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

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

The Rush to the Grass Flush

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower Managing Editor
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: May 2, 2023)

It’s this time of year when grasses show us and tell us what they’re made of. They tell us what they like and what they don’t like. It seems some people never learn the language of grasses while others are obsessed by it.

Although different species of grasses have unique characteristics, as a group they are generally more tolerant of poor management and subpar soils than are many legumes. They often grow in spite of what we do rather than because of what we do.

Although grasses are more forgiving than legumes in terms of where they can grow and what they demand, their range of productivity spans a wide axis based on how we manage them. Over the course of the next four to six weeks, grasses will transition from boom to bust — or lush to flush — if we let them. Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way. Continue reading

First Cutting Can Make or Break a Season

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower Managing Editor
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: April 11, 2023)

Over the course of the next two months, a large number of hay implements will venture out into fields for their maiden voyage of 2023. Be it grass or alfalfa, first cutting separates itself as a time that often defines the hay or haylage harvest season.

One of the unique advantages of harvesting forage is that desired forage quality can largely be attained by the grower simply manipulating the time of cutting. In the same vein, yield can also be dictated, but at the expense of forage quality.

No other harvest during the year offers more opportunity for obtaining high forage quality — as defined by digestible fiber — than the initial spring cutting. Further, this forage often makes up the greatest proportion of Continue reading

Spring Oats Offer Fast Forage

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower Managing Editor
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: March 28, 2023)

Although the days of growing oats for horses have morphed into grandfather tales on most farms, the cereal grain remains a valuable and often-used species in the forage toolbox. Whenever fast forage to graze or harvest is needed, or a companion crop for an alfalfa seeding is desired, more often than not the conversation turns to oats.

The utility of oats as a forage crop can be capitalized upon not just in the fall as a late-season annual but also in the spring if winter annuals didn’t get planted last fall, if they winterkilled, or if perennials suffered winter injury. The beauty of oats is that they can be planted and harvested earlier than most other forage alternatives.

The planting window for spring oats varies by location but generally adheres to the mantra of Continue reading

Frost Seeding Season is Here

Christine Gelley, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Noble County

Last weekend I had the opportunity to go out to a farm site where a family is looking to put in a fruit tree orchard and help them do some soil testing. It was a beautiful day for February. The ground was not frozen, so it was easy to collect the soil cores needed for a composite sample.

As we walked and talked, they mentioned that they had seen some soil disturbance that seemed a little odd. They weren’t sure if it was caused by an animal and if it were, which one was the culprit. We walked a little more and found an example. There was a little mound of soil that looked like it had been dug from underneath, leaving a cone of soil on the surface.

After investigating, we determined that the cause was not an animal. The cause was the weather. As temperatures fluctuate this time of year, the soil expands and contracts. This leads to soil heaving, which pushes loose soil up through the surface crust, leaving the little soil mounds we found. Soil heaving is a sign that Maple Syrup and Frost Seeding Season are upon us.

Frost seeding is Continue reading