Transform a Poor Pasture into a Good One

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower Managing Editor
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: November 29, 2022)

It’s not an unusual situation for people to suddenly find themselves as the not-so-proud owner or long-term renter of a previously abused or neglected pasture. In such situations, questions often arise as to what the best plan of action is to bring an abused pasture back to full productivity.

According to Chris Teutsch, a forage extension specialist at the University of Kentucky, there are a number of reasons why formerly good pastures can turn bad. These include too much or too little water; poor fertility or low soil pH; poor grazing or, in the case of a hayfield, mowing management; a poor choice of forage species; and an influx of weeds likely caused by one of the previously mentioned factors. Often, a poor pasture is the result of a combination of several negative stresses.

“Pasture renovation does not always mean having to reseed,” Teutsch said at last fall’s Kentucky Grazing School. “In fact, spraying out an old pasture and then reseeding should be considered a last-resort option. We can often renovate a pasture without reseeding it.” Continue reading

Known Bale Weights are Critical this Year

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower Managing Editor
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: November 15, 2022)

(Image Source: Hay & Forage Grower)

As a hay industry, there are still a number of hay sales that occur “by the bale.” Yes, it’s easier, but if the sale is made without factoring in bale weight and moisture, there’s a good chance the buyer is paying either too much or not enough.

You’ve probably heard this issue reiterated many times over the years, but it’s a safe bet that you’ve never heard it when the price of hay is as high as current values.

For a large swath of the western U.S., drought was the dominating factor during the past growing season. Many livestock producers know they will be short on winter hay or will cut it pretty close. Accurate inventories will no doubt mean the difference between having enough hay or having hungry, low-performing [livestock].

My point is that known, accurate bale weights have Continue reading

The Many Faces of Forage Testing

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower Managing Editor
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: September 6, 2022)

If you grow or harvest forage, develop forage products, sell stuff to people who grow forage, educate people who grow forage, do research for people who grow forage, or just buy forage, then consider yourself a card-carrying member of the forage industry.

Wherever you fit into this unique band of brothers and sisters often helps form your opinions on a variety of forage topics and issues. Sometimes, those opinions differ. I could pick any number of topics to demonstrate this, but let’s focus on forage testing and analysis. First, some full disclosure on my part.

My past has long been grounded in forage crops, but specifically as they are produced and utilized in the Midwest dairy industry. That is probably still my measuring stick, although in my current journalistic endeavors I have had the opportunity to interact with many other types of forage and livestock producers from across the United States.

Forage testing, or more specifically fiber analysis, Continue reading

Challenging Hay Quality in 2022

Stan Smith, OSU Extension PA, Fairfield County

From the Beef page, Mr. Stan Smith highlights the challenges that many producers have experienced during 2022 when it came to making quality hay. As you read through this piece, you will see several references to cattle and wonder why I chose to share this piece on our page. The current state of hay quality in the state of Ohio and across the nation is of concern and the reality is that if the hay available to producers now does not meet the standards for beef cattle, it certainly won’t make the mark for our small ruminants. Whether you are making your own hay or purchasing it, a simple hay test this year will be worth its weight in gold. For those interested in haying their hays tested or need assistance with interpreting your results, please don’t hesitate to connect.

In a year like this when, according to the National Ag Statistics Service (NASS) estimates, barely half of Ohio’s first cutting hay harvest was completed by mid-June, it is apparent that Ohio cattlemen will again be faced with finding ways to make “feed” from forages that were harvested way past their prime.

As an example of the hay quality we are seeing Continue reading

Fall Forage Management for Hay and Pasture

Doo-Hong Min, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, MSU Extension
Richard Lee, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, MSU Extension
(Previously published on MSU Extension, Crop Advisory Team Alerts: September 18, 2008)

(Image Source: Texas A&M University)

Among the four seasons, fall is one of the most important seasons in terms of preparing for winter survival and spring regrowth by storing carbohydrate and protein reserves in the crowns and roots. Fall is also the season for regeneration and the formation of the shoots or growing points. Since plants become dormant in the fall as air temperature is getting lower and day length is shorter, nutrient uptake becomes accordingly slower. The following are points to consider for fall forage management for hay and pasture:

1.) Soil fertility and liming:
Since the price of fertilizer is so high these days, it’s important to use phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) efficiently. One of the best ways to save fertilizer costs is to Continue reading

Feeding Frosted Forages

Dr. Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist, The Ohio State University

I am beginning to get questions about toxicities that can develop after forages are frosted. There is potential for some forage toxicities and other problems that can develop after a frost. Prussic acid poisoning and high nitrates are the main concern with a few specific annual forages and several weed species, but there is also an increased risk of bloat when grazing legumes after a frost.

Nitrate accumulation in frosted forages
Freezing damage slows down metabolism in all plants, and this might result in nitrate accumulation in plants that are still growing, especially grasses like oats and other small grains, millet, and sudangrass.  This build-up usually is not hazardous to grazing animals, but greenchop or hay cut right after a freeze can be more dangerous. When in doubt, send in a sample to a forage testing lab and request a nitrate test before grazing or feeding a forage after a frost. Continue reading

The Many Faces of Forage Testing

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower Managing Editor
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: September 6, 2022)

As you read through this piece provided by Mike Rankin, think to yourself, “where do small ruminant producers fall?”

(Image Source: Hay & Forage Grower)

If you grow or harvest forage, develop forage products, sell stuff to people who grow forage, educate people who grow forage, do research for people who grow forage, or just buy forage, then consider yourself a card-carrying member of the forage industry.

Wherever you fit into this unique band of brothers and sisters often helps form your opinions on a variety of forage topics and issues. Sometimes, those opinions differ. I could pick any number of topics to demonstrate this, but let’s focus on forage testing and analysis. First, some full disclosure on my part. Continue reading

A Checklist for Fall Pasture Renovation

Amber Friedrichsen, Hay and Forage Grower 2021 and 2022 editorial intern
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: August 30, 2021)

Similar to an old house that needs repair, an underperforming forage stand may need a renovation. Instead of cement foundations, blueprints, and constructions plans, though, a new seeding requires healthy soil, pest management, and an effective planting method.

Amanda Grev, a pasture and forage specialist with University of Maryland Extension, says mid-August to mid-September is the optimum time to renovate forage stands in her state. Although this window varies by region, producers across the country can implement similar strategies to ensure an effective transformation.

Test soil
Inadequate pH levels and nutrient deficiencies can hinder seedling establishment and stand persistence. Grev notes low soil pH is detrimental to root growth and development, and phosphorous is especially important for young plants to thrive. Therefore, it is essential to sample soil prior to pasture renovation and apply lime and fertilizer according to test results and recommendations.

Control weeds
Eliminate weeds before planting to prevent Continue reading

Plan Now for Fall Pasture Fertilization

Dr. Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist, The Ohio State University
Greg LaBarge, OSU Field Specialist, Agronomic Systems Department of Extension

Early fall is one of the best times to top-dress maintenance fertilizer on perennial forages. Soils are usually firm in September, and autumn topdressing provides needed nutrients for good winter survival of the forage stand and vigorous regrowth the following spring. Now is a great time to begin preparations and acquiring fertilizer supplies so timely fall applications can be made.

Remember that hay crops will remove about 50 lbs. of K2O and 12 lbs. of P2O5 per ton of dry hay harvested. Adequate amounts of soil P and K are important for the productivity and persistence of forage stands. But nutrient over-application harms the environment and can harm animals fed those forages. A recent soil test should Continue reading