KFGC Forage Spokesperson

We had excellent presentations by our two KY Forage Spokesperson contestants at Grazing Conference last week; Dwight Lesile of Robertson County and Bart Hamilton of Bracken County.  Recordings of their presentations are now available on the KY Forages YouTube channel. Congratulations to Bart Hamilton for being the 2022 Forage Spokesperson for Kentucky. Bart will represent KFGC at the national Forage Spokesperson contest January 8-10 at the AFGC Annual meeting in Winston-Salem, NC. Plan to attend this conference and support Bart. Plus you’ll learn from producers and researchers from around the country.

Forage Timely Tips: November

  • Apply 30-50 lb nitrogen per acre to strengthen cool-season grass pastures and grass hay fields.
  • If not already done, inventory hay supplies and assess hay quality. Hay prices are increasing.
  • Using a grazing stick or rising plate meter, estimate stockpile forage 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 are 6-8 inches tall and are well anchored.  Do NOT graze closer to 4 inches. 
  • Graze winter annuals that will not overwinter such as brassicas and spring oats. 
  • Alkaloid content in tall fescue can also be high in the fall some years, but will begin decline after a hard freeze (low 20’s).
  • Talk to local NRCS conservationists about a grazing plan and cost-share opportunities. 

International Grassland Congress in KY May 2023

The International Grassland Congress (IGC) meets every four years to highlight new research findings and discoveries in forage and grassland agriculture from around the world. May 14-19, 2023, the IGC will meet in Covington, Kentucky. This is only the third time in the past 100 years the conference will be held in the U.S. To decide if attending this congress may be helpful to you, we polled Kentucky producers and extension agents that attended the IGC in 2013 in Australia.

What was your motivation behind attending IGC?

A: My motivation for attending was an opportunity to understand grassland production methods and challenges existing around the world. —John Litkenhus, producer, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky

A: Excited to see a new part of the world, and more particularly the forage systems for that area. I love to learn and expand my base of knowledge, so I knew that the opportunity would exist to do just that with researchers and farmers from around the world. —Todd Clark, producer, Lexington, Kentucky

A: I wanted to see how the rest of the world farms. —Buddy Smith, producer, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky

How has what you learned at IGC impacted your operation?

LITKENHUS: My operation was probably not changed directly from what I learned at the conference, but indirectly, seeing the different approaches and operations in Australia and other countries motivated me to be significantly more attentive to overgrazing, rotational grazing and forage utilization.

JOHNSON: As an extension agent, it helped me get past the textbook knowledge and be more open to new ideas. An example, I had a farm manager client who mentioned using dung beetles to utilize manure in pasture to improve nutrient availability/cycling. I had no point of reference for that practice at the time. I was surprised to hear that farmers in other countries have used this technique as well. —Traci Johnson, extension agent, La Grange, Kentucky

CLARK: We grass-finish beef, and I got a lot of system-type  ideas from producers in Australia. Adapting a grazing system from a dry country to a higher rainfall region has its benefits, even in a small way.

SMITH: I tried planting radishes and other things as cover crops as grazing for late fall and part of the winter the year that I returned, like they were doing in Australia. The full article was printed in the October issue of  Progressive Forage~ Joy Hendrix

Read the full interview here.

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Pub of the Month: Commercially Available Novel-Endophyte Tall Fescue Varieties

This newly released publication compares available novel endophyte tall fescue varieties and describes the benefits of novel varieties in comparison to KY-31. Written by NC State researchers, it is the most comprehensive article on this subject ever published. Traits for comparison include time to maturity, leaf type and how each variety was developed. Find the full publication here.  

Fescue Foot Can Flare in Cold Weather

The symptoms of a bad case of fescue toxicity are well-documented. One symptom — fescue foot — can become more apparent when temperatures drop during the winter.

Photo: Eldon Cole, University of Missouri

“As the cold weather moves in, you are likely to notice some cows or yearlings on fescue pastures may be slow-moving early in the day,” notes Eldon Cole, a livestock specialist with the Univ. of Missouri. “This might be an early warning sign of fescue foot,” he adds.

