If you are planning on adding hollies in the spring, prepare the soil now with plenty of compost and sulfur according to a soil test. The east side of a house is a prime location for evergreen hollies.

Of the Meserve hollies 'Blue Girl' and Blue Princess® and their corresponding 'Blue Boy' and Blue Prince® are good for our area. Blue Stallion® and Blue Maid® have lovely blue green leaves year around. Blue Stallion's® leaves are not quite as prickly so are better for high traffic areas. Although their leaves are not quite as blue-green as the Blue series China Boy® and China Girl® show good heat and cold tolerance.

The numerous holly species are a mixed bag of characteristics in leaf shapes, sizes, evergreen, deciduous, red fruits or black fruits. American Holly, Ilex opaca, has a grand red fruit display but allow plenty of room for these 30-foot trees. Japanese Holly, Ilex crenata, and Inkberry, Ilex glabra, are grown for their boxwood-like evergreen leaves and not for their black berries. Always check the winter hardiness rating for any holly before using it in your landscape to ensure it will be able to survive Nebraska's growing conditions.

Deciduous Hollies
We may think of evergreen hollies first but some native deciduous hollies are worthy of our attention. 'Warren's Red' a cultivar of the North American native Possumhaw, Ilex decidua, is a particularly heavy fruiter.

Common Winterberry, Ilex verticillata, is native to moist to wet areas of eastern North America. Its durable background translates into a tough insect and disease resistant shrub. Winterberry is excellent massed in front of pine trees or next to ponds. It has a compact rounded habit of up to nine feet tall. The dark green deciduous leaves are rounded in contrast to the prickly leaves of most evergreen hollies. Fall color is yellow tinged with maroon.

Winterberry's pea-sized fruit are abundant, bright red and not obscured by the leaves. Even though the fruit ripens in September they hang on for dear life until December or January.

The fruit of cultivar 'Winter Red' decorates the landscape until March or April for a long lasting winter display. The slightly larger fruit tends to hold a pleasing bright red color longer. In summer the leaves are leathery dark green. 'Winter Red' can get 8-9 feet tall and wide. For smaller landscapes the cultivar 'Red Sprite' is best at only to 3-5 feet tall. An excellent Winterberry hybrid is 'Sparkleberry', an introduction from the U.S. National Arboretum.
Happy holly days!


Choose a Locally Grown Christmas Tree

By Sarah Browning, Nebraska Extension Educator - Horticulture

Image of a Christmas tree farm. Choose a Locally Grown Christmas Tree, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2015. has more than 50 Christmas tree farms statewide that grow and sell Christmas trees.  A variety of tree species are available, including Scotch pine, Austrian pine, White pine, Colorado blue spruce, Concolor fir, Douglas fir and Norway spruce, so you can find your ideal holiday tree.

Choosing a locally grown tree provides the freshest possible tree for your home and help support the local economy.  Depending on the tree farm you visit, you may be able to cut down your perfect tree yourself, or farm staff may do it for you while you enjoy a cup of hot cider.  A listing of Nebraska tree farms is available on the Nebraska Department of Agriculture's website, Christmas Tree Grower Directory.  It includes a list of tree species available at each farm, their days and hours of operation, and any special activities or services available. 

If you don't want to visit a tree farm, try to find a tree lot that sells Nebraska-grown Christmas trees. 

When picking out a tree, follow these guidelines to choose the freshest tree possible.

  • To evaluate a tree’s freshness before purchase, gently stroke or pull the needles. If green needles drop off or pull off in your hand, then the tree is not fresh.
  • Another test is to lift the tree and strike the butt on the ground. If brown needles fall from the inner portion of the tree, these are needles that were shed by the tree naturally, and are not a problem. If green needles fall from the outer portion of the tree, then the tree is not fresh.
  • Check to see that the tree has a fresh, green color. Some trees are sprayed with a blue-green dye. This dye is harmless, but be sure it's not hiding a dry tree.
  • Break a few needles. They should be flexible and will feel moist or possibly sticky. They should also be fragrant when crushed.
  • Ask the dealer if the tree was locally grown. Local trees are much more likely to be fresh because they are cut nearer Christmas and aren't shipped long distances.

Christmas Tree Care

After selecting a Christmas tree, store the tree in a dark corner of your garage, away from sunlight if you don't plan to set it up right away. Cool temperatures slow the rate of water lost through the needles from the tree. Make a fresh cut to the base of the trunk by sawing off about an inch or two of the tree's stem, creating a nice, flat surface so the tree sits well in its stand. This cut removes several layers of cells at the cut surface that are filled with clotted resin and prevent the tree from absorbing water. 

