Should we plan for another long, wet, muddy winter?

– Victor Shelton, NRCS State Agronomist/Grazing Specialist

Whether winter predictions are correct or not, it’s time to start preparing!

The Old Farmer’s Almanac has released their forecast for this winter. “Mild, with soakers” is how Indiana is labeled. I don’t put a lot of weight on these forecasts, but they often line up with other forecasts and occasionally are completely correct. If this forecast holds true, I think we all need to prepare for a winter similar to last year.

This past winter, I kept hoping for some free concrete—frozen ground. I only had about a dozen days and that’s not enough. To add true misery for both me and the livestock, it seemed to rain every two or three days, picking up momentum as we got closer to spring.

I don’t like to see pastures or crop fields torn up. Grazing under wet conditions is bad enough during the growing season, but it’s an Continue reading

Posted in Pasture

Heart of America Grazing Conference, October 29-30

Make plans now to attend the 2019 Heart of America Grazing Conference — Kicking the Hay Habit: Optimizing Profitability. The keynote speaker, Jim Gerrish, is an independent grazing lands consultant providing services to farmers and ranchers on both private and public lands across five continents. With a BS in Agronomy from the University of Illinois and MS in Crop Ecology from University of Kentucky, he served 22 years of beef-forage systems research and outreach while on the faculty of the University of Missouri-Forage Systems Research Center (FSRC). His research encompassed many aspects of plant-soil-animal interactions and provided the foundation for many of the basic principles of Management-intensive Grazing. He was also a co-founder of the very popular 3-day grazing management workshop at FSRC. Aside from his monthly column in The Stockman Grass-Farmer magazine for over 12 years, Gerrish has authored two books on grazing and ranch management – “Management-intensive Grazing: The Grassroots of Grass Farming” published in 2004 and “Kick the Hay Habit: A Practical Guide to Year-Round Grazing” published in 2010. Today, he is an instructor in the University of Idaho’s Lost River Grazing Academy held twice annually near Salmon, ID. He typically speaks at 40 to 50 producer-oriented workshops, seminars, and field days around the US and Canada each year.

To find the complete agenda, or to register online, go here: https://2019hoa.eventbrite.com

Investments for Animal Feeding: Fence vs Machinery

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

The more tools we have that maximize the days our animals graze while minimizing the days we feed hay, the better!

Years like 2019 can test farmers and ranchers to the brink of insanity. People in this profession have to be resilient to the unpredictability of the weather, the markets, and the general chaos of life. All year thus far, we have discussed many ways to adapt our animal feeding programs, pasture systems, and hay production to the far from ideal conditions we are facing.

By now, I hope you have read articles, listened to podcasts, watched videos, talked with your neighbors and your local ag educators about what to do next. Crop selection, site management, and soil health have been a huge topics addressed regarding cover crops for prevent plant acres, damaged pastures, weeds, poor quality hay, and feed shortages.

But, I’m going to take this article a different direction . . .

If you have Continue reading

Reconnecting Cattle and Quail

Jason Jones, Grassland & Grazing Coordinator, Quail Forever

Warm season grasses such as indiangrass and big bluestem can provide forage at a time when cool season grasses might be in a July/August summer slump.

The “Fescue Belt” is land dominated by non-native cool season grasses, primarily tall fescue. Cool season grasses, such as fescue and orchardgrass, thrive in April to early June and October to November. However, they have obvious drawbacks; and operations that rely exclusively on cool-season forages may find it increasingly difficult to stay above the bottom line.

When the summer is at its peak, cool season grasses can be very unproductive. In contrast, native warm season grasses peak during summer months (85 – 95 F). Warm season grasses are Continue reading

Forage Focus: Reseeding Damaged Pastures and Hay Fields

In this edition of Forage Focus, host Christine Gelley, an Extension Educator with The Ohio State University Agriculture & Natural Resources in Noble County is joined by Jessie Radcliff from Noble Soil and Water. This month’s topic focuses on reseeding pastures and making new hay seedings. Christine and Jessie will discuss proper seeding depth, seeding rates, calibrating the seeder, soil testing, proper timing, differences between annual and perennial forages, and harvest management for new seedings.

