Beyond Heat Stress

The Dairy Herd Network will be hosting a Webinar dealing heat Heat Stress.

Click here to register.

Beyond Heat STress, Time To Step Up Your Stress Fighting Game

May 29th at 1:00PM CST

Heat stress, and the various behavioral and physiological effects in lactating dairy cows, costs the US dairy industry upwards of $1 billion dollars annually in production losses. Management changes to cows’ environments can help reduce the negative effects of heat stress, but mitigation strategies go well beyond cow comfort.

Nutritional and digestive stressors brought about during bouts of heat stress, or during other times of the year represent potential production losses, lost revenue and potential for decreased profitability. Maintaining consistency in the rumen and post-ruminal digestive tract requires timely dietary adjustments and strong consideration of feed additives.

This webinar will examine closely the impact of heat stress in lactating dairy cows with a focus on environmental and nutritional interventions. Beyond heat stress, participants will review other nutritional and digestive stressors that potentially compromise cow health and lactation performance with particular attention to a specific nutritional mitigation strategy.

Attendees will learn:

  • What heat stress encompasses
  • Environmental and nutritional factors that can mitigate heat stress in lactating dairy cows
  • Other nutritional and digestive stressors that dairy cows are exposed to
  • A novel mitigation strategy for nutritional and digestive stressors in lactating dairy cows

Is It Time to Consider Renovating or Planting a New Pasture or Hay Field? Part 2

Part 2- What Should I Plant?

Now that you’ve taken care of any soil fertility issues that can reduce the chance for a successful stand, the next decision involves choosing the right seed to plant.  I’ve had the opportunity over the years to read many seed labels on various pasture mixes offered for sale.  I understand the convenience of buying a prepared pasture mix and the allure of these mixes.  The buyer often assumes that the seller has spent the time and energy studying the issue and has come up with a mixture that in their opinion and experience has the best chance of success.  I certainly can’t speak to motivation of the seller but keep in mind that from a business point of view, seed that is mixed and offered for sale needs to be sold over as large an area as possible to justify the expense of wholesaling large quantities of seed as well as blending, packaging, and labeling the seed.  In my opinion, this nullifies the expectation that the seller has designed the mix for your particular field or location.

After looking at the species of forages used in the prepared pasture mixes, I find that these mixes are more often a shotgun approach to seeding.  A bit of everything is included in hopes that something will establish in all areas of the field.  Usually they contain a quick establishing grass such as annual or perennial ryegrass that can germinate in as little as 5 to 7 days so the buyer can feel comfortable that the new seeding is successful.  Horse pasture mixes usually contain the feel-good or highly recognized grasses such as timothy and Kentucky bluegrass along with some orchardgrass and probably an endophyte-free tall fescue to provide more permanent cover.  Finally, a legume such as white or ladino clover, red clover, or alsike clover will be in a pasture mix to provide the N-fixing legume everyone wants in a pasture.

The convenience of these mixtures comes from not having to mix them yourself before you fill the seed drill.  The allure comes from not having to make a decision other than how much seed per acre to plant and not having to choose individual species to plant.  For most buyers, the convenience and allure end up costing them many, many dollars per acre in seed costs for seed of grasses that won’t survive in grazing situations or won’t survive more than a season or two at best or will be unproductive during the middle of the summer grazing season.

Tall Fescue photo provided courtesy of Oregon State University
Tall Fescue photo provided courtesy of Oregon State University

So what should you do?  I prefer going with a simpler mixture using forage species that are adapted to our region.  In most cases, the only species that will survive for many years in our transitional zone climate is tall fescue.  Because of endophyte (an fungus growing in some tall fescue plants) issues, many growers have tried the endophyte-free tall fescue varieties and some have had success with keeping a stand for many years while others have seed stands decline or disappear quickly.  The newest chapter in this issue has been the development of novel or friendly endophyte tall fescue varieties.  The novel endophyte tall fescue varieties do not produce the chemical compound (alkaloids) that interfere with animal performance but still provide benefits to the tall fescue plants helping them survive in many stressful environments.  A limitation still in evidence with these new tall fescue varieties is that horse owners who breed horses do not all accept tall fescue as a feed source for their animals.  This can limit tall fescue’s acceptance.

