Utilizing Cost Share for Farm Improvements

A leading cost share program in the area of environmental protection is the Environmental Quality Incentive Program, also known as EQIP. It is administered by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), a division of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  NRCS-EQIP provides both financial and technical environmental benefits on working agricultural lands.

Interior fencing to promote better rotational grazing on farms is a popular practice that is eligible in EQIP. Large pastures cut into smaller paddocks allows a farm to implement rotational grazing. This improved management practice results in more ground cover from grasses and legumes, reduced runoff and soil erosion and reduced need for purchased hay.  Stream crossing is another eligible practice. Streambed traffic, from livestock or vehicles, can erode the stream bank, causing changes in the flow and affect the wildlife that live in or near the stream.

NRCS-EQIP funds are available to all commodities and livestock farms. Within the state of Kentucky, there is no minimum acreage requirement for participation.  Interested applicants should visit their local NRCS office to become more familiar with what EQIP offers and the requirements for participating in the program.

The County Agricultural Investment Program (CAIP) is a cost share program available through the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund (KADF) and the Kentucky Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy (GOAP). CAIP aims to increase net farm income, add value to products and diversify operations. All of these things make a farm more profitable and more likely to stay in agricultural production.

Investments of CAIP may include commodity storage. Dry hay storage on farms can significantly reduce waste, therefore lowering the annual hay expense. Dry hay also retains quality better and is more likely to meet the needs of the animals without the need for additional supplementation. Other investment areas could be improving pasture productivity with seed, fertilizer or herbicide applications as well as fencing improvements or construction of run in sheds and equipment storage buildings. Check with your local county extension agent about the availability and eligibility of CAIP or other local cost share programs.

Most agricultural cost share programs will in some way involve either the local Cooperative Extension Office (state) or the local NRCS District Office (federal). Both of these agencies can provide a wealth of technical information to all types of producers, and can work with producers to be aware of cost share opportunities and assist in the application process. If you are interested in learning more about cost share programs available in your state or local area, contact your county agent and natural resource manager.

~ Krista Lea, S. Ray Smith and Linda McClanahan


Late Fall Nitrogen Benefits Horse and Cattle Pastures

Fall is prime time to invest in pastures to protect them before and throughout the winter to ensure good grazing in the spring. Most cool-season horse pastures should be fertilized with nitrogen in the late fall to boost root reserves and extend the grazing season. Other fertilizers can also be added in the fall, based on soil test results.

Nitrogen applied in the spring or summer significantly boosts grass growth, but many farms are unable to utilize this additional growth and ultimately mow it down instead. Rather than wasting good grass, consider applying nitrogen to cool-season pastures in October or early November. Fall nitrogen will not greatly increase grass growth, but it will boost grasses’ root reserves, allowing plants to remain greener longer into winter, survive winter better, and green up sooner in the spring. This effectively prolongs the grazing season. Additionally, a strong spring pasture will have better cover, which reduces annual weeds.

For best results, apply 40 to 50 pounds of actual nitrogen per acre to pastures once or twice throughout the fall. Applications can be anytime between September and the first hard freeze (overnight temp of less than 24°F). See the full article here or subscribe to the Bluegrass Equine Digest.



Upcoming Events

Dec. 4 – KFB Forage and Beef Sessions, Louisville, KY |

Jan. 6-8 – AFGC Conference, St. Louis, MO |

Jan. 22-23 – Heart of America Grazing Conf., IN |

Feb. 21 – KY Alfalfa and Stored Forage Conf., Lexington, KY |

Mar. 20 – Novel Tall Fescue Workshop, Lexington, KY |


Profitability focus of Kentucky Grazing Conference

Picture1The 2018 Kentucky Grazing Conference will help producers learn how to use forages to increase their farm’s bottom line.

“The conference is focused on turning grass into cash,” said Jimmy Henning, forage extension specialist in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment and conference organizer. “The program features speakers who have done this across a range of enterprises including dairy, small ruminants and beef. In addition, the program will help producers better understand how to manage risk in grazing-based livestock enterprises.”

Hosted by UK Cooperative Extension Service and the Kentucky Forage and Grassland Council, the conference will occur at two regional locations to accommodate the state’s producers. For Western Kentucky producers, the conference is Oct. 30 at the Christian County Extension office. Eastern Kentucky producers may attend the Nov. 1 conference at the Clark County Extension office. At both locations, the program will run from 7:45 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. local time.

Among the featured speakers is Howard Straub III. Straub is the manager of the Pasture Dairy Center at Michigan State University’s Kellogg Biological Station. The center has 240 acres dedicated to grazing research and a milking herd of about 130 U.S. Holstein and 25 New Zealand Friesian cows. Straub will discuss the center’s research on rotational grazing of perennial pastures and ways producers can incorporate alternative and complementary forages into the grazing season.

