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Cooperative Extension Service
Selected Articles from 2006 - 2009
Hay Storage Matters
Last week, I wrote about the issue of Large Round Hay bales overheating and causing barn fires or simply damaging the protein in the forages. Since placing large round bales in the barn before they go through the ‘sweat’ can create dangerous heating and consequently, barn fires, it would appear we were advocating leaving bales outside. Yes and No. Yes, we would advise large round bales harvested at anything over 20% moisture to stay outside for a couple of weeks. But, no, storing bales outside for extended periods causes some large losses. Inside is better. Here’s why.
In a study just published in the June edition of “Forage News”, round bales left on the ground with no cover had a 37% loss. Simply putting the bales up on tires decreased the loss to 29%. But putting the bales up on tires and covering them yielded a loss of only 8%. Net wrapped bales on the ground lost 19%. Placing bales inside a barn yielded the lowest loss of 6%.
How good is your hay? How will animals perform on the hay you plan to feed next winter? What is the value of your hay from a nutrient standpoint? The answers to these and many other "Hay Quality" questions can be answered through the Kentucky Department of Agriculture Hay Testing Service. A simple toll free call (1-800-248-4628) will put you in contact with the KDA Hay Testing Program. Arrangements will be made for a trained individual to visit your farm and sample your hay. For a nominal fee of $ 10.00 per lot, your hay will be tested and a report returned to you. If you would like assistance in balancing rations, it is available from your County Extension Agent and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
Fall Good Time To Sample Soil
Wet soils compact. Lime and fertilizer haulers are super busy in the spring time.
These two facts are both excellent reasons to take soil samples and get needed lime and fertilizer hauled and spread in the fall.
Harvest time is also an excellent time to make cropping decisions for next year.
Which fields might be used for tobacco next year? Which will be corn, beans, sown for hay, etc.?
If this much of the puzzle is put together in the fall, then soil sampling and proper liming and fertilization go a long way toward completing the picture.
Fall application of lime and the elements phosphorus and potassium can help allow time for these soil amendments to react and give you the most "bang for your buck".
It has become increasingly popular for farmers to use "pelletized lime" in the spring because of the thought that it reacts faster.
Based on research from several states, it appears that the pelletized lime reacts no faster to raise the soil pH than good quality ag lime applied at the recommended rates.
Back to our original two arguments in favor of fall soil sampling and fall spreading.
Soils tend to be much drier in the fall, therefore much less likely to compact from the weight of the spreading equipment.
Truckers continue to tell me that they have a difficult time getting to everybody in the spring planting rush, and that spreading out some of their work into the fall would suit them just fine.
Fall soil sampling can reap great benefits.
Fall Soil Sampling
Some folks ask me “when should I soil test”, and I think my favorite time is here in the late summer and early fall. While soil sampling can be done at any time of the year, here in the fall as harvests are made can have some advantages. Not only will the memory of how the latest crop grew and responded will be fresh in your memory, but this is usually a dry time of year, meaning that soil amendments recommended for the next crop year can be put on with little soil compaction. Lime, Phosphorus, and Potassium require some time to become ‘plant available’, and they do not leach out, so you can get a big head start on next years crop by applying now. For each field to be tested, we need about a half pint of soil taken from several places and mixed together. The UK testing lab usually gets the soil analysis and recommendations back in a week to ten days.
Lawn Care In The Fall
Taking care of your cool season grass lawn during the fall may be more important than it is during spring and summer. Nearly all fertilizers and broadleaf herbicides should be applied in the fall, and it is by far the best time to renovate (seed) lawns.
Here are some tips from Dr. A. J. Powell, UK Turf Specialist, for cool-season grasses:
Fertilize – Fertilizing your lawn in the fall will help it grow stronger, thicker and greener. Cool-season grasses should be fertilized with nitrogen in late October and again in four to six weeks. Use either farm fertilizers such as ammonium nitrate or urea, or use specialty fertilizers found in garden centers. The normal rate is 1 to 1.5 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn.
Control weeds – If broadleaf weeds such as clover, dandelion, plantain and chickweed are growing in your lawn, fall is the best time of year to get them under control. Almost all broadleaf weeds can be controlled selectively in turfgrass by applying a three-way mix of 2, 4-D, MCPP and Dicamba. This mix is sold in many garden centers under a variety of trade names. For the best results, apply the mix on any relatively warm day in October or November.
