Fall Grazing Guidance

First published in The Journal on September 19, 2022.

Last Thursday the East Central Grazing Alliance visited Randy Depuy’s farm in Caldwell for a pasture walk and it was a wonderful event of social and educational enrichment. It was one of my first in-person events since returning from maternity leave and it was refreshing to be with a captive audience to talk about forages and grazing.

For those that were unable to attend, here are some of the key points from my presentation on fall grazing tips. They are they divided into recommendations for established forages and new seedings.

Established Perennial Forages:Pasture walk on a September evening.

Cool-Season Forage Mixes-

If stockpiling pasture for fall/winter grazing, stop grazing by the end of July. Then fertilize with a maintenance amount of nitrogen early September. Begin grazing in the fall when sufficient growth has occurred. Leave at least 3-inch residual after grazing.

Warm-Season Forage Mixes-

Stop grazing by early-September leaving 8-inches of stubble. Apply maintenance fertilizer as needed after the last grazing event. Allow theses forages to rest and regrow until May.

Recently Seeded Forages*:

Late-Summer/Fall Seeded Perennial Forage Mixes-

These forages should not be harvested, clipped, or grazed until the following year (spring). It is usually best to do the first harvest mechanically. Do not graze these plantings until soils are firm.

Annual Small Grains-

Harvest/Graze before the early heading stage. Grazing can begin at 6 inches. Leave 3-inch stubble if expecting regrowth. Do not graze when the plants are frozen if you are expecting spring regrowth.

Annual Brassicas-

Begin grazing these forages about 80 days after seeding through 150-180 days after seeding or as it lasts. These forages are ideal for strip grazing. You can rotationally graze if 6-inch stubble remains. Provide adequate fiber to animals at all times to prevent digestive upset.

Annual Warm-Season Grasses-

Harvest/Graze before seed heads form. Grazing can begin at 18 inches for most types. Leave 8-inch stubble for most types. Do not graze if expecting a freeze. Wait a week after a freezing event to graze again to avoid issues with prussic acid and/or nitrate poisoning.

*This advice does not apply to horses. Do not graze horses on any of the forages listed under “recently seeded forages”. For additional recommendations on fall grazing for horses, talk one on one with Christine by calling 740-305-3173 or emailing her at gelley.2@osu.edu.

A Labor of Love

First published in The Journal on September 6, 2022.

I hope you took a moment this Labor Day to take a break from the never-ending list of tasks that require your attention and just relax. Taking time to relax is easier said than done for people with a strong work ethic, but rest is extremely important to keep your stamina up and keep your mental and physical health in check. There is no shame in taking a break to take care of yourself. Your value is not diminished because you are taking time to rest.

Labor Day this year is a pivotal point of change for our family as I return to work in a full-time capacity after maternity leave and the school year begins for our oldest child. Taking this period of leave to focus on our family was critical for us and although it allowed a break from the responsibilities of Extension work, a different type of labor has consumed my time, a labor of love in caring for my children and myself.

The Gelley Family

The Gelley Family- Keegan, Christine, Bethany, and Naomi

I want to thank the entire community for their kind words, well wishes, and patience during this time! I also want to thank my colleagues at OSU Extension for helping address the needs of the county while I addressed the needs of my family. I hope we have maintained connection over the past few months through these articles. I look forward to seeing many of you again at community events and Extension programs soon.

It was wonderful to connect with people at the Noble County Fair. Congratulations to all of the participants who were recognized for their hard work! Thank you to all of the exhibitors for showcasing the talents of our county! Thank you to the Junior and Senior Fair volunteers who make our fair function!

As a reminder, if you have questions about topics related to Agriculture and Natural Resources in Noble County, you can consult with me by email (gelley.2@osu.edu) or on the phone at 740-732-5681. Site visits can be scheduled to further evaluate the situation if deemed necessary.

Elm Trees with No Leaves

First published by The Journal on August 29, 2022.

Last week a question came through the office about some trees that were suddenly losing all their leaves with no obvious explanation. My first thought was that it may be the work of the eastern tent caterpillar, which I have seen leaving large amounts of webbing on many deciduous trees this month. When large numbers are present, these caterpillars can fully defoliate trees. But the landowner indicated that there wasn’t any webbing on the trees they were concerned about. It sounded like a site visit was the way to go to pinpoint what was going on.

From a distance the trees certainly did look to be in sorry shape. Only a few crusty, brown, skeletonized leaves clung to the sizable trees’ branches. The ground crunched slightly below our feet, littered with dropped leaves. It was difficult to even identify the tree right away because the leaves were so damaged. But after a closer look, we found a cluster of large, serrated leaves still on the tree. They looked like elm leaves to me. Upon the leaves were many shiny, reddish-brown caterpillars munching away at the leaf tissue. An even closer look revealed that they were not caterpillars at all. They were actually beetle larvae.

