Pasture Remnants and Recovery Following Flooding

 A version of this article by Christine Gelley was originally published by Farm and Dairy on July 20, 2017.

Summer 2017 has certainly been a wet one so far. Damage to agricultural land and crops has been noted across Ohio and beyond. Corn and bean setbacks seem to draw the most attention, but pasture damage is prevalent and concerning as well. Remediation of damaged pastures begins with evaluation.

Many of the forages used in our region are fairly resilient to submersion and waterlogged soils. How resilient they are depends on many factors including temperature, length of the stress period, depth of the water, growth stage of the plant, and silt deposition. Other associated concerns to be evaluated include stand age, animal activity, potential diseases related to flooding, erosion, and transport of weed seed from one property to another.

Warm temperatures increase the rate of plant damage and death, which is partially why summer flooding can cause more damage to plant tissue than spring floods. The longer the water sits and the deeper it becomes, the greater the chances for plant death. Standing water is more detrimental than flowing water. The more leaves that reach above the water surface, the better. Erosion will create soil fertility issues and silt deposition may suffocate some plants. Most of our common forages will tolerate 2 inches of deposited silt or less without substantial damage.

Actively growing alfalfa will typically recover from 3 days submerged. Phytophthora scouting should be done about a month following flooding and action taken if detected. Ryegrass and orchardgrass will survive several days submerged and tall fescue will persist even longer. Legumes tend to be less tolerant of submersion than grasses, but can persist exposed in waterlogged soils for extended periods. Alfalfa can typically survive 1-2 weeks of waterlogged soils, while white clover can tolerate up to three weeks, and red clover up to four weeks.

Water flow patterns can flush soil, weed seeds, manure, and microbes into flooded pastures and cause concerns for animal health. If deposited silt levels are too high, animals may accidently consume substantial amounts while grazing, which can cause digestive issues. Weed seeds can be swept into the pasture and establish themselves in the damaged areas, crowding out the desirable forages during flood recovery. Detrimental weeds taking over damaged areas will reduce intake of high quality forages and may pose risks if poisonous plants become established. In times of pasture stress, animals are more likely to consume poisonous plants in an effort to find enough to eat. Microbes and parasites are also easily transported into grazing pastures if water flows through an area of manure or sewage storage. It would be best to wait a week or two to return animals to pastures that have been flooded with tainted water. This will help maintain good herd health. Also, do not return animals to the pasture and/or use equipment in waterlogged areas until you can travel through the field without compressing the soil. Grasses that form a thick sod will be able to accommodate grazing more quickly than bunch type grasses.

Once the water has drained from the pasture and the soil, investigate if there are any management decisions you could make now to reduce damage if a duplicate flooding event occurred. Consider reseeding heavily damaged areas. Choose varieties that will withstand the conditions of your operation. Consider planting an annual forage to compensate in such areas as an emergency crop while you plan for the long term. Planting an annual forage will reduce further erosion, provide competition for weeds, and supply feed for animals more quickly than perennials. Annual ryegrass offers excellent tolerance to poorly drained soils, wheat has good tolerance, while oats, rye, and sorghum-sudangrass offer fair tolerance.

When the flood has receded and the sunshine returns, look forward to the future. Remember what you have learned and imagine the possibilities of tomorrow, rather than dwelling on the troubles of yesterday.

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Livestock Mortality Composting

Livestock death is an unfortunate reality that comes with the territory of farming. Inadvertent mortalities can occur as a result of predation, illness, and accidents. Although it is unpleasant to address, safe disposal of a perished livestock animal is a necessary task. The Ohio Department of Agriculture administers the regulations on allowable methods of disposal, which include: incineration, burial, rendering, or composting. Rendering plants have diminished in the local area, burial causes concerns about ground water pollution, and incineration can be quite expensive. Of all the options for disposal, composting is one of the most effective and efficient methods; especially for small scale farms that have large size livestock.

In Ohio, cattle, horses, poultry, sheep, goats, and swine may all be composed on-farm, given that the operator has secured certification through a sponsored training course. Composting is a natural biological process in which fresh organic material (in this case an animal carcass) is converted into stabilized organic residue. Although it is the same general principle, livestock mortality composting is trickier than composting kitchen scraps. Therefore, it is important that farms who chose to compost complete adequate training.

