Results from 600 Hay Samples: What They Tell Us and What They Don’t

      Last fall we analyzed almost 600 hay samples as part of the Eastern Kentucky Hay Contest.  Here is a summary of what we found:

· Crude protein (3.2 to 21.7%) and total digestible nutrients (41.8 to 68.3%) varied widely

· 9% of the hay samples contained less than 50% TDN

· 22% of the hay samples contained less than 8% crude protein

· Only 85 samples or 14% contained enough energy to meet the requirements of a beef cow at peak lactation

· Only 248 samples or 42% would meet the protein requirements of a beef cow at peak lactation

· 459 samples or 78% contained enough protein to meet the needs of a dry pregnant cow

· 539 samples or 91% contained enough energy to meet the requirements of a dry pregnant cow

So, what does all of this tell us?  The results of these 600 samples tells us that if you are feeding hay to lactating cows, you will likely need to provide some type of supplement to keep cows from loosing condition, especially first calf heifers that are trying to grow and feed a calf. 

So, don’t these results tell us?  Since there was such wide variation in both crude protein and energy for the hay samples in this dataset, no recommendations can be made on what or how much to supplement.  To make this type of recommendation, you will need to sample the hay by lots (one cutting from one field) that you will be feeding (see last month’s article in the Cow Country News).  Once you have the results in hand, then a supplementation program can be designed by either working your local extension agent or veterinarian or by using the UK Beef Cow Forage Supplementation Tool, found at

It is important to realize that both hay testing and the UK Beef Cow Forage Supplement Tool are NOT perfect.  They are designed to get you in the ballpark and let you know if there is going to be a real problem with the hay that you are feeding.  The true test is how your cows perform on a given hay lot. If you need help with hay sampling or interpreting your hay testing results, make sure and contact your local extension agent. 

Forage testing is available from a number of commercial labs and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.  More information on this program can be found here.  Make sure and use a lab that has been certified for accuracy and precision by the National Forage Testing Association.  A list of certified labs can be found at NFTA Certified Labs. 

UK to Host Two Regional Fencing Schools this Fall

The University of Kentucky will host two regional fencing schools this fall to help livestock producers learn about the newest fencing techniques and sound fence construction.

The schools are Oct. 13 at the Wolfe County Extension office in Campton and Oct. 15 at the Barren County Extension office in Glasgow. Each day will begin with registration at 7:30 a.m. local time and end around 4:30 p.m.

Chris Teutsch, UK forage extension specialist, started these one-day events in 2018 to help producers improve their grazing management.

“If you have ever driven around the countryside, there are a lot of fences but not a lot of well-constructed ones,” said Teutsch, a faculty member in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “One of the goals of this school is to help people get the basics of fencing down. That way they can build a strong, durable fence that will last 25 or 30 years, or if they decide to hire a contractor to build it for them, they’ll at least know what a well-constructed fence looks like.”

Through a mixture of classroom instruction and hands-on demonstrations, UK specialists and fencing industry experts will teach producers the basics of a well-built fence. An added bonus of the school is that the techniques producers learn can help them with cost-share dollars from the Natural Resources Conservation Service for new fence construction.

Each school is limited to 30 participants, and the cost is $30 per person. Participants can register online at or by emailing the registration form and payment to Carrie Tarr-Janes, UK Research and Education Center, 348 University Drive, Princeton, KY, 42445. In addition to online registration, registration forms are available at local offices of the UK Cooperative Extension Service.

Producers are encouraged to register early, as spots will fill quickly. The registration deadline for each location is two weeks prior to the workshop occurring.

The Kentucky Forage and Grassland Council, UK Cooperative Extension Service and the Master Grazer Program organize and sponsor the schools along with their industry partners, Gallagher USA, Stay-Tuff Fencing and ACI Distributors. 

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.  
  • 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 (forage sorghums, sorghum-sudangrass hybrids, sudangrass, and johnsongrass) when frost is expected. Even small patches of johnsongrass that have been frost can cause prussic acid poisoning.
  • Begin strip grazing early planted small grain and brassicas (turnips and rape) mixes by the end of this month.

Alfalfa Included in Second Round of Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

Alfalfa has been included in USDA’s latest expansion of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Recently, USDA announced an additional $14 billion for farmers who continue to face market disruptions and associated costs because of COVID-19.

The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP 2) provides farmers of eligible commodities with financial assistance that gives them the ability to absorb some of the increased marketing costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

A list of CFAP 2 eligible commodities can be found by clicking here. Alfalfa is included under the “Flat-Rate Crops” category which includes crops eligible for a $15/acre payment for all acres certified to that commodity for 2020.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency will accept CFAP 2 applications from September 21 through December 11, 2020. Information on how to apply for CFAP 2 funding can be found here.

Farm Service Agency staff at local USDA Service Centers will work with farmers to file CFAP 2 applications. Farmers can also call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer assistance at the CFAP call center. Visit for additional information on CFAP 2 eligibility, payment limitations, structure, and how to apply.

Pub of the Month: Time Lapse Growth Videos

      We have just posted nine short time-lapse videos illustrating a number of forage management practices including importance of seeding depth, impact of winter pasture management, rotational stocking, and relative seedling vigor of different forage species.  I would like to thank Gabriel Roberts, a member of our forage extension group, for all of his hard work in capturing these time-lapse videos!   

The Playlist for these videos can be found on the KY Forages YouTube Channel.

