Filling the Gap with Forages: Cover crop forage options on Prevented Planting acres

If you’re looking to harvest or graze quality forage from Prevented Planting acres yet this fall, or next spring, this is a “must see” video presentation!

Throughout this fast paced webinar recording, Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Educator in Wayne County, offers a wide variety of considerations for planting cover crops on Prevented Planting acres that can also double as harvest-able or grazeable forage for livestock.

Weaner Cattle Need Their Own Trainer

– Kirsten Nickles MSc and Anthony Parker PhD, The Ohio State University Department of Animal Sciences

The addition of a social facilitator cow seems to reduce the negative walking behaviors associated with weaning.

The most common weaning method in the United States beef industry is the abrupt removal of calves from cows at 5-8 months of age (Enríquez et al., 2011). Natural weaning in beef cattle however, occurs later in life for a calf at 7-14 months of age (Reinhardt and Reinhardt, 1981). The immediate cessation of milk supply and complete maternal separation causes calves to exhibit stereotypical behaviors such as walking and vocalizing at weaning. Calves will engage in these stereotypical behaviors for three to four days and the excessive activity and lack of feed intake result in body weight loss and fatigue (Weary et al., 2008). The anxiety and frustration experienced at weaning by the calf are critical factors that negatively affect the growth rate of the calf and can contribute to the onset of disease such as bovine respiratory disease. This is why we should aim to manage calves in a way that reduces these negative stereotypical weaning behaviors.

The use of a “trainer cow” or “social facilitator” has been proposed as a method to Continue reading

“Increase the feed, or reduce the need”

Stan Smith, PA, Fairfield County OSU Extension (published originally in The Ohio Farmer on-line)

Seldom have we ever been challenged by wet weather, mud and adverse conditions for such an extended period of time!

Seldom do we talk about forage shortages and above normal precipitation in the same breath. Regardless, that’s where we are now throughout Ohio and much of the Midwest. Over the past year abundant rainfall has allowed us to grow lots of forage. Unfortunately, it seems the weather has seldom allowed us to harvest it as high quality feed.

Since last fall the demand for quality forages has been on the increase. It began with a wet fall that forced us from pasture fields early. Followed by constantly muddy conditions, cattle were requiring more feed and energy than normal. At the same time, even though temperatures were moderate during much of the fall of 2018, cows with a constantly wet hair coat were, yet again, expending more energy than normal to remain in their comfort zone. Then, as a cold late January 2019 evolved into February, in many cases mud had matted down the winter coats of cattle reducing their hair’s insulating properties, thus causing them to require even more energy in the cold weather.

Reduced supplies of quality forages coupled with increased demand over the past year have led us to Continue reading

FAQs: Forages, Cover Crops and More

Stan Smith, PA, Fairfield County OSU Extension

It goes without saying, for many, what we’ve experienced in the beef cattle industry beginning last year and continuing to this point in 2019 is uncharted territory. In response to the struggle to get corn planted and hay made this year, lots of questions have resulted. Following are responses to a few of those most Frequently Asked Questions thus far:

I didn’t get my hay fields fertilized last fall or this spring. Can I fertilize it now that first cutting just came off without “burning it up?”

Yes, in fact immediately Continue reading

Farming with Family through the Tough Times

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

There are days where every farmer wonders what they got themselves into. Days where the work ahead is overwhelming, the kids are sick, the cows are calving, your 4×4 is stuck in the mud, and to top it off, you are running low on stored feed and stored energy in your soul. Farming is tough. No doubt about that.

When the weather and the markets are uncooperative with your plans, the stress can pile up on the farm and on your family. One temporary way to deal with that stress is to be thankful for what you have. Someone out there always has it worse than us and we should be thankful for the things we have each day, instead of dwelling on the things we do not.

This past winter at the American Forage and Grassland Council Annual Conference, a beef farmer named Buron Lanier of Piney Woods Farm in North Carolina, shared a story of forage tragedy and triumph that can help put ‘thankfulness’ into perspective.

Mr. Lanier had presented at last year’s conference about the efforts made to convert his farm from KY-31 fescue to novel endophyte fescue. A significant portion of his farm is dedicated to silvoculture, combining the production of pine trees and feeding stocker cattle. With great effort, he progressed into a 365-day grazing system. He had no need to feed hay and very little supplemental feed. The system was Continue reading

Assessing Relationship Management and Leadership Skills

– Michael Langemeier, Center for Commercial Agriculture, Purdue University (originally published in farmdoc daily (9):109, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, June 13, 2019.)

As farms continue to consolidate it becomes increasingly important to assess a farm’s management skills. At a certain farm size, it is no longer easy or feasible for the manager or managers to wear every management hat. How does the management team determine when to focus on professional development, delegate management tasks among mangers, and seek outside assistance?

