Autumn Forage Harvest Management

Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist

Forages need a fall period of rest to replenish carbohydrate and protein reserves.

Every year we remind forage producers that the best time to take a last harvest of alfalfa and other legumes is in early September in Ohio, for the least risk to the long-term health of the stand. These forages need a fall period of rest to replenish carbohydrate and protein reserves in the taproots that are used for winter survival and regrowth next spring. And every spring we hear of weak stands coming out of the winter, and after asking questions we learn that in many of those cases of weak stand in the spring, they had been harvested the previous autumn during the fall rest period, which weakened the stand going into the winter.

Forage producers around the state have been finishing the third cutting of alfalfa and a few have taken the fourth cutting the past week or two. It will be ideal if these harvests are the last of the season. But some growers might try to squeeze out another late cutting, and others have fields that are not quite ready for harvest right now. Like most farming decisions, there are trade-offs and risk factors to consider when making a . . .

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Using Cover Crops with Fall Manure Applications

Glen Arnold, CCA, Field Specialist, Manure Nutrient Management

Manure Application with a drag line

Corn silage harvest started last week in Ohio, and this will free up farm fields for manure application. Livestock producers and commercial manure applicators have started the fall manure application season which will continue through soybean and corn harvest next month. To best capture the nutrients in manure, manure should be incorporated during application or as soon as possible afterwards. Livestock producers should also consider using cover crops to capture more of the manure nutrients, especially the nitrogen, and also prevent soil erosion.

The most common cover crops used with livestock manure are cereal rye, wheat, and oats. However, farmers have also used radishes, clover, annual ryegrass, Sudan grass or almost anything they are comfortable growing. If a farmer is participating in . . .

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Winterize Your Forage Plans

– Victor Shelton, Retired NRCS Agronomist/Grazing Specialist

Manage the forage you have; consider fall planted annuals and stockpiled forages and prepare for winter!

Some people try to make pasture management a lot more difficult than needed. I think sometimes it is more about how it is perceived in the eyes of the beholder. Some might think that a pasture that is grazed evenly to the ground, all the time, means that no forage was lost – no.  Some might think that mowing it frequently and making it look like a prime horse pasture behind a fancy fence is ideal – maybe. It is really about the management of the forage to achieve the goals of production, forage quality and numerous added benefits that benefit erosion, soil biology, and usually also wildlife.

Anytime you can keep something simple it is usually best.  I’ve been to several events this summer and had similar questions asked to me that can be summed up as, “What are the basic rules of good pasture management?”

I find myself repeating some things. That repetition is perhaps needed from time to time, but I don’t want to be redundant either. I am reminded occasionally to just Continue reading

Carbon . . . a new source of income for grazers?

Mike Estadt, OSU Extension Educator, Pickaway County

Open any farm publication, print or digital, and one is likely to see articles related to carbon markets.  There are several active companies in the agricultural sector recruiting farmers and landowners to enroll into a carbon credit programs.  This proliferation of markets has been due to several factors, but in part it is largely due to the increasing amount of attention by world governments and corporations related to the magnitude of climate change impacts attributed to atmospheric greenhouse gases.

The purpose of this article is to briefly explain why these markets exist, what opportunities grazers and livestock producers may want to give future consideration to and provide you with some additional information that may help one make an informed decision.  A key point to be made is that these are voluntary carbon programs, and each farm and ranch is unique as to how it may use a grazing management system or other conservation programs to be eligible for these carbon markets.

Agricultural lands and woodlands owners are being recruited by companies to offset carbon emissions associated with the burning of fossil fuels.  Grasslands and trees use the exchange of carbon dioxide in the process of photosynthesis to provide us food, fiber, and energy.  How farmers and grazers manage these exchanges will potentially affect the amount of carbon stored in the soil and the amount of greenhouse gases that remain in the atmosphere.

Will carbon offsets solve the climate problem?  There is much debate over this question.  An offset allows the Continue reading

Plan Now for Fall Fertilization of Perennial Forages

Mark Sulc, Greg LaBarge, CPAg/CCA, OSU Extension

This is an excellent time for soil testing, and fertilizing hay fields!

Early fall is one of the best times to topdress maintenance fertilizer on perennial forages. Soils are usually firm in September, and autumn topdressing provides needed nutrients for good winter survival of the forage stand and vigorous regrowth the following spring. Now is a great time to begin preparations and acquiring fertilizer supplies so timely fall applications can be made.

Remember that hay crops will remove about 50 lbs of K2O and 12 lbs of P2O5 per ton of dry hay harvested. Adequate amounts of soil P and K are important for the productivity and persistence of forage stands. But nutrient over-application harms the environment and can harm animals fed those forages. A recent . . .

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What’s your baled forage worth?

Lee Beers, OSU Extension Educator, Trumbull County (originally published in Farm and Dairy)

Depending on your perspective, the dry weather in northeast Ohio has either been a blessing or a curse.

