Stockpiling fescue pasture beats spring hay

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By Steve Moore

Most of the pasture and hay grasses in Henry County are considered cool-season forages.  We expect them to be very productive in the spring (they were), slow down in the heat of the summer (definitely this year), and resume active growth in the fall as we get cooler temps and more rain (we hope).    Stockpiling pasture simply means keeping livestock off that pasture to allow the normal fall growth to accumulate and be available at a later date.  Fescue is an excellent choice for stockpiling, having a good response to added nitrogen and keeping excellent yield and quality nearly all the way through the winter.  If you have livestock needing high quality feed in some of the coldest winter months, stockpiled fescue can be an excellent choice, exceeding the quality of much of the hay we normally put up in the spring. 

Left to its own resources, fescue will have a nice growth period in the fall.  However, adding nitrogen to fescue will significantly increase the amount of growth.  Research shows that stockpiling with nitrogen should begin in August for best response to the added nitrogen.   The question becomes, “at what price of hay and what price of nitrogen is this a profitable venture?”

UK Economist Dr. Greg Halich calculates that mostly pure fescue stands present good opportunities for profitably applying nitrogen and stockpiling in 2012 with current nitrogen and likely high hay prices. Hay prices only need to be at or above $60 per ton with a medium response rate of the pasture to the added nitrogen.  Since significant cost savings generally do not occur in mixed fescue-clover stands, those fields probably aren’t good candidates for N applications this year.


At 10:30 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 14, the Extension Service is offering a short demonstration featuring a simple irrigation and fertilizer system for container mums, and a plasticulture system for watermelons.   Along with a look at the production systems, our UK speakers will be discussing marketing potential for these horticulture enterprises.

A sponsored lunch will be available, featuring Chef Kari Lynne Graves and local fare.  Please contact the Henry County Extension Office at 845-2811 to let us know your intentions to attend.


Dr. Michelle Arnold, UK veterinarian, gives us a heads up that with a few showers here or there, the white clover is coming back rapidly and has been the reason for some recent  fatal clover bloat cases in  the diagnostic lab.  Producers are advised to be cautious and evaluate pastures for risk.  Young, actively growing clovers seem to be worse than more mature plants.  Livestock should not be turned in hungry to fresh stands of clover, and clover wet with dew or rain are more likely to cause bloat than dry leaf tissue.

Heat, drought and blossom end rot

Normally, a hot, dry year favors vegetable production as long as growers have adequate irrigation. But when daytime temperatures inch up over 100 degrees  we begin to see problems with many vegetable crops.

Pollen begins to die and that affects fruit set and several disorders become apparent. One thing growers might see is blossom end rot, which is simply a rot at the blossom end of a fruit. Tomatoes usually suffer most, but eggplant, cucurbits and peppers can all succumb to the problem. It is technically caused by a calcium deficiency in the plant or the fruit. But in many cases, it’s not a lack of calcium in the soil, but rather an environmental factor that stops the plant from taking up calcium. Normally, plants move water through the roots to the leaves and out the stomata, and calcium moves into the plant. But in areas of severe drought, blossom end rot will appear because there is no water to move the calcium to the plant. 

When temperatures exceed 100 degrees, many plants will close stomata to conserve water, thus closing the path for calcium to get inside. So don’t be surprised if you see blossom end rot on your tomatoes that are developing during severe heat waves.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to correct the problem; once blossom end rot appears it can’t be reversed. The fruit is safe to eat, just cut off the bottom part and remember you are not able to commercially sell them.

Since summer is only two-thirds over, meteorologically speaking, there are some things you can do to prevent future occurrences of blossom end rot. If we see high temperatures again, try to minimize them for the plants by providing some kind of shade and giving them adequate water.

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