A Livestock Mortality Composting Training Course sponsored by Noble and Washington County OSU Extension will be offered from 6-8 p.m. on January 31 at the Southeast Region Extension Office. Producers who attend the course will become certified to compost the livestock previously mentioned in Ohio. The registration cost is $10 per person which will include a training manual and light refreshments. Official certificates of completion will be mailed to participants following the training. Call 740-732-5681 to register as soon as possible.

Sweep Up Those Stink Bugs

This article by Christine Gelley was originally published in The Journal on January 16, 2017.

The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is causing frustration for home owners and farmers across America. These shielded, flying, stout, and brown insects are thought to have invaded the US from Asia in the mid-90s. Since the first one was positively identified in 2001 by Penn State they have spread across the country and now pose threats worth $21 billion to specialty food crops annually. They cause damage to many food crops including fruits, vegetables, and grains.

There are many different kinds of less common stink bugs in our region that including beneficial, predatory stink bugs. This past week I identified a type of stink bug I hadn’t seen before that was collected from a Noble County home after the holidays. It was distinctly different from the BMSB and turned out to be the twice-stabbed stink bug. Stink bugs do not create structural damage to homes, nor are they a problem if consumed by pets, and they do not bite. However, they are a severe annoyance and threat to American commodities. Damage from the BMSB sends a significant amount of valuable fresh fruits and vegetables to be processed and canned, instead of marketed whole and fresh each year. It is the BMSB that is most likely causing you distress at home this winter.

They enter your home in search of a place to overwinter until Spring. Their large size and ability to fly long distances makes it difficult to ignore their presence. They persistently enter homes through any crack or crevice they can fit through. Pesticides are unnecessary and generally ineffective tools for home control. The best way to keep stink bugs out, is to eliminate their way in by sealing cracks, door frames, windows, and utility access areas in your home. If you have them in your home, don’t be ashamed. Everyone does. Don’t let them get cozy. Find them. Sweep them up with a vacuum. Catch them in a pheromone trap. Drop them in soapy water. Freeze them. Smash them. Compost them. Whatever you prefer, stop them in their tracks. What serves as your annoyance this winter will become a severe agricultural pest this spring.

For addition information about the impact of the brown marmorated  stink bug and efforts to control it visit: www.StopBMSB.org.

Hay Testing for Efficient Winter Feeding

Another version of this article by Christine Gelley was originally published by Farm and Dairy on January 5, 2017.

It’s January in Ohio. Most graziers are probably feeding a good portion of hay as a part of their animals’ daily ration. Even if there is a supply of stockpiled forage available, we tend to make hay available just in case they need a little extra. It is likely that grain is also part of that daily ration. Well, how do you know how much hay, grain, and pasture they need? No one wants to leave their animals hungry. In addition, we don’t want to waste time or money with unnecessary feeding. Figuring out the balance can seem like a guessing game, but a great place to start is with a hay test.

Testing the hay you are feeding is well worth the price of sample analysis. Collecting a sample is not complicated and typically results are available from the lab within two weeks. You can acquire the tools and kits on your own to submit samples, or you can find them at most county Extension offices and often from Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Ag co-ops usually offer sample analysis services as well. Whoever you chose to go through, be sure to select the analysis package that will give you the detailed results you desire. The package that costs the least will probably still leave you guessing. My typical suggestion is to select a test that will give you values for moisture, crude protein (CP), acid detergent fiber (ADF), neutral detergent fiber (NDF), total digestible nutrients (TDN), and Relative Feed Value (RFV). Once you receive the results of your analysis, the challenge of interpreting the values arises. How do you know what values are good or bad?

Your hay test results will list values on a dry matter (DM) and an as-fed basis. Nutrients will appear to be higher for DM basis, because all the remaining water (% moisture) in the hay has been factored out. For CP, values of 8% or greater are desired. For ADF, lower is better. Increased ADF values equal decreased digestibility. Neutral detergent fiber is the amount of total fiber in the sample, which is typically above 60% for grasses and above 45% for legumes. As NDF increases, animal intake generally decreases. For TDN and RFV, the greater the values, the more desirable the forage. These values are useful for comparing your forage to other feeds available on the market. Once you have these values compiled you can start formulating rations based on nutritional values of the hay.