This hay season has been relatively stress-free so far without a fear of rain, but if it doesn’t rain soon, we will be looking at reduced tonnage for second and third cuttings. Not to mention that we are fast approaching corn pollination and we will need some significant rain during pollination for a good yield.

Yields have been good for baled forage in northeast Ohio, and with lots of time to make dry forage, some farmers are prepared to sell extra hay. If you find yourself in a similar situation, be sure to consider all costs before you put a price on your forage. Unlike some other items you sell off your farm, you get to choose the price for your forage. It’s easy to say, “I just want to get rid of it” and price it low to move it off your farm quickly, but that may be a costly strategy.

Adding up the costs

Before you “just get rid of it”, let’s consider the cost of that bale. We all know fertilizer prices are extremely high right now, and there is nutrient value in that baled forage. For every ton of dry hay you harvest, you are removing approximately 40 pounds of Continue reading

Seeding Perennial Forages in Late Summer

Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist

August is a good window of opportunity for establishing perennial forage stands.

August is the second good window of opportunity of the year for establishing perennial forage stands (spring being the first good planting time). August is also the ideal time for filling in gaps in seedings made this spring. The primary risk with late summer forage seedings is having sufficient moisture for seed germination and good plant establishment before cold weather arrives. The decision to plant or not will have to be made for each individual field, considering soil moisture status and the rainfall forecast. Rainfall and adequate soil moisture in the few weeks immediately after seeding is the primary factor affecting successful forage establishment.

No-till Seedings

No-till seeding is an excellent choice to conserve soil moisture for seed germination in late summer. Make sure that the field surface is relatively level and smooth if you plan to no-till, because you will have to live with any field roughness for multiple years of harvesting operations. No-till into wheat stubble would be . . .

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Johnsongrass: Friend or Foe?

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

Like other members of the sorghum family, johnsongrass can cause nitrate or prussic acid toxicity.

Johnsongrass is easy to find in July in Ohio. It is a warm-season grass that is related to corn. Unlike it’s relatives- corn, sorghum, and sorghum-sudangrass, which are annual species commonly used for agronomic purposes, johnsongrass is a perennial that has naturalized itself in our environment. Johnsongrass begins actively growing when soil temperatures reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit, which is why it is more prevalent in Ohio in mid-summer to fall.

Whether we classify johnsongrass as a weed or as a forage could be debated, but it is formally listed as a noxious weed in Ohio and therefore the debate is resolved. Johnsongrass is a non-native, aggressive, naturalized weed that does provide some value as a forage, but by no means should be purposefully planted or propagated due to the threats it poses to our native species and agronomic cropping systems. It was initially introduced from the Mediterranean as a forage crop and then dispersed in an attempt to fight erosion in floodplains, which it can do effectively, but the problem is Continue reading

Planning . . . in case it stays dry

– Victor Shelton, Retired NRCS Agronomist/Grazing Specialist

Good exiting height on cool season forage.

As I write this on July 1, the weather certainly has changed.  Some areas that were very wet for so long this spring are now dry.  Ideally, a nice rain about every seven to 10 days would be what I would order if I could.  Much more than 10 days and we are starting to be on the dry side.  It is true that a drought is only about 14 days away at any point in time.

You can always reduce drought risk by making sure you are maintaining good soil cover, not over grazing and keeping the ground cool.  This is easily done by maintaining at least 4 inches of live growth for cool season forages and 6 inches or more for warm season forages.  That stop grazing height is the shortest forage left, not the tallest.  If it is the tallest, you have already overgrazed it.  If so, stop and let it rest as long as possible before grazing again.

Overgrazing when your area enters into droughty conditions or possible droughty conditions reduces the resilience of the plant.  Most cool season forages have about as much active live roots below ground as they have growing forage above ground.  Shortly grazed forage will therefore be less Continue reading

Alfalfa Fertility Needs

Brooks Warner, OSU Extension Ag and Natural Resources Educator, Scioto County

When given the highest level of management, alfalfa can be our most productive forage. Photo: Osler Ortez.

Alfalfa is known as the queen of forages for its ability to produce incredible amounts of high-protein forage in an array of different environments. Proper management of alfalfa stands can help producers maintain the highest quality and yielding alfalfa for their livestock enterprises. In Ohio, alfalfa thrives in our growing conditions and producers can potentially harvest five times in a growing season. For maximum yield and a healthy alfalfa stand, proper soil fertility is crucial. Soil tests are crucial in understanding which nutrients we are deficient in, and with the price of fertilizer and high-quality alfalfa, it is important to know if we are applying too much or not enough fertilizer.

Soil pH

Highest yielding alfalfa is grown in soil with a pH of 6.7 (Mclean and Brown, 1984). In southeastern Ohio we tend to have low pH soil, so applications of lime are regularly needed.

Soil pH plays a large role in alfalfa stand longevity and plant density. Low pH can have a Continue reading