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.
Recently, one of my colleagues, Ed Brown, suggested a method of taking stock of what is growing in your pasture. Knowing what plants are growing in your pastures is an important first step in listening to what the pasture is telling you. Varieties of plants or changes in these populations from year to year can provide important clues. Continue reading →
There’s never been a haymaker who couldn’t improve on their craft. The opportunities to enhance forage yield, quality, and persistence are nearly endless. Whether you’ve already started cutting or are still waiting, Amanda Grev offers this bevy of suggestions in the University of Maryland’s Agronomy News to improve this year’s hay quality ledger.
Harvest at the correct maturity stage
“The single most important factor affecting forage quality is the stage of maturity at the time of harvest,” notes the extension pasture and forage specialist. “This is especially true in the spring when forages are growing and maturing rapidly.”
Target the onset of cutting at the boot stage for grasses or late bud to early bloom for legumes. For legume-grass mixtures, base your cut-time decision on
Small farming operations are becoming more popular as the amount of land available for large livestock enterprises and row crops is reduced by urban sprawl. Small ruminant livestock systems such as sheep and goats fit well with small farm operations. Forages, whether are grazed or hayed, supply the major source of nutrition and a critical component to small farm enterprises to maintain sustainability. Many of these small farm owners are either newcomers to farming or people living in urban areas and see them as “hobby” farms. There is a critical need to educate them on the basic agricultural practices and forage utilization for this type of livestock management.
The grazing habits of sheep and goats differ from traditional livestock production and they can be incorporated into the grazing systems for cattle and horses. Goats tend to browse more while sheep tend to graze. Goats are efficiently used in pasture utilization controlling brush and weed. Continue reading →
If you recall from last week, we highlighted the benefits and challenges of making and feeding wet wrapped forages to small ruminants. As they say, high risk comes with high reward. For those that have cover crops available, you may want to think twice before making it into baleage. From personal experience, making baleage out of cover crop forages can be tricky work. For those considering using baleage for the first time, stick with grasses first to master this unique feeding technique. Trust me, you’ll thank me later. Before considering the use of spring harvested cereal/annual forages, be sure to consider these two common harvesting mistakes highlighted by Mike Rankin with Hay and Forage Grower.
For a variety of reasons, winter cereal forages are more popular these days than ever before. In addition to providing a high-quality livestock feed, winter cereals offer many land conservation and soil quality attributes; they also offer a manure-spreading outlet in late spring. Continue reading →
During the 2020 Buckeye Shepherd’s Symposium, OSU’s new Extension Beef Cattle Field Specialist- Garth Ruff, presented on the topic of feeding wet forages to sheep. Although his current role emphasizes beef systems, Garth has a background in both forage and sheep production. He and his family have first-hand experience in feeding wet forages to their sheep throughout the winter months. Garth reviews the necessary methods for harvesting and preserving wet forages, along with how to safely provide these feeds to small ruminants. With hay harvest right around the corner, now is the time to start considering the use of wet wrapped forages in your operation!
Baled silage, or baleage, is a highly nutritious livestock feed and can help producers better manage their harvest window and harvest their crop at its optimum quality.
Baleage is forage harvested at a higher moisture than dry hay, which is then wrapped in polyurethane plastic to eliminate oxygen so that anaerobic fermentation takes place. This phase converts available sugars to acids, preserving the forage and improving the nutritional value and palatability of the crop.
Silage bales beat dry hay
Silage bales have advantages over dry hay, but best management practices are in order.
First, bale silage at a higher moisture level than dry hay. This accomplishes two goals: Continue reading →
The spring seeding window for the most popular forages in our region is quickly approaching. Producers looking for guidance on how to choose the best forage for their system should always start with a soil test rather than a seed catalog. Whether you have farmed your site for decades or days, soil testing is essential for success.
Once you know the characteristics of your soil, you can formulate a timeline to adjust fertility if needed, sow your selected seed, and set realistic expectations for production. Soil testing should be conducted when site history is unknown, when converting from a different cropping system (row crops, woodlands, turfgrass, etc.), or on a three-year schedule for maintenance.
Additional factors worthy of consideration prior to purchasing seed include Continue reading →
Early spring provides one of the two preferred times to seed perennial cool-season forages, the other being late summer. The outlook for this spring is for probabilities of above average precipitation in April and May. Planting opportunities will likely be few and short. An accompanying article on preparing now for planting along with the following 10 steps to follow on the day you plant will help improve chances for successful forage establishment.
We are at the point of the winter that daily average temperatures are rising and the days are getting noticeably longer. This freezing and thawing over the next few weeks is what gives frost seeding a great chance to work.
Frost seeding is a very low cost, higher risk way to establish new forages in existing fields by spreading seed over the field and let the freezing and thawing action of the soil allow the seed to make “seed to soil” contact allowing it to successfully germinate. When you see soils “honeycombed” in the morning from a hard frost, or heaved up from a frost, seed that was spread on that soil has a great chance to make a seed to soil contact when the soil thaws. I think the two biggest reasons why frost seeding fails is Continue reading →
As producers continue making preparations for winter hay usage, many are looking at possibly purchasing or selling hay crops.
Many times over my past years as an agriculture educator and so-called “expert” in the field, I have been asked, “What do you think my hay is worth?” or “How much should I give for hay this year?” Oftentimes, sight unseen or with very limited information to base my response on, they expect a precise answer. Can’t do it.
Hay is often priced by what your neighbor is selling it for down the road. After all, if their price is cheaper than yours, they will probably make the sale before you. But are the consumers really getting what they paid for?
Let’s begin by asking a few questions and try to guide you down the road to consider Continue reading →