Thursday, April 12, 2012

Assessing Freeze Damage

For most alfalfa fields damaged earlier this week by frost, it will be difficult to assess the damage for at least a week.  
In established stands, it will take at least that much time to determine if the top growth was damaged or whether the stems will recover. The growing point is the initial development source of new leaves and stem on the main stem of alfalfa. The growing point is located inside the dense cluster of unfolded leaves at the top of the main stem.

When the growing point is frosted off, that stem will die and new growth must come from new shoots at the crown. Although the plant itself is not dead, the new growth will be delayed. Cutting off damaged plants will hasten recovery.

If the growing point was not frosted off, the current growth may wilt for a few days and then regain its upright stature once it gets warm again.
New alfalfa seedlings are generally very tolerant of cold temps, partially from heat from the soil and partially from natural plant tolerance. Seedlings no older than first trifoliolate growth stage will probably handle temps in the low 20’s. As they advance in growth, cold tolerance lessens. Seedlings at the 3rd or 4th trifoliolate stage can be difficult to diagnose. If leaf tissue is just singed by frost, they probably will recover slowly.

If your new seeding is frozen to the ground…it’s dead. Reseed or plant to another crop ASAP.

Last years’ late summer planting will probably respond similar to an established stand, although recovery will probably be a lot slower. It’s only early April, so give these plants a little time before you decide to cut, shred, or reseed.

Sounds like more cold temps are on the way...we'll see what happens.

Thank You and Have a Great Day!!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Warm Winters Make Fat Heifers

I doubt many are complaining about the fair weather we have been having this winter. We probably won’t get too many like it in our lifetime, so I for one am enjoying it. The gains and feed conversions I’ve seen on all classes of cattle are astronomical this year.  Although warmer weather certainly helps, the lack of really blistering winter wind and the absence of low pressure fronts moving through our country and throwing cattle off feed has probably helped as much as anything.
Of course this is the northern Plains and the weather pattern may change tonight, but we are already past the worst of a normal winter, so from here on out I don’t expect much more than heavy, wet snow and brief periods of cold weather. Maybe not good news for cow outfits that are in the middle of calving, but I’m sure they’ll make do.
Of all the good things this warm winter has brought us, the one area of caution I’ve noticed has been bred replacement heifers and yearling replacement heifers. Heifers are getting fat, fat, fat.
Typically we like to see bred heifers at about 75 – 85% of mature weight by calving time, which for most guys translates into bred heifers weighing somewhere around 1,100 and 1,200 lbs. This year however, I’ve seen a lot of breds around the country that are already gobby fat and probably weighing near 1,400 lbs.
Calving fat heifers is a bad deal if you’ve never done it before; especially if the weather stays warm. The birth canal is less flexible due to fat deposits, heifers easily overheat and give up pushing while they are calving, and they generally don’t milk well because of fat build up in the mammary tissue. Furthermore, I’m sure you all know how well heifers breed back after they’ve had a hard time calving.
Although heifers in good condition (body condition score 5-6) generally have a shorter post-partum interval, excessive fat (body condition score 8+) can have exactly the opposite effect.
Just keep an eye on the amount of condition on these heifers is the point I’m trying to make. I’ve seen several situations where feed rations that normally would target 2 lbs of gain per day have turned into 3.5 lbs per day because these cattle aren’t fighting snow and wind this year. Holding these heifers back to 2 lbs per day gain is plenty to keep these heifers on their performance targets. If it does turn cold, crank their ration up, but if it stays warm, back them down so they stay around a body condition score 5-6.
Same deal with the yearling replacements. We like to see them around 60 – 65% of their mature weight by breeding time which for most is somewhere around 950 lbs. A lot of heifers passed the 900 lb. mark in JAN and are on pace to reach 1,100 to 1,200 lbs. by MAY. Growing these young heifers too fast could wreck a lot of them permanently, so hold them back a little if you have to and keep their weight and condition about where it needs to be.
 Thank You and Have a Great Day!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Millborn Seeds Winter Workshops

Join us for our Winter Workshop's. Click on the postcard to enlarge it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Supplementing on Stalks and Winter Grass

No matter whether you are in the east or the west, supplementing protein to cows on corn stalks, winter range, or any other type of low-quality forage is getting very expensive. I'll pass on the discussion of when supplements are needed or not for the cow herd as I will assume everyone has a good handle on that.

Let's move on to more important things like cost. The table below shows the approximate crude protein content, bulk cost, cost per pound of CP, the approximate amount that needs to be fed per head per day to maintain a minimum 7% CP diet for dry cows, and the cost per head per day for a variety of common protein supplements. Note of course that all bulk prices and associated price calculations are FOB orgin, freight obviously will play a big role in final destination costs.

I rounded all fed amounts to 1/2 pound increments, figuring that few folks will actually calculate out 1.3748 pounds per head per day. So if you calculate and don't get the same thing, that is why.

One other thing to note is how I priced alfalfa and alfalfa/grass. With the small amount of Supreme, Premium, and Good alfalfa left in the country as a result of demand from dairies and Texans; any alfalfa that is left for beef cows is probably home raised and is priced as such.

I did include a few oddball products that you might not normally see in a list of supplements because this year they happen to be in abundant supply and reasonably priced. Many of these products are available in North Dakota, so proximate distance will determine freight cost and ultimately feasibility.

The last thing to note is that I kept the intake and cost per head per day for licktubs at about 1.0 pounds per head per day. The reason I did that is because on average, a cow will eat 0.75 - 1.0 pounds per day on tubs and that doesn't seem to change much. Of course it depends on the brand of tub and so on, but we are just using averages here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cash Report

Hub City Livestock Auction - Aberdeen, S.D.
Feeder Cattle Weighted Average Report for 10/19/2011
Receipts:  5102    Last Week:  3855    Year Ago:  3221

Compared to last week:  Feeder steers and heifers sold mostly 1.00 to 3.00 higher.  Active market with good demand.  Steers 60 percent, heifers 40 percent, 70 percent over 600 lbs.

