Upcoming Events



Measures of Herd Performance: Weaning Weight

Cow calf producers know that an increase calf weaning weight usually leads to an increase in calf value at weaning. Let’s discuss some different ways to look at weaning weights that may give us more insight to increase potential herd profitability than simply measuring weight weaned alone.

First, we will look at the “easy” measure of weaning performance…

Pounds Weaned: At the end of the day, cow calf producers sell pounds. A good measure of a cow’s performance lies within the actual and adjusted weaning weights of her calves. Actual weight is quite simple; this is the weight of an individual cow’s calf on the day it was weaned. This value is important to us, as it tells us what weight a cow actually generated to be sold. However, to look deeper into a cow’s potential for weaning heavy calves, we should look at the adjusted weaning weights of her calves. This takes cow age as well as calf age, birthweight, and sex into account, and better allows us to determine a cow’s performance potential. Let’s look at an example:

Once we know our weaning weights, we can take steps to improve these numbers through better genetics and management.  It’s important to realize that that both weaning weight measurements are important. Cows with high adjusted weaning weights have the most potential to wean heavy calves in your herd. On the other hand, the cow that calves early each year and weans the heaviest actual weight at weaning may not have the highest adjusted weaning weight. Her value equally important and is best highlighted through her ability to breed early. To move your operation to the next level you’ll want to seek out individuals excelling for both measurements as they’re likely the combination cows that bring home the most profit for you.

Knowing our herd weaning weights and adjusted weaning weights can be a very beneficial first step to increasing profitability. However, we can learn more about our herd’s productivity if we look past weights alone.

Therefore, it’s important to step back and look at a few additional measures of weaning performance…

Pounds weaned per cow exposed: It’s important to know not only our weaning weights, but also the percentage of our cows that actually wean a calf.  Cows that don’t wean a calf are feed-consuming members of our herd for at least part of the year, so we must account for them when evaluating herd performance. To learn the pounds of calf weaned per cow exposed, we look at both our calf weaning weight data and our herd’s ability to become pregnant and raise a calf to weaning. A good goal for beef herds is to wean 90+% of the potential calf crop. This means that if we had 100 cows, 90 of these cows would become pregnant, birth a live calf, and successfully care for it until weaning. As the percentage calf crop goes down, so does your farm’s pounds weaned per cow exposed and profit potential. Let’s look at another example:

We should also consider our cow weights…

Pounds weaned per pound of cow exposed: Your mature cow weights may be eating into your profitability. A mature cow will generally consume an additional 500-550 pounds of dry matter for every 100 pounds of added bodyweight. As the size of the average US cow increases, we need to account for this additional intake and make sure our bigger females are pulling their weight.  An 1100 pound cow that weaned a 500 pound calf has weaned 46% of her bodyweight, where a 1400 pound cow that weaned a 600 pound calf only weaned 43% of her bodyweight. Look beyond the raw weaning weight and ask yourself which cow is doing a better job. Reproductive performance in larger cows may also decline if their higher nutritional needs are not met; this could reduce your percentage calf crop weaned. Let’s look at a final example:

These are just a few ways to re-consider how you evaluate your herd’s weaning weights to add black ink to your profit equation.

Much of the above information is referenced from the following link. Click here to read more about assessing the efficiency of your beef cows.

If you have questions about calculating your herd’s weaning data or other ways to enhance your program’s profitability, contact myself or other members of the ACES Animal Science and Forages Team.

Sarah Dickinson, M.S.

Regional Extension Agent I

Animal Science & Forages

Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Cell: 256-537-0024

Office: 256-825-1050

Email:sed0029@auburn.edu

Serving Chambers, Clay, Cleburne, Coosa, Lee, Randolph, Shelby, Talladega, and Tallapoosa Counties

Drought Management Strategies: Preserving Next Year's Calf Crop

daisy-banner

Alabama counties have experienced increased levels of drought throughout this past summer and fall. To successfully survive drought conditions, producers must develop a plan that considers not only the present, but also the future. Developing a plan to preserve next year’s calf crop is a key part of planning for a successful future. This article will explain the nutritional requirements of beef cows for reproduction and explore management strategies to help preserve next year’s calf crop in the current drought situation.

