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Farmers who raise livestock; whether cattle, horses, sheep, or goats, should think of themselves as forage farmers as well. Increased use of forage reduces feed costs and increases potential yield per animal; to some extent, it is an input that a farmer can manage himself to minimize concentrate purchases.
According to a Top 10 list put together by scientists with the USDA Agricultural Research Service, using forage benefits the land by increasing organic matter and can improve nitrogen levels found in the soil. It is a sustainable practice that reduces surface water runoff and slows or prevents the leaching of nutrients; forage-covered fields need less fertilizer and they protect soil year-round.
Spring provides a good opportunity to assess fields and create a working plan that is economical and increases or protects the fertility of the land. Good pasture management enables livestock to graze on pasture for more days of the year. To increase days on pasture, consider implementing a rotational grazing system to allow pastures time to recover. Having two (or more) pastures and rotating stock back and forth increases the fertility of the soil by allowing the empty pasture to replenish itself. Consider using portable electric fencing to quickly and inexpensively add more pastures to rotate.
I would suggest you consider the following:
• Good planting practices. Establish strong stands of forage, using high quality seed of proven varieties and timely planting.
• Soil test. Inexpensive soil tests tell you how to best use lime, phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen top dressings. This improves yield, quality, and stand life, and it also reduces weed problems.
• Nutritional needs. Cattle, horses, sheep and goats each have different nutritional needs. These variations are further impacted by the age and use of the animal. Weight gain, lactation, and pregnancy (last trimester) require pasture with high levels of nutrients. It is important to match the pasture to the animals’ requirements.
• Stocking rates. Grazing the right number of animals is extremely important to short- and long-term grazing success.
• Pasture alternatives. Consider grazing animals on crop residues (corn, soybean), dormant alfalfa, hayfields, and even turnips and other brassicas.
• Legumes. Use legumes as much as possible. Examine each field individually, assessing its potential for legumes, either as an introduction or enhancement planting.
• Reduced use of stored hay. Farm efficiency can be measured through use of stored hay. This expensive input should be as low as possible, indicating strong forage management. Additionally, take the steps needed to reduce waste of stored hay, silage, and concentrates.
• Invest time. Your investment of time and care is necessary for a grazing program to be successful.
For more information, contact the Owen County Extension Office at 484-5703.
Meeting to discuss the disposal of dead animals to be held Thursday
Dealing with dead animals is a reality for any livestock owner. Many of the recommended procedures for doing this have been somewhat impractical and very expensive for a small farmer.
Fortunately, there is a natural, low-cost way of disposing of dead animals that is environmentally acceptable. This method is called composting.
A meeting has been scheduled to discuss how to do this. A discussion of “Composting Dead Animals” will be held tomorrow (April 28) at the extension office at 6:30 p.m..
A barbecue meal will be provided to all those attending. The barbecue is being sponsored by the local conservation board, Farm Bureau, and the Phase I board.
All interested farmers are invited to attend.
Since this is a sponsored meal, please call the extension office for reservations today. (484-5703)