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What Value? What Price?Forages for livestock consumption vary tremendously with regard to quality, value, and price. This years delayed haying season will contribute to increased variability. In the end, animal performance (cost of gain/production) is the key to judging the quality and value of forages. Given the high percentage of ruminant livestock production directly attributable to forage consumption substantial dollars are at stake.
Visual (and smell) appraisal is the oldest and most widely utilized forage evaluation method and the least accurate. It is extremely subjective and can make for uncertainty in sight-unseen transactions.
Chemical analysis or near infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS) can provide the information necessary for a meaningful and objective evaluation. This type of analysis will provide information on: dry matter (DM); crude protein (CP); insoluble crude protein (ICP); acid detergent fiber (ADF); neutral detergent fiber (NDF); total digestible nutrients (TDN); and more depending on the users needs.
This type of analysis makes forage valuation and pricing on the basis of feeding value possible. Drs. B. J. Steevens and J. L. Garrett, University of Missouri, have created a "FEEDVAL II" Excel spreadsheet available on AgEbb which enables users to compare or calculate the value of a feedstuff against other feeds that have values that are more commonly determined in the marketplace.
If forage testing is to provide information of value, the sample analyzed must be representative.
Suggested Hay Sampling Procedures
Take the sample as close as possible to the planned sale or feeding time. Allow one week for testing process (shipping & actual testing).
FEEDVAL II allows the user to input the forages dry matter, crude protein, acid detergent fiber, calcium and phosphorous percentages to calculate the forages value per hundredweight of dry matter.
The "FEEDVAL II" spreadsheet can be downloaded from the web at: http://agebb.missouri.edu/download/index.htm#muds.
Ration formulation is an art and a science.
If you have ANY questions regarding the application of feed analysis information
contact your local University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist.
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Extending Your Livestock Grazing Season -- Annual Ryegrass and Stockpiled Fescue
Two forage production practices show promise for extending the grazing season and reducing the need to feed costly, mechanically harvested forages in central Missouri. These practices are the overseeding/interseeding of annual crops and the stockpiling of perennial forages. "Extending the Grazing Season with Brassicas, August 1998 issue of Ag Connection and "Using Cool Season Cereals to Extend the Grazing Season", August 1997 Ag Connection discuss these issues further.
Hot new research on a cool, cool season grass may provide a valuable source of winter feed. Annual ryegrass is cheaper and easier to grow than some of the more exotic options. It can produce a large amount of high quality feed during a time when most forages are dormant.
The work on annual rye grass is part of a larger study of seasonal forage production by University of Missouri researchers. The plots are located at the Southwest Center, Mount Vernon, and the Agronomy Research Center, Columbia.
Annual ryegrass is popular in New Zealand and also is used as a winter forage along the Gulf Coast of the United States. Until recently the varieties available have not been hardy enough to survive Missouri winters. For annual ryegrass production to be successful in Missouri, the seed must be carefully selected for winter hardiness. In UMC trials "Marshall," "Barverdi," and "Barmultra" varieties have proven they can survive our colder northern climate. These winter-hardy varieties have been successfully grown as far north as southern Iowa. If common seed is purchased from Mississippi be prepared for a disappointment.
Seed costs are about 60 cents a pound and require 25 pounds of seed per acre. So, for about $15 worth of seed, you can get 2 to 4 tons of forage per acre. Since ryegrass responds well to nitrogen, growers who skimp on fertilizer can not expect to get comparable yields.
Annual ryegrass can provide a couple of crops per year. It can be seeded and fertilized with 50 pounds of nitrogen in the fall. After that is grazed down, the crop can be fertilized again with 50 to 75 pounds of nitrogen and provide another two tons of grazing in late February and March, when cows need spring grass.
Annual ryegrass works well for grain farmers with beef cow herds. The grass can be seeded in September on grain-stubble to provide winter grazing. In the UMC research, ryegrass produced forage in mid-February with a crude protein content (18%) comparable to alfalfa. The best thing about ryegrass is that it provides grazing through the critical winter months.
