Johnsongrass; Feed or Weed?

Jordan Penrose, OSU Extension Educator, Gallia County (originally published in The Ohio Cattleman, Fall 2022)

Recently Christine Gelley wrote an article “Johnsongrass: Friend or Foe?”, it was an excellent article, and if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend that you do so. But, I bet that many of you like me have noticed johnsongrass showing up in pasture and hay fields a lot more over the past few years and especially this year. Let me start by giving some history on johnsongrass.

Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense) is a competitive perennial warm-season grass that is native to the Mediterranean region. Johnsongrass seed was exported around the world to be primarily used to control erosion. It got its common name here in the United States from an Alabama plantation owner by the name of William Johnson, who used the seed in the 1840’s to plant on his river-bottom farm as a forage alternative and to help control water erosion.

Today, johnsongrass to many is now considered a weed and in many states is considered a noxious weed. In an article by Oklahoma State University “Johnsongrass in Pastures: Weed or Forage?” johnsongrass is known as the weed that we love to hate and hate to love. The reason it is a weed to many is that it reduces the yield and quality for crops that it grows in. But it also has some upsides to it as a forage because Continue reading

Pigeons Not Welcome

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

Feral rock pigeons and European starlings are part of a special group of farm birds that I affectionately call “rat birds”. They, along with house finches and house sparrows, can cause a list of issues around the farm related to sanitation and structure damage. They can also be a concern for residential and commercial buildings. We have been seeing issues related to pigeons around the Village of Caldwell lately, so it seems timely to elaborate a bit on why pigeons are not welcome in our spaces.

Pigeons are generalist feeders that will eat almost anything, from livestock and pet foods to agricultural crops to garbage. They will nest almost anywhere and will frequently loaf on the roofs of buildings. Where pigeons accumulate, so do feces and feathers. Pigeons are known carriers of over 30 different possible diseases that can be passed to humans. Therefore, it is important for human health and comfort to discourage pigeons from roosting near us.

Pigeons, starlings, and sparrows are some of the few birds that are not protected by state and federal law. There are multiple lethal and non-lethal strategies that are legal for control and can be employed to discourage or Continue reading

What is the real cost of mineral supplementation?

– Dr. Katie VanValin, Assistant Professor Beef Nutrition, University of Kentucky

For some management practices calculating the return on investment is straightforward. Unfortunately, determining the cost vs. benefit of mineral supplementation is not always clear. This is why it seems when input costs go up, the mineral is one of the things that can be easy to cut out or replace with a less expensive, lower quality option. The problem is that early signs of mineral deficiencies can be hard to identify and often go unnoticed. Eventually, in cases of severe mineral deficiency, producers could see widespread issues throughout the herd that has us making phone calls to our veterinarian. But those early and often sub-clinical deficiencies can also eat away at performance, productivity, and, yes, profitability. Sub-clinical deficiencies might look like a few more open cows this year compared to last or needing to treat a few more calves this time around. Of course, there are several reasons we would see lower pregnancy rates or higher pull rates from one year to the next, and we shouldn’t always blame it on the mineral. However, ensuring the herd is protected against mineral deficiencies is a simple practice in a business where so much is outside of our control.

Think about the mineral program as a good insurance policy. The problem is that many of our common feedstuffs are deficient in one or more minerals. The table below shows the mineral requirements for a lactating cow and typical mineral concentrations for common feedstuffs for select minerals.

Failure to provide a good quality mineral supplement leaves the herd susceptible to Continue reading

When to Cull Bulls

– Amanda Cauffman, UW Division of Extension Agricultural Educator for Grant County

Producers can save input costs by culling bulls in the fall if they or their offspring have any undesirable characteristics.

It is common practice this time of year to evaluate our cows to make culling decisions, but this is also a good time to evaluate our bulls to determine which sires we are going to feed through the winter and which have come to the end of their genetic contribution to the operation.