What other species can you include in your simple mixture?  Orchardgrass is another grass that many producers like to include in a pasture mixture but you should be aware that many orchardgrass fields are failing due to a disease/insect/environment/management complex interaction we’ve been calling orchardgrass decline.  If you choose to include orchardgrass, keep it as a small

Orchardgrass photo provided courtesy of University of Missouri Exetension
Orchardgrass photo provided courtesy of University of Missouri Exetension

proportion of your mixture.  The other grass to include at least on heavier soils and in the northern portion of Delaware is Kentucky bluegrass.  Be sure to include several varieties of the Kentucky bluegrass to help with disease resistance.  It will be most productive early in the year (early spring to early summer) and mid- to late-fall.  Finally, add in a legume to help with providing N for the grass to use as well as to improve the protein and forage digestibility of the pasture.  For grazing, most people prefer a ladino-type of white clover.  Although slobbers (the animal produces excessive amounts of saliva) is a potential concern with all clovers, it seems to be mostly associated with red clover.  Often included in commercially sold horse pasture mixtures, alsike clover is known to cause photosensitivity (sunburn) and sometimes liver injury especially in horses and should not be included in your pasture mix.

One of the new grazing-types of alfalfa should be considered especially by beef producers.  These varieties tolerate rotational grazing systems and produce well during the summer period in most years.  Alfalfa is very deep rooted and can be a great addition to pastures and provide more and higher quality forage in the summer grazing period.

You will find it useful to talk to your seed dealer about the various varieties of each species that are available.  Once you decide on the varieties to use and you purchase seed, you can mix your own pasture mix by either purchasing or renting a cement mixer and combining the seed in the proportions you decide are best for your purpose and field.  Since many legumes now come pre-inoculated with the N-fixing bacteria and often are coated with a fine limestone, do not over mix the seed and when you re-bag it store it where it is protected from high temperatures and humidity.  Stored properly, the seed can be held over the winter if something prevents you from seeding this fall but you should plan to plant as soon as possible after purchasing seed.  Not only are the N-fixing bacteria alive; but, if you use a novel endophyte tall fescue variety, the endophyte has a limited storage time (around a year under good conditions) before it needs to be planted.  Although tall fescue seed will germinate after longer storage times, the endophyte fungus may no longer be alive.  The fungus only lives in the plant and is not soil-borne.

In future articles later this summer, I will cover topics such as planting date.


This article was submitted by Dr. Richard Taylor, Extension Agronomist, University of Delaware.  Dr. Taylor can be reached at

Nutrient Management Credits Offered at Upcoming Pasture Walks

The University of Delaware Cooperative Extension is offering pasture walks in two locations this spring.  Participants will have the opportunity to earn nutrient management and pesticide certification credits.  The first walk is being held on May 28th from 6:30-8:30 pm and is being hosted at the farm of Rick and Kim Vincent of Harrington and the second walk will be on June 4th from 6:30-9:00 pm at the University of Delaware’s Webb Farm in Newark.  Program agendas are listed below.  Participants are welcome to bring a plant or weed sample with them for identification.  Please pre register if you plan on attending either program.

Past Participants with Forage Sticks
Past Participants with Forage Sticks

May 28th Pasture Walk Hosted by Rick and Kim Vincent

3427 Burnite Mill Rd. Harrington, DE 19952

6:30-8:30 pm

Welcome and Introductions– UD Cooperative Extension Staff

Farm Overview/Current Pasture/Grazing Management– Rick and Him Vincent, Hosts

Pasture Plant Species ID– Dr. Richard Taylor, Extension Agronomist

Soil Fertility and Pasture Health– Dr. Richard Taylor, Extension Agronomist

Weed ID and Weed Control in Pastures– Quintin Johnson, Extension Agent Weed Science

Soil Sampling Techniques, Sample Submission and Testing Options– Bill Rohrer, Owner and Manager AgroLab

DE NM Credits 1.25   Pesticide TBA

To register for this pasture walk, please call (302)730-4000 or email by May 27th

