Articles on forages, animals, and grazing systems
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Extension Forage Specialist
University of Kentucky
Phone: (859) 257-3358
Fax: (859) 323-1952
Using good pasture management practices can help eliminate weeds and unwanted plants in grass pastures and hayfields. To get the most quantity and quality from pastures, use management practices that encourage growth of a vigorous, dense stand of forage grasses and limit germination and growth of unwanted plants. Weed seed germinate in thin pasture stands, and unwanted plants are more prone to become established in these areas.
One of the signs that spring has arrived is when the yellow flowers of buttercup begin to appear, but it’s during the winter months that the vegetative growth of buttercup takes place. As a cool season weed, this plant often flourishes in over grazed pasture fields with poor stands of desirable forages.
Tall ironweed (Vernonia altissma Nutt.) is one of the more commonly found weeds in grazed pasture fields and other non-cropland areas.
This is the time of year many producers apply nitrogen to their pastures to boost production for fall and winter grazing. Determine if applying nitrogen will benefit your operation this year or if it would not be a good economical decision.
Increasing nitrogen in the soil has been shown to greatly increase pasture production. Nitrogen can be increased in pastures by incorporating nitrogen-fixing legumes into grass stands or by applying nitrogen fertilizer.
Fertilizer is one of the main expenses in a productive grazing system. It is important to apply fertilizer and lime in accurate amounts for best forage production and financial and environmental reasons. Performing a soil test on pastures and utilizing the results to evaluate pasture fertility is strongly advised. Analysis of a soil sample will determine nutrient content of the soil including phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sodium, sulfur, manganese, copper, and zinc. Soil pH, organic matter, and exchangeable acidity will also be included in the results. These results are used to decide what to apply and how much to apply.
Nitrogen application in late October to November can thicken forage stands, initiate spring growth earlier, and forages will remain greener into the fall and early winter.
Applying nitrogen in mid-February to mid-April can promote early grass growth which can increase overall forage production and may reduce the use of stored feed.
Fertilizer and lime should be applied in accurate amounts for best forage production and for financial and environmental reasons. Performing a soil test on pastures and utilizing the results to evaluate pasture fertility is strongly advised.
Knowing the fertility and pH of a pasture in the fall gives one time to get fertilizer applied well before grasses start to grow in the spring. To determine fertilizer and lime needs of pasture land, soils should be sampled properly every 3 to 4 years and fertilizer and/or lime applied based on recommendations.
Overseeding pastures is an excellent management tool that can be used to improve pastures. Learn what you need to do to properly reseed a pasture and how different seeds require different rates and seeding depths.
Learn some key points regarding grass regrowth, and look at a simulation showing the impact that rotational grazing and continuous grazing have on grass regrowth.
Ways to renovate high traffic areas such as alleyways gated, waterers, etc. The different options you can use to promote growth and the management practices for these particular areas. Describes the different ways a producer can benefit from this practice.
Once you have selected a forage species and variety, it is recommended to buy a quality seed that is high in germination rate and free of weed seed. Buying certified seed guarantees that the requirements for both of these parameters has been met and should be the first purchasing option.
The frost seeding method allows seeds to be inter-seeded into undisturbed soils by scattering seed on top of the ground. The freezing and thawing action of the soil works the seeds into the soil where they can germinate. In Kentucky, the ideal time to frost seed is between February 10 and March 1, with mid-February preferred.
Multiple reasons exists for needing to reseed pasture, such as old stands that are dying out or stands that need to be improved due to poor management, disease, to fill in bare spots, or to reduce weed problems.
Partridge pea is a warm-season legume commonly used in wildlife seed mixes. Conservation Reserve Program lands are often seeded with these wildlife mixes.
Seed is the basic building block to a forage or crop stand. Whether establishing a new stand or improving an old stand, actions can be taken to ensure that newly planted seed produces a healthy stand.
Good grazing management will result in improved pasture yields. Understanding how plants grow allows for better management decisions as to when to move livestock under different growing conditions.
Seed is one of the cheapest inputs and is the basic building block to a good forage stand and grazing operation. Purchasing seed of high quality can increase pasture quality and yield.
In order for legumes to fix nitrogen, the rhizobium bacteria which form a symbiotic relationship with the plant must be present. Inoculating seeds with these bacteria prior to seeding will ensure that this beneficial process is occurring.
Adding warm-season annuals to a grazing system can provide high quality forage throughout the hot summer months.
