Managing Forages During Dry Times
The dry fall and winter have left lingering effects on
Iowa's pastures, points out Dan Morrical, Iowa State University
extension grazing specialist. He says there are several things producers
can do now to improve forage conditions, and several that can be done if
the drought continues.
Last fall's dry conditions mean that pastures will grow more slowly this
spring. Morrical suggests that producers delay turnout. However, that's
a hard decision because the drought has left producers short of hay as
Morrical lists several options for managing feed sources: Buy hay, use
hay rings to reduce waste, feed corn, supplement with distiller's
grains, and graze hayfields lightly, then move cows to permanent
To boost forage and hay production, Morrical recommends applying 50
lbs/acre of nitrogen. "The added nitrogen will result in 1 ton of extra
yield per acre for a cost of only $25," he says. "That's about the
cheapest feed you can buy."
He advises producers to take the time to assess stand vigor and density
by looking for bare soil and early signs of weed encroachment. These
problems can be solved with weed-control spraying this spring, and
interseeding grasses and legumes at any time of the growing season.
"Producers can interseed with a no-till drill, which may be rented from
NRCS," he says.
If the dry conditions continue, summer annuals can add to forage
production. Morrical recommends annuals like millet and
sorghum-sudangrass hybrids. They can add a lot of yield during the
summer grazing slump.
For more information, visit the Iowa State Drought Resource page at www.iowabeefcenter.org, or contact Morrical at
515-294-2904 or email@example.com.
Source: Iowa State University.
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Spray RR Alfalfa Early
By David Hillger and Jim Kells
Crop & Soil
Sciences Department, Michigan State University
Establishing productive Roundup Ready (RR) alfalfa
stands requires close attention to details, especially when the plants
are young. An early season application of glyphosate will significantly
help alfalfa establishment in two ways. First, glyphosate will remove
many of the weed seedlings competing with the new alfalfa seedlings for
nutrients and space. By targeting weeds when they're small, excellent
control can be expected for almost all weed species.
The second reason for an early application is to remove alfalfa
seedlings that don't have the glyphosate-resistant trait. As new alfalfa
stands mature, natural thinning takes place, which reduces the total
number of alfalfa plants. Surviving plants fill empty spots in the crop
canopy until a healthy, productive alfalfa stand is established. In a
typical bag of RR alfalfa seed, a small portion of the seeds don't carry
the glyphosate-resistant trait. They will germinate and grow into plants
indistinguishable from the resistant plants. Applying glyphosate early
removes the susceptible plants, leaving only the glyphosate-resistant
plants. Delaying the application will increase the chance of
non-resistant alfalfa plants becoming established in the stand. They'll
suffer severe injury and/or death after the first glyphosate
application, leaving an empty spot in the stand. These open areas will
allow weeds to become established, possibly leading to reductions in
yield and alfalfa quality.
Michigan State University recommends that producers in the state apply
glyphosate at 0.75 lb active ingredient per acre before the fourth
trifoliate growth stage to eliminate seedlings not containing the
glyphosate-resistant gene. This practice encourages the development of a
healthy population of RR alfalfa plants and prevents susceptible plants
from becoming established.
Source: Michigan State University Field Crop Advisory Team Alert
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High numbers of cowpea aphids and pea aphids are being
reported in some areas of Illinois. Robert Bellm, University of Illinois
crop systems educator at Edwardsville, observed a heavily infested
alfalfa field in which the plants were "covered in sooty mold and
wilting." Although cowpea aphids have infested alfalfa stands in
California for years, they have been reported less frequently in
Source: University of Illinois Crop and Pest Management Bulletin.
Pea aphids are the most common of several aphid species
found in Missouri alfalfa, according to Wayne Bailey, University of
Missouri entomologist. Weather and beneficial insects are major factors
affecting their numbers. Cool springs with moderate-to-high relative
humidity often favor pea aphid population growth, whereas beneficial
insects reduce pea aphid numbers most years.