There are two kinds of beetles that are known to defoliate elm trees specifically. They are the elm leaf beetle and the larger elm leaf beetle. As the names imply, one is larger than the other, but they have similar habits and life cycles. A quick comparison of larvae photos confirmed that the larvae we were seeing were that of the larger elm leaf beetle (Monocesta coryli). Interestingly, the elm leaf beetle is typically more destructive to elm trees in Ohio than the larger elm leaf beetle because the elm leaf beetle can produce two generations before winter, while the larger elm leaf beetle can only produce one generation.

Larger Elm Leaf Beetle Larvae

The larvae of the Larger Elm Leaf Beetle feeding on elm leaves.

While the extent of defoliation can be startling, late season feeding rarely causes long lasting harm to established trees. Beetle populations fluctuate from year to year. It is common to see one or two years of intense beetle pressure followed by many years of little to no noticeable damage. Weather patterns are likely related to beetle activity.  Although a variety of commonly employed pesticides are effective on elm leaf beetles (both types), insecticide treatments are rarely justified to treat for these pests in residential or woodland locations.

The larvae that we saw feeding will eventually burrow into the soil where they will overwinter as grubs, pupate in the early spring, and emerge from the soil as adults in May. Adult beetles will feed on leaves and eventually lay clusters of yellow eggs on the undersides of leaves from which new larvae will hatch and begin to feed.

Adult larger elm leaf beetles are attractive looking insects. They are typically about a ½ inch long beetle, with golden-yellow wings that have dark blue, metallic, blotches across their wings, with orange heads, legs, and antennae. Although elm is their preferred host, larger elm leaf beetles may also feed on and be found near dogwoods, birch trees, hawthorns, and more. If you are noticing damage to elms like I have described, there is no need to panic. Your trees will very likely rebound from this condition next year without any assistance.

For help evaluating ailments of landscape plants in Noble County, you can consult with me by email (gelley.2@osu.edu) or on the phone at 740-732-5681. Site visits can be scheduled to further evaluate the situation if deemed necessary.

Egg Eaters in the Coop

First published in The Journal on August 22, 2022.\

Last week’s article on the right way to store eggs sparked additional conversation about egg related issues. One that can be very frustrating is discovering that you have an egg eater in your chicken flock. Egg eating can have many causes and is best dealt with preventatively. Today we will cover why poultry may eat their own eggs and what can be done to end this destructive behavior.

Appropriate egg collection, nutritional provisions, stress reduction, and good coop design are all important to reduce the likelihood of egg eating from developing.

The longer freshly laid eggs stay in the chicken coop, the more opportunities there are for shell breakage, which will often lead to the first incidence of egg eating. Clean and plentiful bedding will help cushion eggs to prevent breakage. Providing spacious and plentiful laying boxes (at least six 12” x 12” boxes) will also help. Take all required actions with coop design to keep predators from entering the coop and breaking eggs.

Always feed a complete poultry feed designed for laying hens. Nutrient deficiencies and/or hunger can prompt egg eating. Limit the provision of scratch grains to avoid diluting the effectiveness of the complete feed. If feeding scratch grains, only provide as much as can be consumed within 15 minutes. Feeding an appropriate diet will also ensure eggshell strength and reduce the likelihood of breakage.

It is ideal to check for eggs multiple times a day, with a morning check before 10 a.m. If an egg breaks and a chicken gets a taste of the yummy inside, they will learn that they can break eggs to get more. Within the flock chickens imitate their flock mates and suddenly one egg eater can multiply into many. Egg eaters will often have dried egg on their beaks and heads.

Broken egg

Broken eggs are often cause the first incidence of egg eating.

Many people find it helpful to introduce chicks to wooden or ceramic eggs before they begin laying. In their curiosity, they will peck the eggs but get no reward from their efforts, thus discouraging egg pecking in the future. If you have addressed all the points listed above and egg eating persists, you must identify which birds are eating eggs and cull those problem birds from the flock. Beak trimming is not a recommended control for dealing with egg eating in small farm or backyard flocks.

Never eat eggs that have damaged shells from pecking behavior even if the membrane of the shell is still intact. Discard any damaged eggs immediately.

There are many more guidelines and nuances that pertain to egg production that producers should be familiar with including state regulations for sale. To learn more contact the Noble County Extension Office at 740-732-5681 or email Christine Gelley at gelley.2@osu.edu.

