Fall Grazing School Registration now open

The 2022 Fall Grazing School will be held in Versailles, KY on September 13 and 14th.  The two day event covers cattle nutrition, pasture improvements and grazing strategies, as well as hands on demonstrations and activities including building temporary fence and water systems. Registration is $60 and includes educational materials and lunch both days. Space is limited. Register here

Forage Timely Tips: July

  • Continue grazing available summer annuals (millets, sorghum/Sudangrass, crabgrass, etc.).
  • Apply 40-60 lb N/A to stimulate summer annual regrowth. 
  • Clip pastures late June/early July as needed to maintain vegetative growth and to reduce weed seeds, but don’t clip lower than 4”.
  • Identify fescue pastures for stockpiling. Choose pastures that are well drained, have a strong sod, and have not been overgrazed. 
  • Soil test pastures to determine fertility needs.
  • Using UK variety trial results, select varieties to plant in the fall and order seed. 
  • Use a designated sacrifice lot to feed livestock hay and supplements as needed if drought sets in and no forage is available for grazing.

Don’t lose sleep over fall armyworms

Last year, Kentucky was one of the many states impacted by a historic outbreak of fall armyworms. Much of the eastern U.S. was eaten up by these hungry, hungry caterpillars with lawns and fields on the menu. While things eventually settled down and areas have been renovated, you can sense tension in the air this year with many wondering if it will happen again. The short answer is that we (UK entomologists) do not anticipate 2022 featuring the same level of pest pressure as last year. That being said, there are reasons to keep your eyes and ears open to see if things change.

Figure 1: Historically, fall armyworm migration starts in the deep southern tips of Florida and Texas. By late June successive generations will have migrated to Kentucky. (Graphic adapted from: Sparks, A. 1979. A Review of the Biology of the Fall Armyworm. Fla. Entomol. 62(2):82-87)

Fall armyworm does not overwinter in this state. Its usual winter hangouts are in southern Florida and southern Texas. These spots stay warm enough for them to persist and then mate to start the generations that will migrate northward. They usually move from these areas into states like Mississippi and Alabama in April and May, arriving next in Tennessee by May or June. Typically, they start to appear in Kentucky by June.

UK entomologists trap for pests like the fall armyworm using pheromone traps in Princeton and Lexington to help us track their arrival. In 2020 the first captures occurred June 14. In 2021, our first indicator that something would be amiss was that adults were first captured May 7, over a month earlier than usual. As of June 7, 2022, we have not yet captured migrating adult fall armyworms in Princeton or Lexington.

Because of the lack of adults here, we feel that this year should be more normal when compared to last year. We checked in with Dr. Katelyn Kesheimer of Auburn University about fall armyworm pressure there and she shared a photo of an egg mass taken last week (June 7), which lines up with our more normal timeline of events. She did share that numbers seemed above average but that they were nowhere near what she recorded in 2021.

Alfalfa growers and other agricultural managers that deal with this pest on an annual basis should prepare and act as they normally do.

Turf managers on the other hand should not worry about the same level of damage occurring to lawns, sports fields, parks, and golf courses that we saw in 2021. If turf managers have used chlorantraniliprole (sold as Acelepryn or Scott’s GrubEx most often) for grub control, their turf will be protected from possible fall armyworm problems as well. If an imidacloprid or clothianidin application was made for grubs instead, then watch for information coming out in the next month about moth arrival in Kentucky and the anticipated caterpillar pressure. Depending on the next sequence of events, a treatment with cyfluthrin, lambda-cyhalothrin, or bifenthrin could limit caterpillar problems. But, to prevent pesticide waste and a crunch on your budget, don’t treat now for a pest we may not deal with. ~ Jonathan Larson, from Kentucky Pest News, June 14, 2022

Don’t Get Burned by Potato Leafhopper…Hopperburn That Is! 

Potato leafhoppers (PLH) often go unnoticed until their characteristic damage to alfalfa begins to appear in early summer. Potato leafhopper is tiny and non-descript, hence, it is easy to overlook. It is the key insect pest of second and third cutting alfalfa, as well as spring-seededalfalfa. The extended 70 to 90 day growth period before first harvest in spring seedings allows time for damaging numbers of leafhopper numbers to build and damage stands.

