Let’s face it — cutting and baling hay is an enjoyable undertaking for most people in the hay business. The same is true for seeing a new stand of alfalfa (or whatever) successfully establish. Then there’s the smell of wilting forage in the early evening as you drive by — a reason alone to be in the hay business.
What isn’t always fun is getting a representative forage sample, although this exercise is foundational to our industry for being able to accurately formulate livestock rations and determine economic value. I know of few people who Continue reading →
For many forage producers in the Northeast, the weather has finally given a window to mow late-planted peas and oats for baleage. In fact, a lot of hay has been made into baleage this year all over the country, and some of that was put up just a bit too wet.
Toxic bacterial growth in under-fermented baleage is something every producer should take into consideration. Under-fermented baleage is at high risk for producing the toxin botulinum (which causes botulism). This can occur when the pH of the bales does not drop below 4.5 – the benchmark for clostridia formation. (A must-read on the entire process is a recent university trial on best management practices for round bale silage by W.L. Shockey, et al, published in the May 2014: Journal Of The National Association Of County Agriculture Agents.)
Feeding haylage to sheep is less common than the feeding of dry hay rations. However, a number of producers have been feeding haylage to sheep in Ontario, causing more to consider it as a component of, or an alternative to their current feeding program.
This paper will be limited only to discussions on baled haylage, with limited references to conventionally stored haylage.
Why the Interest?
Baled haylage offers producers a greater flexibility in harvesting their winter feed supply, the potential for improved quality in feed, and less wastage from feeding. Baled haylage requires less drying time than conventional hay (50 to 60% versus 16 to 18% moisture), so that during poor drying conditions, quality feed can still be made. Because of the higher moisture content in baled haylage, there is Continue reading →
Broadacre spraying of pastures is intended to reduce undesirable plants and increase grasses for livestock. This practice often results in unintended consequences including damage and reduction of native forbs and reduced profitability. One approach to managing perceived “weedy” plants that can offset those negative outcomes is incorporating different species of livestock into a grazing operation.
All species of livestock have different dietary preferences, and producers can harness this to help manage their plant communities in an ecologically and economically sustainable manner. Small ruminants, in particular sheep and goats, are the most common livestock species that are added alongside a cattle enterprise.
All species of livestock have different preferences when it comes to selecting the species of plants they consume, as demonstrated in the image above.
Fescue Lameness (Fescue foot)
Fescue lameness, which resembles ergot poisoning, is believed to be caused by ergot alkaloids, especially ergovaline, produced by the endophyte fungus Neotyphodium coenophialum in tall fescue grass (Lolium arundinaceum, formerly Festuca arundinacea). It begins with lameness in one or both hindfeet and may progress to necrosis of the distal part of the affected limb(s). The tail and ears also may be affected independently of the lameness. In addition to gangrene of these extremities, animals may show loss of body mass, an arched back, and a rough coat. Outbreaks have been confirmed in cattle, and similar lesions have been reported in sheep.
Did you miss us at Farm Science Review this year? We sure missed seeing you! Below is a short clip of Brady Campbell and Christine Gelley discussing their poster – Extending the Grazing Season – in the virtual Agronomy Tent for the 2020 Farm Science Review. Interested in viewing the poster? Follow this link to access. Enjoy!
Dr. Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist, The Ohio State University
Livestock owners who feed forages need to keep in mind certain dangers of feeding forages after the recent frost events. Several forage species can be extremely toxic soon after a frost because they contain compounds called cyanogenic glucosides that are converted quickly to prussic acid (i.e. hydrogen cyanide) in freeze-damaged plant tissues. Some legumes species have an increased risk of causing bloat when grazed after a frost. In this article I discuss each of these risks and precautions we can take to avoid them.
Species with prussic acid poisoning potential
Agronomic species that can contain prussic acid are listed below in decreasing order of potential risk of toxicity after a frost event:
Grain sorghum = high to very high toxic potential
Indiangrass = high toxic potential
Sorghum-sudangrass hybrids and forage sorghums = intermediate to high potential
Sudangrass hybrids = intermediate potential
Sudangrass varieties = low to intermediate in cyanide poisoning potential
Ellen Essman, Agricultural and Resource Law Program, The Ohio State University
Despite the fact that “pumpkin spice” everything is back in stores, it is still summer, and if you’re anything like me, you’re still dealing with weeds. In fact, we have been receiving many questions about noxious weeds lately. This blog post is meant to be a refresher about what you should do if noxious weeds sprout up on your property.
What are noxious weeds?
The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) is in charge of designating “prohibited noxious weeds.” The list may change from time to time, but currently, noxious weeds include: Continue reading →
(Image Source: Poison Hemlock – Hay & Forage Grower)
As we transition into the fall, pastures will become less productive as temperatures decline. Be sure to scout your pasture fields for potentially dangerous weeds that your livestock may consider grazing on as other forages become limited.
Grazing animals will very rarely eat poisonous weeds if there are other options. However, the recent rain has been great for poisonous plant growth and the concern is heightened.
The wet weather has been great for pasture growth but is also good for poisonous plant growth. Grazing animals will very rarely eat poisonous weeds if there are other options. Keeping pastures growing rapidly and knowing which species to be most concerned about will help in minimizing the risk of poisonous pasture plants. Continue reading →
At A Glance:
The benefits of utilizing cover crops in both grazing and agronomic crop production are numerous. However, each cover crop system is unique. There is no blanket “yes” or “no” answer to the question- Do cover crops need fertilizer?
Incorporating Cover Crops
Each farm is different and therefore the way you use cover crops can differ too. Whether you are a row crop farmer, a fruit and vegetable grower, exclusively in the hay business, a livestock manager, or involved in a combination of pursuits, cover crops can be an added benefit to your system. Continue reading →
The best time to take a last harvest of alfalfa and other legumes is sometime in early September in Ohio, for the least risk to the long-term health of the stand. These forages need a fall period of rest to replenish carbohydrate and protein reserves in the taproots that are used for winter survival and regrowth next spring.
Many forage producers around the state have been cutting this past week and are continuing into this week. It will be ideal if this is indeed the last harvest of the season. But some growers might try to squeeze out another late cutting, and others have fields that are not quite ready for harvest right now. Like most farming decisions, there are trade-offs and risk factors to consider when making a fall harvest of forage legumes after the first week of September. This article reviews best management practices and risk factors affecting fall cutting management. Continue reading →
There are a couple of things we know about the term “overgrazing.” First, it’s the most common mistake made regardless of grazing system. Second, it’s all about time.
Time comes in two forms when discussing grazing systems. There is the amount of time animals are left on a single area of pasture, and there’s the amount of time animals are kept away from that paddock after a grazing event. Both of these factors are important.
I have been on grazing operations where paddocks are purposely grazed short, but then animals are not returned to that paddock for at least seven weeks. These are usually beef operations where land base isn’t limiting. The key in such a system is Continue reading →
Last year, the wet weather during the spring left many fields unplanted. Those fields severed as a great place to seed an annual crop for fall grazing. Best forage yields are obtained when cover crops for fall grazing are planted July up to August 1st in Northern Michigan and August 15th in southern Michigan. After these dates, yield potential decreases as the remaining growing season vanishes. Therefore, we are at the point where they should be planted soon. [Luckily for us here in Ohio, we still have time remaining to get these crops into the ground before yield reducing weather sets it].
Annual cover crop mixtures can make very nutritious and economical grazing crops for spring, summer, fall and early winter grazing in Michigan. Fall grazing is especially beneficial Continue reading →
Often, I consult with livestock producers testing forage for their animals. Inevitably there are two numbers on the report they are most concerned with, protein and relative feed value (RFV). Protein is an important value to understand if the forage meets animal requirements, and RFV is a useful index to quickly compare or rank forages.
However, examination of directly measured constituents can help producers understand the characteristics of that forage as it pertains to feeding livestock. So, here are three other constituents to consider when evaluating a forage for livestock feed.
1. Acid detergent fiber (ADF)
This is the least digestible portion of the feed, made up of Continue reading →
Farming is truly risky business. Every moment of every day on the farm holds inherent risk. The main duties of the farm manager in any sector are to identify, evaluate, and mitigate risk. All the little steps of risk mitigation add up to make a big difference that we can’t always see, but can still save us time, money, and distress in the future.
One of the risks forage managers face on a regular basis is the threat of persistent weeds. Weeds are an issue that compound over time if not addressed soon after detection. Choosing to make the investment in weed prevention and control early can help prevent exponential population growth that is increasingly difficult to manage.
Dr. David Barker, Professor – Horticulture and Crop Science, The Ohio State University
Dry weather in recent weeks throughout Ohio has raised several questions about how pastures should be managed during drought. Although the experts don’t all agree if this period of dry weather meets the definition of a drought (yet), there is no doubt that pasture growth will slow to zero. How should we be grazing our pastures in mid-summer?
Unfortunately, without rain or irrigation pastures will not grow, and close grazing will exaggerate this effect. Leaf removal by grazing (or mowing) results in a roughly similar proportion of root death. During moist conditions, roots can recover quite quickly, however, grazing during drought will reduce water uptake due to root loss. As a general rule of thumb, grazing below 2 or 3 inches will accelerate drought effects on pastures, and also, slow recovery once rain does come. Of course, optimum grazing height and management varies with Continue reading →
“I really need to do something with that junk pasture this year.”
“The bales off that hayfield are junk. I’m going to reseed it.”
Issues with “junk forage” can include low yields, weed encroachment, and low-quality feed value. Forage growers tend to lament over junk forage two of the four seasons of the year. One is the summer, when their hay equipment is running, their animals are grazing, and the forage is right in front of their eyes. The other is winter, when forage is in short supply, quality issues are leading to low animal productivity, and when pastures look more like mud spas. The time to make progress on correcting the factors that lead to Continue reading →
Grazing land managers who graze multiple livestock species in the same animal groups or on the same acres of land see ecological as well as economic benefits that could improve the sustainability of their operations. Multi-species grazing can be used to more effectively utilize all of the browse and forage in pastures, target weeds and brush, and reduce parasite loads across pastures. These benefits could also lead to increased revenues or decreased costs.
Regardless, using multiple species to capture these benefits is not always sunny days. Including additional species on the ranch will add
Jason Hartschuh, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Crawford County
Al Gahler, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Sandusky County
(Previously published in The Ohio Farmer: May 19, 2020)
Oats make an excellent double crop after wheat.
Oats is traditionally planted as the first crop in early April as a grain crop or an early season forage. One of the beauties of oats is its versatility in planting date. Oats can also be planted in the summer as an early fall forage for harvest or grazing.
Summer oats has a wide planting window but performs much better with an application of nitrogen and may benefit from a fungicide application to improve quality. During the summer of 2019 we conducted a study to examine the planting of oats from July 15th through early September to examine tonnage and forage quality. Through this trial we examined planting date, yield, forage quality and an application of foliar fungicide to control oats crown rust.
Wrapping large round bales with higher moisture and plastic may help get hay off the field faster.
It seems as though rainy springs are becoming more of a haymaking tradition than an exception. Year in and year out, farmers fight to find the four or five consecutive days to let it dry, leaving some baling wet forage.
Tim Schnakenberg, University of Missouri Extension field specialist in agronomy, says the baleage harvest system is a good option for farmers because many of today’s round balers are designed to handle wetter forages, and they can be cost-effective.