First, consider the needs of your animal. Stage of life, current weight, desired weight, and environmental conditions are all important factors. For the sake of an example, let’s assume we are developing a ration for a growing Angus heifer. Currently, she weighs about 800 lbs. and we want her to gain about 200 lbs. by the end of March. Ideally, we would like her to gain about 2 lbs./day. Now, let’s take a look at a hay test example and assume it is for our hay (see Figure 1.1).

Figure 1.1:

Sample #: Field 1
Sample Type Fescue Hay
Moisture (%) 15.91
Dry Matter (%) 84.09
Crude Protein (DM%) 12.53
Fiber ADF (DM%) 37.79
Fiber NDF (DM%) 72.03
Total Digestible Nutrients 59
Relative Feed Value 77

According to the information from our hay sample and the recommendations from the National Research Council for beef cows, we could expect this animal to eat about 21 lbs. of hay daily and gain 1.75 lb./day, coming in just short of our goal. This hay should be adequate for meeting the heifer’s energy needs as her main feedstuff. If we think it is worth the investment, supplementing with some high energy, high protein grain could help reach our desired average daily gain (ADG).

Soybean meal has an average of about 44% CP. Supplementing 1-2 lbs. of soybean meal (a pelleted form will increase animal intake) should provide the additional nutrition to reach our goal. Whole shell corn is about 9% CP, which is lower than the CP content of our hay. Unless we are concerned about our hay supply, supplementing corn may not be significantly beneficial.

This was just one example of how a hay test can help with the development of livestock rations. Recommendations will vary depending on types of hay, time of year, animal species, stage of life, and production goals. With so much possible variation, every little bit of knowledge we can secure is helpful for developing production goals and expectations.

Hay tests may not reveal ideal results and they can vary drastically between cuttings. That is the reality of attempting to manage nature. We can rarely do anything under ideal circumstances, but we do the best we can. As you look ahead to the next growing season and putting up hay once again, do everything you can to efficiently improve forage quality and nutritive value of your stored resources. The better the nutritive value of your forage, the less you will need to supplement and the more money you can keep in your pocket. Testing and formulating rations takes some effort, but once it becomes routine it will come with greater ease.

With that, I will leave you with a quote from Jim Rohn, “Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals.”

 

Recycle Your Christmas Tree

If you featured a live tree in your home this holiday season, don’t sell your tree’s life short by leaving it out on the curb for trash pickup. Yes, the holidays have passed and it may be time to change your home decor once again, but that doesn’t have to be the end of life for your Christmas tree. Live trees are 100% recyclable. Here are some great ways to recycle your tree:

  1. Redecorate it as a Bird Feeder- This is a great project for kids and grown-ups alike. Find a place outside where you can leave your tree this winter, ideally within sight from a household window. Relocate your tree and decorate it with food for the birds. Dry fruit, grains, and seeds make excellent bird food. Make your own edible ornaments by decorating pinecones with peanut butter and bird seed. Use biodegradable twine or cotton yarn to hang the pinecones on the tree. Redecorate as needed through the winter and enjoy the sights and sounds of those who visit.
  2. Sink it in a Private Fish Pond- Christmas trees make great fish habitat. Sink your tree by attaching it to a concrete block near a bank. Recycled trees can provide fish habitat for 5-7 years before being replaced.
  3. Chip It- Raw wood chips are useful as ground cover, weed control, animal bedding, and composting. Some communities offer tree collection events and then donate the chips for community service projects.

Reduce, reuse, recycle! Why not start the year off with a resolution to recycle? For addition information about recycling and how you can get involved click here to visit the National Christmas Tree Association‘s manual on Community Recycling Programs.

Caring for Christmas Trees

This article was originally published in The Journal on December 12, 2016.

Every year there is inevitable discussion about when it becomes appropriate to decorate for Christmas and when it is time to put décor away. As far as I am concerned, anytime is the right time if you are decorating your own home. I personally start getting decorations out about the second week of December and they’re typically stored away by Martin Luther King Jr. Day. That happens to be about 5 weeks of holiday cheer, which happens to be how long most cut and properly cared for Christmas trees will sustain their needles.

