Pasture Management in a Drought

Dr. David Barker, Ohio State University

Dry weather in recent weeks throughout Ohio has raised several questions about how pastures should be managed during drought. Although the experts don’t all agree if this period of dry weather meets the definition of a drought (yet), there is no doubt that pasture growth will slow to zero. How should we be grazing our pastures in mid-summer?? Continue reading

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 . . .

Continue reading Emergency Forages to Plant Mid-Summer

Pasture Management, “I read on the internet that . . .”

– Victor Shelton, NRCS State Agronomist/Grazing Specialist

A promising sign of better times ahead. Photo by Ben Miller

My dear mother always said that the older you get, the faster time goes, she was right.  Time gets away from me.

This issue marks the one hundred and fiftieth time that I have sat down to write the article I call “Grazing Bites.”  I started this twelve and half years ago in 2008 to help producers that I was working with think about what they needed to be looking at and how they needed to prepare for the upcoming weeks.  It was an attempt or way to do follow-up with a lot of producers and landowners and provide helpful reminders for whatever situation or season was upon them.  I never dreamed that it would continue this long or be picked up, reprinted, and read by so many people.  That is scary and humbling at the same time.

Almost every issue has initiated an email or phone call from someone, occasionally a whole bunch.  I appreciate those responses because it lets me know that my effort and time were not completely in vain and it ignited a thought or change that hopefully benefited them.  I’ve gotten some constructive criticism over the years, but mainly because they thought I was being a bit too bias on grass-based systems, which is probably true.  I have also enjoyed some very interesting questions along the way.  I’ve had to stop and scratch my head wondering about a question coming from not only faraway states, but also a few from outside the country.  I try and provide good sound advice, based on personal experiences, in a way that anyone can understand and utilize it, and I hope that everyone finds a bit of useful information in it, at least occasionally.  Let’s talk about a few of those questions that are applicable right now.

“I read on the internet that….”  Okay, stop right there.  Just because you read it on the internet doesn’t mean that it’s valid.  I truly believe that we need to Continue reading

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

Good Planning extends the grazing season and Protects the Resources

– John Kellis, ODA Grazing Management Specialist

Most southern Ohio pastures are located squarely in the “Tall fescue belt”. As these grasses go dormant in the fall, they become a very palatable to cattle and can be intensively grazed. Often-times producers will strip graze these grasses beginning in December, moving portable fence back 50 feet at a time across the field. Cattle will struggle to get to the next available strip of brown fescue rather than eat hay that may be set behind the cattle. After dormancy, the fescue can be eaten down lower to the ground than you would typically leave after fall grazing where you need to leave at least 4-6 inches of growth. This “Stockpiling” of forage is a good alternative for late fall and winter grazing. This practice further reduces the need for hay and can provide grazable acres into January or February.

All the techniques discussed above work even better when cattle are grazed in smaller rotated paddocks. This is not because planners want to make more work for the Producer. The reason behind rotational grazing is four-fold: 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

The importance of diversity in Ohio Grazing Systems

– John Kellis, ODA Grazing Management Specialist

Diversity is normally a good attribute to have. Whether that means diversity of thought, diversity in a workforce, diversity in your investments, or diversity in a population. Having too many eggs in one basket has always been considered risky and lacking the flexibility to adjust and react to outside influences.

While grazing livestock in Ohio and the Midwest might not seem to fit that same analogy, it is critical for producers trying to maximize returns and diversify their grazing operations. Most grazing operations are more exposed to negative influences from the weather than they need to be. There are options available that can reduce that exposure significantly.

Many livestock operators simply turn their cows into our cool season grass pastures until grasses go dormant in these summer months, feeding hay and/or exercising the cows until the cool-season pastures begin to regrow in the fall. Such practices expose an operation to more risk than necessary and if you evaluate the efficiency and total costs of such an operation, producers might want to start rethinking their assumptions about their grazing systems.

Diversifying to some may mean building a Continue reading