The Right Way to Store Eggs

First published in The Journal on August 15, 2022.

I must confess- I am a self-aware, annoying, poultry egg know-it-all who cannot let her friends and family store farm fresh eggs incorrectly. Despite my best attempts, I have corrected people in their own homes about how they are handling their eggs. It is both a blessing and a curse for both parties involved. There are many wrong ways to store eggs. There are a few right ways to store eggs. For your health, it is important to know the differences.

Fresh chicken eggs

Fresh chicken eggs still in the laying box.

Poultry eggs are extremely porous and thus the way you handle the eggshell impacts the egg contents. When a bird lays an egg it is naturally coated in a protective coating called the “bloom” or “cuticle” which prevents most microorganisms from passing through the eggshell. The bloom is critical for the development of baby chicks and also human health.

Washing eggs removes the natural bloom from the egg allowing for increased risk of contamination from the outside in. Unwashed, undamaged, eggs should be stored at room temperature and will remain fresh for up to two weeks at room temperature. If you choose to wash eggs, you must wash them in clean running water that is 20 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the egg (at least 90 degrees), then allow the eggs to dry, then store in the refrigerator. Refrigerated eggs should remain good for up to three months.

Only store clean eggs. Collect eggs from a clean laying area two to three times per day for greatest chances of clean shells. If surface debris are difficult to brush off while dry or easily rinse off, discard the egg. Never store or eat eggs with damaged shells. Even eggs that appear clean may harbor Salmonella. Salmonella and many other bacteria will not survive at 160 degrees, and they will not grow at a temperature below 40 degrees. Cook and store eggs at appropriate temperatures for safety’s sake.

These are the basics of egg handling and storage.

There are many more guidelines and nuances that pertain to egg production that producers should be familiar with including state regulations for sale. To learn more contact the Noble County Extension Office at 740-732-5681 or email Christine Gelley at gelley.2@osu.edu.

Seed Saving Sense

First published in The Journal on August 8, 2022.

The season for seed saving is here!

Gardeners mid-harvest of fruits and vegetables are often curious about how to save seeds from beloved plants for next year’s garden or to share with friends. OSU Extension encourages this activity, both for self-sustainability and to help our Caldwell Community Seed Library grow. In order to be a successful seed saver, there are some basic facts you need to know.

First, let’s address why seed saving is an advantageous

Cantaloupe full of seed.

Cantaloupe full of seed.

hobby.

Strategically saving seeds allows growers to select and save plants from their home gardens that have specific traits that they value (ex: tasty flavors, appealing texture, color, size, etc). Seed saving also plays a role in preserving historically significant plant varieties through the passing of seeds from one generation to the next. Keeping novel or heirloom varieties of seed circulating helps add diversity to the populations of plants grown in our communities. It can also help gardeners save money. What may be most appealing for some growers is that seed saving can spark new curiosities and adventures in gardening.

Whether saving seed from ornamental plants or food crops, in order to be successful, seeds must be saved from fully ripened fruits. Botanically speaking, a fruit is the ripened ovary of a flower in which seeds develop. Beans, melons, tomatoes, apples, and peppers are all fruits. All flowering plants produce a fruiting structure of some kind to hold their developed seed until the timing is right for distribution. Seeds are ready for dispersal from the fruit when the fruit is fully ripe. In many cases, we consume fruits and vegetables or pick flowers before they are fully ripe. Seeds saved from unripened fruits will rarely germinate when planted.

Have you ever found a swollen yellow cucumber hanging from a hidden vine? A cucumber like that is fully ripened. It is not the stage of growth that we prefer to eat cucumbers in, because they are typically very watery and full of large seeds. Those large seeds are exactly what you want to save! Almost always, you can tell that fruit is fully ripened when it is ready to fall from the plant and splatter on the ground. The trick is to find the ripened fruits before they go “splat” and are eaten by animals or contaminated with soil or fungus.

Once you have a fully ripened fruit, you are ready to collect the seeds and prepare them for storage. To prepare harvested seeds for storage they must be clean and fully dry. Then seed must be kept clean and fully dry until you are ready to initiate growth. Some seed may need to be exposed to cold temperatures and moisture to mimic winter in order to grow when planted. This process is called stratification. Some seed will need to be scuffed, heated, or soaked in order to grow when planted. This process is called scarification. These steps should be completed in a way that lines up with the planting date for each specific plant. The steps to follow depend on what seed you are caring for.

Some plants will take more than one year of growth to develop seeds. It is important to know if your plant is an annual, perennial, or biennial in order to know when to harvest the seeds. This information is available on the seed packet or plant tag of purchased plant material. Once you are familiar with the specific needs of your seed, you have the knowledge and power to create more of the plants you love.