Each location will also have a local producer who will discuss how forages contribute to the profitability of their operation.

In Eastern Kentucky, the speaker will be Todd Clark of Lexington. Clark is a first-generation farmer who raises a variety of products for both commodity and local food markets on 800 acres. His operation includes broilers, layers, turkeys, grass-finished beef and lamb and vegetables.

In Western Kentucky, Michael Palmer will speak. Palmer operates a farm south of Murray and produces grass-finished beef, pork and chicken without added hormones or antibiotics.

Early registration for the conference is $35 per person or $50 if also renewing KFGC membership. The early registration deadline is Oct. 22. Producers can register and view the agenda for the conference on the UK forages extension website. 

~ Katie Pratt, UK Ag. Communications



Featured Publication: Taking Soil Test Samples (AGR-16)

The most important part of making fertilizer recommendations is collecting a good, representative soil sample. Soil test results and fertilizer recommendations are based solely on the few ounces of soil submitted to the laboratory for analysis. These few ounces can represent several million pounds of soil in the field. If this sample does not reflect actual soil conditions, the results can be misleading and lead to costly over- or under-fertilization. It is necessary to make sure that the soil sample sent to the laboratory accurately represents the area sampled. Find this and other publications at your local county extension office or our website.soil probe


Is Bale Grazing a Solution for Last Year’s Mud?

Winter feeding areas for beef cattle were quagmires of mud that I cannot get out of my head. These muddy areas turned into to this year’s crabgrass-ragweed pastures. Are we destined to repeat this scenario? If nothing changes, probably so.

Bale grazing may be a practice worth considering to help address the issues of mud. Depending on your conditions, it might even save money in the process.

Bale grazing is the practice of putting out bales in the fall for feeding later on in the winter. These bales are spaced so they can be allocated using temporary electric fencing and portable hay rings. This practice has been used for years in areas further north.

bale grazing

Setting out bales now for winter feeding is a technique known as bale grazing. Fred Thomas has been using bale grazing on his Adair County farm, shown in this aerial photograph. Bale grazing can reduce mud, save time and even improve soil fertility. Although not perfect, it may be a way to reduce last year’s winter mud.

The advantages of bale grazing include less traffic damage due to moving hay across saturated access points, spacing out the hoof damage across a greater area, improving soil fertility and organic matter, reducing mud and lessening runoff of nutrients into streams and ponds. The negatives include the potential of having to reseed larger areas of ground and the need for large areas of upland well drained soils to feed on.

Fred Thomas in Adair County has been using bale grazing for a few years. He has seen an improvement in soil fertility from bale grazing and spends a lot less time on a tractor in the bitter weather of winter. In fact, Fred knows that he saves $30 per month by not having to keep his tractor block heater on during the winter.

Fred Thomas placed bales 50 feet apart the first year, and needed to reseed the area completely. He used this as an opportunity to reseed novel endophyte tall fescue the following fall after growing a crop of sudangrass and sorghum-sudangrass. No additional fertility was needed for the summer grazing due to the nutrients left behind from bale grazing. Thomas is planning for more space between bales (150 feet) this winter to lessen the forage damage.

Before and after soil tests showed Thomas improved both his P and K status of the areas where he bale grazed, especially the K. Roy figures that Thomas saved at least $20 per acre in fertilizer costs due to one winter of bale grazing.

Here are some tips for bale grazing:

  • Locate bales on well drained soils
  • Keep bales away from surface water and creeks
  • Allocate about 1 bale per 10 cows per feeding so each has room to eat
  • Limit bale feeding time to about 3 days per spot
  • Be prepared to reseed in spring
  • High quality hay will work better because animals clean it up and leave less residual to limit grass growth next spring.

Bale grazing might not be right for you, but it is an intriguing option. Happy foraging. ~ Dr. Jimmy Henning, Farmer’s Pride Sept.


Quote of the Month: Pastures are Tattletales

Much can be learned about the management history of a pasture just by carefully observing what is growing there. Certain forage crops and weeds are favored or discriminated against by various management practices. Most forage crops require higher levels of soil fertility and soil pH than

quotes book

most weedy species. Obviously, pasture herbicides can be used to kill weeds in many situations. Also, because plants vary greatly with regard to grazing tolerance, grazing management is a powerful tool that can be used to favor increased stands of desirable species. Decisions regarding these issues have a profound effect on the species composition of pastures. Consequently, a question that a forage-livestock producer might do well to periodically consider is, “What stories do my pastures tell?” To purchase a Livestock Quotes and Concepts Book, contact us at ukforageextension@uky.edu.