Well, with this mild winter weather and missing the two rain events that have been forecasted for my area, it has been pretty uneventful. The flock is eating unrolled hay and silage bales on the ground. I had a problem with listeria in the silage bales, so I’m giving the sheep one dry hay bale to every two silage bales and that seems to be working OK. By unrolling the silage bale the sheep can pick and choose what they want to eat, thereby avoiding the spots of listeria. The exposure to the sun and air seems to help the baleage.
The two conferences I’ve been to have been informative. At the Driftless Region Beef Conference I found out that there will be no over-the-counter drugs sold after June 11. This is very important to all livestock producers. You have to go through your vet to get these drugs now instead of your local farm store.
A graduate research assistant went over his study of the impacts of poor nutrition during late gestation on the cow-calf system. He found the calves from the nutrient-restricted cows were 13% smaller at weaning compared to the control group. However, by the second or third calving season, these heifers had caught up to the control group in size. But that is three years later. Plus, you have 13% less weight to sell at weaning time if you wanted to sell them at weaning.
At the GrassWorks Conference, Dr. Greg Brickner talked on “Grazing Season Health Issues for Ruminants.” Besides being a vet, he has grazed dairy, beef and now sheep for the last 36 years. He had so many questions at the end of his talk that they made room for him to speak another hour toward the end of the conference.
Some of his thoughts were that nitrate toxicity and prussic acid poisoning are generally a problem associated with annual forages. The feed fed to steers the last 60 to 90 days is what flavors the meat. Parasites are a normal part of nature, so do not graze below 4 inches on the forage. Move at least every two days because the worm eggs will hatch in three to 10 days.
The last good speaker talked on “When Weeds Talk.” A couple of his thoughts were, cereal rye will grow above 34 degrees. He talked about a Brix meter and what it can tell you. Brix is a measurement of the dissolved solids or sugars in the plant juices. They are the lowest in the morning and a Brix reading of 15 in forages will produce nearly 3 pounds daily gain on cattle just on grass. There are more meetings to come.