Place the tree trunk in a pail of water until you bring it inside to decorate, and don't let the pail go dry. Your tree is still alive, even though it has been cut from it's root system; it needs water to prevents the needles from drying and the boughs from drooping. Before erecting the tree indoors, make another fresh cut to the base of the trunk to ensure that your tree has the best water up-take ability while it is in your house. 

When choosing a location for the tree, use common sense safety precautions with your Christmas tree by keeping it away from heat sources such as fireplaces, TV's, radiators, and air ducts, and never have open flames on or near a Christmas tree. 

When you bring the tree inside, keep the base of the trunk in water. A Christmas tree may absorb a gallon or more of water daily depending on its size and condition. Providing plenty of water will keep the tree fresh and maintain the aroma throughout the season.  Fresh cut trees, if cared for properly, can last four or five weeks indoors.

Myths abound about additives to the water to keep your tree fresh, but research has found that plain water is best.  Commercial preservative mixes, aspirin, sugar, and other common home remedies don't provide any benefits. 

If you accidentally let the tree stand dry out during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, realize that this will shorten the life of your tree.  Once the water is gone, the water-absorbing cells become plugged with resin very quickly and the tree's ability to uptake water is greatly reduced.  The only way to fix the problem is to make another fresh cut to the base of the trunk, so make it a habit to check the tree stand each day. 


Time to Order Tree Seedlings for Spring Planting

By Sarah Browning, Nebraska Extension Educator - Horticulture

Diseases, insects, drought and age have taken a toll on many windbreaks throughout Nebraska, resulting in the need for renovation or tree replacement. Late fall is a good time to assess your windbreak and order trees for spring planting. Most windbreaks, even those with a few gaps, can be renovated to maintain or enhance their effectiveness.

Windbreak Renovation
Windbreaks can have many purposes, such as enhancing habitat for wildlife, providing snow and wind protection, preventing soil erosion, reducing water runoff, or providing additional income. When renovating a windbreak, make sure the re-designed tree stand meets your goals.

Several publications are available from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln Extension and the Nebraska Forest Service providing guidance to renovate and re-design your windbreak, getting it back into a healthy condition and provide benefits for years to come. They are available at Find the publications by typing 'windbreak' or the publication number into the search box.

These additional publications are available from Nebraska Forest Service and Nebraska Statewide Arboretum.
Care of Newly Planted Trees, G1195
Trees for Eastern Nebraska
Trees for Western Nebraska
Windbreak Design, G1304

Purchasing Trees
Deciding on plant species and purchasing plants is the next critical step in the establishment of a windbreak. This is your best opportunity to avoid plant species susceptible to insect or disease problems. Key points to keep in mind when purchasing tree seedlings include:

  • Purchase your stock from a reliable source. Bare-root windbreak tree seedlings are available through your local Natural Resource District office. November is the time Nebraska's NRD offices begin taking orders for windbreak seedlings to be delivered next spring. Over-the-counter tree sales are typically taken until March 1, 2015 or as long as supplies last.  Locate your local NRD office and look for the Conservation Tree Program. 
  • Bare-root tree and shrub seedlings can also be purchased from some nurseries. Your seedlings should come from nurseries using locally collected seed or seed from Northern origins. This ensures plants are well adapted to local growing conditions.
  • Choose plant material that is suitable for your soils and can survive the environmental extremes of your site.
  • Select insect and/or disease resistant plants whenever possible.
  • Don't be too quick to buy the cheapest seedlings; they may not be the best value in the long run.

When ordering trees from your local NRD office, a minimum order of 25 seedlings is required; plant species are sold in bundles of 25 each. If 25 of one species is more than you need, then talk with your neighbors.  Maybe you can place a joint order and split the bundles.  Plants cost approximately $0.90 cents each, plus tax and handling. You must pick up your tree seedlings when they arrive at the NRD office in spring.

Plant species commonly available through the NRD offices include the following.

  • Evergreen trees - Eastern White and Ponderosa pine; Eastern red cedar; Colorado Blue, Norway and Black Hills spruce, and Concolor fir.
  • Deciduous trees – American elm; Hackberry; Bur, Northern Red, Chinkapin and Swamp White oak; Black Cherry; Black Walnut; and Sugar maple.
  • Shrubs - American plum; Hazelnut; Redosier dogwood; Chokecherry; Black and/or red chokeberry, Serviceberry; Elderberry; Common lilac; Amur maple; Skunkbush sumac.

