Cutting Height in Hay Fields: How Low Can You Go?

– Dwane Miller, Extension Educator, Agronomy, Penn State University

While many parts of Pennsylvania have yet to take a cutting of hay in 2018, I was on a farm in Chester County on Monday (5/7/18) where first cutting alfalfa/orchardgrass was made last week. As you head to the field this year, it’s important to pay attention to cutting height in your hay crop. One of our goals as farmers is to maximize our yield; however, cutting a hay crop too low can lead to several negative issues. The introduction of the disk-type mowers (discbines) allows for cutting very close to the ground. I’ve seen many fields that have been “scalped” right to ground level. This differs considerably from the older sickle bar mowers (haybines), whose technology required some level of stubble height remain. Stand longevity can be compromised when the crop is cut too low. As a general rule, alfalfa can be cut closer to the ground than our grass hay crops. We need to think about where energy reserves are stored in the crop. For alfalfa, carbohydrates are stored below ground in the taproot. Our grass hay crops store their energy above Continue reading

Making Forage Improvements

John F. Grimes, OSU Extension Beef Coordinator (originally published in The Ohio Cattleman)

We are currently at a very important point in the annual beef and forage production calendar. We are concluding the winter hay feeding season and transitioning to the spring grazing season. Most producers are welcoming this change as we have just experienced a difficult winter with extreme conditions ranging from bitter sub-zero temperatures to excessive mud. I know that I am ready for warmer temperatures and greener grass!

Now is a good time to evaluate the forage portion of your farming operation and how it is influencing your beef production unit. Forage management decisions can focus on pastures as well as hay production, storage, and feeding. These decisions will have a huge impact on the overall profitability of your beef enterprise. Keep in mind that the largest expense in any cow-calf budget that you can find will be feed costs. Grazed and harvested forages obviously will comprise the largest portion of the feed expense line of the budget.

Most Ohio beef operations will typically have a forage base that combines a variety of cool-season grasses with legumes. A few producers will also Continue reading

Don’t Let Potash Limit Your Forages

– Jimmy Henning, Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

Potassium can be a neglected nutrient in forages, especially hayfields. Potassium is needed for many essential plant processes including stomatal opening and closing (regulates water status of plant), winter hardiness, and resistance to plant disease and stress. Fall is a great time to sample pasture and hayfields and apply needed fertilizer such as potash (K2O).

Silage crops are heavy users of K2O, and the stover/stems contain ¾ of the potash. If these fields are not amended with additional K2O according to soil test, subsequent forage crops will Continue reading

Bread, Milk, and Forages!

Allen M. Gahler, OSU Extension Educator, AgNR, Sandusky County (originally published in Ohio Farmer on-line)

Well, winter has come and gone, and despite the many scares that mother nature provided, and the warnings well ahead of time that the local weather reports around the state gave with each storm that approached, many of us chose not to rush out to the store to get bread and milk prior to the storm. And miraculously, we survived! Hopefully, all of your livestock survived all the cold snaps and snow storms as well. And if they did, you likely have yourself to thank for proper planning and nutrition that was provided for them.

So now that we are moving into the growing season and will soon be, or maybe already are, grazing in some areas, all of those concerns about what to feed our livestock and when are over until next winter approaches, right?!

Progressive beef, dairy, goat, and sheep producers are constantly searching for the most Continue reading

Improving Mud Damaged Winter Pastures

As spring is upon us, pastures and paddocks that served as cattle feeding areas this winter are a sea of trampled and pugged up mud throughout Ohio. As much of the state has been experiencing even more precipitation over the past week, OSU Extension Beef Coordinator John Grimes visited with Wayne County’s OSU Extension Educator Rory Lewandowski about the considerations for restoring these damaged areas to productive forage as soon as soil conditions permit. You’ll find the recording of that timely conversation below.

Spring Seeding of Forages

Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist

Late this month (depending on the weather) and on into April provides one of the two preferred times to seed perennial cool-season forages. The other preferred timing for cool-season grasses and legumes is in late summer, primarily the month of August here in Ohio. The relative success of spring vs. summer seeding of forages is greatly affected by the prevailing weather conditions, and so growers have success and failures with each option.

Probably the two primary difficulties with spring plantings are finding a Continue reading

Options for Improving Damaged Pastures

Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Educator, Wayne County and Stan Smith, OSU Extension PA, Fairfield County

As trampled and pocked up winter feeding areas begin to dry out, consider all the alternatives that will allow these beat up paddocks to recover and become productive again.

Ohio’s roads and highways aren’t the only things that have suffered from a winter that’s alternated between sub-freezing temperatures, and abundant rainfall on top of saturated surfaces. As spring quickly approaches, pastures and paddocks that have served as cattle feeding areas this winter are a sea of pocked up mud. While road crews are out repairing damaged roads by tamping cold patch into the pot holes, it’s simply not that easy to repair soils that are expected to breathe life into growing plants during the coming months.

That said, a key decision many are facing regards whether or not Continue reading

Tall Fescue and its endophyte – Implications for your farm

– Dr. Jimmy Henning, Livestock Forage Specialist, University of Kentucky (From Jan 18 Farmers Pride)

The story of Kentucky 31 tall fescue reads like a soap opera. Found on a Menifee County Kentucky hill side in 1931, it quickly became a rival to Kentucky bluegrass as the most important grass in Kentucky. Its yield and persistence made it look unbeatable, but its animal performance numbers were sometimes poor or worse. The decision by the University of Kentucky to go forward with the release of Kentucky 31 was filled with about as much drama as you will ever find in an academic setting.

Figure 1: Tall fescue is the dominant grass of Kentucky, and most is infected with a toxic endophyte. Much is known about this unusual combination of pasture plant and internal fungus. Management, clover interseeding and replacement will improve livestock performance.

We now know the poor animal performance AND the persistence of that early fescue was due to Continue reading

Temperature Swings Offer Seeding Opportunity

Chris Penrose, OSU Extension, Morgan Co. and Gary Wilson, retired Hancock Co. Ag Educator

If you don’t like the weather you’re experiencing this minute, give it an hour or two and it will likely be different. Particularly in recent weeks it seems Ohio temperatures have either been above normal, or way below normal. While that may not be comfortable to man or beast, it creates an environment where certain forage species can be added to thin pastures relatively easy.

This is the time of year when farmers will want to think about re-seeding their pasture and hay fields. This method of seeding is called “frost seeding” which is where you apply seed to the ground and the freezing and thawing of the soil in February and early march will provide Continue reading

Rolling Out Hay is Rolling Out Dollars

– Kris Ringwall, Beef Specialist, NDSU Extension Service

As a year ends, reflecting on the past year is good.

The obvious point this year is the lack of forage and how, as producers, one responded to the challenge.

The Dickinson Research Extension Center needs more than 1,000 1,300-pound bales to make the stretch to spring grass. That number is buffered a bit because the calves are receiving 3 pounds of commercial supplement daily and the cows 4 pounds of commercial supplement every other day. But forage is the essence of a cattle operation, and keeping costs low is critical.

Fortunately, the center forage feed needs have been helped by Continue reading