Forage Timely Tips: December

  • Begin utilizing stockpiled pastures.  Graze pastures with orchardgrass and clovers first.  Save tall fescue pastures for late winter grazing. 
  • Using polywire, strip graze stockpiled pastures to improve Utilization.  Start at the water source and allocate enough forage to for 2-3 days.   Back fencing is not necessary.
  • Make plans to frost seed red and white clover onto closely grazed tall fescue pastures in February. 
  • Some hay can be fed as stockpiled grass is grazed to stretch grasss. 
  • Begin hay feeding as stockpiled forage is used up.
  • Supplement hay as needed. 
  • Minimizing waste by utilizing ring feeders. 

Water and Rotational Grazing

Water is the most important nutrient for livestock. Dry matter intake is directly related to water intake; the less an animal drinks, the less feed it will consume. Access to water is an essential component for rotational grazing systems. Water and water location influence dry matter intake, average daily gains, pasture utilization and nutrient distribution from manure and urine.

The rumen of cattle is a fermentation vat on legs, with a capacity of 40 gallons or more in mature cows. Adequate water is essential for the microbes in the rumen to digest the fiber in forages.

Water placement and access is key to a successful rotational grazing system. Water location, especially distance to water drives dry matter intake, improves forage utilization and helps manure and urine to be more evenly distributed.

Water location has a bigger influence on rotational grazing systems than you might realize. Ideally water should be in every paddock and animals should not have to walk more than 800 feet to drink.

Research at the Forage Systems Research Center in Missouri measured the utilization of forage within a paddock at different distances from water. Pasture utilization was very high at less than 200 feet to water, fairly uniform from 200 to 800 feet, and less at further distances. Water location and grazing intensity will greatly influence nutrient distribution in pastures. In another Missouri study, manure piles were concentrated near water and shade, and few were deposited further than about 700 feet from water, except as influenced by shade.

In summary, having well-distributed water points in a grazing system will result in more uniform and increased percentage forage utilization as well as better distribution of mature and urine. ~ Dr. Jimmy Henning, for Farmer’s Pride.

Alliance for Grassland Renewal Annouces dates for 2021 Workshops

An online, three night Novel Tall Fescue Renovation Workshop will be held February 23-25, and is open to producers across the US who are interested in learning more about toxic and novel tall fescue endophytes. In person trainings will be held in Athens, GA (March 18), Mt. Vernon, MO (March 23), and Lexington, KY (March 25).

Workshops focus on several topics, including understanding the negative effects of toxic endophyte tall fescue on livestock, managing toxic pastures to reduce undesired effects, methods to replace toxic with novel endophyte varieties, management after establishment of a novel endophyte tall fescue system, seed quality and testing, farm-level economics of removing and replacing toxic with novel endophyte tall fescues, and accessing financial  assistant programs to assist in fescue transitions. Local producers who have made the transition are also asked to share their person experiences. For in person workshops, hands on activities will include a live microscope demonstration of the endophyte, calibrating a seed drill, and touring  demonstration plots of each of the commercially available novel endophyte varieties. The online workshop will include all of these aspects, duplicating the same educational experience wherever possible. 

All workshops will require advanced registration and payment, available soon at In person workshops will follow all current federal, state, and local COVID restrictions and are subject to cancelation with full refunds to participants. Seating is limited. Requested continuing education credits include AAVSB RACE CE and Certified Crop Advisor CEUs.  Sponsorships opportunities are available. For more information, please contact us at Stay up to date on all activities of the Alliance for Grassland Renewal by signing up for a monthly e-newsletter, Novel Notes at httsp://

Alfalfa Consolidation Rules of the Day

The alfalfa seed industry has gone through a massive makeover in the past 20 years. There are significantly fewer seed marketers and breeding programs, precious few university testing trials. This consolidation provides both positives and negatives for the alfalfa producer. The remaining breeding programs are all first-class entities with highly skilled individuals making cultivar selections. They wouldn’t have survived otherwise.

On a negative note, there is less competition and brand choices for the farmer. Many brands have simply fallen along the proverbial roadside.

The greatest challenge in the variety selection game is that university performance trials have become few and far between. There was a day when many universities were testing 30 to 40 varieties per year, but those days are gone. This has occurred for several reasons:

· Program managers either left or retired, and their positions weren’t filled.

· Companies preferred not to enter their varieties.

· The expense of running or entering trials was too great given economic constraints.

The result of fewer third-party testing programs is that producers must now find out in real time if a variety is a top performer or not, at least relative to other brand options. This situation is likely not to change.

Even with significant industry consolidation and fewer variety trials, there is still money to be made by devoting some time to alfalfa variety selection. There remain some

foundational selection concepts that are as true today as they have ever been. In fact, there may be more. Here’s my list:

1) Get data if you can, but that’s becoming more difficult with fewer university trials and very little on-farm testing.

2) Don’t select based only on one trait. This is always a recipe for disaster and is akin to picking your spouse based solely on hair color.

3) Consider fall dormancy. Fall dormancy rating is still an important consideration for both yield and forage quality. The trend is toward higher fall dormancy ratings with fast regrowth potential and exceptional winter survival.

