Register Now for the Kentucky Grazing conference: Pasture Management to Control Weeds and Improve Production

Header with TitleThe 2017 Kentucky Grazing Conference will focus on pasture management to control weeds and improve  pasture production and will be held: October 17th in Lexington and October 18th in Hopkinsville. The Keynote speaker is Kathy Voth,  who has presented nationally on using grazing to control weeds and is a founding partner and editor of the popular online newsletter “On Pasture.”

Other speakers will discuss management and chemical options to control weeds including: Dr. Chris Teutsch, UK; Dr. Scott Flynn, DOW; Dr. Greg Brann, NRCS; Dr. Michael Flessner, VT; and Bill Payne, retired dairyman. The popular KFGC Forage Spokesperson contest will be held at the Lexington location. Early registration is $40 and ends October 4 or you may choose the value option of conference registration plus a one year KFGC membership for $50. KY Forage and Grassland Council membership is normally $25. Early registration ends October 4th. Exhibitor and sponsorship opportunities are also available.

Register Here


7: 45 am Registration, Exhibits, Silent Auction and Refreshments
8:45 Welcome and Introductions ~ Dr. Ray Smith
9:00 Weed Grazing: Science and Theory ~ Kathy Voth, Livestock for
9:45 Soil Fertility and Grazing Management as Part of an Integrated
Weed Control Program ~ Dr. Chris Teutsch, UK Forage Specialist
10:30 Break and Visit with Sponsors
11:00 Emerging Technologies in Weed Control ~ Dr. Scott Flynn, DOW
11:30 Perspectives from New Zealand ~ Bill Payne, Producer and TSP
11:50 KFGC Business Meeting
12:10 Lunch and Visit with Sponsors
1:00 pm Mixed Species Grazing as Part of an Integrated Weed Control
Program ~ Dr. Greg Brann, Retired NRCS Grazing Specialist
1:30 Herbicides as Part of an Integrated Weed Control Program
~ Dr. Michael Flessner, Virginia Tech Weed Specialist
2:15 Weed Grazing: Putting Science into Practice ~ Kathy Voth, Livestock
for Landscapes
2:45 KFGC Forage Spokesperson Contest
4:00 Discussion
4:15 Turn in Survey and Adjourn


Mid-October is Ideal Time to Plant Small Grains

A group of UK specialists were recently discussing what is the best small grain for high quality forage. The consensus was wheat, since it is widely available and favored by many KY growers for forage.  For dairy or other high producing livestock, you need to harvest at the boot stage (or sooner) to maintain high quality. At this stage protein content and digestibility are high – similar to alfalfa haylage or corn silage.   When harvesting at this early stage, the field can be double-cropped with corn or full season soybeans. It is very difficult to cure early season small grain forages for hay, so most producers preserve as silage or baleage.  Small.PNG

Beef producers growing wheat for forage often graze the crop late winter (early March) and then harvest later in the reproductive growth stage (at the milk to soft-dough stage). At this later stage, yields are much higher, but the forage is said to be nutritionally equivalent to an average hay crop. When grazing wheat or any small grains, make sure to remove cattle once stems begin to elongate if you plan to harvest the regrowth.

Forage yields between wheat varieties vary by over one ton per acre so refer to Table 4 of the 2017 Kentucky Small Grain Variety Performance Test. Ideally, choose a variety that performs well over several years. For example, the 3 year average shows Pioneer26R10 with consistently high forage yields  and also high grain yields. Other varieties that have done well over the past 3 years are: Beck 125; Agrimax 438 DynaGro 9223, DynaGro 9522; Agrimax 454 and VaTech Hilliard. Newer high yielding varieties with only 2 years of test data include: Seed Consultants 13S26, Croplan SRW 9415 and USG 3197.

Nick Roy, Adair County Extension Agent, shared his experiences with local farmers. “I see very few dairy farmers planting cereal rye anymore, unless they are just using it for grazing or cover crop.  Rye has a very small harvest window for high quality.  The most planted crop for us (Adair County) is still wheat.  Cosaque black oats and annual ryegrass are gaining in popularity.  There are now later maturing triticale varieties available, but they seem to have the same quality problems as older varieties, just a few weeks later in the season.  A lot of my farmers who have planted barley have had trouble with Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus.  I seldom see winter oats planted in Adair county because they are not very winter hardy .

