Heart of America Grazing Conference

Join us for the 2019 Heart of America Conference — Kicking the Hay Habit: Optimizing Profitability.  The keynote speaker, Jim Gerrish, is an independent grazing lands consultant providing services to farmers and ranchers on both private and public lands across five continents. With a BS in Agronomy from the University of Illinois and MS in Crop Ecology from University of Kentucky, he served 22 years of beef-forage systems research and outreach while on the faculty of the University of Missouri-Forage Systems Research Center (FSRC). His research encompassed many aspects of plant-soil-animal interactions and provided the foundation for many of the basic principles of Management-intensive Grazing. He was also a co-founder of the very popular 3-day grazing management workshop at FSRC. Aside from his monthly column in The Stockman Grass-Farmer magazine for over 12 years, Gerrish has authored two books on grazing and ranch management – “Management-intensive Grazing: The Grassroots of Grass Farming” published in 2004 and “Kick the Hay Habit: A Practical Guide to Year-Round Grazing” published in 2010. Today, he is an instructor in the University of Idaho’s Lost River Grazing Academy held twice annually near Salmon, ID. He typically speaks at 40 to 50 producer-oriented workshops, seminars, and field days around the US and Canada each year. Register here today.


Register now for Fall Grazing School, Sept. 10-11 in Versailles, KY

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As Dr. Henning suggests, highly successful forage producers invest in themselves. Invest in yourself and your operation by attending the Fall Grazing School, September 10-11 in Versailles KY. Learn valuable grazing methods for new and experienced graziers with the goal to extend the grazing season and minimize stored feed. Topics include rotational grazing, temporary fencing, portable/seasonal water systems, rejuvenating run-down pastures and economics on grazing. Registration is $50 and includes all educational materials and lunch. Register today at https://2019FallKYGrazing.eventbrite.com or contact Rehanon Pampell at 270-365-7541.


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.


Blue-green Algae: Dangerous to Pets and Livestock

Blue-green algae, also called cyanobacteria, are microscopic organisms normally present in aquatic ecosystems, including lakes and ponds. Thousands of species of blue-green algae have been identified; at least 80 are known to produce toxins that can cause illness and death in animals as well as humans. Heavy growth of these toxin-producing algae (“blooms”) can cause high concentrations of toxins in the water. In North America, Anabaena, Aphanizomenon, Oscillatoria, and Microcystis are the species of blue-green algae most commonly associated with poisoning.

In central Kentucky, blooms are most common in late summer and early fall, during hot, sunny weather. Contamination of water with excess nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus, further encourages algal growth. Common sources of excess nutrients include fertilizer runoff from fields, lawns, and gardens, and direct manure and urine contamination from livestock.

Blooms can produce a blue-green sheen on the water surface, or they can be pea-green and thick, like spilled paint. In addition to blue and green, blooms can also be brown or white. They can form scums, slimes, or mats. It is impossible to tell if a bloom is toxic just by its appearance – ALL blooms should be considered potentially toxic.

Blue-green algae can produce neurotoxins (affecting the nervous system) or hepatotoxins (causing liver damage), and some species can produce both types. Neurotoxins can cause muscle tremors, seizures, excessive salivation, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, and death within hours or even minutes of exposure. Hepatotoxins cause vomiting, diarrhea, bloody or dark stool, and pale or jaundiced (yellow) mucus membranes. Animals can die quickly, or they can develop liver failure over several days.

There are no antidotes for blue-green algae toxins, so early decontamination and supportive care can mean the difference between life and death for an exposed animal. If your pet develops these or any other signs after a recent exposure to water, seek immediate veterinary care. It is important to note that this includes exposure to water with no obvious algal bloom. Toxins can persist in the water for a week or longer after the bloom itself has collapsed.

Preventing blue-green algae poisoning in pets and livestock:

  • Provide plentiful clean, clear, fresh water for your animals. Keep water bowls, buckets, and troughs clean and well-maintained.
  • NEVER let your pets (or children) swim in, play in, or drink water that is discolored, slimy, scummy, or otherwise suspicious. Assume any bloom is toxic.
  • Pay attention to local health and water advisories and respect any water body closures. Water that appears clean can still contain high concentrations of toxins.
  • Fence off farm ponds, creeks, and other natural water sources to prevent livestock from contaminating them as well as drinking from them.
  • Fence off backyard ponds and other natural water sources to keep pets from accessing them.
  • Prevent fertilizer and/or manure from running off into water sources.
  • If your pet does access suspicious water, thoroughly wash them with clean, fresh water and prevent them from licking their fur. Wash your own hands and arms after washing your pet, as exposure to blue-green algae can cause skin, eye, nose, and throat irritations in humans.
  • If animals become ill after exposure to a pond, lake, or other natural water source, seek immediate veterinary care – even if the water appeared clean, toxins can still be present. Be sure to tell your veterinarian if your animal might have been exposed to blue-green algae. This can help direct treatment, as many other illnesses can have similar signs.

~ Dr. Megan C. Romano, UK VDL


12 Habits of Highly Successful Forage Producers

In a recent series included in Farmers Pride, Dr. Jimmy Henning spelled out 12 habits of highly successful forage producers:

1) Knowing their soil resource

2) Making sound soil fertility decisions

3) Effectively managing tall fescue

4) Having a well distributed water system

5) Balancing forage utilization intensity with animal requirements

6) Having a workable rotational grazing system

7) Use effective establishment practices

8) Have long grazing seasons

9) Manage for clover

10) Understand clover dynamics in pasture

11) Understand the importance of hay testing

12) Invest in themselves.

~ Dr. Jimmy Henning. You can find the full articles by subscribing to The Farmer’s Pride.


Cover Crops Following Corn Silage

Following corn silage harvest, your ground can lay bare for seven to nine months.  Instead, let’s plant some crops to grow and cover it until next season.

After silage harvest, bare ground has two things working against it.  One is exposure to wind and water erosion.  And two, it isn’t growing anything.  Cover crops might help you overcome both problems.

But what should you plant?  Well, that depends primarily on what you want to achieve with your cover crop.  For example, hairy vetch and winter peas are good cover crops if you want to improve your soil by planting a legume that will produce 30 to 40 pounds of nitrogen per acre for next year’s crop.  Or maybe use a deep-rooted radish to breakup some hardpans.

Are you still hoping for some feed this fall?  Then oats, spring triticale and barley, annual ryegrass, and turnips might be better choices because these plants have the greatest forage yield potential yet this fall.  Spring oats, triticale, and barleys also will die over winter so they won’t interfere with next year’s crop.  But, dead residue from these spring cereals is not very durable, so it provides less effective soil protection and for a shorter duration.

For better soil protection, winter rye is the best choice among the cereals.  And cereal rye can provide abundant grazable growth early next spring to get cows off of hay sooner.  Wheat and triticale also can be good cover crops.  Of course, wheat then can be harvested later for grain while triticale makes very good late spring forage.

What is becoming especially popular is planting a mixture of several types of plants to reap some of the Cover crops can preserve or even improve your soil, and can be useful forages as well.  Consider them following your early harvests. ~ Bruce Anderson, Hay and Forage Grower