We have run quite a few samples of hay to test forage quality these last few weeks and had many questions about supplementation. We were originally concerned about nitrate levels with end of season drought stress. However, we have not found any toxic nitrate levels, but have observed some low quality hay. Here is some information from Effingham County Ag Agent Sam Ingram:
Like many of us, annual and perennial grasses are anxiously awaiting warmer temperatures and more sunshine in the day. But as of now we are still waiting, and this means our beef cattle producers are still feeding hay from last season which may be low in quality. This time of year there are calves on the ground nursing and bulls in the pasture breeding brood cows. With the demand set high for the brood cows, good nutrition is essential during this period. If a producer is feeding lower quality hay from last year, extra supplementation may be needed. Dr. Jacob Segers and Dr. Lawton Stewart developed a simple sheet to help producers decide if supplementation is needed in addition to their hay. A forage sample should be taken from your hay to determine the quality, a simple “estimation” is not enough to accurately supplement for the cattle.
The table above shows that majority of our cows can maintain body weight and a calf on their side with average forage. But as our quality starts to drop and our total digestible nutrients (TDN) falls below 50%, we need to look at supplementation. Those disgetible nutrients can be traced back to maturity of the grass and when it was cut. The last cutting of hay tends to be the lowest quality and that last cutting is now what most producers are feeding. If a producer wants to increase their quality, fertility is a great place to start but also cutting the forage at the right time will maintain good quality.
Here is some Coker 227 oats grown for seed but are also grazed. A critical decision that is make this time of year is when to stop cows from grazing so plants can produce seed. This decision is somewhat influenced by planting date but mostly by growth stage.
Small grains germinate and grow as seedlings before tillering. Following the tiller stage, the plant will begin the stem elongation phase. During this phase, the a node, or joint, will form at the base of the stem. This is a thickened area on the stem and is the growing point. If cows graze below the joint (growing point), this plant will not produce seed.
The first thing we want to do is look for joints. The decision to remove cows is based on grazing height and joint position on the stem. If joints are seen on stems but low to the ground and below the grazing height, cows do not need to come off the field yet. If joints are higher position and grazing is lower than joints, it is time to remove the cows. It would be a good idea to avoid grazing on a small area to observe growth the growth stage.
This field was planted in mid-November and is still in the tiller stage. Plants are 4-5 inches in height. We only found a joint on one stem, so this field can be grazed much longer removing cows.
We had a great meeting and heard great presentations at the Thomas County Beef Cattle Update on Thursday by UGA Extension Specialist Dr. Jacob Segers and Dr. Curt Lacy.
I wanted to share the UGA Replacement Female Calculator link from Dr. Lacy’s presentation. You can find it on the Southeast Cattle Advisor’s website, then click on “Decision Aids.” That takes you to the UGA Econ page, then scroll down to” UGA Replacement Female Calculator.”
Beef Cattle Summary from Dr. Lacy:
- Expect less beef and more meat production in 2015
- Higher prices
- Higher profits
- More heifer retention
Thomas County Beef Cattle Update
I am getting reports of some flies pestering livestock, particularly horses and ponies. I took a picture of these flies on the microscope and sent them to UGA Extension Entomologist, Dr. Nancy Hinkle. She identified them as black flies (Simulium spp), also called “Buffalo Gnats.” Complains were these flies were biting in horses’ ears and causing them to bleed. The flies stay outside and did not move into the barn. Below is from Dr. Hinkle:
“These are black flies. They are native to Georgia and we have several different species. This one will die out when the weather warms, but we’ll have another resurgence of a different species in the fall. They love to feed in horses’ ears and will leave them bloody and scabby. They’re being produced in flowing streams, probably half a mile away from where the horses are (or more). Area control is possible with Bti, but that’s a governmental decision, not something the individual horse owner can undertake.
During the times of year when they were worst, you can slather the inside of our horses’ ears with petroleum jelly – a physical barrier. Otherwise, you have to spray the animal almost daily. As she observed, these flies will not enter structures, so keeping animals stabled during the day really helps.”
Folks have complained about flies bothering people, which they can also. Here is some information on black flies by University of Florida with some management options: http://entnemdept.ifas.ufl.edu/creatures/livestock/bfly.htm
It has been a trying year for cattlemen and their forage quality. Several producers have shown concern about their cattle with respect to the quality of forage that we were able to put up last season. This is also an issue statewide and our UGA Forage and Beef Team specialists have combined to help us understand some key concerns we should focus on. This link provides information concerning the issue of Poor Quality Forages.