December 07, 2023

From the Pastures: ‘Washy’ forage fix

Well, the grass and forage has really taken off. Last Monday, May 9, I clipped forage samples from the current lot and the field I would be going into. Everyone talks about the “spring flush” and its washy grass. I decided to test my winter annuals that I was feeding because the ewes that will lamb in two weeks and the two steers that will be processed in five weeks were all gaining weight, getting fat and starting to have the runs.

I took a hand-operated hedge trimmer out to the field, cut the forage at the height the animals had been grazing it and sent it in to be analyzed by Dairyland Labs. What I got back was amazing. Both samples were over 81% moisture, so they were “washy.”

Dairymen want the crude protein to be above 20% and this was 22%; the acid detergent fiber to be below 30% and this was 23%. NDF is neutral detergent fiber and that should be below 40% and my sample was 35%. The Relative Feed Value is compared to good alfalfa hay that equals 100 and my sample was 187.

So, the answer is yes. It is washy, but also very high in nutrition, therefore the reason for the loose manure. So, I started to give them a dry hay bale. I have a bale of hay on a trailer, so it can be moved as they move to a new lot every two days. This helps them balance their diet with some dry roughage and firm up the manure.

However, last week we had three days of over 90 degrees, so the cereal rye has already shot a seed head and now its nutritional value will decline, but the red clover, forage chicory and plantain are still very high in protein, so everyone’s doing fine. I think the cereal rye will now act as the dry roughage source. I’ll watch to see if the hay consumption declines.

Corn and beans are being planted as I write. Some have been in the ground for a while and are through the ground. There is a full moon from May 15 to 17, so I expect to start lambing then and probably be real busy. Try to take time to enjoy the nice spring weather. We are all so busy.

Elton Mau

Elton Mau

Arrowsmith, Ill.