Renovate/Seeding – The best time to reseed your lawn is from late August through October. Because the goal is to get the seed in close contact with the soil, it is recommended that you first remove surface debris and mechanically groove the soil. This is easier done with a de-thatching machine that can be rented at many rental centers. Seed a turf-type tall fescue at a rate of 5 to 6 pounds per 1,000 square feet. To avoid uneven application, spread half the seed horizontally across the lawn and the other half vertically. The best and quickest results are obtained if the seeded areas can be kept moist until the seeds germinate.
Remember to continue mowing your lawn as long as the grass is growing. You might want to lower the height in the fall to 2 inches or so. This tends to keep the grass greener longer in the winter and will help the lawn to green up earlier the next spring. It might even help increase turf density.
We’ve had this questions several times this fall and early winter: There are dark green circles of grass in my lawn and pastures . What are they and what should I do about them?
These descriptions are typical of fairy rings caused by a diverse family of fungi called basidiomycetes. Fairy rings might be six inches to two feet wide and can be anywhere from two feet to hundreds of feet in diameter and expanding yearly.
Here is an explanation for the dark green grass. The presence of mushrooms usually indicates an organic source of nutrients, such as a buried tree stump, is nearby. When you see a mushroom growing in a lawn, you are only seeing a small part of the fungus. The fungus also grows underground as a thread-like mass that is called mycelium. This mycelium tends to grow in all directions from a central point. Thus, an invisible circular pattern occurs. The fruiting bodies (mushrooms) then tend to appear in a circular pattern.
Usually on the inside of the fairy ring, a dark green ring of grass will be evident. This is because extra nitrogen is available in that area where the fungal mycelium has died.
The term "fairy ring" comes from a centuries old superstition that the mushrooms growing in a circle represent the path of dancing fairies.
There is no good control for fairy ring. Mushrooms can be temporarily removed by regular mowing or raking. Since fairy rings are most visible on low fertility conditions, you can mask the fairy rings by regular applications of low rates of nitrogen.
Winter Weather Terms
With winter upon us, it’s important to closely follow local weather forecasts and warnings and be familiar with seasonal weather terminology. Here are some of the “winter” terms you’ll hear, along with a brief explanation.
A “winter storm warning” is issued in anticipation of a combination of heavy snow, freezing rain or sleet. This warning usually is issued six to 24 hours before the weather is expected to begin.
A “winter storm watch” alerts you to the possibility of a blizzard, heavy snow, freezing rain or sleet. It usually is given 12 to 36 hours before the beginning of the storm.
A “winter storm outlook” is issued prior to a winter storm watch, usually 48 to 60 hours in advance of a winter storm. The outlook is issued when forecasters believe winter weather conditions are possible.
A “blizzard warning” is given for sustained or gusty winds of 35 miles per hour or more, and falling or blowing snow that limits visibility to one-fourth mile or less.
The “wind chill” is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by the combined effects of wind and cold. An advisory is issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be between 20 degrees below 0 or colder.
When accumulations of snow, freezing rain, freezing drizzle and sleet cause significant inconvenience and moderately dangerous conditions, a “winter weather advisory” is issued.
“Freezing rain” falls on a surface with a temperature at or below freezing. “Sleet” is rain drops that freeze into ice pellets before reaching the ground. Both can cause damaging and dangerous ice accumulations.
You can visit the UK Agricultural Weather Center at http://wwwagwx.ca.uky.edu to get custom local current and 7 day weather forecasts along with satellite and radar imagery. UK Specialists Tom Priddy and Tom Keene are currently working on a hay-making forecast model which should be out by next spring. These work best on high speed internet service.
Ruts In The Fields
Nobody likes to see (or make) ruts in a field, but the necessity of harvest and feeding operations even when the soil is wet make ruts a fairly common occurrence at this time of year. While ruts look bad, some may not be as damaging as they look.
Even though combines and tractors can compact soil, the physical condition of the soil must be right for compaction to be severe. When soils are dry enough that they could be tilled properly, little compaction is likely to occur.
As the soil becomes wetter, they are easier to compact because the soil particles become lubricated with water. The large pores are filled with air and the small ones filled with water. The large pores collapse with pressure and compaction is formed. Compacted ruts are formed.
As the soils become even wetter, all pores are filled with water and the soils can not be compacted, yet the shear strength of the soil is reduced to near zero and the soil squishes up around the tires. This causes large, deep, muddy ruts with little or no compaction.
