Get Familiar with Toxic Pasture Weeds

Dwight Lingenfelter, Extension Associate, Weed Science, PennState Extension
(Previously published online with Farm Progress, American Agriculturist: May 26, 2023)

(Image Source: Ohio Ag Net | Ohio’s Country Journal)

Over the holiday weekend, I took the opportunity to make the trip back to my parents to help make hay. While working the fields, I noticed a few plants along the field edges that made me cringe. Upon closer inspection, what I unfortunately found where four stalks of poison hemlock. With a pair of gloves and my trusty trimmers, I took care of these stately weeds. I also made a note in my phone on where these weeds where on the farm in addition to a marker flag so I could return this fall to take care of any additional regrowth that may occur. With this being, I found this piece from Penn State University to be quite timely and useful as we come into what I see as a stretch of dry weather. As pastures and hay fields continue to be knocked down, this year it will be most important to take a closer look at the issues that toxic pasture and hayfield weeds may play in our livestock operations.

During drought and the usual summer slump that reduces forage growth, there are concerns for poisonous weeds in pastures and hay.

Livestock may be forced to graze on weeds they normally would not, or they may eat weeds out of curiosity. It is important to scout your pastures and remove these weeds — or broken limbs and leaves — before they cause health problems in your animals. Continue reading

Re-Evaluating Pasture Utilization

Dean Kreager, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Licking County

Farmland prices continue to rise and so does the value of pastureland. As I listen to discussions on renewable energy, carbon sequestration, and land development, I can only imagine that land values will continue to rise. As land values go up so will rental rates for both farmland and pasture. Sometimes the true value of pasture forage is overlooked and not maximized. Is there a practical option to increase productivity on your pastureland and increase your profit per acre?

Grazed forage is your chance to have a high-quality feed without the expenses and time needed to make hay. The more days out of the year animals are grazing, the less stored forage is needed, and the less time is spent feeding stored forages. Let the livestock do the work as much of the year as possible.

Many grazing systems have been used and each have their own advantages and disadvantages. As land values and expenses go up it may be time to re-evaluate your method. Grazing systems can be broken down into three general categories: Continue reading

Ruminant Nutrition: Forage Quality

As the old saying goes, “you’ve got to make hay when the sun shines!” Looking at the weather forecast this week, I’ve been told that many forage producers are taking advantage of this long stretch of good weather that is becoming a rarity in May. Therefore, this weeks posting will provide a series of videos that I hope you will be able to watch while waiting in the field or on your lunch break. Remember, as livestock producers, we are chasing forage quality in hopes of reducing the needs for concentrate feeds. This short video provided by Penn State Extension explains the trade off between forage quality and quantity and how these feedstuffs are utilized by the ruminant system. Enjoy and if you are in the field this week, be safe!

Thinking Outside the Box – The Use of Plant Compounds as Natural Anthelmintics

Dr. Brady Campbell, Assistant Professor, State Small Ruminant Extension Specialist

(Image Source: Hoste et al., 2012)

By now, most producers should be aware that as of June 11th, all over-the-counter antibiotics will require a veterinarian prescription. Although anthelmintic or de-worming products are not classified as an antibiotic and will still be available for purchase at your local retailor, I can’t help but think about the relationship between these two categories of livestock products. Many animal health products available on the marketplace today are easily accessible and easy to use. However, because of this ease and without the detailed knowledge of a veterinarian, unfortunately, these products have been over and/or improperly used, thus leading to resistance. Resistance towards whatever we may be treating for is one of the main drivers for removal from retail shelves and being placed back into the hands of our veterinarians. Thinking a bit further as we begin our fast approach into peak grazing and parasite seasons, I can’t help but wonder what will happen to our currently supply of anthelmintics in the near future. Now hear me out, I’m not suggesting that these products also be removed from producers easy reach, but what I am pointing out is the need for judicious/calculated/careful or targeted used of these products.

With this being said, there are several management practices that can be Continue reading

Do You Have a Plan for Marketing Your Lambs?

Melanie Barkley, Livestock Extension Educator, Penn State Extension
(previously published with Penn State Extension: November 7, 2022)

All sheep operations need to market products in order to generate income. To be successful and prosperous in your sheep enterprise, you should understand basic marketing concepts for selling sheep and their products. This includes specific business models of marketing lamb for the holidays, marketing lambs at other times of the year, marketing breeding stock, and marketing wool and woolen products. As a sheep producer, what sort of plan do you have for marketing your lambs?

One of the first steps to consider when starting any business is to develop a detailed marketing plan. This plan will serve as a blueprint for your business and covers everything from how you will go about targeting your customers, to calculating profitable prices.

Simply put, a marketing plan Continue reading

Are You Charging Enough for Your Hay?

Andrew Holden, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Ashtabula County

With hay inventories at all-time lows, are you charging a competitive rate? What is a fair price to charge for hay? Are you still making a profit on your hay sales with rising input cost? Those making hay should consider the recent market changes, long-term trends, and personal enterprise cost to make sure their hay is priced fairly and competitively.

Let’s take a look at some of the hay numbers, both nationally and at the state level, as well as some tools to help hay producers fully reconcile their input cost.

National Hay Inventory
Last December the USDA reported that hay inventories in the United States were at approximately 71.9 million tons. This was a decrease of 7 million tons from the year before, roughly a 9% difference. This follows the trend over the last 20 years of decreasing hay stocks and has put us at the lowest hay inventory in over 70 years. The low inventory is likely to Continue reading

Feeding Practices in Sheep

Dr. David G. Pugh, DVM, MS, MAg, DACT, DACVN, DACVM, Auburn University
(Previously published online with the Merck Manual – Veterinary Manual: October, 2022)

Feeding Farm Sheep
Sheep make excellent use of high-quality roughage stored either as hay or low-moisture, grass-legume silage, or occasionally chopped green feed. Good-quality hay or stored forage is a highly productive feed; poor-quality forage, no matter how much is available, is suitable only for maintenance. Hay quality is determined primarily by the following:

  1. its composition, (e.g., a mixture of grasses and legumes such as brome/alfalfa or bluegrass/clover)
  2. the stage of maturity when cut (e.g., the grass before heading and alfalfa before one-tenth bloom)
  3. method and speed of harvesting due to loss of leaf, bleaching by sun, and leaching by rain
  4. spoilage and loss during storage and feeding

In general, the same factors influence the quality of Continue reading