Toxic alkaloids in Kentucky 31 tall fescue cause the restriction of blood vessels. The animals’ extremities are especially susceptible to restricted blood flow such as ears, tails, and feet. Calves can lose the tips of their ears or switches from their tails which lowers market value.

“For affected cows, producers may notice slight swelling in the rear ankles and possible breaks in the skin from the top of the hoof to up above the dew claw,” Cole notes. “Early detection of limping is key. By the time hooves on hind feet show red, gangrene may have set in.”

If a limping animal is detected, Cole suggests putting it in a chute and checking its lower leg. “If the animal’s leg feels cooler than the rest of the leg, move the affected animals from that toxic pasture and dry lot them or at least put them on a different pasture,” Cole recommends. The colder extremity is the result of a lack of blood flow.

Don’t graze toxic fescue pastures too short. Research shows that toxins stay in the lower 2 inches of the fescue plant during the fall. Intensive rotational grazing with frequent movement of cattle will help ensure plants are not grazed too short.

Consider feeding stored hay during late fall and early winter cold spells. Toxin levels in stockpiled fescue pastures decline over time. Grazing these pastures in mid- to late winter is rarely a concern.

Cows that develop fescue foot have difficulty walking or grazing, which drastically impacts performance. While there is no cure for the condition, preventative measures such as planting a novel endophyte tall fescue variety can essentially eliminate the problem. Other strategies are also available for mitigating the disease, such as including legumes into a toxic tall fescue pasture. ~ Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower. Subscribe today to receive a free online or print copy of this magazine here. See the full article here.  

Sometimes we just don’t know

There seems to be a lot of questions coming in recently that we just don’t have exact answers to. While extension specialists accept that ‘I don’t know’ may be the most appropriate answer we still want to eventually provide a better answer. 

Answering questions and solving problems is what we do in Extension, such as shown here as former Clay Co Kentucky Extension Agent Jeff Casada helps Ron Bowling work through the establishment of some native warm season grasses for his family’s grass-fed beef business. In this situation, Ron’s questions had answers. Sadly, some do not.

I guess one of the benefits that come with age is to know there really is no perfect answer to certain questions. Here are a few I have been getting lately.

“My pasture has a _____ (little, some, a lot) of johnsongrass and we got a light frost. It is tall and kind of dried up, and I really don’t think they will eat a lot of it. We are expecting a harder freeze in a day or two. Do you think it is safe to leave the cows out there?”

I have exaggerated this question some, but not much. I am happy that producers recognize that frosted johnsongrass will produce cyanide (prussic acid) and animals that consume a lot of it can be killed. What makes this question so difficult is that we really don’t know how much of what stage of johnsongrass leaf will cause a fatality. We do know that young and very tender growth is very toxic, but how much of that do they need to eat to be fatal. Another unknown is how fast prussic acid is released when plants are frosted.

So how do I answer this? First, I say that I don’t think anyone can give them a definitive answer. Second, I say it is mainly about the amount of risk they are willing to accept. Usually, I explain that if I was their farm manager, then grazing frosted johnsongrass before it’s all the way dried up is just too much risk.

“I planted some _______ (pick your grass) in mid-September and I have not had a rain on it. Do you think I am ok still?” This one is tough, because I really WANT to be able to tell them that everything will be alright. I have to say that no one knows. In 2019, I was advising a farm that was seeding over 200 acres of orchardgrass, a good bit of it on a prepared seedbed. They had a good seedbed and seeded on time (late August). Then we had a month of very hot and dry conditions before rain came. The orchardgrass did come up, but stayed small all winter. Even though I sure wanted it to survive, an extreme winter would have hurt it pretty bad. Thankfully, the winter was mild and the orchardgrass survived.

My point here is that for seedings made in dry conditions, success is mostly determined by the weather. We will just have to wait and see. I hate giving that answer but that’s the truth. ~ Jimmy Henning Farmers Pride

Fall Grazing Conference Oct. 26 & 27: Profitable Grazing Systems from the Soil Up

Livestock producers have two opportunities this fall to learn more about profitable grazing systems. KFGC and the UK Master Grazer Program will offer the Kentucky Fall Grazing Conference Oct. 26 in Leitchfield and Oct. 27 in Winchester. “This year we are looking forward to some excellent speakers from UK, Missouri and as far away as Idaho,” said Chris Teutsch. “Profitable ruminant livestock production systems  include the soil, plant, and animal and conference participants are going to hear from experts specializing in all three!”

