Producers, extension agents, and specialist gathered at the Eden Shale Farm in Owenton, KY to gain knowledge about the growing industry of fescues and forages regarding how they impact the cattle industry production. For those who may not know, Eden Shale Farm was a farm managed by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture developing research plots for pasture improvement, management, and livestock production. Due to the increase in budget cuts, Kentucky Beef Network has been overseeing the farm since 2012 through a Cooperative Agreement with UK College of Agriculture in continuation of the research and development.
The evening was kicked off with supper allowing the attendees to discuss their production, insight, and developing new relationships with other producers. After settling and getting started, two tractor-trailer straw wagons guided the attendees touring the farm with sporadic stops allowing guest speakers to shed some light on the industry and their insight. The first stop landed in a field of BarOptima Fescue of which allowed Dr.Glen Aiken, a research animal specialist with the USDA-ARS, whom spoke about grazing management regarding fescue toxicosis in cattle. Aiken advised producers to truly take into consideration the differences in cattle production between suppressed and unsuppressed seed head control and the effect it could result in regarding cattle production. He recommended suppressing fescue seedheads based off of constructed research results with cattle maintaining better body conditions, increased carrying capacity, and increase in average daily gain due to the grazing of fescue with higher protein and energy. Aiken concluded with future intentions to conduct further research in connecting cattle genetics and fescue grazing results.
After further travel through the farm, Dr. Ray Smith, UK extension professor, discussed field preparation and forage establishment prior to planting. Smith recommended talking to seed dealers about what would be the best seed for your soil, testing or determining the seed germination for better growth results, and seedbed preparation whether it be tilling or round-up applications. Smith stated,” The best approach is to make sure the seed has no competition for best results.” He continued to discuss seeders, field fertility, and seed planting. “The biggest issue people have is planting the seed too deep.” said Smith. He recommended planting seeds .25-.5 inch deep with firm soil to ensure fertility, germination, and better growth results.
Speaking on behalf of herbicide management at the next stop, Dr. Scott Flynn, a field scientist with Dow AgroSciences, said, “The golden goose of the industry is how can we kill the weeds but keep the clover?” Flynn gave insight on products such as PastureGard HL, Chaparral, and GrazonNext HL. With residual herbicides, such as Chaparral and GrazonNext HL, the herbicide stays in the soil and could affect the seedlings and germination making it key to become more aware with the type of herbicide applied.Whether it be residual vs non residual herbicides, warm weather vs cool weather plants, or even prior vs post planting application(s), investing the time, management, and financials into the pastures is just as beneficial to the cattle production as anything else. “When it comes to our pastures, weed control is the best investment you can make for production.” recommended Flynn.
Kade Haas with BarenBrug, lastly discussed forage selection and the variety of forages that may or may not be best for your pastures. He shared insight to the research that has been conducted regarding the more recent common pasture issues such as; red clover, buttercup, etc. As an optional opportunity, attendees were welcomed to stay for further discussion regarding spray equipment and proper planting demonstrations to educate those whom wish to improve their management and production practices. Overall the event was an educational success.
We have now made our last cutting (3rd) of sudan grass and baled it for haylage. This area is in the process of being renovated from KY 31 fescue to BarOptima PLUS E34 fescue. The renovation included killing out the existing stand of KY 31 fescue and using a winter and summer annual to smother out any remaining fescue. Now that two smother crops have been used we are ready to plant the BarOptima.
This sudan grass was a Hi-Gest Hayking variety that we liked very well. We cut it when it was around pocket height before the stems became too large. We did wrap all of it because without a mower/conditioner or a tedder it was too hard to dry the stalks down to make dry hay. This sudan grass did make good quality hay. The tests averaged 8.0 Crude Protein and had a Relative Feed Value (RFV) of 90.
The sudan grass was harvested 30 days after planting, then 24 days later made the second cutting, and then 31 days after that made the third cutting. It did get 50 lbs of nitrogen after each cutting. This field was 25 acres and we rolled a total of 62 bales that averaged around 1,800 to 2,000 lbs. It was a good quality, high production hay crop that performed well during the hot period of the summer.
We used a cone spreader to put the nitrogen down since we were applying such a small rate.
I barely got the third cutting baled before a nasty thunderstorm unleashed on the farm.
We used a wrapper from Southern States instead of purchasing our own. These things work really well once you get past the learning curve. Including renting the wrapper and buying the plastic it cost us about $5.00 a roll to wrap hay, but this should make some good quality feed for our cattle this winter.