Please pass on this notice to your producers, related agencies, and other interested persons.
Professor – Extension Forage Specialist
University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture
2301 S. University Ave.
Little Rock, AR 72204
By Dr. Dirk Philipp, Department of Animal Science, University of Arkansas—Fayetteville
Good forage management involves keeping forage supply matched up with animal needs during that time. Summer annual forages provide hay and pasturing at times when cool-season forages such as tall fescue cease growth during the hot summer months.
We have been working with pearl millet, sorghum sudan, and teff grass for some years now, and all of them have advantages and disadvantages. All of them require relatively warm soil and air temperatures for establishment and a fair amount of soil preparation to grow them successfully and achieve maximum yields. Some producers have had success by drilling summer annual forages into dormant tall fescue, but we were unable to see good results by trying this on our research farm. While there is merit in pursuing a no-till strategy, it also comes with disadvantages. Among these are seeding rates that have to be increased, delayed planting time as fescue dormancy may not occur until July, and likely lower yields compared with tillage-based establishment.
Establishment success of summer annuals can be vastly improved by preparing a firm, well-settled seedbed using a disk plow followed by culti-packing or rolling. As always, having a soil test report on hand is mandatory for good forage management and the report for the selected field should not be older than 1 to 2 years. Keeping the pH in the optimum range between 6.5 to 7.0 is helpful too because that will save a lot of headaches later on if the field is rotated to other crops such as legumes that are sensitive to soil acidity.
Soghum-sudan, pearl millet, and teff showed very different amounts of dry matter production during a study we conducted last year at the Fayetteville location. Sorghum-sudan (~7,500 lb/acre) out-yielded pearl millet (~5,200 lb/acre) and teff (~3,100 lb/acre) by far. But the entire story tells us much more than just the yield. We harvested twice, on July 31 and September 5, after having planted all grasses around June 15. While the amount of regrowth for sorghum-sudan was similar to the first harvest, both pearl millet and teff accumulated twice as much biomass between July 31 and Sep 5 as they did between the planting date and the first harvest. All grasses were harvested at the recommended heights of 4 inches for teff and 6 inches for the other grasses. There was little rain between the planting date and the first harvest end of July, so it is possible that the increased biomass accumulation was primarily caused by increased precipitation. This also means that in years with average amounts of rainfall during spring, it is wise to plant these grasses as early as possible, provided that soil temperature is at least 55 to 60 degrees F. Because these grasses are annuals and grow rapidly to reach the reproductive phase quickly, the regrowth potential is high and cutting or grazing cycles should be kept as tight as possible. Another benefit of harvesting on schedule is weed control, especially with teff. The harvested area was virtually weed-free, while another strip we did not harvest was completely overrun with weeds, among them pigweed and yellow nutsedge. Weed control in sorghum-sudan and pearl millet is usually not a big problem as these forage crops shade the soil enough to prevent major weed development.
There is obviously the danger of nitrate accumulation, especially in pearl millet and sorghum-sudan, and in addition prussic acid accumulation in the latter. With careful management and applying simple rules, such as leaving at least 6-inch stubble after harvest or grazing, the danger can be minimized. These summer annuals can also be part of rotations followed or preceded by winter annual forages such as legumes. In that case, some of the synthetic nitrogen fertilizer needed may be offset by the added legume biomass during the tillage process.
Video recordings and copies of the presentations delivered at the Livestock and Forestry Research Station are now posted. Topics covered at the field day included
- Research results for a chlortetracycline fortified mineral supplement delivered to cows grazing stockpiled fescue
- Research results for growth promoting technologies utilized in the beef industry
- 300 Days Grazing demonstration – 5-year summary
- Fenceline weaning and AM vs PM weaning research results
- Growth promoting implants for low weight heifers research results
- Internal parasites and research results on products to control them
To view the videos or download presentation PDF files, visit the station’s website http://batesvillestation.uark.edu/ and select the Livestock Management Field Day Videos link.
T. R. Troxel and M. S. Gadberry
According to the national weather service, the average monthly temperatures were colder than normal beginning in November 2013 and this pattern continued through March 2014, making the winter of 2013 – 14 one of the longest winter hay feeding periods in recent memory. In addition to colder than normal temperatures, many cattle producers across the state had to manage through ice and snow storms. Many mornings and throughout the day, cattle producers had to break ice just so cattle had fresh water to drink.
