Choosing a Supplement for the Cowherd

– Jeff Lehmkuhler, PhD, PAS, Beef Extension Specialist, University of Kentucky

The spring of 2019 delayed hay harvest in many parts of the state. This delay resulted in much of the hay being harvested at mature stages. Fescue was in full flower to soft-dough stage or even more mature in some cases. Mature forages have greater cell wall and lower digestibility.

I tried to demonstrate the impact of late cutting on feed value by clipping non-fertilized fescue plants the 3rd week in June. These plants were over three feet tall when I cut them. I proceeded to separate the bottom leaves, stem and seed head for yield and quality. The stem and seed head represented approximately 50% of the biomass. The stem had already matured to the point that it was tan in color. The leaves comprised the remaining 50% of the biomass and contained 10% crude protein and a calculated TDN of 54%. The stem itself was only 3.1% crude protein with a TDN of 45%.

Let me give you a reference to better relate the fescue stem quality (about half the biomass). As we all know, wheat straw is the aftermath from harvesting the grain. Wheat harvest often occurs in late June through July. Did you catch that? The book values for crude protein and TDN of wheat straw are 3.6% and 43%, respectively. Yes, that stem fraction on the hay cut in late June is similar in quality to straw! I know we can’t Continue reading

Was this the year you expected or hoped for?

Chris Penrose, Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Morgan Co. (originally published in The Ohio Cattleman)

I now have been writing articles in this column for around 25 years and I am always trying to come up with something different and beneficial for beef producers around the state. As I thought about a topic, with age and experience, we also gain perspective. For those of us that have been in the beef business for more years than we care to admit, was this the year you expected or hoped for? Many times what we expect and what we hope for are not the same, are they? Maybe we can close the gap between the two. For example, I expected to have more problems this past summer with invasive weeds like Spotted Knapweed, but I hoped I would not and I did not. Why? Because in 2018, I was very aggressive on controlling every plant I could find. I did the same this past summer. I hoped to have had put up more square bales of hay this summer but the help was not there or it was about to rain, so I made more round bales. I expected that might be the case, so I tried to save as many square bales as I could last winter and I have extra two year old hay carried over for this winter to fill in a potential void. I now hope and expect to have enough to get me through the winter, even if it is a bad one.

I hoped I would get hay up sooner this past summer, but I expected that would not happen, so I Continue reading

Reducing Hay Storage and Feeding Losses

– Jessica A. Williamson, Ph.D., Extension Forage Specialist, Penn State

Storage losses of uncovered hay can be upwards of 30%!

On most livestock operations, the greatest operational cost is stored and harvested feed, so it only makes sense that striving to reduce storage and feeding losses of harvested feeds as much as possible can help improve forage quality, quantity, and overall profitability of an operation. Reducing waste, even by a few percent, can have a direct reflection on farm financial status almost immediately. Dry hay has the potential to meet most ruminant livestock nutrient requirements if harvested correctly and at the optimal stage of maturity to meet the class of livestock’s nutrient requirements, and if quality is maintained throughout the storage period. However, supplemental nutrition is often a necessity as a result of hay quality and quantity losses through storage and feeding.

Storage losses of uncovered hay can be upwards of 30%, including weather and respiration, resulting in one of the largest outlets for lost dollars on a livestock operation. Some factors affecting the amount of forage loss due to weather include bale density, weather and climate conditions throughout the duration of storage, and Continue reading

Another Wet Fall? Careful Grazing Management a Must!

Fall planted cereal rye and turnips are great feed, if we can graze them . . .

I walked across some pastures on the last day of November and shook my head as water splashed up from my gum boots and splattered my pants. I was honestly hoping that this winter wouldn’t be anything like last year, but so far it is. Ugh, I’m afraid that mud is coming.

Fall forage growth was delayed due to dry weather in most of Indiana. That dry spell didn’t last too long, but long enough to reduce fall regrowth and stockpiled forage. So, quite a bit of the area started the fall out with a little less forage than average. I estimate that my six-week dry spell cost me at least one third of my stockpile yield.

Now, with slightly less forage present and grazing of stockpiled forages already in motion, it’s going to be even more important to Continue reading

Hay Sampling

Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator, Wayne County

I have received several phone calls recently where the caller describes their hay; date baled, whether or not it got rained on before baling, general appearance, and sometimes smell. The question is how to best use this hay, is it suitable for horses or cows or sheep to eat?  Physical evaluation of hay is useful to sort hay into general categories such as high, medium or low quality.  To move beyond general categories and predict animal performance requires a forage chemical analysis.

This is a good year to sample your hay for analysis.  I have seen some first cutting hay forage test results with nutrient values comparable to straw.  Feeding low and medium quality hay without a Continue reading

Supplementing Poor Quality Hay

Clif Little, OSU Extension, Guernsey county

Forage can provide most of the nutritional requirements of a beef herd during the fall and winter months. The challenge becomes the management of supplemental energy and protein due to low quality hay. Several options available to the cow-calf producer for the management of forage and supplement are discussed here.