Requirements for Reproductive Success:

Beef cows should be managed to calve at a minimum body condition score (BCS) of 5 to ensure that they have adequate flesh to return to cycling and establish pregnancy. BCS allow producers to estimate the fat stores on their cattle and range from 1 to 9, with 1 being extremely emaciated and 9 being extremely obese. Cows of a BCS 5 will have a good overall appearance, with some fat covering over their spine, ribs, hips, and around their tailhead. As BCS drops below 5, bones become less and less covered by fat and become more visible. Follow this link for more information and helpful pictures for body condition scoring.

Determining your cows’ BCS and managing animals to maintain a BCS ≥5 is essential to ensuring reproductive success. BCS and nutritional status at both calving and during the breeding season affect reproductive success, so it is important to know where your cows are in their production cycle and manage them accordingly.  Cows’ BCS/nutritional status at calving affects the length of time it takes for them to return to cycling after calving, with cows of low nutritional status at calving taking longer to return to cycling post calving. Once the breeding season is entered, low levels of nutrition and BCS<5 cause reduced pregnancy rates. To survive the drought with next year’s calf crop intact, cows must be fed to maintain their BCS.

Cows require different levels of nutrition at different stages of production. Understanding cow nutrient requirements will help producers meet the needs of their cows to maintain a BCS ≥5. Reference this timely information sheet for more information on your cows’ nutritional needs and how to supplement with varied qualities of hay. Recognize that your cows’ needs are the highest in early lactation. This is the time period when we also need cows to return to cycling and become pregnant. Corners should not be cut during this important time period. Furthermore, note that it’s easiest to put weight on cows after weaning. If you currently have thin, dry, pregnant cows it is a good idea to use this time to allow them to gain weight necessary to increase their BCS to 5. As a rule of thumb, you can expect to gain 1 BCS with each 80 lbs of weight gain in mature beef cows.

Pregnancy examination is essential in all years, but is extremely important this winter as we continue or recover from drought. If cows have not been examined for pregnancy, consider having a veterinarian palpate your cows and cull open cows that have weaning age calves. This will allow for added income and less mouths to feed through the winter and early spring.  As you complete this year’s breeding season, pregnancy check your cows. Since resources were limited, there is a chance that BCS dropped too low and more cows than usual may be open at the end of the breeding season. It is essential to identify and cull these individuals.

Additional Strategies in Times of  Drought:

  1. Pay attention to your heifers- 2-year-old heifers nursing their first calves have higher nutritional needs than their mature counterparts since they are still growing. Furthermore, they are often bucked away from feed sources by older animals. It is a good idea to always manage heifers away from the mature cowherd, however in years of drought and limited feedstuffs it may be essential to allowing them to consume the necessary amount of hay/supplement to maintain their BCS for reproductive success.
  2. Consider early weaning of calves- if cows go into calving thin or become extremely poor while nursing young calves, it may be necessary to wean calves early to allow cows to regain the condition needed for reproduction. Calves 90 days and older can be successfully weaned onto free choice long stemmed hay with correct supplementation. Removing calves may help “jump start” cows to return to cycling and will lessen cows’ nutrient requirements so weight can be gained.

By taking care to manage cattle to nutritional levels necessary for pregnancy success, a producer can preserve next year’s calf crop through drought situations.

Sarah Dickinson, M.S.

Regional Extension Agent I

Animal Science and Forages

Beginner Beekeeping Course Returns in January

beekeeping-banner

Many people have a curious interest in beekeeping but are unsure if it is really for them?  Here are a few questions to ask yourself that might determine if you should become a beekeeper:

  • Do you enjoy the outdoors and do you enjoy supporting nature?
  • Do you enjoy gardening and nurturing plants?
  • Do you enjoy woodworking?
  • Do you enjoy a biological challenge?
  • Do you enjoy talking to people with similar interests?
  • Do you enjoy managing a sideline business?
  • Do you enjoy participating in a historical craft?

If you can answer yes to most of these questions, beekeeping is for you!

Amazingly, the interest in backyard beekeeping and honey production continues to grow.  But how to get started and understand what all is involved can be confusing and frustrating.  To help educate those interested in becoming a beekeeper, the Tallapoosa County Extension office, in partnership with the Tallapoosa River Beekeepers Association, will again offer its Beginner Beekeeping Course.  Plans are underway to host the course beginning January 12, 2017.

