Forage Minute

By Jerry Volesky and Brad Schick
Nebraska Extension


Eastern red cedar trees are a significant and expanding problem across many pasture and rangeland acres in Nebraska. When fire is planned and controlled properly, it can be a very useful tool to control these unwanted plants.

It is estimated that a single cedar tree with an 8-foot diameter could reduce forage production by 3 pounds. If you had a density of 200 trees per acre, that would translate into nearly a third loss in forage production because of the effects of area coverage, moisture use and shading.

In addition to cedar tree impacts on forage production, excessive cedar trees will also dramatically alter habitat for many wildlife species that are adapted to a grassland environment. Also, in the event of a wildfire, uncontrolled cedar tree growth can result in devastating and destructive wildfires.

While mechanical cutting or shredding and herbicides are options to control cedar trees, a prescribed burn is by far the most economical approach.

Safe and controlled prescribed burns don’t just happen. It takes preparation, planning, and an understanding of how fire reacts in certain weather conditions, with particular fuel loads, and on various types of topography.

You can begin to learn how to conduct a safe, legal, and effective prescribed burn by attending the virtual 2020 Nebraska Prescribed Fire Conference. This webinar will be held on the morning of Tuesday, Dec. 8 and speakers include a variety of researchers and land managers.

To learn more about this conference, including registration and agenda, go online at


Making, transporting, and feeding hay is a large investment in time, equipment and money. How can you reduce loss of hay during feeding to make that investment go further?

There are many ways to feed hay, with each method impacting waste differently. If hay is fed unrestricted, cattle can waste 45 percent of the hay they are provided. Limit feeding hay so only what is required is fed, will significantly reduce waste right away. Studies show that cattle fed daily versus feed every four days, needed 25% less hay. That’s a huge amount, but labor and equipment cost slightly increased.

A common and usually labor efficient method of feeding is to feed hay directly onto the ground by unrolling bales, distributing ground hay or loose hay, and bale pod grazing. With any of these methods, there should only be enough feed distributed or available for one day.

Bale pod grazing might be another consideration. Bales are spread out across a field or pasture and temporary fence is used to confine animal access to one bale. When it’s time for more hay, the producer moves a fence instead of moving a bale.

Limiting access by physical barriers is another way to decrease hay loss. Bale rings, racks, fences, feed bunks, bale pod grazing, or another form of limited access can all decrease waste. These methods work by reducing trampling and animal ability to lay down on the hay. The most effective physical barriers have solid side bottoms. This prevents the hay being pulled out onto the ground. While these methods are effective, they require the purchase of additional equipment which for large herds or changing feeding location can add significant time and money.

No matter the improved method, reducing fed hay loss will improve the return on the hay investment.