4) Yield still matters. Forage yield remains the key factor to a profitable alfalfa enterprise. A modest 1/4 ton (dry matter) per acre yield advantage equates in value to 13 to 17 bushels per acre of corn.

5) Seed cost is easy to recover with enhanced performance. Unlike an annual crop such as corn, added alfalfa seed cost doesn’t have to be recovered in one year. The real “cost” of seed is not reflected in the purchase price alone.

Seeding an inferior-yielding variety, regardless of price, means that long-term costs of production are higher per ton of forage produced. Generally speaking, advanced genetics and performance are going to cost more money. Conversely, cost is always a consideration when choosing between comparable varieties. ~ Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower, Oct. 2020. Read the full article here.

Forage Timely Tips: October

  • Using a plate meter or grazing stick, estimate stockpile available for winter grazing. 
  • Adjust animal numbers or purchase additional hay to balance forage-feed supply to livestock needs. 
  • Graze crop residues and cover crops that will not overwinter.  Be careful to avoid fields that contain johnsongrass. 
  • Graze winter annuals that will not overwinter such as brassics and oats. 
  • Graze other winter annuals once they are 6-8 inches tall and are well anchored.  Do NOT graze closer to 4 inches. 
  • Sugar content will rise in tall fescue with the cool temperatures and short days of fall. Alkaloid content of tall fescue can also be high in come years, but will begin decline after a hard freeze.
  • Talk with local conservationist about developing a grazing plan and cost-share opportunities. 

Sericea – The No-Respect Legume

Sericea lespedeza is a legume that does not get any respect. It can be an invasive, woody and completely useless plant that livestock refuse to eat. While, I agree that a lot of sericea’s negative reputation is duly earned,  I have recently had a change of heart. Hear me out, I have not lost my mind. What follows are six reasons why sericea might deserve a little more respect.

Photo by Dr. Jimmy Henning

1. Sericea is a perennial taprooted legume that grows well in the middle of the summer. That puts it in a pretty exclusive club.

2. Sericea can persist on acidic, low fertility sites. Sericea is commonly grown on reclaimed mine sites where the soil is extremely acidic, infertile and very droughty. It can be seen growing on gravelly road cuts and other similar areas across Kentucky. It is a very tough plant.

3. There are improved varieties of sericea (like AU-Lotan, Serala and AU-Grazer) that have been selected for lower tannin and finer stems which can support good cattle gains. In a comparison of 37 multi-year grazing studies in Alabama, pure stands of sericea lespedeza were three of the top ten forages for lowest pasture cost per pound of gain. These studies were with Serala and AU-Lotan.

4. The process of field curing of sericea greatly drops the tannin content. Cattle which will avoid sericea pasture will readily consume the same forage cured for hay.

5. Sericea cures quickly and can make good hay. Sometimes called the poor man’s alfalfa, sericea hay is palatable to livestock because the tannin levels decline significantly during field curing. After reading number 6 below, you can see where you might have a ready market for this hay with sheep and goat producers.

6. If you raise sheep or goats, you may already know about the super power of sericea lespedeza. All forms of sericea, from hay, pelleted formulations, silage and pasture have a de-worming effect when fed to small ruminants. Managing internal parasites with small ruminants is difficult because they can graze very close to ground and they can develop resistance to the few de-worming products labeled for small ruminants. The erect growth habit of sericea is also beneficial in managing internal parasites because fewer parasitic stomach worm larvae will crawl up into the elevated grazing zone of sheep and goats.

Sericea lespedeza is not about to knock clover or alfalfa off the gold medal podium when it comes to Kentucky’s most valuable legume. But now you know why it may walk with more of a swagger.

Pub of the Month: Cyanide Poisoning in Ruminants (ID-220)

Prussic acid, cyanide, or hydrocyanic acid are all terms relating to the same toxic substance. Hydrogen cyanide was first isolated from a blue dye (Prussian blue) and because of its acidic nature it became known by the common name “prussic acid.” Cyanide is one of the most rapidly acting toxins that affect cattle. Download the full publication here. Contact your local county agent for more info and for testing options.

Agenda Set for 2020 Kentucky Grazing Conferences

This year’s Kentucky Grazing Conference will be held virtually in three sessions from 6-8pm on October 27, 28 and 29th with a theme of Adapting to Change: Designing Resilient Forage-Livestock Systems. Presentations include:

October 27

· Managing Soil Fertility in Uncertain Times—Jimmy Henning

· Selecting Forage Species for a Changing Environment—Jesse Ramer

· Managing Risk in Forage-Livestock Enterprises—Kenny Burdine

October 28

· **Keynote Speaker** Selecting and Managing Livestock for Changing Conditions—Johnny Rogers, Producer, NCSU Amazing Grazing Coordinator and Past President of the Red Angus Association 

· Forage Spokesperson Contest

October 29

· Using What the Good Lord Gave Us—Chris Teutsch

· USDA-ARS Forage-Livestock Research Update—Brittany Harlow

· Fifty Years of Change: Observation of an Old Geezer—Bill Payne

Click here for more information or to register.