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

Your Hay Storage Impacts Quality and Quanity

David Dugan, OSU Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Adams County

Where and how hay is stored can have a huge impact on the quality and quantity that’s available to be used for feed

With the calendar turning to November, and the temperatures dropping below freezing several mornings now, the time to feed hay is near, if not already here. Several have been feeding hay due to the pasture situation following a dry September that included several 90 degree plus days that zapped much of the grass.

I hope by now that samples have been pulled to get some idea of the nutrients in your hay so you can supplement when needed. Locally I have stressed the concern for hay quality for the passed few months and feel it is something many do not take as serious as maybe they should. The idea that I have heard time after time over the years is, it will beat snowballs, keeps coming to mind. That is a true statement, but will it beat wheat straw? Maybe.

OK, enough about quality, I am now Continue reading

Searching for Opportunities

– Kevin Laurent, Beef Extension Specialist, Princeton Research and Education Center, University of Kentucky

To say that 2019 has been a challenging year would be a huge understatement. From the excessive rain the first half of the year, to the drought and depressed markets of late, 2019 will definitely be remembered as one of those years much like 2007, 2009 and 2012. Like most challenges in life, there always seems to be an opportunity if we just look hard enough. Some may think these so called opportunities are dressed in camouflage and I wouldn’t dare argue with you. However, there have been a few positive signs recently with the market trending higher and many areas receiving some rain. Although we are far from out of the woods on either front, there are a few strategies we can use to minimize losses now and improve our situation in the Continue reading

Get Your Cattle Ready for Winter Before the Snow Flies

Catelyn Turner, Agricultural and Natural Resource Educator, OSU Extension, Monroe County (originally published in Farm and Dairy)

By looking at six critical areas on a cow, we can determine a body condition score and then develop a feeding plan.

The past week has brought a few chilly mornings, as well as the thoughts that winter is coming sooner than we think. It feels like just last week we were having 70 – 80-degree weather! The brisk mornings we have had have meant wearing a light jacket on the commute to work, but just because we are cold doesn’t mean our cattle are cold, yet. Cattle typically have a lower comfort level at around 20 – 30 degrees Fahrenheit, as long as the weather conditions are dry with little to no wind chill. Once the temperature drops below this range cattle will need more feed for energy, or they will start to use their stored fat to maintain their body temperature. Planning for the winter season is always a good idea, especially when it comes to keeping our cows in an adequate Body Condition Score (BCS) range prior to calving.

The key to it all, in my opinion, is planning ahead. It is way easier and less stressful if we have a plan in place and have evaluated the Continue reading

Reducing Pasture Damage During Winter Feeding

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

Sacrifice pastures allow livestock to be confined to one area of the farm during winter feeding to help to reduce pasture damage to all other pastures on the operation. (Credit: Jessica Williamson)

There is not a “one size fits all” answer to reducing pasture damage during winter feeding. Each individual producer should analyze his or her operation and determine if there are small steps that they can take to reduce the damage incurred annually while feeding in the winter.

1. Create a sacrifice pasture or lot.

By designating one area on a farm that has the purpose of being utilized during undesirable weather conditions, this saves the other pastures from getting damaged. Feed your stored feedstuffs only in the designated sacrifice areas during the late fall, winter and early spring – or until your pastures have acquired enough growth in the spring to be grazed.

2. Split your sacrifice area into 2 or more sections.

This further allows for control over where your livestock can be during Continue reading

Assessing the 2019 Production Year, Including Forages

Greg LaBarge, CPAg/CCA; Dee Jepsen; Ben Brown; Anne Dorrance; Sam Custer; Jason Hartschuh, CCA

This year, the challenges have been many, and varied. Help us help you by taking a few minutes to complete the survey linked below.

The 2019 production year has presented many challenges. Ohio State University Extension wants to be responsive to needs of the agricultural community.

A short survey aimed at farmers to identify both short- and long-term outreach and research needs of Ohio crop and livestock/forage producers based on the 2019 farm crisis year has been developed. Questions relate to crop production, livestock forage needs, emergency forage success, economic and human stress concerns. Since challenges and concerns varied across the state, this survey is designed to assess needs on a county, regional and statewide basis. The study will be used to determine Extension programming and future research needs.

Please consider sharing your experiences at

What’s in your hay?

