Emergency Forages to Plant Mid-Summer

Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist

Warm-season annual grasses should be planted by July 15-18.

First and second cutting hay yields are being reported as lower than usual in many areas of Ohio this year. Forages took a hit from the late freezes and cold weather this spring, followed by dry weather after first cutting. Fortunately, hay quality is much better than usual.

If forage inventories are going to be short, emergency forages that can still be planted this summer include the warm-season annual grasses planted by mid-July as well as oat, spring triticale, and Italian ryegrass planted during the last week of July into early August. All those forages will be best harvested as silage/haylage or grazed. Brassica crops (turnip, turnip hybrids, rape) can be planted in early August for grazing in late autumn.

Soil moisture is the big concern for any forage planting now. Much of the state is . . .

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Summer Planted Annual “Cover Crops” for Forage, a study conducted in 2019

2019 was certainly a challenging year in Ohio in terms of both row crop and forage production. However, many of the acres left vacant due to prevented planting of corn and soybeans were available to be planted to annual forages that are often more commonly called ‘cover crops.’ This allowed OSU Extension Educators Al Gahler, Jason Hartschuh and Garth Ruff to take a close look at the productivity and feed quality of several different late planted annual forages throughout 2019.

They presented their findings at both the 2020 Ohio Beef Cow/Calf Workshop and again at the Ag Madness presentations during the COVID-19 quarantine earlier this spring. This video exhibits what they found while exploring those late planted annual forages.

Oats as a late summer forage crop

Jason Hartschuh and Al Gahler, OSU Extension AgNR Educators (originally published in The Ohio Farmer)

Fungicide application significantly reduced the presence of rust.

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 its versatility in planting date. Oats can also be planted in the summer as an early fall forage for harvest or grazing.

Summer oats has a wide planting window but performs much better with an application of nitrogen and may benefit from a fungicide application to improve quality. During the summer of 2019 we conducted a study to examine the planting of oats from July 15th through early September to examine tonnage and forage quality. Through this trial we examined planting date, yield, forage quality and an application of foliar fungicide to control oats crown rust.

Usually the best scenario for growing oats for forage is to plant them into wheat stubble, which is normally available by mid-July at the latest. However, the typical recommendation is to plant oats between August 1st and 10th to maximize tonnage and quality, since the shorter day length triggers oats to grow more leaf instead of Continue reading

Forage management and cow size

Steve Boyles, OSU Beef Extension Specialist

Increased Hay Production per Cow: The increased use of the round baler and other hay production technologies since the early and mid-1970s (Van Keuren, OARDC –  The History of the Development of the Large Round Bale) has lowered the labor requirement and increased the convenience of hay production. Hay production per cow in the southeastern United States has increased by 136% (USDA NASS, 2016) since 1976. Reliance on stored forages by cow-calf producers is can be challenge to sustainable production.

Cow Size: There has been a 30% increase in cow mature size over the last 30 years. From 1975 to 2015, cow numbers have decreased by 35%, but beef production has been maintained at a level similar to 1975 (Beck, Gadberry, Gunter, Kegley, Jennings, 2017). Correspondingly, market steer and heifer weights have increased.  This also due to selecting bulls for increased yearling weights.

Forage Management: The larger the cow, the more forage is needed per cow. Forage management strategies have been developed to reduce reliance on stored forages for wintering beef cows. Beck et al. (2017) lists rotational grazing increases Continue reading

Cover Crop Considerations After Wheat

Jason Hartschuh, OSU Extension AgNR Educator, Crawford County (originally published in The Ohio Farmer)

Wheat provides many additional opportunities for your operation. These options include drainage improvements, weed-control timing, double-crop soybeans, double-crop forages, compaction mitigation, and soil building through cover crops. From the time wheat is harvested, there is about nine months for weeds to grow and soil to erode. If double-crop soybeans are not planted, the use of cover crops will protect the soil and assist with weed control. High populations of cover crops provide competition and soil cover to control weeds.