The six week course will be held on Thursday nights from 6 to 8 p.m. and taught by local and experienced beekeepers and experts.  All two hour classes will be held in Dadeville, with facility location still to be determined.  At the end of the series, each beginner beekeeper will have enough basic knowledge to start keeping bees, acquire and assemble the necessary equipment for the bees, and will have the opportunity to obtain bees to go in the equipment.  Cost of the series is $45 per person, and includes two textbooks.

If you would like to become a beekeeper or have any questions, please contact the Tallapoosa County Extension office at 256-825-1050 or view our a promotional flyer. Registration deadline is Friday, January 6, 2017.

Understand Sprayer Calibration Before Applying Pesticides

pesticide sprayer calibration

I teach several pesticide education classes each year, and I spend a good bit of time during these classes on sprayer calibration. For this example I will be discussing handgun/wand sprayer calibration, but we have information on boom and boomless sprayer calibration as well. It is extremely important to understand sprayer calibration before applying pesticides.

For farmers and other professionals, the pesticide label will tell you how much of the pesticide to apply per acre. So how much pesticide do you put in a tank? First we need to determine how many gallons of water you are applying per acre, then we can calculate how much pesticide to add to the tank. In this example we will use the 1/128th acre method, but other methods could be used. This method discussed here is for the handgun or wand applicators and does not matter if your sprayer is a handheld sprayer, backpack sprayer, ATV sprayer, or a larger sprayer mounted on a tractor.

First, measure 128th of an acre, which is about 340 square feet or 18.5 feet by 18.5 feet. You can use flags, string, spray paint, etc. to mark the area. Then, with only water in the tank, measure the time required, in seconds, to spray the area. The goal is to apply the water consistently, so try it several times until you determine your average time. Wetting the area more or less will change the calibration rate. The goal is to spray the same way in the field as you did while calibrating.  Then, spray the water in a container and measure the ounces caught. The ounces caught in the time required to spray the 340 square foot area equals the gallons of water the applicator is applying per acre.

In our example, we will say it took 23 seconds to spray the 340 square feet area. Spray is collected for 23 seconds and measured in ounces. If 50 ounces were caught, the applicator would be applying 50 gallons of water per acre. If 15 ounces were caught, you would be applying 15 gallons per acre. If 25 ounces were caught, you would be applying 25 gallons of water per acre. To adjust the gallons of water per acre, you may change pressure at the pump, change or adjust spray tips, or adjust the speed.  Then repeat the calibration process until you are applying the desired amount per acre. Once you are applying the desired volume of water per acre, you do not need to adjust the pressure, tips, or speed.

Once you calculate the area that can be covered with one tank, you can determine the amount of pesticide needed per tank. The pesticide label will give a range of desired gallons of water per acre that is needed to be applied along with the recommended rate of pesticide. Remember to read and follow the label directions before applying pesticides.

On our web site, we have information on pesticides that are labeled for certain crops, such as insects, disease, and weed control in turf, ornamentals, vegetables, fruit, forages, and other areas such as insects in wood structures. If you need more information on sprayer calibration, just contact your local County Extension Office or visit our web site at www.aces.edu and type sprayer calibration in the “Search ” box.

I work several counties in this region of the state in the area of Commercial Horticulture. Commercial Horticulture refers to producing horticulture products and marketing them for a profit as part of a business. Crops that growers commonly produce are nursery crops, turf, fruits, vegetables, Christmas trees, and cut flowers. Commercial horticulture can also involve horticulture services such as landscaping or landscape maintenance.

Other Extension agents work in the areas of home horticulture, forestry and wildlife, money management, animal science and forages, 4-H, agronomic crops, human nutrition, family and child development, community development, and food safety and quality. I grew up working in agriculture, and I was using the Extension System long before I became an Extension employee. I know firsthand how important Extension agents can be, and I encourage anyone to participate in Extension programs when possible and contact Extension agents when needed.

