Longer recovery for grazed forages may be needed this year!

– Victor Shelton, Retired NRCS Agronomist/Grazing Specialist (Please send comments or questions to grazingbites@gmail.com)

A lone big bluestem plant outstanding in the field – imagine a whole field.

I really can’t complain about the temperatures so far this year even though I know the next few days are expected to be a bit warmer.  While some crops would probably prefer slightly warmer conditions, the slightly milder temperatures are better for forage crops under droughty conditions.  I’m thankful things are not worse than they are.  Thankfully, as I finish writing this at the end of June, several areas are getting needed rain!

I’ve been asked how I would compare this year to past droughts or droughty periods.  I really don’t have a good comparison for this year.  I think we are seeing conditions unlike any that I’ve ever seen.  The droughts of 1988 and 2012 are always good reference points for me.  For the most part, both started out somewhat normal and then became drier and drier due to the lack of sufficient rain for long periods of time.  Both were also aggravated by high temperatures that just added fuel to the fire.

This year started out a little earlier than normal with somewhat wet conditions.  Early lush green growth was struck not once, but with multiple Continue reading

Drought in the Corn Belt is Concerning

– James Mitchell, Livestock Marketing Specialist, University of Arkansas

The June Acreage report released the end of June by USDA-NASS brought some good news for livestock producers. The report places the total U.S. planted corn acreage at 94.1 million acres. USDAs latest estimate for 2023 corn acreage is 2.3% higher than their previous estimate and 6.2% percent higher than the last year’s acreage. All top 5 corn states had an increase in corn acreage except for Nebraska, which had a 1.0% decline in acreage for corn.

The relevance of the June Acreage report for livestock producers is the impact acreage will have on feed prices. While the report brought good news regarding corn acreage, there are still concerns regarding total corn supplies for the 2023-2024 crop. These concerns are about drought and its impacts on corn yields. Even small weather-induced yield declines could result in significant price swings for corn.

The map shown above is the Continue reading

Considerations for Pasture Risk Management Decisions

Clifton Martin, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Muskingum County

Despite the return of timely precipitation, proper grazing management remains important.

We just passed through a May and June that looked more like a July and August if we consider rainfall. Usually, July and August are more likely to put managers under pressure with hot temperatures and limited precipitation that force choices that might often be classified as “which wrong choice is the most right?” as we work to make the best of less-than-ideal conditions.

Timely rainfall is easing the current drought pressure that had been developing locally, but we still have a way to go for summer heat. As we navigate these choices, here are some points to remember.

A goal of managing grazing systems is to keep forage plants healthy and growing so that they meet the nutritional needs of grazing livestock. Two easy principles to follow on that journey are first, the “take half/leave half” concept and, second, provide a rest period so plants can recover.

These principles allow for pastures to sustain over a Continue reading

With a dry start to the summer, is creep feeding right for your operation?

Haley Shoemaker, OSU Extension AGNR Educator, Columbiana and Mahoning Counties (originally published in the Ohio Farmer on-line)

When deciding to creep feed, consider more than just calf value.

Dry spells have a way of making even the most seasoned cattlemen second-guess their grazing and forage strategies.  With a large portion of the state experiencing moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions to start the summer grazing season, many producers are exploring their options to compensate for pastures that may not be bouncing back as quickly as needed in order to provide ample nutrition to growing calves and lactating cows.

As of June 12th, Ohio’s topsoil moisture was categorized as 35% very short and 42% short, with subsoil moisture ranked 17% and 53% respectively.  With reduced soil moisture comes reduced energy to the plant, which leads to slowed recovery of the root systems, and ultimately minimal plant growth.  Generally, allowing pastures to be grazed below 3 inches will amplify the effects of drought conditions, and will consequently make it Continue reading

Pasture Management Strategies During Dry Conditions

Chris Zoller, Extension Educator, ANR, Tuscarawas County and Garth Ruff, Extension Field Specialist Beef Cattle

The U.S. Drought Monitor maps shown below compare drought conditions from May 23 and May 30, 2023 (the two latest maps available at the time of writing this article).  Notice how the map changed (more areas of yellow) in Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania in just one week.

U.S. Drought Monitor, May 30 (left) and May 23, 2023 (right)

The Ohio map (shown below) is from May 30, 2023. The majority of Ohio is shaded in Continue reading

Mow pastures or not?

Chris Penrose, Extension Educator, Morgan County

It’s likely best to not mow until precipitation returns.

