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Volume 12, Number 8 - August 2006

This Month in Ag Connection

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Nitrate Toxicology Testing

Drought conditions are continuing in parts of Central Missouri. The extension offices are prepared to offer the quick test again this year. The quick test is a qualitative test designed for determining when the level of nitrate detected in forages could possibly cause nitrate poisoning in livestock. There is no charge for the test.

If high levels of nitrate are found in the quick test, growers are urged to send samples for accurate laboratory analysis before feeding corn as silage, greenchop or graze.

Sampling Corn Silage for Laboratory Analysis:

This sample should be a composite taken from at least four areas in the silo, trench, bag or bale. Pack the sample (approximately 3-5 pounds) in a plastic freezer bag.

Samples should be taken or sent immediately to the laboratory. If transit time is more than a few hours or will be sent overnight, freeze the silage sample to minimize bacterial action. Otherwise, the nitrate test results will be lower than in the feed offered to livestock.

Sampling Corn Greenchop for Laboratory Analysis:

Take stalk samples from several different areas of the target field. Cut up the plants, separate sections as lower, middle and top. Label and keep separate. You can send several plants from one field. There is no need to freeze the sample, but it does need to get there quickly, so overnight delivery is best.

Sampling Dry Forages:

If the forage to be tested is dry there are no special handling procedures. Be sure to obtain a representative composite sample for accuracy.

The Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory does nitrate testing on forages for a cost of $15.50 per sample. Lab forms are available at Extension offices or by printing from the VDML website. Their business information is listed below.

Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory
1600 East Rollins Street
Columbia, MO 65211
Phone: 573-882-6811 or 800-862-8635
Fax: 573-882-1411

There are a number of private laboratories that can do the testing. Most of them are capable of giving additional nutritional information for a few extra dollars and this information can be valuable in ration formulation. Your extension center has a listing of available labs and information on how to send samples to University labs.

(Author: Rich Hoormann, Agronomy Specialist)

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Fall Grazing Programs Utilizing Stockpiled Tall Fescue

Strip grazing (allowing cattle into small portions of the pasture at a time) is an efficient way to harvest stockpiled fescue. Research done at Forage Systems Research Center and the fall grazing demonstrations done at the Thompson Farm near Spickard, MO show definite advantages to some type of strip-grazing program. Maximum forage allocations should probably be a week or less, depending on your situation and goals. Restricted access provides greater forage utilization, more even nutrient intake by the livestock and an extended fall grazing period. In addition, animal concentration is beneficial to disrupt snow cover, should we have late fall snow storms. If steps are not taken to limit access to pasture, much of the forage will be wasted due to trampling and fouling with manure and urine by the cattle. This results in a shorter fall grazing period, a rapid decline in forage quality and wasted forage. Too much restriction, however, may limit intake and growth. Therefore, a balance between animal growth and pasture utilization must be achieved.

When determining the amount of area to allocate to a particular group of livestock, you must have accurate estimates of the weight of the animals, what their expected dry matter intake will be and the amount of forage that is available to be harvested. Then it becomes a simple math exercise to calculate the amount of area to provide the livestock. Adjustments to the allocation area are then easily made by watching how quickly the forage disappears to the desired residual level.

Grazing demonstrations using pregnant 3-year-old cows that were weaned of their calves were conducted during 1996, 1997 and 1999. Stocking rates were approximately one cow per acre. The cows weighed between 1050 and 1300 pounds. Cow performance was quite acceptable. These animals gained from 1.3 pounds per day (1999) to 1.9 pounds per day (1996, continuous grazed treatment). Body Condition Scores (BCS) increased by 0.5 to 1.6 condition scores during the grazing periods. The cows were generally at least a BCS 5 at the end of the grazing period. No additional supplements were fed, with the exception of early December 1999 when a 12-inch snowfall forced hay to be fed for a short period of time. When continuous grazing was compared with strip grazing, the strip-grazed treatments were not completely grazed while the continuous grazed treatments ran out of forage. Animal performance was comparable across grazing treatments.

