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Back to the future: Forage relections

By Daren Redfearn and Ben Beckman
Nebraska Extension

As the year came to an end, it helps to look back at forage management production and learn what to improve to make it better this year. Stick around and I’ll give you some ideas.

Did last spring come in so fast that before you knew it, thistles were already blooming? This spring, make it a point to spray just as corn planting begins and you should have good success.

When did your pastures run out? Mid-summer? Late-summer? Fall? You have plenty of annual forage options to fill any gaps — forages like sudangrass, pearl millet, oats and turnips are few of the common ones that can be very productive. Plant and use these annual forages when your other pastures have slow growth and are stressed so you have plenty of grazing for your cattle. Your regular pastures will bounce back quicker as well.



Did you take an extra late cutting of alfalfa in the fall because of good September and October growth? That hay was high quality, so either sell it for a premium price or use it only for special feeding situations. This coming spring, though, it may start to grow a little slower. If so, let it start to bloom before cutting.

We all can do better next year than we did this year. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to look back to learn what we hope to do better in the future. Have a Happy New Year!



YEAR IN REVIEW

We as humans often like to try and compare things to average or normal. At the end of 2020, we look back and see if the precipitation we received was within the expected normal range. Were temperatures for particular season outside of normal, or even if our pasture or hay production was in the range we consider normal.

Taking this time to look back and try to compare 2020 to years past is beneficial, but resist the temptation to compare things to normal. Very rarely, do things in the ever changing world of agriculture really meet average or normal.

This year much of the state was too dry, but we don’t have to go back far and too much water was the issue. This variability can be found geographically as well as across time. For most of 2020 north central parts of the state had an abundance of water, while the panhandle and west were already drying up. Another challenge this year were early temperatures. This spring, temperatures were cool and impacted early pasture and hay growth, in years past, an overly warm spring has presented a different set of problems to deal with.

Producers work in a dynamic system that seldom repeats itself. In doing so, we learn to be adaptive, to build resilience into our production and planning, and try to spread our eggs out amongst several different baskets. When you take time to look back this year on the challenges and successes, try to see where adapting to a problem worked or how a bit more flexibility next year could keep an issue from arising. Leave the normal and average comparisons out of it.


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