The Winter of 2019; A case for stockpiled forages and feeding pads!

– Victor Shelton, NRCS State Agronomist/Grazing Specialist

I wasn’t going to talk about the weather in this issue. I will say though, that I believe most livestock producers are really appreciating any rock pads that they have built. It’s one thing to have snow on top of ice, but in much of the state, that was over the top of mud. I also was a bit envious of the northern portion of the state that I’ve referred to before as being in semi permafrost, until the polar vortex hit.

Heavy forage cover helps to reduce negative impact on soils, but even that has met its challenges this winter. (Photo: Chris Hollen)

I really don’t mind mud occasionally, it’s certainly expected in the livestock business, but not for weeks or months on end. Most producers are done grazing for the winter or their pasture wishes they were done. The impact of a bunch of cows on water saturated soils can be quite disturbing, no pun intended.

Areas with heavy vegetation from stockpiled forage are also barely able to hold up, even moving animals every day. If there is not much vegetation left, then the chance of it being “plowed” is Continue reading

Forage Focus: Soil Health Concerns After a Year of Waterlogged Pastures and Hay Fields

In this month’s Forage Focus podcast, host Christine Gelley, an Extension Educator with The Ohio State University Agriculture & Natural Resources in Noble County, talks with Jefferson/Harrison County ANR Educator Erika Lyon about soil health, especially as it relates to the damage down to Ohio’s forage fields during a year of constantly waterlogged and trampled soils.

Winter Grazing Stockpiled Forages, and Frost Seeding

– Victor Shelton, NRCS State Agronomist/Grazing Specialist

Extreme frost-heaving of the soil. (Photo: NRCS Victor Shelton)

It is 45 degrees outside today as I write this article. I normally appreciate mild winter weather, but when it rains, and temperatures remain above freezing, except for a frivolous teasing of heavy frosts, a pasture can get pretty ugly. I for one wouldn’t mind a little free concrete right now, you know, frozen ground. For many of us, 2018 was an extremely wet year. Some parts of Indiana, including where I live ended up with over 60 inches of rain. That makes me think of a Clint Eastwood quote, “If you think it’s going to rain, it will.”

Strip grazing stockpiled forage is usually a delight. Of course, it is best accomplished under dry or frozen conditions. If the pasture of stockpile is heavy (at least 3,000 pounds of dry matter per acre), then it can often be grazed even under fairly wet conditions without too much long-term damage but, you will need to have a watchful eye.

Under wet conditions make sure you are providing sufficient Continue reading

Now is the Time to Reflect, and Plan

Chris Penrose, OSU Extension Educator, Agriculture & Natural Resources, Morgan County

At times I wonder what is worse; a drought like we had in 2012 or 1988, or a wet year like we had this year? As a beef and forage producer, I guess I would rather have a year like this one but it has and still is providing challenges. In 2012, hay and pasture was short but the panic set in when I started to run out of water. We have had plenty of pasture and water this year but making hay was a real challenge. I was able to get some up in May but I still had some first cutting that I did not get in until July.

This is where reflecting and planning can meet. What are the needs of our cattle right now and what type of hay should we feed first? For me, the first hay I fed to my cows was some late cut hay that got rained on. The calves have been weaned and there was still some pasture that could be grazed. Feeding higher quality hay, especially that protected from the elements, can be fed closer to calving.

Do you still have some hay fields that may not have had a last cutting that can be grazed or pastures that still have grass? For many situations, now is a Continue reading

Manage Stockpiled Forages Efficiently

– Victor Shelton, NRCS State Agronomist/Grazing Specialist

Cows happily grazing stockpiled forage. (Chris Hollen photo)

I’m not really sure where this year went. At least for me, it seems like it should still be October, but the weather outside indicates a different message. Grazing activity for a lot of producers starts slowing down this time of year. If you are still grazing, and I hope you are, then you are probably grazing stockpiled forage, fall-planted annuals, or crop residue or a combination of all three.

I would encourage everyone to manage this forage efficiently. Allocating it out in smaller allotments is certainly worth pursuing. The smaller the portion allocated; the shorter the grazing period, and the higher the efficiency. You want this feed to last as long as practical and still meet the livestock needs. At this point, you are basically “feeding” standing hay but with some exceptions – no tractor, mower, rake or baler required, and the waste products are automatically redistributed back to the place of origin where they will do the most good. Now, it does take Continue reading

Posted in Pasture

Make Plans for How to Adapt for Changes in Weather

– Victor Shelton, NRCS State Agronomist/Grazing Specialist

Quality looking fall forage waiting to go dormant. Once dormant it can be grazed with less harm to energy reserves.

