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Volume 6, Number 8 - August 2000

This Month in Ag Connection

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Birdsfoot Trefoil Update

Paul Beuselink, a USDA researcher at the University of Missouri, made everyone proud a couple of years ago to introduce a major new improvement to great forage. It was "Steadfast" birdsfoot trefoil. Now this long-lived perennial legume had even more long-lived characteristics. Beuselink combined attributes from current trefoil varieties with a type of trefoil from Morocco. The Moroccan trefoil had rhizomes. This gave Steadfast the ability to spread by its roots as well as seed. Now the plantings of rhizomonous birdshot trefoil will be able to sustain and increase stands. Another advantage should be Steadfast's ability to survive intense grazing. This was a factor in the selections from Morocco where intense overgrazing is the normal situation. Seed of Steadfast will not be available this year.

Paul Beuselink's advice is not to wait for Steadfast. Three other birdsfoot varieties to consider for grazing are Norcen, AU-Dewey, and Dawn. Two erect, hay types are Maitland and Viking.

The primary advantages of birdsfoot trefoil are its no bloating risk and fine palatable stems. Norcen is a semi-erect variety with good yields and excellent winter hardiness. AU-Dewey, developed by Auburn University in Alabama, grows well in Missouri. Dawn, another semi-erect variety, has fine stems, good yield potential, excellent fall growth and grazing tolerance. Stand persistence is enhanced by giving these birdsfoot trefoils a rest period at the end of the grazing season for flowering and reseeding. This allows the stand to increase or sustain itself without the benefit of rhizomes.

(Author: Jim Jarman, Agronomy Specialist)

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Stretching Short Feed Supplies

Drought concerns may have eased, but forage supplies are still short in many areas.

One process that has been used extensively through the drought years is the application of anhydrous ammonia on low-quality forage to make it more palatable. This process works quite well on wheat straw, corn stalks and other low-quality roughage. Do not use this process on medium to high-quality forage. There have been toxicity problems associated with grass hays and sorghum hays treated with anhydrous ammonia but this has not been a problem with the cereal straws and stover. Sealing low quality roughages under plastic and treating them with anhydrous ammonia (no more than 50 pounds per ton) makes the plant structure equivalent to medium quality grass hay. Ammonia treatment has increased the intake of straw by 15 to 25% and improved the digestibility by 8 to 15%. This process has made straw approximately equal to alfalfa haylage in energy value when the treated straw made up 1/3 to of the dry matter in the complete ration.

Broiler and turkey litter is a source of feed for cattle. The nutrient level in poultry litter will depend upon the number of broods reared, so it should be analyzed for nutrient content. Litter usually has from 20 to 30% protein equivalent and 50 to 55% TDN on a dry basis. Litter can be deep stacked and mixed with silage and grain at feeding time for protein and other nutrient sources.

By-products feeds like corn gluten, soy hulls, distillers grains and wheat midds may be a cheaper source of nutrients than corn or milo. Least cost ration formulation is helpful in identifying feeds that supply nutrients at least cost. For prices of by-product feeds, click here to see the web site. Prices are updated weekly.

Planting winter annuals in August can add to the fall and spring grazing supply. Frequently we get a rain in August that will stimulate the growth of wheat, barley, triticale, or rye. These crops certainly add to the supply of fall forage for grazing if we can get enough moisture to stimulate sprouting and start the initial growth process.

(Author: Dale Watson, Livestock Specialist)

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Soybeans for Hay

In a year when early season moisture is limited, forage production is usually also limited. In order to have sufficient winter forage, some alternative sources may need to be considered. One possibility is soybeans for hay or silage. Soybeans are easier to handle and have less waste if harvested as silage but can be effectively handled as hay. The decisive factor in this decision is the availability of appropriate equipment.

Soybeans are a good alternative or emergency source of livestock feed if managed correctly. Soybean hay has an average feeding value that is 80% to 90% of alfalfa hay. Soybeans may be cut for hay at any stage from when the pods start forming until the beans are almost fully developed. Ideally, soybean hay should be harvested when 50% of the pods have immature beans. At this stage, the hay would contain from 16 to 19% protein and 50 to 55% TDN. When the leaves start dropping the quality of the hay declines rapidly. Soybean hay that contains a high proportion of mature beans can result in a diet too high in fat resulting in scouring, depressed appetite, and digestive problems.

