Information for the local farmer

It was a very productive week in Southern Ohio last week with hot, dry weather dominating the majority of the week. Rainfall amounts have been wildly variable across the county, with some growers receiving three inches of heavy rain on a recent Saturday night and then others receiving little or no rain at all.

Many growers who received heavy rains are now concerned about germination issues in freshly planted corn and soybeans. Heavy rains on freshly plowed or planted soils can cause considerable amounts of surface compaction and crusting problems. When soils become hard and crusty, young seedlings struggle to emerge evenly and sometimes die below the soil surface. Broadleaf weed species such as legumes and clovers break the cotyledon stem when trying to break through the ground, many farmers call this breaking the neck. Grasses such as corn will simply sprout underground and live temporarily before dying. This is one of the many challenges mother nature throws at farmers during the spring planting season. Another challenge livestock and forage producers face is keeping up with the grass. Last week has been amazing for growth and forage maturation. I managed to collect measurements last week on a forage field across the county. Here are some results.

· Pure Alfalfa – 28 inches tall or 6,000 pounds. dry matter yield/ac (this same field was 19 inches the week before).

· Timothy, Fescue and Orchardgrass – 18 inches tall or 4,000 to 5,000 lbs. dry matter yield.

· Perennial Pasture – 22 inches or about 4,000 pounds dry matter yield.

As forages continue to grow and mature at a rapid rate, farmers are working late to try to make hay or silage as fast as they can. If they’re like me at the end of the week, they may have staggered to the tractor from exhaustion. Hopefully that’s not the case for your grazing beef cows. Rapid spring forage growth can be both a blessing and a curse for cattle producers. On the one hand, this growth keeps the cattle fat and healthy, on the other hand, if they lack essential forages or nutrients, the cattle could be at risk of a disease called grass tetany. This is a life-threatening condition in ruminants caused by a lack of magnesium in the blood, this condition is called hypomagnesemia. Magnesium plays many key roles in the body of livestock (and humans) and one of those roles is the proper functioning of the nervous system and muscle contraction. When the magnesium level drops at a rapid rate, symptoms such as loss of balance, uncontrolled muscle spasms, stiffness, rigidity, and seizures occur. If the signs are not detected early and treated, death is very likely. Here are some factors to consider regarding grass tetany and how it can be prevented or treated.

· High potassium levels can be a problem – High potassium forages with a combination of low sodium rations can be one of the main causes of grass tetany. Forages that can accumulate large amounts of potassium include most grains such as winter wheat, oats and rye. Large amounts of potash fertilizers applied in the spring should be avoided.

· Sudden change in diet – A sudden change from dry hay to green pasture can cause a rapid increase in ammonia levels in the rumen. This change can cause grass tetany, adding dry hay to livestock before grazing in lush pastures can be a good way to prevent potential problems.

· Older lactating cattle are at high risk – brood cows, ewes and older females that are lactating or 2 weeks from parturition are most susceptible. For cattle, 6-8 weeks after birth is when lactation levels are highest and in turn require the most magnesium. Providing supplemental magnesium 2-3 weeks before birth can help increase magnesium levels in the animal’s body to prevent problems later.

Choose the appropriate mineral – Regardless of the time of year, beef cattle should consume about 4 oz/head of minerals and small ruminants need 0.5-1.5 oz/head (free choice) per day during the spring growing season. least 12% magnesium in the form of magnesium oxide.

· Be careful with salt – Providing enough salt in the diet can be a critical step in preventing grass tetany, it can also be a cause of grass tetany! Too much salt increases urination, which can be a way of losing magnesium in the urine.

Graze at the right time – Waiting until pastures are more advanced in growth and liming the pasture can be a good way to prevent grass tetany For more information, see- https://u.osu. edu/beef/2022/05/11/grass-tetany-a-complicated-disorder-with-easy-prevention/#more-12621

A few other items”

· Crop planting certification with USDA FSA – July 15th.

· Forestry Stewardship Field Night June 7 at Phipps Family Farm, 1092 Vaughn Ridge, West Union Road, Ohio 45693. Call the office at (937) 544-2339 to RSVP.

About Marco C. Nichols

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