On the positive note, Arkansas cattle producers were fortunate because they produced a large hay crop during the spring and early summer of 2013. Following the record breaking drought of 2012, spring rains returned in 2013 and many cattle producers harvested their largest hay crop in a number of years. Therefore, cattle producers had the hay supplies to begin feeding early and continue feeding hay into April. Currently most cattle producers are running out of hay, spring grass is late, and threats of freeze are lingering into mid-April.
Even though cattle producers fed extra hay and supplemental feed this past winter, many fall and spring calving cows are not in as desirable body condition. Hopefully, the fall calving cows are already bred, but ranchers may find getting spring calving cows bred back a difficult task over the next few months. There are a couple of intervention strategies that may help jump start the estrous cycle for these cows and hopefully improve conception for next year’s calf crop.
Weaning the calf at an early age reduces the cow’s nutritional requirement, making it easier to maintain or accumulate body condition. The last thing a beef cow needs, especially a thin cow, is to be in a negative energy balance going into the breeding season. Once the decision to wean early has been determined, the next question asked is, “What do I do with the calf?” Two basic options for managing the weaned calf are (1) sell the calf immediately and (2) background the calf until normal weaning or longer.
Selling the calf immediately eliminates risk. There is a lot of talk among cattlemen about the number of three weight calves currently being sold, so it appears that many are already taking this approach. Currently a 350lb steer calf is selling for approximately $242 per cwt. or $847 per head. Despite bringing a higher price per pound, the value of the early weaned calf is less than its value if weaned at the typical age of 6 to 7 months. Selling the calf will eliminate the additional labor required for managing the calf until marketing later.
Backgrounding the calf can provided additional value from the weight gained from early weaning until normal weaning time. This option will require fencing that is capable of keeping young calves separated from their mothers. During this period, care must be taken to vaccinate, control internal and external parasites, and provide a diet that will result in positive weight gains.
Most likely, early weaned calves will be managed in a drylot setting until there is sufficient spring and early summer grass. The diet of the early weaned calf will be dependent upon the age at weaning. Very young cattle (less than 3 months of age) have not developed a functional rumen. The diet of these cattle should focus on supplying a higher level of concentrate and low level of fiber. This management is common in the dairy industry where calves are commonly started early on calf developer feed and weaned from bottles by one month of age. Beef cattle producers are most comfortable weaning older calves (4 months of age) as they will have a rumen that is capable of handling a higher percentage of forage. Unfortunately, by this age, cows are half way through the breeding season, therefore the net impact of early weaning on reproduction may be less than if calves were weaned at an earlier age. Weaning at 2 to 3 months of age may be necessary for herd with a 90 day breeding season. Early weaning may require weaning in phases to avoid weaning extremely young calves that will be more of a challenge to manage nutritionally.
It is important that forages included in the calf’s diet are very good quality. Young calves will require at least a 16 to 20 percent protein diet and anticipate the calves eating 3% of their body weight in combined forage and concentrate dry matter. Rations should be formulated for the desired performance while considering cost of ingredients and physiological capabilities of the calf. Keep in mind that crossbred calves often gain 2 to 2.25 pounds per day from birth to weaning at 6 to 7 months of age. Healthy calves fed a moderately low fiber diet will have a very good feed conversion. As long as the cost to put on a pound of gain is less than the value of added weight gain, these calves can be retained and developed to a heavier weight.
Another option to consider is 48 hour calf removal for cows that are moderately thin to moderate body condition (body condition score 4 to 5). One time 48 hour calf removal at the start of breeding has shown mixed results on pregnancy rate. A recent Florida study demonstrated using 48h removal at 20 day intervals, instead of a one time event, throughout a 90 day breeding season increased pregnancy rate. While the calves were separated in this study, they had access to hay, water, and supplemental feed. A calf developer feed should be sufficient during this period.
Since breeding season is upon us, this suggestion is a little behind, but even fenceline bull exposure prior to the breeding season could also provide an additional stimulus worth trying. Just make sure its a really good fence.
Dr. Tom Troxel Dr. Michael L. Looper
University of Arkansas Animal Science hosts the 2014 Arkansas State Beef Quiz Bowl
The University Of Arkansas Department Of Animal Science hosted the annual Beef Quiz Bowl this year in Fayetteville at the Pauline Whitaker Animal Science Center. This program is sponsored by the Arkansas Beef Council. This activity provides students an incentive to learn more about beef cattle management, food safety, forage nutrition, quality assurance and the end product. Educational material was provided for County Extension Agents and Vocational Agriculture Instructors to further the learning process beyond that of their beef 4-H and FFA projects.
Students were quizzed on many levels of question difficulties. The questions were compiled by Animal Science faculty and judging team students and covered all aspects of beef production. Four students made up a team and competed in a double elimination tournament.
