Keep Forage Nitrate Toxicity in Mind This Year

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

Both corn silage and dry hay may be at risk for high nitrates!

This year has been a weather rollercoaster with multiple spells of drought and flooded conditions. These adverse growing conditions can cause unforeseen challenges with the forages you have stored away. We have had multiple reports of high nitrate levels this year. The first reports of high nitrate levels were in June harvested oats after the early season drought. Recently we have had additional reports of dangerously high nitrate levels in millet hay with the recently dry weather.  Producers have also told us that they are struggling with excessive silo gas coming from corn silage.

Plants readily take up nitrates from the soil, even under cooler conditions.  Once in the plant, nitrate is converted to nitrite, then ammonia, and finally into amino acids and plant protein. Any environmental stress that significantly slows down plant photosynthesis and metabolism can lead to excessive nitrate levels in the plant because the nitrate uptake from the soil will be faster than its metabolism into plant protein. Such stresses include Continue reading

A Hay Test is Worth Every Penny

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

The hay probe can be a cattleman’s best friend!

As hay making season ends and hay feeding season approaches, it is time to remind everyone that feeds hay how important getting a hay test completed is for deciding how to feed your livestock this winter. A hay test will cost you far less than the cost of a single round bale. The results you get back will give you the information you need to decide what type of feed and how much you will need to purchase to keep your animals productive until good pasture is available to graze again.

If you have never done a hay test before, Extension is here to help you. We have tools you can borrow and personnel to help with consultation. Here are Continue reading

Fastballs, Curveballs and Lessons Learned

Stan Smith, OSU Extension PA, Fairfield County

Corn residue interseeded with a cereal grain can provide lots of feed for dry cows.

Having grown up in the 50’s and 60’s, the social distancing and self-quarantine we experienced in recent years weren’t really too much of a struggle for me. Afterall, if you grew up on a farm in rural Ohio in those days, the only time you saw anyone but your closest neighbor was at the feed mill, church, or baseball practice. Speaking of baseball, another lesson from those days that’s served me well is when in a close game, you don’t want to be sitting on a fastball if the pitcher you’re facing can consistently throw a curve for a strike. Suffice to say, Mother Nature continues to prove she can throw any pitch she wants, at any time, and throw it for a strike.

Considering the extremes in weather we’ve experienced in recent years, to suggest we need to remain flexible with our forage and feed management plans would be an understatement. However, as we consider past experience when setting course for the future, let’s reflect on our recent past and a few of those lessons learned.

Too wet, and then too dry, and too wet again does not average out to just right

After experiencing several Ohio winter and early springs of near record precipitation, followed by dry summers, this year most of us enjoyed a dry – perhaps too dry – late spring and early summer. Regardless, for many it allowed us to make Continue reading

Corn Silage Pricing Tool

– Ohio State CFAES Knowledge Exchange

This online decision tool is an aid for valuing corn silage.

Unlike corn grain, quoting the price of silage is challenging with no public market providing official prices. This online decision tool for corn silage sales in Ohio was developed to help producers determine pricing for corn silage sales, based on various resources including extension tools from several land-grant universities and agronomy research.

Some values are guided based on localized and timely information including Ohio county-level cash corn prices from and operation costs in Ohio from Ohio State University Extension. These values will be updated yearly. This tool should only be used for reference and users are encouraged to adjust the value of silage based on their individual circumstances. The full spreadsheet is available for download at Corn Silage Pricing Tool.

August Hay Production Estimates are Encouraging, but Variation Still Exists

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

USDA’s August Crop Production report serves as an initial estimate of the size of the year’s hay crop and includes state-by-state estimates. This has implications for winter feed supply and winter feed costs for cattle operations. This year’s hay crop will be especially important following the widespread drought across much of the US last year. Estimated May 1 Hay stocks were down by more than 13% nationally this spring (see figure below), which was driven by a combination of the small hay crop last year and a large number of hay feeding days last winter. Like any estimate, a lot can still happen for the remainder of the growing season, but it does provide some perspective on what can be expected from hay supplies going into fall.

For the purposes of this discussion, I am going to focus on what USDA refers to as all other hay. In most states, this means that Alfalfa and Alfalfa mixes are excluded. I am simply doing this since that is the category that is most associated with winter feeding implications for cow-calf operations. At the national level, all other hay production is estimated to be Continue reading

Know the ins and outs of feeding baleage

Jason Hartschuh, OSU Extension Field Specialist Dairy Management and Precision Livestock (originally published in Farm & Dairy)

Timeliness of the wrap is important for proper fermentation. Photo: Gelley, 2023 SE Ohio Hay Day

Maintaining forage quality with small dry-weather windows can be done by using baleage instead of dry hay.

