Quote of the Month: Use Wisely What You Have

Any given ranch, farm or field has a unique set of opportunities that are determined by climate, soils, water and topography. These are difficult, expensive or impossible to change. While soil fertility can be altered with fertilizers, even this has practical economic limits. It is generally better to use what you have to its optimum rather than attempt to alter it to something you may prefer. For example, orchardgrass should be planted on a soil that has good drainage characteristics rather than on a poorly drained soil. While an expensive drainage system would likelquotes booky improve the chances of success, planting a more moisture-tolerant forage crop would likely be more practical and economically advantageous. To purchase a Livestock Quotes and Concepts Book, contact us at ukforageextension@uky.edu.

Clear as Mud

Mud is a problem for cattle; it slows and complicates feeding, exposes herds to greater pathogen loads, and can increase their energy requirements if it mats down their hair coat. Mud increases the probability of nutrient runoff, impairing the environment and losing fertilizer nutrients that are needed on the farm.

The infrastructure solution. Adding concrete feeding structures and other all-weather surfaces can minimize or reduce mud. Installing heavy use pads using filter fabric, rock and limestone is also very helpful. Disadvantages include cost, difficulty in having enough area for larger groups of livestock, and the need to scrape and handle manure that has to be reapplied to fields. To get more information on these options, google ‘UKY all weather surfaces.’

The feeding solution. Feeding methods can be altered to reduce mud. Unrolling round bales moves the hoof traffic around the farm, but generates more waste than other methods. Bale unrolling will spread manure and urine over a larger area than with ring feeders or feeding structures.

A feeding practice that is gaining in utility for some Kentucky producers is bale grazing. This feeding method places bales across the feeding area in late fall. Temporary fencing is placed around these bales to allow allocating this forage to livestock as needed over the winter.

The forage solution. Maintaining heathy vigorous stands of grasses like Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue for overwintering areas will help. Bluegrass is a sod-former and the foliage of tall fescue resists the weathering that happens with orchardgrass. Grass stands managed for well-managed residual heights will have greater root volume in the soil to support hoof traffic.

The re-seeding method. Farm layout and management needs often mean some fields are torn up every year. To bring these fields back into some level of production, consider reseeding with temporary forages.

Perennial and annual ryegrass provide short term options that are quick to establish and relatively inexpensive. Annual ryegrass will establish very quickly and is inexpensive; however annual ryegrass will only survive to mid-summer. Perennial ryegrass survives two seasons but is a bit more costly and slightly slower to establish. Unlike other cool season grasses, ryegrasses can be broadcast on top of the ground and will still germinate and take root if rains are consistent. Even when overseeding ryegrass, dragging is recommended. Use 25 to 30 pounds of seed per acre at a minimum.

mudCrabgrass can be seeded with ryegrass or alone if the seed will be lightly covered after broadcasting. These seed will lie dormant in the soil until the warmer weather of late spring. Crabgrass will provide grazing late into the summer, given good emergence and strategic applications of nitrogen.

Calling these ‘solutions’ is a bit of an overstatement. But infrastructure, feeding methods, forage management and even reseeding are tools to help deal with mud.

Happy foraging.

~ Dr. Jimmy Henning, reprinted from The Farmer’s Pride.

Early Bird Registration extended for the Novel Tall Fescue Renovation Workshop

Discounted registration has been extended through Friday, March 2nd for the Novel Tall IMG_7395Fescue Renovation Workshop, but space is limited! Reserve your spot for this day long workshop focused on understanding and managing novel tall fescues and reducing toxic tall fescue in your grazing system. Speakers include KY forage extension specialists Ray Smith, Jimmy Henning and Chris Teutsch, local producers currently managing novel tall fescue stands, research and extension specialists from the Alliance for Grassland Renewal, and seed company representatives. The event will be held at the Bluegrass Stockyards in Lexington and includes lunch, a tour of the UK tall fescue research plots and all handouts. For more information, see the event flyer or register online.

Featured Publication: Flood Damage and Recovery Management for Forages (FSA3145)

Flood damage to forages can be quite variable depending on several factors, such as time of year, temperature, soil texture, flood duration and water movement. Flood events of one day or less usually have low impact on forage survival However, if the field was ready for hay harvest, the top growth may be damaged or unsuitable for harvest after the flood recedes Such fields should be checked for debris and silt cover before considering hay harvest Timing of flood occurrence relative to forage growth stage also has a large impact on forage survival Forages that were actively growing when the flooding occurred will suffer more stand loss than those that were dormant Damage is lower during cool air and water temperatures than during warm temperatures Some references report survival of certain grasses after 60 days of submersion when water temperatures are 50° For less, but those species can be killed within 24 hours when water temperatures are 86oF or higher.

Read the full publication from the University of Arkansas here. ~ Publication authors: John Jennings, Kenny Simon, Ed Twidwell, Mike Andrews, Jennifer Caraway, Hank Chaney and Blair Griffin.

Forage Timely Tips: March

  • Continue pasture renovation by no-tilling seed with clovers
  • Smooth and re-seed hay feeding areas and heavy traffic areasPS - Clover seedling greenhouse D81_0569
  • Control competition from grasses with young clover plants by grazing or mowing as needed
  • Prepare for spring seeding of alfalfa
  • Begin grazing if growth permits
  • Plan and implement grazing system and rotation
  • Identify weeds and select the appropriate herbicide to control those weeds for a weed-free pasture