Many reasons exist that cause pastures to struggle and need to be reseeded. Discover the correct management practices for reseeding a pasture, the different forage varieties, and which varieties require certain management practices.
Do not start grazing cattle as soon as pastures start greening up. Grazing too early not only hurts future forage production but can also reduce livestock performance. Early spring management of livestock and pastures can help to maximize success and production for the remainder of the grazing season.
With the rising cost and limited availability of hay over the past few years, Kentucky cattle farmers have been looking for ways to extend the grazing season and reduce the need to feed hay during the fall/winter months. Stockpiling forage is one way to meet both of these objectives. The definition of stockpiling is to “grow pasture for a later use.” The species of forage that respond best to stockpiling will vary between different regions of the US. In Kentucky, cool-season grasses respond favorably to nitrogen applications in the fall. Tall Fescue is especially renowned for stockpiling because of its inherent ability to maintain high levels of nutrients during the winter months than other cool-season species.
As the environmental temperature increases, cool-season forages begin to go dormant and production decreases. Warm-season grasses and legumes should be incorporated into grazing systems in order to reduce overgrazing paddocks and supply amply amounts of high quality grazing.
The use of stockpiled forages can extend the grazing season and reduce the amount of stored feed needed to feed livestock through the fall and winter months. Stockpiling forages, or allowing forage growth to accumulate for use at a later time, can help extend the grazing season.
Many options exist to provide quality grazing during seasons when many common forages have gone dormant. Some non-traditional forages can provide high quality grazing throughout the early fall, late winter, early spring, or hot summer months.
Many options exist to provide livestock with high quality forages for grazing throughout the fall and early winter months. In Kentucky, these options include utilizing perennial cool-season pasture as well as a variety of small grains and brassicas.
Non-uniform grazing can reduce utilization of available forages and increase undesirable plants and weeds in pastures. Taking steps to graze paddocks more uniformly will benefit overall livestock production and forage quality.
With much of the country affected by the drought conditions this summer, many grain producers are facing the problem of low grain yields while many livestock producers are experiencing hay shortages and may be seeking alternatives for winter feed.
Grazing remaining residue following corn harvest is one way to extend the grazing season and lower feed costs. Winter feed costs are the largest expense and grazing corn residues offers a way to significantly reduce those costs.
Small cereal grains, such as wheat, rye, oats, and barley, are multipurpose crops that can be used for grazing, silage, or hay production. Grazing pure stands of small grains is an effective way to extend the grazing season into the late fall and early winter, and then again in February/March for early spring grazing.
When needing additional pasture in the late fall, a producer can plant spring oats as a quick growing source of forage. Spring oats can be grazed about 60 days after emergence, but usually does not survive the winter. Spring oats are high quality and can be used for grazing, hay, or silage.
Adding a high quality forage to a grazing system can be an extremely valuable asset during the hot, dry summer months when cool-season grasses struggle. Millets can provide a high quality pasture forage during the hot, dry summer months, but also can be used for hay and silage.
When renovating or establishing pastures, an important consideration is the selection of forage species and varieties. Forage species, as well as varieties within a species, vary significantly in yield, quality, and stand persistence, which combine to greatly impact performance and economic return to the operation. In addition to choosing an appropriate variety, proper seeding rates and seedbed preparation are necessary for the successful establishment of the selected variety.
Warm season perennials can be used in a rotational grazing system during the hot summer months when cool-season grasses growth rates have slowed. Learn which warm season perennial varieties could benefit your operation, and the advantages/disadvantages of each.
Warm-season annuals such as sorghum, sudangrass, sorghum X sudangrass hybrids, and millets are useful forages for summer grazing.
When planning a grazing management plan for your pastures, it’s important to realize that pasture is the most economical and efficient way to feed your animals. When managing pasture, both the animal nutrient needs and pasture requirements should be considered.
Brown Midrib, or BMR, varieties have reduced lignin content which increases digestion, fiber availability, and energy available for grazing livestock.
Corn is one of our most productive forages with the potential to produce more than seven tons of dry matter per acre. Few annual crops can compare to corn in terms of yield (dry matter per acre) and cost (per pound of gain). Grazing fully matured, standing corn during the winter months has proven to be a successful tool to extend the grazing season.
Alfalfa is a high quality forage which can be used in a rotational grazing system during the hot summer months when cool-season grasses growth rates have slowed, and it can also help reduce cost. Learn what other advantages alfalfa has that could benefit your operation.