So there are two kinds of ruts, compacted and uncompacted. Both of these can exist in the same field. The uncompacted ruts look the worst and have large raised ridges on each side of the track. There is a lot of mud. There is no compaction in these ruts or a small amount at the bottom of the rut. The soil structure was damaged but can be easily corrected. The rutted areas need to be smoothed for future production by waiting until the area has dried and using surface tillage to fill and smooth the ruts.
The compacted ruts don’t look too bad, since they have little or no lip and are mostly a compressed track. In these ruts the compacted zone usually starts 1 to 2 inches below the bottom of the rut and is compacted for several inches. The depth of the compaction can range from 4 to 10 inches. The rutted areas need to be smoothed and the compaction area broken. Depending on the depth of the compacted layer, a chisel plow or a subsoiler could need to be used.
If the ruts at your place are in those areas where your are continuously traveling with the tractor to move roll bales, etc, then you might consider adding some filter fabric and gravel. Find out more about this practice and it’s potential as a cost share items for Phase I funds at the County Extension Office at 845-2811.
Feeding High Quality Forage
The ultimate test of forage quality is animal performance. Producing high quality forages is vital to improved animal performance, whether your goal is more pounds of milk, a higher rate of gain, , or an improved conception rate.
Forages provide a major percentage of the nutrients for beef and dairy cattle, sheep and goats, horses and ruminant wildlife. If the quality isn’t right, you can’t feed animals enough forage to achieve production goals.
Forage quality is defined as “the extent to which a forage, whether pasture, hay or silage, has the ability to produce the desired animal response.”
While many factors affect forage quality, the stage of maturity at harvest is the single most important consideration. It also is the one over which producers can make the most progress. Protein content, digestibility and acceptability to livestock drops as legumes and grasses move from the vegetative, or leafy, stage to the reproductive, or seed, stage. For instance, grasses may contain more than 30 percent protein at the immature, leafy stage, but drop to less than eight percent protein when they mature. Legumes are generally higher in protein and energy than grasses, but overmaturity hurts them as well.
In addition to forage quality, producers need to consider animals’ nutritional needs and match the quality to these needs. In general l, high-quality forages are more palatable. Forages must be palatable for animals to consume enough to meet their daily needs.
Digestibility also improves with forage quality. Animals may digest 80 to 90 percent of immature, leafy grasses but only 50 percent or less of mature material with lots of stems. High quality forages have significant amounts of protein, energy, vitamins and minerals, but are low in undesirable contents such as fiber and lignin.
Our weather has caused some real problems with forages this spring. We hope to use the rest of the growing season to make adequate high quality hay. Remember, stage of maturity is your single best tool in making sure your hay has the quality you’d like for your animals this winter.
Nitrogen For Stockpiling Fescue
Nitrogen prices continue to increase in Kentucky, but prices for stored feed also continue to increase. Start planning now for stockpiling tall fescue for late fall and winter grazing. Stockpiled tall fescue will provide high quality, palatable forage and reduce the cost of winter feeding. The most efficient application time to insure strong fall growth is early to mid-August on grazed (3 to 4”) or hayed fescue stands. Recommended N application rates are 50 to 80 lb N per acre, but rates as low as 30 to 40 lb N per acre will enhance growth and improve forage quality. Ammonium nitrate is the preferred N fertilizer because it does not volatilize in hot weather. Price and availability are certainly big issues with ammonium nitrate. If urea is used it should be applied immediately before rain or used with the additive Agrotain which reduces volatilization losses.
The price of fertilizer is so high that many cattle producers are asking if it’s economical to apply fertilizer to pasture and hay ground this fall.
The answer to that question is difficult because it depends on your specific situation. When considering the answer for your operation, the first thing you should do is examine your soil test levels. If you have not taken soil samples within the past three years, you would be wise to collect new ones before making a decision. From the soil test results, determine what, if anything, is most limiting. In terms of soil pH, the minimum value depends on the type of forage you’re producing. If it’s alfalfa and the pH is below 6.0, you could apply lime. A grass-legume mixture probably can tolerate soil pH down to about 5.8 and a pure grass system probably can go down to pH 5.5 before yields are significantly affected. Similar statements could also be made for phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) nutrition, with alfalfa requiring the most and a pure grass like fescue requiring the least.
