Forage Maturity Across Ohio #2

Jason Hartschuh, CCA, Kyle Verhoff, Jacob Winters, Kendall Lovejoy, Ryan McMichael, Sarah Noggle, Frank Becker, OSU Extension

Forages are rapidly advancing maturity across Ohio.

As the spring continues to progress so do our forages. The past week has resulted in a jump in alfalfa height and the estimated %NDF for fields around the state. It is a similar case for predominately grass fields as they beginning to lose quality and head out. To get the most out of a forage crop it is important to assess the forage quality to drive harvest decisions.

An easy method used to estimate timely . . .

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Forage Maturity Across Ohio

Jason Hartschuh, OSU Extension Field Specialist, Dairy Management and Precision Livestock

Forages are maturing quickly throughout Ohio.

Warm weather this spring especially over the last couple of weeks has rapidly progressed forage maturity. Harvesting forages at the proper time for the livestock you are feeding is critical to farm profitability. Poor quality forages must be supplemented to maintain livestock. In the southern part of the state, many forage grasses are in head while in the northern part of the state, some varieties of Orchard grass and barnyard grass are in head but most are still in the vegetative stage but will be in head within a week.

Many growers may base harvest decisions primarily on alfalfa maturity; however, this method can be misleading due to . . .

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Greening up the Beef Cow Herd

– Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler, Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

Herd management that leads to increased pounds of calf weaned per cow exposed positively impacts GHG.

Spring is my favorite season as the flowers wake up and bloom and the grass takes off growing. This past week I noticed some bluegrass already flowering and given our warm spring, I suspect your forage in your hay fields will be ready to cut early. Have your hay equipment ready and keep an eye on the weather forecast to get that first cutting at early flower stage for fescue which could be in just a couple weeks here in mid-May. Making the first cutting at early flower stage for tall fescue is a point that provides good yield and quality. Additionally, removing the flower removes the plant hormone suppressing leave elongation and tillering while weather is cool and soil moisture is available to promote regrowth. Hay supplies are depleted and getting an extra cutting this year will help replenish the barn. Additionally, getting that first cut earlier will increase quality and reduce winter supplementation needs.

We continue to see research groups investigating strategies to reduce the impact livestock have on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Essential oils and extracts, tannins from plants, supplementation with fats and plant oil, increasing grain supplementation within forage systems as well as using ionophores are Continue reading

Yellow Flowers of Concern

Christine Gelley, Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Noble County, Ohio State University Extension

This plant can cause livestock poisonings in harvested or grazed forages.

Fields along the floodplain have been turning yellow over the past couple weeks as cressleaf groundsel is bolting and flowering. From a distance, a haze of yellow floats above the field. Upon closer inspection, you will find collections of daisy-like flowers on slender stems waving their sunny faces in the breeze. While it sounds sort of dreamy and whimsical, this plant (also known as butterweed) can cause livestock poisonings in harvested or grazed forages. All parts of the plant are considered toxic in both fresh and dried states.

Cressleaf groundsel is a member of the aster family and displays yellow daisy-like blooms in the springtime on upright hollow stems that have a purple hue. These plants are winter annuals, meaning the seed germinates in the fall producing vegetative growth and then flowers in the springtime. If allowed to set seed, the plants will appear again in greater numbers the year following. The plants typically go unnoticed in the fall, which is the best Continue reading

Forage & Pasture Planting Calendar

Ed Brown, ANR Educator, Athens County (originally published in The Ohio Cattleman)

This calendar offers appropriate planting dates and seeding rates.

Throughout the years, I have received many calls as to when the best time is to plant pasture grasses and forages. Farmers and ranchers also wanted to know the recommended seeding rates for either a pure stand or as a forage mix. I would always refer them to the Ohio Agronomy Guide and give them the bit of information they needed. I knew that there had to a more efficient way to get out this information.

At first, I developed a spreadsheet with all the forages and which months they should be planted. This worked to answer questions quickly but wasn’t really a resource that producers could quickly access. This led to the development of the Forage & Pasture Planting Calendar.

I’ve taken the information from the Agronomy guide and put it into an easy to reference calendar that could be hung on the wall or on the side the fridge. The top of the calendar includes information and tips from the Ohio Agronomy Guide. The remainder of the calendar is organized by month with appropriate planting times and seeding rates.

