Timely Tips – June

Timely Tips – June

We are at the change of seasons.  A time to contemplate and plan for summer forage. Note in the graph above, as temperatures hit 80 degrees F. or higher cool season forage production decreases and warm seasons forages kick in high gear.  I encourage you to make warm season and drought management decisions prior to the end of the recommended seeding date for warm season forages, July 1.

 Options:

  • Stockpile cool season forage into summer
  • Graze a field hard to release the seed bank for natural regeneration
  • Seed summer annuals
  • Seed summer perennials
  • Fertilization to improve warm season production

Stockpile cool season forage into summer. 

Although I think it is wise to carry some cool season growth into summer, the quality of it will be dependent on temperature and rainfall.  It may hold all summer but if it gets hot and dry it will just be some carbon to lay down and forage quality will be very poor.  Red clover and annual lespedeza will extend growth into summer.

Graze a field hard to release the seed bank for natural regeneration

It’s a lot like rolling the dice.  Unless you know the field well you may release some warm season species you don’t want. This technique works extremely well for release of bermudagrass, crabgrass and dallisgrass.  Other plants that are also likely to grow white clover (if it is cool and moist), ragweed, lambsquarter (both test like alfalfa but stock don’t always consume them), spiny amaranth (weed due to spines other amaranths are palatable and high quality), cocklebur (bad weed, big canopy, sometimes consumed), nimblewill (terrible grass weed that looks like bermudagrass, not readily grazed). Grazing 20% of the pastures low May –June is a decent strategy.

Seed summer annuals. 

Crabgrass, cowpeas and lablab are the only species that UT recommend planting as late as July 1.  Forage & Field Crop Seeding Guide For Tennessee

Crabgrass Improved Variety Options Crabgrass improved variety options:

Quick and Big and Red River.

Quick and Big is fast growth and Red River has a longer growing season.  You may want to seed a blend of the two, sometimes folks add annual lespedeza to the mix.

The seeding rate of crabgrass is 3 to 5 lb/ac.  If you add annual lespedeza 8 to 10 lb/ac.  Crabgrass is a reseeding annual that responds to disturbance at least once a year.  Cowpeas, high quality drought tolerant legume which makes a good smother crop if you have an undesirable weed you are trying to control.  Even though it is a little late for millet you may want to add 10-20 lb/ac. of pearl or browntop millet with the cowpeas.  Lablab is typically grown for wildlife food plots but is good forage for ruminants too best used in a mix.

 

Seed summer perennials

Bermudagrass is the only plant UT recommends planting as late as July 1.  I usually just recommend bermudagrass on areas that are planned for heavy use areas or where nutrients are going to be high.  Bermudagrass has some issues, stem maggot (it kills the primary stem tip reducing production) which most spray an insecticide for control, grazing could be used to reduce impacts also bermudagrass does best where nutrients are high.  There are several improved bermudagrass varieties: Cheyenne II (highest producing seeded type); Laredo (Allied seed variety, blend of Mohawk , KF-194, & Rancher; Wrangler (most cold tolerant).  You can also establish bermudagrass with clippings using Vaughn’s No. 1 which is typically thought of as the Cadillac of bermudagrasses for our area. Bermudagrass can produce high tonnage, be used hard and overseeded with clovers and winter annuals the second year after establishment.

Another warm season grass option although it is too late to seed now is native warm season grass (NWSG) it’s best sown when seed are exposed to a couple of cold chills (vernalization). Now is the time to start planning for it.  I like NWSG sown on lower fertility soils so weed competition is less. On low production you are not giving up much production while the natives are establishing for a couple of years. Usually herbicides are used to establish NWSG however an option to establish it without herbicides would be to terminate existing vegetation with tillage plant a summer annual leaving most of the biomass on the soil surface then no-tilling in cereal rye.  Dormant planting NWSG in December – April into cereal rye.  Rolling down the cereal rye in early April for weed control.  Natives will emerge through the residue in the spring.

Fertilization to improve warm season production

Applying nutrients to grass May – July increases warm season production.  Nitrogen has the biggest impact on forage production, nitrogen also increases protein content in the grass.  Typically no more than 60 lb of nitrogen is recommended in one application and typically applications should be scheduled 30 or more days apart. I personally don’t like over 45 lb of nitrogen in one application because if it turns off dry, high rates of nitrogen can cause forage to accumulate nitrates.