The UK College of Agriculture recommends P applications starting when the soil test P level drops below 60 pounds per acre and K when soil test K drops below 300 pounds per acre. If soil test levels are above 60 pounds per acre and or 300 pounds of K per acre, the likelihood of a yield response to additional P and/or K fertilizer is extremely low. But if you want to be sure that P and K are not limiting, apply fertilizers as recommended. If you are conservative and assume some risk that P and K might reduce yield, you might allow soil test levels to decline further. From small plot research, we know that once soil test P drops below 30 pounds per acre and/or soil test K drops below 200 pounds per acre, a yield response to added fertilizer is likely, therefore; these would be the minimum tolerable levels.
For more information on soil sampling and fall fertilizer recommendations, contact the Henry County Cooperative Extension Service at 845-2811.
Winter Horse Nutrition
The headlines in the LOCAL really caught my eye last week. It emphasized the plight of horses now caught in the wake of some interesting conditions. Some would say it’s the ‘perfect storm’. The equine economy is sluggish, cold weather is here which means little or no help from pasture, hay supplies are tight and expensive due to two straight summer droughts, and horses can’t go to slaughter in the US. Are there unwanted horses out there? Are there some who will not be fed properly through the winter? The answer is probably yes to both questions. However, we have a great community of horse owners and managers in Henry County, and they do their best to see that our equine friends are properly cared for.
No matter what the economic conditions, a horse’s nutritional needs do increase with even mild Kentucky winters. Here are some ideas to consider when feeding your horses this winter.
The first thing every horse owner should do is assess your horses’ body condition scores, or the amount of fat they are carrying. This is simple numeric system, ranging from 1 to 9 that will help you adjust your horses’ diets so they are carrying the perfect amount of body weight. If you need help with this, the UK Extension Service has a fact sheet titled, “Condition Scoring Your Horse,” and you can contact us at the Henry County Extension office to look for ASC-145. Using this system will help you keep feed costs down and your horses’ health and well-being in top shape.
No matter your horses’ body condition scores, one of the most important aspects of feeding horses during the winter is being able to provide a source of good-quality forage. Unless you have a well-planned rotational grazing system in place and have stockpiled forage that will that last until spring, feeding hay is essential.
Unless you are raising broodmares or growing horses, most horses should be fed at least 50 percent of their total daily diet as forage. For an average 1,000-pound horse fed at 2 percent body weight per day, that would be at least 10 pounds of hay per day. In addition to providing nutrients, hay also supplies heat to the horses through the digestive process.
If your hay is of high-nutritive value and your horses are maintaining their body condition scores throughout the winter, you may not have to provide a source of grain at all. However, if your horses are not meeting their nutritional needs with hay alone, you can add grain to their diet.
Water is an essential nutrient that you need to monitor very carefully during the winter months. In general, horses tend to increase their consumption of water when consuming more dry matter or harvested forages. But, they tend to not want to drink really, really cold water. Therefore, it’s important to make sure you provide fresh water daily on a free-choice basis. When the temperature dips into the 30s and below, water tanks may freeze up. Be sure to check them at least twice a day and break the ice up if needed so the horses can drink.
Make sure you especially monitor older horses that have trouble keeping weight on during the year. They may need some special attention to keep them in good weight throughout the winter.
Apple Trees In The Back Yard
An apple tree usually is one of the first fruit crops backyard fruit growers think about planting in their yard. However, they are one of the more difficult fruit crops to grow, primarily because of the wide range of pests that like them, particularly apple scab. This is a fungus that causes lesions on the fruit and can also defoliate the tree and kill the spurs – the structures that produce the flower buds.
Over the past 25 years, a number of scab-immune apple varieties have been released. The following apple varieties have performed well in Kentucky and are discussed in order of ripening. Most also have resistance to several other diseases.
Redfree – a red apple that ripens in August and colors well for this time of the season. Redfree is a tart, sweet apple which will keep for several months and also has resistance to cedar apple rust, as well as sooty blotch and fly speck diseases.
Liberty – a very tart, McIntosh-type apple that ripens in late August. In a cool fall, Liberty develops dark red stripes over a green/yellow fruit.
Enterprise – a red, spicy, crisp and fine-grained apple that ripens in mid-to-late October. Enterprise has a relatively thick skin, a very good disease resistance package and stores well until February.
Gold Rush – a very firm, tart, yellow apple that ripens in mid-to-late October. It sweetens up in storage and is one of the best storing apples available, keeping up to eight months. It has a very good resistance to scab and fire blight, but is susceptible to cedar apple rust.
