Pasture Management in Dry Weather

Dr. David Barker, Professor – Horticulture and Crop Science, The 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?

Avoid over-grazing
Unfortunately, without rain or irrigation pastures will not grow, and close grazing will exaggerate this effect. Leaf removal by grazing (or mowing) results in a roughly similar proportion of root death. During moist conditions, roots can recover quite quickly, however, grazing during drought will reduce water uptake due to root loss. As a general rule of thumb, grazing below 2 or 3 inches will accelerate drought effects on pastures, and also, slow recovery once rain does come. Of course, optimum grazing height and management varies with pasture species. As summer progresses into fall we will increase pasture grazing heights and leave more residual, while increasing resting periods. More leaf means less water runoff.

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Grazing Summer Annuals

 

Brad Schick, University of Nebraska Extension (Previously published Drovers Newsletter: June 26, 2018)

Grazing summer annual grasses can be a great addition to an operation when annuals are chosen correctly and grazing plans are used.

Grazing summer annual grasses is a great way to add flexibility to an operation, but in order to make it worth your time and money some management decisions are required. Your goals and your location will determine what type of summer annual you should plant. This article will address:

1. Type of annual and planting date
2. Timing of grazing
3. Prussic acid and nitrates

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Prevent Parasites Through Grazing Management

Melanie Barkley, Livestock Extension Educator, Penn State Extension (previously published with Penn State Extension: May 31, 2017)

Grazing management and genetic selection can help your flock minimize the impact of parasites.

Parasites continue to plague many sheep and goat producers throughout the grazing season. Internal parasites decrease growth rates and in high levels can even cause death. However, sheep and goat producers can follow several practices to minimize the impacts to their flock or herd. These practices center on grazing management, but can also include genetic selection principles.

 

 

 

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Cressleaf Groundsel in Hay

Source: Jason Hartschuh, CCA, Ted Wiseman, OSU Extension

Cressleaf Groundsel is in full flower currently in forage and unplanted fields across the state. While this is not a new weed prevalence has been increasing, causing concern for many livestock producers.

 

Toxicity

Cressleaf Groundsel is toxic to both cattle and horses. Cattle are 30-40 times more susceptible to poisoning than sheep or goats. Calves and younger cattle are more susceptible than older cattle, but it can be fatal at high enough doses to all age groups. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids are the principle toxin in these plants. It is known to cause liver disease in cattle, producing symptoms such as listlessness, decreased appetite, depression, anorexia, diarrhea, and photosensitization in extreme cases. It also appears that this species has been responsible for abortions in cattle, making control of butterweed a necessity. Cattle that consumed 4 to 8% of their body weight in the green plant over a few days developed acute liver necrosis and died within 1 to 2 days. Cattle that ingested 0.15% of their body weight (fresh weight) of a species in the same genus as butterweed for a minimum of 20 days resulted in 100% mortality. This comparative ratio equates to a 20-day cumulative dose of 2% of an animal’s body weight of dry plants (Knight and Walter 2001). Most beef cattle will consume 2-2.5% of their body weight in dry matter per day. Since these toxins are cumulative when hay is over 5% Cressleaf Groundsel dry matter weight, enough can be consumed within 20 days to cause mortality.

Cressleaf Groundsel

While toxicity decreases in some plants as they dry, that is not the case with Cressleaf Groundsel. These toxins are not decreased if the plants are dried and baled. Ensilaging will decrease the concentration of toxin but not eliminate them. Producers with high concentrations of Cressleaf Groundsel maybe forced to bale first cutting and throw it away so that livestock are not poisoned. Areas of sparse concentration may be baled and fed cautiously, ideally alongside hay that is free from poisonous weeds. Cattle may sort the weeds out. A new bale should be fed before the only thing left in the feeder is weeds. In grazing situations, cattle will usually not eat poisonous plants as long as they have access to other quality forages. Be cautious anytime drought conditions decrease forage stands.

Biology and Identification

Cressleaf groundsel reproduces only from seeds and emerges as a rosette in the fall, then bolts, flowers, and goes to seed in the spring.  Bolting stems are hairless, hollow, grooved, and can reach heights of three feet with inflorescences that have six to twelve yellow ray flowers.  The flowers are like other species in the Aster family, with ray (outside) and disk (center) petals.  The outer ray will normally consist of 5 to 15 petals that are bright yellow, and the inner disk will be a more golden yellow in color.  Plants will eventually produce seeds that resemble those of dandelions.  The seeds are small with a reddish to brown tint and have a feathery pappus that makes them easily carried by the wind.

Control

Cressleaf groundsel normally does not regrow after the first cutting of hay; however, our goal should be to prevent it from becoming established in the field. Take note of fields with Cressleaf Groundsel in them or nearby for increased scouting and control measures next year.  Effective chemical control is when the plants are still in the rosette growth stage in late fall or early spring.  Herbicides such as 2,4-D provide good control when applied at the correct growth stage.  Larger plants may require additional herbicides such as dicamba.  Products that can be used to control this weed and others can be found in the 2020 Weed Control Guide for Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.  One caution using these broadleaf herbicides is that they also damage legumes such as alfalfa and clovers in pastures and hayfields.  For additional information on identifying weeds go to https://cpb-us-w2.wpmucdn.com/u.osu.edu/dist/7/3461/files/2014/04/Cressleaf_groundsel_article_-_p-zna9t9.pdf

Hay yields off? Don’t panic, there’s time to take action!

 

– Chris Penrose, Extension Educator, Ag and Natural Resources, Morgan County

I hope you are not having the hay season I am having. While the quality of my hay is good, my yields are extremely disappointing. With over half of my fields made, I am around 50% of a normal crop. The two late freezes killed back growing grass last month, and honestly, I am mowing hay earlier than most years. I am also doing it much faster with my youngest son not working this summer at the Wilmington College farm due to the virus and helping on the farm. Another thing I have noticed over the past few years is that some hay fields have less fescue and orchard grass, and more poor quality forages like cheat grass reducing quality and yields.

Some suggest hay yields are half of normal. Is that the result of late freezes, or more timely harvest this year?

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Control of Multiflora Rose in Pastures

– Dean Kreager, Licking County Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator (originally published in Farm and Dairy)

There is one pasture project that never seems to go away. That is controlling the multiflora rose. The plant was first introduced into the United States in 1866 to be used as a rootstock for grafting roses. About 70 years later the U.S. Soil Conservation Service promoted the use of multiflora rose as a “living fence” and a means of erosion control. The adaptability of this plant allowed it to get out of control. Over the years this plant has made the list of noxious weeds in many states and is taking over many pastures in this part of the country. The battle to gain control is difficult and maintenance is continual.

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Grass Tetany Could be Looming for Cattle and Sheep

Are your pastures ready for spring and your livestock ready for pasture?

As fast as this year seems to be going, pastures will be greening up and it will be time to start grazing again. Although we haven’t had much of a winter so far, and I hope I am not jinxing us by mentioning it here.

Spring arrives soon
Soon it will be time to start preparing our livestock for lush green pastures. Last year was a tough year for getting stored forages harvested, especially first cutting hay.

Supplement energy
Some hay analysis I have seen this past year would suggest that many need to supplement energy to maintain body conditions during this last trimester prior to the spring calving and lambing season. Continue reading