Recent FAS Reports Highlight Soybean, Meat, and Corn Export Variables

Reports this month from the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) have provided updated information on market variables impacting soybeans, meat, and corn.  Today’s update highlights some of the key findings from these FAS publications.


In a report Friday, Oilseeds: World Markets and Trade, FAS stated that, “Soybean prices on the Chicago Exchange topped $10.00/bu in mid-September, eventually peaking at $10.44/bu on September 18 before falling back to just below the $10.00 dollar mark at the end of the month. Subsequently, prices rallied again to near $10.50/bu following the release of the September Grain Stocks report and further export sales strength.

This is the first time near-term soybean futures have reached the $10.00 mark since early June 2018.

“Current prices are roughly 27 percent above levels observed in early August prior to the first NASS 2020 soybean yield estimate.”

“Oilseeds: World Markets and Trade.” USDA- Foreign Agricultural Service (October 2020).

The report explained that, “The dynamics behind the mid-August to mid-September price surge are complex but basically reflect a rebound in China purchases of U.S. soybeans and limited availability of exportable supplies in South America. Recovery of China’s pork industry from African Swine Fever has spurred imports in 2020 with volume up 8.4 million tons (15 percent) for the first 8 months of 2020 compared to a year earlier. Most of these purchases were from Brazil, where exports to all markets (January-September) were up 30 percent year-over-year to a record 79.2 million tons. The strong pace of 2020 exports, driven by strong China demand and a record low exchange rate, has depleted exportable supplies and is forecast to drive Brazil imports to their highest level since 2003.

Brazil- Monthly Soybean Exports.  (“Brazil: Oilseeds and Products Update.” USDA- Foreign Agricultural Service- Report Number: BR2020-0039 (October 1st, 2020)).

Consequently, China buyers have turned agressively to securing U.S. soybeans in recent months. Outstanding sales to China in mid-September totaled nearly 17.0 million tons, nearly equal to the record set in 2013. Total outstanding sales for all markets in mid-September, including unknown destinations, is at a record 32.0 million tons, a three-fold increase compared to 2019.”

“Oilseeds: World Markets and Trade.” USDA- Foreign Agricultural Service (October 2020).

With respect to soybean production in Brazil, FAS stated in a report earlier this month, Brazil: Oilseeds and Products Update, that, “Post maintains its forecast for soybean planted area at 38.5 million hectares (ha) for 2020/21, up from 36.9 million ha in 2019/20. Despite a drier than average start to planting, Post forecasts a record harvest at 131 million metric tons (MMT). Area expansion is expected based on unprecedented domestic soybean prices.”


In a separate report Friday, Livestock and Poultry: World Markets and Trade, FAS stated that, “Global meat imports will decline marginally in 2021 as softening demand from China offsets gains elsewhere. China meat imports are forecast to set records in 2020 due to a sharp decline in pork production from African swine fever (ASF). Next year, imports are expected to fall as producers rebuild swine herds and production rebounds. Outside of China, global meat imports are largely rebounding as economies bounce back from COVID-19 and as food service demand improves.”

“Livestock and Poultry: World Markets and Trade. USDA- Foreign Agricultural Service (October 9th, 2020).

The report added that, “China pork imports are forecast 6 percent lower at 4.5 million tons. Imports will remain near record highs but are unlikely to exceed 2020 levels due to growing domestic production. Elsewhere, demand for pork is improving from last year when imports hit the lowest level since 2016 due to both COVID-19 and robust demand from China. Lower expected global pork prices will buoy shipments to price-sensitive markets.

China beef imports are forecast 4 percent higher at 2.9 million tons in 2021– another record high. Evolving tastes and relatively modest production growth are expected to support beef imports next year. However, rebounding pork production will slow growth in beef imports to the slowest pace in more than 5 years.”

In greater detail regarding pork production, FAS pointed out that, “Global production is forecast 4 percent higher in 2021 due to rebounding output in countries affected by African swine fever (ASF) and to a lesser extent recovery from COVID-19 impacts. Production is forecast 9 percent higher in China as producers aggressively rebuild their herds and take advantage of high hog prices. However, at 41.5 million tons, production is still nearly 25 percent lower than pre- disease levels.”

