Cows winners on fall grass treated before rains restart

Duane Dailey

“I told ya so!”

I asked Craig Roberts, MU Extension forage specialist if he wanted to do such a story. For many farmers fall rains came in time to perk up droughty pastures, just as he said.

His yearly advice for getting winter stockpile pasture is to add a booster shot of nitrogen by Aug. 15. That gives fertility for growth when fall rains start, which often come first of September.

After a long drought did so much damage, some farmers were slow to add more costs. But, rains started a bit early.

Those who didn’t apply fertility lost days on what can be a short fall season.

I’m not bragging. I’ll just tell what I did. My news release went out in time to use. So, I wrote ya so.

I really believe in that fall treatment. Unlike young forage specialists, I’ve been around long enough to see it happen right on schedule. Applying fall nitrogen makes a better bet than going to the casino to bet against the boat.

Cool-season grasses have two peaks of production, spring and fall. That in-between summer slump can be a doozy. It was in 2012 and 2018. The 2012 drought ended with hurricane rain on Sept. 1. The grass grew. More amazing, a failed soybean crop came back to make huge yields.

Corn on the other hand has no use for fall rain. That makes harvest hard.

When doing stories in advance of the Sept. 17 field day at MU Thompson Farm, Spickard, I’ve visited farm manager Jon Schreffler. This week he said he had another rain as we talked. He’d been out spreading rock on drives so feed trucks wouldn’t get stuck. Lots of rain.

He has the best grass for this time of year he’s seen in decades. Producers with short grass must come to field day to see grass. Also, he’ll have heifer AI news and more.

As a change to get more farmers with off-farm jobs to come they moved the program later in the day. Wagon tours start at 4 p.m. Register earlier.

Good management pays at the Thompson Farm. I hope more beef farmers do what Jon does.

With advice from the new MU Extension beef nutritionist, Thompson herd has been fed. A cow gets 20 pounds of hay and 10 pounds of soyhulls. (I did a story also on using low-cost byproducts for herd rations.)

There’s more. The females were time-bred early before the heat waves. Elsewhere in late bred herds up to 20 percent of cows confirmed pregnant earlier come up empty after heat stress. Pregnancies are lost in high heat. The MU dairy herd at Columbia came up 25 percent short.

Cows abort to protect themselves. If producers don’t know their empty cows, they’ll be feeding freeloaders.

Cow herds demand more intense care as the climate warms.

A lot of pastures were ruined by overgrazing this past year. Adding nitrogen on them may not be enough.

Thompson Farm confined different herds to five-acre sacrifice pastures. Cows didn’t walk all over, nipping grass as it regrew a fraction of an inch.

Ungrazed pastures have enough leaf and root left to make use of added fertility and fall rain.

Pasture management becomes as vital as cow management.

A new aspect of the Field Day will be told by Eric Bailey, the beef nutritionist at MU Extension. He has been worked hard since arriving.

Eric comes from New Mexico, so our drought stricken pastures show promise. Out there the stocking rate is three cows per section. He appreciates Missouri grass.

Part of his management plan reduces the number of mouths to feed. Cows not carrying calves have no place even on a farm with plush pastures.

Calves at Thompson Farm were weaned early this year. That gave relief to cows, lowering need for feed.

There’s more to be told on Sept. 17.

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