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OSU Extension - Fairfield County

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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 # 816

December 26, 2012

Forage Focus: Oats, a Consistently Cost-effective Grass Based Forage? - Stan Smith, PA, OSU Extension, Fairfield County

A few years ago in this publication (Issue # 590, June 4, 2008) Rory Lewandowski exhibited that the cost of production for typical Ohio grass based hay exceeded $100 per ton WITHOUT consideration for land costs. While fertilizer prices have moderated some since then, value of land and the cost of maintaining and utilizing the equipment necessary for making hay has increased. And, according to the National Ag Statistics Service, average production per acre of mixed hay in Ohio hasn't changed substantially in decades . . . it remains today, barely 3 tons per acre . . . that's in a "normal" year! Net result is that the cost of making perennial grass base forages in Ohio still exceeds $100 per ton, especially in a year like 2012.

Since 2002, a number of Ohio cattlemen have enjoyed the results of planting oats in mid to late summer as being a viable alternative for producing supplemental forages, cost effectively. Several times since mid-July of this year (Issue #794, Issue #796, Issue # 807, Issue #810, and Issue #811) we've shared our thoughts and suggestions on growing oats for forage on harvested wheat and corn silage crop acres. As readers have shared their experiences and photos with us in recent weeks, we've consistently talked about 2-3 tons +/- of oat forage being grown across Ohio. To this point it's been predominately speculation and observation. This week, we've got some data to share.

Once harvest was complete and the bales weighed and forage tested, the oats in the short video included in Issue #811and linked above only yielded 1.75 tons of dry matter per acre. Crude protein content was 8.91% and TDN tested at 56.8. The field located in southern Fairfield County was planted August 4, and mowed November 13 and 14 (almost 15 weeks of growth). It's a highly erodible farm that is planted in strips and highly variable in soil type and structure due to erosion issues from years ago. The farm received 7.5 inches below normal precipitation during the first 11 months of 2012.

On down the road in Hocking County, the oats seen being strip grazed in a photo found in the same Issue #811, and also planted in early August were measured and weighed and found to yield an average of 3.22 tons of dry matter. The photo and measurements were taken in early December after almost 18 weeks of growth.

Two of the photos in Issue #810 (http://beef.osu.edu/Oats12/4.JPG and http://beef.osu.edu/Oats12/5.JPG) exhibit what a producer in Auglaize County accomplished with the oats he had custom planted on the second day of August. He paid typical custom charges to have the oats planted, fertilized, harvested and bagged. After all the numbers were in, it showed that he had grown, chopped, and bagged 1.88 tons of dry matter (DM) per acre at an actual cost to him of $102.65 per ton DM. Similar to Rory's example above in this article, that's without consideration for land costs. The oats were harvested in mid-November eleven weeks after planting and the forage analysis indicates the bagged and ensiled oats are 13.59% crude protein and have TDN of 65.43. This quality far exceeds any forage analysis of first cutting grass hay I've seen from this year! The data also shows that when mechanical harvest and storage costs are excluded, the actual cost of oat production was only $37.68 per ton of DM!

Pictured below is another field of oats that were planted the end of August after corn silage had been harvested and is presently being grazed by lactating cows and their early September born calves. This field has yet to be measured for yield or analyzed for quality . . . you be the judge:

As we've observed yield reports from around Ohio, the differences in both yield and forage quality appear to be directly related to planting date, harvest date and obviously, precipitation - both volume and timing of the rainfall. Regardless, as we look at the forage analysis' and yields and compare the results to that of traditional grass based forages mechanically harvested around Ohio, it's apparent that oats planted as a second crop in late summer remain a consistently cost-effective forage alternative in Ohio.

Forage Use in the Beef Industry - Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist

Higher grain prices, led by sharply increased demand for corn, have provoked a variety of adjustments in agricultural markets to restore a relative balance in crop and forage prices. Higher prices for all crops are needed to simultaneously ration demand and attract resources to maintain supply in the various markets. The beef industry has considerable flexibility to adjust production systems and substitute forage for grain. These adjustments have several implications for forage use that are already occurring or may occur to a greater or lesser extent.

