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March weather is poor indicator of late freeze

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Excess clover can result in bloat

By Steve Moore

With all of the warm weather there have been questions about whether there is any correlation between that warm weather and the last spring freeze event. The quick answer is No.

Tom Priddy, UK meteorologist, ran some numbers from Paducah and Lexington on the warmest months of March over the past 100 years or so. He ranked the top 23 warmest and then identified when the final freeze event occurred. For Paducah, the average was April 12, which is four days after the median freeze date for Paducah. In Lexington, it was April 16 — one day after the median freeze date. For those 23 warmest March months, the range on final freeze was March 22 to May 27 in Paducah and April 3 to May 4 in Lexington. For Lexington, the last spring freeze always occurred later than March.

That information may have big implications for planting crops and gardens, but what about the early growth we’ve seen with our existing plants and forage crops? UK grain crops and horticulture specialists are saying that fruit trees and wheat are about three weeks ahead of schedule. It appears that many of our forage crops are similar.

If the current weather continues, the wheat crop could reach boot stage and be ready for silage or baleage in a couple of weeks. Alfalfa and other forage legumes and grasses are certainly far ahead in growth than in a more normal year. While we cannot predict what the weather will be over the next few weeks, we should take heed of what the crop is telling us now and be prepared for an early harvest.

Clover- and legume-induced bloat

This appears to be another great year for clover. Clover in excess of 50 percent of the pasture diet is a potential risk for bloat with our grazing cattle. There are a few strategies for managing bloat:

  • Avoid grazing very immature clover or alfalfa. Alfalfa grazed less than 10 inches tall is twice as likely to induce bloat as when it is 19 inches tall.
  • Put animals on lush legume pastures only when plants are free from surface moisture (dew or rain), and provide a full feeding of hay or grass pasture before introducing animals to the legumes. Continue offering free choice hay.
  • Don’t remove animals from pasture at the first signs of bloat. Continuous grazing results in less incidence of bloat than removal and return. Some animals are predisposed to bloating and may need to be culled in order to allow the rest of the herd to graze where you choose.
  • Feed bloat-reducing compounds such as poloxalene. If fed in blocks, regular mineral feeders may have to be removed in order to get the cattle to consume enough. The bloat-preventer can also be added to a supplement.