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OSU Extension BEEF Team

BEEF Cattle questions may be directed to the OSU Extension BEEF Team through Stephen Boyles or Stan Smith, Editor

You may subscribe to the weekly Ohio BEEF Cattle letter by sending an e-mail to smith.263@osu.edu

Previous issues of the BEEF Cattle letter

Issue # 942

July 1, 2015

Hay Moisture Levels - Daniel Lima, OSU Extension Educator, Belmont county

We had a very wet June this year and baling hay has been a tough thing for most farmers in the state. Moisture levels have a direct effect on hay quality. What I have found to be a consistent number in the literature is 20% moisture maximum. To be more specific:

Small squares to be 20% or less,
Large round, 18% or less and
Large squares, 16%

Hay baled at 20% moisture or higher has a high probability of developing mold, which will decrease the quality of hay by decreasing both protein and total nonstructural carbohydrates (TNC) AKA energy! The mold will also make the hay less palatable to livestock and could potentially be toxic, especially for horses. Even hay baled between 15%-20% moisture will experience what is known as "sweating". Sweating, in regard to hay bales, refers to microbial respiration, which will create heat and result in dry matter (DM) loss. A good rule of thumb is that you should expect a 1% DM loss per 1% decrease of moisture after baling. As an example, hay baled at 20% moisture that is stored and dried down to 12%; will result in 8% DM loss.

Understandably, June was a double edged sword in regards to losing quality by not baling, or losing quality by baling with moisture levels that are too high. Therefore, my recommendation to ensure adequate livestock nutrition this winter is to have a forage analysis done on the hay baled this year. Once you have those results, develop a corresponding supplemental feed program, if necessary, based on the nutritional requirements of your livestock. The short video below from Clif Little explains how to take forage samples for testing.

Haylage in a Day? - Rory Lewandowski, Extension Educator Wayne County

Given our recent weather pattern, the topic of haymaking is almost certain to come up in any conversation with farmers. Last week while bemoaning the havoc our rainy weather is inflicting upon harvest schedules and hay quality, a member of my program advisory committee brought up the topic of haylage in a day. This is a concept that is being promoted in New York by forage folks at Cornell. Later, that member sent me a copy of a newsletter from Cornell that outlined some of the important principles of the haylage in a day concept. Those principles include maximizing photosynthesis, maximizing cutting widths, and wide swaths. Now let's look at each of these factors in a little more detail.

After forage is cut, quick dry down is driven by photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process where the plant uses water and carbon dioxide to produce sugars (carbohydrates) and oxygen. This only happens when the sun is shining. Even though the plant has been cut, photosynthesis will continue until the plant reaches approximately 60% moisture. In a cut plant, the only source of available water is the moisture in the plant tissue, particularly the stem. The more leaf area that is exposed to sunlight after being cut, the more of that moisture is used and the quicker the plant dries down to 60% moisture content. Ideally, forages can be chopped for haylage between 65and 55% moisture content. According to the Cornell newsletter another benefit is that the sugars produced by photosynthesis in this drying down process stay in plant tissues since they can't be moved into the roots as would normally occur with the whole (roots attached) plant.

The other, and obvious, benefit of sunshine is that the more sunshine that hits plant material the higher the temperature of that material and the quicker it dries. So, in order to maximize the plant surface area exposed to sunlight, there must be a wide swath width. Anything that restricts swath width after the forage is cut will increase dry down time. Work at Cornell has shown that any swath width that is less than 80% of the cutterbar width will make it difficult to achieve haylage in a day especially in first cut crops and/or heavy yield forage stands. Farmers in New York who have bought into the haylage in a day are removing center diverters in mowers and in some cases adding spreaders to the back of mowers to increase swath widths to 90% or more of cutterbar width. Other farmers are removing deflector shields to reduce clumping and provide more uniform wide swaths.

The key components of this concept are mowing without conditioning so that stems remain whole, and spreading out the cut plants into a wide swath so that photosynthesis and sunlight hitting plant material is maximized. Of course we have no control over whether the sun shines or not, but when it does, we can be ready to take maximum advantage of even a day of sunshine.

Improved Grazing Conditions Limit Lightweight Placements - Tim Petry, Livestock Economist, North Dakota State University Extension Service

USDA-NASS released the monthly Cattle on Feed Report on June 19. Cattle and calves on feed for slaughter market in the U.S. for feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head totaled 10.6 million head on June 1, 2015. That number was 0.6% higher than last year, and just under the average 0.9% increase that a pre-report survey of market analysts expected.

A question that has surfaced the last couple of years is how can cattle on feed numbers be above previous years when the cow herd was declining with smaller calf crops being produced. Now that beef herd rebuilding has started the same question relates to the increased heifers that are being retained for breeding purposes and not entering feedlots.

Several contributing factors have enabled feedlots to maintain cattle on feed inventories. Record high feeder cattle prices and the increasing $US value have caused increasing imports from Mexico and Canada. Demand for dairy steer calves by the beef feedlot industry has increased, and resulted in declining calf slaughter throughout 2014. That trend is continuing in 2015. Furthermore, lower feed costs and the record high feeder cattle prices have caused cattle to be kept in feedlots longer and fed to record high weights. A result is more stability in inventories but decreased marketings from feedlots.

That was evident in the report, where marketings of fed cattle during May totaled 1.711 million head, 8.3% below 2014. May marketings were the lowest since NASS started the series in 1996. Marketings were very close to the pre-report survey of analysts.

Placements into feedlots during May totaled 1.714 million head, 10.2% below 2014. Improved moisture conditions in much of the U.S., with the far western states certainly the exception, contributed to the decline in placements in a couple of ways. First, producers that were forced to liquidate cows due to drought are now keeping more heifers for replacement purposes. Second, the improved grazing conditions allow the lighter-weight feeder cattle to stay on pasture and not be marketed. For example 355,000 head in the under 600 lb category were placed on feed compared to 435,000 last year, an 18.4% decline. Placements weighing 600-699 lbs were down 10.3%, with 700-799 lbs down 17.9%, while the over 800 lb category was the same as last year.

Each Monday afternoon from May through October, USDA-NASS releases pasture and range conditions by state in its weekly Crop Progress report. A percentage rating in categories of very poor, poor, fair, good, and excellent is reported. The latest report for the week ending June 21 showed 65% of pastures and ranges in the U.S. where rated good to excellent. That compares to 55% last year. In North Dakota, where I am, 79% were rated good and excellent. Oklahoma, which has been suffering with dry conditions for several years, has received beneficial moisture this year and now has a 68% rating of good and excellent. Contrast that to drought stricken California with only 35% of pastures and ranges reported good and excellent.


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BEEF Cattle is a weekly publication of Ohio State University Extension in Fairfield County and the OSU Beef Team. Contributors include members of the Beef Team and other beef cattle specialists and economists from across the U.S.

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Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Agricultural Administration; Associate Dean, College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences; Director, Ohio State University Extension and Gist Chair in Extension Education and Leadership. TDD No. 800-589-8292 (Ohio only) or 614-292-6181.

Fairfield County Agriculture and Natural Resources