Twenty-five teams participated this year. Preparation for this contest allowed students to sharpen their knowledge about beef cattle production. Additionally, students improved communication, goal setting, critical thinking and team building skills and ultimately enhanced their interest in beef cattle. This program has a great impact on educating students and encouraging a broadened perspective about their role in beef production, food safety and consumer acceptance. These efforts will be continued through the University of Arkansas Animal Science, Cooperative Extension Service, Arkansas Beef Council and Agriculture teachers across the state.
USDA release preliminary 2012 census data
USDA released some interesting data from the 2012 Agricultural census. The complete 2012 census is scheduled to be released in May.
- Number of farms – A farm is “any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the Census year.”
o In 2012, the United States had 2.1 million farms – down 4.3% from the last agricultural Census in 2007. This continues a long-term trend of fewer farms.
o Between 2007 and 2012, the amount of land in farms in the United States declined from 922 million acres to 915 million acres.
o In 2012, the average farm size was 434 acres. This was a 3.8% increase over 2007, when the average farm was 418 acres.
o Middle-sized farms declined in number between 2007 and 2012. The number of large (1,000 plus acres) and very small (1 to 9 acres) farms did not change significantly in that time
- Value of Agricultural Sales
o U.S. farms sold nearly $395 billion in agricultural products in 2012. This was 33% – $97.4 billion – more than agricultural sales in 2007.
o Crop sales were $68.7 billion more in 2012 than 2007 (a 48% increase) and livestock sales were up $28.6 billion (a 19% increase).
o In 2012, crop sales exceeded livestock sales for only the second time in Census history; the other occurrence was in the 1974 Census.
o Per farm agricultural sales averaged $187,000 in 2012. This was an increase of more than $52,000 (or 39%) over 2007.
o From 2007 to 2012, the percent of farms with sales and government payments of $1 million or more increased. But most farms in the United States are small – 75 percent had sales and government payments of less than $50,000 in 2012.
The 2012 Census Preliminary Report focuses on principal operators (the person primarily responsible for the day-to-day operation of the farm). Among 2.1 million principal farm operators in 2012:
- 92% non-Hispanic white, 8% minority
- 86% men, 14% women
- 78% in current operation 10 years or more, 22% in operation less than 10 years
- 75% had 2012 agricultural sales and government payments of less than $50,000; 25% had sales and payments of $50,000 or more
- 48% called farming their primary occupation, 52% had a different primary occupation
- 6% under 35 years old, 61% 35 to 64 years, and 33% 65 years and older
In 2012, the average age of principal farm operators was 58.3 years, up 1.2 years since 2007, and continuing a 30-year trend of steady increase. The older age groups all increased in number between 2007 and 2012. In 2012, the number of beginning farmers – on their current operation less than 10 years – was down 20% from 2007. Nearly 172,000 farmers were on their current operation less than 5 years. One million operators considered farming their primary occupation in 2012. The number who identified something other than farming as their primary occupation was 9% lower in 2012 than 2007 (Source: USDA NASS, 2012 Census of Agriculture, Preliminary Report).
For Better Pastures, Attend the Arkansas Forage and Grassland Council Spring Forage Bus Tour on May 2
Dr. John Jennings, Professor – Forages
Trying to reduce hay feeding to reach a grazing season of 300 days or more doesn’t seem possible based on the extreme weather of recent years. Yet in spite of these extreme conditions two producers were able to reach grazing seasons of 300 days or more. How did they do this when grass refused to grow? By using some of the most tested and proven forage management practices available. These farms and the methods they use will be featured on the 2014 Arkansas Forage and Grassland Council’s Spring Forage Bus Tour on Friday, May 2. The tour registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Pocahontas Livestock Auction in Pocahontas, AR and the busses will depart at 9:30 for the first farm. Registration cost is $25 per person and $10 for students and includes lunch, tour handout materials, and comfortable bus transportation to all farms. If you are interested in better grazing and less hay feeding you will want to attend this tour.
To reach the Pocahontas Livestock Auction, take HWY 67 to Pocahontas, turn onto Townsend Street (at the intersection of Hwy 67 & 304, at the T-Ricks Citgo gas station) and go west about ¼ mile to the Livestock Auction Barn.
To reserve a seat or get more information on the AFGC Spring Forage Bus Tour contact the University of Arkansas Extension office in Lawrence County at (870) 886-3741 or Randolph County at (870) 892-4504 or call John Jennings, AFGC secretary at 501-671-2350.