Prioritize a water source in a rotational grazing system

Dean Kreager, Licking County Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator

Water, the most important nutrient!

Water is the most important nutrient for grazing animals.  Without it they won’t live a week and with limited or poor-quality sources they won’t perform up to their potential. Often availability and placement of good quality water sources is the biggest limiting factor to designing pasture lots.  Figuring out ways to split pasture lots and still have a nearby water source is a challenge.

We are often reminded of the benefits of rotational grazing and frequent movement of animals. Improved pasture productivity, increased stocking density, better distribution of nutrients back onto pastures, and reduction of weed issues all sound great, but what about a water source. Research has shown that beef cattle need 5-20 gallons per day, sheep and goats 2-3 gallons, horses 10-15 gallons, and dairy cattle 15-30 gallons. Finding ways to meet the needed water demands can improve the efficiency of pasture use.

The amount of water that needs to be available at Continue reading

Kill Poison Hemlock Now!

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

While hemlock may still be vegetative today, it will soon look like this.

Poison hemlock has already emerged in a vegetative state around Noble County and beyond. Soon it will be bolting and blooming on stalks 6-10 feet tall. All parts of the plant are toxic to all classes of livestock if consumed and is prevalent along roadsides, ditches, and crop field borders.

It is a biennial weed that does not flower in the first year of growth but flowers in the second year. The earlier you can address poison hemlock with mowing and/or herbicide application, the Continue reading

Yellow Flowers of Concern

Christine Gelley, Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Noble County, Ohio State University Extension

This plant can cause livestock poisonings in harvested or grazed forages.

Fields along the floodplain have been turning yellow over the past couple weeks as cressleaf groundsel is bolting and flowering. From a distance, a haze of yellow floats above the field. Upon closer inspection, you will find collections of daisy-like flowers on slender stems waving their sunny faces in the breeze. While it sounds sort of dreamy and whimsical, this plant (also known as butterweed) can cause livestock poisonings in harvested or grazed forages. All parts of the plant are considered toxic in both fresh and dried states.

Cressleaf groundsel is a member of the aster family and displays yellow daisy-like blooms in the springtime on upright hollow stems that have a purple hue. These plants are winter annuals, meaning the seed germinates in the fall producing vegetative growth and then flowers in the springtime. If allowed to set seed, the plants will appear again in greater numbers the year following. The plants typically go unnoticed in the fall, which is the best Continue reading

Pasture Management; Don’t leave it up to the cows!

– Victor Shelton, Retired NRCS Agronomist/Grazing Specialist

In meadows vast, chaos brews, cows roam wild, no rules they choose. Pasture’s amuck, their chaos sows, trampled paths where no order goes.

I’ve been enjoying the early green forage and getting livestock back on fresh pasture.  The forage is a bit earlier than average and, at least in my neck of the woods, rainfall hasn’t been lacking and is now a bit ahead of the norm.  If the sun decides to start shining on a regular basis bringing a little heat, I expect the spring explosion of grass to happen soon!

Livestock producers certainly graze their livestock in a wide array of management schemes.  Most are workable to a degree, but then often fall short on efficiency, production or environmentally.  Some type of game plan is always ideal – even when we know that some of the rules of the game may change for us.

Just opening up the gate and having a short conversation with each ruminant as it passes through with instructions stating, “Please graze evenly; eat some broccoli with the ice-cream; start on one end and slowly work your way across the pasture to not soil forage for the next day; please don’t graze the clover to the ground; and if possible, please disperse your urine and feces evenly behind you,” just won’t work!

Instead Continue reading

Forage & Pasture Planting Calendar

Ed Brown, ANR Educator, Athens County (originally published in The Ohio Cattleman)

This calendar offers appropriate planting dates and seeding rates.

Throughout the years, I have received many calls as to when the best time is to plant pasture grasses and forages. Farmers and ranchers also wanted to know the recommended seeding rates for either a pure stand or as a forage mix. I would always refer them to the Ohio Agronomy Guide and give them the bit of information they needed. I knew that there had to a more efficient way to get out this information.

At first, I developed a spreadsheet with all the forages and which months they should be planted. This worked to answer questions quickly but wasn’t really a resource that producers could quickly access. This led to the development of the Forage & Pasture Planting Calendar.

I’ve taken the information from the Agronomy guide and put it into an easy to reference calendar that could be hung on the wall or on the side the fridge. The top of the calendar includes information and tips from the Ohio Agronomy Guide. The remainder of the calendar is organized by month with appropriate planting times and seeding rates.

The link to the calendar is https://athens.osu.edu/sites/athens/files/imce/Ag_Docs/Final%20Calendar_1.pdf

If you would like to print the calendar, it’s best done on 11 x 17 tabloid paper.

Managing Risk in a Risky Business

Garth Ruff, Field Specialist Beef Cattle and Livestock Marketing, OSU Extension

Manage the risk of grazing stockers!