Timely Tips – January

Timely Tips – January

It is hard to believe but it’s time to order seed for frost seeding in February.  Producers should inventory fields and determine legumes and grass needed.

 

Seed that are suited well to frost seeding:

red clover, white clover and annual lespedeza (on thin less productive ground).  Don’t seed annual lespedeza on productive soils it doesn’t compete well with other species.

Lesser used species that also frost seed well are:

arrowleaf clover, crimson clover, hairy vetch (these are reseeding annuals which are typically seeded in the fall but can work in the spring for producers willing to manage grazing heights.  Hairy vetch is an underutilized species, adapted for to all soil types wet or droughty. Great for grazing but slow to get going needs minimum of 90 days growth.  Reseeds very well it is already present in most fields but doesn’t amount to much because livestock graze it out before it produces any quantity. Brassicas can also be seeded in February they will last one year if we have mild summer.  Grasses that establish easily: Prairie bromegrass, annual ryegrass (5 lb or less in a mix).  Annual ryegrass has shown excellent results in controlling spiny amaranth emergence.

 

Feed hay on infertile or weedy land.  Unrolling hay is a good practice for improving land. Hay needs to be cleaned up by stock daily.  Another option is bale grazing: setting out hay when the ground is dry or frozen then allow animals access to  hay in paddocks.

Timely Tips – January – Forage

Timely Tips – January – Forage

Planning: Winter is a great time to reflect on our management this past year and what changes we plan for the upcoming year.  Stocking rate, feeding, sacrifice area, culling, grazing management, seeding, etc.

Stocking rate has the biggest impact on resource management and our bottom line.  In this high rainfall area we typically think 1 animal unit (AU, 1,000 lb. cow with up to a 300 lb. calf) per 2 acres and this is where my operation is currently stocked with 90 to 120 days of hay feeding. This is too high and too many days of hay feeding, Greg Halich, University of KY Agriculture Economist, recently estimated with current cattle prices and moderate to low. Low cow cost operators can reasonably feed 60 days.  Acres per animal unit depends on lots of variables: soil fertility, soil type, residual grazing height, rotation days of grass recovery, and lots of other factors. Very few farms: have optimum soil fertility, manage to not graze below minimum residual heights (e.g. 3” for tall fescue), provide time for grass to recover and regrow.  Most excellent grazers that feed no hay are stocked at 1 AU per 4 or 5 acres and rotate every day or more often.  A reasonable stocking rate for most operations that is 3 acres per animal unit.  Remember that stockpiled tall fescue is better than hay all the way till March. Sometimes you have to take a step back to make two steps forward.

Feeding strategies for profit, ultimately don’t feed hay in one location the same way year to year or even in wet and dry times.  Like all grazing management it is best to not lock into one strategy.  If it is wet and soil is prone to compaction consider feeding hay in rings.  If you have a hay manger to feed out of or a hay feeding pad this is the time to use them. When the ground is dry or frozen it is a good time to unroll hay daily.  Feeding hay in rings in combination with unrolling at the same time typically doesn’t work so well because stock don’t clean up the unrolled hay soon enough. Best areas to target when feeding hay are fields with low fertility or lots of undesirable forage. Each ton of hay contains 60-13-48 of N-P2O5-K2O.  Unrolling hay on a low fertility field in combination with liming i can change it to a high producing field in about 3 years.

Equipment to consider, not an endorsement of vendors: Hay B Gone, hay unroller can be pulled with a UTV; Spin off, a hydraulic driven hay unroller for the tractor that spins both ways and works well for flatter terrain; hay saver feeder is good for permanent hay feeding site but too heavy for rotational feeding and there are some reports of incidence of calves being hung in them.  Plastic hay rings very light but hold up well.

Convenience is feeding near the barn, it is easy, less traffic compaction by equipment but poor utilization of nutrients in the hay and manure.  Expect weeds like spiny amaranth on land with excessive nutrients.

 

Unrolling hay, takes some management and requires being done daily.  If done correctly, Texas A & M found that one third less hay was needed.  Other studies have shown as much as half of the hay can be wasted (it’s not waste if it returns to the soil) if not done timely/properly.  Poor quality hay is more prone to avoidance and if your unrolled hay gets rained on it is less palatable.  Advantages of unrolling hay is more stock have access to hay and calves are less likely to be stepped on, lower cost than lots of hay rings and manure, biomass and trampling are strategically placed. Typically don’t need to reseed after unrolling hay. Caution any form of hay feeding can bring in weed seeds.