KFGC Forage Spokesperson Contest

      The KY Forage and Grassland Council hosts an annual Forage Spokesperson Contest. This contest allows producers to share with others what they are doing on their operations in regards to forages- struggles, successes, etc., in a 15 minute presentation. The winner of the KFGC contest moves on to the American Forage and Grassland Council’s contest, located in Savannah, GA for 2021. The KFGC contest is held in conjunction with the KY Grazing Conference. If you are interested in participating in the contest, or you would like to nominate someone, please contact Heather Graham at or 606-495-1026.

To Spray or Not To Spray

Here are some guidelines that help me formulate a weed control plan. I will be the first to admit this is a highly subjective set of guidelines or suggestions.

Would you spray this field? Tough question to weigh the value of a good stand of vigorous red clover (18 inches tall) compared to freedom from ironweed (24 inches tall). The decision to spray is a subjective process depending on many factors, including weed pressure, invasiveness and/or toxicity of the weed, cost of the control measure, forage value of the weed and its life cycle, and the ability to restore the pasture stand.

Non-chemical control – Farmers have other options besides spraying herbicide. Sometimes the best approach is to use cultural practices or grazing management to strengthen the forage crop and deal with the weed. Ragweed and some thistles are common examples. The UK publication AGR 207 ‘Controlling Broadleaf Weeds in Kentucky Pastures’ evaluates the effectiveness of mowing as a weed management tool for many of our problem pasture weeds.

The Clover Dilemma – A vigorous stand of red clover would be worth protecting in all but the worst weed infestations. A stand of small, white dutch clover probably not. And remember that some new herbicide formulations will take out broadleaves without killing clover. Proclova ® is one example.

Annuals – With annual weeds, it is usually best to first try to thicken up the forage stand. Annuals are opportunistic; they germinate and grow when forage stands get sparse. Addressing lime, P and K needs and strategic use of nitrogen fertilizer are some of the most powerful tools to shift the advantage to the desirable forage. Implementing rotational grazing and maintaining good residual heights on the base grass will help suppress the onset of these weeds.

Toxic and invasive plants – Toxic and invasive weeds will often necessitate the use of herbicides. The cost/benefit ratio of using chemical control is influenced greatly by the threat of loss of livestock and the loss of value due to their presence in hay.

Cash hay vs pasture – Some weeds can be tolerated or even be beneficial in pasture that would warrant herbicide application in a cash hay crop. For example, johnsongrass and crabgrass are highly palatable forages that benefit summer pastures but are not welcome in hay intended for high end horse markets.

Weed growth stage matters – Weeds are most easily controlled when they are green and actively growing. For perennials like ironweed, time herbicide applications so that plants are young and vegetative. Often that means timely mowing in mid-summer to knock them back and following up with herbicide in two or three weeks.

Replant strategy – A plan to spray almost always requires a plan to replant because when the weed is gone, mother nature will insert another one. Refer to the label for the proper re-seeding interval.

The decision to spray herbicide on pastures and hayfields is complicated. The decision to spray is a subjective process depending on many factors, including the visual assessment of the weed pressure, the invasiveness and/or toxicity of the weed, the cost of the control measure, the forage value of the weed and its life cycle, and the ability to restore the pasture stand. Don’t forget that the best first step is to thicken up the existing stand of forage. Happy foraging. ~ Dr. Jimmy Henning, Farmer’s Pride, August 2020. Subscribe to The Farmer’s Pride to read the full article.

Novel Endophyte Tall Fescue Seed Availability This Fall

Fear not, novel endophyte tall fescue seed will be available soon. Almost all novel endophyte seed will be from the new crop to make sure it is fresh and that the endophyte is viable.  Most of this seed is grown in Oregon and harvested during July.  The seed is then cleaned and sampled for quality control analysis under the guidelines and standards of the state of Oregon and the Alliance for Grassland Renewal.  Once quality is verified, which can take up to a month, the seed is packaged and shipped to dealers. 

So, if you plan to plant Novel Endophyte Tall Fescue and have heard seed is not yet available, fear not, the seed is in the pipeline and quality and supply look good.   Most varieties are now ready to ship to distributors and dealers, so call your seed dealer and ask them to order your seed today.  Options this year include Jesup MaxQII, Texoma MaxQII, and Lacefield MaxQII from Pennington Seed; Estancia with Arkshield from Mountain View Seeds; Martin2 Protek and Tower Protek from DLFPickseed; and BarOptima E34 from Barenbrug Seeds.    There looks to be an ample supply, but some specific varieties might be a little tight.  If you expect to plant, talk to your advisors and make your variety selection, and then get your seed ordered soon to make sure you can get what you want. 

Learn more about the Alliance for Grassland Renewal here. To stay up to date on all things regarding novel endophyte tall fescue, sign up for the Alliance for Grassland Renewal’s monthly e-newsletter, Novel Notes, here. ~ Matt Poore, Alliance for Grassland Renewal.

Forage Timely Tips: September

  • If not already done, soil sample and apply fertilizer as needed.
  • Plant perennial grasses and legumes. Consider using a novel endophyte tall fescue. 
  • Harvest hay as needed.  Do NOT harvest alfalfa after mid-September..
  • Scout pastures, identify perennial weeds and woody brush.  Consult an agricultural professional to determine the control strategy.
  • Closely monitor livestock and do NOT overgraze. Pasture plants accumulate energy reserves in the fall that help them overwinter and regrow in the spring. 
  • Feed hay to allow pastures to stockpile for winter grazing. 
  • Rest native warm-season grass fields until after frost for better winter survival.