Novel Endophyte Tall Fescue is a variety of tall fescue that has the desirable traits of the wild-type endophyte infected fescue, only without the harmful animal side effects.
Prevention methods to keep cattle from getting a forage related disease called grass tetany. Includes some different options a producer can practice to prevent this disease. Cattle that get this disease often die quickly, but this disease has a variety of symptoms to look for. Includes recommendations for the various prevention methods and tips when to start/stop feeding high “mag” minerals and how much each cow should be getting daily. The season for grass tetany will be developing as temperatures rise and grasses begin to grow.
Brassicas (including turnips, rape, kale, and swedes) are highly productive, digestible forbs that contain relatively high levels of crude protein. Animals will readily consume the tops and will also grub the root bulbs out of the ground. Dry matter yield depends upon soil type, fertility, time of seeding, and precipitation.
Grazing forages during the summer months is a great way to reduce stored feed costs. However, there are some risks that come with grazing certain forages and weeds. It is important to be cautious this summer to reduce the risk for prussic acid poisoning, as prussic acid poisoning tends to be worse during times of drought.
Pastures were slow to green-up with the cool weather this spring.
As temperatures continue to decrease, it is important to know and understand how various species of forages react to frosts and freezes in order to best utilize these forages and to avoid possible health problems. Freezing changes the metabolism and composition of plants. Depending on plant species, this can create possible forage-related animal disorders or the need to alter grazing management practices.
Pinkeye or IBK (infectious Bovine Keratoconjunctivitis) is a costly disease for cattle producers.
Prussic acid poisoning occurs when livestock graze certain plants that contain cyanide-producing compounds. Such species include, but are not limited to, sorghum, sudangrass, sorghum-sudan hybrids, Johnsongrass, and wild cherry. Cyanide can interfere with oxygen utilization in livestock, especially if consumed in large amounts.
Rotational Grazing requires dividing large pastures into smaller paddocks, where cattle will graze for a short time before having to be moved to another pasture. Rotational grazing can help improve forage productivity, weight gain per acre, and overall net return to the farm.
Heat stress in cattle can result in decreased weight gain, milk production, and reproductive performance. Heat stress can be increased when grazing endophyte-infected fescue and being worked during the hottest part of the day. Learn how to protect your cattle from heat stress.
Stockpiling forage is one way to extend the grazing season and minimize winter hay feeding. Tall Fescue is renowned for stockpiling because of its inherent ability to maintain high levels of nutrients during the winter months. Stockpiling fescue in the fall is fairly simple.
Various rotational grazing systems are used to increase forage production. These can include leader-follower, strip grazing, or ultra-high density grazing.
Tall fescue covers 5 million acres of hay meadows and pastures in Kentucky and has been the predominant forage in the state for over 50 years.
Pastures have greened up and are once again producing lush, high quality forages for grazing. Although it may be tempting to put livestock back on these pastures right away, certain precautions should be taken to protect the livestock and the new forage growth.
Supplying adequate shade and water for grazing livestock is essential for good herd health and performance.
Water is essential for the overall well-being of your animals. As temperatures increase, the amount of water needed increases. Learn more about the importance of easy access to water and the amount of water needed for various livestock species.
Horn flies and face flies are the key pasture flies that Kentucky cattle producers face each year. Both provide unique control challenges but the face fly is the more difficult one to manage. There are two main reasons: the small amount of time spent on animals and hard-to-treat feeding sites
Flies are one of the most difficult pests to manage and although they cannot be totally controlled, it is possible to reduce populations and irritation to livestock.
Cattle need the appropriate amount of minerals and vitamins for good growth, reproduction and immunity, among many other functions. This article covers why it is important to consistently provide mineral mixes to beef cattle.
Water quality can impact the performance of a cattle herd. Cattle perform better when they have clean water rather than muddy and stagnant water often found in ponds on many Kentucky farms. Simple systems exist to provide cattle better quality water from ponds without spending much money.
Many different types of temporary fencing materials are marketed which can make the practice of rotational grazing easier for you. Learn about these type products so you can make the best decision for your operation
If hay is stored and fed properly, hay loss can be minimized. Total losses from hay storage and feeding are estimated to exceed three billion dollars annually nationwide. This does not include additional economic losses associated with labor used to store and feed hay. While it is normal to expect some hay loss during feeding, minimizing hay feeding losses should be a primary producer goal.
Testing your forages can be a useful tool to minimize feeding costs while maximizing animal production. Forage testing provides the nutritional value of pasture, hay, or silage.