Sundance – a firm, yellow apple, which is more difficult to find. It is very resistant to all four of the early season problem diseases and ripens in mid-October.
Since these apples are disease resistant, many novice growers mistakenly believe they don’t need to spray them. Unfortunately, these varieties don’t have any insect resistance. Attempting to grow apples without spraying for plum curculio, coddling moth, rosy apple aphid and scale can cause major crop losses, if not complete crop loss, depending on the season.
The most important sprays for apple varieties are the early ones, the dormant oil, pin, petal fall and first-cover sprays.
The publication, Disease and Insect Control Programs for Homegrown Fruit in Kentucky with Organic Alternatives (ID-21), provides descriptions of these varieties and spray recommendations. Contact the Henry County Extension Office at 845-2811 for a copy.
Comments About TEFF
Teff grass has been gaining interest and that interest is generating a number of questions. UK Forage Specialists and their counterparts in other states have been attempting to gather information which will answer these questions, but with back to back summer droughts in Kentucky, it is still hard to predict just how this grass will serve us here.
Teff is a relatively new summer annual forage grass for our region. Compared to the millets, sorghums, and sudangrasses we normally use, teff is much leafier and finer stemmed, and it often contains more crude protein and TDN. However, it usually doesn’t produce quite as much total tonnage. It makes a very palatable hay and is well accepted by horses, llamas, alpacas, and similar livestock. Recently weaned calves also adapt to teff hay quite quickly. These may be the kind of uses where teff is better suited than most of our other summer annual grasses. Of course, stock cows, replacement heifers, and other cattle also like it. However, since other summer annual grasses usually produce more tonnage and also are acceptable for these animals, they may be a better choice.
Furthermore, teff can be difficult to establish. It has a very tiny seed, much smaller than an alfalfa seed. It must be planted very shallow, about one-eighth of an inch deep, or seedlings will not emerge. Many producers who have planted teff have had thin or uneven stands, partly because the seed was placed too deep by their drills. Extra firm seedbeds may be needed when a drill is used; broadcasting seed and cultipacking afterwards might work better. Seedlings also need a week or so of moist soil to become established well enough to survive.
Teff has much potential when used with the right livestock. But know also that it has some risks and challenges.
Cutting Hay For Quality
Every year at this time, forage producers are faced with the same dilemma. Hay is ready to be cut and baled, yet weather patterns are unpredictable and rarely yield a good window of time in which to properly cure hay. The result: we wait until weather conditions are better, but we sacrifice the quality we are capable of producing.
In the case of first cutting alfalfa, waiting doesn’t only get us a lower quality forage, it decreases the total yield of the field because we simply can’t get as many cuttings. One of the solutions to this dilemma is putting the first cutting of high quality forages like alfalfa into a silage package. Rolled bale silage machines are being used to capture early quality, even with lack of curing conditions, and releasing the fields to produce high quality forage while the weather is still favorable in terms of temperature and moisture.
I’ve seen studies where the energy and protein levels of a hay which was cut and rained on were as good or better than the same hay left standing in the field for two weeks until good curing conditions were present. While no farmer wants hay rained on, the early cut, rained on hay left the field ready to grow its next crop earlier.
Some would ask, ‘why does the quality go down?’. The answer to that lies in the fact that stem tissue NEVER has the same quality as leaf tissue, and stem tissue is the only thing growing or increasing in our fields after the first few weeks of growth. Waiting for extra tonnage per acre is simply waiting for more stems to grow.
All forage producers should have their forage harvesting equipment greased and sharpened, and ready to go at the first hint of sunny weather. Good luck!
Dealing With The Emerald Ash Borer
Many of you have seen the big purple boxes swinging from Ash trees this spring and summer. The purpose of these Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) traps were to find out if these Ash tree killing insects had made it into Kentucky from the states to the north. They had. Without using the traps, we now have 7 counties with confirmed EAB presence, and while Henry County is not one of the seven, we are in the Quarantine area. What does this all mean? The following information and philosophy is from UK Tree Specialist Dr. William Fountain.
The initial infestations appear to have occurred in Michigan five to eight years ago. The option of confining it or eradicating does not exist, and there are no resistant Ash trees. EAB is responsible for the death or removal of over 20 million trees in Michigan alone. As this insect has moved through states to our north, all untreated ash trees have succumbed or are infected. At this time management is our only option for protecting valuable trees.