Overall, my “go to” recommendation is still wheat.  A certified wheat selected from our forage trials would be ideal, but  many farmers still plant bin run seed. (Note: it is illegal to save seed of some propriety wheat varieties).  If they want higher quality I recommend annual ryegrass.”


Grazing Corn: Valuable Forage for Daviees County Producer


Daviess County farmer Tim Taylor explains how he uses corn for his grazing operation at the recent field day. Over fifty farmers leaned how Taylor uses corn in his stocker/freezer beef operation and as a rotation crop to high quality endophyte-free tall fescue, red clover, annual lespedeza pasture.

Over fifty producers and agri-business professionals attended the 2017 KFGC Field Day. Clint Hardy, the Daviess County Extension agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources facilitated the late afternoon event at Tim Taylor’s farm. Grazing corn and other summer annuals was the focus of the evening.

Educational presentations by Kenny Burdine (UK Ag Economics Specialist), Ray Smith, and Chris Teutsch (UK Forage Specialists) helped producers understand the economics, management and other benefits of grazing these annual crops. Kenny Burdine summarized these topics by saying, “Don’t focus on the up-front costs, focus on future profits. Utilization of what you grow is the key to profitability.”

The highlight of the evening was Tim Taylor leading a discussion on how he uses corn in his grazing operation and in his pasture improvement plan. Tim raises calves on high quality pastures (corn, endophyte-free tall fescue/clover/lespedeza) for CPH sales and for freezer beef. He plants improved forages on the corn ground and rotates the corn to another section of his farm each year. When asked what people say about him grazing corn, Tim laughed and told the group, “People come up to the house all the time and tell me my cows are in the corn!” Refer to UK publication ID-152 “Grazing Corn” for more details.   ~ Dr. Jimmy Henning


Weeds or Wonders?

We often think of pastures as monocultures or simple mixtures of improved cool-season grasses and legumes.   In reality, mature pastures are complex mixtures of many different species including “weedy” grasses and forbs (non-leguminous broadleaves).  So what makes a plant a weed?  Many people consider a plant a weed if it is growing where it was not planted.  For example, a corn plant is a weed if you find it in a soybean field.  For pastures, I like to define a weed as a plant that you cannot get a cow to eat.

We often think of weeds as lowering the nutritive value of pastures, but grazed at the correct growth stage, some weeds can be relatively high in nutritive value (Table 1).  For example, in the vegetative growth stage, pigweed is 73% digestible with a crude protein concentration of more than 20%!  So are weeds really the unsung heroes of pastures?  I am not sure that I would go that far, but having a few weedy grasses or forbs is not the end of the world and may in some cases even be beneficial.


A great example of a beneficial weed is crabgrass.  When I worked at Virginia Tech, I used to say that if it wasn’t for crabgrass and wiregrass (bermudagrass) we would have a lot of hungry cows in Southside VA.  Crabgrass is a summer annual grass that is commonly found in closely grazed cool-season pastures during the summer months.  Although it is an annual, it acts like a perennial through prolific reseeding.  This grass is both highly digestible and palatable.   Recent work in Georgia showed that adding crabgrass to pearl millet increased average daily gain by approximately one-third of pound per day.

It is very important to recognize that some weeds are simply NOT palatable and may even be toxic.

Examples of toxic weeds that can be found in pastures include perilla mint, jimsonweed, and poison hemlock.  Normally, animals will avoid grazing toxic plants unless forage availability is very low.  In cases where toxic or unpalatable weeds are present at high levels in pastures, an application of the proper herbicide at correct the time of the year for the targeted weed species is likely warranted.  However, it is important to recognize that herbicides that are really good at killing broadleaf weeds, will also kill or injure desirable forbs and clover.

Next time you are out in your pasture take a few minutes and watch what your cows are grazing.  They will let you know what they consider is a weed and what is a forage! ~Dr. Chris Teutsch


Successful Establishment of Novel Tall Fescues

Recently, John Thomas hosted a Novel Tall Fescue Field Day to showcase the successful establishment of novel tall fescue on his beef cattle farm in Madison County. Twenty acres were killed using a double application of glyphosate and Texoma MaxQ II tall fescue was drilled in last fall. Today, the field is clean, productive and safe for cattle. Company representatives and extension personnel walked participates through the farm to look at the newly seeded field and discuss how to establish novel fescue on other farms.