Continue reading Assessing Relationship Management and Leadership Skills

Breeding Beef Cows Back after a Tough Winter

Dean Kreager, Ohio State University Extension AgNR Educator, Licking County (originally published in the Ohio Farmer on-line)

How do you avoid getting stuck in a rut? Take a different path. There was a real shortage of high quality or even medium quality hay made last year. Forage analysis results that I reviewed last fall were all lower quality than expected. As a result, many cowherds were much thinner at the beginning of the spring calving season this year. The problem with having thin cows at calving time is that they are likely to be even thinner at breeding time.

When a cow eats, her use of nutrients is prioritized. First is maintenance for survival, followed by lactation and growth, which includes weight gain, and finally, reproduction. While reproduction is the number one priority trait for profitability, it is not at the top of the list when the body of the cow is deciding how to use its nutrient resources.

Years of research have established that thin cows are often difficult to get bred. Results often show around a 30% decrease in the number of cows displaying estrus by 60 days post-calving on a cow with a body condition score at calving of 4 vs 6. Similar results are seen when comparing pregnancy rates within a Continue reading

Forage Shortage: Considering Early Weaning

Garth Ruff, Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ohio State University Extension, Henry County (originally published in Ohio’s Country Journal on-line)

Less than ideal conditions have led to forage shortages throughout the Midwest. Photo: Ohio’s Country Journal

Low hay inventory this past winter combined with poor pasture stands due to excessive moisture have led to a greater proportion of thin beef cows both across the countryside and on the cull market. As we evaluate the toll that this past winter took on forage stands, especially alfalfa, hay is projected to be in short supply as we proceed into next winter as well.

For a beef cow to be efficient and profitable, we must meet her nutritional requirements for maintenance in addition to those for reproduction and lactation. As a reminder, the hierarchy of nutrient use is as follows: Maintenance, Development, Growth, Lactation, Reproduction, Fattening. This applies to all nutrient categories, not just to energy alone. As we conclude calving season, we are entering the most challenging time in production cycle when it comes to providing adequate nutrition. If the cow does not intake enough nutrients and is in suboptimal body condition at calving (BCS < 5), reproduction is the first to fail. With that in mind, one strategy available to minimize body condition and reproductive losses when forage is in short supply is to early wean calves.

Early weaning is certainly not a new concept and is one that is often employed when Continue reading

Forage Options for “Prevented Planting” Corn and Soybean Acres

Stan Smith, PA, Fairfield County OSU Extension

Today, as we sit here on May 15, we know three things for certain:

  • Ohio has the lowest inventory of hay since the 2012 drought and the 4th lowest in 70 years.
  • Ohio’s row crops will not get planted in a timely fashion this year.
  • Grain markets have fallen to the point that in many cases – or, perhaps most cases – for those with coverage, Prevented Planting Crop Insurance payments will yield more income than growing a late planted corn or soybean crop this year.

Grazing oats planted on Prevented Planting acres in very late fall is an excellent alternative for harvesting this cover crop.

Prevented planting provisions in the USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) crop insurance policies can provide valuable coverage when extreme weather conditions prevent expected plantings. On their website, RMA also says “producers should make planting decisions based on agronomically sound and well documented crop management practices.”

Today, insured corn and soybean growers throughout Ohio find themselves at the crossroads of a decision that pits the overwhelming desire to want to plant and grow a crop against the reality that financially and agronomically it might be a more sound alternative to accept a Prevented Planting insurance payment. Adding further support to the notion that today Continue reading

The Long-Term Impact of a Few Days

John F. Grimes, OSU Extension Beef Coordinator, retired (originally published in the Ohio Farmer on-line)

For spring-calving beef herds, the breeding season is currently or soon will be underway. Many decisions have been made in terms of the genetic makeup of the 2020 calf crop. Natural herd sires or sires to be used through artificial insemination have been selected. Mature cows have been retained and replacement heifers have been introduced to the breeding herd. Hopefully the genetic decisions that have been made will prove profitable when next year’s calf crop is sold.

Reproduction is the most economically important trait in beef cattle for the cow-calf producer. Numerous studies have shown that reproduction is several times more important than growth or carcass traits. Simply put, genetic superiority in any trait does not matter if the beef female is not bred and deliver a live calf for the producer.

Regardless of the size and scope of your operation or your preferred time of year to calve, there is little economic justification for a lengthy calving season. The arrival of breeding season for many herds seems like an appropriate time to revisit this issue. A 60-day breeding season is an ideal goal to shoot for and I would recommend nothing longer than 90 days. If you are currently involved in a longer breeding season, there are valid economic and management reasons to make a change. It requires a little discipline, some rigid culling, and a willingness to use technology and other resources available.

A joint study between Oklahoma State and Texas A&M Universities found a positive relationship between number of days of the breeding season and the production cost per hundredweight of calf weaned. In addition, they reported a negative relationship between Continue reading