Do note that planting date cut offs mentioned in this clip are not concrete since we never know how long fall will last, how early winter will come, or how much rain we will get as we experienced this spring. Often times forage seedings may be planted into September, but as noted, we take a risk with the uncertainty of weather patterns. In addition, it is important to note the charts shown in this example apply to perennial forages sown and grown in southern Ohio. As you move north in the state, the suggested planting dates will differ slightly.

Compaction; It happens in pasture lands too!

– Victor Shelton, NRCS State Agronomist/Grazing Specialist

Compacted soils have a platy layered look, not a nice granular or cottage cheese appearance.

I have driven down a lot of roads lately and observed pastures and crops across Indiana and several other states. Most pastures are thriving better than crops, at least the ones being managed well. In the areas where rain has never really completely stopped, forages, especially cool season forages like orchard grass and tall fescue, have not slowed down growth as much during what is normally a slump period or summer dormancy. If you haven’t overgrazed, then there’s a good chance your pastures look pretty good.

There is a lot more variability in the crops depending on when or if they even got planted. Plants quickly got accustomed to the frequent rains this year and some get lazy and don’t put roots down as deep as normal. Well established perennials will do a better job of maintaining deeper roots than annuals or newly planted perennials under continued wet conditions. We need roots to Continue reading

Forage Focus: Getting to Know Your Weeds

In this edition of Forage Focus, host Christine Gelley, an Extension Educator with The Ohio State University Agriculture & Natural Resources in Noble County is joined by Clifton Martin, OSU Extension- ANR Educator for Muskingum County, for a segment on “Getting to Know Your Weeds.” Clifton and Christine will identify weeds commonly found in Ohio pastures and hay fields, and address the principles of managing them.

Preventing Pasture Damage During Prolonged Periods of Wet Weather

– David Hartman, PA Extension Educator, Livestock

Rotating livestock frequently can help reduce pasture damage during wet seasons.

Grazing cattle during periods of wet weather can damage pasture stands and soil structure. Although some damage is to be expected, there are management practices that can help to avoid or at least reduce some of the potential for damage.

Having a sacrifice area can help prevent damage to permanent pastures, especially if the wet weather conditions become very prolonged. Cattle can be moved to the sacrifice area and fed stored feeds until pasture soil returns to an acceptable condition. As should be done with winter sacrifice areas, the area should eventually be repaired with tillage if necessary and then reseeded to either an annual or perennial mixture, depending on your goals.

Moving cattle more frequently during wet weather can help avoid excessive Continue reading

Stockpiling Fescue and Orchardgrass

Clif Little, OSU Extension Guernsey County

Stockpiling fescue and orchard grass is generally considered an economical way to extend the grazing season and cut feed costs. The cost of fertilizer and application of nitrogen too late in the growing season will affect the economics of stockpiling. In order to maximize yield from stockpiled forage, one must select a field that is suitable for late season grazing, and one that will not be utilized after July 31st.

A timely application of nitrogen can grow an additional ton of high quality forage yet this fall, and significantly extend the grazing season.

Stockpiling has some inherent risks. In order for it to work correctly, the following conditions are required; application of nitrogen six weeks prior to the end of the growing season, rain shortly after this application, and favorable growing conditions. When all variables are met, one can grow enough additional forage to cover the cost. Stockpiling requires the application of approximately fifty units of actual nitrogen (roughly 110lbs of urea) per acre.

To analyze the economics of stockpiling, review the example in the table below. For the example, the assumed Continue reading

Cutting it Close

Christine Gelley, Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator, Noble County OSU Extension (originally published in the Ohio Farmer on-line)

We find more dead tissue in grass stands that are mowed too close. Photo by author

All of us have a bad habit here or there that we have developed over time. Bad habits are often questionable actions that can cause some stress, but rarely have direct negative consequences immediately after. Usually the negative consequences are compounded over time into large problems and that is when realize we have gone wrong.

A bad habit that many grass managers have in lawn and hay systems is cutting it too close. By “it,” I mean the grass. There are some misconceptions about what the best height is to cut grass. It can also be confusing, because ideal cutting height varies with type of grass. The common denominator is Continue reading