Possible Causes of Yellowing Alfalfa

Alfalfa fields may periodically exhibit yellowing of foliage. There are several possible causes for such symptoms.

Leaf spot diseases. During springtime, several leaf spotting diseases–including Lepto leaf spot and summer black stem & leaf spot—are common in alfalfa. Very wet weather in spring and early summer favor activity of leaf spotting diseases in first and second cuttings.  Wet and humid weather during summer favor other leaf spotting and blighting diseases.  In all such cases, leaf spots and blights weaken the plant but alfalfa often outgrows the damage in later cuttings. Maintain a regular cutting schedule, cutting at 30- to 35-day intervals.

Potato leafhopper. Potato leafhoppers are common in Kentucky alfalfa fields. Information on recognition, scouting, and control are available from UK’s Entomology Extension program. See our previous article or your county Extension office.

Soil compaction. Wet soils this spring during preplant operations or hay harvesting operations can result in severe compaction in some fields. Check for soil compaction by digging and examining both root systems and soil structure. If the compaction is so severe that the taproot cannot pass through the compacted zone, yields will be reduced significantly and plowing and replanting might be the only option. Remember, it is much easier to prevent than to alleviate soil compaction.

Potash deficiency. High quality alfalfa removes a large amount of potassium from the soil each year. Soil test K levels should be monitored closely and fertilizer K should be applied whenever it is recommended. It is possible that some plants in your field may exhibit mild potash deficiency symptoms even if potash levels in the soil are adequate, since roots that are limited by compaction and/or root rots will be less effective at taking up potash. Maintaining soil test levels and preventing soil compaction will help to assure maximum productivity and stand longevity.

Root rots. There are a variety of root-rotting diseases of alfalfa that are favored in the saturated soils. The most damaging is Phytophthora root rot; which can attack any part of the root system of plants of any age.  Aphanomyces and Pythium organisms are also known to attack the fine feeder roots of mature plants of alfalfa when soils are saturated. Always select varieties with R or HR ratings to Phytophthora and Aphanomyces root rots when seeding alfalfa in Kentucky.  Unfortunately, there is no known resistance in commercial cultivars to Pythium infection, but improving soil drainage and minimizing soil compaction will help with all three diseases.

Poor nodulation. Check nodulation of new seedings by carefully digging and washing root systems and examining for nodules. Poor nodulation of roots may be the result of root-rot infections or of poor viability of the Rhizobium bacterium on the seed.  If poor viability on the seed is the cause, an inexpensive practice to improve the chances for nodulation can be found at:

Crown rot diseases. Dig plants and cut into the crowns. Those that are showing brown discoloration are exhibiting crown rot.  A variety of soil-boirne fungi can cause crown rot.  Adapted varieties of alfalfa can sometimes recover from crown rots.  However, if severe, crown rots can be a significant problem for long-term health of the stand. Thus, if you see a high frequency of crown rot in a particular field, that is usually a flag to rotate.

Probably the best indication of when to rotate is stand density. Approximate guidelines as to economically acceptable stands from Dr. Garry Lacefield, UK Forage Agronomist, are:

3 crowns per square foot for hay

1 crowns per square foot for grazing

Dr. Lacefield points out that these are approximate guidelines. For example, a beef cattle producer often will meet his/her production goals well with a much lower density of alfalfa crowns than a hay producer. He also indicates that, for the Upper Midwest, for high-quality dairy hay productions, the standards are based on stem density, since this more closely correlates to forage production than crown density.:

55+ stems per square foot: no yield reduction

40-55 per square foot: some yield reduction

Below 40 per square foot: give consideration to replanting

If stands are less than needed for your yield goals, plan a rotation away from alfalfa followed by re-seeding.

~ Drs. Paul Vincelli, Chris Teutsch and Kiersten Wise, revision from an early extension article on this topic by Paul Vincelli and Greg Schwab.