Your local link to MU for ag extension and research information
Northeast Missouri Ag Connection Newsletter, September 2018

To send a message to an author, click on the author's name at the end of the article.

Northeast Missouri Ag Connection

Volume 5, Number 9 - September 2018

This Month in Ag Connection

This Month in Ag Connection | Ag Connection - Other Issues Online

Cover Crops - An Emergency Forage

The old adage, "if you don't like the weather in Missouri, just wait a few minutes and it'll change," does not seem to hold up this year. Missouri has weather data for more than 200 years. April 2018 was the second coldest April on record and was followed by the hottest May on record, which broke the May record by two degrees. Spring was not ideal for cool-season grass growth. Forage and hay supply is low and it is unlikely to be resolved this year, even with favorable weather. Cattle producers may be faced with decreasing herd numbers or finding emergency forage. While there are several options available, grazing and/or harvesting cover crops may be an alternative feed option for some producers to consider.

If you have not planted cover crops, there are several factors to consider before selecting a forage cover crop. Do you have the necessary equipment? If you are currently row cropping, you likely have the basic equipment necessary to plant a cover crop. If you are interested in seeding a cover crop before harvest or concerned with a lack of time at harvest, you may need to consider equipment for interseeding or broad casting seed.

What is the fence and water situation? Most land being cropped today is not fenced and water availability may be limited. Several temporary fence options could be used, but they are not physical barriers and may be more risky based on location and class of livestock.

How does the soil drain? Producers with heavy, wet soils may have a harder time grazing cover crops. Most grazing will take place from late fall-early spring, typically a wetter time of year. If cattle are grazing when conditions are wet, it can lead to significant compaction and may affect the following cash crop.

Which cover crop species? Several cover crops can be used as a forage including cereal grains, oats, annual ryegrass, peas, vetch, brassicas, clover, etc. Selection will largely depend on how soon the cover can be planted (summer, later summer, early fall, late fall) and if a producer wants a cover that winter kills. Producers with wheat will have the most flexibility when determining a cover. The Midwest Cover Crop Council website, has a selector tool to help determine which covers would most likely be successful under various parameters. Those looking for grazing this fall, will likely have to interseed into the cash crop to achieve enough growth.

What is cost? Cover crop seed cost is highly variable depending on the source of seed; however, utilizing the feed value can significantly help offset the cost. Producers may be eligible for state cost share to seed cover crops from the county Soil and Water Conservation District. Cover crops in the practice may be grazed once forages are 6-8 inches tall, but grazing must cease when forages are down to 4 inches. Contact your local SWCD office for details on state cost share assistance.

The decision to graze cover crops will be different for each operation, but it may a viable option to help with the low forage supply. A number of cover crops have the potential to extend the grazing season. Most common are cool-season cover crops which can grow late into the fall and be grazed in November and December; forage turnips, cereal rye, triticale, winter wheat and annual ryegrass. The cereal grasses will overwinter in Missouri and can also provide for early spring grazing. Rate of gain on cereal rye, wheat and annual ryegrass has been shown to exceed a pound of gain per day if sufficient fall growth has been achieved before grazing begins. For more information, see MU Guide G4161, Cover Crops in Missouri, Putting Them To Work on Your Farm

Source: Wyatt Miller, Agronomy Specialist

This Month in Ag Connection | Ag Connection - Other Issues Online

Dry Field Conditions Increase Harvest Fire Risks

Harvest is a prime time for fire dangers, especially with the extremely warm, dry conditions. Fuel sources such as leaves, stalks, husks, dust, oil and fuel are always present when harvesting fields, and so are numerous sources of ignition on farm equipment or transport vehicles including exhaust, bearings and electrical wiring.

Fire safety in the field has two key components — prevention and preparation in case a fire does break out. The following steps will help in preventing a combine fire:

Electrical systems:

Fuel systems:

Mechanical operation:

In the field:

In addition to the combine, grain transport or pickup trucks with exhaust systems below the chassis also can ignite field fires. Catalytic converters operate at several hundred degrees. Field fires are sometimes started with the passing of a truck, and flames may not be noticed for 15 to 30 minutes. It is a good idea to not allow extra truck traffic through the field when conditions for fire are favorable.

One should remain vigilant throughout this potentially extremely warm, dry harvest season.

