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

What’s Your Baled Forage Worth?

Lee Beers, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Trumbull County

Depending on your perspective, the dry weather in northeast Ohio has either been a blessing or a curse. 

This hay season has been relatively stress-free so far without a fear of rain, but if it doesn’t rain soon, we will be looking at reduced tonnage for second and third cuttings. Not to mention that we are fast approaching corn pollination and we will need some significant rain during pollination for a good yield.

 Yields have been good for baled forage in northeast Ohio, and with lots of time to make dry forage, some farmers are prepared to sell extra hay. If you find yourself in a similar situation, be sure to consider all costs before you put a price on your forage. Unlike some other items you sell off your farm, you get to choose the price for your forage. It’s easy to say, “I just want to get rid of it” and price it low to move it off your farm quickly, but that may be a costly strategy. 

Adding up the costs
Before you “just get rid of it”, let’s consider the cost of that bale. We all know fertilizer prices are Continue reading

Wrangling More Days out of the Grazing Season for Sheep and Goats

As the weather in Ohio continues to not only challenge our agricultural operations but also the activities of our daily life, it reminds us that we must be prepared for anything that may come next. Additionally, with the continued increases in fuel and feed, considering options to help extend your grazing season may be the difference between making a profit, breaking even, or losing some cash this year. In this webinar, Mr. David Hartman from Penn State University discusses ways to improve the overall efficiency and utilization of forage systems for sheep and goats. Enjoy.

Solar Grazing 101

Currently, Ohio is slated to have approximately 85,000 acres of land put into photovoltaic (solar) energy production over the next decade. As our society continues to investigate alternative energy solutions, the face of agriculture will too. Although some see this opportunity as a loss of land, sheep producers have saw the silver lining as it relates to increased animal and forage production. For those that are interested in pursuing opportunities related to solar grazing and power generation, please reach out to your team at The Ohio State University as we are currently working in this field of work.

Broomsedge is Talking: Are you Listening?

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower Managing Editor
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: June 14, 2022)

(Image Source: Hay and Forage Grower)

Among humans, most communication is accomplished by speaking or writing. However, there’s a whole world of science that studies what is called nonverbal communication. This is communication we convey simply by making certain body movements — a raised eyebrow, a slouched posture, a hand gesture, or a purposeful facial expression.

Unlike humans, plants have no choice but to speak to us using nonverbal communication. They wilt, turn various colors, contort with abnormal growth, or grow by leaps and bounds. As a farmer, analyzing our crops to see what they are telling us is an inherent and necessary activity.

There are some plants that speak to us simply by being present. Broomsedge is one of them.

It’s rare that you find broomsedge, a warm-season perennial grass, in Continue reading

The Great Pasture-clipping Debate

Amber Friedrichsen, Hay and Forage Grower 2021 editorial intern
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: June 15, 2021)

As the saying goes, the grass is always greener on the other side. But is the grass always mowed on the other side? Deciding whether or not to mow or clip pastures can leave farmers stuck on the fence.

Possible reasons for mowing are site-specific. Producers sometimes wish to eliminate seedheads, promote even grazing, and provide weed control. However, the costs of mowing can outweigh these benefits, wasting farmers’ time and money.

Vegetation restoration
As forages mature, their palatability and nutrient availability decline. Mowing pastures is one way to Continue reading

Forage Harvest Management to Speed Drying and Store High Quality Forage

Dr. Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist, The Ohio State University
Jason Hartschuh, OSU Extension ANR Educator, Crawford County
Allen Gahler, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Sandusky County
(Previously published in the C.O.R.N. Newsletter 2022-14)

First cutting should be taken very soon to achieve high quality forage, as seen by some of the estimated NDF levels in standing alfalfa crops around the state. Keep in mind that for quality hay, alfalfa should be stored near 40% NDF and grass hay crops should have less than 55% NDF, which happens in the boot stage, or before the first flowering heads begin to emerge. Keep in mind also that the cutting, drying, and storing process results in raising NDF levels at least 3 NDF units above what it was in the standing crop at the time of cutting, and that assumes quick drying and ideal harvesting procedures.

So, it is time to be thinking about that first cutting and looking for weather windows of opportunity, especially along I-70 and south. Cutting forage for haylage or dry 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 and the fiber becomes less digestible.

Before cutting though, keep in mind that the soil should be firm enough to support equipment. Compaction damage has long-lasting effects on forage crops. We’ve seen many fields where stand loss in wheel tracks led to lower forage yields, weed invasion, and frustrating attempts to “fill in” the stand later.

Before cutting also keep in mind any Continue reading