There is something special about a live tree at Christmas. Most are pleasantly fragrant, each is unique, and a wide variety of choices are available to suit your preferences. When selecting a tree for your home there are some helpful tips that you can keep in mind for a smooth transition:

  1. Measure-Think about where you want to put the tree before you bring one home. Measure the space and then take a tape measure with you and verify that the tree you choose will fit.
  1. Fresher is Better- A fresh tree should have rich color and flexible needles. Very few needles should fall from the tree when shaken. Once the tree is cut it begins to produce resin (a.k.a. “sap”) to seal the wound created by the cut. While this helps seal in moisture for a temporary time period, it must be removed in order to draw up additional water through the trunk. It is always a good idea to remove at least one inch of the trunk before placing your tree in water at home.
  1. Keep Your Tree Watered- Your tree stand should be able to hold at least 1 gallon of water. A fresh tree can draw up 2 quarts or more of water on the first day in the tree stand. Check the water level regularly (daily is ideal). The water line should always meet the cut trunk and never sit below the trunk. Water additives to preserve the tree are not necessary and have not been proven to increase needle retention. Plain tap water is sufficient. A dry tree is a fire hazard and also a mess to remove from your home. Remember that lights on the tree create heat, which could increase the risk of a fire. Damaged cords and overloaded outlets are also concerns. Mini lights and LED lights produce less heat than traditional bulbs, but it is still a good idea to turn lights off at night or when no one is home to reduce the risk of fire.
  1. Consider Recycling: After the tree has fulfilled its purpose, consider recycling the remaining material. These trees make great composed mulch and also can enhance wildlife habitats.
Robert Vidéki, Doronicum Kft., Bugwood.org

Robert Vidéki, Doronicum Kft., Bugwood.org

Basic Disease Prevention Goes a Long Way in Herd Health

This article was also printed in the October 31 edition of The Journal.

Caring for groups of livestock and groups of young children share many similarities when it comes to disease prevention and control. I am reminded of this a week after Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD) came home with our daughter for the third time since August. Since they often inhabit the same spaces, they eat, drink, and play together. Both young children and livestock taste surfaces while exploring their environments. It’s wonderful for developing social skills and also wonderful for spreading pathogens. Neither toddlers or livestock can effectively wash their bodies after every encounter with an infected individual or contaminated surface. As caregivers, we have to do our best to prevent disease from entering the system, because once it is there, control becomes increasingly challenging. Some illnesses can be treated effectively with antibiotics, but the more we use antibiotics, the greater resistance is built within the bacterial population. Not to mention, that viruses (like HFMD) cannot be treated with antibiotics. Given all this, the best way to fight illness is through prevention.

Beginning on January 1, 2017 Veterinary Feed Directives (VFD) will be required for use of any fed antibiotics for livestock that are also medically important for humans. A VFD is similar to a prescription, but does not need to be filled by a pharmacist, only approved by your veterinarian. Feed stores can continue to sell feeds and minerals containing antibiotics, but the seller must have a current VFD to buy them. Antibiotic feeds have been used for years as ways to prevent and treat bacterial illnesses in livestock and this has helped improve herd health. In conjunction, antibiotic feeds have been used unethically by some parties to promote weight gain or to compensate for sub-par management practices. Research has shown and concluded that overuse of antibiotics increases resistance to their effectiveness in the long run. Therefore, it is important for human and animal health to only use antibiotics when disease is a present threat (not just suspected) and in an ethical manner.

There are many ways to stop disease before it starts and they have been identified for livestock producers in quality assurance (QA) guidelines. To quote the Good Production Practices (GPP) factsheet, “It is every animal owner’s responsibility to assure that proper management and welfare are at the core of animal care.” There are ten core GPPs:

  1. Use an appropriate veterinarian/client/patient relationship as the basis for medication decision-making.
  2. Establish and implement an efficient and effective health management plan.
  3. Use antibiotics responsibly.
  4. Properly store and administer animal health products.
  5. Follow proper feed processing protocols.
  6. Establish effective animal identification, medication records and withdrawal times.
  7. Practice good environmental stewardship.
  8. Maintain proper workplace safety.
  9. Provide proper animal care.
  10. Utilize tools for continuous improvement.