June 4th Pasture Walk Hosted at the University of Delaware Webb Farm

508 S. Chapel Street Newark, DE 19716

6:30-9:00 pm

Tour of Pastures and Management, Pasture Renovation Techniques – Larry Armstrong, UD Webb Farm Manager

Soil Fertility, Plant ID, Bermudagrass Establishment – Dr. Richard Taylor, Extension Agronomy Specialist

Weed ID and Weed Control in Pastures – Quintin Johnson, Extension Agent, Weed Science

Soil Sampling techniques and Proper Sample Submission- Karen Gartley, UD Plant and Soil Science Research Manage

Overview of NRCS Programs- Marianne Hardesty, New Castle County NRCS District Conservationist

DE NM Credits 1.75 Pesticide TBA

            To register for this pasture walk or  request more information, please call (302)831-2507 or email by May 30th


CDC Links Human Salmonella Illness to Live Poultry in Backyard Flocks

From the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

  • As of May 7, 2014, a total of 60 persons infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Infantis or Salmonella Newport have been reported from 23 states.
    • 31% of ill persons have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported.
    • The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Alabama (1), Arizona (1), Arkansas (1), California (1), Colorado (2), Georgia (2), Idaho (2), Indiana (1), Kentucky (6), Maine (1), Maryland (2), New Hampshire (1), New Mexico (1), New York (6), North Carolina (3), Ohio (6), Pennsylvania (8), Tennessee (3), Utah (1), Vermont (3), Virginia (3), Washington (1), and West Virginia (4).
  • Epidemiologic and traceback findings have linked this outbreak of human Salmonella Infantis and Salmonella Newport infections to contact with chicks, ducklings, and other live baby poultry from Mt. Healthy Hatcheries in Ohio.
    • 82% of ill people reported contact with live poultry in the week before their illness began.
    • Findings of multiple traceback investigations of live baby poultry from homes of ill persons have identified Mt. Healthy Hatcheries in Ohio as the source of chicks and ducklings.
  • This is the same mail-order hatchery that has been associated with multiple outbreaks of Salmonella infections linked to live poultry in past years, including in 2012 and 2013.
  • Mail-order hatcheries, agricultural feed stores, and others that sell or display chicks, ducklings, and other live poultry should provide health related information to owners and potential purchasers of these birds prior to the point of purchase. This should include information about the risk of acquiring a Salmonella infection from contact with live poultry.
    • Read the advice to mail order hatcheries and feed store and others that sell or display live poultry.
  • Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam.
    • Do not let live poultry inside the house.
    • Additional recommendations are available on the CDC website.
    • These recommendations are important and apply to all live poultry, regardless of the age of the birds or where they were purchased.

Link to the CDC website with the Salmonella outbreak information:


Dairy Heifer prices continue to add value according to Dairy Herd Management.

Strong milk prices are likely fueling a steady increase in springer heifer demand and price. Springer prices are up again nationwide this month. Just a few months ago, a springer price over $2,000 was an anomaly. This month, that figure is present in prices from all four reporting markets. California and Pennsylvania both reported good heifer quality and steady demand.

Holstein heifer calves also are steady or up, sharply so in Pennsylvania.

Springing heifers
Heifer calves
 Location (sale date)
Supreme/top grade
Approved/medium grade
90-120 pounds
Turlock, Calif. (04/04/14)
Stratford, Wis. (04/19/14)
Sulphur Springs, Texas (04/03/14)
New Holland, Pa. (04/09/14)

Is It Time to Think about Renovating or Planting a New Pasture or Hay Field? Part 1

Part 1: The Pre-Planning Process…

Over the years since I first came to Delaware, I have received numerous requests concerning overseeding or renovating pasture and hay fields.  Unfortunately, these requests usually come about just before someone wants to actually plant.  In reality, producers should begin considering the process as much as a year ahead of the actual time that they want to plant a field.  Since our fall plantings of forage crops seem to perform better than spring plantings, it’s a good time to begin a discussion of the process.  Often, we find ourselves moving into mid- to late-fall without having taken the time to really consider all decisions that have to go into improving the odds that the planting will be successful.  Seed costs alone can equate to more than a hundred dollars per acre in investment expense; and, if we really take into account all the variable costs, a new pasture or hay field can easily represent an investment of hundreds of dollars per acre.