Grazing management and genetic selection can help your flock minimize the impact of parasites.
Parasites continue to plague many sheep and goat producers throughout the grazing season. Internal parasites decrease growth rates and in high levels can even cause death. However, sheep and goat producers can follow several practices to minimize the impacts to their flock or herd. These practices center on grazing management, but can also include genetic selection principles.
Livestock pass internal parasite eggs in their manure. These eggs then hatch and go through several larval stages until they reach an infective stage. This can take as little as six days to go from egg to infective stage. Therefore, producers can use grazing rotations to Continue reading →
Grazing summer annual grasses can be a great addition to an operation when annuals are chosen correctly and grazing plans are used.
Grazing summer annual grasses is a great way to add flexibility to an operation, but in order to make it worth your time and money some management decisions are required. Your goals and your location will determine what type of summer annual you should plant. This article will address:
1. Type of annual and planting date
2. Timing of grazing
3. Prussic acid and nitrates Continue reading →
There is one pasture project that never seems to go away. That is controlling the multiflora rose. The plant was first introduced into the United States in 1866 to be used as a rootstock for grafting roses. About 70 years later the U.S. Soil Conservation Service promoted the use of multiflora rose as a “living fence” and a means of erosion control. The adaptability of this plant allowed it to get out of control. Over the years this plant has made the list of noxious weeds in many states and is taking over many pastures in this part of the country. The battle to gain control is difficult and maintenance is continual.
The leaves and thorns on this plant make it easy to identify as a rose. Left on its own, this plant can quickly form dense thickets over 6 feet high. The white flowers it produces in May to June lead to seeds that birds are more than happy to spread throughout pastures. One multiflora rose can produce up to Continue reading →
A closer look at adding silage to your sheep feeding program.
Have you ever considered making and feeding silage? This is a common question Michigan State University Extension ask producers when reviewing their forage plans, so let’s take a closer look at silage feeding systems to help you consider if it could be a good fit for your farm. I have been feeding silage for about 15 years, and it is clear to me that my particular program would not work without silage as a centerpiece of my feeding program.
Note in the picture how the plastic is left on the bottom of the bale to retard spoilage in this simple feeding system. This high-quality forage was made from a predominantly grass pasture, harvested at the right time and carefully processed to insure quality. Baled silage is Continue reading →
The recent cold and cloudy weather has raised the concern for higher nitrate levels in forages that could potentially be toxic to animals consuming those forages. It is true that any stress condition that slows plant growth and metabolism can increase the risk of higher plant nitrate levels. This article discusses factors to consider, especially given the recent cold weather we have been experiencing in Ohio and surrounding regions.
Plants readily take up nitrates from the soil, even under colder conditions, and especially since we have plentiful soil moisture to facilitate uptake. Once in the plant, nitrate is converted to nitrite, then ammonia, and finally into amino acids and plant protein. Any environmental stress that Continue reading →
A big shout out to Christine Gelley, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Noble County for her help in the development of this weeks newsletter! It takes a team to keep this page active and going. We are certainly thankful to have an amazing group that supports our small ruminant industry! Please enjoy this piece from Christine as she walks us through the process of appraising and marketing our forages.
The Ohio Agronomy Guide states that most cool-season perennial forages should be planted by the first of May. While some of you reading this article were able to plant forages by now, many of us (myself included) once again were not able to meet that deadline due to wet weather. So how hard and fast is the May 1 deadline, especially in a cold spring like we have experienced? Don’t we have a little more time to plant forages? I hate to say this, but the answer is neither simple nor clear cut.
The planting deadlines in the Ohio Agronomy Guide are based on data and years of experience of what is best management practice. The risk of stand establishment problems increases as we move further and further past the published deadlines. Tell me it will not turn hot and dry in early to mid-June and that weeds won’t emerge and grow like gangbusters with all the moisture we’ve had, then I’ll tell you that forage plantings can still be successful. Unfortunately, the law of Continue reading →
Stan Smith, OSU Extension PA, Fairfield County
(Previously published in the Spring 2020 issue of The Ohio Cattleman)
With age comes experience, and with experience eventually comes some of those things that you can only shake your head at. This is the time of year when I usually begin to hear one of my favorites, “I don’t like to get in hurry with that first cutting . . . we don’t want it rained on, and I like to let it grow a little longer so we get more. Besides, even if made a little late, it’s still got to be better than snowballs!”
If nothing else, the last two springs have taught us this one thing. Not all first cutting forage is better than snowballs. In fact, the inability to make hay in a timely fashion has cost Midwest operators lots in terms of hay quality that’s resulted in loss of body condition, breed back issues, poor quality colostrum, and ultimately poor animal health and performance. If there was ever a time to carefully balance hay quality issues with the quantity of hay needed, weather permitting, this must be it! In fact, with some aggressive planning and a little cooperation from Mother Nature, perhaps we can have both quality and quantity this year. Following are Continue reading →
Here we go again. Another mild winter of heave and thaw with little snow cover to protect the shallow roots and crowns of improved forage crops.
Without that snow barrier, species such as alfalfa and timothy — the most susceptible of our non-native forages — are subject to winter injury, which thins stands. This leaves less competition for weeds to establish and flourish.
Learning some skills to evaluate stand composition before you harvest first-cutting hay can add to profitability, but you must first be able to identify problem hayfield and pasture weeds.
During the dead of winter, most fields look uniformly brown. Then, as temperatures begin to warm, they look uniformly green. The problem is that sometimes “green” may consist of more than just desired forage species. Weeds can contribute to yield, but they also can Continue reading →
Early spring provides one of the two preferred times to seed perennial cool-season forages, the other being late summer. Two primary difficulties with spring plantings are finding a good window of opportunity when soils are dry enough. The outlook for this spring is for planting opportunities to be few and short. As planting is delayed, the risk increases because of more competition from weeds and summer heat when seedlings are small and vulnerable to drying out. An accompanying article on preparing for planting along with the following 10 steps will help improve your chances for successful forage establishment in the spring. Continue reading →
With several of us on quarantine, you may have a bit more time on your hands to think about how you will renovate your pastures this year or perhaps work on that new hay seeding that you have been putting off for the past few years. Regardless of your situation, developing a comprehensive understanding of forage species is key for optimal forage establishment and on-farm utilization. Although this recording is a bit dated, it still contains a lot of useful information in terms of forage specie types and their uses. Enjoy!
Jason Hartschuh, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Crawford County and Stan Smith, OSU Extension PA, Fairfield County
(Previously published on Ohio Farmer: February 27, 2020)
(Image Source: NRCS-USDA)
With somewhere around 1.5 million acres that were not planted last spring to the intended crops of corn or soybeans due to the extraordinary weather, today, Ohio farmers likely have more acres of cereal rye planted for cover than at any time in previous history. At the same time, cattlemen and livestock owners are facing forage shortages that rival the drought of 2012. Adding insult to injury, the inventory of straw bedding is similarly very short, and will likely remain so until at least mid-summer.
With the opportunity for newly harvested forages still 2 or 3 months away, and straw even further out, perhaps it’s time to take a look at the opportunity for realizing either feed or bedding from cereal rye, or maybe even one of our other biennial grass crops. Continue reading →
Chris Penrose, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Morgan County
Be careful on when to start grazing: you may not want to rush it and we may need to fix it.
One goal I have had with livestock grazing over the years is to start as soon as I can. I have my spring calving cows on stockpiled grass now and they are calving on a nice sod. It is my hope that I will not have to feed them any more hay. Many years this works and some years it does not. On my farm, grass has started to grow.
If March continues like the way it is going, I suggest we don’t rush things as we have a couple issues that could be going on. First, growth is a little slow this spring, and second, many pastures have sustained abnormal damage this winter from the wet conditions we are still having. If you have fields that were Continue reading →
Pasture and hay forage crops generally fall into four categories:
Cool Season Grasses
Warm Season Grasses
The last category includes many perennials crops, such as rape, kale, comfrey, and all annual forage crops, such as sudangrass, sorghum, and various millets. None of these should be considered for sheep pasture other than in emergency situations.
In this months episode of Forage Focus, join host Christine Gelley and guest Erika Lyon as they discuss the topic of fungal growth, which can lead to animal health issues revolving around mold in stored forages. With this episode being approximately 50 minutes in length, we have provided an outline with specific time stamps below the video that can be used to find exactly what you may be looking for. Enjoy!
Have your pastures began to green up with the recent warm temperatures and as a result have decide to turn your animals out onto pasture? When is the last time that you checked the fence line along the tree or property line? Do you use some form of electric fence to keep livestock in and wildlife out? As we begin to plan for the 2020 grazing season, the quality of your fence will play a huge role in the success of your grazing season.
Here are seven of the most common errors in livestock fencing, and how to avoid them.
It almost seems like a broken record. We have continually talked about the excessive amount of poor quality hay made last year and the issues surrounding how to incorporate it as a viable feed source in livestock diets. Here in Ohio, we have yet to have had an actual winter and the rain continues to fall. This weather pattern may be the new norm, thus we must learn how to adapt to these challenges. So, the question becomes, how will producers make quality first cutting hay that maintains a high feed value in the future?
Folks have been asking about this recently. From January 2017, Genevieve’s tips can help you adjust your winter grazing now for frost-seeding for a better pasture this summer.
Frost-seeding is one form of over-seeding, in which you can use legumes to economically and quickly thicken a pasture or a perennial hayfield in late winter. Though no-till drilling has more guarantee of success, frost seeding is an easy operation while you have time in the off season, and if managed correctly and timed properly, has good likelihood of success. Spraying, tillage, and lost grazing time does not factor into the costs as it typically does with a pasture reseeding. Clover eventually Continue reading →
One of the sessions that I attended during the American Forage and Grassland Council at the beginning of 2020 explored the possibility of identifying genetic markers in cattle for tolerance of the endophytic fungus that lives within the KY-31 tall fescue forage, which is the most prominent pasture grass in our region. This endophyte provides survival benefits to the plant, but causes vascular constriction in the animals that can cause mild to severe symptoms and overall reduced productivity. For decades forage managers and scientists have been working on ways to mitigate the impacts of this endophyte on livestock production. Most successes have come from the forage management side rather than the livestock side. We suggest Continue reading →
A basic understanding of soil fertility is important for high crop production. All crops require seventeen essential nutrients for proper growth and development, the specific amount of each nutrient depends upon the crop. The atmosphere provides hydrogen and oxygen and carbon (most comes from the soil first). The rest must come from the soil and the amount available for a plant depends upon many factors such as the soil type, organic matter, pH, drainage, microbes, temperature, and rainfall. Soil nutrients are absorbed by water being pulled through the plant through transpiration and by roots intercepting the nutrient molecules. Continue reading →
Extension specialists can help you learn more about forage analysis and interpretation.
Color, smell, texture, leafiness and harvest date can all offer clues about forage quality, but “sensory evaluation doesn’t cut it when it comes to feed analysis,” says Janna Block, a North Dakota State University area livestock Extension specialist based at the Hettinger Research Extension Center.
Block believes forage testing is “worth it every year,” but adds, “If you’ve never tested before, this is the year to do it and invest in the analysis.” She explains that with the variable — and wet — conditions of 2019, forage quality is difficult to discern without an analysis. As Continue reading →
Tall fescue is the dominant forage species used in the eastern United States. Being a cool-season grass, it provides grazing during the spring and fall for many livestock producers around the nation.