Bulls, much like cows, can live ten to twelve years. Most bulls will remain active in the herd for closer to four or five years due to feet and leg, structural, and fertility problems, temperament concerns, or injuries. The decision to cull many bulls happens in the spring after failing a breeding soundness exam. However, producers can save input costs (6 months’ worth of decent quality hay for a mature bull will cost about $600 based on current prices) by culling bulls in the fall if they or their offspring have any undesirable characteristics that would make them unsuitable for the next breeding season.

Most mature breeding bulls can maintain condition with the same winter management as the cow herd. However, since . . .

Continue reading When to Cull Bulls

Drought Continues to Drive Feedlot Placements Higher in August

– James Mitchell, Livestock Marketing Specialist, University of Arkansas

The September 1st Cattle on Feed report was released on Friday and showed feedlot inventories totaling 11.3 million head. Importantly, the report notes this was the second largest September feedlot inventory since the report began in 1996. Drought continues to play a key role in the movement of cattle into feedlots this year.

Drought dynamics add another layer of complexity to feedlot inventory and placement numbers. Pre-report expectations for feedlot placements ranged from 6.8% lower to 0.9% higher year over year, suggesting that last month’s placement total was anyone’s guess. August feedlot placements totaled 2.11 million head, the highest August total since 2011 and 0.4% higher year over year. Examining placements by weight category and region provides a Continue reading

Fall Grazing Guidance

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

“Pasture walks” are an opportunity to explore what others are successfully doing.

Recently the East Central Grazing Alliance visited Randy Depuy’s farm in Caldwell for a pasture walk and it was a wonderful event of social and educational enrichment. It was one of my first in-person events since returning from maternity leave and it was refreshing to be with a captive audience to talk about forages and grazing.

For those that were unable to attend, here are some of the key points from my presentation on fall grazing tips. They are they divided into recommendations for established forages and new seedings.

Established Perennial Forages:

Cool-Season Forage Mixes – If stockpiling pasture for fall/winter grazing, stop Continue reading

Posted in Pasture

Nutritional Strategies for Receiving and Feeding Early-Weaned Calves

Francis L. Fluharty, Department Head and Professor, Department of Animal and Dairy Science, University of Georgia

  • Provide clean water and grass-legume hay directly off the truck and allow cattle a rest period before processing them. Adding an electrolyte solution to the water calves drink immediately off the truck is a good way to restore needed sodium and potassium salts.
  • Receiving diets should have .3 ppm Selenium and 1.0% Potassium on a dry matter basis, for the first two weeks, because of low feed intake. After that, Potassium should not be higher than .7% of the diet on a dry matter basis.
  • Provide 1.0 to 1.5 ft of bunk space per calf if possible.
  • Urea can be added up to .5% of diet dry matter, but higher levels may depress feed intake.
  • Ionophores should not be used (at the upper levels they are approved for) during the first 14 days due to reductions in feed intake, however, lower levels may be beneficial in high-grain diets.
  • Research at The Ohio State University has shown that feed intake on stressed calves is severely reduced during the first week. Therefore, receiving diets for calves should be approximately 16-18% crude protein, on a dry matter basis, for the first seven days. The protein concentration used should be increased to the upper levels of this range with highly stressed calves that have very low feed intakes. After the first two weeks, feed intake increases and the crude protein can be dropped to 14% of diet dry matter. After third week, the crude protein level can be reduced to 12.5% to 13%, since the cattle should be on full feed by then.
  • After cattle have reached approximately 1.5% of body weight in feed intake (dry matter basis), increase the amount of feed offered every other day. Increases should be no more than 5% of intake. High-concentrate diets require that calves are brought on feed more slowly than high-forage diets. Bringing calves onto feed more slowly will help prevent acidosis and reduce nutritional stress.
  • Soybean meal may be the protein source of choice due to cost and availability, but using a source of higher rumen bypass protein such as distillers grain in combination with soybean meal is good.
  • Feeding hay during the receiving period reduces the energy density of the diet. Intake is the main problem during this feeding phase. Therefore, a 60% to 70% concentrate diet should be fed to ensure the calves have adequate energy intakes (Remember that corn silage is approximately 50% concentrate and 50% roughage on a dry matter basis).
  • Microbial data from The Ohio State University indicates that cattle do not have a need for hay in order to increase their bacterial numbers after feed and water deprivation and transportation. In fact, a higher energy, protein dense diet provides the bacteria with more substrate to grow on.
  • Receiving diets should be formulated to provide the animal with the actual amount of protein required (in grams) rather than a percentage of protein in the diet during the first two weeks. Therefore, the level of feed intake should determine the percent protein fed.
  • Corn silage is fine, but it MUST be kept fresh. Clean out feed bunks daily and remember not to push feed to the back of the bunks where calves can’t reach it. Keep feed about in the middle of the feed bunk.