As the grazing season comes to an end, take time to reflect on and assess the past grazing season. It is important to continually make an effort to improve and advance a managed grazing system. When planning for the upcoming grazing season, decide on a purposed budget and time limitation. If you have little or no budget to make improvements to your grazing system, simple changes to management practices can make significant improvements.
Grazing two or more animal species in a pasture-based system can increase forage utilization and efficiency.
One of the most important components of a successful rotational grazing system is allowing the forages an adequate rest period for plant recovery and regrowth. Allowing plants a sufficient rest period is vital to maximize forage quality, yield, and stand persistence.
Cool season grasses are growing rapidly and producing large amounts of forages at this time of year.
Grazing at too low of a height causes overgrazing and decreases stand productivity and longevity.
The National Cooperative Soil Survey is a website that allows a producer to answer the question of “how many animals can I have” and identify soil types for areas within fields of a farm. This website can help identify fields which may be higher yielding and give an estimated average forage yield based on soil type.
Introduction of the new Master Grazer Coordinator and his background that helped him get to this position.
The Grazing for Cash program’s focus is on improving grazing and forage management. To help producers implement change, steps to incorporate and prioritize the identified focus areas are defined. This program will be rolled out within the next few months.
The first session of Tweaking Your Grazing System program was held in Monroe County on May 10th. Participants learned more about how to improve their grazing programs. The discussion centered on how to use portable water systems and temporary fencing and how to determine the proper paddock size for their rotational grazing system.
Known as a leader in agriculture, Russell C. Hackley has not only integrated a profitable beef operation, but also highly enjoys his work and involvement in the industry. He recognizes the value of high quality forage and is willing to try new things to better utilize forage. He also has hosted many field days through the University of Kentucky’s Cooperative Extension Service and has worked with University researchers in using his operation for many research trials, including novel endophyte tall fescue variety trials.
Buddy Smith owns and manages a beef cattle and hay operation on over 400 acres in Anderson County and does an exemplary job of managing his unique grazing program.
Randy Haas, owner and operator of Flagg Springs Ranch, runs a stocker operation on over 500 acres in Campbell County.
When Gene and Marcy Dobbs purchased Shady Meadows in 1971, the 65 acre farm located in Campbell County consisted of 2 large paddocks with many briars, bushes, and rocks.
The Landis farm, owned and operated by Jim and Baker Landis, is a 120 acre farm which raises beef cattle with a pasture based system.
Knob Lick Farm relies on keeping things simple, reducing the use of machinery, and letting the livestock do the work. A unique no-freeze, portable watering system has allowed for dairy heifers to be rotationally grazed year round.
The Advanced Grazing School is going to be held at the Eden Shale farm in Owenton County on September 11th. This program is used to go more in depth on important forage and animal topics for those who have attended a grazing program in the past.
A fall grazing school will be held in Monroe County on September 16th, and will begin at 4:00pm.
The first session of this, two-day, UK program will be held on June 21, 2014 in Morgan County. This program is designed to introduce producers to managing grazing systems and the best management practices for utilizing fescue-based forage systems.
This new UK program will be held on May 10, 2014 in Monroe County. This one-day program is designed to introduce producers to managing grazing systems and the best management practices for utilizing fescue-based forage systems.
The first round of Tweaking Your Grazing System program is over and now round two is coming. Starting with Morgan County on August 23rd an educational program will be held with topics covering fall pasture management.
As summer comes to an end and weather conditions change, so does pasture management. This article covers several tips for managing pastures and cattle as the growing season comes to a close.
A list of important considerations for late winter and early spring.
Plan and prepare for changes to your grazing system and pasture renovations that will be implemented next spring.
Use caution when grazing certain summer annuals after a frost to reduce threat of cyanide (prussic acid) poisoning.
Soil compaction is a common problem that many producers face but that is often overlooked. Significant soil compaction can also reduce forage yields and slow forage establishment which, in the long run, costs money. Management practices can be used to reduce and correct this problem while improving soil conditions.
In order to keep damage to pastures to a minimum, it is important to take the proper actions to protect them during wet periods when they are prone to damage.
With the many challenges of managing an agriculture operation, environmental concerns often fall low on the priority list. However, incorporating a few key practices can help ensure animal health, improve soil resources, and protect water quality. In addition, these practices can be included in a KY Agriculture Water Quality Plan and help farmers comply with environmental regulations.