Bailey says growers have been asking whether it's necessary to manage
pea aphid infestations at this time in the season in Missouri. They're
trying to determine whether to treat with an insecticide, harvest early
or do nothing. He says it depends on the unique conditions that exist in
each alfalfa field. "In several fields I scouted this past week, pea
aphids were present but in numbers approaching or below the economic
threshold," he reports. "Beneficial insects were relatively high in
number, alfalfa weevil larvae were low in number due to the presence of
the fungal pathogen, and most alfalfa stems were 10" or greater in
height. Given these factors, an insecticide application for control of
pea aphids would not be justified."
An exception might be if the alfalfa was under severe drought stress or
showing symptoms of aphid feeding. Early harvest may be an appropriate
management strategy for some fields, but it would reduce beneficial
insect populations along with pea aphid numbers. Bailey emphasizes that
each producer must assess his field conditions and determine an
appropriate management strategy. Other aphids commonly collected from
Missouri alfalfa fields include the cowpea aphid, spotted alfalfa aphid,
and to a lesser extent, the blue alfalfa aphid.
Contact Bailey at 573-864-9905.
Two weeks ago, Ohio State University entomologists
mentioned that it was time to begin scouting for alfalfa weevils in
southern and central Ohio. With the continued warm weather, they say the
time has come to scout in northern Ohio as well. Although they have not
yet heard of any need for insecticide applications, Ohio producers
should be in alfalfa fields checking for possible problems. Fields
should be scouted for weevils in all areas of the state, and weekly
sampling should continue until at least the first harvest. Farther into
May, when the alfalfa gets around 12-16" tall, consider an early harvest
rather than spraying. When alfalfa is over 16", early cutting is
recommended. Fields cut early because of alfalfa weevils should be
checked to make sure surviving weevils don't prevent good regrowth.
Source: Ron Hammond and Bruce Eisley, Ohio Crop Observation and
Recommendation Network newsletter.
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The drought is officially over in Illinois, according
to Jim Angel, state climatologist. In his latest Illinois drought
update, he says that, while long-term precipitation deficits remain in
northern and western Illinois, a wet start to 2006 has allowed for
significant recovery in recent weeks.
Alfalfa growth is at least 10 days ahead of normal in
the state this spring, and if favorable conditions continue, first
cutting could also be ahead of schedule, says Paul Peterson, University
of Minnesota extension forage agronomist. "In general, fields are
looking incredible," he states. "Some isolated areas are showing winter
injury, particularly on south-facing slopes or hilltops. This injury
could be related to plants not going fully dormant late last fall or
beginning to come out of dormancy too early when we had warm weather in
January." Ice storms in western Minnesota and eastern South Dakota
caused ice build-up on some fields for as long as six weeks this winter.
Peterson says that, fortunately, those fields don't seem to show the
damage that was feared.
Kevin Nelson of Nelson Hay Company, Hadley, spent the past weekend
promoting hay at the Minnesota Horse Expo. Horse hay customers seem to
be more concerned about the economy this year and are watching their
money a bit more closely, he says. About 35% of his hay is contracted
ahead of time. Customers can contract at the in-season price and accept
hay delivery soon after cutting. Clients wanting later deliveries pay
more because storage fees are added to the price. Nelson requires a
$20/ton down payment when setting up a contract.
Nelson believes in educating horse hay customers. He offers a one-page
information sheet explaining why they should buy by weight rather than
by the bale. He also maintains a Web site telling how his hay is
produced. Customers are sent regular email newsletters throughout the
year that provide updates on prices and growing conditions.
Because he delivers much of his hay with his own truck, Nelson has a
fuel surcharge. It rises by 5 cents per mile for every 25-cent fuel
price increase. He raises alfalfa-orchardgrass hay and pure alfalfa.
First cutting is expected to be around May 25.
Visit the Nelson Hay Company Web site at www.nelsonhayco.com,
or call Nelson at 507-836-6818. Contact Paul Peterson at 612-625-3447 or
Many alfalfa fields were damaged during last week's
freeze, according to Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska extension
forage specialist. To assess the damage, he's telling producers to look
beyond frozen or wilting leaves to determine whether the growing point
was killed. Also called the apical meristem, the growing point is the
initial development source of all new leaves, stems and branches on
alfalfa. It's inside the dense cluster of unfolded leaves at the top of
the main stem.