Though they may be genetically the same, urban and forest trees are economically different and must be managed accordingly. It is economically impractical to protect large numbers of trees in woodlots. The discussion of timber management will be discussed at a later time. Here, we’ll discuss the many Ash trees which are an important component of farmsteads and our urban and suburban landscapes.
The obvious signs of EAB infestation are small (1/8 inch) D- shaped holes, dieback of the crown and woodpeckers feeding on the larvae. The first feeding by EAB larvae is usually in the crown of the tree. By the time feeding and the resulting exit holes can be seen at eye level, it is generally too late for the tree to be saved.
Ash trees can be protected by specific insecticides. The best treatments currently available contain imidacloprid, applied by injection (professional) or drench (homeowner). There are advantages and disadvantages to either method. Insecticides applied by these two methods are considered to be protectants. Specifically, they are must effective when they are applied before the insect begins to feed in the tree. If a tree has lost more than 50% of its crown it is probably too late to save the tree. These insecticides must be applied on a regular basis for as long as the owner wishes to keep the tree.
Making intelligent decisions on which trees to treat and which to remove necessitates knowing (1) the size of the tree and (2) the perceived value of the tree to the owner. Protection is going to be expensive and, with the materials currently available must be treated on a regular basis and at the proper time of year. Generally, trees should be treated well prior to the emergence date of the EAB larvae (approximately mid May).
Young newly planted trees (1 to 2 inch trunks) are generally considered not to be worth treating. If these trees were installed as an important part of the landscape design, remove them and replace with a resistant species. If they were installed as part of a large planting and will not be missed if they are lost, they can be left and either removed when they become infected or treated should cheaper and more effective become available.
Old and declining trees (over 22 inches in diameter) are so large that it is difficult to get enough of the pesticide into the tree to effectively protect the tree. If a large tree is especially valuable to a landscape it can be protected with the intention of providing some lesser degree of protection with the thought that more effective insecticides will be coming onto the market.
Young and maturing trees (4 to 18 inches in diameter) are generally worth protecting, especially if they are considered to be a valuable component of the landscape. There are three reasons why this is especially true for trees in the upper end of this size range. Trees on the south side of a home or in a livestock pasture are valuable not only for the beauty they add but especially for the shade they will provide in the coming decade. Shade from trees reduces utility bills. Secondly, air conditioners in houses that are shaded do not work as hard and, last longer. Thirdly, treating to prevent EAB infection is cost effective. The cost of treatment to large trees over a period of a couple of decades is going to be less than the cost of removal. When you add the cost of a replacement tree and the decade of higher utility bills it can be an obvious decision.
There are going to be a lot of questions about Ash trees in the coming months and years. We will continue to try to explain the facts and the options through the UK Cooperative Extension Service. The local Extension Office can be reached at 845-2811.
Forage Testing A Must For This Years' Hay Crop
While always an important management tool, the need for using a forage analysis for testing this year’s hay is even more critical. Tom Keene, UK Forage Specialist, indicates that he has seen more rows of round bales sprouting green grass than normal, an indicator of two primary factors. First, the hay was made at a very mature
stage and had a tremendous amount of viable seed in the seed heads of the hay when baled. This seed ensures that the hay was way past an optimal nutrient value when it was harvested thus reducing quality dramatically.
The second issue is the over abundance of rainfall that we have had this year when compared to others. This additional rainfall has made the hay stored outside deteriorate at a much great rate than normal and will cause our storage and feeding losses to skyrocket. The most economical and efficient correction for this type of hay would be to make sure that the hay is tested either with the KDA hay Testing Program (1-800- 248-4628) or with another certified laboratory and then feed according to the class of livestock being fed.
It's time to start "Beefing Up" pastures and hay fields. The optimum window for seeding most of our cool season grasses and legumes runs from Early February to mid April. The early part of this time period usually allows us the opportunity to use "Freeze Seeding", whereby the natural freezing and thawing action of the soil helps "plant" the seed.
Follow these six important steps when renovating grass fields with legumes:
Have the soil tested and apply the needed lime and fertilizer. Legumes need a higher soil pH and fertility level than grasses. However, DO NOT use nitrogen. Added nitrogen stimulates grasses, which increase competition with the legumes.
Reduce the vegetative cover on the soil. This is best done by heavy grazing in late fall and early winter. Removing the excess grass cover will make it easier to get the legume seed in contact with the soil.
Select the legumes to be used. This will depend on the soil and the planned use of the forage. For hay, alfalfa or red clover is usually best. For both hay and grazing, a combination of red clover and ladino clover works well. Ladino, red clover, and/or annual lespedeza work well in pastures.
