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Time to Watch Out for Nitrate and Prussic Acid Poisoning

Be cautious when turning livestock into pastures with certain warm-season grasses as toxic nitrate and prussic acid can accumulate in drought situations. “Any plant with the ability to grow quickly can develop a buildup of nitrate and prussic acid, but some forages present a bigger threat than others,” said Jill Scheidt, agronomy specialist with the […]

How Short and How Often Should You Graze Your Grass?

While there are many grazing systems, there are fundamental questions related to pasture management that are common to all of them: 1. How does residue height of vegetative grass influence pasture growth? 2. How does mob-stocking of mature grass influence pasture growth? 3. What is the effect of early grazing in the spring when grass is still short? […]

Ten years of work result in the discovery of the gene that allows plants and mycorrhizal fungi to interact and could lead to plants that require less fertilizer and can survive and thrive in arid environments.

A team of scientists led by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have discovered the specific gene that controls an important symbiotic relationship between plants and soil fungi, and successfully facilitated the symbiosis in a plant that typically resists it. The discovery could lead to the development of bioenergy and food crops that can withstand harsh growing conditions, resist pathogens and pests, require less chemical fertilizer and produce larger and more plentiful plants per acre.

Scientists in recent years have developed a deeper understanding of the complex relationship plants have with mycorrhizal fungi. When they are united, the fungi form a sheath around plant roots with remarkable benefits. The fungal structure extends far from the plant host, increasing nutrient uptake and even communicating with other plants to “warn” of spreading pathogens and pests. In return, plants feed carbon to the fungus, which encourages its growth.

via Discovery Helps Plants Make a Connection With Soil Fungi — On Pasture


BISMARCK – “Anthrax has been confirmed in a group of cows in a pasture in east Billings County,” said North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring. North Dakota’s state veterinarian says the state’s first reported case of anthrax this year is a reminder to livestock producers to take action to protect their animals from the disease, […]

Folks asked me to do a video showing what it looks like as I’m getting ready to turn cows out this Spring. So here’s a video from April 4.

In this 3:30 video, we visit the fence I built in 1999 that is still functioning as sheep pasture. It uses 4 strands of high-tensile, 12 gauge, 180,000 psi wire set at 7, 13, 19, and 30 inches so that it can keep in goats, sheep and guardian dogs. Our posts are 4 foot high, 5/8″ fiberglass posts spaced at 25 feet. Our corners don’t have braces. Instead, we pounded our long posts deeper into the ground so they have the leverage to hold the fence tight. You’ll also see the sheep grazing seedheads off fescue, bluegrass, and orchardgrass, encouraging the grasses to put out new leaves.

You’ll also want good gates, so this second 5:06 video shows how we avoid expensive metal gates and install something economical and sure to keep in sheep, goats and guardian dogs. (I apologize for the windy day that affected the sound.)

I gave up using poly tape and switched to this quarter-inch rope from Powerflex. With 22 steel filaments, it’s a lot stronger than poly tape and doesn’t catch in the wind. On one end the gate Powerflex rope is attached to the electrified high-tensile fence, and on the other to a fiberglass post. In the video I show how I drill a hole through the fiberglass post, string the rope through and then use a slip knot to attach it there so that I can tighten it easily as necessary.

via Greg Judy Talks Spring Turn Out on Green Pastures Farm — On Pasture

This article comes to us from Steven Shafer, Ph.D., the former Soil Health Institute interim chief scientific officer and retired soil microbiologist the Noble Research Institute.

Fire affects many important ecosystem processes. Much of what we understand about the impact of fire on terrestrial ecosystems comes from many decades of research on the effects of forest and prairie fires on plant communities and succession, nutrient cycling, erosion, and soil properties.

Soil itself is a complex ecosystem that supports all living things above ground. Soils also host an incredible diversity of bacteria, fungi and other microbes that are affected by various factors such as soil nutrients, seasonal changes, drought, pH, chemical applications, plant species and farming practices. Although many microbes are adapted to high-temperature environments (we’re all fascinated by reports of weird microbes growing right at the edges of geysers and undersea vents), no physiologically active microorganism can survive fire.

