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Volume 10, Number 9 - September 2004

This Month in Ag Connection

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Fall Soil Sampling Makes Sense

With the end of one growing season near, it is time to consider your fertility program for the next season. Developing a good fertility program starts with baseline information provided by a good soil test. Fall soil sampling provides a logical starting point for the next year's nutrient management plan. Knowing soil nutrient levels will help with crop planning and budgeting for the following growing season. Testing soils in the fall means better prepared soil and one less thing to do in the spring.

Soil sample

While the most accurate time to soil sample is just prior to seeding, spring sampling may be impractical as it leaves little time for fertilizer program planning before planting. The best alternative is to obtain soil samples in the fall once soil microbial activity has declined.

Applying limestone neutralizes soil acidity. Because agricultural lime takes about six months to break down and react with the soil, it should be applied in the fall to be fully effective in the spring. Unlike fertilizer, lime is needed every three to five years, depending on your crop rotation and nitrogen fertilizer history. The only way to determine if your fields will need lime next year is by soil testing this fall.

Identifying the sampling depth is critical to getting an accurate indication of soil phosphorus and potassium levels. Soil sampling and analysis assumes 2,000,000 lb/acre of soil from the top six inches. For more complete instructions on soil sampling procedures see MU Guide 9110 "How to Get a Good Soil Sample" which can be obtained from your local extension office or on line at

The turn-around time from the laboratory is much faster in the fall, usually within a week of submission, because fewer people are submitting samples.

Given the narrow margins that most producers are working with in today's production systems, there is little room for guessing. Don't guess when you last collected soil samples. Check your most recent analysis to determine when you last sampled. Soil samples should be collected every 3 to 5 years in order to get an accurate reflection of your soil fertility needs. If you can't find your last soil analysis, it is probably time to sample again.

(Author: Todd Lorenz, Horticulture/Agronomy Specialist)

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Rained-On Hay

Stored haybales

Much of the hay that has been put into bales this spring and summer has been rained on at least once and in some cases as much as five or six times. This will cut down on the quality of the hay and some adjustments will need to be made to feeding programs this winter.

According to Iowa State University researchers, there are three factors that contribute to dry matter and nutrient losses; those are:

A light rain (less than one inch) on newly cut hay causes the drying time to be extended by a few hours, but causes minimal, if any, damage to the hay. The same amount of rain on nearly dry hay (less than 30% moisture) can lead to significant nutrient losses, especially from leaching and leaf shatter due to additional raking or handling. Dry matter yield is decreased by 5% or more per inch of rain received when the hay is in the windrow, while digestibility can be reduced by 10% or more due to the effects of rain. Leaching and leaf shatter loss increases neutral detergent fiber (NDF), decreasing the nutritive value of the crop. This is the same thing that happens when a producer prolongs harvesting the hay 10 days to two weeks. As the NDF component increases, forage intake by the livestock is reduced along with lowered animal performance. On alfalfa/grass hay, not only was there a 3% decrease in the crude protein level of rained-on hay verses non rained-on hay, there were also major decreases in other hay quality measurements as well.

Rob Kallenbach, University of Missouri Extension State Forage Specialist, argues that, although hay quality and nutrition availability is affected by rain, it is probably more affected by the maturity of the hay. He went on to say that "nutrients will be lost during rain, but more will be lost if a producer waited to cut it."

The loss of vitamin A from rained-on hay is between 90 to 95% when the hay is left in windrows for three weeks. Vitamin A is important in diets of animals for normal night vision, skin, normal bone growth and all the development of the cells responsible that line or cover body surfaces or cavities. Giving your livestock a good vitamin and mineral supplement will help offset the effects of the poor hay with respect to vitamin and mineral losses.

Other significant sources of feeding losses in a hay crop are storage and feeding. Hay can be stored safely with minimal storage losses if baled around 20% moisture or less. Much of the hay that was put up this year might be higher in moisture content and therefore has the potential to not only become musty or moldy, but also have excessive heating occur within the bale, which decreases palatability and nutrient availability of the hay. With all the rain we have had the last few months a producer might expect greater losses associated with water soaking through the bale from the ground.

Some tips on feeding rain-damaged hay are:

To find out where your hay is nutritionally, have the hay sampled and analyzed. A test costs around $20.00, allowing producers the opportunity to know exactly what they are feeding to their livestock. Contact your local University of Missouri Extension Center to obtain a hay probe to sample your hay. Once the quality of the hay is known, your local University of Missouri Extension Livestock Specialist can help you develop a sound ration for your cattle program, if the need is there.

For more information please contact your local University of Missouri Extension.

(Author: Wendy Flatt, Livestock Specialist)

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Taxation Tidbits: Don't Get Stumped in a Sale of Standing Timber

Research at the University of Missouri suggests significant price variation in timber contracts offered in the Midwest. Prior to selling any timber, seek professional assistance in determining the quantity/value of your timber, the best way for you to structure the sale of your timber, and the potential tax liability resulting from its disposal.