Figure 1. Potato leafhopper feeds with piecing-sucking mouthparts (blue arrow) and physically damages vascular tissues of stems and leaves by blocking the phloem. (Photo: Ric Bessin, UK)

Significant numbers of leafhoppers often find their way into spring-seeded fields with a rapid increase during June and a peak in early July. Leafhoppers usually disappear from Kentucky alfalfa fields in late July. More frequent cutting of established alfalfa helps to manage potato leafhopper numbers.

Figure 2. Figure 1.  Potato leafhopper damage results in a V-shaped area and is referred to as hopperburn (Photo: Lee Townsend, UK)

Potato leafhopper is a migratory insect that moves north on warm winds from the Gulf States each spring. It generally arrives in May and their numbers will begin to increase rapidly during June to a peak in early July. Potato leafhopper is tiny and easily overlooked, but size has little to do with importance as a pest. Potato leafhopper can impact alfalfa in several ways. Insertion of their piecing sucking mouthparts to feed on sap physically damages vascular tissues of stems and leaves, and it blocks the phloem. This causes a characteristic symptom called hopperburn and results from the accumulation of photosynthates in leaves near the blockage. It begins as a V-shaped wedge of yellow extending from about the middle of the leaf to the tip.

This damage can result in stunted growth, premature leaf-drop, reduced root carbohydrate reserves, and drastic reductions in protein content of hay. PLH can reduce yields up to 25%, as well as lower crude protein, vitamin A, carotene, calcium, phosphorus, and digestible dry matter content.

Regular monitoring of spring-seeded fields alerts growers to potentially destructive potato leafhopper populations before they damage fields. Fields are sampled with a 15-inch diameter sweep net. Five sets of 20 sweeps are taken from randomly selected areas representing the entire field. These leafhopper numbers, coupled with the average plant stem height, is used to determine if a leafhopper treatment is needed. For more info, read UK publication ENTFACTS-115.

~ Ric Bessin, from Kentucky Pest News, June 2022. 

Pasture renovation improves forage quality for schools horses

Horses at a Central Kentucky career and technical high school have lush paddocks to graze on this school year thanks to help from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.  

A horse grazes on a newly renovated paddock at Locust Trace AgriScience Center in Lexington. Photo by Katie Pratt, UK agricultural communications.

Locust Trace AgriScience Center is a school in Lexington that introduces high school students in Fayette and Woodford counties to many agriculture disciplines. Equine science is one of the more popular areas. During the school year, horses on loan to the school graze the four on-campus paddocks when they are not interacting with students. But with more horses than paddocks, the fields were overgrazed, and it was time to improve them. 

“Last year, I served as the farm manager, and I knew these paddocks were pretty thin on forages for our horses,” said Nicki Jones, Locust Trace co-op facilitator. “With no students being on campus, we saw it as the prime opportunity to call on the people at UK to walk us through a renovation.”  

The school contacted Krista Lea, UK horse pasture evaluation program coordinator, and Jimmy Henning, UK forage extension specialist. They advised the school personnel to kill out the existing vegetation and guided them through reseeding the pastures and managing them for the future.  

Lea suggested they reseed the paddocks in a tall fescue that could handle the high grazing pressure. Through a donation from Pennington Seed, they secured Lacefield Max Q II, a tall fescue variety developed at UK that contains a novel endophyte. The novel endophyte allows animals to graze the grass without having adverse health effects. Gabriel Roberts, UK field technician, helped the school sow the grass seed. 

 “I like the fact that I can look out and I can see that the horses we have are on good grass,” said Fallon Jackson, Locust Trace equine sciences instructor. “They are getting what they need, and I don’t have to worry about body condition scores going down because the forage that they are eating is not good enough.” 

Lea continues to advise the school on ways to use pasture rotation to give the pastures ample time for recovery and regrowth.  

 “Each pasture will have a fair number of horses on it with pretty high grazing pressure for a couple of weeks. Then the horses will be rotated off for two to four weeks, and hopefully that will give the pastures plenty of time to regrow,” Lea said. “Even though they are going to have high grazing pressure, by using good management, a dry lot and even feeding some hay in stalls, they should be able to maintain it reasonably well. “ 

The new grass also will provide teaching opportunities on the importance of quality forages to equine health.  

“I think it will be a good opportunity to teach the students about the importance of rotation and not overgrazing and that what you do in the wintertime is going to affect what happens in the spring,” Jones said. 

