Rotational Grazing and Water Quality

Steve Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Specialist

Maintaining forage cover and using it for pasture or hay production should meet conservation compliance demands. A diverse group of people representing the local cattle organization, feed store, auction facility, fence building business, veterinary clinic, and the soil and water conservation district cooperated on a grazing project. The primary objective was to observe nitrates levels in surface water run-off from grazed and ungrazed sites. This information could be used to evaluate if rotational grazing is compatible with surface water quality requirements.

An intensive rotational grazing project was initiated within the Indian Lake Water Shed.  The land was seeded to orchardgrass, timothy and red clover. The soil was a Napponee St. Clair silt/loam with 6-12% slopes which is typical of Logan County, Ohio. There were not any trees within or adjacent to the grazing site.

The 40 acre area was divided into four sections. Perimeter fence was high tensile fence (5 strands, 3 electrified) on wood posts. Internal fence separating sections was 1 strand of electric wire on wood posts. However Continue reading

Feed Your Cows and Your Forage

Garth Ruff, Beef Cattle Field Specialist, OSU Extension (originally published in The Ohio Cattleman)

The highest energy demand of the cow arrives approximately 60 days post calving.

Spring has arrived, a successful Ohio Beef Expo is in the rear view, and for many Ohio beef producers, there are calves on the ground. This is a critical time in the beef and forage production cycle for many producers, especially those with spring calving herds.

As we come into the forage growing season and wrap up much of the cold weather hay feeding, now is an important time to consider nutrition, not only for the cow herd but for our forage crops as well.

The highest energy demand of the cow is during peak lactation, approximately 60 days post calving. During this time in the production cycle, we also are asking that cow to return to estrous and be rebred in a timely manner. To maintain a 365-day calving interval, we have roughly 85 days between calving and getting that female rebred in which we need to supply Continue reading

The energy requirements for an Angus beef cow throughout her annual production cycle

– Kirsten Nickles, Graduate Research Associate and Anthony J. Parker, Associate Chair and Associate Professor. Department of Animal Sciences, Ohio State University.

The nutritional requirements for beef cows change daily throughout their annual production cycle. The frequent change in requirements is caused by varying stages of production and environmental factors that affect the cow’s behavior and energy use. To give an example, a spring calving beef cow gestating throughout winter will have energy requirements for maintenance and gestation, and there may be further requirements for cold stress if winter climatic conditions place the cow outside her zone of thermal comfort. To appreciate how great the total net energy cost of a beef cow can be we have included the net energy requirements in Mcal/day throughout the annual production cycle of a mature 1200 lb Angus cow with a peak milk yield (PMY) of 18 pounds (Figure 1).  We included the requirements for maintenance, lactation, and gestation and assume this all occurs without any cold or heat stress on the cow. It is noteworthy to consider that thermal stress can elevate the requirement for maintenance substantially.

Figure 1. The energy requirements (Mcal/day) for an Angus beef cow throughout her annual production cycle.

Many beef cattle producers would agree that the Continue reading

Pasture Bloat Concerns and Responses

Last week in this publication we shared concerns for frothy bloat in pastured cattle. As a follow up, in this episode of Forage Focus, Host- Christine Gelley- Extension Educator, Agriculture & Natural Resources in Noble County and Dr. Steve Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Specialist, dig deeper into the causes and possible solutions for frothy bloat occurrences in pastured livestock. Their discussion includes how pasture managers need to be observant of forage growth, weather conditions, and animal behavior to avoid conditions that commonly trigger bloat and to recognize and treat bloat quickly if it occurs.

Cow Nutrition and Implications for Reproductive Performance, Fetal Development, and Calf Performance

In beef cattle, the hierarchy for nutrient use of an individual animal is first body maintenance, followed by body development, growth, lactation, reproduction and then fattening. If a situation occurs where nutrients are limited, those items lowest within this hierarchy are the first to suffer. In this presentation, Dr. Francis L. Fluharty, Ohio State University Professor Emeritus in the Department of Animal Sciences and presently Department Head at the University of Georgia Animal and Dairy Science Department, details the implications for reproductive performance, fetal development, and calf performance if nutrients are inadequate.

Pasture (Frothy) Bloat; Beware when grazing legumes!

