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Heavy rainfall causes forage, pasture challenges

It's probably best not to
invoke the old saying "Make hay while the sun shines" to forage
producers this year. The sun hasn't been shining very often, and they haven't
had the ability to make much hay.

Ohio saw a record rainfall
in April with a statewide average of 7.42 inches -- that's compared with 2.2
inches in April 2010. And so far, May has brought with it higher-than-normal
rainfall as well.

"I've seen hay fields
really suffering because of the excessive moisture," said John Grimes,
beef coordinator for Ohio State University Extension. "Cooler-than-normal
temperatures have also impacted growth."

Grimes and Jeff McCutcheon,
OSU Extension educator in agriculture and natural resources, say livestock
farmers they have talked with have tried to treat pasture gently this spring --
not grazing as much as usual to reduce damage to the sod.

"The forage is
maturing," McCutcheon said. "Normally they'd be trying to rotate
rapidly through their fields to keep up with the grass. But this year, the
forage is getting ahead of them, which means lower quality and lower yield
later in the summer."

McCutcheon said the
nutritional quality in forage is still within an acceptable range for most
livestock. "But if they're heavily milking a dairy cow or they have
animals they're trying to grow, they might need to watch it. The higher the
nutritional demand, the more you need to check the quality and possibly make
some adjustments."

More information on taking
forage samples and interpreting test results is available in the OSU Extension
fact sheet, "Forage Testing for Beef Cattle.”

The wet weather also has
prevented new seedings of alfalfa and orchardgrass. "There's still a
window to plant other options," McCutcheon said. "Sorghum/sudangrass,
pearl millet -- those are the typical standby summer annuals to consider. If
they're going to graze, Italian rye grass and some brassicas are options. And,
you can still plant corn for silage. That's another option."

Grimes said another option
might be to plant soybeans and use the income from the crop to buy extra feed.
"As with all farming, the big variable is the weather," Grimes said.
"To spread your risk out, consider a variety of strategies. It's not a
one-size-fits-all. Look at all of your resources before coming to a
decision."

Grimes added that farmers
may want to plan now to attend the Ohio Valley Extension and Education Research
Area's Beef and Forage Field Day, scheduled for Aug. 25 at the Jackson
Agricultural Research Station, to learn more about how to respond to this type
of weather pattern.

More information

about the topics to be addressed will be
available in coming months.

"There's a lot of
frustration right now," Grimes said. "There's just too much water."

By Martha Filipic, Ohio
State University

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