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Haying

Lander – The second session in the Popo Agie Conservation District’s hay and pasture renovation workshop series, held on Nov. 7, focused on non-bloat legumes, alternative fall grazing and second crops. 

Roger Hybner, research agronomist at the Bridger Plant Materials Center in Montana, spoke to attendees about options for irrigated land. 

Planting options

“One of the better non-bloat legumes is Delaney or Shoshone sainfoin,” Hybner said. “It is drought tolerant, though also a deer and elk magnet. Therefore, it is a good component in seed mixtures for wildlife.”

“Irrigating sainfoin like alfalfa will drown it out in a heartbeat,” he continued. “We put hay as the first crop and the sainfoin comes in later. This works better as the deer have moved into the hills and don’t hit it as hard.”

Birdsfoot trefoil is not as productive or palatable as sainfoin but can survive several weeks of flood irrigation. It reseeds itself, performs well in poorly drained soils and compares to alfalfa in growth and nitrate levels. 

“Birdsfoot trefoil may require two years for establishment,” Hybner said, “and it needs a month of regrowth for over-wintering reserves. It has a 10 to 15 percent lower yield than alfalfa when grazed. If a producer has never had sainfoin or Birdsfoot trefoil, I highly recommend that they have it inoculated.”

Milkvetch

Hybner said Cicer milkvetch has 40 percent more leaf and stem ratio than alfalfa and is comparable to it in nutrition value. Cicer milkvetch also drys rapidly when cut for baling and its stands generally improve with age. 

“Cicer milkvetch is not overly affected by over grazing,” Hybner explained, “as it is a vigorous sod-forming rhizome. Under irrigation it can spread, especially with wildlife eating the seeds and leaving them all over the farm.”

“Plant it only with creeping foxtail, meadow brome or orchard grass mixes, as everything else will choke it out,” he cautioned. “It does better under grazing, as it has slow spring growth and can only stand two cuttings a year.”

Other grasses

Orchard grass is mainly used in hay mixtures or irrigated pasture. 

“The orchard grass chokes out the alfalfa after a few years,” Hybner explained, “because it forms seeds before the alfalfa. I wish they would breed it to be later. It is still a good grass though.”

Hybner recommends meadow brome over smooth brome.

“I don’t like smooth brome at all. I call it the silent invader,” Hybner said. “It worked great for roadside reclamation in the 1950s when it was introduced into the U.S. Now it’s everywhere, and it isn’t the best forage. Other grasses have much better production and quality of feed than smooth brome.” 

Alternative fall grazing

“Tall, crested and Siberian wheatgrasses are good early in the spring before producers take their cattle to the forest,” Hybner said. “If they’re looking for fall grazing on wheatgrass, I would go for Siberian.”

“Russian wildrye is the best grass for fall grazing, as it holds its protein and is invigorated by disturbance,” he continued. “We literally disked it two different directions in one field and had a great seed head growth the next year.”

Russian wildrye stands can last 10 to 15 years, it is a good dryland grass and will out compete cheatgrass. Russian wildrye produces one to 1.5 tons more per acre than crested wheatgrass.

“It is possible to suppress foxtail barley and cheatgrass using forage currently available,” Hybner said. “This is much cheaper and better for soil than spending money on chemicals. I really like using livestock, different grasses and then coming in with herbicides for integrated pest control.”

“The best weed control measures occur before planting. Producers can’t plant in a field that has a weed seed bank and expect the grass seedlings to compete. It works nicely to do a crop rotation for one to three years prior,” he continued.

Seed mixes

“The Cooper mix is excellent,” Hybner continued. “Mow the first cutting, swath it and then graze with stock. It normally gets five to six tons an acre under a pivot.” 

The Cooper seed mix was developed by Jack Cooper, ranch manager, and Scott Cooper, USDA Agriculture Research Service forage scientist, over 30 years ago for use on the Cooper Hereford Ranch in Willow Creek, Mont. 

The Cooper mix consists of one pound of orchard grass, four pounds of meadow brome, one-quarter pound of spreading alfalfa, 13 pounds of sainfoin and three pounds Birdsfoot trefoil per acre. 

Forage kochia

Forage kochia is highly nutritious to cattle and is most commonly used for standing fall and winter forage as an alternative to harvested hay. It can choke out invasive species, such as cheatgrass.

“Producers need to be aware of the extremely small seed, its like tobacco,” Hybner said. “The best way to plant it is to drop it on the snow in late spring and let the moisture to take it in. It is a perennial shrub, fire resistant and is for dryland pasture. 

“It looks like Russian thistle without the prickles,” he added. “Its winter protein content runs from eight to 14 percent and takes three years to fully establish itself. I would recommend producers use it strictly for winter pasture, as you wouldn’t want it everywhere on the ranch.” 

Diversity

Diversity in cover crops and seed mixes is integral for soil health.