These are the core guidelines for herd health. Inevitably, disease will still get through our barriers on occasion. When it does consult your veterinarian about how to treat the herd, whether it be with medication, isolation of infected animals, or improved practices. The best things you can do in preparation for VFD implementation in 2017 is to establish and maintain a relationship with your veterinarian and follow QA guidelines.

Veterinary Feed Directive Regulations go into effect on

January 1, 2017!

Try, Try, Again

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This article was also printed in The Journal on October 3, 2016.

This spring I had an idea to start a project by planting some grass seed. I shared the idea with some of my mentors and colleagues and we got to work. It seemed simple enough, but I didn’t get the results that I hoped for. Despite my efforts to create good conditions for the seed, the grass did not establish. Instead, I grew a great big patch of weeds. Oh, how disappointing it was to see so many cocklebur plants and foxtail stems where my grass was supposed to be. I looked at it and wanted to throw in the towel. I had plans for that grass, but it wasn’t there. Now what do I do? Can I fight off these weeds? Do I give up on my project idea? Do I start all over? After thinking all this over and asking for advice, we decided that the project idea is still good. Just because the grass didn’t establish this spring, doesn’t mean it won’t this fall, or next spring. One thing is for sure, it certainly won’t if we don’t try. So far, it seems like this project has been a failure, but the only way it can really fail is if we give up. So, I am trying again.

My friend Doug had a similar experience this summer. Doug has specific plans in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to put in a strip of pollinator friendly plants along a section of his property. In order to follow the developed plan, he would have to wait until Spring 2017 to get started. Doug wanted to get a head start and do something beneficial this year. He had an idea to plant buckwheat this summer in the location where his pollinator plants would go in 2017. Buckwheat is a short-season annual plant that is versatile and low maintenance. Bees, butterflies, deer, and turkeys find it attractive, the grain can be used to make flour for human consumption, and it is very useful as a cover crop and green manure. After investigating his options and talking to people who had success growing buckwheat he decided to plant some.
Doug followed the directions for planting the seed, but the buckwheat didn’t come up within the timeframe he expected. He inspected the field and the only remnants of the seed he found were damaged or dead. He called me concerned that he had done something wrong. We kicked around ideas, but were unable to pinpoint exactly what happened. Despite the setback, Doug didn’t give up. He replanted the strip of land with a fresh supply of seed. At the beginning of September, I got a message from Doug with photos of a long strip of white flowers that read, “Hi Christine, So…What do you think of my buckwheat?” “Wow! It’s beautiful!”, I responded.

It truly was beautiful, not just the image of the gorgeous spicebush swallowtail butterfly that sat gracefully perched on a cluster of flowers, but the reassurance that what may appear to be failure on the first try, can blossom into success. Let’s face it, no one is an expert at something they’ve only tried once. We’ve heard the saying a hundred or more times, but let’s keep saying it so we don’t forget, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.”


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Farm Science Review 2016

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Farm Science Review (FSR) 2016 will be held Sept. 20-22 at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center near London, Ohio. Farm Science Review offers farmers and other visitors the opportunity to learn about the latest agricultural innovations from experts from the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at The Ohio State University.

Farm Science Review offers visitors nearly 180 educational presentations and opportunities presented by educators, specialists and faculty from Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC).  Annually FSR draws between 110,000 and 130,000 farmers, growers, producers and agricultural enthusiasts from across the U.S. and Canada and offers more than 4,000 product lines from 630 commercial exhibitors. To view the full schedule of events and presentations click here.

Advance tickets for the Farm Science Review are $7 at all OSU Extension county offices, many local agribusinesses and online (click here). Tickets are $10 at the gate. Children 5 and younger are admitted free. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 20-21 and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 22.

If you plan to visit FSR for more than one day, there are many lodging options available in the London area. Some offer discounts for FSR attendance, be sure to mention it when making reservations. Golf carts will be permitted on the grounds for visitors with a documented disability or a doctor’s excuse. Privately owned carts are permitted on the grounds, but must be checked in with a $10 fee and rentals will be available from The Golf Cart Company. Call 1-800-589-8833 to make reservations or fill out the reservation form online.

Farm Science Review tickets are available until September 18th at the following Noble County locations:

Noble County OSU Extension OfficeL & H TractorAgland Co-opJones Feed, and M&M Feed and Supply