Farmers must prepare for hay, breeding seasons

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While it seems like winter has barely left us, it is time for cattle farmers to start preparing for late spring and early summer activities. The two most important tasks are to prepare for hay season and breeding season.
Farmers making their own hay should have all of their equipment ready to use by the first of May. While it looks like our hayfields have barely started to grow, in reality hay could reach its prime in as little as three to four weeks under the most optimal growing conditions. Even this year hay will meet its optimal production and nutrition balance sometime in May. Often farmers wait too long to harvest hay in an effort to get more production but in reality the nutrition content of the hay goes down faster than the pounds of production goes up. It is important to remember that cattle need to be fed nutrients, not pounds. Having more hay is useless if the quantity of nutrients is not sufficient to meet the requirements of the animals being fed.
Unfortunately, last year was a perfect example of the concept that more pounds of hay is not necessarily beneficial. Because of the wet spring last year a lot of first cutting of hay did not occur until mid to late June or even into July. We had a great year with respect to quantity of hay produced. I heard from many farmers that they had more hay going into winter than they had ever had. During the winter though we found that the quality was severely lacking. Even when fed all they could eat cows lost weight. The UK and Murray Veterinary Diagnostic Labs reported having done post mortem necropsies on cattle that died from nutritional deficiencies with a full stomach of hay. This was an unusual year with a combination of poor hay quality and extreme winter cold, but there is no guarantee we will not have the same conditions again next winter.
Farmers should make a goal of getting there first cutting of hay completed in May. Having everything ready ahead of time will allow farmers to take advantage of any dry period that comes available. For farmers who buy hay they should be aware of when the hay they are buying was produced. The best option is to test hay prior to purchasing and only buy the hay that will meet the nutrient requirements of the cattle being fed.
With respect to breeding season, the most important task is to have a veterinarian check the Breeding Soundness of the bulls to be utilized. A bull might have had an illness that renders him temporarily or permanently infertile. He could have feet or leg problems that keep him from “making his rounds.” Have all bulls checked. We had a situation on our farm several years ago where we had two bulls for about fifty cows. Both had been checked in the spring and were sound, but that fall we had very few cows get bred. It turned out the dominant bull had some issues and was unable to breed, but he was older and bigger than the other bull and sound enough to keep the younger bull from breeding many cows. Checking the bulls before the fall season even though they had been checked in the spring might have turned up the problem and saved us a lot of open cows. My excuse for this error is it was before I became an extension agent. An ag agent would never fail to follow his own advice!
Tobacco GAP certification and pesticide training will be held April 17 at the Phillip Morris Receiving Station in Danville. If you have already attended a 2014 GAP training you do not need to attend. Pesticide training on will begin at 5 p.m. and GAP training will begin at 6 p.m. You do not need to be selling to Phillip Morris to attend, however, you must RSVP as a meal will be served. For the Danville meeting call 859-236-1180. If you cannot make this meeting we will have a Gap training meeting at the Marion County Extension Office at 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 22. We have limited space available so please call the office at 270-692-2421 if you plan to attend. We will reserve spots on a first come first served basis.
The Marion County Cattlemen’s Association is again offering a $1,000 scholarship to a 2014 high school graduate. They have asked the Extension Office to handle the application process and we have arranged for the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association to impartially rate the applications. Applicants must be a graduate of a Kentucky high school and be accepted to attend a Kentucky College or University and majoring in agriculture or a related field. A parent, guardian or the applicant must be a member of the Marion County Cattlemen’s Association. Applications are available at the Extension Office or at Marion County High School. Applications must be postmarked by April 20.
There will be a final Farmer’s Market Meeting prior to the start of the selling season at 10:30 a.m., Wednesday, April 23, at the extension office. Farmer’s interested in selling at the market this year can sign up at the meeting or come by the extension office at any time. Dues for the Association this year are $50 if paid before May 1 and $60 thereafter. If not a full member, farmers may sell at the market by paying a $10 weekly fee (I mistakenly had annual fee in last week’s edition. My Apologies). The hours for the market this year will be Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. beginning Saturday, May 10.
Marion County Cattlemen’s Association will meet at 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 29. The meeting will be at the extension office. Please call the extension office at 270-692-2421 if you plan to attend.

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