Use more forage. The beef industry responds initially to high grain prices by increasing feedlot placement weights. This is reflected in feeder markets with less discounts on feeder cattle up to heavier weights. The ability to respond to this incentive has been hampered by limited cattle numbers and the drought which has reduced forage availability and forced early placements of smaller cattle into feedlots the past two years. Over time and with increased feeder supplies, the beef industry may push average feedlot placement weights higher, not only in the range of current feedlot production practices, but potentially to levels that cut days on feed enough to force changes in feedlot production systems to maintain carcass quality.

Use forage more efficiently. Cheap grain kept forage values low for many years. Forage values are now record high, in part due to the drought, but will stay higher along with other crop values. Forage use can and will be better managed with higher value. In a great many situations, grazing management can be improved to increase animal production or extend grazing seasons. Improved hay production, storage and feeding can significantly reduce hay wastage. Low value forage led to rather sloppy forage use for many years and the industry can ill afford such inefficiency in the future.

Produce more forage, more efficiently. In addition to using forage more efficiently, there are increased incentives to manage forage better for increased forage production. For example, higher value forage makes weed and brush control more valuable. Many forested areas can be opened up to allow or increase grazing access. Better grazing management, including use of proper stocking rates and grazing plans can significantly increase forage production over time.

Use different forages. Changes in forage and input values may change the optimal selection of forages, particularly for introduced forages. For example, Bermuda grass, which is very productive and popular in the southern U.S., also requires large amounts of fertilizer and weed control to realize its production potential. Bermuda grass may be less economical than some lower productivity introduced grasses that require even less inputs. In general, when inputs are cheap, technical efficiency tends to equal economic efficiency. However, when inputs are expensive, technical efficiency is often a poor indicator of economic efficiency. Expensive inputs and the desire to extend grazing seasons may also favor use of more mixed forage production and less monoculture production. More diverse pasture mixes including more legumes may be desirable in more production situations.

Use forages differently. The way forages are used could change as well. Currently forage use is almost exclusively for stocker or growing programs with a sharp demarcation between stocker and finishing programs. High grain prices could result in the development of semi-intensive cattle finishing programs that use more forage in the early stages of finishing. A more diverse set of cattle finishing programs may develop that blur the lines between stocker and finishing.

Higher grain prices and changes in relative grain and forage values may result in many changes in forage production and use. The extent and exact nature of these changes is unknown at this time. What is important is that producers be aware of expanded forage potential and be willing to consider and evaluate a much wider range of forage production possibilities in the future.

Beef Exports - John Michael Riley, Asst. Extension Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Mississippi State University

The last time that exports were highlighted in this series was mid-June, so, in light of the reports early last week where it was revealed that Russia would limit it's imports of U.S. beef, I wanted to take a quick moment to reflect on this topic. The significance of Russia to the U.S.'s export market has been defined in previous reports - Russia has accounted for 6.6% of the 2012 U.S. beef export market through September, up 5.3% from the previous year[1]. While this particular market has shown strength the U.S. remains dependent on domestic consumption. To illustrate, in 2011 our exports notched a high water mark of 2.8 billion pounds, or 10.6% of domestic production. Even as 2011 was a banner year, one that finally returned the U.S. to pre-BSE export levels, exports do not make up a large component of beef utilization. As noted, in 2011 10.6% of the beef produced was exported and that number is currently estimated to decline in 2012 and 2013, respectively to 9.5% and 10.0% of total production. This is further highlighted in the chart provided.

The small export market for U.S. beef was evident in the days that followed the news from Russia as the market shrugged this off, for the most part, with the four nearest futures contracts gaining about 2.45% from December 10 to December 17. Domestic beef demand has shown signs of resiliency since the December 4 publication of this newsletter where John Anderson covered all of the bearish issues facing the economy and beef industry. With strengthening employment news and gains in equity markets acting as a barometer of future domestic economic success, cattle futures have moved higher recently. This has largely been due to concerns related to tightening supplies. Further, what many believe to be steady to moderate increases in U.S. beef demand has helped and collectively, these have trumped any negatives related to lost exports.

[1]Steve Meyer and Len Steiner, Daily Livestock Report (http://www.dailylivestockreport.com/documents/DLR%2012-10-2012.pdf)

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