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Previous issues of the BEEF Cattle letter
Issue # 821
January 30, 2013
Frost Seed to Renovate Pastures - Rory Lewandowski, Extension Educator, Wayne County
Frost seeding is one method that producers can use to renovate pastures and improve pasture quality and/or the species mix within the pasture. Frost seeding involves broadcasting seed over a pasture area and letting the natural freeze/thaw cycles of late winter and early spring help to move the seed into good contact with the soil. A basic requirement for frost seeding success is to make sure that the sod cover has been opened up, that is, that there is not so much growth present that the broadcast seed will not be able to come into contact with bare soil. Generally, a pasture is prepared for frost seeding by grazing it down hard, although some light tillage or a close mowing could also be used.
Another twist to frost seeding that cattlemen can use to their advantage is to combine frost seeding with hoof action. Under this seeding scenario, let your cattle begin to graze the paddock that is to be frost seeded in early March. Let the cattle graze down the forage, scuff up the soil and open up bare areas in the sod. At this point, broadcast the forage seed across the paddock. Keep the cattle in the paddock another couple of days and let them continue to graze and trample or hoof in the seed. As a precaution realize that in certain soil conditions this method may not work as well with cattle as it does with sheep because if allowed to graze too long cattle could trample in the seed too deep.
In general, legumes work better for frost seeding as compared to grasses. This might be because legume seeds are typically heavier than grass seed and that may help them get down to the soil level better than grass seed. The advantage to frost seeding a legume such as red or white clover is that legumes "fix" nitrogen typically in excess of their own needs. The existing grass plants use the excess nitrogen, which improves their quality as a feedstuff. Once legumes become established in a stand of pasture grass and compose 25 to 30 % of the stand, there is no need to apply supplemental nitrogen so this portion of fertilizer costs is reduced.
Red clover is probably the most widely used forage species when it comes to frost seeding. Red clover has high seedling vigor, is tolerant of a range of soil pH and fertility conditions, and tolerates drought better than white clover. Red clover produces its heaviest growth during the summer months. Red clover is known as a short-lived perennial, typically persisting in a stand for only a couple of years. Thus, many producers find themselves frost-seeding red clover every couple of years back into the same pasture. However, work is underway to improve red clover longevity and there are a couple of varieties on the market that in OSU trials have high yields and stand percentages of around 60% or greater after 4 years. This seed is higher in cost than some of the more common shorter-lived red clovers, but may be worth it to some producers in some pasture situations.
After red clover, the next most popular legume that I see being used for frost seeding is white clover. White clover is a perennial clover and begins its production in the cooler spring weather. The older varieties of white clover are known as low growing or prostrate type of growth. This means that in order for the white clover to thrive, grass must be grazed down shorter so that light can get down to the white clover. However many seed companies now have newer, improved varieties that are more upright growing and compete better with grasses.
Other legumes that also are used for frost seeding purposes include alfalfa and birdsfoot trefoil. Alfalfa has also been tried as a frost seeded legume with variable results. Alfalfa has higher fertility requirements than clovers or birdsfoot trefoil and it also requires a soil pH above 6.5 for best establishment results. Some producers like a combination of red clover and birdsfoot trefoil in their frost seeding mix. Birdsfoot trefoil is a persistent perennial once established, but can be slow to establish, often not showing up in a stand until the second year after frost seeding. This works well for most common varieties of red clover as they begin to decline after the second year in a stand.
Another legume that is starting to receive more interest for pasture and frost seeding use is annual lespedeza, especially in the southern third of Ohio. Annual lespedeza is a non-bloating legume that is drought tolerant. Although annual lespedeza will tolerate acidic soils (pH 5.0 to 5.5) and low phosphorous level soils, it will also respond to applications of lime, phosphorous and potassium. Applications of nitrogen will decrease lespedeza yields. Lespedeza is a warm season forage that can be used to fill in the "summer slump" period that cool season grasses experience. Expect growth of annual lespedeza to kick in during July and August. Do not graze after early September to allow sufficient seed production for stand regeneration. I know of one beef producer in Athens County who frost seeded lespedeza into his pasture several years ago and he was very pleased with its performance during the summer's drought. However, I did some frost seeding trials with lespedeza on 4 different farms a few years ago and didn't have much success. My experience was that the seed was light, more similar to a grass seed, and I don't think good seed to soil contact was established, even though the pastures had been grazed down tight and there were areas of soil showing. This might be the case where the seed should be broadcast and then let animals continue to graze for a couple days to use some hoof action to get better seed to soil contact.
