KFGC Forage Spokesperson Contest

      The KY Forage and Grassland Council hosts an annual Forage Spokesperson Contest. This contest allows producers to share with others what they are doing on their operations in regards to forages- struggles, successes, etc., in a 15 minute presentation. The winner of the KFGC contest moves on to the American Forage and Grassland Council’s contest, located in Savannah, GA for 2021. The KFGC contest is held in conjunction with the KY Grazing Conference. If you are interested in participating in the contest, or you would like to nominate someone, please contact Heather Graham at heather.graham@uky.edu or 606-495-1026.

To Spray or Not To Spray

Here are some guidelines that help me formulate a weed control plan. I will be the first to admit this is a highly subjective set of guidelines or suggestions.

Would you spray this field? Tough question to weigh the value of a good stand of vigorous red clover (18 inches tall) compared to freedom from ironweed (24 inches tall). The decision to spray is a subjective process depending on many factors, including weed pressure, invasiveness and/or toxicity of the weed, cost of the control measure, forage value of the weed and its life cycle, and the ability to restore the pasture stand.

Non-chemical control – Farmers have other options besides spraying herbicide. Sometimes the best approach is to use cultural practices or grazing management to strengthen the forage crop and deal with the weed. Ragweed and some thistles are common examples. The UK publication AGR 207 ‘Controlling Broadleaf Weeds in Kentucky Pastures’ evaluates the effectiveness of mowing as a weed management tool for many of our problem pasture weeds.

The Clover Dilemma – A vigorous stand of red clover would be worth protecting in all but the worst weed infestations. A stand of small, white dutch clover probably not. And remember that some new herbicide formulations will take out broadleaves without killing clover. Proclova ® is one example.

Annuals – With annual weeds, it is usually best to first try to thicken up the forage stand. Annuals are opportunistic; they germinate and grow when forage stands get sparse. Addressing lime, P and K needs and strategic use of nitrogen fertilizer are some of the most powerful tools to shift the advantage to the desirable forage. Implementing rotational grazing and maintaining good residual heights on the base grass will help suppress the onset of these weeds.

Toxic and invasive plants – Toxic and invasive weeds will often necessitate the use of herbicides. The cost/benefit ratio of using chemical control is influenced greatly by the threat of loss of livestock and the loss of value due to their presence in hay.

Cash hay vs pasture – Some weeds can be tolerated or even be beneficial in pasture that would warrant herbicide application in a cash hay crop. For example, johnsongrass and crabgrass are highly palatable forages that benefit summer pastures but are not welcome in hay intended for high end horse markets.

Weed growth stage matters – Weeds are most easily controlled when they are green and actively growing. For perennials like ironweed, time herbicide applications so that plants are young and vegetative. Often that means timely mowing in mid-summer to knock them back and following up with herbicide in two or three weeks.

Replant strategy – A plan to spray almost always requires a plan to replant because when the weed is gone, mother nature will insert another one. Refer to the label for the proper re-seeding interval.

The decision to spray herbicide on pastures and hayfields is complicated. The decision to spray is a subjective process depending on many factors, including the visual assessment of the weed pressure, the invasiveness and/or toxicity of the weed, the cost of the control measure, the forage value of the weed and its life cycle, and the ability to restore the pasture stand. Don’t forget that the best first step is to thicken up the existing stand of forage. Happy foraging. ~ Dr. Jimmy Henning, Farmer’s Pride, August 2020. Subscribe to The Farmer’s Pride to read the full article.

Novel Endophyte Tall Fescue Seed Availability This Fall

Fear not, novel endophyte tall fescue seed will be available soon. Almost all novel endophyte seed will be from the new crop to make sure it is fresh and that the endophyte is viable.  Most of this seed is grown in Oregon and harvested during July.  The seed is then cleaned and sampled for quality control analysis under the guidelines and standards of the state of Oregon and the Alliance for Grassland Renewal.  Once quality is verified, which can take up to a month, the seed is packaged and shipped to dealers. 

So, if you plan to plant Novel Endophyte Tall Fescue and have heard seed is not yet available, fear not, the seed is in the pipeline and quality and supply look good.   Most varieties are now ready to ship to distributors and dealers, so call your seed dealer and ask them to order your seed today.  Options this year include Jesup MaxQII, Texoma MaxQII, and Lacefield MaxQII from Pennington Seed; Estancia with Arkshield from Mountain View Seeds; Martin2 Protek and Tower Protek from DLFPickseed; and BarOptima E34 from Barenbrug Seeds.    There looks to be an ample supply, but some specific varieties might be a little tight.  If you expect to plant, talk to your advisors and make your variety selection, and then get your seed ordered soon to make sure you can get what you want. 