Pub of the Month: Conversion of Toxic tall fescue to novel endophyte tall fescue

Successful conversion from toxic KY-31 to novel endophyte tall fescue begins much earlier than most people anticipate. Seedheads need to be clipped before maturation, the existing stand needs to be sprayed out in July/August and reseeding needs to be in early September. Check out this simple checklist below for how to make the transition this summer and fall.

Conversion of Toxic Tall Fescue to Novel Endophyte Tall fescue

S. Ray Smith and Krista Lea – University of Kentucky

Replacement Protocol:


Soil sample; adhere to lime and fertilizer recommendations

  1. Take soil sample in May.
  2. Follow recommendations in soil test.

Remove/prevent all tall fescue seed heads in the spring via mowing or early hay cutting

  1. Clip/mow the pasture in early May as low as possible. 
  2. Clip/mow the pasture a second time in late May to remove tall fescue seed heads (Note: Fescue seed can be viable 15-20 days after pollination and then germinate in the fall).

Mid-Late Summer

Herbicide spray to kill out existing stand before planting novel endophyte tall fescue or other forages

  1. Graze tall fescue heavily during periods of growth.
  2. Stop grazing and allow tall fescue to regrow to five to six inches in height.
  3. Spray with glyphosate 4-6 weeks before planting – mid to late-July.
  4. Allow weeds and toxic tall fescue to germinate or re-grow from escapes.
  5. Re-spray glyphosate before planting – early September


Plant novel endophyte tall fescue seed

  1. In early to mid-September, just after last weed spray, plant a novel tall fescue variety using a no-till seed drill.
  2. No-till drill at 20 lbs/ac, and ¼ inch deep. To achieve better ground cover, set drill at 10 lbs/ac and go over field twice, the second pass perpendicular to the first pass.

Late Fall or early next Spring

Tall fescue seedling management

  1. Low rates of N can be used to enhance stand establishment (~40 lbs/N/ac)
  2. After planting, wait until tall fescue seedlings reach the 4-leaf stage (4 to 5 inches tall) before weed control.
  3. If needed, apply Weedmaster (2,4-D and dicamba) or similar herbicide to control broadleaf weeds. 
  4. Allow good sod development before grazing next spring. Ideally, wait until plants are 8 inches tall and flash graze (a large number of animals for half a day) or mow at 4 inches residual height or simply cut for hay in the spring (4 inch stubble height).

Forage Timely Tips: June

  • Make plans to attend the KFGC’s Summer Forage Tours.
  • Continue hay harvests. Minimize storage losses by storing hay under cover. 
  • Clip pastures for weeds and seedheads as needed.
  • Use slower grazing rotations allowing for a longer recovery periods. 
  • Use portable fencing to decrease paddock size and increase paddock number.
  • Do NOT graze below the minimum desired residual height (4 in for most forages).
  • When present, johnsongrass can provide high quality summer forage when managed.  
  • Crabgrass, a warm-season annual grass, can provide high quality summer grazing. It is a annual grass highly preferred by livestock. If desired, remember crabgrass needs some annual soil disturbance to keep coming back.
  • Begin grazing native warm-season grasses.  Start at 20-24” and stop at 8-10 inches.

Buttercup in hay and baleage

Kentucky pastures have exploded with the signature yellow flower of buttercup. Buttercup is the common name for a group of species from the genus Ranunculus. Buttercups are sometimes classified as short-lived perennials, but often grow as winter annuals. Four species of buttercups that may be found in Kentucky: bulbous buttercup (Ranunculus bulbosus), creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens), tall buttercup (Ranunculus acris), and small flower buttercup (Ranunculus arbortivus). Each of these species have somewhat similar flower heads but differ in their leaf characteristics. New seed are produced during the time petals are showy. Waiting until after flowers appear can be too late to implement control tactics. This is one reason buttercups can survive year to year.

Buttercup is a troublesome weed of hay and pasture fields and can be toxic if grazed. Harvesting for hay or baleage serves to detoxify this weed such that feeding risks are low. Buttercup can easily be controlled chemically. Management options include not overgrazing and thickening up the existing forage stand. Buttercup is a persistent problem in overgrazed pastures or hay feeding areas.

Buttercups are more than an unsightly weed. They can also be toxic. Grazing or mowing will release a powerful vesicant which causes blistering of the skin, mouth, and digestive system on contact. Fortunately, the blistering agent is detoxified rapidly by drying, such that it is not generally a problem in hay. Limited research in Europe indicates that it is detoxified in baleage as well.