by Dr. Chip East, Regional Extension Agent for Commercial Horticulture

Drought Strategies and Available Assistance to Livestock Farmers

cattle-bannerCounties in North Eastern Alabama have been dry throughout the summer of 2016. As property owners, commodity farmers, and livestock producers hope for rain, various management strategies and assistance programs may be considered. Livestock producers should use management strategies to stretch available hay and grazing. Hay availability has been of great concern to livestock producers this summer. Because of the lack of rainfall and boughts with armyworms, hay production has been decreased. Furthermore, loss of grazing has increased summer hay demand, with many producers feeding hay at least sometimes this past summer. To better stretch your resources, consider grouping animals to feed hay and supplement appropriately for their varying nutritional needs. For example, cows in peak lactation will consume 2.5-3% of their body weight and require around 60% total digestible nutrients (TDN; e.g. energy) and 12% crude protein (CP), whereas dry, pregnant cows may only need to consume 2% of their bodyweight at 48% TDN and 7% CP. Test your hay for nutrient density, group livestock according to intake requirements, and supplement hay with feeds as needed. You can limit feed hay and meet the remainder of your cows’ nutrient needs by providing supplementation through stored feeds. Contact your county extension office or regional extension agent for help determining hay requirements and proper supplementation for your animals.

While summer perennial grazing will begin to wind down as we move toward the winter season, considerations for winter grazing may be beneficial-especially if we receive some fall rainfall. Planting winter annuals on prepared land or overseeding onto short grazed summer sods can provide grazing in the late fall and winter season. Small grains (oats, wheat, rye), ryegrass, and clovers are excellent species to consider planting alone or as a mixture for winter grazing. Follow this link to view guidelines for planting various forages in Alabama. If you have the ability to stockpile tall fescue into the late fall months, this is another strategy that may help provide grazing if we receive moisture soon.

Animals that are not productive should be sold to reduce the number of animals that will consume your limited resources. Pregnancy check animals at weaning or at the end of your breeding season to identify and cull open animals. Also identify and cull low performing animals and animals with bad eyes, feet, udders, and dispositions. These animals will only consume resources needed by your quality stock, and the income from their sales can increase funds available for purchasing hay or stored feeds.

The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) provides assistance to grazing livestock producers that have lost grazing abilities due to droughty weather. Tallapoosa county is currently listed amongst counties eligible for assistance. If you graze livestock in Tallapoosa county and wish to apply for or learn more about financial assistance for your operation, follow this link to information about the Livestock and Forage Disaster Relief Program or contact your county’s FSA office at 334-567-2264 .

If you have questions regarding drought management strategies, contact myself or other members of the ACES Animal Science and Forages Team.

Sarah Dickinson, M.S.

Regional Extension Agent I

Animal Science & Forages

Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Cell: 256-537-0024

Office: 2560-825-1050

Email:sed0029@auburn.edu

Serving Chambers, Clay, Cleburne, Coosa, Lee, Randolph, Shelby, Talladega, and Tallapoosa Counties

Plant Strawberries in the Fall for Spring Crop

Strawberries

No better time than the present to get strawberry plants started in the home garden!   Strawberries established in the fall have a much higher yield the following season. Ordering the plants and actually planting them is the easy part.  Gardeners must take some time and elbow grease on the strawberry patch if you would like good quality berries the following year.

Much like veggies and our other backyard edibles, strawberries should be grown in an area where the sun is present all or most of the day.  Strawberries can be grown in some shade, but fruit quality and yield is usually not the best.  Six to eight hours of uninterrupted sunlight is the best.  The addition of organic material may be necessary to achieve a well-drained soil in highly clayey soils.  Preparation is everything so have a soil test run on new patches (good idea to soil test every 3 years).   Strawberries need a soil pH of 6.0-6.8.  It is hard to work additional lime into the planting area after strawberries have been planted if needed.  Fertilize at planting based on the results.   It is good to know that strawberries are susceptible to a soil disease called verticillium wilt.  For that reason it is not a good idea to plant strawberries where tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and Irish potatoes have been grown in recent years.

Home gardeners may find a few choices when ordering or purchasing strawberry plants.  June-bearing or spring-bearing  types   are generally harvested for several weeks in late spring, early summer.  Examples of spring-bearers would include such cultivars as Earliglow, Camerosa, and Chandler. The June-bearing types of strawberries preform the best in the heat and humidity of Alabama.   Everbearing types of strawberries produce fruit throughout the growing season – spring, mid-summer and fall.   Ozark Beauty  and Quinalt are common varieties  of everbearing strawberry.  The name everbearing may be a bit misleading in our area.  They are poorly adapted to the Southern United States producing a scarce amount of berries.  June-bearers are definitely the way to grow. Strawberries flower in response to daylight (photoperiod).   June-bearers produce the short stems and flowers during the cool (and cooler) weather we have in late fall throughout the winter.  During the longer days and higher temperatures, they respond by producing runners – the daughter plants that we love to share!