 Bale Grazing, is where you spread bales across a paddock in the fall or winter and move a temporary wire to allow access to more hay.  Ideally you would move hay rings to control loss.  Round rolls should be a minimum of 30’ apart and most likely you will need to seed the area after feeding so feeding them in somewhat of a straight line make reseeding easier.  You can also creep bale graze allowing calves access to higher quality hay under a high electric wire.

Places not to feed: on the creek or other water areas unless you are trying to seal a pond.  Don’t store hay or feed hay in the drip line of trees unless you are trying to control some weeds.  Nutrients from the hay and manure are best spread across the pasture by the animals.  Don’t feed on waterways unless it is already gullied and you have a plan to seed it soon after feeding. Also avoid feeding in depressions or near sinkholes.

Sacrifice areas, not many farms have good designated sacrifice areas.  These areas are for use when pastures are grazed down to minimum recommended heights.  I used to think it was ok to graze down to 2” height in winter but in order to optimize grass production maintain 3” or more height on pastures.  Location of a sacrifice area: fence off an area that is high on the landscape centrally located (the hub of the operation) and an area that doesn’t have any sensitive areas like water bodies, drainageways or karst areas.  If it does have sensitive areas NRCS recommends fencing those areas out.  If sensitive areas are present it is best to have a 35’ wide or wider vegetative filter where water enters these areas. Single wire electric temporary fence can be used to accomplish all this. 

Grazing management: Continue to feed hay into the spring till grass is 6-8” tall this will allow the grass to become stronger and set you up for grazing an extended time. Ideally some fall grown grass mixed with springs lush grass is best.  If grass gets ahead of you in the spring defer grazing some fields till August, it is not likely to be high quality in August however it will return that biomass to the ground at a time when cool season grasses typically break dormancy allowing you to grow additional stockpiled grass for winter.

               Manage minimum grazing heights of 3- 4” or higher for cool season grasses

               Allow plants to recover growing to 8” or taller before re-grazing.

Additional management strategies:

  • Limit exposure to hay to reduce consumption and waste however monitor cattle body condition score, much of the hay is low quality
  • Unroll hay daily for more animal access and to distribute animal impact and manure where you desire
  • Develop more paddocks to stretch forage supplies next year
  • Plant warm season forage
  • Stockpile grass as a reserve for drought and winter.
  • UT Extension recommendations: http://utbeef.com/

 Next month’s timely tips will be on frost seeding but if you need to order seed consider this:

               Common recommendation:

                              Species                up to pounds/acre

White clover                     2

Red clover                         4

Annual lespedeza            8   on less productive soil

 

Optional additions

Forage turnips                  1

Arrowleaf clover               1

Hairy vetch                        2  ideally sown in the fall but will improve diversity

Annual ryegrass                2  not recommended by university forage agronomist too competitive

Matua or Persister

Bromegrass                      2   ideally sown in the fall but establishes easy particularly adapted to high fertility shady areas

 

Timely Tips August – Cool Season Planting Mixes

Timely Tips August – Cool Season Planting Mixes

Good to have rain over most of the state.  It is time to start planning for winter: seeding, stockpiling and managing grass for the transition of seasons.  The normal recommended seeding date for most cool season forages is August 15 to October 1.  Yes, I think it is reasonable to go ahead and plant now.  Remember typically it is best to manage what you have.  It is amazing what: managing grass height, recovery time and nutrient management can do for a plant community.

 

Typical recommendation for managing fall growth for winter “stockpiling” is to graze or clip tall fescue to 3” now and apply up to 60 lb of N/ac (130 lb of protected urea/ac.) then let it recover and grow till Thanksgiving or later before grazing.  Then ration it out starting with a paddock near the water tank.  Starting with a temporary fenced paddock near the water point and move the temp fence every 3 days or less allowing livestock access to water. A single wire electric fence with polywire (9 strand), a geared reel, and step in post works well for cattle for sheep you typically need 3 wire temporary fence.  Stockpiling is good even if you don’t apply N (every pound of N with rain should grow an additional 30 pounds of forage). I often feed hay in the fall when growth is good to grow forage while I am feeding hay because when you feed hay in January you are not growing grass.  More on this next month.

