Fall Grazing Conference Oct. 26 & 27: Profitable Grazing Systems from the Soil Up

Livestock producers have two opportunities this fall to learn more about profitable grazing systems. KFGC and the UK Master Grazer Program will offer the Kentucky Fall Grazing Conference Oct. 26 in Leitchfield and Oct. 27 in Winchester. “This year we are looking forward to some excellent speakers from UK, Missouri and as far away as Idaho,” said Chris Teutsch. “Profitable ruminant livestock production systems  include the soil, plant, and animal and conference participants are going to hear from experts specializing in all three!”

Ray Archuleta will speak about the living portion of the soil at both events. Archuleta is certified professional soil scientist with the Soil Science Society of America with more than 30 years of experience as a soil conservationist, water quality specialist, and conservation agronomist with the NRCS. During his tenure with the NRCS, he served in NM, MO, OR, and NC. After his retirement from the NRCS in 2017, he founded Understanding Ag, LLC, and Soil Health Academy. He also owns and operates a 150-acre farm near Seymour, Missouri with his wife and family.

Jim Gerrish, an independent grazing lands educator, consultant, and writer from Idaho, will speak about the role of extended grazing in profitable ruminant livestock operations. He currently lives in the Pahsimeroi Valley in central Idaho and works with numerous ranchers using both irrigated pastures and native rangeland.

Gerrish also works with livestock farmers in high natural rainfall environments. His experience includes more than 22 years of beef-forage systems research and outreach at  the University of Missouri. The University’s Forage Systems Research Center rose to national prominence because of his leadership. His research encompassed many aspects of plant-soil-animal interactions and provided a foundation for many of the basic principles of management-intensive grazing.

Kentucky speakers include UK beef specialist Les Anderson, UK agricultural economist Greg Halich, Adair county Ag agent Nick Roy and Adair County farmer Fred Thomas. Topics include right-sizing cows for profit, grazing myths and hay feeding strategies to build grazing system fertility.

Events begin at each location with registration at 7:30 a.m. local time and runs until 3:15 p.m. Participants should preregister for the events. Advance registration is $35 per person; day-of registration is $50 per person and students’ registration is $15. Use the following links to register: https://2022GrazingLeitchfield.eventbrite.com; https://2022GrazingWinchester.eventbrite.com. 

~Aimee Nielson, aimee.nielson@uky.edu

Forage Timely Tips: October

* Feed hay to allow cool-season pastures to accumulate forage growth for winter grazing.  * Do NOT harvest or graze alfalfa fields until after killing frost (<26 degrees).
* Inventory and test each hay lot for nutritive value and consult a nutritionist to design a supplementation program as needed. 
* Remove ruminants from pastures that contain sorghum species when frost is expect to avoid prussic acid poisoning (forage sorghums, sorghum-sudangrass hybrids, sudangrass, and johnsongrass). Even small patches of johnsongrass that have been frosted can be toxic. Leave off until plants have dried down.
* Begin strip grazing early planted small grain and brassica (turnips and rape) mixes late this month.

Developing a Herbicide Tolerant Red Clover for Kentucky

Adding red clover into grass-based pastures has many benefits but red clover is highly susceptible to herbicides, such as 2,4-D, used for broadleaf weed management in pastures.  In 2005, Dr. Norman Taylor began a project to create a 2,4-D tolerant red clover for Kentucky by crossing a 2,4-D tolerant red clover line from the University of Florida with Kenland red clover.  Dr. Mike Barrett took over responsibility for the project when Dr. Taylor retired.  Over the next 9 years, the progeny from this cross were subject to further selection, treating them with ever higher rates of 2,4-D and preserving the best survivors.  To test the 2,4-D tolerance of the resulting red clover line, designated as UK2014, his research group conducted a field test comparing the 2,4-D tolerance of UK2014 to Kenland. 

While UK2014 is clearly more 2,4-D tolerant than Kenland, Dr. Barrett wanted to see if further selection, under very severe pressure (dipping plants into a 2,4-D solution), could raise the tolerance of UK2014 to 2 Lb. per acre of 2,4-D. Plants grown from seed of plants which survived this treatment through 2 rounds and are currently being grown in the field by Ray Smith and Gabriel Roberts to increase the seed from the selected population.  This involves growing the plants in cages to prevent cross-pollination from other red clover,  introducing bumble bees (the preferred bee species for pollinating red clover) to the cages, and harvesting the seed produced.  Initial greenhouse trials indicate the new selection is more 2,4-D tolerant than UK2014 and, when additional seed is available, this will be tested in field trials. ~ Dr. Mike Barrett

Fall grazing sins impact future forage growth

No time is a good time to abuse pastures by overgrazing, shortening rest periods, or overstocking, but fall is an especially bad time for such agrarian offenses. “Management decisions made during the fall affect the ability of the plants to overwinter, determine when new growth is initiated in the spring, and impacts how much total forage growth will be produced over the following season,” says Gene Pirelli, professor emeritus in animal and rangeland sciences with Oregon State University.

Spring Regrowth on Sod dug from a rested pasture and overgrazed pasture (the full timelapse video is available on the KY Forages YouTube Channel under the Timelapse Forage Video Playlist)

When pastures are overgrazed or subjected to excessive forage harvesting in the fall, it inhibits root system rebuilding and the formation of shoots for spring growth. Pirelli explains that roots regenerate in the fall while potential new shoots are also in the process of forming. Plants need time to store carbohydrates to ensure long-term forage production.

“The lower stems or crown, rather than the roots, are the major storage unit of complex carbohydrates in perennial grasses,” Pirelli states. “The new root system will take up water from the soil plus important nutrients that nurture those new growing points. Both plant systems must work together to sustain pasture growth in the next grazing season.”

