Forage Maturity Across Ohio

Jason Hartschuh, Dairy Management and Precision Livestock, Field Specialist

Warm weather this spring especially over the last couple of weeks has rapidly progressed forage maturity. Harvesting forages at the proper time for the livestock you are feeding is critical to farm profitability. Poor quality forages must be supplemented to maintain livestock. In the southern part of the state, many forage grasses are in head while in the northern part of the state, some varieties of Orchard grass and barnyard grass are in head but most are still in the vegetative stage but will be in head within a week.

Many growers may base harvest decisions primarily on alfalfa maturity; however, this method can be misleading due to climatic variations affecting the rate of bud and flower development.

Spring changes of alfalfa %NDF can increase about 5 percentage units each week. Therefore, it is imperative for growers to be monitoring their Continue reading

Yellow Flowers of Concern

Christine Gelley, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Noble County

Fields along the floodplain have been turning yellow over the past couple weeks as cressleaf groundsel is bolting and flowering. From a distance, a haze of yellow floats above the field. Upon closer inspection, you will find collections of daisy-like flowers on slender stems waving their sunny faces in the breeze. While it sounds sort of dreamy and whimsical, this plant (also known as butterweed) can cause livestock poisonings in harvested or grazed forages. All parts of the plant are considered toxic in both fresh and dried states.

Cressleaf groundsel is a member of the aster family and displays yellow daisy-like blooms in the springtime on upright hollow stems that have a purple hue. These plants are Continue reading

Forage and Pasture Planting Calendar

Ed Brown, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Athens County

Throughout the years, I have received many calls as to when the best time is to plant pasture grasses and forages. Farmers and ranchers also wanted to know the recommended seeding rates for either a pure stand or as a forage mix. I would always refer them to the Ohio Agronomy Guide and give them the bit of information they needed. I knew that there had to a more efficient way to get out this information.

At first, I developed a spreadsheet with all the forages and which months they should be planted. This worked to answer questions quickly but wasn’t really a resource that producers could quickly access. This led to the development of the Forage & Pasture Planting Calendar.

(Forage and pasture planting recommendations for April. To view the full calendar, be sure to visit the link provided below.)

I’ve taken the information from the Agronomy guide and put it into an easy to reference calendar that could be hung on the wall or on the side the fridge. The top of the calendar includes information and tips from the Ohio Agronomy Guide. The remainder of the calendar is organized by month with appropriate planting times and seeding rates.

The link to the calendar is

If you would like to print the calendar, it’s best done on 11 x 17 tabloid paper.

Use a Grazing Stick to Measure Forages

Christine Gelley, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Noble County
(Previously published on Farm Progress – Ohio Farmer: April 17, 2024)

Sticks help determine an estimate of available forage dry matter per grazing paddock.

Measuring the amount of forage available for livestock to graze is a helpful task for designing and adjusting pasture rotations for grazing livestock.

There are many potential methods for measuring the amount of forage mass growing in a pasture. All of them require time spent in the pasture and repetitious measurements to develop estimations of whole pasture forage availability.

One of the simplest methods for estimating forage availability is using a grazing stick.

What does the grazing stick do?
A grazing stick combines information about forage height, forage density, species of forages growing in the pasture and residual grazing heights into a tool that looks like a yardstick. Continue reading

Spring Forage Establishment

Jason Hartschuh, Dairy Management and Precision Livestock, Field Specialist

As soil temperatures rise and the chances of a morning frost decline, the window to spring-establish forages is open. In the spring, the combination of weather and plenty to do make planting opportunities scarce. To take advantage of those short planting windows, the following are items to consider to improve chances for a successful forage establishment this spring. Continue reading

Forage Weeds: Fall Forgotten and Spring Startups

Alyssa Essman, OSU Extension State Specialist, Weed Science
Christine Gelley, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Noble County
Kyle Verhoff, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Defiance County

Spring means rapid forage growth, but it also means rapid weed growth. Due to the variability of spring weather, there are often only a few opportunities to control emerging summer annual weeds, winter annuals missed in the fall, and biennials that are small enough to effectively control. To manage weeds before they become a problem in forages, it is important to scout and plan accordingly. Forage is a broad category, and the spring weed control plan can look very different between species and operations. The problem weeds and whether control is necessary are going to be different between permanent pasture systems and alfalfa fields, and highly dependent on the consequences of specific weeds.

In established alfalfa, the decision for weed control of some winter annuals like Continue reading

Managing Hay Fields and Pastures After Storm Damage

Jason Hartschuh, Dairy Management and Precision Livestock, Field Specialist

As the number of straight-line wind and tornado events seems to be increasing so does the number of times that parts of nearby buildings end up spread out across our pastures and hay fields.  This debris can cause significant health risks to grazing livestock, as well as animals fed harvested forages from these fields. Debris that is blown into pastures and hayfields quickly becomes hard to see as forages take off and grows in the spring. In pastures or stored hay, livestock often eat foreign materials that are present in the field either mixed in with the forage or just from curiosity. There is also a risk of livestock being injured from foreign materials entering the animal’s hooves or being tangled in the debris in a pasture. Each type of debris can cause slightly different challenges.

Large debris such as roofing, boards, and other debris scattered by the storm are the easiest to see and clean up. Once the large debris is no longer visible it is easy to move on to the next cleanup project, but the small stuff needs cleanup just as badly. Fiberglass insulation can be especially challenging as it can lead to blockages, bloat, and irritation of the digestive tract. Small amounts of Continue reading

Spring Pasture To-Do’s

Evie Smith, Small Farms and Master Gardener Coordinator, Oregon State University
(Previously published online with Oregon State University Extension Service: April, 2023)

When snow and ice finally ease up, and spring is just around the corner, your forage plants will start growing again. This means it’s time to start thinking about spring management for your pasture. Below are some management activities you should start planning for or doing.

Soil test
If you didn’t test it last fall, test the soil in your pasture this spring (or plan to do it this coming fall). OSU Extension recommends you test the soil in your pasture every one to two years to know how to amend your soil to get the most out of your pasture. The following resources can help you take and interpret your soil test. Continue reading

Forage Has Greened Up – So What’s Next?

Tom Kilcer, Certified Crop Advisor, Kinderhook, New York
(Previously published online with FarmProgress – American Agriculturalist: March 19, 2024)

Commentary: Early spring growth demands sufficient nitrogen and sulfur to optimize yield and quality.

Winter is coming to an end, and much faster than in normal years.

People I talked to in New York say they had less winter than we did in Tennessee. We saw an 8-inch blizzard — we rarely get 1 inch — and minus 9 degrees! We never get that cold this far south.

In any case, winter forage and grasses are greening up. This is one of those years where you should move early to get a jump on the season. The already enormous amount of spring growth demands sufficient nitrogen and sulfur to optimize yield and quality.

There are many factors that determine the best nitrogen rate to apply in spring. Recommended rates can be anywhere from 0 to 250 pounds of N per acre. You can’t change what happened last fall, but you can use it to determine Continue reading