I mentioned last month that there are still plenty of good growing days left this fall and they need to be taken advantage of. One of the first things to do to make sure you obtain as much plant growth as possible, especially with perennial forages, is to stop grazing forages that will continue to grow for a while, especially forages that will stockpile like tall fescue. Now, I don’t think anyone would’ve predicted it would be almost 70 degrees the day before Halloween. I remember quite well going Trick-or-Treating as a kid with snow on the ground a few times. It’s not the same weather pattern these days, that’s for sure.

Whether you believe in global warming or not is a deeper subject than I really want to get into in one of these articles, but it’s not hard to see though that we are in a warmer trend than four or five decades ago. I read an article recently that showed photos of cycling races over several decades. Clips from the 1980’s showed trees with bare to pretty much leaf-less limbs. Most recent photos showed trees covered with leaves and spring flowers. Pictures don’t lie.

You want to plan for how Continue reading

Posted in Pasture

Now is a Great Time to Manage Fescue

Chris Penrose, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Morgan County

If fescue is a problem on your farm, now is a great time to get it under control. I think it is good to start off talking about why it is a problem, how did it get to be a problem, are there some redeeming qualities, and finally, how to get it under control if it is a problem.

Why it is a problem?

If you have “infected” fescue, animals may develop health problems and result in reduced performance. This is caused by a microscopic fungus (endophyte) in the plant that produces alkaloids and problems for animals. Horses can have prolonged pregnancies, little milk production, abortions, and other problems. Ruminants can have hoof loss, increases body temperatures, rough hair coats or fleeces, and other internal issues.

How did it get to be a problem?

Tall fescue (especially Kentucky 31) was quickly recognized in the 1940’s for its conservation qualities of establishing on poor soils and holding the soil. In addition, it was recognized for the year-round grazing value. By 1946, Kentucky growers were harvesting 4,000,000 pounds of seed per year, so a lot was planted.

If you do not want fescue on your farm, the problem of having it happens for a couple reasons. First, infected fescue is Continue reading

Posted in Pasture

Be Careful Grazing the Green This Fall

– Sean Kelly, South Dakota State University Extension

With fall grazing upon us, some areas of the Midwest and Central Plains have been blessed with plenty of precipitation this year and other areas are still experiencing drought conditions. Regardless of where your ranch is located, a rancher must be very careful when grazing the fall green up of cool season grasses.

Figure 1. Warm season and cool season growth curves. Source: South Dakota Grassland Coalition Healthy Grasslands.

Cool season grasses have two growing seasons (Figure 1). They grow in the spring and early summer and then get another growth spurt in the fall. Warm season grasses grow later in the season during the summer and late summer and do not get another green up in the fall of the year.

Extreme diligence must be taken not to overgraze during the fall green up of cool season grasses. During the fall green up, cool season grasses are Continue reading

Avoid Forage Toxicities After Frosts

Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist

As cold weather approaches this week, livestock owners need to keep in mind the few forage species that can be extremely toxic soon after a frost. Several species contain compounds called cyanogenic glucosides that are converted quickly to prussic acid (i.e. hydrogen cyanide) in freeze-damaged plant tissues. A few legumes species have an increased risk of causing bloat when grazed after a frost. Each of these risks is discussed in this article along with precautions to avoid them.

Species with prussic acid poisoning potential

Forage species that can contain prussic acid are listed below in decreasing order of risk of toxicity after a frost Continue reading

Despite a Hay Making Season to Forget, Options Remain!

Stan Smith, OSU Extension PA, Fairfield County (originally published in The Ohio Farmer on-line)

I know I’ve shared this story before, but considering the weather most of Ohio experienced, it’s appropriate to tell it again. Dad was a mechanic for a local farm implement dealer. Once while out on a service call in mid-summer he asked the farmer if he’d gotten his first cutting hay made. The response – in a deep German accent – was, “Yes, it got made . . . but it rained so much I never got it baled.”

Despite that being the case in many parts again this year, we still have an abundance of feedstuffs available that will maintain beef cows efficiently when managed properly. With Ohio farmers harvesting more than 3 million acres of corn this year, a brood cow’s feed supply could easily be extended by utilizing crop residue. Corn residue is practical for feeding dry, gestating beef cows in mid gestation providing they have average or better body condition. Plus, it’s also the perfect crop to utilize during the time Continue reading