While wheat residue does a decent job of controlling erosion, cover crops can provide increased erosion control. The canopy protects soil from the impact of raindrops, and the roots hold it in place, leading to decreased surface erosion and retention of valuable nutrients. The cover crop acts as a trap to hold nutrients from soil and applications of manure or commercial fertilizer. They do an excellent job of absorbing nitrogen and holding it in plant residue.

The type of crop you choose will determine what benefits you receive. If an operation uses tillage, annual cover crops can still have a benefit for the operation. The best time to till is the following spring, just before planting. The cover crop opens soil and allows it to dry out better in the spring for tillage or no-till planting.

One of the greatest economic benefits of cover crops can be found by using them as a forage. Growers receive the Continue reading

On-farm bale grazing demonstration in Kentucky

In this 4 minute video, Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler, Extension Beef Cattle Specialist at the University of Kentucky, shares information and video on bale grazing during a recent follow-up with a producer participating for a second year in the demonstration.

Poison Hemlock is Blooming

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

Control with a broadleaf killer like 2,4-D doesn’t eliminate ALL the competition for next generation hemlock plants.

Poison hemlock is up and actively growing right this minute. It is already prevalent on roadsides in Noble County. If you stand next to poison hemlock it will feel like you are in that scene from “Alice in Wonderland” where the flowers are giant, and she is tiny. It looks like Queen Anne’s Lace, but much larger. It blooms earlier and it is has distinct purple spots on the stem.

All parts of the poison hemlock plant are poisonous to people and livestock, wet or dry. This can be an extremely concerning weed in hay fields. You won’t have to look hard to find it. If you come across it in bloom, you can mow it down to prevent seed production, but it will come back to haunt you later. A similar look alike is wild parsnip, which is in the same family, causes additional concerns for skin rash, and has yellow flowers. We have yet to see giant hogweed in Noble County, but it is another look alike that can be found in other parts of Ohio with similar concerns.

Control on poison hemlock is most effective when the plants are Continue reading

Hay yields off? Don’t panic, there’s time to take action!

Chris Penrose, Extension Educator, Ag and Natural Resources, Morgan County

Some suggest hay yields are half of normal. Is that the result of late freezes, or more timely harvest this year?

I hope you are not having the hay season I am having. While the quality of my hay is good, my yields are extremely disappointing. With over half of my fields made, I am around 50% of a normal crop. The two late freezes killed back growing grass last month, and honestly, I am mowing hay earlier than most years. I am also doing it much faster with my youngest son not working this summer at the Wilmington College farm due to the virus and helping on the farm. Another thing I have noticed over the past few years is that some hay fields have less fescue and orchard grass, and more poor quality forages like cheat grass reducing quality and yields.

If it looks like hay is going to be short this year, here are a few thoughts for the short term and for the long term. First, is there hay you can make from some property not too far from where you live? Sometimes owners may let fields be made at a reasonable price if they are faced with having to pay someone to mow it for them just to maintain open space.

Will your fields benefit from fertilizer and lime? Applications made soon can provide a Continue reading

Determine Forage Moisture Content

– Source: wayne.osu.edu

Moisture content at harvest is significant factor in forage quality.

Forage maturity/stage of development is often cited as the number one factor that determines forage quality, but for any stored forage, moisture content at harvest is a close second. Moisture content drives what happens to that forage after it is removed from the field, whether quality is maintained or degraded. Improper moisture content can reduce storage life.

The most common method of determining forage moisture is some type of visual appraisal whereby a forage sample is either twisted together or squeezed into a ball and then released.  How quickly that twisted sample unravels, or the ball falls apart determines if the forage is too wet, too dry, or ready for harvest.  While a lot of good quality stored forage has been made using this method, errors sometimes get made and forage quality is compromised, or forage is lost.  For those producers looking for more certainty in determining forage moisture there are some tools available that can help.

Tools available to determine forage moisture include a microwave oven, commercial forage moisture testers, hand-constructed vortex dryers, air fryers, moisture probes, and moisture sensors built into harvest equipment.  Each has some advantages and disadvantages, but each used with the proper knowledge and protocol can help the forage producer more accurately determine forage moisture.  Most of these tools requires that a good representative sample be collected to produce a reliable result.  When sampling windrows be sure to . . .

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