The variety Kentucky 31 (KY-31), released in the 1940s, made a tremendous impact on the forage and livestock industry. Most people familiar with KY-31 tall fescue recognize that it has many positive attributes, but there are also a couple of negative issues that come along with the variety.
A good news, bad news endophyte
In the late 1970s and early ‘80s, it was discovered that KY-31 tall fescue is Continue reading →
When to Start
If possible and practical, it is best to not start grazing stockpiled forage until it goes dormant. Until it goes dormant, every time that solar panel of leaves is removed, the plant will draw from the reserves in the roots. If you hurt those reserves too much, and you will set back spring growth. If you don’t allow longer rest period in the spring to allow the plant to build back roots and reserves, you can really hurt your forage stand. There are times where grazing can be beneficial, such as for reducing competition early spring for frost seeded legumes. We will consider it dormant at this point. Continue reading →
This year’s forage analysis reports are showing more than the usual number of high-ash forages, according to Bill Weiss, Ohio State University Extension dairy nutrition specialist.
Typically, cool-season grasses harvested as hay or silage have about 7% – 9% ash, while legumes harvested as hay or silage average 10% – 12% ash. There are some outside factors that affect the mineral concentrations. As plants mature, the mineral concentration will decline, but forages grown in soils with high levels of available potassium often have higher mineral concentrations. Continue reading →
It seems like foxtail grass has taken over every pasture and hay field in Ohio in 2019. My good friend and Extension colleague, Clif Martin, wrote an excellent article detailing “How to Fight Foxtail in Forages.” I highly recommend you review this article to learn strategies to manage this weed. If his article is not enough to get you motivated, then hopefully this article will. Foxtail is not only a weed competitor and invader of your hay and pasture fields, but it also can cause some significant medical problems for grazing livestock, horses, and companion animals. Take a close look at the picture of a foxtail awn. It is very tiny as you can see in comparison to the dime placed for reference. Note that its shape is similar to a lawn dart, which means that it can only travel in one direction, point first. Depending on what species variety of foxtail grass present, this places the seed heads with Continue reading →
This question has been commonplace this year, especially with the inability of many producers to make hay at a reasonable time. However, this isn’t to say that there isn’t hay to be purchased, because there is, but rather that hay of acceptable quality at a reasonable price is nearly non-existent.
With this in mind, we challenge you to think about how generations before us fed low quality hay. It was simple right? Feed more of the lower quality material and allow the animals to choose which parts of the bale are the best. Then once they have eaten what they want, pitch the rest of it on the ground for bedding. This may be true, but what happens when we aren’t feeding enough of the ‘good stuff’? Continue reading →
Baleage offers a low cost, high quality forage option for sheep and goats but care must be taken to reduce health risks.
Many small ruminant producers are looking for ways to reduce feed costs for their herd or flock. Hay prices in Michigan are high after the extremely wet spring followed by a hot, dry summer. As owners look to reduce their forage costs, baled silage or “baleage” is one possible choice, but there are several things to consider when evaluating this choice. Continue reading →
In our pasture for profit grazing schools, it is often said that mechanical harvest of stored forages is about three times more expensive as compared to livestock harvest of forage in a managed grazing system. From this perspective, winter grazing offers an opportunity to improve the bottom line of pasture-based livestock production. The keys to making winter grazing successful depend upon planning ahead to make forage available for grazing, know the nutrient content of forages grazed as well as the nutrient requirements of the grazing animal, and some cooperation from Mother Nature along the way.
(Image Source: Michigan State University Extension)
Plants absorb nitrates from the soil and metabolize them to form plant proteins. If plants absorb excess nitrates and are consumed by livestock before they are converted to proteins, nitrate poisoning can occur. Forage crops that are over fertilized before being harvested or grazed can be a common cause of nitrate poisoning. However, excess nitrate accumulation also occurs readily in some common pasture weeds. Nitrate concentration can vary widely among plants and growing conditions. Nitrates are highest in plants in mornings and evenings, and on cool, cloudy days (when plant metabolism is slower). Drought, fertilization and nutrient deficiency can result in nitrate accumulation in plant tissues. Highest concentrations occur generally in stems, rather than leaves, flowers or fruit/seed.
Livestock owners feeding forage need to keep in mind potential for some forage toxicity issues late this season. Nitrate and prussic acid poisoning potential associated with drought stress or frost are the main concerns to be aware of, and these are primarily an issue with annual forages and several weed species, but nitrates can be an issue even in perennial forages when they are drought stressed. A few legumes species have an increased risk of causing bloat when grazed after a frost. Each of these risks is discussed in this article along with precautions to avoid them.
Drought stressed forages can accumulate toxic levels of nitrates. This can occur in Continue reading →
The drastic swing in temperatures from one day to the next last week should remind us all that it truly is autumn and that winter is coming. The challenges of the 2019 forage production season continue to add up. With drought conditions across the state for the past two months, what was too lush for too long, is now crunchy and brown. Some producers are already feeding hay to their livestock, some are hoping that the forage they have stockpiled for late-fall/winter grazing will pay off. Hopefully it will with a little rain.
We ended 2018 with the lowest stock of stored forages since 2012 and the fourth lowest in the past 70 years. I don’t think 2019 has been much help. Quality forage is in short supply and high demand. Which means all forage has increased in monetary value by the ton. Continue reading →
Sheep producers can take advantage of down times between cash crops to provide inexpensive feed options in the form of cover crops. But farmers must decide where these feed options fit in the ewe production cycle. Dr. Richard Ehrhardt will discuss factors farmers should consider, appropriate infrastructure for grazing sheep on cover crops, and the cover crop mixes best suited for sheep. Understanding how to properly use and feed different types of cover crops will be more important than ever before with the continued issues of securing quality stored forages.
Dr. Richard Ehrhardt is the small ruminant extension Specialist at Michigan State University. He has an extensive sheep production background in forages, cover crops and annuals; accelerated production; and nutrition and health. In addition, he and his family operate an accelerated lambing commercial flock.
Multi-species grazing is the practice of using two or more livestock species together or separately on the same pasture-land in a specific growing season. With an understanding of the different grazing behaviors of each species, various combinations of animals can be used to more efficiently utilize the forages in a pasture. Different species of livestock prefer different forages and graze them to different heights. Cattle tend to be intermediate grazers. They graze grasses and legumes and bite with their mouth and tongue. Sheep and horses graze closer to the ground than cattle. Sheep and goats eat forbs (brushy plants with a fleshy stem) and leaves better than cattle or horses. Many weeds in a grass pasture are forbs. Cattle and horses tend to graze grasses better than small ruminants such as sheep and goats. Continue reading →
They say that repetition is the key to learning. Over the past several months, Extension educators and researchers have discussed and provided many options for producers to increase the amount of high quality forage that can use to feed their livestock with for the upcoming year. Be sure to take a quick look at this short piece as it quickly outlines some of the important basics of some common forages options and soil health considerations.
When Southern warm-season grasses go dormant and become unproductive, there are a wide variety of cool-season annual grasses that can be used to extend grazing periods into the winter and spring months. Continue reading →
Do note that planting date cut offs mentioned in this clip are not concrete, we never know how long fall will last, how early winter will come, or how much rain we will get as we experienced this spring. Producers are able to plant into September, but as noted above we take a risk with the uncertainty of weather patterns. In addition, it is important to note that the charts shown in this example apply to perennial forages sown and grown in southern Ohio. As you move north in the state, the planting dates will slightly differ.
Years like 2019 can test farmers and ranchers to the brink of insanity. People in this profession must be resilient to the unpredictability of weather, markets, and the general chaos of life. All year thus far, we have discussed many ways to adapt our animal feeding programs, pasture systems, and hay production to the far from ideal conditions we are facing.
By now, I hope you have read articles, listened to podcasts, watched videos, talked with your neighbors and your local Ag. Extension educators about what to do next. Crop selection, site management, and soil health have been huge topics addressed regarding cover crops for prevent plant acres, damaged pastures, weeds, poor quality hay, feed shortages, and much more!
Weed and brush encroachment into pastures and hayfields can lower the ability to meet nutritional needs of most livestock operations. Over time, most producers eventually reduce animal numbers or supplement herds to compensate for forage loss. Meanwhile, a shortened grazing season and a need for more hay is realized as pastures decline. I often tell producers looking for more grazing acres that the cheapest pasture acres they will ever buy are the ones they gain when weeds and brush are controlled.
Most producers recognize the negative impacts of weeds on forage production and seek to control these invaders. However, Continue reading →
Realities of hay produced in 2019:
Persistent and frequent rains not only led to delayed planting, but they also foiled the best-laid plans of sheep producers to take a timely first cut hay harvest. As a result, significant acres of first cut hay was baled in late June and even well into July. Overly mature is one way to describe this hay, but whatever the description, most producers recognize this hay is of poor quality. The big question many producers are facing now is how and when to best use this hay? Some have suggested the best use is bedding material. This is a valid consideration, particularly with high straw prices as hay has an absorbency factor (value used to describe the water holding capacity of a material) of 3.0, which is greater than that of wheat straw which sits at 2.1. It is important to note that the initial moisture content of these materials when tested was less than 10%. For those that Continue reading →
We are quickly approaching the second good opportunity of the year for establishing perennial forage stands, which is in the month of August. Most of us were not able to establish forages this spring, and many existing stands were damaged by the winter followed by the heavy rainfall this year. It is time to make preparations and be ready to plant perennial forage stands in the next few weeks.
Typically, the main risk with late summer forage seedings is sufficient moisture for seed germination and plant establishment. However, many parts of Ohio have adequate soil moisture from recent rains, and the outlook for the first half of August is for normal precipitation levels. Prepare now and be ready to take advantage of planting ahead of storm fronts as they occur in late July and early August. Continue reading →
Chris Penrose, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Morgan County
Many of us have harvested hay way past its prime this year, the protein and energy is low, and the fiber is high. There is a way to balance the needs of our ruminants this fall by planting some veggies.
Turnips, rape, kale, rutabagas, and swedes are all examples of some veggies from the brassica family we can plant for livestock for feed this fall with turnips being the most common.
Many studies and producer experiences reinforce that brassicas are a viable option to extend the grazing season, and reduce stored feed costs. They tend to have good protein and energy, and are low in fiber (see how this can make for good feed supplemented with poor quality hay). Continue reading →
It’s turned into another challenging and frustrating year to make hay as above normal rainfall continued through the end of June. I recently read an article in Hay and Forage Grower on-line entitled “Cursing the raindrops”, in which author Mike Rankin addressing this year’s weather patterns said, “Those putting up high-moisture forage have an uphill battle. If you’re in the dry hay business, it’s a Mount Everest situation.” The age-old question for anyone trying to make hay with rain in the forecast is mow sooner rather than later and risk rain on the cut forage, or wait for a weather break and lose quality as the forage continues to mature?