Because it's inside a cluster of leaves, the growing point is somewhat
protected from cold injury. Exposed leaves and stems around it can be
wilted and dying while the growing point cluster survives, waiting for
warm weather before continuing to grow. If the growing point survived
the freeze, he advises producers to wait for growth to begin again.
If it was killed, however, growth ceases on that stem. Any new growth
must come from new shoots at the crown or from lower branches. While the
existing plant remains intact, regrowth often is delayed, so cutting
damaged plants will hasten recovery. "As some of you learned after last
year's freeze, healthy fields will regrow quickly even following an
early harvest," Anderson states. "While you can harvest early, you don't
have to. Plants will begin to grow again on their own although it might
take a little longer." Anderson suggests checking plants seven to 10
days after a freeze to truly see if the tops and growing point are dead
or if recovery has begun. Then producers can decide whether to harvest
or just wait for growth to renew naturally.
Source: Nebraska Crop Watch newsletter.
Much-needed rain fell across parts of Texas within the
last few weeks, offsetting record-breaking high temperatures and
improving the outlook for crop and forage production, according to Texas
Cooperative Extension. Up to 3.5" of rain was recorded in the state's
rolling plains region, says Galen Chandler, district extension
administrator in Vernon. "Pastures are showing signs of more green
forage," he says. "However, stock water supplies remain low."
The southwestern part of the state continues to be dry. Last month, only
about 0.06" of rain was recorded, says Cheryl Mapston, district
extension administrator in Uvalde. The period from mid-October 2005 to
date is the driest period on record with only about 1.5" of rain.
"Unseasonably warm weather with afternoon temperatures averaging about
10 degrees above the typical average for this time of the year are
aggravating the dry spell. Livestock herds have been thinned," Mapston
Temperatures were above average most of last week in the Texas panhandle
and supplemental livestock feeding continues. A mid-week cool front
dropped temperatures to about normal for a couple days and triggered a
few showers south of the panhandle. Rain amounts were generally less
than 1/4", with isolated reports of 1/2-3/4". Windy and dry conditions
continue to cause soil erosion and high wildfire danger. Land
preparation for summer crops continues. Soil moisture is short to very
From 1/2" to 2" of rain fell last week in Texas' south plains, and
supplemental feeding is on a limited basis. Soil moisture is very short
Rains of less than 1/2" to 3 1/2" improved the outlook for spring
forage production on the rolling plains. Temperatures were reaching the
90-degree mark. Several producers are preparing ground or planting sudan
since the wheat crop was a failure. Supplemental feeding continues for
Soil moisture ranges from very short to adequate in northern Texas. In
some areas, wheat and oats are strictly used for grazing, hay and
silage. Rainfall varied from just over 1/2" to more than 2".
Record-setting temperatures and up to 4"of rain were reported in eastern
Texas, with most counties receiving only slight amounts of rain. In
drier areas, producers have not been able to fertilize warm-season
pastures, which are beginning to be stressed. Winter pastures are
declining quickly and pond water levels are getting low. Some producers
have been able to make first cutting. Some livestock producers have gone
back to supplemental feeding.
Soil moisture ranges from very short to adequate, and crops and pastures
are in very poor to good condition in far western Texas. Very widely
scattered showers fell in the region, which is still very hot.
Temperatures remained above average last week in west-central Texas.
Conditions were very hot, dry and windy. Much-needed rainfall was
reported in many areas, helping to bring down temperatures. Some areas
continue to have problems with wildfires. No field activity was reported
in areas that received rainfall.
Most areas received rain last week in central Texas, but more rain is
needed. Pasture conditions remain poor and hay production will remain
Rain, too, is needed in southeastern Texas. Temperatures reached the
mid- to upper 90s three days during the past week.
Forage availability is severely below average in southwestern Texas.
Crops under dryland conditions are not making progress.
Hay supplies are still extremely low in the coastal bend region. Severe
drought continues. Ranchers continue to cull and sell more of their
Soil moisture remains short to very short throughout southern Texas.
