Can I Afford to Fertilize my Hay?

Stan Smith, OSU Extension PA, Fairfield County
Chris Penrose, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Morgan County

With fertilizer prices on the rise and reaching levels not seen in years, some are wondering if they can afford to fertilize hay ground. Realizing we can’t starve a profit into livestock, or a hay crop, the answer is simple. We can’t afford not to properly and strategically fertilize a hay crop.

The operative word here is “strategically.” Let’s look at what that word might mean in the coming 2022 hay season.

First and foremost, now more than ever is the time to make sure we have up to date soil tests. We can’t manage what we haven’t measured and knowing the nutrient content of forage fields is critical to knowing which soil nutrients will offer the most return on investment.

Lime has gone up little if any, in price, in recent years. To optimize the efficiency of the fertility we do have

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Understanding How Animals Choose What to Eat

Kathy Voth, On Pasture Editor and Contributor
(Previously published in On Pasture: November 15, 2021)

In this month’s Thinking Grazier, Darrell Emmick points out the importance of understanding what a cow needs to be most productive and how she chooses those foods. It’s something I’ve studied for many years used to add nutritious foods to livestock diets.

If you’ve spent much time at all at On Pasture, you know I’m talking about weeds. They turn out to be highly nutritious, very resilient forages, and if your livestock ate them you’d have 43% more forage, and a lot fewer worries. All it takes are the simple training steps I put together, and in just eight hours spread over seven days, you’ll have weed eating livestock.

Yes, I know it sounds crazy. But it’s all based on three decades of research into how animals choose what to eat. I just read all the research, became a “Thinking Grazier,” and translated the science into something beneficial to graziers everywhere.

The foundation is an improved understanding of “Palatability”
Palatability isn’t a matter of taste. It’s really a result of Continue reading

Observing an Attitude of Gratitude

Christine Gelley, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Noble County

November is upon us. The crispness of fall is in full glory. Hay season is subsiding. Grain harvest is moving along slowly. Even if the workload on the farm slows down after harvest, we still feel rushed as daylight fades earlier and earlier each day.

Everyone I talk to is waiting for a time when life will slow down, they can take a deep breath, and feel that feeling of accomplishment that the hard work has been worth the effort. That they’ve made it to where they want to be. If only we could feel a little of that feeling every day…

Come to think of it, what’s stopping us? Maybe observing a little more of an attitude of gratitude could help us through those days when the workload is too heavy, and the world is too hard. Taking a few minutes each day to Continue reading

Scoring Pastures Yearly can Help Identify Trends

Tony Nye, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Clinton County
(Previously published in Farm & Dairy: October 28, 2021)

A well-managed pasture is both productive and sustainable. Important decisions such as livestock feed inventory, forage stand replanting, fertility needs, weed control, etc., all hinge on what we see in the pasture. That is why an objective evaluation of a pasture is a valuable tool.

Pasture condition scoring is a systematic way to check how well a pasture is managed and performing. If the pasture is located on the proper site and well managed, it will have a good to excellent overall pasture condition score.

By rating key indicators and causative factors common to all pastures, pasture condition can be evaluated and the primary reasons for a low condition score identified.

Conditions that can lead to one or more pasture resource concerns could include Continue reading

Forage Focus: 2021 Ohio Sheep Day Annual Forages Field Walk

Take a virtual walk through a set of annual forage demonstration plots in this month’s episode of Forage Focus. Dr. Brady Campbell- OSU Small Ruminant Extension Specialist and our host- Christine Gelley give background information on the plots established for Ohio Sheep Day, offer ways the forages could be used on farm for small ruminants or other livestock, and share the results of forage quality tests for all 15 annual forages featured in the episode.

Continue to “Stage” Pasture into Fall

Victor Shelton, NRCS State Agronomist/Grazing Specialist

My wife has been splitting open persimmon seeds. For those who don’t know what this is supposed to mean – it is an old wives’ tale method of predicting the upcoming winter weather. For clarity, I’m not saying my wife is old, but she does like to read persimmon seeds! Traditionally, you split the persimmon seed open to reveal the whitish sprout inside. It may require a bit of imagination, but they are supposed to resemble a spoon, a fork or a knife. The spoon is said to predict lots of heavy, wet snow. A fork means you should expect a mild winter. A knife indicates an icy, windy, and bitter cold winter. Surprisingly or luckily, it is often correct. She split open several seeds this year – all were spoons.

Now, I would not bank on that information, but it is a reminder that we need to be prepared ahead of time for whatever the weather decides to throw at us.