However, we’ve learned that fire is a powerful regenerating force. This is why prescribed burns are useful management tools in forests and rangelands to clear out old growth, stimulate new growth and recycle nutrients.

We can see benefits of fire on plant communities that rebound from dormant seeds and surviving roots, but there are pluses for the unseen as well. The microorganisms that are killed by fire near the soil surface, where temperatures are greatest during a fire, become food for the survivors that escape by living deeper down or by being protected within the occasional soil aggregate (bound-up clusters of soil particles that may encase microbes and protect them from high temperatures).

The duration and intensity of the peak temperature is what affects the soil organisms most. If it gets hot enough, the soil can actually be sterilized, at least in the top few inches. Emissions of carbon dioxide normally rising from the soil microbes may be briefly suppressed due to the reduced population.

Some of the most sensitive microbes are the mycorrhizal fungi, which are adapted to a symbiotic (literally “living together”) relationship with plant roots. The fungi may be reduced near the soil surface, where new plant roots eventually take hold. Those plants may struggle at first, in the absence of these fungi that aid in nutrient uptake. But the microbe population will recover once the heated soil cools down and microbial cells and spores re-enter on wind and in water. Cycling of nutrients ramps up fast, and their availability to newly emerging plants allows recolonization to begin.

via How Does Fire Affect Soil Microbes? — On Pasture

From our archive of articles – this August 2016 article is quite timely now. Winter feeding accounts for 40+% of the cost of producing a calf, so reducing or eliminating this bad habit can help keep your ranch in the black.

One way to reduce winter feeding costs is to extend the period that cattle harvest their own feed by grazing. Here are four things livestock operators need to successfully extend the grazing season:

1) Forage in the field or pasture

2) Control of grazing

3) Cows that know how to work for a living

4) Positive attitude

Forage in the Field

Having forage in the field for livestock to graze means it needs to be grown and reserved during the growing season. This forage can come from various sources, but it requires planning so that it is suitable and available. Several options exist.

Some operators may use rested public or private range land. Public agencies may look favorably on switching to fall or winter use. Rested rangeland can provide 5 to 40 cow-days/acre of grazing, depending on the resource. Forage quality is always a consideration, but native ranges should have adequate quality for dry pregnant cows. Crested wheatgrass pastures will probably require some protein supplementation.

Rested native meadow may supply from 50 to 200 cow-days/acre of grazing in the fall and early winter. Forage quality and quantity are usually higher than rangeland, and these areas are usually on private land, so management is less complicated.

via Reduce Your Feed Costs This Winter With These Tips for Extending Your Grazing Season — On Pasture

This is my second summer buying, breeding and flipping yearling heifers in New York. I use two-day moves and high density grazing to get good animal performance and pasture utilization.

My success of depends on my herd respecting a single electric wire. To make sure they have that respect, I’ve made some adjustments to my fencing. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Choose Heifers Trained to a Single-Wire

Most of the heifers I buy are already trained to a single polywire upon arrival at my farm. This prevents most containment issues before they happen. The best yearlings for a single-wire grazing program are ones born in a single-wire cowherd. Don’t set yourself up for escapes by buying cattle that have never seen a single wire before. I did buy a group this year that were raised on a three-wire perimeter only, but their extremely docile temperament made me confident that they would train well.

Acclimate New Animals to the Herd and the Fence

I don’t recommend delivering new arrivals into polywire, unless they are unloaded directly into an existing trained herd. Even then, it is probably better to put them in a hard-sided corral for a day or two, until they get over the trucking stress and acclimate to their new home. Keeping them isolated from your other cattle for a few days also allows you to detect and treat potential health problems. If your cattle are not already trained to electric fence, this is a good time to introduce them. (Check out Don Ashford’s technique here.)

I turn out from my corral into a 2-strand offset paddock, that looks like this.

via Offset Fencing – An Option for Keeping Wily Animals in Pastures — On Pasture

USDA will require most cattle to have electronic ear tags

  Animal disease traceability helps animal health officials know where diseased and at-risk animals are, where they’ve been, and when. This information is essential during a disease outbreak. The USDA is currently working to strengthen its traceability system to protect the long-term health, marketability and economic viability of the U.S. livestock industry. To prepare for […]

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