Rain on mowed forage causes a reduction in quality and can result in dry matter (quantity) losses as well. According Continue reading →
To capitalize on the niche market of grass-fed lamb products, have you ever considered placing a group of feeder lambs on pasture? The utilization of pastureland and the financial return from grass-fed products makes this type of production system profitable. However, grass-fed lamb production does not come without challenges. According to the USDA, in order for a product to be labeled as grass-fed, the animal must be fed solely forages, with the exclusion of its mother’s milk prior to weaning. From a production standpoint, this can be a difficult as research has shown that lambs finished on pasture take a longer period of time when compared to their counterparts fed grain. Lambs on pasture also face the challenge of parasitic infection. In an effort to decrease the effects of parasites and increase lamb body weight gain on pasture, producers may choose to supplement lambs while on pasture. However, supplementation of grain or grain by-products is not permitted by Continue reading →
Chris Penrose, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Morgan County
We are starting to get an idea of how much stored feed we will have for the winter and in many circumstances, the quality will be low. Even if our livestock get plenty of hay this winter, the quality may be so low that the hay cannot meet their nutritional needs. There may need to be supplementation. We have a couple options: we can purchase supplements, utilize harvested crop residue, or we still grow some crops for fall and winter supplementation.
One product many producers buy is protein tubs. While the animals really like these products, it does not address their most pressing need: energy. The most commonly used product used to supply energy is corn. Adding some corn or Continue reading →
(Image Source: Feedstuffs – Oklahoma State University)
Adverse weather conditions during or after baling can allow mold growth, but pastures may also pose contamination risk.
With the abundance of rain that has fallen in the Midwest over the last several weeks, farmers and ranchers are likely dealing with moldy hay and spoiled feed. Moldy or spoiled feed can present a health risk for multiple species, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension equine specialist Kris Hiney said.
“Hay can be unfit for livestock due to excessive moisture while baling or exposure to the elements, such as excessive rain or flooding. Molds present in the feed may contain mycotoxins, which can cause significant health issues,” Hiney said. “While only some molds produce Continue reading →
After being brought to the forefront by studies done at the Noble Research Institute (Ardmore, OK), crabgrass began gaining favor as a high-quality forage alternative. Many farmers are now considering it for improving summer pastures.
In an Arkansas Dairy e-News article, John Jennings, an extension forage specialist with the University of Arkansas (UA), notes crabgrass is a warm-season annual and, depending on rainfall, produces 2-5 tons of dry matter per acre. Crabgrass hay is typically better quality than Continue reading →
One the more common questions I receive with regard to analytical testing of forages and other feedstuffs is, “I have the sample, now what do I test for or what analysis package should I select?”
The basic components that nutritionists need to evaluate a feedstuff or develop a ration are dry matter or moisture, crude protein, an estimate of the energy content of the feedstuff — Total Digestible Nutrients (TDN), Net Energy for Maintenance (NEm), Net Energy for gain (NEg), and the macro minerals, Calcium and Phosphorous. These are the most basic numbers that are required, but Continue reading →
Dr. Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist, The Ohio State University
Dr. Bill Weiss, Dairy Nutrionist, The Ohio State University
Many forage stands were damaged this past winter, and the wet spring has further deteriorated stands that appeared they might recover. It is now too risky to try to establish perennial forages, with the warmer summer weather at our doorstep. We should wait until August to establish perennial stands. Meanwhile, what options can we consider for growing forage this year?
We are also well past the time when cool-season species like oats, triticale, Italian ryegrass, spring barley can be planted. As we move into late May and early June, we must switch to planting warm-season species. Continue reading →
With the combination of sunny warm days and more than adequate rainfall received so far in May, grasses and legumes in our hayfields are beginning to flower. Which means, according to our knowledge of grass maturity and forage quality, it’s already time to make hay. If the weather will cooperate, that is.
It’s also prime time to control pasture weeds. Thistles, docks, ironweed, asters, poison hemlock, and cockleburs are up and actively growing. Control on these species is most effective when Continue reading →
With the continued wet conditions we have been experiencing in Ohio, I find it appropriate to discuss how to harvest and manage our forages in different manners in order to maintain forage quality. This week, John Cothren dives into some important guidelines to remember when making and feeding fermented forages.
Silage makes an excellent feed for ruminant animals. However, feeding silage is much different than feeding hay. Silage, Continue reading →
It’s a dilemma that happens to nearly every livestock producer at one point or another: Copious amounts of good forage to graze coupled with soils that have been saturated by unrelenting rainfall.
In such situations, business as usual may result in permanent damage to the paddock and its soils. The problem is exacerbated when summer or winter annuals comprise the forage source. Continue reading →
Dr. Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist, The Ohio State University
This month provides one of the two preferred times to seed perennial cool-season forages, the other being late summer. Two primary difficulties with spring plantings are finding a good window of opportunity when soils are dry enough before it gets too late and managing weed infestations that are usually more difficult with spring plantings. The following 10 steps will help improve your chances for successful forage establishment in the spring. Continue reading →
Row crop farmers are beginning to focus more on improving soil health on their land for long-term sustainability. But according to USDA soil health and grassland specialists, livestock producers can also implement soil health practices to improve their pastures.
Many Midwest farmers are using soil conservation practices like no-till farming, cover crops and extended crop rotations to improve soil health on cropland. Similarly, livestock producers can adopt practices traditionally meant for forage improvement to feed microorganisms and add organic matter to the soil. Practices like rotational grazing, interseeding and forage harvest management help improve both forages and soil health. Continue reading →
Dr. Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist, The Ohio State University
Dr. Bill Wise, Extension Dairy Specialist, The Ohio State university
Although this article was written with the intent to serve dairy farms in times of need when feed resources are low, this information can easily be applied to any type of ruminant grazing system. For those that are looking for ways to increase their forage nutritive value, a new species of quality forage to graze, or simply looking for something new to use, be sure to check out this piece on alternative spring forages that can be planted on-farm this spring!
Challenging growing conditions in 2018 left many dairy farms looking at short forage supplies heading into the 2019 growing season. So, what are the options for short-season forages planted in early spring this year? Continue reading →
Success and long-term viability for most agricultural enterprises ultimately hinges on the health of their soil. This is true for beef operations in the Southern Great Plains to row crop farms in the Midwest.
For decades, the agriculture industry has focused, studied, and ultimately understood the physical and chemical characteristics of our soil resource (e.g., soil texture, soil pH, etc.). However, until the past few years, little emphasis has been placed on the biological constituents and their importance in a healthy, functional soil. Continue reading →
Marcus Tainsh, Pesel & Carr (on behalf of Agersens)
Amber Robinson, The Ohio State University Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team
Agersens to work with The Ohio State University to to test eShepherd in the U.S. beef, dairy, and small ruminant industries.
Agersens and The Ohio State University have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that paves the way for the two organizations to implement research trials to determine the efficacy and economics of the eShepherd system for local conditions.
eShepherd is a smart collar system for livestock, enabling producers to create “virtual fences” and use their smart device to remotely fence, move, and monitor their livestock around the clock from anywhere in the world. Continue reading →
For those of you that followed us on Facebook (OSU Sheep Team) last week, you may have noticed that our postings were a bit different than usual. Over spring break I had the great opportunity to help lead the study abroad trip, Scotland Ruminants. Over the course of our eight day trip, 36 undergraduate Animal Sciences students and 3 advisors toured Scotland’s countryside learning everything from veterinary school opportunities at the University of Glasgow to ruminant production systems in Scotland which included the sheep, goat, beef, dairy, and for our pseudo ruminant friends, alpacas along with much more!
If I were to talk about each part of the trip, you may be reading this for a while. So, with that, I’d like to take a few minutes to compare and contrast Scotland’s sheep industry to ours here in the States. While at the university of Glasgow, Continue reading →
Forage stands will begin spring green-up in the next few weeks, especially in southern Ohio. While winter injury in forages is very hard to predict, this winter has presented some very tough conditions for forage stands. This is especially true of legumes like alfalfa and red clover. Producers and crop consultants should be prepared to walk forage stands early this spring to assess their condition in time to make decisions and adjustments for the 2019 growing season.
We had some days with very cold air temperatures, but the soil temperatures have been much more moderate than you might expect. The soil temperature at the 2-inch depth is associated with the temperature of plant crowns. The coldest 2-inch soil temperatures recorded since January 1 at The Ohio State University Agricultural Research Stations occurred in late January to early February, falling to 17.8 F at Continue reading →
Now is the time to capitalize on warm, early spring days.
As the blanket of snow that covered the majority of the state throughout the winter continues to melt away, seedlings of perennial forages will begin to emerge from the ground, reflecting a hint of green across pastures as a reminder that spring is on the way. When planning to get your pastures ready for spring, the earlier the planning begins the better.
Applying fertilizer according to your fall soil sample will ensure optimum pH and Continue reading →
At A Glance:
When you are in the market for forage seed, get prepared before you drive to the co-op to shop. Variety is an influential factor in the success or failure of your forage stand.
Species vs. Variety vs. Cultivar
If you are not familiar with binomial nomenclature (the international language for naming plants), lets clarify the differences between species, variety, and cultivar, which are all terms you will encounter during seed selection.
L. H. Bailey, the author of the Manual of Cultivated Plants, defines species as Continue reading →
Although the original publication of this article was over nine years ago, it still contains useful tips and suggestions when thinking about creating and maintaining pastures for small ruminant production. As we begin to prepare for the 2019 growing season, some of these tips may help you outline the next step in your pasture management program. To view the outlined check lists provided, click below to continue reading. Continue reading →
Nematode-trapping fungi have demonstrated potential as a biological control agent against the immature (larval) stages of gastrointestinal nematodes (worms) in livestock feces under both experimental and natural conditions. These fungi are normal soil inhabitants throughout the world where they feed on a variety of non-parasitic soil worms.
Of the various fungi tested, Duddingtonia flagrans spores have been shown to survive passage through the gastrointestinal tract of ruminants. After defecation, the spores Continue reading →
Victor Shelton, NRCS State Agronomist/Grazing Specialist
It is 45 degrees outside today as I write this article. I normally appreciate mild winter weather, but when it rains, and temperatures remain above freezing, except for a frivolous teasing of heavy frosts, a pasture can get pretty ugly. I for one wouldn’t mind a little free concrete right now, you know, frozen ground. For many of us, 2018 was an extremely wet year. Some parts of Indiana, including where I live ended up with over 60 inches of rain. That makes me think of a Clint Eastwood quote, “If you think it’s going to rain, it will.”
Strip grazing stockpiled forage is usually a delight. Of course, it is best accomplished under dry or frozen conditions. If the pasture of stockpile is heavy (at least 3,000 pounds of dry matter per acre), then it can often be grazed even under fairly wet conditions without too much long-term damage but, you will need to have a watchful eye. Continue reading →
That saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” usually does not apply to hay, but with as difficult as haymaking was in Ohio this year, it may be true.
The “man” mentioned could be yourself in 2017 versus yourself in 2018. Based on what is available this year, you may be inclined to lower your standards of hay quality to make it through the winter.
But, how low is too low when it comes to hay quality? The answer depends on your class of livestock, their nutritional needs, and your access to supplemental feed.
Without knowing the actual nutritive value of the hay, all recommendations are relative and subject to error. The only way to confidently adjust your feeding program in relation to hay quality is to have hay analyzed by a laboratory. Continue reading →
Garth Ruff, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Henry County
With last week’s rain showers leaving much of the area saturated, there were limited opportunities for farming or even yardwork. I took advantage of the soggy conditions here in NW Ohio and headed south on Friday to a fairly productive couple of days in Morgan County. We had a good chance to winterize and store all of the hay equipment and tractors that we typically don’t use during winter time.