The two most common methods farmers utilize in disposing of timber are lump-sum contract and pay-as-cut contract. With lump-sum contracts, the farmer is paid a lump-sum for the timber regardless of the quantity or tree selection harvested from a given tract of land. The pay-as-cut contract requires the timber purchaser to cut designated trees and to purchase them at an agreed upon unit price.

If the one-year holding period has been met, most sales of standing timber by farmers should qualify for long-term capital gains treatment. If the sale qualifies for capital gains treatment, the income will not be subject to self-employment tax.

From the tax standpoint, the most common and challenging issue involves determining the tax basis (cost basis) of the timber being sold. Tax basis is subtracted from the sale proceeds to determine the amount of gain or loss.

If land is acquired that has standing timber, a portion of the acquisition cost should be allocated to a timber account, just as cost would be allocated to other improvements such as fences, water systems, or buildings. When standing timber is sold under the lump-sum or pay-as-cut methods, basis in the timber account is recovered and utilized in calculating the gain or loss.

Ideally, the timber account basis was determined at the time of land acquisition. However, if it wasn't, contact your accountant and/or a forestry consultant to determine a justifiable and reasonable amount of the acquisition cost to be allocated to your timber account.

Timber taxation is an area of tax practice in which few tax professionals specialize. Thus, it is important you educate yourself as to the basics of timber taxation and to seek assistance from professionals that understand timber taxation.

An excellent online resource is "Timber Dispositions: A Primer on Obtaining Favorable Tax Treatment"

Your area Department of Conservation forester can be reached at the following locations:

Columbia Forest District 573-882-9880
Clinton Forest District 660-885-6981
Lake Ozark Forest District 573-346-2210
Gasconade Forest District 573-368-2225
St. Joseph Forest District 816-271-3100

(Author: Parman R. Green, Ag Business Specialist)

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Temporary Grain Storage

Temporary grain storage may be needed on many farms this fall. There are two key points to remember, though. Temporary storage requires careful management and temporary storage is, well, temporary. Temporary storage can range from using an existing building to using outside piles.

Existing Buildings

Maximize capacity
Maximize capacity of temporary storage structures by understanding how the volume of grain that can be held changes as you change the width, length and depth of grain. Storage space increases most quickly as you increase the height of grain against the walls, but walls must be properly reinforced to withstand the enormous lateral pressure of stored grain. The analysis of building materials and methods for retrofitting an existing structure for grain storage can be both difficult and uncertain. The best approach is to adopt a set of approved and tested plans from a source like Midwest Plan Service (MWPS) publication MWPS-13 from your local extension office.

Round Metal Rings
Round metal rings can be placed inside an existing building like shops, machine sheds, etc. A 36 foot diameter round metal bin has a capacity of 800 bushels per foot of height. You could place these inside a building this fall with the idea you would construct a permanent bin at another time, reducing the time required to build the bin and reduce the cost for the present time.

Hay Bales
Hay bales can be used to create a temporary structure. Grain depth should be limited to four foot sidewalls. A sixty foot diameter pile will store 12,000 bushels of grain.

Other Alternatives
There are other alternatives and they should be carefully evaluated.

Tips for Temporary Grain Storage

Store only high quality cool dry grain in temporary storage. Temporary storage facilities are usually not adequate to dry grain or to provide uniform aeration to the entire grain mass. Don't store any grain that you suspect might cause a storage problem. Damaged or dirty grain or grain with lots of foreign material or green plant parts will cause a storage problem especially in temporary storage. Keep the best; sell the rest.

Clean and sanitize temporary storage facilities with even greater care than you would a cylindrical metal bin. Sheds used for temporary storage that still contain traces of livestock waste, ag chemicals or petroleum products can contaminate grain, resulting in an unacceptable or downgraded product. Protect your investment.

Protect grain from moisture - top and bottom. Obviously, when providing temporary storage on bare soil, plastic must be used to prevent moisture from re-wetting grain on the bottom of the pile. Concrete floors will also allow moisture to wick up from the soil and re-wet grain unless a vapor barrier was laid before the floor was poured. Cover the floor with plastic to prevent spoiled grain unless you are confident that the floor already includes a vapor barrier.

Provide adequate aeration, especially for any grain that you expect to hold for more than one month. Spoilage is most likely to occur in dead zones or areas of the grain mass farthest from the aeration source. Dead zones are difficult to avoid in temporary storage, but can be minimized by proper placement of several aeration tubes on the floor of the structure. Aeration of at least 1/10 cfm per bushel of grain stored.

See the following web sites for more information:

(Author: Don Day, Natural Resource Engineer)

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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.