“The reason we have so many weeds in our fields is because we’re planting monoculture,” Hybner said. “The soil wants to have a buffet instead of a single course. Native range has a variety of grasses and forbes. The monocultures and tillage cause the soil ratios to be off-balance.”

“Land owners can correct this over time by planting diverse crops. To invigorate an alfalfa stand drill a cover crop right into the alfalfa, creating another year or so of production,” Hybner commented. “This reinvigorates all the soil organisms that have been sitting dormant. Applying fertilizer is just a Band-Aid, it doesn’t address the soil health issue.”

The fourth and final session of the hay and pasture renovation workshop, focusing on planting and renovation techniques, will be held at the Lander Library at 1 p.m. on Nov. 21. Melissa Hemken is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

As I write this article, our agriculture community is alive with activity. Tractors are busily preparing fields for planting, fertilizer trucks can be seen on the roadways moving from one location to another, and along with new crops comes the concern about controlling pests.

Of course, pesticides are just one option that is available for controlling pests, and the equipment used to apply that pesticide is just as important as utilizing the correct pesticide.

Just like all equipment, spray rigs need maintenance and repair. It is recommended that the spray rig be checked prior to and after extended storage, as well as after each use. Are you wearing your PPE, or personal protective equipment? Make sure to always wear your PPE when checking, maintaining and repairing a spray rig. Now that you have your PPE on, make sure to check the system from the spray tank all the way to the nozzles. Of course only check the system with water, never with pesticides. Look for damages and leaks to the spray tank, pump, pressure gauge, hoses, strainers, fittings and nozzles. All worn out parts, such as hoses, fittings, nozzles and others, should be disposed of properly and not reused for any other purpose.

Did you know that a worn nozzle can still visibly show a uniform spray pattern? Oftentimes we do not think about replacing nozzles until there is a non-uniform spray pattern. However nozzles are constantly wearing due to the number of hours of spraying that is done, if fertilizers are used and what types of pesticides are sprayed.

To accurately determine if a nozzle is worn out or not, calibrate all nozzles against an identical new nozzle. This is done by catching, in a measuring cup, typically in ounces, the amount of water delivered from both the old and new nozzle for the same duration of time and at the same pressure. Any nozzle that delivers 10 percent or more water than the new nozzle is worn out and should be replaced.

For example, the manufacturer might state that the nozzle should provide 40 ounces of fluid per minute at 35 pounds of pressure. Since 10 percent is the factor determining if a nozzle is good or worn, multiply the ounces by the factor. Then, add and subtract from the ounces to determine the upper and lower range. In this example, 10 percent of 40 is four. Added and subtracted, the range should be 36 to 44 ounces. Therefore, any flow that is collected for the duration of one minute at 35 pounds of pressure and is between 36 ounces and 44 ounces would be considered a good nozzle. Anything above or below this range would be considered a worn nozzle and should be replaced.

Nozzles that provide low flow could also be plugged, and it would be worth cleaning the nozzle and testing it again.

Of course, not all nozzles are created equal. Nozzles are made out of five different materials – brass, plastic, stainless steel, hardened stainless steel and ceramic. In terms of cost, plastic nozzles are usually the cheapest, and hardened stainless steel are the most expensive.

However, in terms of durability, also known as nozzle life, brass is the shortest-lived followed by plastics, stainless steel and hardened stainless steel. Ceramics are the longest-lived spray nozzle. Unfortunately, nozzle life cannot be reported in years of use due to variable factors such as how many hours of spraying is done, if fertilizers are used and what types of pesticides are sprayed. Therefore, nozzle life utilizes the brass nozzle as a standard to compare against, for example plastics are considered two to three times the life of brass.

When was the last time you replaced the nozzles on all the spray equipment? Properly maintained and calibrated spray equipment will save you time and headaches during application while also adding the assurance of correct application. So carve out some time this spring and get all your spray equipment maintained and ready for the busy season ahead.