So in the pre-planning process, what’s first?  I know many get tired of hearing the phrase but testing the fertility of your soil far ahead of time is still the number one issue.  The proper sampling depth is 0 to 4 inches in fields where you will be using a no-till drill to seed the forage and on fields that you do not plan to use deep tillage and have not been applying significant quantities of commercial nitrogen (N) fertilizer.  In these instances, you will not be incorporating lime to neutralize acidity from the N fertilizer or incorporating large amounts of phosphorus [P or (P2O5)] or potassium [K or (K2O)] fertilizer.  Your expectation is that the soil test will indicate that the soil pH is in the 6.0 to 6.8 range and the P and K levels are in the medium to optimum range.  If your expectations do not prove true and the pH is low enough to require several tons per acre of limestone or the P and K levels are low to very low and the fertilizer and lime needs to be mixed into the soil thoroughly, you will need to change plans and consider some type of tillage to incorporate fertilizer and/or lime.

If you have used large quantities of commercial N fertilizer in the past, you really should take both a 0-2 inch depth sample for determining the soil acidity in the upper soil layer as well as a 0 to 4 inch depth sample for nutrient content (phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium and other essential elements).  If you are unsure when limestone was last applied to the field, sampling both depths is a good approach since it will provide you with more information about the nutrient status of your field.

The reason for this distinction is that the ammonium or urea N forms that are applied as fertilizer are converted by soil bacteria into nitrate through a process called, nitrification,  In this process, the soil bacteria oxidize the reduced form of N and release hydrogen ions that cause the soil to acidify.  Since the N is all surface applied, the release of acidity near the soil surface can create a condition known as ‘acid roof’ where the top inch or two of soil is much more acidic than the deeper layers of soil.  A second reason involves the very slow movement of limestone down through the soil.  Studies on pastures in Connecticut many decades ago showed that lime moves downward at a rate of about 1 inch per year.   Therefore, it takes a very long time to have an impact on the entire rooting zone of the forage grasses and legumes.

In fields where tillage is planned prior to establishing a forage crop, the traditional plow layer sample (0 to 8 inches) for both soil pH (acidity) and essential nutrient status is the appropriate choice.  If the soil sample indicates that the soil must be limed, apply the recommended amount of limestone and work it into the soil as soon as possible to allow time for the limestone to neutralize soil acidity before planting time.  If the weather after lime application and incorporation remains dry, the limestone will not completely dissolve and neutralize the soil acidity.  I recommend that producers take a second soil test before planting in late summer or early fall to determine if any additional lime is needed.  Additional agricultural lime and the recommended P2O5 and K2O fertilizer as well as any other needed nutrients can be applied and worked into the soil shortly before planting the field.

Everyone asks the question of whether to apply N at the time you plant a new field or seed a field you are renovating.  My preference is that you should wait until the new grass is several inches tall and has enough biomass and roots to compete for applied N and store any extra N for future growth.  Very small forage seedlings use and need very little N, no more than a couple of pounds N per acre, until they reach 2 to 4 inches in height.  Often the residual N from organic matter mineralization during the summer, will supply the small amount of N the seedlings require.  Once the forage plants have enough leaf area to capture the sun’s energy and convert it into more plant tissue or into sugars for storage, the demand for N will increase significantly.  When forage seedlings are very small, weeds or current vegetation in renovated fields are likely to be better  able to compete with new forage seedlings for N, light, water, and other nutrients.  Although annual weeds and/or current vegetation will be present when N fertilizer is finally applied to the new seedlings, the perennial forage seedlings will be in a better competitive position to compete for the components needed for growth and establishment.  Summer annual weeds that germinated with the forage crop will be killed at the first fall/winter frost and provide the forage plants with more space, sun, water, and nutrients.

In the next installment, I’ll cover the question we most commonly receive, “What should I plant?”

This article was submitted by Dr. Richard W. Taylor, Extension Agronomist, University of Delaware.  Dr. Taylor can be reached at