Considerations for improving soil health in pastures

Dean Kreager, Licking County Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator (originally published in Farm & Dairy)

Soil health is one of the hot topics in agriculture. I continue to receive an increasing number of questions and get involved in more conversations involving “soil health” and “regenerative agriculture”. Many universities and farmers are trying to define healthy soils and find ways to improve the health of the soil. We know that keeping soils covered with a growing crop reduces soil loss and improves water infiltration. We also know there may be a number of other benefits to soils by having livestock grazing over them. What more can be done to improve the soil health in our pastures and what will the benefits be?

What is soil health?

In this column, my colleagues and I have often stressed the importance of soil testing. A soil test will let us know the pH and the amount of some of the important nutrients that will be available to our plants. This is a great tool to help manage pasture productivity. Beyond our standard soil test results there are many additional properties in the soil that can greatly affect productivity and sustainability. “Soil health” takes into account a combination of Continue reading

Seeding Perennial Forages in Late Summer

Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist

August is a good window of opportunity for establishing perennial forage stands.

August is the second good window of opportunity of the year for establishing perennial forage stands (spring being the first good planting time). August is also the ideal time for filling in gaps in seedings made this spring. The primary risk with late summer forage seedings is having sufficient moisture for seed germination and good plant establishment before cold weather arrives. The decision to plant or not will have to be made for each individual field, considering soil moisture status and the rainfall forecast. Rainfall and adequate soil moisture in the few weeks immediately after seeding is the primary factor affecting successful forage establishment.

No-till Seedings

No-till seeding is an excellent choice to conserve soil moisture for seed germination in late summer. Make sure that the field surface is relatively level and smooth if you plan to no-till, because you will have to live with any field roughness for multiple years of harvesting operations. No-till into wheat stubble would be . . .

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Residual Feed Intake (RFI) . . . a Selection Tool?

Relationships between feed efficiency, scrotal circumference and semen quality traits in yearling bulls
– Hafla, A. Lancaster, G. Carstens, D. Forrest, J. Fox, T. Forbes, Mike Davis (OSU), R. Randel, and J. Holloway
Journal of Animal Science. 2012.90:3937–3944

Residual feed intake (RFI) is a measure of feed efficiency that is independent of growth traits.  Seed stock producers are adopting technology to measure daily intake to assess feed efficiency of growing bulls and heifers.  Across all studies, bulls with low RFI phenotypes consumed 20% less dry matter DM and had 10% less backfat but had similar average daily gain, scrotal circumference and semen quality traits compared with high-RFI bulls.  Inclusion of RFI in selection indexes will enable selection for feed efficiency with Continue reading

July Report Shows Declining Cattle Inventories

– James Mitchell, Livestock Marketing Specialist, University of Arkansas

Last week USDA published the July Cattle Inventory, which showed lower year-over-year inventories for most reported categories. While inventories posted a year-over-year decline, NASS estimates were higher than pre-report expectations, with analysts expecting larger decreases in cattle numbers. The full report is available on the USDA-NASS website.

Total cattle inventories totaled 98.8 million, falling below 100 million for the first time since 2015, when inventories totaled 98.1 million. Total cow inventory decreased 2 percent year over year. Beef and dairy cow inventories were 2.4 percent and 0.5 percent lower compared to July 2022, respectively. The report confirms another year of beef cow herd liquidation with little evidence of anyone looking to expand. Heifers held as beef replacements were Continue reading

Where will high culling rates leave the 2023 calf crop and beef production in 2024 and 2025?

– Elliott Dennis, Assistant Professor & Extension Livestock Economist, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nebraska – Lincoln

It is no secret that slaughter cow numbers this year have been elevated but it’s the rate they have occurred that has been puzzling. Higher input costs in the form of hay, pasture rent, fuel, etc. partially caused by general economic inflation, low stock-to-use ratios in corn and soybeans, and high crude oil prices have raised the cost of production. Add to that a worsening drought, several years of low feeder cattle prices, and cull cow prices not seen since 2014/15 pulled up by a high cull cutout value and there have certainly been plenty of incentives to sell off cows. The long-term question is where this leaves the calf crop in 2023 and beef production in 2024 and 2025.

The broader economy is getting a feel for what the cattle industry goes through every 10 years or so. As inflation creeps up, the federal reserve can impact it by changing the amount of money in circulation and through interest rates. The federal reserve has already raised interest rates this year by more than 1.5% and more rate hikes are likely coming. But the general effect of these rate hikes this year takes time to work themselves through the general economy to curb inflation. In other words, it takes time for the effects to work. That’s the science/theory. The art is knowing how much to raise rates so as to not cause the economy to completely grind to a halt but raise them enough to curb inflation growth. The cattle cycle works similarly although in a less centralized fashion. Each industry participant individually decides on a culling decision and then collectively we get a reduction in cows and thus future beef production. That’s the science/theory. The art is trying to Continue reading

The Heat is On and the Algae Loves It!

Richard Purdin, OSU ANR/CD Educator, Adams County

If the water doesn’t look appealing for you to drink, don’t expect your livestock to drink it.

