Did you know?
Stockpiled fescue is one of the most reliable and cost-effective practices for growing winter pasture? Clip the old summer residue of fescue fields down to a 3” stubble and apply 50-60 lbs/acre of nitrogen fertilizer the first week of September. Let the grass grow until December 1 then graze it instead of feeding hay. Typical yields are 2,000 to 3,000 lbs of forage per acre. Over 98% of University on-farm stockpiled fescue demonstrations have saved producers money over the past 18 years.
Did you know?
Did you know, cows have a single stomach, but four different digestive compartments. The four compartments consist of the following:
- Rumen is the largest compartment, and it contains billions of bacteria, protozoa, molds, and yeasts.
- Reticulum, with its honeycomb like lining, is a compartment of the stomach that is involved with rumination. It also acts as a trap for foreign objects ingested by the cow.
- Omasum is also known as “the book” or many piles because of its many leaf-like folds. It functions as the gateway to the abomasum, filtering large particles back to the reticulorumen and allowing fine particles and fluid to be passed to the abomasum.
- Abomasum is also known as the “true stomach.” It functions much like the human stomach producing acid and some enzymes to start protein digestion.
2015 Arkansas Hay Test Trends for May through July
The 2015 hay crop in Arkansas has been challenged with an abundance of cool days and rain during late spring and early summer. Even after rain ceased, harvest was delayed while hay and livestock producers waited for water logged soils to dry out. Warmer and dryer days gave way to good forage growth during the wait.
Livestock producers and county agents have reported first-cutting being delayed, even into late-July. For the 3-month period of May, June, and July the total number of hay samples submitted to the University of Arkansas diagnostics lab was 216, slightly below the 5-year (2010-2014) average of 227 samples. Sample median protein level was 10.6%, which is 4% lower than samples submitted during this period last year and 7% lower than the previous 5-year average. Fiber analysis (acid detergent and neutral detergent fiber) during the 3-month period was similar to the 5-year average, and the median total digestible nutrients estimate for submitted samples was 56%.
The fiber content (greatly affected by plant maturity at harvest) of samples submitted to the lab thus far aren’t in line with expectations attributed to this summer’s field conditions. Keep in mind, 216 samples is an extremely small sample of the total hay harvest.
One consistent trend observed in hay samples over the past 10 years in Arkansas has been lower protein content of hay.
A key lesson to the 2015 hay sample summary thus far is any given farm should not base winter supplementation decisions on lab test averages (a.k.a. “my hay is average quality”). Within the 216 samples summarized here, the distribution of protein concentration among samples started at a low of 4% and went as high as 22%.
Climatologists are predicting a strong El Nino to develop which means a warmer and wetter winter. While warmer sounds favorable toward easier cow maintenance, a wet hair coat will drastically reduce the lower critical temperature for cattle, creating a greater demand for energy in the diet.
As hay harvest is wrapped up, no pun intended, follow up with your county Extension agent to have hay lots analyzed for nutrient content and plan a winter feeding program that won’t compromise cow reproduction or the pocket book.
Did you know?
Did you know that blue-green algae isn’t an algae at all? It is actually a bacteria called cyanobacteria that gets its energy by photosynthesis just like algae. Blue-green algae are most often blue-green in color, but can also be blue, green, reddish-purple, or brown. Blue-green algae reproduce explosively under certain conditions (usually in late summer) and some species produce toxins that can be fatal to humans and animals. Since there is no way of knowing which blue-green algae are fatal, we suggest that access to ponds are prohibited when algae blooms (also called pond scum) are present.
How to make your farm more drought-resilient
By Dirk Philipp, Associate Professor – Forages
Drought events are relatively common in the southeastern US where summer temperatures are high, evaporation rates are high, and precipitation is distributed unevenly across the year. Extreme droughts are difficult to deal with, but beef farm management can be tweaked and improved over time so that short-term drought events have less severe impacts on the operation and long-term farm survival. Let’s consider the three main interrelated and interacting components of a beef farm, pasture, animals, and the environment, and how we can manage each of it towards more drought resilience.
Pasture: From a simplified perspective, pastures are made up of soil and growing forage, and there are ways of increasing water use efficiency and soil water retention. The ground should always be covered, and with that we mean healthy forage stands and trying to close forage gaps throughout the year as much as possible. Plant cover means that erosion is slowed and water can infiltrate more evenly without running off. The more forage is produced, the more root growth takes place in the soil which in turn is beneficial for maintaining and increasing soil organic matter, soil stability, and providing substrate to soil microorganisms, all of which in turn improve soil health and water retention. Extending the grazing season into late fall and winter via stockpiled forages provide additional grazing days for livestock, thereby reducing costly hay purchases. Fall and winter forages such as cereals or turnips may also be able to scavenge part of the nitrogen that is cycled back into the soil from grazing earlier during the year. Grazing stockpiled forages, either warm- or cool-season species resulting in staggered grazing times, will increase the return of organic material to the soil that will also help in absorbing water during winter rain events. Grazing methods play a large role too, as it has been shown that more intensive methods such as rotational stocking can increase soil health by recycling a larger amount of biomass. It is also a good idea to experiment with summer annual forages to test which ones do best on your place. Pearl millet and sorghum-sudangrass are mainstays in Arkansas and have been good choices as these are warm-season forages which are more drought tolerant than perennial cool-season forages. They won’t survive without water obviously either, but if droughts should become more frequent in the future, producers have a tool at hand that allows them to replace traditional cool-season forages during certain times of the year. Observe precautions however regarding nitrate and prussic acid accumulation, however. Overgrazing of pastures should be strictly avoided as this will weaken pasture recovery and will give weeds an advantage. In addition, bare spots mean increasing soil temperatures which in turn will increase soil water evaporation.
Animals. Cattle need sufficient amounts of clean drinking water to get through the summer. During a prolonged drought heat stress is exacerbated and amounts of water delivered have to be vastly increased. To avoid any problems, plan carefully in advance on how to address water delivery to cattle. This involves providing various water access points with different water sources, such as a ponds, wells, or city line connections. It is unlikely that during a severe drought all of these will fail at the same time. Shade is an important component to animal management as it alleviates heat stress during the hottest parts of the day. There’s always the discussion that shade areas will develop into muddy areas and that grazing time will be reduced. During a prolonged drought which most of the time comes with high day-time temperatures, shade together with sufficient amounts of drinking water can be a lifesaver. Shade structures should be kept away from the water sources, however, so that the water sources don’t become impaired from defecation.
Environment. Many beef farms feature streams, creeks, or springs. It cannot be stressed enough that it is just not a good idea of letting animals roam freely around these waterways as these landscape features are associated with woody vegetation that keep the surroundings cool, reduce evaporation, and retain soil moisture. Water access to streams can be provided, but should be limited to certain areas with a low disturbance potential. Creeks in healthy riparian areas may carry water well into a prolonged drought and should thus be protected.
In summary, good grazing management, providing reliable water access points for the animals, and good stewardship of natural resources will go a long way towards being prepared for drought events.