Ray Archuleta will speak about the living portion of the soil at both events. Archuleta is certified professional soil scientist with the Soil Science Society of America with more than 30 years of experience as a soil conservationist, water quality specialist, and conservation agronomist with the NRCS. During his tenure with the NRCS, he served in NM, MO, OR, and NC. After his retirement from the NRCS in 2017, he founded Understanding Ag, LLC, and Soil Health Academy. He also owns and operates a 150-acre farm near Seymour, Missouri with his wife and family.

Jim Gerrish, an independent grazing lands educator, consultant, and writer from Idaho, will speak about the role of extended grazing in profitable ruminant livestock operations. He currently lives in the Pahsimeroi Valley in central Idaho and works with numerous ranchers using both irrigated pastures and native rangeland.

Gerrish also works with livestock farmers in high natural rainfall environments. His experience includes more than 22 years of beef-forage systems research and outreach at  the University of Missouri. The University’s Forage Systems Research Center rose to national prominence because of his leadership. His research encompassed many aspects of plant-soil-animal interactions and provided a foundation for many of the basic principles of management-intensive grazing.

Kentucky speakers include UK beef specialist Les Anderson, UK agricultural economist Greg Halich, Adair county Ag agent Nick Roy and Adair County farmer Fred Thomas. Topics include right-sizing cows for profit, grazing myths and hay feeding strategies to build grazing system fertility.

Events begin at each location with registration at 7:30 a.m. local time and runs until 3:15 p.m. Participants should preregister for the events. Advance registration is $35 per person; day-of registration is $50 per person and students’ registration is $15. Use the following links to register: https://2022GrazingLeitchfield.eventbrite.com; https://2022GrazingWinchester.eventbrite.com. 

~Aimee Nielson, aimee.nielson@uky.edu

Forage Timely Tips: October

* Feed hay to allow cool-season pastures to accumulate forage growth for winter grazing.  * Do NOT harvest or graze alfalfa fields until after killing frost (<26 degrees).
* Inventory and test each hay lot for nutritive value and consult a nutritionist to design a supplementation program as needed. 
* Remove ruminants from pastures that contain sorghum species when frost is expect to avoid prussic acid poisoning (forage sorghums, sorghum-sudangrass hybrids, sudangrass, and johnsongrass). Even small patches of johnsongrass that have been frosted can be toxic. Leave off until plants have dried down.
* Begin strip grazing early planted small grain and brassica (turnips and rape) mixes late this month.

Developing a Herbicide Tolerant Red Clover for Kentucky

Adding red clover into grass-based pastures has many benefits but red clover is highly susceptible to herbicides, such as 2,4-D, used for broadleaf weed management in pastures.  In 2005, Dr. Norman Taylor began a project to create a 2,4-D tolerant red clover for Kentucky by crossing a 2,4-D tolerant red clover line from the University of Florida with Kenland red clover.  Dr. Mike Barrett took over responsibility for the project when Dr. Taylor retired.  Over the next 9 years, the progeny from this cross were subject to further selection, treating them with ever higher rates of 2,4-D and preserving the best survivors.  To test the 2,4-D tolerance of the resulting red clover line, designated as UK2014, his research group conducted a field test comparing the 2,4-D tolerance of UK2014 to Kenland. 

While UK2014 is clearly more 2,4-D tolerant than Kenland, Dr. Barrett wanted to see if further selection, under very severe pressure (dipping plants into a 2,4-D solution), could raise the tolerance of UK2014 to 2 Lb. per acre of 2,4-D. Plants grown from seed of plants which survived this treatment through 2 rounds and are currently being grown in the field by Ray Smith and Gabriel Roberts to increase the seed from the selected population.  This involves growing the plants in cages to prevent cross-pollination from other red clover,  introducing bumble bees (the preferred bee species for pollinating red clover) to the cages, and harvesting the seed produced.  Initial greenhouse trials indicate the new selection is more 2,4-D tolerant than UK2014 and, when additional seed is available, this will be tested in field trials. ~ Dr. Mike Barrett