By GARY TILGHMAN
GLASGOW — Folks, don’t forget that we have a Winter Cattle Feeding Meeting scheduled next Monday night, Oct. 29, beginning at 6 p.m. It will be at the Farmers Livestock Market, west of Glasgow on Highway 68/80. A “light supper” will be provided.
Dr. Roy Burris and Kevin Laurant, UK Extension Beef Cattle Specialists, are our guests. They will discuss some ways to feed your cattle this winter, with a short hay supply.
Producers, you need to know what you are feeding, which will be very important, especially this year following a drought. Testing your forages for quality is always important. And, with some forages (especially, but not limited to, drought stressed corn stalks and freeze damaged wheat), testing for their nitrate levels should be part of your management procedure, as well. Remember, high nitrate levels can be toxic.
In order to balance nutrient needs with other feed products to complement your on-hand forage supply, you need to know the nutrient levels of those existing forages to be able to properly provide other feedstuffs to support them. There is a lot of variation from forage quality, especially this year. For forages that will be used this winter, you need to know as much about their nutritive levels or toxicity issues as possible before feeding in order to avoid any problems.
Drought conditions require producers to look at alternatives to their normal winter feeding programs and we hope that this meeting will help producers to consider some options as they plan their winter feeding programs.
Reduce Losses When Feeding Hay
This winter, hay supplies will be extremely tight on most farms across the state. The 2007 spring freeze followed by prolonged drought led to a 30 to 50 percent reduction in hay production in the state this year. Therefore, it is important not to waste this valuable commodity when feeding it to cattle.
Reducing hay losses during feeding decreases waste, so cattle consume most of it, said Garry Lacefield, forage specialist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. Hay losses can be the result of trampling, leaf shatter, chemical and physical deterioration, fecal contamination and simply the animal’s refusal to eat it.
Feeding losses in various research trials have ranged from less than 2 percent to more than 60 percent where no attempts were made to reduce loss. With an already reduced yield, farmers cannot afford to let their hay be reduced to rubbish, Lacefield said.
“Remember, too, when you lose hay you are also losing money,” he said. “It does not matter whether you baled it yourself or purchased the hay, there is a cost involved with hay production.”
With some simple changes, feeding losses of three to six percent are quite common and acceptable for most conservative feeding programs, although the lower levels are associated with feeding programs requiring high labor and daily feeding.
Large round bales are the preferred choice for most cattle producers in Kentucky. One easy way to help reduce losses is to use hay rings or racks with large round bales. The rings limit access to the hay and can help reduce loss by keeping cattle from trampling and bedding down in the hay. Be sure to provide enough rings to accommodate the number of animals feeding and have the animals clean up the majority of the hay before providing more.
Producers should avoid feeding in areas of excessive mud which can cause waste and is hard on the animals. Hay feeding areas can be constructed by putting rock over geotextile fabric. There is still time to build a feeding area before winter and information is available through the Barren County Extension Office or the local office of the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Storage options can also impact the amount of hay your cattle will ultimately consume. Bales stored outside will degrade quickly and result in less hay available than bales stored under roof. Feed bales in outside storage first to reduce excessive loss.
Can State Expect a Bright Autumn?
Ask anyone. Chances are they’ll say the only color they’re seeing lately is brown – brown from dust, dead grass and dried up gardens. The continued hot weather and dry conditions across the state can make anyone question whether or not there will be anything worth seeing this fall. But hope might be in the air – or at least in the shortening days.
According to Doug McLaren, University of Kentucky forestry specialist, the length of days has more bearing on when fall color appears than temperature or moisture, though the latter two do play roles in the amount of color.
“The shorter days activate a ‘chemical clock,’ which tells trees to shut down chlorophyll production in preparation for winter,” he said. “That will happen, regardless of rainfall or temperature.”
Shorter days trigger the formation of a layer of cork cells at the base of each leaf. This restricts the flow of water and minerals into the leaf, which means that spent chlorophyll, the green pigment in foliage, cannot be replaced. As chlorophyll dies, it no longer masks other pigments present in the leaf. Voila! Suddenly a green leaf is transformed to orange or yellow.
The amount of light also affects color brilliance. The production of one group of leaf pigments, the anthocyanins, is dependent on the breakdown of sugars in the presence of bright light in late summer.
“The brighter the light, the more anthocyanins are produced and the more brilliant the color,” McLaren said.
So that sounds like good news for those of us ‘fall-o-philes’ out there who hunger for drives along boldly colored country roads. But wait, there’s something else to consider.
“The brightest colors develop when autumn days are sunny and cool, along with nights that are chilly, but not freezing,” McLaren said.
That doesn’t sound encouraging for a year when October’s daytime temperatures still hover along the 90-degree border and nights are reminiscent of late June. This year, because of the extreme summer and fall we’ve experienced, McLaren doesn’t hold out much hope for a radiant autumn.
“I think the total luster of all the colors is going to be a lot duller,” he said.
Typically, fall color moves from east to west across the state. The latest fall foliage map from the Kentucky Department of Tourism indicates that certain pockets in the far eastern part of the state, the south central region and central region centering around the Jefferson County area are showing a 21 percent to 40 percent move toward peak color, while the rest of the state still remains in the 8 to 20 percent range.
High season for the best fall color in the state typically is in the middle of October. In the best of years, autumn foliage in Kentucky would be hard put to find rivals.
“Because we in Kentucky have such a diverse climate and soil composition,” McLaren said, “many tree species common to both northern and southern states grow here. This provides a variety of fall colors.”
Even if crisp autumn-like temperatures arrive, perhaps the sight of red or yellow dotting a hillside will make us feel a little of fall’s comfort. This week’s rains have been a blessing and now maybe we can enjoy a more enjoyable fall season, as well.