Each year is a little different, so Continue reading

Autumn Forage Harvest and Armyworm Management

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

Authors Note: Since preparing this article last week, a severe fall armyworm outbreak has developed across Ohio. Here are some comments about managing hayfields in view of this fall armyworm outbreak:

If the hayfield is close to having enough growth for harvest, cut it as soon as possible. If there are large numbers of fall armyworms present (more than 2 to 3 per square foot) and they are ¾-inch or larger, they will “cut” the entire field for you while you sleep another night or two. So be aware of what is in your hayfield! Be sure to read the accompanying article in this issue on the fall armyworm and how to scout for it and manage it.

If your hayfield is not quite ready for harvest, scout it now and continue to scout it every couple of days for fall armyworm presence until you do cut it. Be prepared to make a rescue treatment.

If an established hayfield has already been damaged by fall armyworm, Continue reading

Steps to Speed Up Field Curing of Hay Crops

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

As the hay making season comes to a close, shorter days potentially mean less heat and sunlight needed to dry our final hay crops for 2021. For those planning on getting one more cut over the next month, the tips and tricks needed to speed up field curing time may be of great benefit to both you and your livestock. Enjoy!

The rainy weather in many regions of Ohio and surrounding states is making it difficult to harvest hay crops. We usually wait for a clear forecast before cutting hay, and with good reason because hay does not dry in the rain! Cutting hay is certainly a gamble, but waiting for the perfect stretch of weather can end up costing us through large reductions in forage quality as the crop matures.

As we keep waiting for perfect haymaking weather, we will reach the point where the drop in quality becomes so great that the hay has little feeding value left. In such cases, it may be better to gamble more on the weather just to get the old crop off and a new one started. Some rain damage is not going to reduce the value much in that very mature forage. Continue reading

Cover Crop or Forage Crop – You Decide

Daren Redfearn, Nebraska Extension Forage and Crop Residue Systems Specialist
(Previously published online with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln: November, 2015)

With the explosion of interest in cover crops for soil health benefits, many questions are being asked where no real information exists to substantiate the possible answers. The anticipated changes in soil health resulting from cover crop management can take several years or decades to happen.

There are many questions about using cover crops as a grazed or mechanically harvested forage since this is the quickest way to recover some production costs associated with establishment.

The overall goals and primary objective for growing and managing a cover crop make it entirely different from a forage crop. The first questions to ask are: Continue reading

Using Nutrient Removal Rates to Improve Forage Productivity

James Morris, OSU Extension Educator, Brown County
Greg LaBarge, OSU Extension Field Specialist, Agronomic Systems

(Figure 1. Yellow unthrifty grass stand spring 2021)

As the calendar flips over to August and temperatures continue to rise, our cool season forages are in the heart of what we call the “summer slump” and vegetative growth begins to decline. Numerous resources are available that provide excellent strategies for reducing the negative effects of this slump. Forage growers can utilize summer annuals to boost yields during this time of the year, but it’s also important to ensure our forage stands are healthy prior to be exposed to heat and other environmental stressors. So, while “summer slump” seems to get all of the attention right now, what if our forages had “spring fever”? Continue reading

Why Test Forage Quality?

Justin Brackenrich, Field and Forage Crops Extension Educator, Penn State University
Andrew Sandeen, Extension Educator, Penn State University
(previously published with Penn State Extension: June 30, 2021)

Forage testing is an inexpensive way to be sure animals are being fed properly. Are you testing your forage quality?

For nearly four decades scientists have been refining their ability to test forage quality. This has been done in an effort to improve animal nutrition and, consequently, animal production. Analytical procedures that previously required a week, or more, to complete can now be done in less than 10 minutes and with more accuracy than before. As the ability to analyze forages has improved, the understanding of how to use the test results to improve animal efficiency and performance has also improved. Unfortunately, though, forage quality testing is a valuable management tool that many livestock producers still do not utilize. For a more in-depth explanation of the forage sampling and analysis process, look at the Penn State article on Forage Quality and Testing.

Greater net profit is the bottom line for why livestock producers need to know the quality of the forages they are feeding. If forages are not tested, animals may

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Double-Crop Forages to Maximize Summer Forage Potential

Jason Hartschuh, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Crawford County

Many producers use summer annual forages for grazing and stored forage to either fill the summer slump or keep livestock feed through the winter. With wheat harvest finalized across most of the state and straw baling completed for many now our attention turns to creating a second or third profit center off those wheat acres.

Wheat acres provide an excellent opportunity for double-cropping with forages that when harvested at the proper growth stage can either make high quality late gestation early lactation forage, grazing opportunities, or gut fill to mix lower the quality of other forages or concentrates.

Many species of summer annuals can be utilized for forage. Some of them such as radish and turnip can be easily grazed but do not make good stored forage as baleage or dry hay. For dry hay we have found the best two species to be teff and oats. Most other species can be harvested as silage or baleage. Be cautious making Continue reading