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Snow is good for alfafa

By Jerry Volesky, Brad Schick and Ben Beckman
Nebraska Extension

As cold temperatures arrive, be happy if you received snow recently. Although snow can create some problems, snow is good — for alfalfa and new irrigated grass seedings that were planted late last summer.

For alfalfa, nothing can increase the chance of alfalfa surviving winter better than a nice, thick blanket of snow. Last fall’s moderate weather allowed alfalfa plants to harden well for winter, leaving them with a high concentration of nutrients in their roots. This winterized condition enables alfalfa crowns and roots to withstand cold temperatures.

Fortunately, the soil doesn’t get as cold as the air above it. And when soil is covered with a blanket of snow, this snow acts like a layer of insulation protecting the ground from extreme cold temperatures.



For new irrigated grass seedings, especially for those with orchardgrass, snow cover plays a very important role in reducing desiccation or drying out of the young grass plant crowns and roots. This is why we can expect to see more injury to alfalfa or new grass stands when we have winters with little snow. For both alfalfa and the grasses, having adequate soil moisture going into the winter is also important.

Of course, management practices in the fall influence the effect of snow on your alfalfa or new grass stands. Tall stubble provides some insulation value itself and it will catch more snow. Also, avoiding alfalfa harvest during the so-called risk period from mid-September through mid-October helps alfalfa roots winterize well by building up nutrients and reducing water content.



You may not like the way snow disrupts your daily routine but remember how valuable it can be for your alfalfa and new grass stands. Then, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Legume frost seeding in pastures

Are you looking to increase production from pastures or hay fields? Interseeding legumes might just work in your operation.

Nitrogen is one of the key ingredients for productive pastures. A way to get more nitrogen in a pasture is to plant legumes. Alfalfa, birdsfoot trefoil, clovers, and other legumes all fix atmospheric nitrogen and can reduce nitrogen costs. These legumes are also very high in forage quality.

Not all pastures are good candidates for adding legumes, however. First, legumes need adequate phosphorus and a pH usually above 6, and some prefer a pH closer to 7. Next, good seed placement is needed. Frost seeding is one method, however, snow-free or very little snow is preferred. Frost seeding uses broadcast seeding in winter to allow the natural freezing and thawing of the ground to plant the seed for you, resulting in good seed to soil contact. Frost seeding success can vary and while more invasive, drilling is almost always a better option if the pasture would allow it.

Lastly, heavy flash grazing several times in the spring will reduce the competition from existing grasses and help promote the legume seedlings. Once the grass is 3 to 4 inches taller than the seedlings, graze quickly until the grasses are grazed down to the height of the legume seedlings.

Legumes can help reduce fertilizer cost and create higher quality pastures and hay. Frost seeding is an economical approach that might work to establish legumes in your operation.

Feeding moldy hay

No matter how great we are at putting up hay, we’ve probably fed hay that was moldy. Some has more some has less. But how do we know what’s safe to feed?

Feeding any moldy hay is a risk, but that risk level will change depending on the amount of mold. Any bale of hay can have mold, but the ones with noticeable mold need to be paid special attention.

Most times, mold will make the hay much less desirable and palatable to livestock. This can cause refusal or decreased intake. The real concern with mold is the mycotoxins that are created by some fungal molds. Some are more toxic than others and are extremely difficult to identify.

Some of the effects of feeding moldy hay include calf abortions. Mycotoxins can be found in hay as well as silage and distiller’s grains. Respiratory problems can also be seen. Horses are much more susceptible to mold effects than other livestock. Not only can livestock be affected, but us humans can too. Farmer’s lung is a condition where mold spores enter the lungs causing allergic reactions that can become chronic.

If we have moldy hay we have to use, try to reduce the risk when fed. Feed the hay to less susceptible animals such as steers and open cows. Take special care with horses. Diluting the moldy hay by feeding good hay is also an option. Grinding can be an option, but can eliminate the animal’s natural ability to refuse eating bad hay. Don’t just grind the moldy hay to make animals eat it. Only grind to help dilute with good hay. For bales of particular concern, roll out the bale and let animals pick out the good parts. Have additional feed available so hunger doesn’t lessen selectivity.

Mold is something to be aware of and manage. Reducing the risk by making sound sensible decisions will help keep you and your livestock safe.

Fencing

Fence is useful in keeping animals where we want and establishing a border along adjacent pieces of land. However, when it comes time to replace or repair a property division fence, who gets to foot the bill?

First off, I am not a lawyer, and if you have a specific situation or question, contact a legal professional. In general however, Nebraska law currently dictates that fence cost and upkeep is split 50/50 by adjoining landowners. When both parties are able to negotiate and agree upon a fence style, whatever mutual agreement reached is fine.

However, when one landowner wants a fence, but the other does not, the 50/50 rule still holds true. Nebraska law then defines six fence types that can be built so the installer is legally entitled to reimbursement for half of the labor and materials. While some of these like board and rail fences are uncommon, a wire fence is legally defined as consisting of at least four wires with posts no greater distance than one rod (16.5 feet) apart.

Fence in disrepair that one neighbor refuses to mend requires a written notice and legal action to ensure compensation for repairs. At that point, get professional advice before you do anything.

For those producers with sheep or hogs, you know that a standard four wire fence doesn’t quite do the trick. If both landowners run these animals, the 50/50 rule holds true, but if only one does, only a basic four wire fence is required and the person with sheep or hogs will have to cover the extra cost.

Fencing woes can be tricky, but an agreed upon solution with those involved is the easiest way forward. If things aren’t solvable that way, remember the 50/50 rule, build a fence that meets legal definitions, and get professional legal advice.


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