However, not all plants can be grown successfully from home harvested seed. Because seeds are created through sexual reproduction, many plants will cross pollinate with other varieties of plants to create a completely new plant. In horticultural terms, we say that these seeds will not grow “true to type”. These seeds can lead to mysterious results that are fun to observe. Plants that self-pollinate are ideal for seed saving if you want to have baby plants that perform the same way as their parents. There are also many plant varieties that are considered property of an entity and cannot be legally propagated by the general public. These plants will be associated with a brand name (ex: Proven Winner petunias). Thus, these seeds or plants will need to be repurchased from a garden center or direct from the proprietor.

Seeds saved from local gardens can be returned in labeled envelopes or bags to be shared with others through the Caldwell Community Seed Library. For more information, stop by the Caldwell Public Library or email Christine Gelley, Agriculture & Natural Resources Extension Educator for Noble County OSU Extension at email gelley.2@osu.edu or call 740-732-5681.

Becoming Bear Aware

Published in The Journal on August 1, 2022

The latest social media sensation of Noble County is a black bear that has been frequently seen in Belle Valley. Since male black bear home ranges can span 100 miles and this bear is not the only bear that has paid us a visit recently, it is important for all local citizens to become bear aware. A black bear could very well visit your yard, garden, corn field, or trash bin too. If you were to encounter a bear in a residential area, would you know what to do? I hope you will after reading this week’s article.

According to Ohio Division of Wildlife Officer- Brad St. Clair, the black bear that is currently being observed in our area is most likely a young bear (around 18 months old) that has recently left the care of its mother and is exploring to develop its own home range.

Bears are typically solitary animals, although cubs will remain with their mother for slightly longer than a year. On average in our region black bears weigh around 200 pounds, but if well fed, males could exceed 600 pounds. A typical black bear will be 3 feet at shoulder height while on all four paws. A healthy bear has a life expectancy of 25 years. At this time, bears are regarded as endangered in Ohio. It is likely that the bears we see in Noble County have traveled in from Pennsylvania or West Virginia.

Black bears are intelligent and curious animals. They can be active at any time of day but are most active at dawn and dusk. Because bears are omnivorous creatures, they will readily go through garbage bins, gardens, orchards, corn fields, birdfeeders, and beehives in search of tasty treats. They can be destructive in their searches and will often revisits sites where they were previously successful getting a meal.

To prevent a bear from treating your property like a buffet, clean up any human, pet, or wildlife food residue that is outside and store food waste in an indoor location until trash day. This includes cleaning outdoor cooking equipment like grills and smokers after use. Gardens, orchards, and beehives can be protected with electric fence if needed to keep bears (and neighbors) away.

The idea of having an encounter with a bear anywhere can be frightening. But bears, like many other animals, do not seek out confrontation with humans. Interactions between bears and people are typically accidental and rarely lead to aggressive responses, unless a human or pet is behaving in a threatening manner toward the bear or a bear’s cubs. Bears will avoid pets that are leashed or caged but won’t hesitate to defend themselves against an aggressive pet that invades their space. If bears are known to be in the area, do not allow pets to roam without set boundaries.

If you see a bear from inside a vehicle or building, stay inside and leave the bear alone until it chooses to leave. If you encounter a bear in-person, NEVER turn your back to the bear or run away. Make your body look as big as possible, make noise, and keep your distance. Calmy back away from the bear while facing it until you reach a safe location or the bear leaves.

As mentioned previously, bears are curious and may try to figure out what you are. Behavior cues like standing upright to look at you or moving closer to see or smell are not aggressive movements. If the bear moves toward you, continue to face the bear, wave your arms wildly, shout, and swing an object like a stick or bag between you and the bear. These actions should scare the bear into retreating from the location.

Having bears in the area is a sign of a healthy and thriving woodland ecosystem. But having bears near residences requires intelligence on our part to reduce the attractiveness of our home spaces to bears. The best way to deter bears from visiting too close is to remove or protect potential food sources on the property.

If you have concerns regarding black bear biology or nuisance bears, consult the resources readily available from the Ohio Department of Wildlife (ohiodnr.gov) or the Pennsylvania Game Commission (pgc.pa.gov). To help the Ohio Department of Natural Resources track wildlife activity, you can report wildlife sightings of all kinds anytime online at: https://apps.ohiodnr.gov/wildlife/speciessighting/.

Share this information about being bear aware with your family, friends, and neighbors to help reduce the likelihood of conflict between black bears and people in our community.