Stephen Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Specialist

Bloat has been described in agricultural writings since A.D. 60. Names for bloat have changed over the years: hoove, hoven, tympany, and blown have appeared in English journals of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Bloat occurs when rumen gas production exceeds the rate of gas elimination. The gas accumulates and causes distention of the rumen (left side of cattle). If the situation continues, the inflated rumen interferes with respiration. The problem is worsened by the absorption of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the rumen. Death is normally due to suffocation.

Bloat is often associated with discontinuous grazing, such as the removal of animals from legumes pastures overnight. Pasture bloat may occur when grazing is interrupted by adverse weather, such as storms, or biting flies. Anything that alters normal grazing habits will increase the incidence of bloat. The following are a list of forages and their bloat potential:

Forage species and their potential for causing bloat in cattle Continue reading

A Mineral Program is Key to Successful Grazing

Garth Ruff, Beef Cattle Field Specialist, OSU Extension (originally published in Farm & Dairy)

A good mineral program is just as important as good forages in a successful grazing program.

The grass is getting greener by the day and the grazing season is within sight. In previous editions of this column my colleagues have covered a variety of topics to consider before turning livestock out to pasture this spring. While checking fences, watering systems, pasture fertility, and forage establishment are often on our minds before spring turnout, another thing we need to consider is our mineral program.

Having a sound, balanced mineral program in place is important throughout the year as minerals are involved in most if not all metabolic functions of our livestock, including growth, reproduction, and lactation. However, it is often on pasture where we run into mineral imbalances and issues. While some issues are harder to detect such as reduced daily gain or lost milk production, others like Continue reading

Dairy Beef Management Program Offered

Offered free to anyone interested and we ask that you pre-register online

Dairy producers over the past few years have faced a variety of challenges: low milk prices, increased feed costs, and often a surplus of heifers to enter the herd. In an effort to manage heifer numbers and add value to bull calves, breeding dairy cows to beef sires has become a more popular, and common practice than ever before.

Join Ohio State University Extension and Michigan State University Extension on April 21, 28, and May 5 at 12:00 p.m. EST, for a webinar series titled “Management Considerations for Beef x Dairy Calves.”

Dairy steers have been an important part of the beef supply chain for some time, this program will cover a variety of topics related to Continue reading

2021 Brings Chance to Improve Hay Quality!!!

– Chris Teutsch, UK Research and Education Center at Princeton

Recently I presented a summary of ten years of hay testing results from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s forage testing program. This sample set included more than 14,000 hay samples. The full presentation can be viewed on the KY Forages YouTube Channel.

Figure 1. Proportion of hay samples tested at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture over a ten-year period (2007-17) that would meet the energy (total digestible nutrients) requirement of various classes of beef cattle. Only 12% of these samples would meet the energy requirements of a lactating brood cow!

The results of this analysis showed that only 12% of the samples tested would meet the energy requirements of a lactating brood cow (Figure 1). This is an important finding for a cow-calf state like Kentucky since reproductive efficiency is so closely associated with body condition.

Practical Considerations for Improving Hay Quality

Grazing is the most economical way to harvest forage and we should strive to extend our grazing season. Our ag economists tell us that about 300 days of grazing is the sweet spot in terms of profitability for most cow-calf operations in the state. This leaves us with 2 to 3 months that we need to feed hay. To optimize reproductive efficiency, it is essential that hay fed will Continue reading

There is more than one right way to finish a steer

– Dr. Katie VanValin, Assistant Extension Professor, University of Kentucky.

About a year ago, our industry buzzed with talk about finishing local beef. Our friends and neighbors found empty grocery store shelves and instead turned to their local beef producers to fill their freezers. Last year shed light on direct-to-consumer beef production. This concept of local beef is not a new one. Instead, it is more a case of what was old is new again. There was a time when small local meat lockers were a staple in many small towns. With reports of some processors booking into 2022, it appears that this trend for local beef may outlast the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recently a group of UK extension agents and specialists wrapped up a 4-week series of virtual meetings focusing on producing freezer beef in northern Kentucky. The UK beef extension team will also be launching a new program for the fall of 2021 called “Master Finisher” to provide additional resources for folks interested in finishing beef cattle here in Kentucky.

One of the things that I have come to appreciate while working with producers in small-scale finishing systems is that there is more than one right way to finish a steer (or heifer). Regardless of if you are producing beef in grass-finished, grain-finished or a hybrid grain-on grass system, what works for one operation may not be the best option for another. Answering several questions can help you narrow in on the right production system for your operation. A few examples include: Continue reading