Use the right kind and amount of seed. Select varieties that perform well in your area. The only way to be sure of what you're planting is to use certified seed. Also, be sure to sure the right kind of high quality inoculant mixed with the seed just before planting. Use a sticking agent to be sure that the inoculant sticks to the seed.
Plant the seed so that it makes good
contact with the soil. There are several ways to do this. One of the best ways for most
farmers is to use a disk, field cultivator, or field tiller.
Disturb 40 to 60 percent of the sod for planting clovers. For alfalfa seeding, almost all of the sod should be torn up (loosened from the soil). Broadcast the seed and pack the soil with a corrugated roller.
Another method is to use a no-till renovation seeder. These do a good job of placing the seed in the soil, but they don't reduce the competition from the grass.
A simple, but effective method is to broadcast the legume seed on the soil surface in late winter (Feb. 15 to March 15). As the soil freezes and thaws, the seeds become covered. This method does not work well with alfalfa.
Control grass and weed competition. This step is one of the most critical ones. Many attempts at renovation have failed simply because the grass was allowed to grow and reduce the light, nutrients, and water available to the young legume plants. The grass must be kept short by grazing or mowing until the new legume plants are 3 to 4 inches tall. Stop grazing if the animals begin biting off the young legume leaves. Grazing and mowing should be stopped for several weeks to allow the legumes to become well established. After this, the field should be mowed or grazed on a schedule that will help keep the particular legumes used in good condition. A rotational grazing system helps keep legumes in the stand longer.
Why Do Lighter Calves Bring More?
Over the years, I've heard that question asked many times, but never had a grasp of the full reason until receiving the following example. This was sent by Dr. Lee Meyer, UK Extension Livestock Economist.
Start with a 1200 lb. slaughter steer at $60 per cwt. It is worth $720/hd.
Now, we'll compare a 700 lb. steer with 500 lb. steer, and we'll assume of cost of gain of $.50 per pound in the feedlot. So, it costs the feedlot $250 ($.50 times the 500 lbs. of gain) to add 500 lbs. to the 700 lb. feeder, and it would cost $350 to add 700 lbs. to the 500 lb. feeder to get it up to the 1200 lb. slaughter weight.
That leaves $470 ($720 - $250) for the feedlot to pay for the 700 lb. steer, which is $67 per cwt. ($470 / 7). It leaves $370 ($720 - $350) for the feedlot to pay for the 500 lb. steer, which comes out to $74 per cwt. ($370 / 5).
In the real world, the cost of gain will be lower for the calf than for the yearling, but health costs and death loss will be higher. But this example illustrates the point-and comes out with prices very close to current market prices.
Livestock Water Extremely Important
Winter can be a rough weather time for Kentuckians. Fortunately, most of us can stay inside where it's warm and not have to worry about having food and water. Livestock, on the other hand, don't have it so easy.
The biggest thing for producers to remember is that livestock need water, or they won't eat. After the need for water is realized, producers have to remember that livestock require more energy to make it through the winter months. More energy means additional high-quality forages and grains. It's a common myth that grain rations are hotter rations. High-quality forage rations actually provide more heat for livestock. Producers should take advantage of forage testing to better understand what they actually have.
In general, it's a good idea to have a supply of feed available to get livestock through times when the roads may be closed due to snow, ice, etc. Livestock in isolated areas, away from the center of the operation, need to have at least a week's supply of feed available.
Don't forget the importance of good, dry bedding. Animals who are kept dry have a better chance of staying comfortable and alive than those who stay wet during cold spells. Extra attentions should be given to protecting 'newborns' from drafts.
When caring for livestock in times of weather stress, remember that animals have a much better tolerance for cold than humans do. For example, the comfort range for cattle is somewhere between 40 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Horses have a wider range, from about 10 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Confining the animals completely is not the answer to very cold weather, however. If you have a 20-degree day and the wind is not blowing and the sun is shining, most animals ought to be outside. There are fewer problems with ventilation and associated barn humidity. The rule of thumb is if you open the door, and they want to go outside, they ought to be outside; if they take one look and go back inside, they should stay inside.
Livestock Management in the winter months can be successful by simply having water readily available, a good source of feed, and shelter that protects from wind and moisture.
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This site was created by Joyce K. Meyer, on October 26, 1997.
Last revised on 03/31/15.