Based on animal performance and energy values of forage samples collected during projects with weaned heifer or steer calves, a safe rule of thumb is to expect that gains of weaned calves grazing stockpiled fescue will average about 1.0 pound per day. In order to increase gains, additional energy needs to be supplied to these animals. Soybean hulls alone or in a mixture with corn or another energy source would be an excellent energy supplement for the animals while they are grazing stockpiled fescue. Additional protein supplementation is most likely not needed when calves are grazing stockpiled fescue.

More recent grazing management research has focused on the levels of ergovaline in stockpiled tall fescue. Research by Dr. Rob Kallenbach and others has shown that ergovaline levels decline throughout the late fall and early winter. A management practice could include feeding hay to dry beef cows in the late fall, followed by grazing the stockpiled tall fescue in the early winter months.

Results from FSRC at Linneus, MO indicate crude protein levels of stockpiled tall fescue exceed the requirements for both late-gestation and early lactation beef cows, even during the winter months of January through March. Energy values in stockpiled tall fescue are very close to meeting the requirement for early lactation beef cows in February and March. The energy values in the hay used in their studies has not been adequate to meet either late-gestation or early-lactation requirements of beef cows. Crude protein content of the hay has not been adequate to meet early-lactation requirements for beef cows.

It is important with this type of feeding system that cows recover body condition in the late fall after weaning and before winter weather stress. Quality and quantity of stockpiled fescue should then be adequate to maintain those animals in proper body condition prior to calving, assuming they have reached the desired body condition during the fall. A very small amount of energy may need to be supplemented to lactating beef cows in February and March.

A possible concern to fall calving cows grazing stockpiled tall fescue is the decline in the minerals phosphorus (P) and magnesium (Mg) in stockpiled forage. Dr. Dale Blevens has shown that late summer P fertilization will increase the plant concentrations of both P and Mg, but levels of these minerals in the forage decline throughout the fall and winter to levels below those required by lactating beef cows. Therefore, producers who are utilizing stockpiled tall fescue for lactating beef cows should provide additional magnesium supplements to ward off the effects of grass tetany.

Summary: Stockpiled tall fescue is an excellent forage resource. As with any resource, proper management will enhance the value obtained from the use of that resource. Grazing management, particularly with regard to forage allocation, is important in obtaining the most valuable use of stockpiled tall fescue. Forage allocations should restrict forage access, but not restrict forage intake. Delaying the grazing of stockpiled tall fescue until the early winter months appears to be an effective way to avoid many of the ergovaline concerns associated with tall fescue. Knowledge of specific nutritional concerns for your animals will allow the supplementation of appropriate nutrients, whether these be minerals or energy. Observation of both the pasture and animal condition will enhance the effective use of stockpiled tall fescue, and may result in a substantial reduction in winter feed costs.

Grazing research in Missouri can be found at the following web sites:

(Author: Gene Schmitz, Livestock Specialist)

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Improving Combine Efficiency

It might pay to make some adjustments to your combine and tractors to maximize fuel efficiency. Most of you probably do a good job with this, but here are some things to consider:

  1. Clean injectors. Some cleaning can be done by using an additive with fuel. Some may require the attention of a trained technician.
  2. Be sure the air filter is clean.
  3. Use the proper viscosity of oil.
  4. Use the proper inflation for tires and use the proper ballast.

When possible operate at higher gears and lower throttle settings. This is more difficult for a combine than for a tractor. Operating at or near capacity of the combine will give the maximum fuel efficiency.

Combines usually operate at about seventy percent efficiency. Anything we can do to increase field efficiency will help reduce the amount of fuel for harvest. Some things to consider in keeping the field efficiency as high as possible are:

  1. Minimize trips across the field by keeping the truck or haul wagon as close as possible to the combine. You have to consider the fuel used for moving the truck or wagon too.
  2. Have the combine serviced and ready to go to minimize down time for repairs.
  3. Be sure to check the internal parts of the combine to remove anything that might clog the combine.
  4. Utilize the full operating capacity of the combine.