The most common practice used in Missouri for extending fall and winter grazing is stockpiling tall fescue pastures. Stockpiling is the more commonly used term for what is often referred to as deferred grazing in textbooks. The basic practice is to remove animals from a particular pasture, harvest hay in mid to late summer and allow the growth to accumulate until after the growing season has ended. Some of the key components to stockpile management are indicated below.
While almost any perennial forage can be stockpiled, there are several reasons why tall fescue works the best. Tall fescue will maintain more active growth at lower temperatures than most other cool season grasses and will continue to accumulate later into the year. In response to shortening day length and cooler night temperatures, tall fescue accumulates a level of soluble carbohydrates in both the leaves and stem bases. With up to 20 percent of the weight of the plant as free sugars, the nutritive quality of fall grown tall fescue is quite high. The waxy layer on the leaves makes the plant more resistance to frost damage than most cool season grasses.
Tall fescue is also very responsive to nitrogen fertilization. To produce a high yielding, quality stockpile, the pasture should be grazed or clipped fairly short and 40 to 80 lbs. N/acre applied 90 days prior to the end of the growing season. In central Missouri the optimum time to initiate stockpiling is in early to mid-August. If stockpiling begins before this time, the yield will not be any greater, but quality will be significantly lower because the photosynthetic efficiency of the sward is decreased due to the presence of more dead and dying leaves. This same factor also results in lower forage quality. Delaying the initiation of stockpiling results in a higher quality forage, but it significantly reduces yields.
If the red clover component of a mixed fescue-clover pasture is greater than 30 percent it may not be cost effective to apply additional N. While dry matter yield of the tall clover mixture will be similar to tall fescue receiving 60 to 80 lbs. N/acre, the stockpiled forage will deteriorate much more rapidly as winter progresses. For this reason, it is advisable to graze stockpiled grass-legume pastures in the early part of winter and save the pastures with heavier concentrations of fescue for later in the winter.
The cost per grazing day on stockpiled pasture or annual ryegrass can be even further reduced by controlling forage supply through strip grazing. At the Forage System Research Center, allocating stockpiled pasture in strips produced approximately 40 percent more grazing days/acre when compared to supplying feed supply. The feed cost per day was more than 30 percent lower on the 3-day strip.
Land entering the CRP program is usually coming out of grain crop production. This makes the transition to the desirable grasses or trees easier. Many seeding options can be used for establishment of forages including no-till, conventional, or seeding with an air fertilizer spreader. Some Soil and Water Conservation Districts have drills for rent, or you may be able to rent one through a local implement dealer. For planting warm season grasses, a drill must be equipped with a special seed box so the seed will flow through the drill. Seeding with an air fertilizer spreader requires a well-prepared seedbed and either rolling or cultipacking is required before and after seeding.
Keep in mind warm season grasses can be slow in becoming established. During the first growing season warm season grasses establish their root system, and you may not see a lot of vegetative growth. The second year, more vegetative growth will become visible, but at the same time hard seed may be germinating, and it may take a third year to see more growth. Weed control is a must during this time as the young plants need sunlight to grow.
Fescue has taken over many fields in the CRP program. To improve the chances of getting re-enrolled in the CRP program, fescue will have to be controlled. Chemical applications are usually needed to reduce the fescue. The combination of fall and spring applications of burn-down herbicide has been effective. After the spring application, the land can either be no-till drilled directly into the killed sod, conventionally tilled and then drilled, or air seeded after the seed bed is prepared. A single spring application of herbicide will work, but the level of fescue control may not be as effective as with two applications.
Once the desired forages have been established, CRP requirements allow for mowing from July 15th to August 15th. Only 50% of each field in CRP can be mowed annually. This practice helps to protect ground-nesting birds. There will be more forbs in the fields which is desirable for the CRP program. Warm season grasses should not be mowed less than eight inches in height, and cool season grasses should not be mowed below 3 inches high. Warm season grasses benefit from burning periodically. This practice can also help establish the stand. If you use prescribed burning to manage your CRP acres, you may burn entire fields, and your burning dates may vary throughout the year, depending on your goals.
The Conservation Reserve Program is beneficial to
landowners and the environment, but getting the land seeded to the desirable species is a
stumbling block for many participants. If you have any questions or need technical
assistance regarding the Conservation Reserve Program, please contact your local USDA
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Ag Connection - August 1999