Usually, windbreak seedlings are two years old and be 12-24 inches tall, with full, healthy root systems.  Bare-root seedlings must be handled carefully to ensure good survivability and performance.


Safety for You and Your Livestock

By Steve Tonn, Nebraska Extension Educator - Livestock

Image of ewe and lamb. Safety for You and Your Livestock, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2015. winter approaching, we have more opportunities to work with our livestock in a more confined setting.  Handling livestock can sometimes be stressful for both people and the animals.  A lot depends on our attitude, methods, and our understanding of how an animal behaves.  Trying to load a balky horse into a trailer, gathering or herding animals in a pasture, or trying to pen or catch animals for treatment can all be stressful situations and even unsafe at times for all involved.

Safety becomes an important issue when handling livestock.  Livestock safety applies to both the animal and the animal handler.  It involves much more than simply “being careful” around livestock.  In fact, many livestock accidents are not directly related to the animals themselves but are caused by improper use of equipment and poorly-maintained or poorly-built facilities.

People tend to give animals human qualities and forget that animals quickly revert to primal reflex reactions when they are threatened or under stress.  Animals will fiercely defend their food, shelter, territory, and young.  This is especially important to remember during late winter and early spring when livestock may be giving birth.  When frightened or in pain, animals may react in ways that threaten their and our health and safety.  While livestock fatalities are not nearly as frequent as deaths involving tractors or machinery, animals are involved in more total accidents and with more work related accidents.  Typical animal-caused injuries to the handler range from cuts and sprains from falls, to broken bones and whole body injuries from being kicked, pushed, shoved, or run over by an animal.

Livestock handlers must be fully aware of the different ways livestock and humans react to certain situations.  Handlers must remain in control of potentially dangerous situations and avoid actions which make them vulnerable to injury.  The more predictable our actions, the less likely we are to injure livestock or be injured.  The better we understand livestock, the less risk of the animals harming us or themselves.

Observing animals to determine their temperament can alert the handler to possible danger.  These signs include raised or pinned ears, raised tail or hair on the back, bared teeth, pawing the ground, and snorting.  Male animals are always dangerous.  Males of some breeds are more aggressive than others, but protective females, especially new mothers, can be just as dangerous.  Often injuries occur from animals that do not openly exhibit aggression or fear.  This reaction may be triggered by excitement caused, for example, by a person walking nearby.  Typical injuries from this type of situation are usually a result of being kicked, bitten, stepped on, or squeezed between the animal and a solid structure as the animal tries to flee.

Treat livestock with respect.  Always know where you are and where the animal is in relation to you when you are working with livestock.  Never overlook warning signs exhibited by animals being handled.

An ounce of patience when handling livestock will be worth a pound of good working relationship when farm animals are concerned.  Take time to understand how animals respond to various situations.  This understanding should reduce the potential for accidents.

Source: Introduction to Livestock Safety, Auburn University


Cost Saving Horse Care Ideas

By Monte Stauffer, Nebraska Extension Educator - Livestock

Image of horse in winter. Cost Saving Horse Care Ideas, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights December 2015. and caring for a horse may be challenging during tough economic times.  Following are ideas to consider that may make the situation more tolerable:

  • Consider borrowing, leasing, or sharing a horse.  Some horse owners are willing to share a horse that isn’t being used much but are not willing to sell it.  This also gives you a chance to see just how interested in having a horse your family is.
  • Attend clinics put on by more experienced horseman to learn how to ride and care for your horse rather than having a personal trainer or consultant.
  • Acquire used tack and equipment at tack swaps or auctions rather than purchasing only new equipment.  Some equipment can be shared with other area horse owners.
  • Schedule health and hoof care events for horse owners in your area or club to avoid paying call fees for someone to come out just for your horse.  Even consider giving your own vaccinations and dewormers.
  • Consider using electric wire or tape to confine your horses rather than pipe or wood fencing.
  • Feed only the nutrients your horses need.  Over feeding can be just as detrimental to your horse’s health as underfeeding.  Buying grain in bulk can be cheaper than buying bagged grain.  Purchase hay when it is the cheapest such as during the summer right out of the field.
  • Utilize pastures and exercise lots effectively to reduce purchased hay and bedding usage.
  • Shoe your horse only when needed.  Most horses don’t need to be shod but maintain proper hoof care.