Daughter plants?  Strawberries ‘run’ during the summer giving rise to new plants.   These plant stolons are commonly called runners.  Runners run horizontally along the ground.  Once a node sends out roots, a new plant develops.   These are called daughter plants as they are clones of the original plant.   For many, the daughter plants become the main crop for the following year, replacing the original mother plant.   Others may keep the mother plants for several years, transplanting and sharing the daughter plants with friends.  Either way, in a home garden, strawberry plants should be renovated every three years because of the diseases and insects.  Commercial growers treat strawberry plants as annuals.

A trip to the nearest pick your own strawberry farm will give you insight into commercial strawberry production – usually finding  strawberries planted into irrigated plastic covered beds.  Home gardeners may use plastic (irrigation has to be used under the plastic) or mulch the bed with pine straw or straw (other mulches will work as well).  Keeping the fruit off the ground will help with fruit rots and slug damage.  Raised rows are also beneficial for good drainage.  Planted a foot apart in rows, you may have 2 rows of strawberries be if the rows are wide enough.  Strawberries also grow well  in raised beds.  Strawberry plants are planted as crowns.  It is very important  to plant strawberries so the crown is slightly above the soil line  when plants are firmed.  Planting too deeply may result in poor growing or dying plants.  Once the strawberries are planted, do not forget the water.  A strawberry is flavored water after all.  An inch of water per week on a well draining soil is sufficient.

If you do not have room for a small strawberry patch, try a strawberry pot. Strawberry pots are the terra cotta or plastic pots you see at garden centers with the urn shape and the holes up and down the sides in odd places. These pots are one of the easiest and most convenient ways to grow and harvest strawberries.

Start by choosing a pot that will hold a reasonable number of plants, and be sure that the pot has good drainage. Holes in the bottom of the pot are necessary to keep the roots from staying too wet and possibly rotting. When choosing the plants you will use, count on one plant per side opening, and three or four for the top.. You should be able to find the pots, the strawberry plants, and the potting media easily at your local nursery or retail garden center. Use a prefertilized, soilless, bagged media, and consider amending it with a good compost or plant food.

Begin by filling the bottom of the pot. Check to see if the drainage holes need to be covered loosely with broken terra cotta or pea gravel. This will provide drainage without allowing potting mix to fall out. As you reach the holes in the sides of the pot, tuck plants one by one through the outside of the holes, patting them in with potting mix from the inside to stabilize them.

When the urn is full, top it off with three or four plants and then water the media thoroughly through the holes and from the top. Set the plants on your patio in full sun and pick a fresh strawberry while relaxing on the porch.  Sometimes a pot just isn’t big enough!  You can make your own strawberry pot if you would like more plants.  These have been made with great results using barrels or 5 gallon buckets.

by Dani Carroll, Regional Extension Agent for Home Grounds, Gardens, and Home Pests

Weed Control in Pasture Systems

pasture banner

Original article published in extension daily. Author: Katie Nichols

It’s no secret that the summers in Alabama are hot and dry. This year is no exception. Yards and pastures are suffering from heat stress.

An Alabama Extension Crop Specialist has recommendations for farmers struggling with weed suppression in pasture systems.

Weed Control in a Drought

Dr. Steve Li said weed control during a drought is typically very difficult.

“Under drought conditions, all plants slow down growth,” he said. “Plants will develop a thick cuticle and metabolism slows down. They will also try to close the stomata during the day to conserve water. After the stomata is closed, there is very little carbon dioxide in the plant and the photosynthetic rate drops significantly.”

Many herbicides target the photosynthetic process, so with a slowed rate of photosynthesis herbicides may not work as well.

Li said in a drought situation, producers should think twice before going to the sprayer.

“Weeds seem to grow in a quick flush after a rain,” Li said. “Instead of wasting a herbicide application on dry weeds, wait until after a rain to apply. You will most likely have healthier weeds to spray.”

