Forage Fertility: Where We Are and Why it Matters

Garth Ruff, Beef Cattle Field Specialist, OSU Extension
Greg LaBarge, Agronomic Crops Field Specialist, OSU Extension

Hay and haylage crops are grown on just over 1 million acres in Ohio (NASS, 2019) and are grown on more Ohio farms (44% of all farms) than any other crop (Becot et al., 2020). In addition, there are over 1.3 million acres of pastureland on nearly 39,000 farms (50% of all farms) in the state of Ohio (NASS, 2017). Fertilizer costs represent 40% – 60% of the variable input costs of forage hay production (Ward et al., 2016, 2018), and so managing these costs is key to an Ohio forage producers’ ability to stay competitive. Furthermore, water quality issues in the state underscore the need for Ohio farmers to manage on-farm nutrients as efficiently as possible. A farmer’s ability to find this optimal balance between meeting crop nutrient requirements without over-application is highly reliant on the best available information. Continue reading

Poisonous Pasture Weeds and Livestock

– Dwight Lingenfelter, Extension Associate, Weed Science, Penn State

Poisonous Pasture Weeds and Livestock

Horsenettle in a pasture setting. (Source: D. Lingenfelter, Penn State Weed Science)

During drought and other poor environmental conditions that reduce forage growth, there are concerns for poisonous weeds in pastures and hay. Livestock may be forced to graze on weeds that normally they would not, or they may eat weeds out of curiosity. Scout your pastures and remove these weeds before they cause livestock health problems. Keep in mind there are numerous poisonous plants that could invade an area or pasture. Many plants contain potentially poisonous substances that may be toxic to livestock if consumed. In addition, certain plants may be problematic because of mechanical irritation when eaten, photosensitization, and disagreeable tastes or odors in meat, milk or milk products. If you suspect livestock poisoning, call your local extension educator or veterinarian immediately. If death occurs, the stomach contents should be examined for consumed herbage. Identify the suspected plants and remove livestock from the grazing area until all poisonous plants have been removed or destroyed.

Continue reading at: https://extension.psu.edu/poisonous-pasture-weeds-and-livestock

Hay in May is a Big Deal!

 

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

Hay making requires a balance between nutritional value and when yield is maximized.

Hay season is officially underway!

In the years since I began working in Noble County there have been two years where conditions were right for making dry hay in May- 2020 and 2021. The smell of mowed hay drying in the warm sun and the sight of fresh round bales peppering fields this past week gave me a boost of much needed optimism. For people concerned with the quality of hay, this is exciting stuff.

 

 

 

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Hay Barn Fires are a Real Hazard

Hay fires are caused when bacteria in wet hay create so much heat that the hay spontaneously combusts in the presence of oxygen. At over 20% moisture mesophilic bacteria release heat-causing temperature to rise between 130°F to 140ºF with temperature staying high for up to 40 days. As temperatures rise, thermophilic bacteria can take off in your hay and raise temperature into the fire danger zone of over 175°F. Continue reading

Cressleaf Groundsel (Packera glabella)

Source: Marcelo Zimmer and Bill Johnson, Purdue University

Every spring we receive several calls and e-mails about a certain 3-foot tall weed with yellow flowers (Figure 1). The most common yellow flowered weeds we have in Indiana are cressleaf groundsel, the buttercup species, and dandelion.  Occasionally we have some fields of canola or rapeseed in the state. But, by far the most prevalent specie we see in no-till corn and soybean fields, and occasionally pastures, is cressleaf groundsel.  I have only rarely observed wild mustard in Indiana.  Wild mustard is more common in the northern tier of states near the Canadian border.  This year, due to recent cooler weather, cressleaf groundsel is flowering later than it did last year.  This article is intended to provide information on the biology and life cycle of cressleaf groundsel, as well as how to control it in fields and pastures.

Biology and Identification

Cressleaf Groundsel is a winter annual weed that has become more prevalent in Indiana pastures and agronomic crop ground over the past 20 years.  The small seeds produced by this weed allow it to thrive in reduced and no-till systems as well as poorly established pastures.  Cool and wet springs of the past few years have also favored cressleaf groundsel, as it is a weed that prefers moist soils and typically struggles in hot and dry weather.

Much like most winter annual weeds, cressleaf groundsel emerges as a rosette in the fall then bolts, flowers, and produces seed in the spring.  Basal rosette leaves are deep pinnate serrations with roundly lobed leaf margins.  Leaves are typically 2 to 10 inches in length (Britton and Brown 1970).  Bolting stems are hollow and can reach up to three feet in height with inflorescences that contain six to twelve yellow ray flowers that are often compared to the flowers of common dandelion.  When looking for cressleaf groundsel in older weed id or taxonomic guides be aware that it has traditionally been placed in the Senecio genus and only recently was placed into the Packera genus.

Toxic Properties

The competitiveness of cressleaf groundsel with agronomic crops has not been researched, though its presence as a winter annual in no-till fields will have the same implications of slowing soil warming and drying as other winter annual weeds.  The presence of this weed in pastures and hay fields should be of more concern as it does contain toxic properties when ingested by livestock.  Leaves, flowers, and seeds of cressleaf groundsel contain alkaloids that will cause liver damage in livestock that is termed seneciosis and typically occurs on a chronic level (Kingsbury 1964).  Symptoms of seneciosis are loss of appetite, sluggish depressed behavioral patterns, and in extreme cases aimless walking without regard to fences or structures.  Although cressleaf groundsel is not as toxic as many of its relatives in the Packera genus, livestock producers encountering this weed in pastures or hay should take steps to avoid prolonged ingestion by animals.