A tough question developing on many farms right now is if we should start mowing pastures. Clipped pastures reduce eye irritation on the cows, makes for a less favorable environment for ticks, and stimulates new leaf growth. However, the pastures in my area are still green and if we mow them now without adequate moisture, I fear they will turn brown and go dormant sooner. Hay fields I have seen that were mowed last week are yet to initiate new growth and that could be the same case if we mowed pastures right now.

If we wait to mow, more vegetation on the surface will keep the soil cooler and hold moisture better and even have some mature forages that could still be grazed if needed. I am not sure what the right answer is for you but if the pastures have been heavily grazed and Continue reading

Proper Summer Pasture Management Pays Dividends, Especially in Dry Conditions

Stan Smith, PA, Fairfield County OSU Extension

The U.S. Drought Monitor may not show it, but parts of Ohio are very dry!

Today, the U.S. Drought Monitor suggests little of Ohio is in moderate drought, or even abnormally dry. Despite what their map might show, in much of Fairfield County, especially in the northwest third, we have experienced barely 2 inches of rain over the past 7 and a half weeks, and only 0.3 inch over the past nearly 3 weeks. It appears many parts of Ohio are experiencing similar rain patterns. Knowing this, its apparent pasture across much of the state is, or very soon will be, showing the negative impact of dry soils and high soil surface temperatures.

Regardless, it is never too soon to employ summer pasture management strategies in order that forage growth can quickly begin again once adequate precipitation returns. Most importantly, cool season pasture grasses should not be grazed to less than 4 inches in height and should be Continue reading

Considerations for Corn Silage Harvest

Moisture, maturity and the potential for high nitrates must be considered as corn silage harvest begins.

Corn silage harvest has begun in parts of Ohio, and is still weeks away in other places where corn planting was delayed by the spring weather. At the same time, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, all of Ohio remains rated as Abnormally Dry causing concern for the potential for nitrate problems.

In this week’s C.O.R.N. newsletter, Laura Lindsey, Mark Sulc, Peter Thomison and Bill Weiss have contributed to following articles regarding corn silage harvest considering the present crop and weather conditions.

Making Corn Silage in Dry ConditionsBill Weiss

Corn Silage Harvest TimingMark Sulc, Peter Thomison, Bill Weiss

Potential for Nitrate Problems in Drought Stressed Corn – Peter Thomison, Laura Lindsey

The “D” word is back, and it’s Déjà vu, all over again!

Stan Smith, OSU Extension PA, Fairfield County

Adding to marketing complications resulting from COVID-19, and on the heals of one of the wettest springs in history, drought has now returned to Ohio!

After experiencing one of the wettest years ever through mid-May, over half of Ohio suddenly finds itself listed as either Abnormally Dry or in a Moderate Drought condition by the U.S. Drought Monitor. At a time when last year’s depleted inventory of quality forage has yet to be restored, the various aspects of managing feed resources will remain a primary concern for Ohio cattlemen in the coming weeks and months.

As we navigate the path of inadequate forage feed resources which it seems is becoming an annual ritual, we’ve now added challenges that result from a pandemic. COVID-19 related supply chain disruptions in April and May created a backlog of fed cattle that is likely to continue through the summer. This translates into heavier harvest weights and a lack of feedyard capacity that could easily Continue reading

Supplementing to Stretch Pastures

– Jeff Lehmkuhler, PhD, PAS Associate Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

Drought continues to impact the high plains area stretching down to the pan handle of Texas. The dry conditions will continue to impact pastures potentially lowering beef cattle numbers at year’s end. The recent high temperatures and limited rain will dry out pastures and limit forage regrowth on recently cut hay fields here in the Commonwealth. As forage growth slows, supplementation may be needed to provide beef cattle adequate levels of nutrients to support target production levels and limit condition loss of lactating cows.

Fibrous coproduct feedstuffs that are low in starch but high digestible fiber work well for supplementingcattle on a high forage diet. Soybean hulls, corn gluten feed, beet pulp, distillers grains, wheat midds, and rice bran are a few commonly available feedstuffs that would be lower in starch and high digestible fiber. These feedstuffs would be higher in available energy than most pasture forages that are going or already dormant. Depending on the maturity and digestibility of the forages, supplements could provide twice as much energy on a dry weight basis. Therefore, supplementation would need to be limited and not offered free-choice to avoid over conditioning as well as to avoid digestive upsets.

Cottonseed hulls are lower in digestible energy than the supplements listed above and most cool-season forages. Cottonseed hulls would be deemed as more of a forage replacement than a supplement. The crude protein value is Continue reading