Some work has been done using GPS equipment to analyze field efficiency. Field shape, length of rows, contour vs. straight rows and other things all affect field efficiency. If you are using GPS mapping, you might want to analyze the patterns of harvest and see if you can spot some places where field efficiency can be improved. Future articles will be presented on using GPS data for maximizing field efficiency.

(Author: Don Day, Natural Resource Engineer)

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Japanese Beetle On Corn

Economic Infestations of Japanese beetle are occurring in scattered locations throughout the state. This beetle was first found in the United States in 1916, following its accidental introduction from its native country of Japan. Japanese beetles are approximately 1/2-inch in length, metallic green in color with bronze or copper colored wing covers. They can be confused with the beetles of the green June beetle, but are smaller in size. Adult beetles emerge from the soil in May and June to feed for approximately 60 days. During this time the beetles mate and females deposit eggs in the soil. Each female may lay 40 to 60 eggs with larvae emerging in about 2 weeks. Larvae will feed on plant roots and decaying material before overwintering in the soil as 3rd instars. The following spring larvae quickly finish development, pupate, and emerge as adult beetles beginning in May.

Japanese Beetles

Japanese beetle adults often congregate in large numbers to feed on foliage and fruit of 300 to 400 different hosts, including ornamental, tree and small fruit, and corn and soybean plants. Typical feeding damage by the beetles is often seen as a lace-like pattern on host plant foliages as beetles avoid leaf veins when feeding. Beetles often begin feeding on the top of plants and move downward. Tassels and silks of corn can be severely damaged by adult feeding, whereas foliage feeding is common on soybean. Feeding on corn silks can disrupt pollination and result in substantial yield losses. Foliage feeding on soybean is less damaging, although small double-crop soybean may sustain economic damage. The grub stage of this pest will feed on plant roots of both corn and soybean with most feeding occurring in late June, July and August. Damage to plant root hairs may result in poor uptake of water and nutrients or be more severe and cause reduced stands through plant mortality.

In field corn, an insecticidal treatment may be justified if during the silking period there are an average of 3 or more beetles present per ear, silks have been clipped to ½ inch or less in length, and pollination is less than 50 percent complete. The following insecticides are recommended for control of Japanese Beetle in field corn in Missouri.

Pesticides Labeled For Use on Japanese Beetle
Chemical Name Product Name Rates: Amount of Product/Acre
(Unless otherwise noted)
cyfluthrin *Baythroid 2 1.6 to 2.8 fl. oz.
bifenthrin *Capture 2EC 2.1 to 6.4 fl. oz.
bifenthrin *Fanfare 2EC 2.1 to 6.4 fl. oz.
zeta-cypermethrin *Mustang Max 2.72 to 4.0 fl. oz.
methyl parathion *Penncap-M 2 to 4 pts.
permethrin *Pounce 3.2EC 4 to 8 fl. oz.
gamma-cyhalothrin *Proaxis 2.56-3.84 fl. oz.
carbaryl Sevin XLR Plus 2 to 4 pts.
lambda-cyhalothrin *Warrior 2.56 to 3.84 fl. oz
*indicates restricted use

(Author: Wayne Bailey, Assoc. Professor, Entomology, UMC)

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Technology Update

What is a blog?

A blog is short for weblog. These are online journals or diaries. They can include text, pictures, links to favorite websites, etc. The first ones started in 1994. The term weblog was developed by Jorn Barger in 1997. Recently blogs have become popular with many people. Some are used to give someone's political views. You can find them on many subjects. Some blogs are discussion blogs. They may be operated by an organization with some particular view on life. In some cases you can post your views to the blog by registering with them. Some blogs might be used to brag about all the neat things your grandkids are doing.

There are places you can find to create a free blog. I just tried creating one and I am having trouble getting it to work. I have now run out of time to troubleshoot it so will have to get back to this topic in a later edition.

What is the difference between a backslash and forward slash?

The forward slash "/" is located next to the shift key on the right of most keyboards. It is used in web addresses or urls to delineate between directories.

The backslash "\" is used to delineate between directories on your computer. This is sometimes referred to as a path delineator in DOS or Windows computers.

(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.