July got off to a hot and dry start for much of Ohio and for livestock managers this brings on added chores on the to do list to keep livestock healthy and productive. Water is the source of life and I often preach on the importance and the critical role it plays in animal health. When livestock have clean fresh water to always drink, they will better consume feed and forage and absorb it nutrients more efficiently. More adequate water consumptions can equate to better rate of gain, increased fertility and reproductive performance, increased milk production and weaning weights, and much more benefits. When water is not available or the tainted in anyway livestock will avoid drinking or try to find water in other areas, this can have a detrimental effect on animal health and should be priority for managers to prevent. There can be multiple factors that lead to water be tainted or unpleasant for livestock consumption but one of the most common factors during the summer is the build up of algae growth in water tanks, troughs, or reservoirs.

Keeping algae out of the livestock drinking facilities can be a big challenge. Algae in livestock water tanks is not just a nuisance but it can also be toxic to livestock. There are different types of Algae that can grow and thrive in livestock water tanks, warm weather, livestock saliva, sunshine, and introduction of organic matter or manure can provide a perfect growing condition for algae. There are several different types of algae that can be found growing in livestock water tanks but one that get the most attention is the Continue reading

Johnsongrass: Friend or Foe?

Christine Gelley, Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator, Noble County OSU Extension

Like other members of the sorghum family, johnsongrass can cause nitrate or prussic acid toxicity.

Johnsongrass is easy to find in July in Ohio. It is a warm-season grass that is related to corn. Unlike it’s relatives- corn, sorghum, and sorghum-sudangrass, which are annual species commonly used for agronomic purposes, johnsongrass is a perennial that has naturalized itself in our environment. Johnsongrass begins actively growing when soil temperatures reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit, which is why it is more prevalent in Ohio in mid-summer to fall.

Whether we classify johnsongrass as a weed or as a forage could be debated, but it is formally listed as a noxious weed in Ohio and therefore the debate is resolved. Johnsongrass is a non-native, aggressive, naturalized weed that does provide some value as a forage, but by no means should be purposefully planted or propagated due to the threats it poses to our native species and agronomic cropping systems. It was initially introduced from the Mediterranean as a forage crop and then dispersed in an attempt to fight erosion in floodplains, which it can do effectively, but the problem is Continue reading

Consequences of Long-term Commitment to Estrus Synchronization

– Dr. Pedro Fontes, Assistant Professor, Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences, University of Georgia

Those who stick to the technology usually observe a gradual increase in pregnancy rates to FTAI.

The use of estrus synchronization programs has substantially increased over the last few decades. These programs allow cattle producers to manipulate the estrous cycle of cows and heifers, facilitating the adoption of biotechnologies such as artificial insemination (AI). Cow-calf operations can combine estrus synchronization with fixed-time artificial insemination (FTAI) and AI all cows from a given herd at a pre-determined time without the need of estrus detection. The development of these estrus synchronization protocols has significantly impacted reproductive management commercially, leading to a remarkable global increase in the use of AI by beef cattle producers. In fact, the number of beef semen straws sold yearly in the United States increased by 145% between 1990 to 2017.

Studies have repeatedly evaluated the effectiveness of estrus synchronization protocols in combination with FTAI, and pregnancy rates usually range between 40-60%. These are great numbers considering that approximately half of our females are becoming pregnant on the first day of the breeding season. Nevertheless, there is still some variation in . . .

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Expanding your Herd? Frequently Asked Questions about Johne’s Disease and How to Keep it Off the Farm

– Dr. Michelle Arnold, Ruminant Extension Veterinarian, University of Kentucky

Figure 1: Cow with signs of Johne’s disease; dull hair coat, profuse watery diarrhea and weight loss. Photo used with permission from Dr. Amy Jennings, The University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

What is Johne’s Disease? Johne’s (pronounced Yo-knees) Disease is a slow, progressive disease of adult cattle characterized by profuse, watery diarrhea and weight loss or “wasting” (Figure 1). It is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis, also known as “MAP”. This disease begins when calves (not adult cattle) are infected with MAP-contaminated colostrum, milk, feed or water, most often around the time of birth. Once MAP enters a calf, the organism lives permanently within the cells of the large intestine where it multiplies and causes the intestinal lining to slowly thicken. Over years of time, the thickened intestine loses the ability to absorb nutrients, resulting in watery diarrhea and weight loss despite continuing to eat well. These symptoms do not show up in adult cattle until 2-5 years of age or even older. There is no treatment available, and the animal eventually dies due to starvation and dehydration.

Why should a commercial beef producer care if they have Johne’s Disease in the herd? Economically, Johne’s disease can be costly in a beef operation. For every clinical (sick) cow with Johne’s in a herd, there are potentially Continue reading

Posted in Health

Is This a Fall Pricing Opportunity for Feeders?

– Dr. Kenny Burdine, Extension Professor, Livestock Marketing, University of Kentucky

As has been the case all year, there is no shortage of factors to discuss when it comes to this cattle market. Drought has intensified in much of the Southern Plains and has also moved into large portions of the Southeast since early summer. This continues to result in very large beef cow slaughter levels, which have been running 14% above last year (see chart below). There is a little time lag on harvest data, but a lot of signs point to cow culling accelerating again in recent weeks as conditions have worsened.

Had it not been for the widespread drought, beef production would be running below 2021 levels. The cow herd and calf crop have been getting smaller for several years now. But, the onslaught of cows and heifers entering the supply chain is adding to beef production. At the same time, cattle on feed numbers have been higher because cattle have been placed on feed sooner than would normally be expected. For example, calves that were pulled Continue reading