July Tips for Beef and Forage Producers
Here’s a quick checklist for Baxter County cattle and forage producers to be mindful of as we head into July and the typically drier summer months.
Beef Cattle Management
- Monitor pasture conditions for growing replacement and retained cattle. Pasture quality usually diminishes this time of year. Decisions of extended ownership should be based on current calf value and fall feeder cattle futures. Replacement female weight gain should be monitored through the fall to make sure heifers are on track to reach their target weight for fall breeding.
- Pay attention to feedstuff markets. Many commodity feeds that are low in starch and moisture store well and purchasing commodities early can help reduce winter feed costs. Reports of corn crop conditions and the effects of acreage and crop condition begin to influence the corn market this time of year. Commodity feeds are greatly influenced by the corn market.
- The heat and humidity of a typical Arkansas summer combine to make a very uncomfortable environment for beef cattle. Moderate signs of heat stress may occur when the temperature is between 80° and 90°F with the humidity ranging from 50 to 90%.
- Heat stress may include rapid shallow breathing, profuse sweating and a decrease in milk production and feed intake. As heat stress increases, cows may show severe depression in milk yield and feed intake as body temperature elevates. In addition more significant signs of heat stress such as open mouth breathing with panting with her tongue hanging out may become evident.
- Water requirements increase as the environmental temperature rises. It also is very important that cows have water in a location that is close to shade, since they will not travel great distances for water in a hot environment.
- Water also should be clean, fresh, at approximately ground temperature. Clean, fresh water is one of the most overlooked but most important parts of an animal’s daily intake.
- Shading from direct sunlight is also very important, as this allows cows to rest in a more comfortable environment. The possible sources of shade range from trees, to portable shade cloth structures, to permanent roofed structures. Each approach has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
- Provide a free - choice mineral throughout the hot summer months.
- As the hot summer season drags on, check cows for body condition.
- Vaccinate fall born heifers for brucellosis.
Weed Control in Pasture
- Summer months are the time for brush control. Brushy species can be controlled any time they’re actively growing from May-October. The exception is during periods of drought. When plants are stressed, they don’t absorb herbicides as well through their leaf surfaces since they are working to conserve water.
- Spray also for perennial broadleaf weeds. Now is the ideal time to control ragweed, bitterweed, and horsenettle, among others.
Resources for identifying weeds and herbicide recommendations and rates can be found in the following publications, which are available online at www.uaex.uada.edu, or they can easily be found through a Google search.
- Rotate pastures on a weekly basis to keep grass in a growing stage.
- This will be worthwhile when the drought sets in during late summer. (Savings from improved grazing management = 2-3 weeks more grazing when drought hits)
- Pick one or two bermudagrass pastures to be stockpiled for fall grazing.
- Clip or graze the stubble to about three inches tall by the end of July
- Apply 50-60 lbs. nitrogen in early August.
- Summer annual forages
- Graze pearl millet at about 20-24 inches of height
- Don't graze further down than 6 inches to avoid nitrate problem
- Graze sorghum-sudan at about 24 inches, aim for 8-10 inches stubble
Demonstration Project Opportunity
If you’re interested in participating in a stockpile forage project, please let me know in the next couple of weeks. I’m looking for either a fescue or bermudagrass field that is roughly 10-20 acres where the farmer would be willing to pull the cattle off, fertilize per soil test recommendations, and then defer grazing until late fall/early winter. A set up where the pasture could be strip grazed across with electric fence is even better.
I’ll provide the electric fencing materials and cover the expense of the forage quality tests. The farmer is responsible for the fertilizer, which more than pays for itself in what would’ve been spent on hay or supplemental feed during that time of year that it’ll be grazed. The purpose of these projects is to demonstrate to other farmers how to go about doing it and the benefits.
Hay Harvest and Forage Quality
The single most important factor that affects the quality of hay is the timing at which it was cut. Not the species being grown. Not whether or not it was fertilized. Not some miracle product sprayed over the top. Weather doesn’t always permit, but don’t wait until it’s a field of mature seed heads to get it cut. That gives you a hay barn full of cardboard filler. Cutting earlier does mean that there be less overall dry matter yield, but what’s better? Five hundred bales of 52% TDN hay that requires 4 lbs. of corn per head per day in the winter to maintain condition or 350 bales of 60% TDN hay that requires no supplementation.
For more information on beef cattle and forage production contact the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension office at 870-425-2335.
By Brad Runsick
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Brad Runsick
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
3 East 9th St. Mountain Home AR 72653
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