 

The best fields to drill into are fields that are predominantly warm season grass like crabgrass, dallisgrass, bermudagrass, johnsongrass or even broomsedge or where you have a thin stand with 50% stand of cool season grass.  But i wouldn’t drill into warm season grass till mid-September and definitely don’t apply Nitrogen till then.  Broomsedge is an indicator that soil fertility is out of balance so adjusting nutrients is needed, take a University of TN soil test for recommended nutrient application. If nutrients are out of balance or lacking you likely will not be rewarded for your seeding and management as fast as you would like.

 

Mixes, composition and planting considerations

Seeding too high of a rate of fast growing species in a mix can dominate the stand by shading and competition with slower growing species reducing their establishment. If included low rates of annuals are recommended in perennial mixes. Annuals are faster establishing than perennials.   I don’t like over 20% of annuals in a perennial mix.  Fast growing annuals can have the same impact in an annual mix.  Another concern is broadleaf species typically shade more than grass species this is why in perennial cool season mixes grasses are typically recommended to be planted first in the fall followed by legumes in late winter. When drilling I typically recommend going ahead and planting grasses and legumes but not too much legume.  Brassicas are very fast growing in early fall too so they can outcompete other species thus the lower recommended seeding rates in the following mixes.  Annual ryegrass is the most competitive cool season grass but doesn’t grow that fast in the fall. In a perennial mix i don’t like over 3 lb/ac. of annual ryegrass. In annual mixes it works as a great smother plant for spring when plants like broomsedge are emerging. Management needed for late May and June if you don’t use herbicide is to allow annual ryegrass to remain above the broomsedge. The annual ryegrass will brownout in June so plan on no-till drilling a warm season annual mix in the ryegrass in late May or early June. Crabgrass, Johnsongrass or a mix of Pearl millet and cowpeas no-till drilled into the ryegrass will provide an additional high quality summer smother crop.

 

Cool season mixes for a warm season pasture or thin cool season pastures, (if there is a program payment involved follow local guidelines)

seeding dates August 15 through Oct. 1

 

Annual Mix for fall and spring forage (good for shading undesirable cool and warm season plants)

 Species                                   Pounds/Ac

Cereal rye                               20 – 75

Annual ryegrass                      15 – 25

Turnips                                    1

Optional additions

Hairy Vetch                            4

Red clover                               2

Crimson clover                       2

Drop the following from mix after September 10

Radish                                     0.5

Sunflower                               1

Buckwheat                              1

 

 

Crazy Annual Cool Season Soil Health Mix for grazing

 Species                                   Pounds/Ac

Cereal rye                               25

Triticale                                  20

Barley                                     20

Wheat                                      10

Annual ryegrass                      15

Turnips                                    1

Crimson clover                       4

Hairy vetch                             4

After September 10 drop the following species.

Radish                                     0.5

Sunflower                               1

Buckwheat                              1

Browntop millet                      3

 

Perennial Cool Season Mix where soil is not productive and nutrients are out of balance

Tall fescue                              18

Annual ryegrass                      3 (no more)

White clover                           2 (legumes typically recommended to be frost seeded in February or drilled into grass in March add annual lespedeza 8 lb/ac then)

Red clover                               4

Hairy vetch                             4 (best seeded in the fall)

Optional if a herbicide is used or weed competition is not expected and seeding is done prior to Sept. 10.

Sunflower                               1

Buckwheat                              1

Browntop millet                      1

 

Perennial Cool Season Mix where soil is productive, nutrients are in balance and minimum grazing height of 4” or higher will be maintained.

Tall fescue                              15

Orchardgrass                           10

Prairie bromegrass                  3 (Hogan seed and Nixa Hardware and Seed are a couple of suppliers)

Annual ryegrass                      3 (no more than 3 lb)

White clover                           2 (legumes typically recommended to be frost seeded in February or drilled into grass in March, add annual lespedeza 8 lb/ac then)

Red clover                               4

Forage turnip                          1

Optional if a herbicide is used or weed competition is not expected and seeding is done prior to Sept. 10.

Radish                                     0.5

Sunflower                               1

Buckwheat                              1