July 30, 2007
Contact: Sally A. Flis, or Everett D. Thomas, Miner Institute, 518-846-7121 x126, 115

Survey Results Measure Copper on Northeast Dairy Farms;
NNY Research Trials Evaluate Effects on Grass and Corn Crops

As part of dairy industry research funded by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program, a survey is underway to determine the current average application rates of copper on Northeast farms. The use of copper sulfate in footbaths to prevent hoof ailments in dairy cows can affect crop yield, forage content, and how quickly a field reaches its regulated limit for copper load. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has set a lifetime field load limit for copper at 74 lbs/acre.

Sixty-one (61) New York farms have responded to a survey sent to dairies in NY, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

University of Vermont Ph.D. graduate student Sally A. Flis working with the William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute in Chazy, NY, has been researching how the copper in the discarded footbath solution applied with manure affects grass and corn crops. She has conducted three studies to establish baseline and tracking data for the use of the copper sulfate solutions in the region.

Copper sulfate is twenty-five percent (25%) copper by weight. A 2001 survey that showed an average of 2.14 lbs/acre of copper was imported onto farms in Vermont and New York at that time. A survey in 2004 showed an average import of about 1.37 lbs of copper per acre. The 2007 survey showed that the equivalent of an average import of 2.1 pounds of copper per acre. Crops remove on average 0.09 lbs of copper per acre per year. The application rates calculated for the earlier surveys were based on total acres; the 2007 survey used a calculated number of acres based on total tillable acres and the percent receiving manure that was reported by the producer.

Flis says the average for the 2007 survey represents a much larger number of farms surveyed across the multi-state area and the application rates for the three survey years do not represent a trend.

The 2007 survey results also show:
� seventy-three percent (73%) of the farms returning surveys use footbaths
� the average size of farms using the footbaths was 433 lactating cows
� the average size of the farms not using footbaths was 63 lactacting cows
� copper sulfate was the solution used by eighty-three percent (83%) of the farms using footbaths
� eighty-eight percent (88%) of the farms using footbaths discarded used solution intomanure storages.
� twenty-four percent (24%) of all farms responding use copper footbaths with all their animals
� half of the farms used the footbaths only for lactacting cows.

Grass Crops May Be More Affected than Corn
Earlier this year, the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program and Miner Institute issued the results of research on how the copper in discarded footbaths that is applied with manure and accumulates in the soil affects grass and corn crops. That research shows:
� copper toxicity affects plant roots first
� concentrations in the roots of timothy and orchardgrass grown on sandy loam soil at Miner Institute showed that as copper concentrations in manure applications increased, the desired regrowth of shoots (tillering rate) and the dry weight of shoots and roots decreased.
� copper levels in the shoots of the timothy and orchardgrass crops increased but were within normal range for concentration of the mineral in the plants (0-50 ppm).
� an increased copper load can cause orchardgrass and timothy crops to suffer a grass shoot weight loss equivalent to 339 lbs of productions per acre (greenhouse studies).

�The results of this research cause concern about how continued disposal of copper sulfate footbaths into manure systems will decrease the longevity and yield of the grass stands,� says Everett D. Thomas, vice-president of agricultural programs at the William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute. �There may also be concern for a larger decrease in these perennial grasses� regrowth rate and yield loss in drought conditions.�

Flis says a one-year application totaling less than 17 lbs/acre of copper from dairy manure applied at a rate of 4,900 gallons per acre does not appear to negatively affect the growth, yield or plant copper in corn crops, but �continued research is needed on how multiple high application rates of copper sulfate affect corn since a single application of dairy manure to corn is not a common practice.�

Grass & Corn Research and Analysis Continues in 2007
The research at Miner Institute on copper sulfate�s effect on grass and corn crops continues in 2007. Trials with reed canary grass and with all three grasses - reed canary grass, timothy and orchardgrass - on silt loam soil in 2006 experienced difficulties. The reed canary grass died after the first cut; the silt loam soil trials did not germinate well. Those trials are being rerun this year along with trials evaluating the copper sulfate�s affect on alfalfa and corn crops.

Miner Institute has reduced its use of copper sulfate footbaths with its dairy herd by sixty percent by employing diligent hoof trimming practices and rubber mats to manage cow hoof health.

Data from the 2007 footbaths survey is still being analyzed and a complete report is expected later this year. A summary of 2007 research will be posted on the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website at www.nnyagdev.org.

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is a farmer-led program that funds on-farm research, education and outreach for Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. The Program goals include strengthening production practices and profitability for all types of agricultural businesses in the region. To learn more about the copper footbaths research and other projects on NNY farms, go online to www.nnyagdev.org.