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Don’t miss the winter forage conference!

February 15, 2018

2018 Winter Forage Conference Flier b

2018 River Valley Beef Cattle Conference

January 30, 2018



 8:30 a.m.-Noon
Feb. 14, 2018
Hughes Center
Russellville, Arkansas

Registration is $20 per person.

Contact your
county extension office
for more information.

Topics include:
*Disease Prevention and Minimum Vaccination Program for Beef Cattle

* Cattle working facilities overview

*What to Look at in the Markets to Determine When to Market Your Calves

*Pasture weed control


Winter Forage Conference

January 23, 2018

2018 Winter Forage Conference Flier

What to plant for spring grazing?

January 11, 2018

Evaluation of fall vs. spring planting date on spring DM yield of winter annual forages.

Every year, producers start asking in February what to plant for emergency spring grazing or a spring hay crop. The typical answer would be some species of winter annual forage. However, yield differences and growth patterns for fall vs. winter planting of various winter annual forages are not well documented. Therefore, animal science faculty along with county extension agents in the Ozark and Ouachita district conducted experiments at WREC (Fayetteville) and SWREC (Hope) to evaluate the influence of planting date on spring dry matter production of seven winter annual forages species. Species planted were cereal rye (Elbon), winter wheat (AGS 2027), winter oat (Coker 227), spring oat (Jerry), annual ryegrass (Winterhawk), forage brassica (Winfred), and crimson clover (Dixie).

NPK fertilizer was applied to each plot immediately after planting, and again in the spring based on soil test recommendation for winter annual forage production. Small grains (rye, wheat, and oat) were planted at 120 lbs./ac. Crimson clover, ryegrass and forage brassica were planted at 20, 25 and 5 lbs./ac., respectively. Plots were planted in October and March.

WREC Results:

The plots at the WREC were drilled into a well-firmed, tilled seedbed on October 11th and March 10th.

 Plots planted in October were harvested on April 19th. DM yield ranged from 8,600 to 0 lbs./ac. depending on winter annual forage species (Figure 1). With the exception of Jerry oat, DM yield for all the treatments was over 3,400 lbs./ac. Elbon rye produced the most DM yield. Jerry oat had 100% winter kill.

Plots planted in March were harvested on May 25th. DM yield ranged from 5,000 to 550 lbs./ac. depending on winter annual forage species (Figure 1). Jerry oat produced the most DM yield. Rye and wheat produced limited DM yield. This is likely due to the forages not becoming properly vernalized.

These forages require a short-day, cold temperature stimulus called vernalization to produce a seedstalk and seedhead. To sustain grazing animals, at least 1,200 pounds of forage dry matter per acre should be available before turn-in. Therefore, only Oat and Ryegrass planted in March produced enough forage DM for significant spring grazing.

SWREC Results:

The plots at the SWREC were no-till planted onto a fallowed site on October 7th and March 3rd. Prior to planting weeds were sprayed and mowed to provide a uniform stubble height.

Plots planted in October were harvested on March 15th and April 20th. Combined DM yield ranged from 2,900 to 1,850 lbs./ac. depending on winter annual forage species (Figure 2). Wheat produced the most DM yield.

Plots planted in March were harvested on May 25th. DM yield for all the treatments was low, < 1,400 lbs./ac. DM yield ranged from 1,350 to 300 lbs./ac. depending on winter annual forage species (Figure 2). Jerry oat produced the most DM yield.


Fall-planted winter annuals produce earlier forage in spring than spring-planted annuals. Forage growth for spring-planted winter annuals is about 1 month later than for fall-planted annuals. Yield of spring-planted wheat, rye, clover, and forage brassica is about half or less than for fall-planting. Some small grains did not meet vernalization requirement on spring planting.  The best potential yield for spring-plantings appears to be winter or spring oat and ryegrass.

two charts










Beef Herd Management Precautions – Winter 2017-18

December 7, 2017


Fall 2017 was extremely dry for most of Arkansas.  Most of the state is currently in severe to extreme drought with burn bans issued for half the counties and little rain in the forecast.  The current winter forecast is above normal temperature with equal chances of being above or below average for precipitation.  Some things to consider this winter include:

Vitamin A – cattle producers that normally do not feed hay unit December or January had to start feeding hay as early as mid-October.  Hay is low in Vitamin A content and cows have a 3 to 4 month body reserve.  Long term hay feeding may lead to Vitamin A deficiency and cause problems with reproduction in the herd.  Cows may need up to 50,000IU of vitamin A daily.  Avoid using salt blocks this winter and supplement cows with a complete mineral mix that has at least 150,000IU vitamin A.  Vitamin A can also be administered as an injectable, but the high dose also requires a withdrawal time for slaughter.  Injectable vitamins should not be administered to mature cows if they need to be marketed within the withdrawal period.

