May 22, 2017
Good forage conditions in Oklahoma and U.S.
by Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
Widespread rain across most of Oklahoma the past two months have mostly erased drought conditions that developed in the first quarter of the year. The latest Drought Monitor showed that Oklahoma had 10.98 percent of the state abnormally dry with 7.18 percent D1 (moderate drought) and with none of the state in more serious drought stages D2 to D4. The remaining dry area is located in southeast and south-central Oklahoma. Most of this region received significant rain this past week and will likely show further reduction in drought conditions. Oklahoma has 7 percent of pastures and ranges in poor to very poor condition with the percent in good to excellent condition improving to 59 percent with the recent rains.
For the entire U.S., the percent of the U.S. with no dry (D0) or drought (D1-D4) conditions in May have exceeded 80 percent for the first time since the Drought Monitor began publication in 2000. The area of the U.S. with D2 or worse drought conditions is less than 1.5 percent of the country, located in Georgia and Florida. No D4 conditions (exceptional drought) exist anywhere in the country at this time, a situation that has not happened since early 2011.
Nationwide, 10 percent of pastures and ranges are reported in poor or very poor condition with 28 percent in fair condition and 62 percent in good to excellent condition. California, which suffered so long with a multi-year drought, is reporting only 5 percent poor and very poor pastures with 70 percent in good to excellent condition. The worst conditions are in Florida, which has 58 percent of pastures in poor and very poor condition along with Georgia, reporting 29 percent poor or very poor pastures. The Cornbelt region reports less than three percent of pastures in poor or very poor conditions with ample moisture resulting in nearly 80 percent of pastures in good to excellent condition. However, excessively wet conditions have caused crop planting delays for field crops in the area.
U.S. hay stocks on May 1 were down 3 percent year over year despite having been up slightly year over year on Dec. 1. Severe winter conditions in northern regions contributed to a drawdown in stocks by May 1 in states such as Idaho, Montana, North and South Dakota and Wyoming. However, mild winter weather contributed to an increase in May 1 hay stocks in some southern regions including Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas. Oklahoma hay stocks were up 3.4 percent year over year on May 1 and were at the highest level since 2008.
All in all, despite the current situation in Florida and southern Georgia, the U.S. has very favorable conditions for pasture, range and hay so far in 2017. This will help support cattle production and hold production costs down for cattle producers.
Storing large round bales
by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
As hay is being cut and put in large round bales, it is always important to reduce hay storage losses. University of Tennessee animal scientists conducted a trial to compare different methods of storing large round bales of grass hay. The hay was cut and baled in June in Moore County, Tennessee. The bales were weighed at the time of harvest and storage. Then, they were weighed again the following January at the time of winter feeding. The following table lists the type of storage and the resulting percentage hay loss.
Table 1. Losses of hay stored using six methods of storage (Source: Dr. Clyde Lane, University of Tennessee Department of Animal Science)
|Type of Storage
|Percentage (%) of Hay Loss
|On ground, no cover
|On old tires, no cover
|On ground, covered
|On old tires, covered
|Net wrap on ground
Average spring, summer, and fall rainfall in Tennessee will generally be greater than that experienced in much of Oklahoma. However, the rankings in storage loss between the storage methods will be present in Oklahoma as well.
An Oklahoma State University fact sheet by Dr. Ray Huhnke summarizes differences in storage loss that can be expected in an Oklahoma ranch setting. Source: Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet BAE-1716 “Round Bale Hay Storage”.
Table 2. Percentage (%) dry matter loss of round hay bales.
|Up to 9 months
|12 – 18 months
|5 – 20
|15 – 50
|3 – 15
|12 – 35
|5 – 10
|10 – 15
|2 – 4
|2 – 5
|3 – 10
|Less than 2
Obviously, it would be ideal to store the hay inside, but that will not often be practical. The next best option is when the hay is stored on something that gets the hay off of the ground under a rain shedding cover.
Other important storage concepts can be used as the hay is being harvested this spring and summer.
The storage site is an important consideration in reducing bale losses. Select a site that is not shaded and is open to breezes to enhance drying conditions. The site should also be well-drained to minimize moisture absorption into the underside of the bales. As much as 12 inches of the bottom of a bale can be lost through moisture absorption resulting from the wicking action. Ground contact can account for over half of the total dry matter losses. Where practical, keep bales off the ground using low cost, surplus materials such as discarded pallets, racks, fence posts, railroad ties, and used tires. Another alternative is to use a layer of crushed rock about six inches deep to ensure good drainage within and around the storage site.
Bales should be stored in rows, buffed end-to-end, and oriented in a north/south direction. The combination of the north/south orientation and at least three feet between rows will provide for good sunlight penetration and air flow, which will allow the area to dry faster after a rain. Vegetation between rows should be mowed. Research has shown that orientation is a minor consideration if the bales are used before early spring because the losses are relatively small until that time. If stored into the summer, bales oriented in an east-west direction can experience severe deterioration on the north-facing surface.
The source of these and other ideas about hay storage can be found in Dr. Ray Huhnke’s Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet “Round Bale Storage” BAE-1716.
Cow-Calf Corner is a weekly newsletter by the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service.