Feeding Low Quality Hay

    Off the charts hay prices this year have resulted in many producers purchasing CRP hay from the Dakotas or even north of the border. Others have found hay elsewhere, but much of it is lower quality hay than your traditional home-raised hay or the hay you may normally purchase.
    In this article I will address considerations you should take if you are planning to feed hay this winter that may be of a different type of quality than you are used to.
Get it tested
    When you buy feed, you are ultimately buying pounds or tons of protein, energy and other micronutrients. You wouldn’t agree to purchase cattle for a given price until you knew what they weighed, and hay or other feed should be treated the same.
    If it is a common feed such as alfalfa or grass hay, a cheap and quick NIR test will work. These usually run about $15 and turn around can be as short as a couple of days. If the feed is less common, you should spring for the wet chemistry test, as it will be more accurate.
    It is critically important that proper sampling procedures be followed. Use a hay-coring tool to take the sample and make sure you sample representative bales from the lot. Many extension offices loan these tools out for free.
    If you are feeding hay from an annual crop, such as oats, triticale, millet or sorghum, to name a few, get it tested for nitrates as well. This usually adds about $10 to the testing cost, but may save you from tipping over some high value livestock.
    When you get the hay test results pay close attention to the protein, total digestible nutrients (TDN), which is representative of the energy, and moisture content of the hay. Protein and energy are generally the first limiting nutrients in the diet, and moisture content gives you an idea of how much water you’re buying in a ton of hay.
    The next step is then to develop a ration that will meet your animal performance goals.
Develop a ration
    Once you have your feed test in hand, it is time to evaluate how many pounds per head per day of the various feeds you have will meet your animal performance goals.
    There are some excellent tools to help you do this yourself or you can contact a UW Extension Educator to help you through it. For cow diets I like to use Cow-Culator, which is an excel spreadsheet developed by Oklahoma Extension that gets pretty close on cow diets. You can download it free at bit.ly/SG3UHm.
    Keep it simple. You are generally most concerned with balancing for protein and energy. If those two are met you’re 95 percent of the way there.
Considerations for low quality hay
    If the hay you will be using is of lower quality than you normally use, there are some things you need to be aware of.
    First of all, pay close attention to protein levels. If your cows become protein deficient, they are less able to digest the feed you’re giving them, so they will eat less and not get all the nutrients out of the feed. This can lead to rapid loss of body condition, calf abortions, weak calves and ultimately poorly breeding cows.
    If you need to feed protein, carefully price protein supplements based upon cost per pound of protein ingested by the cow.
Cost of protein sources
    There are huge differences in cost of the different forms of protein. Take the time to push the pencil on this one. I’ve seen it be as much as $100 a cow different over a season.
    Also pay close attention to when in the cow’s production cycle you will be feeding different hays. If you have some higher quality hay save it for close to calving or after calving as a cow’s nutrient requirements dramatically increase post calving. You might be able to get a dry cow by on low quality hay, but if you try to feed that same hay to a lactating cow with no supplement you are headed for a wreck.
    As always, UW Extension is here to help. Don’t hesitate to contact us if we can help you test your feed, evaluate which feed is the best buy, develop or evaluate your feed ration or anything else. I hope next year brings back the moisture.
    Dallas Mount is the UW Southeast Area Extension Educator. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Livestock and horse owners should use caution when purchasing hay from unknown sources. Hay that has been improperly baled, contains dead animals or trash or that has been stored in wet conditions can be a thriving source for botulism. 

Botulism is a serious illness that is typically fatal. It is caused by a bacteria that dates all the way back to the Roman Empire – Clostridium botulinum

“This group of bacteria produces some of the most devastating diseases known, as the effects of their toxins have very rapid and frequently fatal results. As a group, these bacteria can be common in many soils and are frequently associated with poor sanitation or contamination of food sources,” according to Donald Cobb, a Casper veterinarian who has dealt with botulism cases.

Inside Botulism

Botulism is an anaerobe, meaning it grows in environments lacking oxygen. 

“Any type of feed where there is a lack of oxygen can have botulism growing in it,” Cobb explains. “Any time we have feed like a tight hay bale or a pile of grain where there is no air circulation, there is a chance for this organism to grow. 

“The organism itself, while it grows, does not produce problems. However, it emits an incredibly potent toxin that does,” he says.

Cobb recalls a producer who shot a fox on top of a hay bale and left the fox there to deteriorate. As the decomposition ran down through the hay, the bale became contaminated with botulism. The rancher fed the bale, and seven horses died as a result. 

In another well-documented case that occurred several years ago, a tremendous corn crop was harvested in the Midwest, and some corn was stored on the ground. Over 150,000 migratory fowl were lost to botulism after consuming the corn. 

Cobb explains that when feed sits on the ground and becomes wet and moldy on the bottom, botulism can occur.

Cobb shared another instance when a client had a down mule and a missing saddle horse. Both animals died. Cobb suspected botulism, and when he and his client tore open the bale of hay, they found a dead deer baled up amongst the forage. 

Avoiding garbage

“Why anyone would knowingly put garbage, dead animals or anything other than clean hay in a bale and cover it up is difficult to understand,” he says. “Big square balers can pick up anything, and some producers will pick up trash and throw it into the baler to hide it.” 

Unfortunately, if these bales become contaminated with botulism, the person feeding the bale won’t notice a lot of outward signs in his livestock. The first symptoms may be a bunch of dead animals. 

Susceptibility can be pretty uniform in any animal, Cobb says. 

Symptoms

If a producer doesn’t find the animal dead, the main symptom of botulism is a flaccid paralysis. 