500-600 - $163.00
600-700 - $144.00
700-800 - $141.00
800-900 - $137.50

500-600 - $147.00
600-700 - $137.00
700-800 - $131.00
800-900 - $130.00

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

To Background or Not to Background?

Another incredible week in the cattle market this week for both the cash and futures. Hard to believe that 500 lb steers calves are going for $850 - $940/head.

In any event, the question I've heard a lot is whether a guy should be backgrounding calves this year? In my mind, that is a pretty easy question answer and it's not very complicated. I'll show a couple of calculations to demonstrate the ultimate point:

Let's assume a set of 5.5 wt. steer calves with an adjusted cost per calf of $550.00/head.

If you figure that unless there is a futures crash prior to the week or to in NOV, these calves will be bringing around $155.00, we would be looking at a gross return of $852.50/head. Which in turn yields an unbelievable net return of $302.50/head.

So, selling those calves right off the cow results in a net return of $302.50/head.

Now, if you elect to hang on to those calves, backgrouding them on a high roughage diet and supposing the market stays pretty stable (i.e., no major movements in basis), you would be looking at something close to the following:

Adjusted calf cost $550.00
ADG 2.0
DOF 90
COG $0.65
Operating costs $20.00
Market position $70.00
Weight out 730#
Total cost (including calf cost) $770.00

Assuming you price protect these calves with a short hedge, option put, or LRP, you will be looking at a cash price in the neighborhood of $140.00

Gross return $1,022.00
Net return $252.00 Less basis and commissions

So, even if backgrounding returned the same as selling calves right off the cow, why assume the risk? Most guys can make a very nice return by selling these calves right off the cow, many should probably leave it at that.

Of course we are a couple weeks out, so a lot of things can change, but on the whole, I don't think it makes a lot of sense for guys to be feeding calves after weaning.

On the other hand, if you need to roll income, at least right now, I don't think feeding calves will hurt you all that much either. You going to assume some risk you don't necessarily have to and you might give up $20-$50/head, but even some savvy marketing on your part should be able to avoid that.

Thank you and have a great day!!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Flooded Pasture: Species and Seeding Options

Eric Mousel, Forage and Alfalfa Specialist, Millborn Seeds Inc.

My last article discussed the impact that flood waters have on pasture soils and some thoughts on what a person should do to revitalize those soils. I listed several species that can tolerate soils that have been impacted dramatically by flood waters.

But what about pastures that flooded out, but the soil tests come back indicating that the soil is in fairly good shape? Let’s look at some options for when it comes time to renovate or reestablish those pastures.

Wet vs. Dry

The first thing to think about when evaluating what type of grass to seed into a grass stand that has been damaged or if you are starting completely over is whether the pasture is normally a fairly wet area or if it just flooded out because of the high standing water from this spring.

If the site is normally a wet area, consider using a Garrison creeping foxtail which can withstand being underwater for 60 days or so without affecting it too much. Reed canarygrass is another species that really likes a lot of water. Although it is pretty decent quality forage early in the year, it tends to get pretty coarse later in the summer and doesn’t have a lot of feed value. You may have to hedge your bets a little and seed a mix of both if the pasture is pretty wet in some areas and just occasionally wet in others.

You may have gotten a big flush of Reed canarygrass once the flood water receded, but be aware that it won’t grow very well in areas that aren’t wet all of the time. So as the soils start to dry out, it will start to disappear and be confined to wet areas. The options are to over-seed the reed canarygrass regrowth to get some other grass species started or just wait until the canarygrass starts to disappear and then seed a mix that is more conducive to the normal soil conditions.

If you are seeding an area that is not normally very wet, I would recommend a mix with some orchardgrass ,pubescent wheatgrass, tall fescue, and meadow brome. This is a very nice mix for haying or grazing because none of these species get very coarse, especially if they are harvested at appropriate times. If you live a little further west (west of Hwy 281) I would substitute the orchardgrass for intermediate wheatgrass and/or Canada wildrye to improve the drought tolerance of the stand.

Seeding method

The next big thing to consider is the best seeding method to use. If you are completely reestablishing the pasture, the need to do a full tillage treatment is going to depend on how bad the weeds got after the water receded. If you didn’t get a lot of weeds, you can either no-till or broadcast seed direct with little or no tillage. Drilling is the best but that isn’t always feasible for everyone. Blowing seed on with a floater and roller packing has resulted in successful stands for a lot of guys so that certainly is an option.

If the weeds did get bad, you may have to consider tillage to reduce the amount of residue that may plug up the drill and to help with weed control next spring. Again, drilling seed in is best, but broadcast with a roller pack will work.

Seeding depth

If you do use a conventional or no-till drill, seeding depth is critical. Grass seed is not like wheat. Grass seed should only be seeded at a depth of ¼ to ½ inch. Any deeper and the seed will likely germinate, but won’t be able to reach the soil surface, thus you get a really spotty stand or none at all.

When to seed

Right now is not a very good time to seed grass. The risk is that the seed may germinate in the warm temps during the day but will freeze off at night and winter-kill. It would be a good idea to wait until the end of October or the first half of November to plant. Late fall plantings are generally very successful and will remove the risk of seed germinating and winter killing.

There is still time this fall to seed pastures damaged by flooding. Having the right grass species, seeding methods and timing will result in a successfully rejuvenated pasture for you. Give me a call and we will talk about your specific situation.
Thank you and have a great day!!