Regarding hay implement storage, we make an effort blow off the chaff, seeds, and dust with a leaf blower shortly after use and then pressure wash the piece prior to pulling in to the machinery shed for the down season. Once everything is cleaned off, each machine is greased and gear boxes are checked for fluid levels. Any major repairs or maintenance such as Continue reading →
Victor Shelton, NRCS State Agronomist/Grazing Specialist
Make plans for how to adapt for changes in weather.
I mentioned last month that there are still plenty of good growing days left this fall and they need to be taken advantage of. One of the first things to do to make sure you obtain as much plant growth as possible, especially with perennial forages, is to stop grazing forages that will continue to grow for a while, especially forages that will stockpile like tall fescue. Now, I don’t think anyone would’ve predicted it would be almost 70 degrees the day before Halloween. I remember quite well going Trick-or-Treating as a kid with snow on the ground a few times. It’s not the same weather pattern these days, that’s for sure.
Whether you believe in global warming or not is a deeper subject than I really want to get into in one of these articles, but it’s not hard to see though that Continue reading →
Pulling this article from our achieves this week, it seems to be extremely timely and beneficial as mother nature has made it challenging to harvest crops this fall in a timely manner. As we progress later into the harvest season, stalk quality will decrease which could lead to more down corn in our fields. From a cropping standpoint, this is an issue as some of the downed crop may not be salvageable. Luckily not all is lost if we are able to incorporate a strategic grazing plan.
To survive the current feed economy livestock producers need to graze their livestock as long as they can. Every day livestock are meeting their nutritional needs through grazing they are being fed as economically as possible. Typically cattle producers utilize corn and corn residue as a feed source but, in Ohio, sheep producers need to consider grazing Continue reading →
Last week, we experienced our first frosts of the season in some areas of Ohio, but I don’t think anyone has experienced the real killing frost yet.
When some forages freeze, changes in their metabolism and composition can be toxic to ruminant livestock. The two problems that can occur are prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) poisoning and bloat.
Beware of poison
First, I want to write about prussic acid or cyanide poisoning. Sorghum-related plants such as grain sorghum, sorghum-Sudan grass and Sudan grass varieties can contain toxic levels of cyanide after a frost. Johnsongrass, black cherry and elderberry can also develop toxic levels of prussic acid after a killing frost.
Light frost can stress plants, but do not kill them entirely can also cause cyanide poisoning. Continue reading →
This past weekend I had a question from a sheep producer asking why he was loosing several ewes unexpectedly. Further into the conversation, he also mentioned that he figures on losing a dozen ewes during this time (fall) each year. My response to this was “has there been any instances of frost over the course of time that you have been loosing ewes and what types of forages are in your pastures?” Of course without visually seeing these animals and not having any lab work or even a field necropsy performed, it is hard to say what the exact cause of each case may have been. However, as we begin to move into colder temperatures with periods of frost and with producers potentially spreading manure prior to the winter months, it is important consider how these scenarios can affect plant species in your pastures. With this being said, the scenario listed above could have been the result of nitrate poisoning. To learn more about this issue with grazing livestock, check out this Q&A session provided by Mark Johns and Barry Yatemcio.
What is it?
White muscle disease (WMD) is a degenerative muscle disease found in all large animals. WMD is caused by a deficiency of selenium and/or vitamin E. Generally, it is not known which. Selenium (Se) deficiency is associated with selenium deficient soils and the inadequate uptake of selenium by forages grown on these soils. Certain areas of the U.S., including the Northeast, are considered low in selenium levels. Selenium deficiency occurs when the soil contains less than 0.5 mg Se/kg of soil and locally harvested feeds contain less than 0.1 mg Se/kg of feed. Continue reading →
Chris Penrose, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Morgan County
If fescue is a problem on your farm, now is a great time to get it under control. I think it is good to start off talking about why it is a problem, how did it get to be a problem, are there some redeeming qualities, and finally, how to get it under control if it is a problem.
Why it is a problem?
If you have “infected” fescue, animals may develop health problems and result in reduced performance. This is caused by a microscopic fungus (endophyte) in the plant that produces alkaloids and problems for animals. Horses can have prolonged pregnancies, little milk production, abortions, and other problems. Ruminants can have hoof loss, increases body temperatures, rough hair coats or fleeces, and other internal issues. Continue reading →
As we move into the fall season, how much longer will your livestock be able to graze forage from your hay and pasture fields? Have you prepared stockpiled forages?
Are you able to utilize your livestock to take that last growth of forage off your hay fields rather than using equipment? Not using equipment to make a last cutting of hay, not having the livestock in pasture fields right now and not feeding hay for a while yet seems to be a winning combination all the way around.
Everyone’s situation is different and many producers are not able to get livestock to every hay field. Nevertheless, where you can use livestock to harvest forage from hay fields, production costs can be reduced. Continue reading →
Dwight Lingenfelter, Extension Associate, Weed Science, Penn State University
William S. Curran,Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of Weed Science, Penn State University
Fall is an excellent time to manage biennial and perennial weeds. In particular, biennials such as common burdock, wild carrot, and bull, musk, and plumeless thistles are much easier to kill while they are in the rosette stage of growth, prior to surviving a winter. Once biennials start growth in the spring they rapidly develop with the goal of reproducing and it becomes more difficult to control them.
As you have heard many times before, late summer and fall is the best time to control most perennials with a systemic herbicide they move into root systems allowing better control. In general, the application window runs from Continue reading →
Decide what you need between yield and quality, then watch those small-grain forages closely to harvest them at the desired growth stage.
Farmers plant small-grain forages in two basic systems. One is as a nurse crop for a perennial hay crop such as alfalfa. A second is as a stand-alone annual forage crop. Harvest decisions depend largely on the system used. If the small-grain forage is a “nurse crop,” then the effects of the harvest decision are based on what is best for the perennial hay crop underneath. Leaving the nurse crop in place too long can create serious competition for the developing perennial hay crop.
Not all farms are fit for planting cover crops for forage.
Forage and hay supply is low, and the problem is unlikely to be resolved this year even with favorable weather. While there are several options available, grazing or harvesting cover crops could be an alternative feed option for some producers.
If you have not planted cover crops, there are several factors to consider before selecting a forage cover crop: Continue reading →
Purchasing hay, as simple as it seems, can be rather tricky. Knowing what and how much you need as well as trying to compare multiple feedstuffs on a level playing field can sometimes make hay buying a challenge.
“When hay supply is abundant, prices are lower and ranchers may not see the benefit in taking the time to price hay based on quality,” explains Adele Harty, extension cow/calf field specialist with South Dakota State University (SDSU), in an iGrow livestock newsletter. “Taking time to do this in a year with ample supply will help one be comfortable with the process when supplies are short.”
Victor Shelton, NRCS State Agronomist/Grazing Specialist
The older I get, the more I tend to philosophize about things. I’ve been asked a few times why I am such an advocate for sound grazing practices. Best management grazing practices, just like conservation practices for reducing or preventing soil erosion on cropland, help preserve and or regenerate resources not only for present generation, but also for future generations. Keeping a field in forages will save more soil and conserve more water than almost all other erosion control practices. As the world population continues to increase and the acres of viable land that we can grow food on continues to decrease, we have to be more efficient and more productive with what remains while also maintaining and improving water quality. Food quality and nutrient density need to also improve. Continue reading →
We are back at it again with our Ag-notes from the students of the 2018 Small Ruminant Production course. This week, students Matt Blose, Marissa Friel, Courtney Hale, and Maureen Hirzel provide us with a brief outline of the benefits of rotational grazing by providing insight on how to start and some important considerations you need to ask yourself prior to jumping into this type of management scheme.
In its simplest form, rotational grazing is described as moving grazing livestock from one paddock to another, allowing time for the previously grazed pasture to regrow prior to the next grazing event. There are many benefits to this strategy as rotational grazing allows producers to Continue reading →
Late season alfalfa management decisions often come down to balancing a need for forage versus stand health and winter survival. Weather patterns across the state in 2018 have been variable. Lack of summer rain in some areas have decreased forage yields, frequent rains or too much rainfall in other areas have blown apart harvest schedules and/or resulted in low quality forage inventories. Taking a fall alfalfa harvest is an opportunity to increase both the quality and quantity of the farm forage inventory. Like most farming decisions, there are trade-offs and risk factors to consider when making a fall alfalfa harvest.
The decision of when to take the last harvest of alfalfa to insure good winter survival and yield potential for the following year can be boiled down to two choices. Either Continue reading →
The cost of feed is the highest expense on any operation, specifically when winter feeding. Producers typically utilize hay to meet [livestock] nutritional requirements during the winter, but producing hay with a high enough forage quality to meet those needs proves to be a challenge.
Chris Teutsch, forage extension specialist at the University of Kentucky, argues that stockpiled tall fescue is an option that has a higher nutritional value to meet [some winter livestock] needs. He provides helpful steps to optimize stockpiled tall fescue in the Kentucky newsletter Off the Hoof.
Drought and other weather maladies usually prompt the need for additional forage production in the fall and early spring. But even in a normal growing season, it often makes good sense to conserve stored hay supplies and plant an annual forage in late summer or early fall.
“Many producers have already identified the opportunity to put oats, cereal rye, turnips, or other forage crops in this fall,” Continue reading →
Fall pasture management is a critical period for pastures. For many of us we have had adequate rainfall up until recently and pastures have done well to this point.
As we transition into late summer and early fall it is critical to pay close attention to your forages. Some pastures may be stockpiled, but those intended to be grazed this fall still need time to rest.
It’s very tempting to use those forages that green up late in the fall. Management decisions made this fall will greatly impact forage growth next year. Continue reading →
The end of July always marks a crucial time for forage producers, especially those with livestock mouths to feed and less than desirable forage inventories.
But then again, even if forage inventories are in pretty good shape, why would you want to pass on the opportunity to get some additional high-quality forage?
As recent changing forage-production trends go, seeding something in late summer for additional fall, winter, or early spring forage ranks high on the list.
When temperatures begin to moderate in late August and September, it’s Mother Nature’s gift to have the opportunity for growing and/or harvesting some of the best forage of the season. Further, it can be captured in a variety of forms – hay, baleage, silage, or green.
To capitalize on this opportunity, now is the time to start formulating a strategy and evaluating options. Here are a few of my thoughts that are pertinent to this second forage-growing season: Continue reading →
Ohio growers experienced another wet spring and compressed 2018 spring planting season. On some farms, this caused postponement of plans for spring seeding of alfalfa and other perennial forages. In some areas, the prolonged wet weather affected forage harvest schedules, resulting in harvest equipment running on wet forage fields leaving ruts, compacted soils and damage to alfalfa crowns. Some of these forage acres need to be re-seeded.
Late summer, and especially the month of August, provides growers with another window of opportunity to Continue reading →
(Image Source: Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower)
Sometimes it’s good to stop looking at the vegetation in the road ditch and adjoining fields and direct your eyes toward the larger landscape. That’s what I intend to do here with the focus being on alfalfa.
In essence, this will be something of a “State of the Alfalfa” dissertation with few specific recommendations, but some important concepts to understand if you grow and harvest alfalfa, or serve those who do.
Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Wayne County
(Previously published in: A Guide to Katahdin Hair Sheep)
Sheep are ruminants, so outside of a feedlot situation the majority, if not all, of their nutrient requirements should be met from forages. For most sheep owners, this means that hay is an important component of the ration through at least the winter months and possibly even longer, including times of pasture shortages due to drought or poor forage stands. There are two critical questions to answer when using hay to meet sheep nutritional needs:
What is the nutrient content and quality of the hay?
What are the nutrient requirements of the sheep?
The number one factor affecting the quality and nutrient content of hay is Continue reading →
One of the worst practices we do, from a soil-health and productivity standpoint, is haying.
Haying generally removes significantly more nutrients from the soil than do grain crops, in addition to the damage it causes to soil life and the lack of biological stimulation.
Examples from an Oklahoma State University publication generally match the data from other states. These are pounds of nutrient per ton of hay, so you can extrapolate this to a per-acre basis using your hay yields.
Tall fescue “Kentucky-31” (KY-31) is one of the most predominant forages in the nation. Its popularity began in the 1930s when a wild strain of fescue was discovered on a Kentucky farm and it became recognized for wide adaptability. In the1940s, the cultivated variety was publically released and can now be found in most pastures in the United States. This cultivar is easy to establish, persistent, tolerant of many environmental stresses, resistant to pests, and can aid livestock managers in prolonging the grazing season. However, tall fescue does not accomplish all of these tasks unassisted.
An endophytic fungus called Neotyphodium coenophialum can be credited for many of these benefits. The fungus cannot be seen and can only be detected by laboratory analysis. The fescue endophyte forms a mutually beneficial relationship with the grass, but Continue reading →
One of the many things that David Letterman gets remembered for is his Top 10 lists.
These lists included such things as the Top 10 Signs Your Kid Had a Bad First Day at School, the Top 10 Numbers Between One and 10, and the Top 10 Dog Excuses for Losing the Dog Show (No. 3 – Didn’t know that was the judge’s leg).
Lists, especially those that are ranked, are great for generating a plethora of discussion and arguments — just ask two passionate baseball fans to list the top 10 players during the past 50 years. It’s likely both will end their day in an emergency room.
Agree or not, lists do invoke thought and reflection.
With that in mind, here’s Dennis Hancock’s “Top 7 Factors that Affect Hay Forage Quality.” The University of Georgia Extension forage specialist enumerated the list during a recent Alabama Forage Focus webinar. The factors are listed in order of perceived importance. Continue reading →
Mud, nutrient leaching, and erosion are a few of the ailments pastures across our region are experiencing in 2018. It can be challenging to be thankful for rain in years like this. This year you have likely witnessed the rain wash away freshly planted seed, topsoil, and nutrients while trudging through swamps that should be access roads, watching seed heads develop on valuable hay, and cutting fallen limbs off damaged fence.
Nature has taunted many this season. In Southeast Ohio, opportunities to make hay have been few and far between due to soggy soil conditions and high humidity. The longer harvest is delayed, the poorer nutritive value becomes. Most producers have probably harvested first cutting hay that will barely meet requirements for animal maintenance. Looking beyond the frustration to solutions, there are things we can do to relieve the pressure that heavy rainfall inflicts on hayfields and grazed pastures.
One of the best ways to manage mud in grazing situations is Continue reading →
Dwight Lingenfelter, Penn State Extension Associate, Weed Science
(Image Source: Invasive Plant Atlas of New England)
As spring progresses, multiflora rose aggressively grows and eventually blooms in late May/early June. Several tactics can be used to control this problem weed and these methods will be briefly discussed.
Mechanical control methods include mowing, which requires repeated mowings per season for several years, and excavating, which involves pulling individual plants from the soil with heavy equipment, can be costly, time-consuming and laborious. However, these are viable means for multiflora rose management. Also, management techniques which include Continue reading →
Chris Penrose, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Morgan County
Dan Lima, OSU Extension Educator, Belmont County
With the limited opportunities and short windows many have had to make hay so far this year, some hay may have been made at higher moisture levels than we would like. Moisture levels have a direct effect on hay quality. What we have found to be a consistent number in the literature is 20% moisture maximum. To be more specific:
Small squares to be 20% or less,
Large round, 18% or less and
Large squares, 16%
Hay baled at 20% moisture or higher has a high probability of developing mold, which will decrease the quality of hay by decreasing both protein and total nonstructural carbohydrates (TNC). A.K.A. Energy! Continue reading →
You could say there was a perfect storm coming into this spring. The combination of wet weather, cool temperatures, and less growing degree days has led to slow pasture growth. Low hay stockpiles have compounded the problem.
Where reduced forage availability isn’t enough to support grazing [livestock], supplementation is required. This prompts the question, “What is the most efficient supplementation approach?” Continue reading →
(Image Source: Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower)
Every farmer has done “it.”
That “it” is to walk a new forage seeding field that just never developed. There is nothing more disheartening than a newly seeded hayfield or pasture that for one or a variety of reasons was done before “it” ever really started.
During my extension agent days, I walked many of these fields. Sometimes the failure could be blamed on the weather, but there were cases when the reasons for the lack of establishment just couldn’t be fully explained.
Most forage seeds are small and sensitive to their microenvironment. Seeding depth is also critical — too deep or too shallow can Continue reading →
Another school year has passed and I am happy to say that I have completed my third year of being involved in AS 4004, Small Ruminant Production at The Ohio State University. This year Dr. Liz Parker and myself co-instructed this course and worked diligently to expose our students to every aspect of the small ruminant industry, including extension outreach and producer education. As a part of the course curriculum, students were challenged to compose an Ag-note (educational poster) to highlight a specific topic that is related to sheep or goat production, management, and husbandry. As viewers, you will see these unique postings appear periodically and will be noted in the title as “Ag-note.”
For our first Ag-note, OSU students DeVaughn Davis, Nathaniel Kinney, Kristy Payne, and Dalton Shipley share an economic perspective on the comparison of continuous versus management intensive grazing. Continue reading →
Across the U.S., acres of grass are being harvested for hay with a majority destined to be stored as bales for winter forage. This hay must be able to provide the necessary amount of protein and energy to fulfill the nutrient needs of the [animals] that will consume it.
But all hay should not be viewed as equal as it varies in nutrient content due to multiple factors.
While fertilization, weed pressure, and grass variety are what most consider, the most influential factor on nutrient content is stage of maturity at harvest. Continue reading →
Full disclosure — I am not an economist. However, my premise is this: For various reasons, many growers would be economically better off growing a different forage than what they have always grown.
Growers, myself included, often dedicate time and energy to selecting the right variety and best management practices for a particular forage. But we seldom seem to stop and think about if that forage is the right one to grow. We often rationalize this action with statements like “This is what we’ve always done” or “We grow (insert your forage) because we grow (insert your forage).” Continue reading →
Matt Poore, Ruminant Nutrition Extension Specialist, North Carolina State University
Johnny Rogers, North Carolina Amazing Grazing Program Coordinator
(Previously published in Hay and Forage Grower: March 15, 2018)
A 12-step plan to Amazing Grazing
Adaptive grazing is a term describing a management approach that includes many practices such as frequent rotation of cattle and stockpiling for winter grazing. It is not a recipe; it is a very flexible system that producers can modify to fit their needs and skills. In North Carolina, our educational program “Amazing Grazing” strives to teach principles and critical thinking skills, so producers can begin adaptive grazing.
We have found that producers we work with are at varying points on the journey, so laying out our approach in a 12-step plan is helpful to Continue reading →
You may have heard the rumor that crabgrass (Digitaria sanguinalis) hates you. Those who profit from the sale of lawn care products may like you to believe that, but despite the claims, it really isn’t true. Each year crabgrass works toward accomplishing the goal of all living things, to reproduce, and if it had a life motto, it might be something like “Life is short, so live it!” Any plant out of place can be considered a weed and in the eye of many, crabgrass fits this description. However in a forage system, crabgrass can be the right plant, in the right place, at the right time.
Volumes have been written about the importance of cutting alfalfa on time. Truth be told, it may be even more critical for grasses.
Jimmy Henning, extension forage agronomist with the University of Kentucky, points to research from the University of Tennessee that is a compelling example of how harvest timing drives future animal performance. He writes about the research in the most recent UK Forage News newsletter.
Hay-makers have realized in recent years that wide swaths raise quality and finish faster.
Laying down hay in the widest possible swath speeds drying, improves quality and probably saves money in the long run.
In fact, forming a wide swath at cutting is the single most important factor in maximizing initial drying rate and preserving starches and sugars, says Dan Undersander, University of Wisconsin extension agronomist. Continue reading →
The spring of 2018 was the latest I can remember feeding hay to my cattle, and many producers were searching at the last minute to find some extra hay. Pastures were very slow growing this spring until it finally warmed up in early May. On my farm, common orchardgrass typically starts heading out in late April, and it was two weeks later this year. The late-arriving spring brought many challenges around farms, and the rush to get crops in the ground and to make hay has put mowing pastures on the backburner. However, now may be a great time to mow pastures.
Our perennial grasses go through two stages during the growing season: the reproductive stage and the vegetative stage. When grass starts growing in the spring, its main objective is Continue reading →
Dr. Jimmy Henning, Livestock Forage Specialist, University of Kentucky
(Previously published in Farmers Pride: January 18, 2018)
Tall fescue and its endophyte – implications for your farm.
The story of Kentucky 31 tall fescue reads like a soap opera. Found on a Menifee County Kentucky hill side in 1931, it quickly became a rival to Kentucky bluegrass as the most important grass in Kentucky. Its yield and persistence made it look unbeatable, but its animal performance numbers were sometimes poor or worse. The decision by the University of Kentucky to go forward with the release of Kentucky 31 was filled with about as much drama as you will ever find in an academic setting.
This time of the year most of us are waiting for winter to end, looking forward to warmer temperatures and greener pastures. Very few people woke up this morning thinking about drought.
That topic won’t enter our minds for another few months. By that time, however, drought might become one of the dominant topics on everyone’s mind. The problem is that if we wait until June or July to start thinking about how to deal with a drought, we have missed out on several management tools to reduce its impact. Continue reading →
Chris Penrose, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Morgan County
For the spring we are having, and each producer’s situation, this is a difficult question. However, for most of us, the answer is yes! The recent warm weather has allowed the pasture and hay fields to really start growing at a fast clip.
There are several different thoughts on when to start grazing and I admittedly take a very aggressive approach to start grazing in the spring. I will even confess that it probably started thirty years ago when I was running out of hay. I start grazing as soon as I can. I use two approaches to early grazing. The first one is to use a “stockpiled” hay field (I made two cuttings of hay last summer, then let the field grow from August to March) and put my animals in the field on March 3rd. March 2nd was the last day I planned on Continue reading →
(Image Source: Joan Burke, American Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control)
I meet a lot of people at forage meetings during the course of a year. Never has anyone broached the subject of sericea lespedeza . . . that’s until I met Reed Edwards at a Georgia hay conference in 2016.
Edwards is one of those farmers who is not afraid to move outside the box of accepted practices or try whatever the latest extension recommendation might be. Either way, he’s going to forge his own path.
There’s currently a lot going on at Edwards’ 90-acre Fox Pipe Farm. In addition to harvesting sericea lespedeza hay for Continue reading →
Allen Gahler, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Sandusky County
Winter has come and gone, and despite the many scares Mother Nature provided, and the well-in-advance warnings by local weather stations around the state, many of us chose not to rush out and stock up on break and milk. And miraculously, we survived. Hopefully, all of your livestock, with the proper planning and nutrition, survived the cold snaps and snow storms as well.
