Fertilizing Hay and Pastures

Dr. Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist, The Ohio State University
Greg LaBarge, OSU Field Specialist, Agronomic Systems Department of Extension
(Previously published in the C.O.R.N. Newsletter 16-2021)

Many hay producers across the state have completed or are in the process of completing their first cutting of the year. One of the two best times to top-dress maintenance fertilizer on hay is right after the first cutting. The other top choice is in the early fall. Remember that hay crops will remove about 50 lbs. of K2O and 12 lbs. of P2O5 per ton of dry hay harvested.

Fertilizer can be top-dressed on hay or pastures at any time during the growing season, but right after the first cutting and early fall provide times when the soils are usually firm enough to Continue reading

Hay Barn Fires are a Real Hazard

Jason Hartschuh, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Crawford County
(Previously published in the C.O.R.N. Newsletter 15-2021)

(Image Source: Alabama Cooperative Extension System)

Hay fires are caused when bacteria in wet hay create so much heat that the hay spontaneously combusts in the presence of oxygen. At over 20% moisture mesophilic bacteria release heat-causing temperature to rise between 130°F – 140ºF with temperature staying high for up to 40 days. As temperatures rise, thermophilic bacteria can take off in your hay and raise temperature into the fire danger zone of over 175°F.

Assessing Your Risk
If hay was baled between 15% – 20% moisture and acid preservatives were used, there is still potential for a hay fire but not as great as on non-treated hay. A moisture tester on your baler can help you know how moisture varies across your field and when to use hay preservative. Without a moisture tester, if you occasionally find darker green damp spots or humidity is high, be sure to monitor for heating. Most propionic acid-based products are Continue reading

Perennial Weeds can Indicate Soil Health Problems in Pastures

Dean Kreager, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Licking County
(Previously published in Farm and Dairy: May 6, 2021)

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

Make Your Best Hay

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower managing editor
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: May 11, 2021)

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

Continue reading

Feeding Small Ruminants: Developing a Grazing System for Sheep and Goats

Rocky Lemus, Extension Forage Specialist, Mississippi State University
Kipp Brown, Extension Area Agent, Mississippi State University Extension
(Previously published online with Mississippi State University Extension: July, 2008)

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

Two Common Cereal Harvesting Mistakes

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower managing editor
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: April 20, 2020)

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

Feeding Wet Forages: Considerations for Sheep

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!

Taking Charge of Baled Silage

Jessica Williamson, Hay and Forage Specialist, AGCO
(Previously published in Progressive Forage: April 2, 2021)

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