Control

Herbicide applications for control of cressleaf groundsel are most effective when applied to plants in the rosette stage.  Plants that are larger, or bolting are very difficult to control with herbicides.  Infestations in pastures can be controlled with 2,4-D or a combination of 2,4-D and dicamba applied to rosettes in the fall or early spring prior to bolting.  Producers should be aware that applications of these herbicides will also kill favorable broadleaves (legumes) that are present in pastures.

Control recommendations for cressleaf groundsel in no-till agronomic crop fields has typically been to apply 2,4-D @ 1 qt/A to actively growing rosettes in the fall.  In fact, just about any broadleaf herbicide commonly applied in the fall in the eastern cornbelt will work well on controlling this weed.  However, we have observed that control of cressleaf groundsel with spring burndowns can be challenging if the plants are large and spray applications are made in cool weather.  In situations like this, we often observe severe injury and necrosis of leaves, but new growth will appear from live buds on the plant.  In some instances, resprays are needed to finish off the cressleaf groundsel. The best herbicide programs for spring burndowns are 2,4-D + dicamba, atrazine + paraquat + 2,4-D, something with chlorimuron in it, and Elevore + 2,4-D. for more information on spring burndown information, consult the burndown section in the Weed Control Guide for Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois (publication WS-16).

 

Perennial Weeds can Indicate Soil Health Problems in Pastures

 

Dean Kreager, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Licking County
(Previously published in Farm and Dairy: May 6, 2021)

If plants could talk, we could learn a lot, and our jobs as stewards of the land would be much easier. When we go to the doctor because we are sick, we do not sit quietly and expect the doctor to know how we feel and then tell us how to get better. We need to provide information that will help with the diagnosis.

But since plants cannot talk, our job is difficult when we try to locate the source of a problem, such as low productivity or an infestation of weeds.

 

 

 

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When making baleage, what plastic do I use?

During the second session of this past winter’s Ohio Beef Cattle Management School, one focus of the evening was effectively utilizing plastic wrap for fermenting baled forages and making baleage. In the 2 minute excerpt of that evening’s presentation, Jason Hartschuh answers the question, “When making baleage, what plastic do I use?”

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Challenges Ahead

Source: Jim Noel, NOAA

There are challenges ahead so we will break them into short-term and long-term.

Short-term

The recent snow was a rare event for the amount that fell across Ohio. However, the minimum temperatures in the 20s and 30s was not that far off of normal for last freeze conditions for Ohio.

The strongest typhoon ever in the northern hemisphere occurred east of the Philippines last week and this energy will come across parts of North America over the next week. When that happens weather model performance often drops. Hence, if you see more bouncing around of forecasts the next 10-15 days that may be one reason why.

We have a big warm-up the first half of this week ahead of a strong storm that will move through Ohio the second half of the week with wind and rain. We could see anywhere from 0.50 inches to over 2 inches across Ohio later this week but placement is not certain and seems to favor central and southern Ohio with the highest amounts. Expect most places to see an inch or less given recent track record of events coming in lighter.  Once the storm passes colder air will push in and some frost will be possible this weekend with lows in the 30s.

The rainfall the next 30-days is critical for the growing season as moderate drought over northern Ohio already has soil conditions in a shortage.

The latest drought monitor can be found here:

https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu

Also, some of the greatest evaporative demand in the country has been in parts of northern Ohio the last 30+ days and can be monitored as a leading indicator for drought development at this webpage via NOAA:

https://psl.noaa.gov/eddi/realtime_maps/images/latest.trim.png

You can keep up on the Ohio River Forecast Center’s Water Resources Outlooks at:

https://www.weather.gov/ohrfc/WRO

Long-term

May appears will see periods of well above and below normal temperatures but will average out close to normal or just slightly above normal. Precipitation continues to trend at or below normal but models suggest a normal May for precipitation. If we get timely rains that will help soil conditions for summer. If we miss critical rains in May, this could lead to summer issues.

The latest rainfall outlook for the next 16-days is viewable in the attached image. Normal rainfall is nearing 2 inches for the next 16-days. We expect 1-3 inches for most areas.

For summer, most climate models indicate above normal temperatures and medium to high confidence of above normal temperatures during typical peak temperatures from mid-June to mid-August. We will need to monitor this. Confidence in summer rainfall is low. Most outlooks and models suggest not too far from normal rainfall but the reality is since 30-50% of summer rainfall comes from local soils, the next 30-days will be a big player in our summer rainfall outcome.

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:

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Will Forage Stands Be Damaged by Predicted Freezes?

The weather forecast this week is indeed concerning for forage stands in general and especially for alfalfa and red clover. The low night temperatures in the forecast may potentially cause severe frost injury to both annual forage crops (e.g. winter rye and winter triticale) and perennials forages

Figure 1. Alfalfa stem wilting caused by freezing.

Figure 1. Alfalfa stem wilting caused by freezing.

 

Growers should scout and evaluate their forage stands several days after the cold nights because predicting freeze damage is difficult to impossible. Freeze damage and plant recovery from it are influenced by many factors, including the absolute minimum low air temperature, soil temperature during the freeze event that can moderate near-surface air temperatures in the canopy, field topography, snow cover during cold nights (that provides insulation), age and stage of plant growth, and stand health and vigor as influenced by soil fertility and prior cutting management.

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