Although the first day of fall is fast approaching, many regions of the United States are still experiencing the aftermath from an exceptionally dry start to the summer. Even as milder temperatures bring cool-season forages out of their drought-induced dormancy, producers must continue to be mindful about grazing management.
In a recent article from the University of Minnesota, Craig Shaeffer, extension forage specialist, and a team of extension educators remind producers to avoid overgrazing, reduce stocking rates, give pastures adequate rest, and control weeds this fall. Doing so will protect drought-stressed forage from further damage and maintain animal performance.
Avoid overgrazing. Some species can tolerate more defoliation than others, but in general, plants must not be grazed lower than 4 inches. This is typically advised at any time of year, but it is especially critical following Continue reading →
The critical fall period for alfalfa has been said to start about six weeks before the first killing frost, which is roughly around the first week of September for most of the Midwest. This hard stop in harvest schedules is supposed to ensure plants store enough energy in their roots to survive the winter, but with improved alfalfa varieties, variable stand conditions, and warmer weather patterns, how critical can this period really be?
Despite heat indices recently reaching the triple digits in some parts of the Central U.S., temperatures will likely calm down as we flip the calendar from August to September. The sun is also setting noticeably earlier each day, and the combination of milder temperatures and shorter day lengths sends a signal to alfalfa to prepare for fall dormancy.
It seems drought has dominated the agricultural news feed for several years. Extended dry weather can dramatically reduce hay yields, but wet weather or simply baling hay that is too high in moisture can destroy a hay crop.
In a recent University of Nebraska BeefWatch newsletter, Extension Educators Hannah Smith, Ben Beckman, and Connor Biehler outlined some of the concerns and remedies for hay that is too high in moisture.
Top on the list of concerns is hay combustion. When hay is baled above 20% moisture, microbes begin to break down plant tissue, and mold starts to form. This same biological activity creates heat and the possibility of combustion.
Victor Shelton, NRCS State Agronomist/Grazing Specialist
Moisture, or rather the lack of sufficient amount of moisture, is still an issue for quite a bit of the Midwest. Some areas have certainly been blessed with more rain than others, but I must remind you and myself that we’re only about two weeks away from a drought from about any time period. We should always strive to take advantage of and conserve any moisture we receive.
I’ve been repairing some fence lines along wooded areas that seem to be testing my patience. Windstorms with dying or dead ash trees don’t make a good combination. That has caused me to dig and replace a few fence posts that were in the line of spoilage. On a somewhat positive point, it allowed me the opportunity to evaluate the soil moisture in the depth of the post hole. Even though I’ve had rain, soil moisture was a little less than normal as I dug deeper – but it could have been a lot drier.
Michelle Sweeten, MSU Forage and Livestock Educator, Luce County
Kable Thurlow, MSU Beef and Grazing Educator, Gladwin County
(Previously published online with Michigan State University Extension:
(Image Source: Kable Thurlow, Michigan State University Extension)
Do you have a plan for your drought-stressed forage fields?
Throughout Michigan, farmers are watching the skies and wondering when the Great Lakes are going to send measurable rain showers. With dry forecasts, producers need to make plans to ensure their fields’ longevity and health allow for future grazing or hay cuttings. Assessing your farm’s needs is critical to making the best decision for your operation.
For hay fields, consider leaving the cutting height taller to minimize increased soil temperatures and negative effects on the crops’ root growth. Continue reading →
Chris Penrose, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Morgan County
The early dry weather allowed most of us to get our first cutting hay in a timely manner, and now we are into second-cutting hay. This is the time of the year that I like to remind everyone that it is a great time to assess if you have enough hay for the winter, as well as to consider if there are other things that can be done to assure adequate feed for livestock this winter.
If you are going to have plenty of hay, can you graze some of those hay fields after second cutting? It is always cheaper to graze than to make hay. If you don’t need the fields to graze, can you make some extra to sell if you need the income? If you are short on hay, can you get enough in subsequent cuttings? If not, have you recently soil tested your fields? Improving fertility will help improve yields for the rest of the season.
Dr. Mark Sulc, retired OSU Extension Forage Specialist
Dr. Bill Weiss, retired Dairy Nutritionist, The Ohio State University
Jason Hartschuh, OSU Dairy Management and Precision Livestock, Field Specialist
Short-season forages planted in late summer can be sources of highly digestible fiber in ruminant livestock rations. There are several excellent forage options that can be considered for no-till or conventional tillage plantings in the late summer or early fall planting window. These forages can be a planned component of the overall forage production plan. They can be utilized on land that would otherwise sit idle until next spring, such as following wheat or an early corn silage harvest.
Oat or Spring Triticale silage
These cereal forages can be planted for silage beginning the last week of July and into early September. Dry matter yields of 1.5 to 3 tons per acre (about 5 to 5.5 tons at 30 to 35% DM) of chopped silage or Baleage are possible if planted in late July to early August. Harvesting between late boot, or early heading, will optimize quality. Yields will be lower for plantings made in early September, in which case late autumn grazing would be a more viable option. Our research utilizing oats planted on September 1st versus September 15th showed about a one-ton difference in yield. Continue reading →
Christine Gelley, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Noble County
James Morris, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Brown County
Eric Romich, Associate Professor and Field Specialist, Energy Education and Community Development, OSU Extension
(Previously published online on Ohioline)
The Midwest has seen an increase in photovoltaic (PV) solar energy production over the past several years. Nowhere is this more evident than in Ohio. Traditional ground cover options for utility-scale solar projects includes stone, gravel, bare earth, and various types of turfgrass vegetation. However, as the buildout of utility-scale solar projects increases, many are exploring the feasibility of dual land-use strategies that incorporate agricultural and conservation practices with solar production. Popular examples include pairing solar production with specialty vegetable crop production, livestock grazing, and pollinator habitats. However, as the size of utility-scale projects in Ohio has evolved from 100- to 200-acre projects into projects that are 2,000 acres or more, widespread integration of these practices faces real, common challenges:
Growing specialty crops is labor intensive, requiring access for many people within the utility-scale solar site.
Raising livestock requires massive herds, frequent watering, and additional fencing to rotate the animals.
Creating pollinator habitats requires expensive seed mixes and the control of noxious and invasive weeds.
This fact sheet provides developers and landowners information about alternative vegetative cover strategies—including forage crops—that prevent greenwashing opportunities while also offering legitimate benefits to the landowner and the solar developer over the project lifecycle. Topics include common vegetative cover strategies and how cool-season forage crops can provide the greatest environmental, social, and economic benefit. This fact sheet also summarizes the requirements of utility-scale solar vegetative cover, species selection, establishment, and site maintenance.