Kim and Rob Weber of Weber’s Retired Horses will be hosting an equine field day on September 5th. The Weber’s were a demonstration farm for a resource conservation grant beginning in 2017 and will be showcasing the improvements on their farm. Topics include Feeding From the Inside Out, Using Cost Share to Reduce Overgrazing, Establishing Horse Pastures and Maintaining a Healthy Horse. This event is free and a meal will be provided.
Hay buyers discriminate against brown or discolored hay even though it may have high feeding value. Sometimes hay harvested at early maturity has been discolored by rain or lying too long in the sun before baling. This hay may have higher nutritive value than late-cut stemmy hay that has a bright green color. The only way to determine the feeding value of hay is to conduct a forage analysis. Forage-Livestock Quotes and Concepts, vol. 2 is available online.
Legumes such as clovers and alfalfa make immeasurable contributions to forage agriculture – yield, nutritional quality and improved animal gains. Astoundingly they do all these things while supplying themselves with nitrogen converted (‘fixed’) from the air via their root nodules.
Managing grass-legume stands over time presents farmers with tough questions, such as ‘do I have enough clover to withhold nitrogen?’ Another common question is whether to control broadleaf weeds when doing so will likely take out the clover. University experts commonly recommend withholding N-fertilizer from mixed stands when legumes make up 25% of the stand. I have said it myself. But it is not much of an answer, and this has bothered me for years.
Here are some important findings from the PhD of Dr. Chuck West:
- Legumes do fix large amounts of N, but the highest numbers are from grass-white clover stands in temperate regions with long growing seasons and near ideal growing conditions.
- The amount of N fixed per season shared directly with companion grasses is between 20 to 50 lb/N/A/year, a fraction of total N fixed.
- White clover turns over more N during the growing season because it sloughs root nodules every time it is defoliated. Nodule sloughing is the main way fixed legume N is released directly to the organic soil N pool. This pool is converted to nitrate-N which can be used by the companion grass. In contrast, alfalfa does not slough nodules after harvest. In fact, alfalfa only sloughs its nodules at the end of the growing season.
- The N benefit to the companion grass is more closely related to legume growth and yield in the previous rather than current year (read this again, I had to).
- Adding N to mixed stands increases yield by increasing the yield of the grass (in other words, the grass is not getting enough N in mixed stands).
Fixed N absorbed by the grass increases as legume yield per acre increases AND as stands get older. This yield increase in the grass is due to the buildup of the soil N from the sloughing of N-fixing nodules and legume residue decomposition over multiple years (and from the manure and urine of cattle grazing legumes in pastures).
Another, somewhat controversial ‘so what’ – Grasses in mixed stands are going to be N-limited, guaranteed. Therefore, nitrogen application to mixed stands can be justified (from increased grass yield), even those with good legume content.
Don’t confuse this with N application in the establishment year for clover. Nitrogen should not be applied while clover is trying to become established in existing grass.
What about weeds? Still a tough question. But the downside of clover loss when broadleaf herbicides are used is mitigated by the release of N from the killed legume. The companion grass gets the double benefit of weed removal and a burst of N.
Focusing solely on modest rates of N transfer directly from legume to grass is missing the point, especially in pastures. Most (90% plus) of the nitrogen consumed by the grazing animal is returned in manure and urine.
So legumes are still good and desirable and vital in forage systems, even if they do present some management dilemmas. Producing economic yields in mixed stands means keeping legumes present in high quantities (even 30 to 50%) by weight, year after year. ~ Dr. Jimmy Henning, excerpt from Farmers Pride article, June 20, 2019. Read the full article here.
After being brought to the forefront by studies done at the Noble Research Institute (Ardmore, Okla.), crabgrass began gaining favor as a high-quality forage alternative. Many farmers are now considering it for improving summer pastures.
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 to 5 tons of dry matter per acre. Crabgrass hay is typically better quality than other summer annuals such as bermudagrass and pearl millet, and an Arkansas study showed common crabgrass retains its quality even as the plant continues to mature.
Jennings also suggests using nitrogen fertilization when needed. Apply it in two applications of 50 to 60 pounds per acre.
Crabgrass works well as a forage before fall planted small grains such as cereal rye and wheat. The small grains provide forage for late fall into spring, and the crabgrass fills in during the summer and early fall to provide high-quality forage.
Jennings recommends light tillage when the cereal forage is done being grazed on in the spring. This improves seed germination and promotes better volunteer crabgrass stands for the summer.
Crabgrass responds well to rotational grazing. Begin grazing when it is 4 to 6 inches tall, which typically occurs 40 days after seedling emergence. According to Jennings, crabgrass is palatable and animals in a new pasture tend to graze on it first. However, Jennings notes, “Crabgrass becomes very unpalatable after a killing frost and is usually avoided by animals grazing. Plan to use grazeable forage before frost occurs.”
Jennings recommends cutting crabgrass for hay in the boot to heading stage (normally 18 to 24 inches high), which will allow for at least two harvests per year. Regrowth is supported by remaining leaves and not by stored root and crown reserves, so avoid cutting crabgrass lower than 3 inches. ~ Michaela King, Hay and Forage Grower. Read the full article here.
The Fall Kentucky Grazing School will be held at the Woodford County Extension Office and the C. Oran Little Research Center in Versailles, KY on September 10-11, 2019. The highlight of the Grazing School is always the hands-on components including: setting up temporary fence and water systems, determining stocking rate, measuring forage, forage ID and more. Registration is only $50 and includes educational materials, transportation to and from the research farm and lunches. Space is still available, register online or download the form from the UK Forage website and mail a check.