Protect Hay Lots – fire danger is high.  Unintentional fires can be started with coal ambers from disposed fireplace ash.  Avoid storing all hay in a single location, use natural fire breaks (streams, roads) to separate hay stores when possible.  Man-made fire breaks can also be constructed.

Hay Quality – a warm and dry forecast will help minimize environmental stress; however, cows may still require supplementation to maintain body condition.  Harvesting hay on time during summer 2017 was difficult.  Overly mature hay will be low in protein and TDN.  Test hays to determine the right type of supplement.  Undernourishment during the third stage of pregnancy may reduce lifelong performance of offspring.

Avoid too much salt – Cows have a high salt tolerance so cattle producers will sometimes use salt to control intake of self-fed supplements.  Right now, producers are voicing more concern over dwindling water supply than dwindling hay stock.  High salt intake with restricted water intake could lead to salt toxicity.

Avoid water restriction – Pond water levels are getting low.  Deep mud can restrict access and reduce water consumption.  Shallow water can also freeze solid more easily.  A reduction in water intake will lead to a reduction in feed intake and productivity.  Monitor water supply and develop an action plan early.  Pregnant cows can consume 6 to 9 gallons per day, while lactating cows can consume 11 to 17 gallons per day, for a temperature range 40F to 70F.

Your hay is probably not average quality

November 28, 2017

This time of year, livestock producers are often seeking supplemental feeding advise from their county Extension office.  Too often, a description of hay quality is used as a proxy for a hay test.  The common descriptions we hear include “fertilized” and “average quality”.  The 2017 Arkansas Winter Feed Meetings illustrate that words aren’t a good substitute for a forage analysis.  The two images below illustrate the differences we see among hay test results and the average results among farms.  The first image below is a graph of the protein (cp) and total digestible nutrients (tdn) among 247 samples collected from 60 farms participating in the fall 2017 meetings.

2017 Winter Feed Meeting Hay Test Results

2017 Arkansas Winter Feed Meeting Individual Hay Test Results

The red ellipse represents the 95% confidence interval for protein (12.0 to 12.6%) and tdn (54.9 to 55.9%) averages.  This graph shows that most hay samples exist somewhere outside of ‘average quality’.  Another interesting characteristic is we observe some samples being 14 to 18% cp, but low in TDN (~50%).  The general relationship between cp and tdn is positive, so we could assume that fertilized forage should be greater in overall quality; yet, variation indicates we shouldn’t make numerical assumptions about fertilized or unfertilized hay crops.

The average quality within each of 60 farms is illustrated in the following graph.  Statistically, most farms cp and tdn average would not be different from ‘average quality values’ because there is a lot of within farm variation in hay quality.  From a practical sense, only 3 out of 60 farms bordered our confidence interval for ‘average’.

2017 Hay Test Results Averaged Within Farm

2017 Arkansas Winter Feed Meeting Hay Test Results Averaged Within Farm

As the title suggests, your hay is probably not average.  Visit with your local county Extension agent if you are interested in the nutritive value of your hay, how well it matches the nutrient requirements of the herd, and suggestions for supplemental feeding based on hay test results.  Routine hay analysis will cost approximately $18/sample and because of the large amount of within farm variation, it is best to test each hay lot separately and supplement accordingly.  Many county Extension offices have hay probes available for sampling and can assist with lab submission.



Hay Quality: Figure It Out

November 9, 2017

Below is a figure of hay test results from 5 farms that participated in a recent winter feed meeting.  This figure illustrates a few points.  First, the shapes correspond to different farms.  When figuring out how to supplement during winter, it is important to test all lots of hay separately as they vary in quality.  This will help match hays to feeding groups based on nutrient needs.  Second, the red lines are placed at the requirements for early lactating beef cows when requirements are expressed as a percentage of the diet.  In most cases, hays in Arkansas meet protein and energy needs for non-lactating cows, but many hays will not meet nutrient needs for lactating cows.  Hays in the top right quadrant meet or exceed the needs for lactating cows; whereas hays in the top and bottom left quadrants are either inadequate in energy (total digestible nutrients) or protein plus energy (total digestible nutrients).  Thirdly, the bottom right quadrant represents the most common supplemental feeding error producers make when supplementing without hay test results.  This quadrant represents hays that would be adequate in total digestible nutrients but inadequate in protein.  Supplements such as protein blocks and range meals are designed to correct this type of deficiency; however, we rarely see this type of deficiency in our winter feed meeting program.

Image of graph showing hay quality among farms compared to cow requirements