It is important to use surfactant and ammonium sulfate during herbicide application. This will assist plant uptake of the herbicide. Consult the herbicide label for manufacturer requirements.

Whether there is rain or no rain, Li said one option for weed control is to mow the pasture. The weeds are still sensitive to leaf blade in any condition. Another option is to utilize irrigation in the pasture and hay field if it is available to you. A quick shower from the irrigation system would have a noticeable impact on plant uptake of herbicides.

When to Spray Perennial Weeds

Most farmers are familiar with perennial weeds causing issues on the farm. Blackberry and dewberry, ironweed, kudzu, passionflower, Chinese privet, Japanese honeysuckle, Cherokee rose, trifoliate orange and unwanted woody brush are good examples of perennial weeds that cause issues in pasture systems.

The most effective time to spray perennial weeds is in late summer and early fall. Later in the season perennial weeds will begin getting into the reproduction stage.

“Typically, plants are more sensitive to stress and herbicides in the reproductive stage as compared to earlier in the season when they are in the vegetative growth stage,” Li said.

Perennial plants will be making photosynthetic products later in the season and move them into reproductive organs. Spraying herbicide at this point in the year allows the herbicides to translocate into the storage organs of the plant along with the carbohydrates, amino acids and other photosynthetic products, giving the herbicide a better chance of killing the plant and prevent regrowth in future.

“In many cases, the storage organs are also reproductive organs,” he said. “If you don’t kill the storage organs, you do not kill the weed. Kudzu root is a classic example. This is one of the major challenges of perennial weed control. Preventing regrowth and continuous control effort are always required for successful perennial weed control.”

Other Considerations Herbicide Applications

Herbicide applications must be timely and carefully calculated. Spray drift is a factor that could cause lots of problems for sensitive row crops like soybean, cotton and vegetables. When spraying drift is a concern, always use large droplets, lower pressure (around 40 PSI), low driving speed (below 10 mph) and low boom height (18-20 inches above canopy) with a boom-type sprayer. Spray only when the wind speed is less than 10 mph and blowing away from the sensitive crop.

It is important to ensure good coverage. When spraying perennial weeds—especially brush-type weeds—the stand can be very thick, so increasing the sprayer output may help push the spray droplets through the dense canopy. If the weed stand is too thick, mowing may be required before applying herbicides.

“Repeated applications for perennial weed control is the key,” Li said. “You may start with 100 weed plants in one field, and after three years you may only have five plants left. If you do not do something to those five plants and turn them loose, they will grow back and multiply quickly.”

It is a constant battle to suppress the weed population. Weed eradication is difficult, but continuously controlling the population is better than the alternative of letting it run rampant in pastures and hay fields. Growing forage or hay and preventing overgrazing are also critical to weed control. Thin forage or hay, large bare ground and overgrazing always lead to future weed problem if there is a lack of weed-crop competition.

More Information

For more information, visit www.aces.edu and look for the Forage team webpage. More information on herbicide applications in row crops can be found here. You can also listen to the Forage Focus webinar in its entirety here.

Private Pesticide Applicator Training Class – Sept 15th

spraying pesticide

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System will be teaching the private pesticide applicator training in Tallapoosa County. This training is designed for the farmers who need to take the private pesticide applicator test in order to purchase restricted use products. However, we will be discussing chemical safety and sprayer calibration at this class, so anyone who sprays pesticides on a large scale will benefit from this training even if a restricted pesticide license is not needed.

The training and testing will be conducted at the Extension office at the Tallapoosa county courthouse on September 15th from 8:00 until 12 noon. All of the classes begin at 8:00 a.m. and will end around 12 noon (CST). If you would like to attend this class please contact the Tallapoosa county Extension office at 256-825-1050.

A fee of $20 will be charged for this training and testing. An additional licensing fee of $25 will be sent to the Department of Agriculture and Industries by the applicant. The licensing fee is not included in the training and testing fee.

Remember to read and follow the label directions before applying pesticides. On our web site, we have information on pesticides that are labeled for certain crops, such as insects, disease, and weed control in turf, ornamentals, vegetables, fruit, forages, and other areas such as insects in wood structures.