Feed Bunk Management and Feed Intake Control: “The most important operation in the feedlot”

Defined as the Continue reading

What is this new tick disease?

– Dr. Michelle Arnold, UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

Office of the State Veterinarian is warning beef producers to look for signs of Theileria infection (“theileriosis”) in cattle, with two confirmed cases in beef cattle recently reported in Kentucky. Theileria orientalis Ikeda is a microscopic protozoan parasite that infects the red blood cells of cattle, causing anemia. The disease is primarily transmitted by the bite of an infected Asian Longhorned Tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis) or by blood transfer through the use of contaminated needles and equipment. The tick can feed on many animal species, including humans, but the blood parasite only affects cattle. Once a cow is infected, it may take 1-8 weeks before she shows symptoms of disease.

Figure 1: Three life stages of the Asian Longhorned tick sized relative to the head of an insect pin. Nymphs and adults can transmit Theileria to cattle. Photo used with permission from Dr. Matt Bartone, NC State

There is a spring peak in disease incidence in March-April and a fall peak in September-October. There is no effective treatment for sick cattle or vaccine to prevent infections. However, once infected, cattle become carriers and are protected from new infections. There are no recognized long-term health or production effects from persistent infection. Theileria is not a public health concern and contact with affected cattle doesn’t pose a Continue reading

Posted in Health

Feed Price Implications for Fall

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

As we move into fall, we have a pretty good feel for the size of the 2022 corn crop. Acreage is down significantly from last year and yield projections were reduced by almost 3 bushels this month to 172.5 per acre. After spending some time below $6 per bushel this summer, CME© December corn futures are in the upper $6 per bushel range. Barring a major shock on the demand side, feed prices are going to be a challenge for cattle operations this winter. So, I wanted to briefly talk through some implications of high feed prices on feeder cattle marketing and management.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that cost of gain and value of gain are correlated. Feedlots prefer to place heavier feeder cattle when feed prices are high, so the price discount on higher weights gets smaller. This narrowing of price slides increases the value of Continue reading

Feeder Markets

– Stephen R. Koontz, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Colorado State University

The fall run of calves is underway for the Great Plains and mountain states.  Price reporting for feeder cattle and calves are rather thin – especially in Colorado – through the summers and the past three weeks have revealed more substantial numbers of transactions.  A counter seasonal rally in feeders occurred from May through August but the recent $1 plus per bushel increase in the harvest corn contract price has stopped this.  It will be interesting to talk to producers and lenders during the rest of the year regarding LRP strategy.  The story about insurance purchased in the late spring and early summer will be rather different that purchased in the early spring when the feeder cattle market was moving higher.  Sell hedges when the market is under duress are routinely disappointing.

Feeder markets from Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Utah are all showing strong prices.  Down from the price peaks in mid-July – if there was trade then – but good demand, strong interest, and prices between the high-$170s and mid-$180s for 6-7 cwt steers.  Heifers are typically $10 back from the steer price.  Calve and feeder cattle prices in Nebraska and Missouri are stronger yet bringing from Continue reading