Forage Testing; More than just nutrient analysis?

Al Gahler, OSU Extension Educator, Ag and Natural Resources, Sandusky County

Without a doubt, the forage sampling probe will be one of the most valuble tools you utilize in 2019!

By now you are certainly aware that the shortage of forage type feeds for all classes of livestock is a significant issue for livestock producers in Ohio and all around the country. Mother nature crippled many hayfields over the winter and early spring, and then did not allow us to make good hay in a timely manner due to constant rains throughout spring and early summer. This reality, combined with an abundance of prevented plant acres from traditional crops that were not put in the ground led to many cover crops being grown all over the state with intent to be harvested for forages.

While many of these cover crops are being grazed now and will continue to be into winter and even spring, many of them were grown in places that we simply cannot get livestock too, and in some cases, we simply needed to process that feed anyway in order to utilize it in complete rations. This scenario has certainly helped alleviate the hay shortage issue, but in some cases has created some potential issues that most Continue reading

Feeding High Ash Forages

Bill Weiss, Department of Animal Sciences

Forage analysis is suggesting that in some cases soil conditions at harvest of some of our cover crop forages is increasing ash concentration by 6 or more percentage points.

We have received reports of some forages, including cover crops that were planted in later summer, having very high concentrations of ash. Ash in forages is comprised of minerals contained within the plant (for example, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and copper) and soil contamination that was either splashed onto the surface of the plant while in the field or was picked up during harvest. On average cool season grasses such as orchardgrass or fescue harvested as hay or silage have about 7-9% ash and legumes such as alfalfa harvested as hay or silage average 10-12% ash. Generally mineral concentrations decrease as plants mature and is greater in forages grown in soils that contain high concentrations of available potassium (luxury consumption). These factors will change plant ash concentrations but generally by only a few percentage points.

On the other hand, harvest practices and soil conditions at harvest can increase ash concentrations by 5 to more than 15 percentage points with only small changes occurring in major mineral concentrations. Soil contamination can greatly increase concentrations of trace minerals especially iron, manganese, and aluminum. A study from the University of Delaware evaluated the composition of Continue reading

The Cost of Overwintering Open Cows

– Jordan Buerck, Research Assistant and Brenda Boetel, Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Wisconsin-River Falls

As winter in the Midwest begins in full force, one of the more important decisions for producers is whether or not to continue feeding open cows throughout the winter period in hopes of attaining higher market value for that animal in the spring. This decision must be analyzed based on each individual’s location and access to feed and labor. Typically, the cull cow market reaches a seasonal low in November and December due to the large influx of cull cows and cull bulls on the market. Following the 1st of the year, the market routinely increases and reaches a high in July and August.

The simplest method of managing open cows is to sell immediately following pregnancy checking from September-November, while the cull cow market is on its descent. According to USDA NASS data, between 2016-18, national cull cow prices averaged $61/cwt, placing the gross value of a 1200lb cow at $732. With this marketing decision, there are no costs associated with an open animal after determining that she is not carrying a calf. During years of high feed prices, this may be the most financially responsible decision, provided the cull cow market isn’t too depressed at the time of selling and that BCS is adequate. Under this system it is crucial to Continue reading

Grass Awns Can Cause Significant Medical Problems to Animals

Tim McDermott DVM, OSU Extension Educator, Franklin County (originally published in Farm and Dairy)

Because foxtail awn are shaped similar to a lawn dart, they can become lodged somewhere in a grazing animal and medical or surgical care may be required in order to remove it safely.

It seems like foxtail grass has taken over every pasture and hay field in Ohio in 2019. My good friend and Extension colleague, Clif Martin, wrote an excellent article detailing “How to Fight Foxtail in Forages” in the October 3rd, 2019 All About Grazing column in Farm and Dairy. I highly recommend you review this article to learn strategies to manage this weed. If his article is not enough to get you motivated, then hopefully this article will.

Foxtail is not only a weed competitor and invader of your hay and pasture fields, but it also can cause some significant medical problems for grazing livestock, horses and companion animals. Take a close look at the picture of a foxtail awn. It is very tiny as you can see in comparison to the dime placed for reference. Note that its shape is similar to a lawn dart, which means that it can only travel in one direction, point first. Depending on what species variety of foxtail grass present, this places the seed heads with grass awns very close to the feet, mouth, ears, eyes and nostrils of grazing animals, livestock guard dogs, and horses as they move through fields either walking, running or grazing. That puts these species of animals at risk for Continue reading

Forages and Foxtail

– Clif Martin, OSU Extension Muskingum County (This article first appeared in Farm and Dairy)

Foxtail can easily invade bare spots in pasture and hay fields. Photo: Ohio State

Cool nights and pleasant warm days leave me thinking I can accomplish just about anything.  I may get so overconfident I think I can eliminate foxtail.

There are a handful of weeds out there that are regular offenders in hay and pastures and foxtail is one of them.  In the world of Extension topics, I can count on foxtail questions every fall and through winter into spring as animals begin to reject hay.  It comes in three forms: giant, green and yellow. Foxtails readily grow and are opportunistic colonizers of bare spaces.  They will creep into your pastures, your hayfields, soybean fields, lawns and field edges where there is an opportunity.  They are summer annuals and thrive by the ‘live fast and die hard’ model which means they produce a lot of seed, spread rapidly, die in the fall and return next year.  The foxtails are infamous for seeds that get caught in the gums of livestock which leads to animals rejecting feed and possibly getting infections in the mouth.