The actual time it takes for new root growth varies depending upon the amount of moisture from irrigation or rainfall, daylength, and the residual stubble height. New plant roots are evident if plants are dug up and washed free of any soil. The new roots will be white, variable in length, and originate from the crown.

Plant growing points develop in the fall, which provide next spring’s forage growth. Pirelli contrasts these young grass shoots, or tillers, to human babies — both need a steady supply of nutrients and protection from stress. In the fall, nutrients are supplied from the previous season’s tillers, which have stored carbohydrates in the bottom 3 to 4 inches of the plant. The existing tillers are often dormant and brown during fall — but not dead — and their storage function is critical. The older tillers also provide physical protection to the new tillers.

If pastures are grazed or mowed lower than a 3- to 4-inch stubble height in the fall, the plant’s carbohydrate reserves are reduced, and the new tillers are robbed of their food source. Also, the new tillers are exposed to weather extremes. Overgrazing also slows or stops root formation, and in the following spring, the new tillers  grow slower and have fewer roots for needed nutrients.

Grass species vary in how sensitive they are to grazing or cutting height. The following recommendations provide a minimum residual height for some common grass species: Orchardgrass and Tall Fescue: 3 to 4 inches; KY Bluegrass: 2 to 3 inches; Perennial ryegrass: 2 inches; Timothy: 4 to 6 inches.

~Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower. Go to hayandforage.com for more articles.

If you stockpile, then do this

Stockpiling forage for late fall and winter grazing has rightfully become a widely accepted practice. It’s not difficult to find producers “border-to-border and coast-to-coast” employing this practice, although the type of forage may differ. To get full benefit from stockpiled forage, regardless of species used, it’s also universally accepted to strip graze rather than just open a gate to the wide-open spaces. One often-cited Missouri research trial found that giving cows enough forage for three days instead of 14 days resulted in a 40% boost in grazing days per acre.

Using strip grazing can result in forage utilization values of over 80%, not counting a 3-inch residual. Achieving such efficiency levels will help keep a lot of purchased or produced hay from being fed. As a general rule, warm-season grasses or mixed-legume stands need to be strip-grazed first. These forage types tend to lose quality fastest after several killing frosts.

Tall fescue, although it will lose some quality through the winter, seems to hold up the best. As when strip grazing is used during the summer, the practice nearly eliminates animal selectivity.

Strip grazing takes some planning. It works best to start closest to the water source and then work across the field. Set up posts and polywire (or a fence wheel) across the field to allocate enough forage for one to three days. The shorter the time allotment, the higher the forage utilization will be. Nutrient spreading from manure will also be more uniform.

With no additional growth in the winter, most producers do not utilize a back fence to keep cattle off previously grazed areas. This also allows animals to utilize a single water source. As many beginning strip grazers have learned by experience, it is a good idea to set a second polywire for the next move ahead of the current one. In other words, as one length of polywire comes down, there should already be another one in place.

Given the modern state of fence technology, putting up and taking down a strand of polywire requires a relatively small amount of time. The economic return in terms of much greater forage utilization and grazing days is hard to dispute. It also offers the opportunity to keep a close eye on cattle during the winter months. ~ Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower.

Upcoming Events

October 3-6 – Eastern Native Grass Symposium, Louisville |

October 26-27 – KY Grazing conferences, Leitchfield and Winchester, KY |

November 1 & 3 – KY Fencing Schools, Lebanon and Manchester, KY |

Nov 2-3 – MO Forage and Grassland/Heart of America Grazing Conference, Springfield, MO |

November 14-17 World Alfalfa Congress, San Diego, CA |

Feb 21, 2023 – KY Alfalfa and Stored Forage Conference, Cave City, KY |

May 14-19, 2023 – International Grassland Congress, Covington , KY |

Fall Fencing School Registration is Now Open

This fall, the University of Kentucky will host two regional fencing schools to help livestock producers learn about the newest and most sound techniques to build fences. The schools are Nov. 1 at the Marion County Cooperative Extension Office in Lebanon and Nov. 3 at the Clay County Cooperative Extension office in Manchester. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. EDT. Classes throughout the day include fencing construction basics, fencing types, costs, fencing laws and more.  

Chris Teutsch points out that one of the main goals of this school is to teach people basic fence construction. Then they can build a strong, long-lasting fence that will last 25 or 30 years, or if they decide to hire a contractor to build it for them, they will at least know what a well-built fence looks like.

UK specialists and fencing industry experts will teach producers how to install both fixed-knot, woven wire fencing and smooth electrified, high-tensile fencing.  

Participants will learn through a combination of classroom sessions and hands-on demonstrations. If producers choose to participate in cost-share programs, they can use the skills learned to construct fences that meet Natural Resources Conservation Service specifications. 

Each school costs $30 person and has a 30-participant limit. Organizers urge producers to sign up early. The registration fee includes morning refreshments, a catered lunch, a fencing notebook, safety glasses and hearing protection. To sign up, visit http://www.forages.ca.uky.edu/events. The registration deadline is two weeks before each workshop. 

Forage Timely Tips: September

– If not already done, soil sample and apply fertilizer as needed.
– Plant perennial grasses and legumes. Consider using a novel endophyte tall fescue. 
– Harvest hay as needed.  Do NOT harvest alfalfa after mid-September.
– Scout pastures, identify perennial weeds and woody brush.  Consult an agricultural professional to determine the control strategy.
– Closely monitor livestock and do NOT overgraze. Pasture plants accumulate energy reserves in the fall that help them overwinter and regrow in the spring. 
– Feed hay to allow pastures to stockpile for winter grazing. 
– Rest native warm-season grass fields until after frost for better winter survival.