Round and square bale hay prices have significantly increased. Cattle
are being culled.
Source: Texas A&M University.
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Clinic Focuses On Drought Feeding
Texas Cooperative Extension's Heart of Texas Cow/Calf
Clinic will focus on feeding topics for cow/calf producers. The clinic
is set for May 4 in the Brown County Fairgrounds Home Economics
Building. The facility is located on U.S. Hwy. 377 S. Registration
begins at 8:30 a.m.; the program starts at 9 a.m.
"Each year we work to produce a program that's practical for cattle
raisers," says Scott Anderson, Brown County extension agent. "Cattle are
still bringing good money, but trying to figure out what to feed them to
keep them in good shape without losing all your profit to feed bills is
becoming more interesting."
Individual registration is $10, and includes lunch. For more info, call
**May 4 -- Beef Cattle and Forage Crops Field
Day, Kansas State University Southeast Agricultural Research Center,
Mound Valley. Contact Lyle Lomas at 620-421-4826, ext. 12; email him at
firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit www.oznet.ksu.edu/rc_serec/events.htm.
**May 9 -- University of California-Davis Alfalfa/Forage & Small
Grains Field Day, UC-Davis Agronomy Farm Field Headquarters,
Hutchison Road. Take Hutchison Road 1/3 mile west from Hwy. 113 near
Davis and look for headquarters on left.
**May 25 -- University of Florida Corn Silage and Forage Field
Day, Plant Science Unit, Citra. Contact Jerry Wasdin at 352-392-1120
or visit www.animal.ufl.edu. Under "Dairy Cattle," click on
"Corn Silage Field Day."
**June 14-15 -- Four-State Dairy Nutrition and Management
Conference, Grand River Center, Dubuque, IA. Call Dave Fischer,
618-692-9434 or Leo Timms, 515-294-4522.
**June 21 -- Intergenerational Transfer, New Swing 10 Parlor and
Freestall Tour and Intensive Grazing Pasture Walk, Chris and Angie Neis
Farm, 12433 Loran Road, Mt. Carroll, IL. Jim Morrison, University of
Illinois Extension, will discuss pasture species renovation and
fertility management. Contact Kevin Bernhardt, 608-342-1365 for more
**July 6-8 -- Missouri Dairy Grazing Conference, University of
Missouri Southwest Research Center, Mt. Vernon, MO. Learn more about the
conference and tours at agebb.missouri.edu/dairy/grazing/index.htm. Mail
registration to Missouri Dairy Grazing Conference, University of
Missouri Extension, 700 Main Street, Suite 4, Cassville, MO 65625 or
**Sept. 7-9 -- National Hay Association 111th Annual Convention,
Snow King Resort, Jackson Hole, WY. Call 800-707-0014 or visit www.nationalhay.org.
**Sept. 12 -- Kentucky Forage And Grassland Council Field Day,
Dobbs Shady Meadow Farm, Campbell County. Learn more at www.uky.edu/Ag/Forage.
**Oct. 3-7 -- World Dairy Expo, Alliant Energy Center, Madison,
WI. Learn more at www.worlddairyexpo.com.
**Nov. 21 -- Kentucky Grazing Conference, Fayette County
Extension Office, Lexington. Learn more at www.uky.edu/Ag/Forage.
**Dec. 11-13 -- Western Alfalfa & Forage Conference, Reno, NV.
For more information, contact Dan Putnam at 530-752-8982 or email@example.com, or Glenn
Shewmaker at 208-736-3608 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
** Jan. 18-19 -- Southwest Hay Conference, Ruidoso Convention
Center, Ruidoso, New Mexico. For more info, contact Doug Whitney at email@example.com, or call Gina
Sterrett at 505-626-5677.
**Jan. 24-25 -- Heart of America Grazing Conference, Holiday Inn,
Mount Vernon, IL. Learn more from Garry Lacefield at 270-365-7541, ext.
202, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
**Feb. 27 -- Kentucky Alfalfa Conference, Cave City Convention
Center. Learn more at www.uky.edu/Ag/Forage.
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