For people who spray large areas, remember that sprayer calibration is extremely important. Sprayer calibration is the process of figuring out how many gallons of water is being applied to a known area and making needed adjustments so that the correct volume of water is applied. The particular pesticide label will give a range of desired gallons of water per acre that is needed to be applied along with the recommended rate of pesticide. Simple math calculations and a little time are needed to properly calibrate a sprayer.

If you need more information on sprayer calibration, just contact your local County Extension Office or visit our web site at www.aces.edu and type sprayer calibration in the “Search Our Site” box.

Overseeding Winter Annuals to Increase the Grazing Season

 

Agricultural field on which grow the young grass. wheat

Overseeding winter annuals onto dormant summer perennial pastureland is a powerful tool used by producers who desire to extend the number of months spend grazing their livestock. To overseed winter annuals, producers simply broadcast or drill seed into the desired area once summer perennial growth has ended. Correct overseeding practices lead to the availability of winter annuals from late fall through the spring, depending on the forage species/combination of species planted. Common forages utilized in winter grazing systems from overseeding are small grains (oats, wheat, rye), ryegrass, and clovers. These species can be used in combination with each other to increase length of forage availability or to take advantage of the nitrogen fixing attributes of clovers. Overseedng is a fairly simple technique that leads to high benefits, however incorrect procedures for overseeding can lead to failure of winter annual establishment. Let’s review the benefits and practices recommended for successful overseeding:

Benefits of Overseeding:

Overseeding allows producers to lessen the amount of stored feeds necessary for production through the winter. The increased forage availability from winter annuals allow producers to more economically feed their livestock.

If winter annuals are broadcasted onto or drilled into sods (versus planted in prepared plots), pasture land is better able to uphold its integrity when animals graze after wet conditions or in areas that tend to hold water in the winter months.

Winter annuals are high quality forage and provide excellent nutrition to livestock throughout their growing season.

If a legume (such as clover) is used in the winter annual combination, nitrogen availability in the soil is increased. Legumes naturally fix nitrogen and thus increase nitrogen amounts available to companion plants growing with the clover and to plants growing after the clover’s growth ceases.

Techniques for Overseeding:

Overseed winter annuals onto pastureland in good condition for plant growth. Pastures should be well-drained and not subject to flooding on wet winter days. A soil test should be taken, and lime should be properly applied several months before overseeding. Potassium and Phosphorus should be applied while overseeding as directed by your soil test, and Nitrogen should be applied after winter annuals are up to minimize uptake and continued growth from summer forages.  High quality seeds should be used, and legume seeds should be inoculated just before planting.

Pastures should be grazed down closely or clipped/forage removed prior to overseeding. Burning pastures is a less desirable option, due to inconsistency of burn, but is better than overseeding onto a sod with high levels of vegetation.

Disking of seeds into the sod is not a requirement for overseeding certain species in optimal pasture conditions. However, every pasture is different and should be evaluated prior to overseeding to determine if and how much disking is required. Factors that should be evaluated are desired date of planting (disking allows for earlier planting), soil type, species to be overseeded, and forage remaining on sod. If existing forage is not grazed or clipped down, tillage to disrupt current vegetation is necessary. One or two rounds of light disking can be beneficial to overseeding programs, and it is important to note that disking does not damage summer perennial return in subsequent years.

When to Plant:

Winter annuals should be overseeded later than if they were planted on prepared land. Since remaining summer perennials are still intact on many pastures used for overseeding, it is important to overseed after summer plants stop their growth. If overseeding is done too early, summer grasses that continue to grow will overwhelm and outcompete your winter annuals. In central Alabama, it is recommended to overseed winter annuals from October 15-October 30. If earlier planting on sod is desired, summer sod should be very thoroughly disked such that it is destroyed or weakened. In Bermudagrass fields, paraquat may be sprayed on summer pastures to provide an “early frost affect.” In both cases, overseeding can be done 2-3 weeks earlier than in standard conditions.

It is also important to overseed winter annuals by the October 30 cutoff date in central Alabama to allow for the young plants to germinate and be well established before the blunt of winter sets in. Increased survivability during winter frosts are noted in healthy, well established stands. In addition, if small grains are to be planted for utilization in late fall/early winter, adequate time is necessary post planting to allow for grazing availability.

Once winter annuals are ready for grazing, stock areas appropriately such that large, dense areas of winter annuals are not left on pastures. This could reduce summer forage emergence.