As a final note, remember that when seeding a legume that has not been grown in the pasture for a number of years, it is a good idea to include the proper bacterial inoculum with the seed to insure that the bacteria responsible for fixing nitrogen becomes associated with the plant roots.
Grasses do not generally work as well as legumes to establish through frost seeding, although in some of those pasture fields that have been trampled and beat down, the possibility for success should be greater than in conditions of a thicker sod. Frost seeding trials have indicated that perennial and annual ryegrass is probably the best choice for frost seeding followed by orchardgrass. My preference, given the increased seed prices we have seen in the past couple of years, would be to stay away from frost seeding grass seed and use a no-till drill as the preferred seeding method.
Once the decision has been made to frost seed and the forage species selected, the producer must think about timing and seeding rate. Generally, from mid-February through the end of March is a good time to frost seed. Of course, if there is a good snow cover on a hillside that you desire to frost seed, you may want to wait until the snow has melted or your seed may all end up being carried down the hill. Recommended frost seeding rates by species is included in the following table:
|Forage Species||Seeding Rate (lbs/acre)|
|Red clover||6 - 8|
|Ladino/white clover||2 - 3|
|Alsike clover||2 - 4|
|Birdsfoot Trefoil||4 - 6|
|Ryegrass||10 - 15|
|Orchardgrass||4 - 6|
Researchers have played around with frost seeding rates and found that by doubling these rates plants per square foot can be increased in the stand; however, the number of plants established as a percentage of the seeding rate was actually slightly lower than what resulted from these recommended rates. For the average producer, these rates are probably the most economical, but there may be situations that warrant higher seeding rates. For example, where the existing grass sod has not been grazed down or opened up, higher frost seeding rates may be necessary to insure that at least some of the seed makes it down to soil level.
Frost seeding is a low-cost seeding method that can allow the sheep producer to renovate pastures by increasing the legume content of the pasture and moving some improved genetics into the pasture mix. The end result can be a more productive, higher yielding pasture that requires less synthetic nitrogen inputs.
EDITOR's NOTE: Rory Lewandowski will be one of the featured speakers during the second session of the 2013 Ohio Beef Cattle School hosted on February 26 in various locations around Ohio. Focus for the evening will be recovering from the drought and squeezing every dollar out of our forage production systems.
Buy Bulls Based on Data Not Pictures - Kris Ringwall, Beef Specialist, NDSU Extension Service
There certainly is no shortage of bull pictures. Have you ever wondered just how many bull pictures can be printed in one magazine? A lot, and despite the added color and enhanced graphics, bulls still look like bulls. Yes, there are some subtle differences. To the trained eye, those differences may be notable, but still, there seems to be more similarity than differences in many of the bulls.
We enjoy pictures, but we also should enjoy data. Bulls may be very similar in phenotype, in other words the picture, but their genotype may have no similarity at all. Even the color, although fairly indicative of the DNA on one chromosome, may have no indication of what DNA is on the other chromosome. Because all chromosomes are paired, the calves that the bull produces each will be products of only one of the chromosomes. Therefore, black cattle certainly can sire red calves.
In terms of the many other traits, the variation within the particular lot of bulls can be extreme, even though all the bulls look alike. Some bulls have high-growth DNA, others low-growth DNA. Some bulls will have DNA more likely to produce prime to choice grade calves, while a very similar looking bull may only produce select or low choice grade calves.
Although muscle quantity and expression may be observed in the phenotype or picture of the bull, the ultrasound data indicating rib-eye area, often expressed as rib-eye area per hundred pounds of live weight, certainly will tell the same story.