Source: Kent Shannon, Natural Resource Engineer

This Month in Ag Connection | Ag Connection - Other Issues Online

Equipment is Key to Drought Harvest

Harvest conditions in fields will be affected by the severe drought conditions. Equipment usable for harvesting drought damaged crops depends on end use of the commodity, moisture content of the crop and equipment available to use (owned, leased, or custom).

Plant moisture content in may have already dropped below that suitable for the ensiling process (60 to 70 %). Forage material may still be collected in bales or stacks if plant material is dry enough for storage without excess spoilage.

Have the intended use or market for harvested feed in mind before pursuing forage harvest. Harvesting a silage or forage crop with no definite plans for feeding or local sale can be costly. Crop producers can often be caught a year after a drought with poor quality forage and no plans to use it.

Recognize that harvesting a drought damaged crop will be more stressful on the operator due to higher field variability. Do not be tempted into short cuts or using equipment in a manner for which it was never intended. Expect variable crop conditions within individual fields.

Grain harvest
If ear diameter is smaller than normal, stripper plates will need to be moved closer together to avoid excessive shelling on the snapping rolls. This will break off more stalks, increasing the load on the processing unit. Stripper plate spacing on newer combines may be adjustable from the operator's station and can ease adjustment if sizable areas of a field have different ear size. Beware of making numerous on-the-go adjustments or trying to evaluate shelling on the stalk rolls from the cab. At least one cornhead has spring-loaded stripper plates to adjust spacing on-the-go.

If ears are of non-uniform size and shape, adjustment of the threshing mechanism will be a compromise between adequate separation from the cob and acceptable grain breakage level. Concave clearance should be narrow enough to thresh grain from ears. Adjustment for small ears will break larger cobs and over load the cleaning shoe. Chaffer, sieve, and fan adjustment becomes more critical. Grain may be fragile and more susceptible to damage. Ideally, threshing should result in whole but battered cobs exiting the separator.

Soybean threshing needs to be just aggressive enough to remove beans from pods. Beans in drought-stressed fields this fall may be smaller than usual. If beans are small, air flow may need to be reduced in the cleaning shoe and the openings in chaffer and sieve screens reduced to maintain air speed, yet allow beans to fall through. More pods will be close to the ground if plant population has been reduced, so it is essential to keep the cutterbar low. The front drum of the feeder should be low enough so that the chain just clears the floor of the feeder house. If plants are shorter, smaller clearances may be needed between reel, cutterbar, auger, and feed conveyor chain to make sure stalks are feeding through the platform.

Expect to spend more time checking grain loss. Traveling fast enough to keep the combine loaded will improve grain quality, however a greater percentage of material other than grain moving through the combine may increase separation losses.

Forage harvest
A common mistake is to underestimate the moisture content of drought damaged crop. Check moisture content before baling or stacking. Operation of harvesting equipment will generally be similar to that used in a normal crop with a few exceptions. Check your owner's/operator's manual for useful tips (for example using hay harvest equipment to harvest cornstalks or soybean straw). Your dealer is another source of information.

Windrowers, rakes, balers, and stackers have all been used to harvest corn. Expect that operation of conventional hay harvest equipment in cornstalks may be more difficult or at least require adjustment and some experimentation. Cornstalks are larger and may be more difficult to package. The potential variability of stalk diameter and length will put a premium on proper adjustment. Some equipment may not work in some conditions. Expect more wear, especially on cutting components, than when harvesting hay.

A major objective is to get the stalks dry enough to store. Allow the crop to field dry for much of the moisture removal. Equipment should aggressively shred stalks to promote drying and present smaller pieces for easier packaging. Flail shredding may do this easier than conditioning. If using a conditioner, consider tightening the roll spacing and slowing travel speed for more aggressive action. Stalks that are damp can be hard to start and they tend to wrap in baler belts.

Article developed from materials developed by Mark Hanna and Graeme Quick, Ag Engineers, Iowa State University, Ames, IA

This Month in Ag Connection | Ag Connection - Other Issues Online

Major Livestock Points to Remember During a Drought

Pasture Management

Cattle Management


Creep Feeding Calves

Early Weaning Calves

Other Thoughts

Even after the rains come, there can be lasting effects of drought. It is important to weigh the options, then choose what fits the situation. For more information contact your local MU Extension livestock specialist.

Source: Heather Conrow, Livestock Specialist

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.