Determine the Nutritional Value of the Existing Forage

To properly supplement livestock, each forage should be sampled and analyzed. Forage testing laboratories describe the proper sampling techniques for various forages. Contact your local Agriculture Extension Educator for a test probe and instructions for submitting the sample to a laboratory. Forage quality may have a dramatic impact on dry-matter intake. The higher the NDF (neutral detergent fiber) content of forage, the less forage an animal will be able to consume. Cattle will generally consume 1.2 to 1.5% of their body weight per day in forage NDF depending on Continue reading

Do Cover Crops Grown for Feed Need Fertilizer?

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

The benefits of utilizing cover crops in both grazing and agronomic crop production are numerous. However, each cover crop system is unique. There is no blanket “yes” or “no” answer to the question- Do cover crops need fertilizer?

Incorporating Cover Crops

Each farm is different and therefore the way you use cover crops can differ too. Whether you are a row crop farmer, a fruit and vegetable grower, exclusively in the hay business, a livestock manager, or involved in a combination of pursuits, cover crops can be an added benefit to your system.

Although the economic benefit of cover crops is difficult to quantify, the environmental principals associated with their growth are influential. Cover crops are selected for use based on their growing seasons, ability to reduce soil erosion and build soil organic matter, scavenge excess nutrients from the previous crop, relieve soil compaction, and for their nutritional value as feed for animals. The way we incorporate cover crops into our systems should complement our current crops, fit our soil types, and allow for termination of the stand when their useful period ends.

It just so happens that many cover crops are excellent forage crops for livestock and wildlife too. Most are ideal as grazed forage rather than harvested forage, although Continue reading

Buying Hay; Consider Quality and Value

Garth Ruff, Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Educator, OSU Henry County Extension

While there are some visual and sensory characteristics to look at, the only sure fire way to determine quality is to pull a sample and do a forage analysis.

As 2018 was a lousy year for making dry hay across the state, 2019 wasn’t much better or perhaps worse yet. For those who have to purchase hay this winter there are a few things to consider in terms of hay quality and value. There are some visual and sensory characteristics we can look at, as a gross indication of forage quality. The presence of seed heads (grass forages), flowers or seed pods (legumes), indicate more mature forages. Good-quality legume forages will have a high proportion of leaves, and stems will be less obvious and fine. While we tend to favor bright green forages from a visual perspective, color is not a good indicator of nutrient content, but bright green color does suggest minimal oxidation.

Smell of the forage and moisture content are also valuable indicators in determining hay quality. Good quality hay will have a Continue reading

Should Your Forage Analysis Include Ash?

Allen Gahler, OSU Extension Educator, Ag and Natural Resources, Sandusky County

Without a doubt, the hay sampling probe will be one of the most valuable tools you utilize in 2019!

By now you are certainly aware that the shortage of forage type feeds for all classes of livestock is a significant issue for livestock producers in Ohio and all around the country. Mother nature crippled many hayfields over the winter and early spring, and then did not allow us to make good hay in a timely manner due to constant rains throughout spring and early summer. This reality, combined with an abundance of prevented plant acres from traditional crops that were not put in the ground led to many cover crops being grown all over the state with intent to be harvested for forages.

While many of these cover crops are being grazed now and will continue to be into winter and even spring, many of them were grown in places that we simply cannot get livestock too, and in some cases, we simply needed to process that feed anyway in order to utilize it in complete rations. This scenario has certainly helped alleviate the hay shortage issue, but in some cases has created some potential issues that most Continue reading

Feeding High Ash Forages

Bill Weiss, Department of Animal Sciences

Forage analysis is suggesting that in some cases soil conditions at harvest of some of our cover crop forages is increasing ash concentration by 6 or more percentage points.

We have received reports of some forages, including cover crops that were planted in later summer, having very high concentrations of ash. Ash in forages is comprised of minerals contained within the plant (for example, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and copper) and soil contamination that was either splashed onto the surface of the plant while in the field or was picked up during harvest. On average cool season grasses such as orchardgrass or fescue harvested as hay or silage have about 7-9% ash and legumes such as alfalfa harvested as hay or silage average 10-12% ash. Generally mineral concentrations decrease as plants mature and is greater in forages grown in soils that contain high concentrations of available potassium (luxury consumption). These factors will change plant ash concentrations but generally by only a few percentage points.

On the other hand, harvest practices and soil conditions at harvest can increase ash concentrations by 5 to more than 15 percentage points with only small changes occurring in major mineral concentrations. Soil contamination can greatly increase concentrations of trace minerals especially iron, manganese, and aluminum. A study from the University of Delaware evaluated the composition of Continue reading