Click here to view a document with more facts on overseeding.

If you have questions regarding overseeding techniques or other fall planting guidelines, contact myself or other members of the ACES Animal Science and Forages Team.

Sarah Dickinson, M.S.

Regional Extension Agent I

Animal Science & Forages

Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Cell: 256-537-0024

Office: 2560-825-1050

Email:sed0029@auburn.edu

Serving Chambers, Clay, Cleburne, Coosa, Lee, Randolph, Shelby, Talladega, and Tallapoosa Counties

Guidelines for Submitting, Interpreting, and Using Soil Tests

countryside landscape

Providing adequate nutrition to one’s animals is a common goal of livestock producers. Without adequate nutrients and minerals, animals are less productive and return less profit. Many producers understand that one cannot simply “make up for” a protein deficiency by providing animals extra energy, and that dollars are lost by over feeding animals past their nutrient requirements for desired production. We have tools available to help us understand the nutrient requirements of our livestock, help develop a ration (feed), and help determine how much of that ration animals should eat.

However, have you ever considered that these basic principles apply to your forages? To achieve maximum performance of one’s forages, a soil test can be performed to determine the nutrients available in your soil. Then, the requirements of the forage you wish to grow are considered, and fertilizer recommendations are reported from the soil test. Producers can then use test results to apply the correct amount of each nutrient in their specific pasture. More forage growth is seen because your forages have the correct amount of the nutrients they require, and less nutrients (and money) are wasted compared to fertilizing fields with a “best guess” mixture and amount that lacks scientific calculations based off your soil.

How to obtain and interpret a soil test:

1: Take Soil Samples:

Soil can vary in nutrient composition depending on its location in the field. Therefore, it is  important that your soil sample contains soil from each part of the field you wish to fertilize. It is recommended that 15-20 uniform samples of soil are collected from your field. These samples should be 6-8 inches deep and collected in a planned pattern to insure all areas are inspected. Place samples in a bucket, mix well, and place 1 pint in a soil collection box. Soil sample boxes, information sheets, and other supplies for soil testing are available from your county Extension office. When mailing your samples, enclose the filled soil boxes, the information sheet, and a check or money order to cover service charges in a cardboard shipping box and mail to the soil testing lab. More details on sample collection and sample submission can be found on Alabama’s soil test website.

2: Interpreting your Soil Sample Report:

In this article we will focus on the Limestone, Nitrogen(N), Phosphorus(P), and Potassium(K) recommendations from your soil test.

Limestone: Limestone application helps raise the pH of your soil. The pH scale ranges from 0-14 and helps you determine how acidic or basic your soil is. Soil with a pH lower than 7 is considered acidic, soil with a pH of 7 is considered neutral, and soil with a pH higher than 7 is considered basic. In general, if pH drops much below 6, it is time to lime your pasture to raise pH. Apply the amount of Limestone recommended to your pasture. For help with Lime calculations, follow this link.

N, P, K: The amount of each nutrient needed by your pasture is listed in your soil test. Amounts will vary, but the goal of applying fertilizer is to purchase a mixture that best allows these recommendations to be met.  If your soil test recommends 60 pounds of N, 40 pounds of P, and 40 pounds of K, you can custom order this mixture or use a pre-mixed fertilizer to meet your soil’s requirements. For more information on how to calculate the amount of fertilizer needed or the fertilizer mix to use, contact your REA or visit a help page by clicking on the chemical fertilizer calculator help page or the organic fertilizer calculator help page.

3: When to fertilize your pasture:

The key to successful fertilizing is to replace nutrients when they are used by the forages growing in your soil. Different management strategies (grazing vs cutting hay) remove nutrients at different rates and require different fertilizing schedules. Links to fertilizing recommendations for various grasses are given on the ACES website. Click here and select your specific forage to view fertilizer recommendations.

If you have questions regarding submitting and using soil tests, contact myself or other members of the ACES Animal Science and Forages Team.

Sarah Dickinson, M.S.

Regional Extension Agent I

Animal Science & Forages

Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Cell: 256-537-0024

Office: 2560-825-1050

Email:sed0029@auburn.edu

Serving Chambers, Clay, Cleburne, Coosa, Lee, Randolph, Shelby, Talladega, and Tallapoosa Counties