As a grass, they are easily overlooked before they enter the reproductive phase and set a seed head.  The vegetation itself is fine, but it is the seed head that causes all the trouble.  In the case of giant foxtail, I learned to easily recognize it as the plant I could walk out into a field and shake hands with.  That sets it apart from most other grasses in shape and form.  The seed head is Continue reading

Your Hay Storage Impacts Quality and Quanity

David Dugan, OSU Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Adams County

Where and how hay is stored can have a huge impact on the quality and quantity that’s available to be used for feed

With the calendar turning to November, and the temperatures dropping below freezing several mornings now, the time to feed hay is near, if not already here. Several have been feeding hay due to the pasture situation following a dry September that included several 90 degree plus days that zapped much of the grass.

I hope by now that samples have been pulled to get some idea of the nutrients in your hay so you can supplement when needed. Locally I have stressed the concern for hay quality for the passed few months and feel it is something many do not take as serious as maybe they should. The idea that I have heard time after time over the years is, it will beat snowballs, keeps coming to mind. That is a true statement, but will it beat wheat straw? Maybe.

OK, enough about quality, I am now Continue reading

Stalks and Syrup

– Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler, Associate Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

This fall many producers are questioning if they will have enough hay to get through to spring. Tight hay supplies are making it difficult to find hay as well. Several folks were asking about baling soybeans that had empty pods and Dr. Teutsch addressed this in a previous article (http://news.ca.uky.edu/article/uk-offers-considerations-grazing-harvesting-drought-stressed-soybeans). Now questions regarding options for corn stalks are beginning to surface. Stalks can be an option but you need to consider a few things. The highest quality forage portions of corn crop residues are the leaves and husks. Residual corn left in the field is not going to be captured in the bales which lowers the feeding value compared to grazing the field. The cob and stalk are lower in digestibility than the husk and leaves. The stalk can comprise the majority of the bale. Protein levels can be variable in the 3-6% range which is insufficient for cattle. Protein supplementation will be needed when feeding stalks. The energy or Total Digestible Nutrient (TDN) level in corn stalk bales can also be variable ranging from 48-58% depending on the stalk to leaf/husk proportions. It is important that bales are tested for nutrient content. Stalks can retain a lot of moisture making baling and storing bales a challenge.

If corn stalks are being considered, they are best utilized when processed. Feeding stalk bales as one would hay bales in a ring feeder can lead to Continue reading

Searching for Opportunities

– Kevin Laurent, Beef Extension Specialist, Princeton Research and Education Center, University of Kentucky

To say that 2019 has been a challenging year would be a huge understatement. From the excessive rain the first half of the year, to the drought and depressed markets of late, 2019 will definitely be remembered as one of those years much like 2007, 2009 and 2012. Like most challenges in life, there always seems to be an opportunity if we just look hard enough. Some may think these so called opportunities are dressed in camouflage and I wouldn’t dare argue with you. However, there have been a few positive signs recently with the market trending higher and many areas receiving some rain. Although we are far from out of the woods on either front, there are a few strategies we can use to minimize losses now and improve our situation in the Continue reading

Cow-calf Producers Responding to Market Events and the Beginning of a Beef Cow Selloff

– Dr. Elliott Dennis, Assistant Professor, Livestock Marketing Economist, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nebraska – Lincoln

The Holcomb packing plant fire has certainly been a black swan event – rare, unpredictable and has had dramatic effects on the cattle industry. These dramatic effects have ranged from massive selloffs in the futures market, record packer profit margins coupled with increases in Saturday harvest numbers, and volatile feeder and fed cattle prices.[1] But to date, most of the cattle market commentary has focused on packing plant and feedlot responses. Little has focused on how cow-calf producers have responded due to this event and resulting feeder futures market volatility. Responses between these groups will be fundamentally different since packers and feedlots operate off margins whereas cow-calf operations rely on market price levels where profitability is largely driven by controlling costs (Bowman, Pendell, and Herbel 2019).

To illustrate the market uncertainty cow-calf producers were making decisions in this past year, let’s take a representative Northern Plains cow-calf producer who calves in Mar or Apr and then sells weaned calves in Oct. At calving, Oct 2019 feeder cattle futures prices were $157 per cwt. Poor planting conditions caused a run up on Continue reading

Get Your Cattle Ready for Winter Before the Snow Flies

Catelyn Turner, Agricultural and Natural Resource Educator, OSU Extension, Monroe County (originally published in Farm and Dairy)

By looking at six critical areas on a cow, we can determine a body condition score and then develop a feeding plan.

The past week has brought a few chilly mornings, as well as the thoughts that winter is coming sooner than we think. It feels like just last week we were having 70 – 80-degree weather! The brisk mornings we have had have meant wearing a light jacket on the commute to work, but just because we are cold doesn’t mean our cattle are cold, yet. Cattle typically have a lower comfort level at around 20 – 30 degrees Fahrenheit, as long as the weather conditions are dry with little to no wind chill. Once the temperature drops below this range cattle will need more feed for energy, or they will start to use their stored fat to maintain their body temperature. Planning for the winter season is always a good idea, especially when it comes to keeping our cows in an adequate Body Condition Score (BCS) range prior to calving.

The key to it all, in my opinion, is planning ahead. It is way easier and less stressful if we have a plan in place and have evaluated the Continue reading