The grass is getting greener by the day and livestock are being turned out to pasture as we speak. For many years cattle producers have purchased and turned out stocker cattle on grass this time of year. The goal: put on cheap gain, utilizing grazed forages. While the pounds added to cattle in a stocker operation might be cheap, one thing is for certain that in 2024 calves being purchased to be stockers on grass are anything but.

Looking at livestock auction reports in eastern Ohio 300-500 pound steers last week cost anywhere from $3.00-$3.52 per pound for quality steer calves. Heifer calves cost $2.50 – $3.00 per pound. That is a range in cost from $750 to north of $1,700 per head invested in a calf that will be grazing through the summer. With that kind of up-front costs in buying cattle this spring, summer grazing is risky as it has ever been and there are Continue reading

Enhancing Sacrifice Grazing Lots: Solutions for Winter Mud Challenges

Ted Wiseman, OSU Extension, Perry County (originally published in Farm & Dairy)

Restoring a sacrifice lot offers a unique challenge.

During winter, sacrifice grazing lots serve as vital spaces for livestock, protecting primary pastures from overgrazing and erosion. However, these areas often struggle with mud accumulation due to heavy rainfall and trampling. Tackling these issues is important for both animal welfare and environmental concerns. Every operation has its own unique challenges, but there are some common strategies for renovating sacrifice grazing lots to effectively mitigate winter mud problems.

Before conducting any renovation strategies, it’s essential to understand the root causes of mud problems. Some factors are within our control, while others such as weather are not. Studies emphasize the importance of evaluating soil composition, drainage patterns, and livestock behavior to develop targeted solutions. Taking the time to look Continue reading

Forage Weeds: Fall Forgotten and Spring Startups

Alyssa Essman, Christine Gelley, and Kyle Verhoff, OSU Extension

Common cocklebur is a growing problem in Ohio forages.

Spring means rapid forage growth, but it also means rapid weed growth. Due to the variability of spring weather, there are often only a few opportunities to control emerging summer annual weeds, winter annuals missed in the fall, and biennials that are small enough to effectively control. To manage weeds before they become a problem in forages, it is important to scout and plan accordingly. Forage is a broad category, and the spring weed control plan can look very different between species and operations. The problem weeds and whether control is necessary are going to be different between permanent pasture systems and alfalfa fields, and highly dependent on the consequences of specific weeds.

In established alfalfa, the decision for weed control of some winter annuals like henbit and field pennycress will depend on . . .

Continue reading Forage Weeds: Fall Forgotten and Spring Startups

What to watch for with Asian longhorned ticks and Theileria in Ohio in 2024

Tim McDermott DVM, OSU Extension Educator, Franklin County (originally published in Farm and Dairy)

Visit go.osu.edu/BITE, your guide to ticks, mosquitoes, and other biting pests. Photo: Anna Pasternak, UK entomology graduate student

One of the worrisome things about ticks in Ohio has been the increasing numbers of ticks of medical importance to humans, companion animals, and livestock as we have gone from one tick of medical importance twenty years ago to five now, including two new ticks in the past few years. While ticks have always been a problem in cattle, the invasive Asian longhorned (ALHT) tick that was first discovered in Ohio in 2020 has demonstrated the ability to not only vector, or transmit disease to cattle, but to cause mortality in cattle through high numbers of ticks feeding upon the animals. I first wrote about ALHT  in All About Grazing in July of 2020 with the article “The Threat of Asian longhorned tick continues” and then followed up with a March 2nd, 2023 article “Managing Asian longhorned ticks on pasture” so I want to provide an update on where we are in the state of Ohio with ALHT right now.

Where are we seeing ALHT in Ohio right now? As of the end of 2023, we had positively identified ALHT in 11 counties in Ohio including Franklin, Delaware, Ross, Gallia, Vinton, Jackson, Athens, Morgan, Monroe, Belmont, and Guernsey county. We anticipate finding more positive counties in Continue reading

Managing hay fields and pastures after storm damage

Jason Hartschuh, OSU Extension Field Specialist, Dairy Management and Precision Livestock

Something as seemingly harmless as insulation can be problematic.

As the number of straight-line wind and tornado events seems to be increasing so does the number of times that parts of nearby buildings end up spread out across our pastures and hay fields.  This debris can cause significant health risks to grazing livestock, as well as animals fed harvested forages from these fields. Debris that is blown into pastures and hayfields quickly becomes hard to see as forages take off and grows in the spring. In pastures or stored hay, livestock often eat foreign materials that are present in the field either mixed in with the forage or just from curiosity. There is also a risk of livestock being injured from foreign materials entering the animal’s hooves or being tangled in the debris in a pasture. Each type of debris can cause slightly different challenges.

Large debris such as roofing, boards, and other debris scattered by the storm are the easiest to see and clean up. Once the large debris is no longer visible it is easy to move on to the next cleanup project, but the small stuff needs cleanup just as badly.  Fiberglass insulation can be especially challenging as it can lead to blockages, bloat, and irritation of the digestive tract. Small amounts of fiberglass may create small cuts in the esophagus causing irritation when the animal eats even after the bite that contained fiberglass. It can also cause Continue reading