“The animal will be fairly bright, alert, down and have either lateral or sternal recumbency. They will be totally unable to mount a muscular response,” Cobb explains. 

“What kills them is when it paralyzes the muscles of respiration,” Cobb continues. “Botulism destroys the nerve transmission to the muscles. The animal will be totally incapable of responding to any stimulus, and they have no control of their muscles.”

“Depending upon the dosage, death can occur in a relatively short period of time. They can go from normal, to staggering, to death within a few hours,” he states.

Treatments

Although the condition can be treated with the right antitoxin, botulism has multiple strains, so the right strain would have to be identified for the treatment to be successful. In most instances, isolating the organism and determining what strain it is is a postmortem diagnosis. 

However, in Kentucky, where botulism occurs more frequently, some strains have been isolated, and some animals are given vaccines to prevent botulism. 

Being proactive

Cobb says no test exists to test bales of hay or feed for botulism. However, botulism has a putrid smell similar to the seven-way Clostridial vaccine.

“There is no such thing as good, poor quality feed,” he continues. “It only takes a small amount of botulism to kill an animal. Even if the contamination is removed from the bale, the bale is a total loss. The toxin can permeate through the bale.”

If bales are contaminated with botulism, Cobb recommends burning the hay. 

“If the hay is hot enough to burn, it should kill the toxin. It shouldn’t be able to survive that much heat,” he adds. 

If the toxin is in one bale of hay, chances are good that it could be in more than one. 

“Most producers take a lot of pride in what they produce,” Cobb says. “I would recommend sticking with good, reputable hay producers who are concerned with what they produce and have repeat customers year after year. If do that, we have done about everything we can to prevent the problem.”

Prevention

Cobb suggests producers can also help prevent botulism by stacking hay to allow air circulation under the bottom bales, which can stop mold and other issues. 

He also suggests investing in a covered hay shed to prevent moisture from seeping into the top of the bales and traveling through them to the bottom bales. It also keeps the bottom bales dry. 

On a final note, Cobb says producers need to use common sense to protect themselves because no one else will do it for them. 

“We will be in a hay shortage for some time, and we may be forced to feed some feed we don’t want to,” Cobb notes. “If a rancher thinks that feed may be bad, don’t take a chance on it.”

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sainfoin is an introduced perennial forage legume that can be a good alternative to alfalfa. 

Sainfoin is highly palatable and nutritious and is preferred over alfalfa by cattle, sheep and some wildlife, including deer. Sainfoin does not cause bloat problems in cattle, has limited insect pests, such as resistance to alfalfa stem nematode, is non-invasive, has excellent drought tolerance and cold hardiness and is an excellent candidate for honey production. 

There are a few varieties available to purchase, including “Shoshone,” “Delaney,” “Eski,” “Remont” and “Rocky Mountain.” 

In a trial at the Powell Research and Extension Center (PREC), these sainfoin varieties produced about one ton of dry matter (DM) per acre from one harvest in 2007, its establishment year, which was about 0.5 ton lower than “Ranger” alfalfa. 

However, in the following years, all varieties produced similar or even higher DM yields than alfalfa from two cuts ranging from five to seven tons per acre. Shoshone yielded the most, with up to seven tons per acre. 

Forage quality of sainfoin was also similar to alfalfa. For sainfoin, crude protein is at 17 to 19 percent, total digestible nutrients are at 61 to 65 percnet and a relative feed value of 130 to 144. Sainfoin likes calcareous soils, or those soils with high calcium and pH, and also soils with low phosphorus. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that sainfoin may respond to phosphorus fertilization.

It seems to me that people are interested in sainfoin. Recently, I received many calls about sainfoin and enquiries about its response to phosphorus. 

Recent studies at PREC found no differences among the phosphorus treatments for forage yield in 2007planted sainfoin. However, numerically the highest yield was obtained in 2009planted sainfoin with phosphorus treatment of 60 pounds P205, which yielded five to six  tons per acre from two harvests. 

Likewise, no differences were observed in forage quality among different phosphorus treatments indicating that phosphorus does not alter or change forage quality. 

It was thought that old sainfoin stands and surface application of phosphorus may have contributed to this nonsignificant result. In 2011, a new stand of sainfoin was established at PREC and phosphorus treatments were incorporated into the established plots in 2012. When phosphorus was incorporated into soils, data revealed that yield was increased by 64 percent over the control, which had no phosphorus application, with the addition of 20 pounds P2O5, while further addition of P2O5 up to 60 pounds had minimal effect on yield increase. Interestingly, the highest rate – 80 pounds P2O5 – increased yield only by 12 percent over the control. 

The study is being repeated in 2013 to see the effects of phosphorus in the second year after establishment. I will update the results again when the data will be available.

Anowar Islam is an assistant professor and the University of Wyoming Extension Forage Agroecologist in the Department of Plant Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. He can be reached at 307-766-4151 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..