So now that we are moving into the growing season and will soon be, or maybe already are, grazing in some areas, all of those concerns about what and when to feed livestock are over until next winter approaches. Right? Continue reading →
Pasture-based livestock production at first glance is a simple system. Producers use herbivores to harvest forage and create something they can sell (or enjoy).
In the past, it has been typical to use a continuous grazing system where livestock will remain on the same pasture for an extended period, but this can lead to poor forage utilization. Livestock will roam large pastures as they seek out their preferred plant species and leave others to become degraded, mature, and unpalatable.
Cattle, horses, sheep, and goats are all susceptible to internal parasites, which can be devastating to producers economically.
“Many times, the effects are subclinical and may go unnoticed, but severe infestations can cause disease and death,” says Adam Speir, a county extension agent with the University of Georgia’s forage extension team.
Speir notes that the effects of infestations can come in many forms, with the most common being reduced milk production, reduced weaning weights, delayed puberty, lower Continue reading →
(Previously published in BeefProducer, December 19, 2017)
I had a conversation recently in which some common mindsets that interfere with profitability in livestock operations were brought out.
An acquaintance asked me if we had started feeding. When I told him that we had not, he said that he had been feeding hay for over a month and followed up with, “I start feeding every year on the fourth of November.”
Knowing that he had an unusually wet summer, I asked if he did not have grass left when his normal time to start feeding came around. He replied that Continue reading →
Dr. Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist, The Ohio State University
(Image Source: Warner Brothers Seed Company)
Late this month (depending on the weather) and on into April provides one of the two preferred times to seed perennial cool-season forages. The other preferred timing for cool-season grasses and legumes is in late summer, primarily the month of August here in Ohio. The relative success of spring versus summer seeding of forages is greatly affected by the prevailing weather conditions, and so growers have success and failures with each option.
As alfalfa stands age, they become thinner. The thinner alfalfa population allows weeds to encroach the field. Weeds can also be a problem if weeds were not properly managed prior to seeding the alfalfa.
After the establishment year, the weeds that are most frequent in an alfalfa field are winter annual weeds such as common chickweed, henbit, purple deadnettle, shepherd’s-purse, field pennycress, yellow rocket, birdsrape mustard, bushy wallflower, and cressleaf groundsel.
Bob Hendershot, Retired State Grassland Conservationist
As we begin to move into spring, we need to start thinking about spring forage growth and how we will be managing our pastures over the course of the new year.
Pasture management is very important for grazing animals; cattle, horse, llama, and sheep owners. By managing pastures more effectively, land managers can increase forage production, lower production costs, improve aesthetics, and promote a healthier environment. The benefits of a well-managed pasture include reducing environmental impacts of your operation, including movement of soil and manure to water bodies; improving property aesthetics, which makes for good neighbor relations, and increases property value; and providing feed and recreation for your horses. Using a rotational grazing system can enhance these benefits.
For optimal health, horses and llamas need to eat 1 to 1.5% and cattle and sheep Continue reading →
I know that you all may be thinking, “how many times are we going to read about frost seeding this year?” However, I have always been taught that repetition is the key to learning. In addition, I found this piece interesting as it highlights some alternative frost-seeding methods from our very own Mr. Wayne Shriver, farm manager of the Eastern Agricultural Research Station in Caldwell, Ohio. I encourage you all to take a look and see what information Wayne and the others have to offer.
When pitchers and catchers are called to Florida and Arizona, it brings the annual rebirth of America’s pastime. It also marks a time when pasture managers need to start frost seeding or begin giving it serious thought. Continue reading →
Eight things to remember about soil and livestock health and improvement.
I don’t know about ya’ll but I spend a right smart amount of time planning to do better. I am so well organized that it is often a relief when my flip phone rings so I can find it.
One thing we need to do in the winter is rest up a little and think and plan and visit with other successful grazing beef producers. Most of us could use and profit from soil that is actually growing in organic matter, mineralization, color and depth. Continue reading →
Gone are the days when warm-season weeds seemingly had a corner on the warm-season pasture market. Producers who typically focus their control efforts on warm-season broadleaf and grass weeds, such as ragweed, broomweed, sandbur, or johnsongrass, may want to broaden their efforts.
Soils and crops consultant of the Noble Research Institute, Eddie Funderburg, explains that cool-season weeds, or those that emerge in the fall and grow throughout the winter and spring, are finding their way into warm-season pastures. Funderburg explains this growing problem and highlighted some of the main culprits in a recent Noble Research Institute News and Views newsletter. Continue reading →
Oats, barley, triticale, and spring wheat all make for good grazing and hay crops when they are spring-seeded.
For a seed cost of between $25 and $31 per acre, livestock producers can gain valuable grazing days or hay by planting cool-season annuals in the spring or fall. All kinds of annuals can be planted in the spring, according to Nebraska Extension educator emeritus, Dennis Bauer.
Speaking at a Beef Profit Tips meeting in Center, Neb., recently, Bauer said oats, spring triticale, spring beardless barley, Italian or annual ryegrass, field peas, and other legumes all make good grazing or hay options.
Chris Penrose, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Morgan County Gary Wilson, Retired OSU Extension Educator ANR, Hancock County
(Image Source: On Pasture – Frost Seeding Red Clover in Hay Fields and Pastures)
This is the time of year when farmers will want to think about re-seeding their pasture and hay fields. This method of seeding is called “frost seeding” which is where you apply seed to the ground and the freezing and thawing of the soil in February and early march will provide seed to soil contact allowing germination of the seed. There is a little more risk of the seed not germinating than with a “traditional” seeding, but the cost and time is a lot less.
The secret is to have exposed soil. If you have exposed soil, even in your yard, simply sprinkle seed on the soil and let the frosts work it in. If the ground is thawed, you can Continue reading →
Erika Lyon, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Jefferson and Harrison Counties
(Image Source: Our Ohio Magazine, Ohio Farm Bureau – Meating of the Minds)
During this time of year, the hills of eastern Ohio are covered in snow, frozen waterfalls, and massive icicles. Most of us enjoy spending these cold winter days indoors next to the fireplace or with the furnace working overtime. So with their thick wool coats, are sheep actually keeping as warm as you think? What about goats that do not have those nice thick coats? Are they just used to the cold? During the winter, extreme temperatures, precipitation and wind can create Continue reading →
(Image Source: Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower)
In the various humid regions across the United States, clover species bring a commonality to the miles of separation. Their adaptability to a variety of soils and growing conditions makes them a foundational component in many forage systems. Yet, most forage experts would say that they remain vastly unappreciated and underutilized.
New Year’s Day has come and gone, as have some of our New Year’s resolutions: eat less junk food, go to the gym more often, lose weight, and the list goes on.
I hope our pasture management goals for the year last longer. As I contemplate the projects I have completed and those that are still on the list for another year, I think about how I can get more production from my pasture or how I can feed more animals on the same amount of land.
Today, I will stick with the “5 Things” theme in this issue and will touch on five areas of pasture management you can Continue reading →
Including legumes in grass pastures has the potential to increase the overall nutritive value of the pasture and decrease the need for supplemental nitrogen fertilizer. Read on to find out if you should add more legumes to your pasture.
What is so special about legumes?
There is something special about legumes that sets them apart from our other forages. They have the ability to foster mutually beneficial relationships with soil bacteria that convert organic nitrogen, which is an unavailable form for plants to utilize, into inorganic nitrogen, making it available for plant uptake. The bacteria Continue reading →
As the new year begins, most Ohio graziers are probably feeding a good portion of hay as a part of their animals’ daily ration. Even if there is a supply of stockpiled forage available, we tend to make hay available just in case they need a little extra. It is likely that grain is also part of that daily ration. Well, how do you know how much hay, grain, and pasture they need? No one wants to leave their animals hungry. In addition, we do not want to waste time or money with unnecessary feeding. Figuring out the balance can seem like a guessing game, but the place to start is with a hay test.
Testing the hay you are feeding is well worth the price of sample analysis. Collecting a sample is not complicated and typically, results are available Continue reading →
Chris Penrose, OSU Extension Educator, Morgan County
(Previously published in the Winter issue of The Ohio Cattleman)
The month of December is a great time to plan. We still have the opportunity to make changes to the 2017 year and plan for 2018. When I think of 2017, especially as it relates to forages, two things come to mind for me. First, what worked and what went wrong? Next, is there anything that can be done to improve the operation for this and next year?
(Image Source: Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower)
“We need to think about alfalfa as a package of nutrients,” said Bill Weiss, Ohio State University Extension dairy nutritionist. “As such, the value of that alfalfa (or any forage) should reflect the value of the nutrients provided.”
Perhaps most buyers and sellers of hay already think this is being done, but Weiss takes it to another level. He shared his thoughts on valuing hay at the Western Alfalfa & Forage Symposium’s Hay Quality Workshop held in Reno, Nev. Continue reading →
The verdict is in. Grazing toxic fescue to the ground is dangerous to pastured livestock. Findings released by the University of Missouri indicate that the highest levels of toxic alkaloids are held in the bottom 2 inches of infected grass.
Sarah Kenyon, an MU extension agronomist based in West Plains, Mo., documented these findings in her Ph.D. dissertation.
Bob Hendershot, Retired State Grassland Conservationist
Improving your pasture management skills will grow more forage that will have higher quality that will better feed your livestock and make you more money. A better pasture should just keep getting better year after year including; improving the environment; improving the soil, water, air, plants, and animals as well as reducing your energy requirements. Healthy soils can grow healthy plants that can allow animals to grow quicker, stronger and healthier, which will reduce the cost of production. We will discuss ways to improve Continue reading →
Although this information has been posted in the past, as harvest has come and gone, this opportunity may serve as a viable option for those looking for a cheap feed source to graze the mature ewe flock on. This strategy allows farmers to optimize on losses associated with harvest as well as serve as a means to save on winter feedings.
To survive the current feed economy livestock producers need to graze their livestock as long as they can. Every day livestock are meeting their nutritional needs through grazing they are being fed as economically as possible. Typically cattle producers utilize corn residue as a feed source but, in Ohio, sheep producers need to consider grazing Continue reading →
“Multispecies grazing can be used to more effectively utilize all of the browse and forage in pastures, target weeds and brush, and reduce parasite loads across pastures,” says Rob Cook, planned consultation manager for the Noble Research Institute. “These benefits could also lead to increased revenues or decreased costs.”
While multispecies grazing may seem like a no-brainer from an economic and sustainability standpoint, these benefits do not always come easily. The added care and management of an additional species is only one added hassle associated with this profitable, yet challenging undertaking.
Cook asked successful land managers what they most struggle with and then compiled a list of top challenges for multispecies grazing.
Producers looking to add sheep or goats to a traditionally cattle-grazed pasture will most likely require reinforced fencing. Cook notes that while producers with the typical five-wire barbwire fencing will struggle to contain smaller ruminants, they can easily be upgraded by adding new strands of hot wire. He adds Continue reading →
(Image Source: Underwood Conservation District, White Salmon, Washington)
Planned paddocks, good fencing, improved forages, grazing management, pasture fertility, and livestock genetics are all important elements when maximizing a grazing system. Water distribution, however, is arguably one of the most important elements of pasture-based livestock systems.
