Peter Hagar is an agricultural educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County, 6064 Rt. 22, Plattsburgh, N.Y., 12901. Phone 561-7450.

While I made the trip out to check the cows this morning, I realized that it was time to change my daily and seasonal routines. There is a dusting of snow on the ground and a layer of ice on the water tub.

Winter hasn't officially begun, but there is no denying that it is coming soon. The next three months will be kept occupied by a lot of waiting, planning, wishing and hoping. I realize on March 20 the weather will not suddenly turn mild nor thaw the ground, but as we start to see colder weather arrive, I can hope the end of winter comes sooner rather than later. Winter is a time of dormancy for the plants we grow, but dairy farmers still have to milk their cows, livestock growers still have to feed and water their stock, apple growers have to prune their trees and all farmers have to plan for next year.

Because our growing season is so short, farmers need to plan well ahead to ensure timely planting and harvest of next year's crops. Even while closing the books on 2011, many farmers have already been calculating their future needs, ordering seed and fertilizer and, as always, trying to keep an optimistic view of the future.

Farmers are, by nature, forward looking. While this year was filled with ups and downs, next year could be better — or worse. While you can't bank on success, you can start planning for it now.

One of the reasons that farmers keep an upbeat outlook is farming is a long-term endeavor. Farmers have a lot of history to look back on for encouragement. Since humans first started cultivating crops and domesticating livestock thousands of years ago, farming methods have continued to improve and production has increased year after year.

In the last 100 years, agricultural production has increased at an unprecedented rate. Farmers are also under ever increasing pressure to produce more and more food for our growing populations. These recent increases can be attributed in large part to advances in farming methods, machinery and modern technology.

The long winter months are an ideal time for farmers to explore new ideas and learn about new techniques and methods of production. During summer, it is almost impossible to get away from the farm, with a steady workload of planting, mowing, harvesting and routine chores filling up almost every hour of the day. Winter offers a chance to get away from the farm for learning opportunities, meetings and workshops.

Kicking off this season of learning was the recent Dairy Day at Miner Institute held this past Wednesday. Dozens of dairy farmers from Northern New York, Vermont and Quebec attended the event and learned about the economic benefits of improved cow comfort, proper stall design and ventilation.

As dairy herds get larger and proper management becomes even more critical, taking another look at cow comfort is even more important. Research shows that cows value typically spend 50 percent of their time lying down resting. Proper stall size, thickness of bedding and cow comfort all have a positive effect on milk production and cow health.

Cornell Cooperative Extension and Miner Institute have several other events coming up in January. Starting Jan. 19, a Transition Cow Management course will be the focus of the next Northern New York Dairy Institute training course. The four-session course is especially designed for farm personnel with the responsibility for the care and feeding of transition cows and cow management advisers.

Shortly after that, the new Northern New York Crops Management School will provide farm owners and employees with critical information on the production of corn, soybeans and forage crops. Beginning Jan. 31 and being held at Miner Institute, the Crops Management School will provide training on soils and nutrient management and how to cope with weeds, insects and crop diseases.

For more information or to register for these courses, contact Anita Deming at 962-4810, Ext. 409, or email anitademing@cornell.edu.

Shortly after these events, Miner Institute's annual Crop Congress is scheduled for February 22.

Many other meetings, workshops and conferences are also in the works. For more information about other upcoming programs, look for announcements in the Press-Republican farm briefs section or check the calendar on our website at www.counties.cce.cornell.edu/clinton.

In addition, feel free to contact your local office of the Cornell Cooperative Extension at 561-7450 or email me at phh7@cornell.edu.

Peter Hagar, agriculture program educator, Cornell Cooperative Extension Clinton County, 6064 Rt. 22, Plattsburgh, 12901. Call 561-7450.

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