Harvesting soybeans for hay is more difficult than harvesting grass or grass and legumes for hay. Soybean leaves are delicate and excessive handling can result in substantial loss. Soybeans cut for hay need to be run through a roller type conditioner to crush the stems. Conditioning decreases drying time and leaf loss. Operate raking and baling equipment to minimize shattering of the soybean leaves. A common problem with soybean hay is that the immature soybeans dry slowly in the pod and often mold in the hay. Even with conditioning, the pods are still the slowest drying part of the plant. Waiting to bale until the pods dry fully will reduce the problem, but more leaves could be lost.

Another problem with soybean hay is that it does not weather well when stored outside. When packaged as large round bales and left unprotected from the rain, it has been observed that moisture will penetrate the bales much more than with grass hay. This can result in extreme storage losses, mold, and refusal by cattle. It is common to lose 50% of the forage to weathering if the hay is left unprotected. Storing hay in a well-drained and covered stack or in a barn is imperative.

A large percentage (10-20%) of soybean hay is wasted during feeding due to the coarse stems. The stem is high in fiber and low in digestible nutrients. However, the part that is eaten can be equal to average quality alfalfa in feeding value. If soybean hay is chopped (tub grinder) cows will eat practically all of it. It may be more economical, due to cost of grinding, to simply feed more hay and let the cows leave the stems.


Most chemical companies have not done the necessary research on their herbicides for the making of hay to be used for livestock. Many soybean herbicide labels do not allow the use of the crop for livestock feed. If in doubt, READ THE LABEL. Roundup Ready soybeans can be harvested for hay or silage if Roundup Ultra was applied more than 25 days before harvest. Because the restrictions on herbicide labels change frequently, be sure to read the label of any herbicide applied to soybeans before harvesting for forage.

Consider the loss of your LDP payments before baling the soybeans.

(Author: Wayne Crook, Agronomy Specialist)

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Taxation Tidbits

Computing Depreciation Just Got Another Twist


The Tax Code is relatively clear as to calculating asset basis in like-kind exchanges or involuntary conversions. However, the Code has been silent on how to depreciate the acquired property. Not Any Longer, and as you might anticipate - it's not the way most taxpayers have been depreciating acquired replacement property.

IRS Notice 2000-4 provides "...the acquired (Modified Asset Cost Recovery System) MACRS property should be treated in the same manner as the exchanged or involuntarily converted MACRS property with respect to so much of the taxpayer’s basis in the acquired MACRS property as does not exceed the taxpayer’s adjusted basis in the exchanged or involuntarily converted MACRS property."

"Any excess of the basis in the acquired MACRS property over the adjusted basis in the exchanged or involuntarily converted MACRS property is treated as newly purchased MACRS property."

Thus, if cash is given in a like-kind exchange, the taxpayer continues to depreciate the remaining basis of the exchanged property "as if no disposal occurred" and creates a new asset record for the cash portion of the transaction. This could result in a substantial amount of confusion as to "what assets are on the depreciation form" and "what assets are actually on the farm". For example, suppose a farmer traded a combine for another combine. If the combine traded-in is not depreciated out, its remaining tax basis would continue to be depreciated. The cash cost of the newly acquired combine would be depreciated separately.

Given the minimal difference in the depreciation calculated using the "new method" compared to the "old method", it is really only a timing difference – compliance with Notice 2000-4 is going to be quite expensive.

Notice 2000-4 provides rules for property placed in service on or after January 3, 2000. Regulations for implementing this new twist in depreciation property have yet to be released.

(Author: Parman R. Green, UO&E Farm Business Management Specialist)

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From Drought to Bins Running Over

When you find that you need extra grain storage, consider the following:

  • Be sure you can keep the grain dry. Some ask about outside storage. Here in Central Missouri, this is risky because of weather we can experience. In buildings, even concrete floors if they don't have a vapor barrier can cause moisture to move into the grain.
  • If you use existing buildings, carefully evaluate the pressure that will be exerted on walls, posts, etc. Contact your local Ag. Engineering Specialist for more information on this.
  • Provide for aeration if the grain will be stored for more than one month.
  • How easy will it be to move the grain in and out of storage? How much labor will it take, what kind of equipment? Will grain be damaged?
  • Economics should be considered. Spoiled grain can cause large losses that need to be considered when you consider storing the grain.

Watch for updates on this subject as the season progresses. The following web sites will contain updates:

Central Missouri Ag Web Page

Missouri Grain Storage

(Author: Don Day, Ag Engineering/Information Technology Specialist)

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Publishing Information

Ag Connection is published monthly for Central Missouri Region producers and is supported by University of Missouri Extension, the Commercial Agriculture program, the Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station and the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Managing Editor: Kent Shannon.