Pasture water system needs vary based on livestock species, availability of electricity, soils, water supply needed, and travel distance to water. Water systems should be developed based on individual farm resources, as each farm is unique.
In southern and eastern Ohio, spring systems are the most often developed water sources. Springs can provide adequate, low-cost, low-maintenance water systems. Water quality and quantity are major considerations when developing a spring. The first question to answer concerning spring development: Continue reading →
Al Gahler, OSU Extension Educator, Sandusky County
(originally published in the Ohio Cattleman, late fall 2017 issue)
Regardless of livestock species, it is important to test your forages. When in doubt, test them out!
Across most of Ohio, 2017 has been a challenging crop year, especially for those in the hay production business. In 2016, while most producers did not have significant yields, quality was tremendous due to the dry weather which allowed for highly manageable cutting intervals and easy dry down. Since the end of June, however, 2017 has been just the opposite, with mother nature forcing many bales to be made at higher than optimal moisture levels, and cutting intervals measured in months rather than days.
With adequate moisture throughout most of the state for much of the summer, this equates to substantial yields, which in turn for the beef producer, means hay is readily available at reasonable prices. However, for the astute cattleman that either makes his/her own hay or knows the nature of the business, this also means high quality hay may just be the proverbial needle in the haystack, and for the most part, as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for.
Dr. Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist, The Ohio State University
As cold weather approaches, livestock owners who feed forages need to keep in mind certain dangers of feeding forages after frost events. Several forage species can be extremely toxic soon after a frost because they contain compounds called cyanogenic glucosides that are converted quickly to prussic acid (i.e. hydrogen cyanide) in freeze-damaged plant tissues. Some legumes species have an increased risk of causing bloat when grazed after a frost. In this article I discuss each of these risks and precautions we can take to avoid them. Continue reading →
In Ohio it is possible to graze year round. Of course grazing in winter does take planning. Summer is the best time to plan for fall and winter grazing. Why? Because many of our options have tasks associated with them in summer. By planning ahead it is possible in Ohio to have adequate quality, grazable forage for most of the winter. Depending on the class of livestock and their stage of production it is possible to need to feed for weeks in winter as opposed to months.
Video credit: Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine
For those that are interested in the basics of parasitic resistance and a quick overview of how to manage parasites on-farm, view the video below. This is a great resource for all producers raising grazing livestock.
Grazing management during the months of September and October directly impacts the vigor and growth of pasture in the spring. For the perennial grass plant the fall season is a time of laying the foundation for next year’s growth. Although seed production is one way that a perennial plant can survive from year to year, in pastures the more important way that plants survive is through re-growth from buds located at the crown of the plant. It is during Continue reading →
After clipping pastures throughout the growing season and managing pasture rotations to insure that plants are not overgrazed and that there is enough rest period between grazing passes, it can be tempting in the fall to let grazing management slide. There is fall crop harvest and a number of other fall tasks to get done before winter. However, from a plant health standpoint, overgrazing during the fall is Continue reading →
Can the implementation of growth promotants or forage grazed finishing diets increase lean muscle gain in lambs without increasing carcass fat?
Marketing lambs at a high lean to fat carcass ratio is important in producing consistent and quality retail lamb products.
Lambs fed high concentrate diets finish at a younger age when compared to forage fed lambs. However, lambs fed high concentrate diets accumulate more carcass fat than lambs on grazed forage diets. The use of either growth promotants or forage finishing diets may provide producers with Continue reading →
Grazing management during the months of September and October directly impacts the vigor and growth of pasture in the spring. For the perennial grass plant, the fall season is a time of laying the foundation for next year’s growth. Although seed production is one way that a perennial plant can survive from year to year, in pastures the more important way that plants survive is through re-growth from buds located at the crown of the plant. It is during the short day, long night periods in the fall of the year that flower buds are formed/initiated on the crown of the plant. The plant leaf Continue reading →
Clif Little, OSU Extension Educator, Guernsey and Noble Counties
Recent storms downed many trees throughout Ohio and some of these pose a threat to livestock. Poisoning is most common when grazing is scarce, such as periods of dry weather coupled with thunderstorms that down trees during the mid to late summer months.
Listed below are some of the most common poisonous trees found in Ohio pastures. Continue reading →
As I have driven around the county the past few weeks, I have noticed some patches of poison hemlock on roadside banks and also in some fields. This is a concern because all parts of this plant including leaves, stems and roots are poisonous when ingested. This is a good time to scout both hay fields and pastures for this weed and take steps to control it. This is not a weed that livestock owners can afford to ignore.
Poison hemlock has an appearance similar to wild carrot and is a member of the parsley family. The plant has compound leaves made up of multiple leaflets that are finely divided and have a triangular shape. Some descriptions say the leaf has a lacy appearance. One of the key identifying characteristics is the stem. The stem of poison hemlock is Continue reading →
Roger High, OSU Ohio State Sheep Extension Specialist
While most plants are beneficial, some are hazardous to animal and human life. Ohio has about 100 toxic plants and some of these are responsible for deaths of domestic livestock every year. The number of cases of toxicosis (plant poisoning) in livestock far outweighs those reported for humans. Accurate statistics are not available, but it is estimated that several thousand animals die annually in the U.S. from plant toxicosis.
With houses springing up everywhere in Ohio, the rural/urban interface is dramatically increasing. Many farm neighbors are unfamiliar Continue reading →
May through early June is generally a time of good pasture growth and corresponding livestock production. However, if you are grazing sheep and goats this is the time of year that needs careful consideration in regards to internal parasites, in particular Haemonchus contortus, the barber pole worm. One way to approach this grazing season is to think in terms of risk management.
What can be done to reduce or minimize the risk of a heavy parasite infection while sheep and goats graze pastures? Continue reading →
Early spring provides us with a window of opportunity to get a new forage stand established. The actual success in getting that new seeding established depends upon several factors including: soil fertility, species selection, weed control, timing of planting, planting depth, post planting management. Let’s look at each factor in a little more detail.
Joy Aufderhaar, OSU Extension Agriculture Program Assistant, Shelby County
Roger Bender, OSU Extension Educator, Shelby County
As you looked across your pasture and hay fields this past September you may have noticed not only were the surrounding trees turning fall colors, but your red clover and alfalfa were also showing colors of fall? But this is not a color of fall we like to see especially in our red clover and alfalfa.
Yellow or orange threadlike stems were reported in red clover and alfalfa fields in several western Ohio counties in September. The stems are stringlike, twining, smooth and branching to form dense masses in some fields.
Purdue’s Glen Nice says that dodder is a parasitic plant without any leaves or any chlorophyll to produce its own food. It lives by attaching to a host with small appendages (called “haustoria”) and extracting the host plant’s carbohydrates. Continue reading →
To survive the current feed economy livestock producers need to graze their livestock as long as they can. Every day livestock are meeting their nutritional needs through grazing they are being fed as economically as possible. Typically cattle producers utilize corn residue as a feed source but, Continue reading →
The biggest enemy of pasture based sheep and goat production has got to be internal parasites and especially, Haemonchus contortus, or the barber pole worm. Its incredible reproductive capacity, an adult female can lay up to 5,000-10,000 eggs/day, combined with the fact that the infective third stage (L3) larvae can survive 60 to 90 days or more on pasture during Continue reading →
Fall is one of the most crucial time periods for our cool season pastures. The most important activity a livestock producer should be doing to help the pastures survive winter and remain productive next year is to avoid over-grazing.
In Ohio it is possible to graze year round. Of course grazing in winter does take planning. Summer is the best time to plan for fall and winter grazing. Why? Because many of our options have tasks associated with them in summer. By planning ahead it is possible in Ohio to have adequate Continue reading →
Curt Stivison, Fairfield SWCD Engineering Technician
Stan Smith, OSU Extension Program Assistant, Fairfield County
Most know that for the past seven years, we’ve spent much time in Fairfield County investigating the virtues of oats as an annual forage when they are planted during mid to late summer, or even into early fall. While we’ve harvested from 2 to 5 tons, and consistently realized average yields of 3+ tons of dry matter from oats planted in July and August after a harvested wheat crop, it’s also apparent that yield and quality can vary greatly as planting date, nitrogen fertilization, and perhaps even oat varieties differ from each field planted.
Pasture measurement allows a grazier to determine an estimate of how much forage dry matter (DM) is available in a pasture paddock. Once forage DM is estimated, then the grazier can figure out how many animals can be grazed in that paddock for a given period of time. This is something that experienced graziers gain an eye for over time with practice. For beginning graziers, pasture measurement Continue reading →
Mark Landefeld, OSU Extension Educator, Monroe County
The time of year is quickly approaching when keeping pasture plants in a vegetative state is probably the hardest for forage producers. Managing pasture growth early in the growing season is important to maintain high quality and high quantity forage production throughout the spring, summer and fall. A “spring flush” occurs Continue reading →
The experienced grazier knows that how grass pastures are managed in the fall of the year determines what they have to manage in the spring of the year. While we tend to think of fall as bringing an end to pasture growth, it turns out that this is a critical time for the grass plant.
In fact, for our perennial grass plants, fall is not so much an end as it is a beginning, or at least laying a foundation for a beginning. Although seed production is one way Continue reading →
Fall is an excellent time to complete several pasture related tasks. There are activities a livestock producer should be doing to help the pastures survive winter and remain productive next year.
The first and most important activity is good grazing management. Specifically, keep animals from overgrazing. Overgrazing in the fall could ruin next years forage production. It is more critical now than any other time of the year. Overgrazing is not caused by having too many animals in a field. It occurs Continue reading →
Increased fertilizer, fuel, and equipment costs have made stored forages an expensive commodity. The forage produced in pastures has likewise increased in value. Good pasture management offers the opportunity to lower sheep production costs by utilizing the animal to fertilize and harvest the forage. Often pasture management discussions center around rotational grazing principles. In this article I want to consider another aspect of pasture management. Do your pastures contain the species mix and varieties that will Continue reading →
July and August are critical months to control the internal parasite, Haemonchus contortus in pasture based sheep and goat production. Often producers may find that lambs and kids seem to “stand still” during the summer, with little or no weight gain. There can be several reasons for this situation. Continue reading →
What is lambing like, for your sheep flock, hours per lamb or lambs per hour? The shepherd’s labor and the size of the lambing barn are the two things that limit the size of most Ohio sheep flocks. Pasture-lambing avoids both of these concerns.
Pasture-lambing is the lambing of ewes on pasture where the ewes and newborn lambs bond without being penned or housed. Pasture-lambing works the best in concert with the peak pasture growth. Spring and fall pasture growth can provide the quantity and quality of feed that the ewe will need during the last part of gestation and early lactation. This greatly reduces the feed cost compared Continue reading →
After the dry growing season last year many sheep producers are asking what they could do to improve pasture yields. Other than improving soil fertility there is one thing you can do during the month of May that will improve yields. In fact most experienced graziers I know get pretty fanatical about this task. The task is simple; remove Continue reading →
Raising sheep within a pasture based production system presents the manager with two challenges; internal parasite control and summer slump production of cool season pastures. The use of a warm season annual like sudangrass may offer the pasture based sheep producer a parasite control option while at the same time filling in the forage production slump demonstrated by cool season pastures during the hot summer months. In this article, I’ll draw on some of the results and lessons learned using sudangrass during the summer of 2007 on the Curt Cline farm in Athens County. Continue reading →