Extension Calling: Farm Stress

Extension Calling is a weekly radio broadcast done in collaboration between The Ohio State University and West Virginia University. Christine Gelley of Noble County OSU Extension joined host, Dan Lima of Belmont County OSU Extension for the show on Sunday, April 7 focusing on healthy ways to cope with farm stress.

Listen here: http://extensioncalling.libsyn.com/dealing-with-farm-stress.

The Farmer’s Line Between Stressed and Depressed

This article was originally published in The Journal  on April 1, 2019.

For many people living in temperate climates, there is a feeling of relief that comes with the change of the seasons from winter to spring.

In fact, according to Mental Health America, five percent of the U.S. population experiences seasonal affective disorder (SAD or seasonal depression). People diagnosed with SAD often experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, sleep problems, lethargy, weight gain, and/or social difficulties that are caused by reduced levels of serotonin and increased levels of melatonin. Both can be related to fewer hours of light in the day. Seasonal affective disorder subsides when light hours increase and life returns to normal for these individuals.

People in all lifestyles experience varying moods related to stress and environmental conditions. Some are completely normal and others may be chronic issues that influence mental and physical health.

The farming community is no exception.

In fact, people in agriculture are at a high risk for mental health issues when compared to the general population. Justification for this is related to the levels of stress farmers carry with them day to day and year to year.

Many farmers cope with their stress alone, which can compound the symptoms of anxiety and depression to unmanageable levels. It is startling that the rates of suicide among agricultural workers are up fifty percent compared to what they were in the 1980s during the farm crisis.

Mental health issues, like SAD, anxiety, and depression, can be very difficult to recognize early on and may persist for years before diagnosis. Fewer than fifty percent of Americans with mental health concerns seek treatment for their symptoms.

The line between feeling stressed and being depressed can be illusive. Some signs of stress shifting from normal to abnormal include a combination of these symptoms: sleep, appetite, and mood changes; reclusiveness, nervousness, and difficulty concentrating; illogical decision making; increased sensitivity to sight, sound, smell, or touch.

If you are experiencing symptoms similar to those described here, it is advisable to talk about them with your doctor and close people you trust.

Mental health services for farmers are being brought to national attention and are included in the new Farm Bill. Senate Bill 2712 requires the United States Department of Agriculture to establish a grant program and a National Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network to help coordinate efforts to address the lack of mental health services in rural communities across the country. These grants can be dispersed to state agricultural departments, extension services, and non-profit organizations.

Looking into the future, Noble County OSU Extension will be working to coordinate stress assistance efforts locally for our farmers.

As your local Extension Educator for Agriculture and Natural Resources, I cannot provide personal advice on mental health concerns, but I will advocate for your access to resources that can and will provide you with the services you deserve.

Additional information about stress management is available from OSU Extension online at: https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5242.

References:

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/sad

https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-q-and-a-getting-enough-vitamin-d/

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/68/wr/mm6807a7.htm?s_cid=mm6807a7_w

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression

https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/2712

Prime Time to Frost Seed

This article was originally published in The Journal  on February 25, 2019.

Mud, mud everywhere, and hardly a plant to be seen.

That is the case for many high traffic areas this time of year. Whether it is your pasture or your lawn, muddy patches are an eye sore and a threat to the integrity of your soil. It is in the best interest of the environment and visual appeal to have some kind of cover on the soil all year round.

Soil cover helps prevent erosion, which is extremely important. Displaced soil is a disappointing and detrimental loss from the source and often considered a pollutant where it ends up. Muddy areas are more prone to erosion, nutrient loss, and compaction. All of which reduce the productive potential of the site.

One of the ways we can improve muddy and damaged sites is to frost seed legumes in late winter. Most people think about planting as a spring activity, but mid-February is ideal for frost seeding. As the title implies, this practice is done while the soil is going through cycles of freezing and thawing. The change in temperature causes the soil to heave and resettle. This provides a great opportunity to broadcast legume seeds across the soil surface and for the seed to be worked into the soil gradually.

The most commonly used legumes are clovers. There are many types of clovers on the market for both lawns and pastures. You can chose tall or short growing types with traits that make them more adaptable to various conditions. Clover seed is also an economical choice for quick and easy improvements, because frost seeding only requires 2-4 lbs. of seed per acre.

Even though those muddy areas seem devoid of life right now, rest assured that some of the previously present plant material will grow back, along with some weeds. To promote the growth of the clovers and suppress weeds, keep the grass canopy below 6 inches in early spring to help light filter through the plant canopy.

For more information about seed selection and/or how to frost seed, reach out for more information by calling the Extension Office at 740-732-5681 or emailing gelley.2@osu.edu.