Death of livestock due to buttercup is rare – A review of University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory records over the last 13 years found no cases of livestock deaths attributable to buttercup ingestion. If other forage is available, grazing livestock will usually avoid buttercup because the leaves, flowers, and stems have a sharp, acrid taste.

Most buttercup plants emerge from seed during the fall or late winter months. Therefore, pasture management that maintain thick stands and promote growth of more desirable plants during these months is one of the best methods to help compete against the emergence and growth of this plant. Mowing fields or clipping plants close to the ground in the early spring before buttercup plants can produce flowers may help reduce the amount of new seed produced, but mowing alone will not totally eliminate seed production.

Herbicides registered for use on grass pastures that contain 2,4-D will effectively control buttercup. For optimum results apply herbicide in the early spring (February – March) before flowers are observed and when buttercup plants are still small and actively growing. For best herbicide activity wait until daytime air temperatures are greater than 50 degrees for two or three consecutive days. Consult the herbicide label for further information on grazing restrictions, precautions, or other possible limitations.

Applying broadleaf herbicides like 2,4-D will damage clover. However, buttercup is able to germinate and grow because of insufficient ground cover of desirable forage species. In these cases, clover stands are likely not that thick or need rejuvenating.

Management Options

To prevent or inhibit buttercup germination in the fall, manage grass pastures to retain residual heights of three or four inches. Realistically speaking, pastures used for overwintering, hay feeding or calving will always be overgrazed and therefore will be prime spots for buttercup and other winter weeds encroachment. Overseeding these pastures in early spring with forages that establish aggressively (like red clover or ryegrasses) will add some desirable forage species to the spring flush of growth even though they will not eliminate buttercup emerging at the same time. Follow up with an early spring mowing to clip the buttercup and release the desirable species.

Cover up bare ground. Fall applications of nitrogen will produce taller grass (shading the ground) and will stimulate existing grasses to thicken up or tiller out the following spring. Timely mowing in the spring followed by nitrogen application can reduce buttercup seed production and will stimulate spring forage growth that helps shade the lower growing buttercup.

No matter how go about it, controlling buttercup is not a ‘once and done’ project. Nor will one method work alone – chemical control alone with leave bare ground unless there is a strategy to replant or fill in that area. However, we can manage pastures to reduce buttercup incidence and improve your pasture productivity at the same time. Happy foraging. ~ Jimmy Henning for Farmers Pride

Hay could be in short supply next winter

Have you started thinking about next winter’s hay supply? The question seems ludicrous given that we are in the beginning of the hay making season. But is it?

Kenny Burdine doesn’t think so. The extension agricultural economist with the University of Kentucky says it’s never too early to plan for winter hay needs, especially this year. He comes to this conclusion based on experience.

In 2007, a spring freeze in Kentucky damaged the spring forage growth, and summer drought impacted production for the remainder of the growing season. By late fall, it became clear that hay was in much shorter supply than expected. Average-quality grass hay prices more than doubled. Burdine recalls that a lot of cow-calf producers ended up feeding commodity feeds that winter instead of hay. “At that time, alternative feeds were relatively inexpensive, but that is not going to be the case this year.”

Burdine cites several reasons why he thinks it will be prudent to ensure adequate hay stocks going into winter.

Currently, producers in drought-stricken areas have continued to feed hay during a time that is normally reserved for grazing. This will eat into hay reserves that might normally be available later in the year.

Burdine also points out that continuing dry conditions out west will impact hay supplies throughout the upcoming growing season. “I think it would be naïve to think that there isn’t potential for lower hay yields and increased demand for hay if the (drought) situation continues,” the economist notes.

Although hay markets are largely regional, Burdine writes that the potential for hay availability concerns are not just confined to areas dealing with drought.

“Hay is expensive to transport, but the wider hay value differences across regions become, the more incentive there is to move hay into greater deficit areas,” he explains. “We have seen this in the past, and this is one of the ways markets allocate resources when they become scarce.”

The potential implications of drastically higher fertilizer prices also need to be taken into consideration. Even where adequate soil moisture is available, Burdine thinks it is likely that producers will apply less fertilizer on their hay acres than what is normally done. If this occurs, lower hay production will occur in otherwise responsive fields and cut into future hay inventories.

Burdine is not necessarily predicting a repeat of 2007, but he does think it is valuable context and underscores the importance of planning for winter hay needs early. ~ Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower. Read the full article here.