The point is that true bull selection rests with understanding the data. The action of buying bulls should be a process of sorting through the data first and then looking at the bull. Every single piece of data is directly connected to a strand of DNA somewhere on the chromosome. Positive selection pressure on the correct traits will increase positive DNA within our bull stud. In turn, this DNA will combine with the DNA available in the cow herd to produce the calf crop.
Therefore, the process of buying bulls actually is, or at least should be, fairly methodical. Although data terms may baffle a bull buyer, always check out what the trait abbreviations and the many expected progeny differences (EPDs) values mean. The breed association websites have good glossaries or just ask other breeders.
A personal pet peeve: If there is room for the picture, there should be room for labeling conveniently the various numbers to make the reading of the information more doable. All of these notations lead up to some very important notes. Right up front, a herd should present in the catalog the average EPD values for the various traits the breed evaluates followed by the average EPD values for the bulls and heifers being sold.
Additional information could be provided for the breed, such as the trait values for the top 25 percent of the breed or maybe even the top 1 percent of the breed, depending on the strengths of the bulls or heifers.
For the new bull buyer who is not aware of the breeders within a breed, those producers who are willing to print the average EPD values for the calves they are selling make the initial screening so much easier. Of course, one does need to look at the individual numbers.
However, there is something to keep in mind. Why not start with those herds that are selling bulls or heifers that are above average for the desired traits? There is no quicker or easier way to evaluate the expected future performance authenticity of potential bull candidates. Once the overall performance of the herd has been determined in relationship to the breed as a whole, one can select the desired bulls within the sale offering.
Now that one knows the average value for all the traits analyzed within the breed, the process of finding and sorting bulls based on their ranking within the breed is relatively easy. The job is to find the sale prospects by scanning all the sons of the reference sires that meet our criteria and then scanning all the bulls for their own performance because the cow and bull ultimately determine the genetic value of the bull.
Through the years, one vote of confidence is that it is obvious more people are picking the top bulls because the bidding dollars seem to jump quickly on bulls that lead the data. That is a good thing for the industry but a little frustrating when the wallet doesn't have an equivalent roll of money.
Keep in mind that no picture is going to relay the information that is needed. Only breed association EPD data will, which is critical in making long-lasting bull decisions. Great bulls have great numbers. Learn to read them and just don't bid on poor bulls.
The Bulls Are Grazing - John Michael Riley, Asst. Extension Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Mississippi State University
Friday's USDA Cattle on Feed report coupled with this morning's (1/28/13) news that Japan will be relaxing their restrictions for beef imported from the United States has the market bulls clamoring. The latter had been floating around with no certain time frame known. This potential increase in export demand has added fuel to a fire that was started by Friday's on feed report, which indicated tighter fed cattle supplies than market analysts had expected.
The on feed report revealed that 11.193 million head of cattle were in feedlots with 1,000 head capacity or greater on January 1. This was a 5.6% decline from January 2012 and 3.0% below the five-year average from 2008 to 2012. Pre-report expectations were looking for a 4.4% drop from the previous year and the 5.6% drop was just inside the low end of the range.
Placements during December were 0.5% lower than December 2011 and 0.2% below the five-year average at 1.664 million head. This number was below expectations of a 4.1% increase. The over assessment by analysts likely stemmed from increased placements in major feeding locations, which often act as a barometer for the rest of the nation. In Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas total reported placements were higher compared to the previous year. Nationally, lightweight placements (under 600 pounds) were much lower, down 10% from December 2011. Offsetting this, and bringing the total placement number up, was mid-weight 600-699 and 700-799 pound placements, respectively, up 7.8% and 5.3% across the U.S. compared to the same month in 2011. Heavy weight placements (over 800 pounds) were mostly steady in December.
Marketings in December, though 1.7% lower than last year, fared better than expected. The average of pre-report analysts had marketings pegged at 6.8% lower than a year ago and the highest guess was looking for a 5% drop. When compared to the 2008-2012 average marketings were 0.5% higher.
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