Ted Wiseman, OSU Extension, Perry County (originally published in The Ohio Cattleman)

I don’t think that anyone would be surprised if I stated that getting hay made this spring was a real struggle.  Spring arrived with beef cows in some of the poorest body conditions that we have seen in years.  It is possible for an animal to starve to death with hay in front of them every day all winter.

My intent in this article is to simply illustrate the importance of getting your hay tested this year and to work with a nutritionist to establish a feeding program. Forages analyzed from this year indicate that quality is going to be an issue again.  Many of the first cutting samples from this year have protein levels in the single digits and total digestible nutrient (TDN) levels, in the 30s and 40s.  To put this into perspective straw has a crude protein level around 4 percent and TDN levels between 25-55.  To make matters worse we have an extremely low supply of forages and straw this year.

The following three tables focus mainly on the energy levels in forages and at three different stages of beef cow production.   In this scenario we have a 1200-pound cow and keeping dry matter intake (DMI) constant at 2 percent.  At each TDN level for forages analyzed it shows how much hay, corn and soybean meal it would take to meet these requirements.  These tables equate to requirements of a beef cow at 9 months gestation (Table 1), at calving (Table 2) and at Continue reading

Geez, what a mess!

– Dr. Les Anderson, Extension Beef Specialist, University of Kentucky

Have you ever looked at your cow-calf operation and had the thought “Geez, what a mess?!” Even if we don’t want to admit it, often our lack of organization and planning sometimes really hinder our opportunity to succeed especially in our cattle operations.

An example; it’s September. Have you pulled your bull? If a bull pen is not available, is your breeding season over? The first step in becoming an efficient, profit-possible operation is controlling the calving season.

How do we transform the calving season? A great example of controlling the calving season occurred on a farm enrolled in the UK Farm Program. This producer had huge Limousin-cross cows (1700-1800 pounds), calved all year long (see table The Beginning), 16 of 17 cows calved and 13 calves were weaned from 2015 calvings. This producer wanted to move to a fall-calving herd because of his time commitments to his grain enterprise.

Steps taken: Continue reading

Backgrounding; A Phase of Growing Calves in Preparation for the Feedlot

Steve Boyles, OSU Beef Extension Specialist

Backgrounding is a term used to describe a phase of growing calves being prepared for feedlot placement. As compared to wintering programs, backgrounding emphasizes a faster rate of gain, with relatively more grain and less roughage.

An example of a typical backgrounding operation would be to feed 400 to 500 pound steer calves to a weight of 600 to 700 pounds. If the feeding period was to be about 120 days, a ration and management program that produces an average daily gain of 1.5-2.5 would provide the desired sales weight.

Advantages of Backgrounded Feeder Calves

  • Provide a market for homegrown grain and roughage that might otherwise have little market value.
  • Calves are efficient converters of good quality feeds.
  • Avoid the stress and resulting health problems associated with shipping of young calves through the marketing system. Because of the potential death loss and health problems associated with handling and shipping of young calves, the cow herd owner has an advantage over those who purchase their calves through the marketing system.
  • Avoids the seasonal fall market glut and targets sales during seasonally strong feeder prices.
  • Provides more flexibility to spread marketings and choose among potentially profitable alternatives.
  • Provides additional flexibility for marketing heifers either as feeders or as herd replacements.

A study at the University of Nebraska in 2018 exhibits the advantages of first Continue reading

Why Consider Backgrounding a Calf?

Stan Smith, PA, Fairfield County OSU Extension

The recent packing house fire in Kansas has the potential to cause a backlog in feedyards that pressures feeder calf prices this fall. Backgrounding calves for later sale is an alternative.

Typically, when feed prices go down, we see feeder calf prices begin to climb as a corresponding move. That is, unless fed cattle prices are unstable or declining. A fire in a Kansas cattle packing plant just before a report detailing that the U.S. might have planted more acres of corn than earlier anticipated caused the perfect storm that allowed pressure on feeder calf prices at the same time as declining feed prices. With the time of year when the vast majority of U.S. feeder calves are weaned and marketed quickly approaching, there’s little time to develop a plan that might preserve or even enhance some of the value and profit in feeder calves that simply may not be in as strong of demand now as they might have been just a few weeks ago.

However, less expensive feed combined with the thought that calf prices can rebound in the coming months once we are past the seasonal tendency for lower prices and the damaged Kansas packing house comes back on-line offer incentive for developing a strategy to hold on to this fall’s feeder calves while also adding value to them.

To recap the path that’s brought us to this point, on Continue reading