Learn more about the Alliance for Grassland Renewal here. To stay up to date on all things regarding novel endophyte tall fescue, sign up for the Alliance for Grassland Renewal’s monthly e-newsletter, Novel Notes, here. ~ Matt Poore, Alliance for Grassland Renewal.

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. 

Cool-Season Annuals Drive Profits

Average weaning weights for cattle in the Southeast have lagged behind those in the Midwest for many years. But that trend has reversed in recent years. The reason, according to University of Arkansas researcher Paul Beck, is because cattle in the Southeast can graze nearly year-round, but to do so, cool-season annuals such as cereal grains and ryegrass have to be a part of the system.

Cereal grains, before jointing, contain 25 to 30 percent crude protein. Sixty percent of the total nitrogen is soluble nitrogen, which means it’s available in the rumen almost as soon as the animal consumes it.

The total digestible nutrients (TDN) in young, vegetative cereal forages during late fall and early spring can range from 75 to 80 percent. “These forages are providing nutrition that is equal to or greater than a feedlot finisher ration in terms of net energy of maintenance and gain,” Beck said. “So, when we put cattle on these wheat pastures at this time of year, it’s a high-energy diet.”

Quality is highest in the fall and spring, but at no time up to the reproductive phase are the energy and protein concentrations going to limit performance for grazing cattle. Cereal forage users should expect cattle to gain 2.5 to 2.75 pounds per day if the pasture is fully utilized.

For determining an initial fall stocking rate that will maximize average daily gain, Beck’s rule of thumb is 5 pounds of forage dry matter per pound of animal body weight. This will change through winter and spring. For the entire fall-winter grazing season, he said it’s actually about 3.5 pounds of forage dry matter per pound of animal body weight. ~ Mike Rankin, excerpt from Hay and Forage Grower, Dec. 2019. Read the full article here.

What is a Dung Beetle?

Dung beetles are biologically classified as members of the order Coleoptera which includes all true beetles. They have rounded features and hardened forewings that usually have pronounced, parallel ridges. Their front legs are often modified for digging. Most dung beetles have a shiny appearance and may be black, brown, or green in color. These creatures tend to be on the smaller side, rarely larger than 1.5 inches, however some dung beetles can grow to be over three inches long! ~ Read the full article by PSS graduate student Jordyn Bush here!

Dung beetle photo taken in Taiwan, Allomyrina dichotoma. Credit: Frantisek Bacovsky

Quote of Month: Technology is On the Rise

It is amazing how many forage-livestock mangers have a smartphone and use it. We are living now in a technological age of google searches, Facebook communications, amazon orders and smartphones. There is instant communication through hone, text and email as well as apps that provide real-time weather predictions and radar, varieties with value-added precision farming, step-in electric fences with solar panels supplying the power, drones, etc. The list is seemingly endless. The question is which ones to use and how can they make any operation more profitable and productive. Order your copy of Forage-Livestock Quote and Concepts, vol. 2, today at https://forages.ca.uky.edu/content/forage-books.

Fall Overgrazing Can Be Double Trouble

Essentially, overgrazing is function of both time on the pasture and time away from the pasture. What is known for sure is that overgrazing is detrimental to pasture productivity and, ultimately, livestock performance. Here’s why:

1) Removing too much of the photosynthetic factory (leaves) severely limits the plant’s ability to recover and regrow. Overgrazed plants regrow slowly; if rotations do not allow enough time to reach a grazeable height, these stressed plants are doubly damaged by the next grazing cycle.

2) The plant’s ability to grow new tillers is compromised when plants are routinely grazed too short. Some species keep their carbohydrate reserves in structures below ground, others keep them in the lower one-third of the canopy. Removing these storage structures limits the plant’s capacity to generate new tillers and persist long term.

3) Weeds proliferate when overgrazing occurs. Slowed plant growth and more exposed soil usually result in higher populations of undesirable weed species.

4) Plant root growth is severely impacted. Research studies show that overgrazed pastures result in plants that have shallower root systems with less mass. The lower root volume limits the plant’s ability to take up both water and nutrients, especially during periods of dry weather. Not leaving enough forage residual can cause drought-like conditions even where adequate amounts of rainfall are received.

5) Overgrazing exposes more of the soil surface allowing for a higher degree of runoff, less water infiltration, more soil erosion, and elevated levels of evaporation. Adequate forage cover intercepts raindrops, which slows impact at the soil interface and enhances water infiltration.

6) Animal performance suffers as forage intake declines when pastures are overgrazed. Milk production or gain can be impacted both short and long term if pastures are not given an adequate recovery period after being overgrazed.

~ Mike Rankin, excerpt from Hay and Forage Grower, August 2020. Read the full article here.