The link to the calendar is

If you would like to print the calendar, it’s best done on 11 x 17 tabloid paper.

Spring Forage Establishment

Kyle Verhoff, Allen Gahler, Jason Hartschuh, CCA, OSU Extension

Planting window runs to late April for southern Ohio and to early May in Northern Ohio.

As soil temperatures rise and the chances of a morning frost decline, the window to spring-establish forages is open. In the spring, the combination of weather and plenty to do make planting opportunities scarce. To take advantage of those short planting windows, the following are items to consider to improve chances for a successful forage establishment this spring.

  1. Soil Fertility and pH: Set up your forages with the best starting conditions you can by providing sufficient available nutrients and a soil pH that allows for those nutrients to be taken up. Follow the Tri-state Soil Fertility Recommendations ( Phosphorus levels for grass are optimal in the . . .

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Forage Weeds: Fall Forgotten and Spring Startups

Alyssa Essman, Christine Gelley, and Kyle Verhoff, OSU Extension

Common cocklebur is a growing problem in Ohio forages.

Spring means rapid forage growth, but it also means rapid weed growth. Due to the variability of spring weather, there are often only a few opportunities to control emerging summer annual weeds, winter annuals missed in the fall, and biennials that are small enough to effectively control. To manage weeds before they become a problem in forages, it is important to scout and plan accordingly. Forage is a broad category, and the spring weed control plan can look very different between species and operations. The problem weeds and whether control is necessary are going to be different between permanent pasture systems and alfalfa fields, and highly dependent on the consequences of specific weeds.

In established alfalfa, the decision for weed control of some winter annuals like henbit and field pennycress will depend on . . .

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Managing hay fields and pastures after storm damage

Jason Hartschuh, OSU Extension Field Specialist, Dairy Management and Precision Livestock

Something as seemingly harmless as insulation can be problematic.

As the number of straight-line wind and tornado events seems to be increasing so does the number of times that parts of nearby buildings end up spread out across our pastures and hay fields.  This debris can cause significant health risks to grazing livestock, as well as animals fed harvested forages from these fields. Debris that is blown into pastures and hayfields quickly becomes hard to see as forages take off and grows in the spring. In pastures or stored hay, livestock often eat foreign materials that are present in the field either mixed in with the forage or just from curiosity. There is also a risk of livestock being injured from foreign materials entering the animal’s hooves or being tangled in the debris in a pasture. Each type of debris can cause slightly different challenges.

Large debris such as roofing, boards, and other debris scattered by the storm are the easiest to see and clean up. Once the large debris is no longer visible it is easy to move on to the next cleanup project, but the small stuff needs cleanup just as badly.  Fiberglass insulation can be especially challenging as it can lead to blockages, bloat, and irritation of the digestive tract. Small amounts of fiberglass may create small cuts in the esophagus causing irritation when the animal eats even after the bite that contained fiberglass. It can also cause Continue reading

Assessing Forage Stands and Winter Damage

Kyle Verhoff, Allen Gahler, Jason Hartschuh, CCA, OSU Extension

Heaving is a common form of winter damage.

Spring is here and now is a great time to walk fields and note how the forages faired. Winter damage is difficult to predict and the variability of temperatures this past winter across the state can present some difficult conditions for forages. Depending on the location and what type of forage field, winter damage may be a major concern, particularly for forages with taproots like alfalfa. Stands should be assessed carefully during spring green-up for concerns, such as heaving and crown and root diseases. A thorough and timely assessment will allow for planning any necessary adjustments for the 2024 season.


When making a stand assessment, it is important to not only make above ground observations by way of a stem count but to also . . .

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How to Use a Grazing Stick

Christine Gelley, Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Noble County, Ohio State University Extension

A grazing stick helps estimate days of grazing that remain in a paddock.

Measuring the amount of forage available for livestock to graze is a helpful task for designing and adjusting pasture rotations for grazing livestock. There are many potential methods for measuring the amount of forage mass that is growing in a pasture. All of them require time spent in the pasture and repetitious measurements to develop estimations of whole pasture forage availability. One of the simplest methods for estimating forage availability is using a grazing stick.

What does the grazing stick do?

A grazing stick combines information about forage height, forage density, species of forages growing in the pasture, and residual grazing heights into a tool that . . .

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