The ideal conditions for baleage is to bale the hay between 40 to 65% moisture and wrap within two hours of baling. This process uses anaerobic conditions and the acids produced in fermentations to preserve hay.

Baleage fermentation is slower than in haylage, often taking six weeks. When forage is baled between 25 to 40% moisture, it will not ferment properly and baleage at these moisture levels should be considered as temporary storage.

During such situations, preservation is primarily a function of maintaining anaerobic, oxygen-limiting conditions. Mold is more likely at this moisture; higher bale densities and more wraps of plastic is required to better seal out oxygen. Baleage at this moisture will not maintain quality for Continue reading

Forage Management and Heavy Rain Events

– Victor Shelton, Retired NRCS Agronomist/Grazing Specialist

Regrowth is highly influenced by rest, recovery, and soil cover.

Moisture, or rather the lack of sufficient amount of moisture, is still an issue for quite a bit of the Midwest. Some areas have certainly been blessed with more rain than others, but I must remind you and myself that we’re only about two weeks away from a drought from about any time period. We should always strive to take advantage of and conserve any moisture we receive.

I’ve been repairing some fence lines along wooded areas that seem to be testing my patience. Windstorms with dying or dead ash trees don’t make a good combination.  That has caused me to dig and replace a few fence posts that were in the line of spoilage. On a somewhat positive point, it allowed me the opportunity to evaluate the soil moisture in the depth of the post hole. Even though I’ve had rain, soil moisture was a little less than normal as I dug deeper – but it could have been a lot drier.

You can’t change the amount of rain you get, but you can influence the impact of that rain to a degree. Ideally, you want to Continue reading

Native Warm Season Perennial Pastures and Upland Bird Habitats

Make plans to attend!

What do perennial pastures and upland bird habitats have in common?  You can find out on August 22nd at 6:00 pm during the class: Using Native Warm Season Perennial Grasses in your Grazing System.

This class will be taught by Jason Jones from Pheasants and Quail Forever.  Jason will be covering what species of perennial native warm season grasses work well in pastures and how to establish them and how the native warm season grass pastures help provide habitat for quail and pheasants.  Jason will also have examples of native warm season grasses and seeds for folks to see.

The class will be held at the OSU Extension – Office at 5362 US HWY 42 Mt. Gilead 43338 (AG Credit building).  Please call 419-947-1070 if you have any questions.

Summer annual forages to improve profit and forage inventory

Jason Hartschuh, OSU Extension Field Specialist Dairy Management and Precision Livestock and Al Gahler, OSU Extension Educator, Sandusky County

Spring oats planted this summer can help fill a forage quantity and quality deficiency.

2023 has been another year for the records books for challenges for forage producers across the state. The US drought monitor as of July 4th still had the majority of counties in Ohio experiencing some drought with a group of 19 counties in the center of the state in a line from east to west having no part of their county still under drought conditions. The drought decreased second-cutting yield across much of the state. And the subsequent shift to wetter conditions while not eliminating the drought made it very hard to harvest dry hay lowering second cutting quality as it bloomed. Quality was also lowered from diseases that infect forages during the hazy days caused by the smoke inversions in late June. If you are concerned your operation maybe short on forage now is the time to plant summer annual forage to keep your livestock fed this winter or give you additional forage inventory to sell.

Oats is traditionally planted as the first crop in early April as a grain crop or an early season forage. One of the beauties of oats is their versatility in planting date. Oats can also be planted in the summer as an early fall forage for Continue reading

Reduce loss when storing bales outside

Clif Little, OSU Extension, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Guernsey County (originally published in the Farm and Dairy)

Even when stored outside, carefully consider storage options. Photo: C. Gelley, SE OH Hay Day

How we store hay makes a difference in the potential for winter forage losses. It is estimated that unprotected round bales of hay stored outside can experience a 4 to 8 inches or more spoilage loss on the outside of the bale over the course of the winter.

A weathered area of 6 inches deep on a 5.6-foot by 5.6-foot bale contains approximately one-third or the total bale volume. If that bale weighs 800 pounds and sells for $65 dollars, then a 6 in spoilage loss is approximately 240 pounds or a value loss of approximately $19.50.

Factors affecting loss

Many factors affect the extent of round bale storage loss each year. These include factors such as bale density, storage time, size of bale, wrap, forage type, weed content, environmental conditions and storage methods.

In this article, we will be discussing methods to reduce loss of uncovered round bales stored Continue reading