“Livestock and Poultry: World Markets and Trade. USDA- Foreign Agricultural Service (October 9th, 2020).

U.S. production is forecast about 1 percent higher in 2021 on modest growth in slaughter,” FAS said.


Regarding corn, in a report earlier this month, China: Grain and Feed Update, FAS indicated that, “China’s 2020/21 feed and residual use for all coarse grains and feed-quality wheat are estimated to increase 3.2 percent compared to the previous marketing year due to a projected recovery of swine production and strong expansion in the poultry and ruminant sectors.

Though typhoons caused heavy damage and extensive lodging in the major corn producing northeastern provinces, the impact on overall production will be limited as storms hit only weeks before harvest and will not result in a total loss. In addition, Fall Army Worm (FAW) impact is less than anticipated resulting in a total decrease in corn production of only 4 percent.

“While China may rely more on corn imports in the coming marketing year, some of these gains will be mitigated by an increased use of sorghum, barley, and old rice and wheat stocks in feed rations to take the place of record high-priced corn.”

More narrowly on the corn exports, FAS pointed out on Friday (Grain: World Markets and Trade) that, “Ukraine has been China’s primary supplier of corn since 2014/15.

“Grain: World Markets and Trade.” USDA- Foreign Agricultural Service (October 2020).

“Perhaps reflecting the high domestic corn prices in China, imports of Ukrainian corn are at their highest in the last 6 years. However, China’s demand for U.S. corn is also robust and Ukraine looks to face increased competition from the United States in the near future. According to U.S. export inspection data, since September 1 corn shipments to China totaled 1.1 million tons, ahead of Mexico at 1.0 million tons, as the largest destination.”

And in a report this month titled, “Prospects for U.S. Corn in Latin America,” FAS stated that, “Latin America accounts for about 25 percent of global corn imports. The region’s corn demand for imported corn has grown steadily over the years supported by expansion in the livestock sector, particularly poultry production. Demand for animal protein has grown with improved economic conditions and greater disposable incomes. Corn trade in the region for the first half of 2020 has been steady with little impact from COVID-19. The United States has been the top supplier benefitting from Latin America’s growth in imports. However, imports of U.S. corn have been trailing off, driven by changes in the key markets of Colombia, Peru, and Mexico.”

“Prospects for U.S. Corn in Latin America.” International Trade Report, USDA- Foreign Agricultural Service (October 2020).

The report added that, “U.S. prices hit a 5-year high in the spring of 2019, caused by unprecedented planting delays due to wet weather. Uncertainty over the crop size kept prices elevated into the summer, eroding the competitiveness of U.S. corn in foreign markets. Flooding of the Mississippi River added logistical challenges and limited barge traffic to the Gulf terminals.

“Prospects for U.S. Corn in Latin America.” International Trade Report, USDA- Foreign Agricultural Service (October 2020).

“Concerns over quality in the 2019 crop (i.e., low test weight and broken/damaged kernels) may have also contributed to smaller exports. Colombia and Peru turned to Argentina, which had been their major supplier of the past, while Mexico also sought to diversify suppliers.”

Source: Keith Good, Farm Policy News

Cover Crop Considerations When Dealing With Soybean Cyst Nematode

With the soybeans being harvested a little earlier than usual this year, some producers are finding themselves making management decisions which often include the use of cover crops. There are a lot of agronomic benefits for planting cover crops (Figure 1) such as soil health, soil erosion control, weed reduction, animal feed, and nutrient recycling. For soybean producers dealing with soybean cyst nematode (SCN) in their fields, selection of cover crops is important since some of these can be hosts for SCN.

SCN is the most damaging soybean pest in South Dakota. Once SCN is detected in the field, it is near impossible to eliminate it, but it is a pest that can be managed to minimize yield loss. If a SCN host crop is included in the cover crop mix, SCN can continue to reproduce and accumulate in the soil. These cysts can remain viable for more than ten years in the soil. For these reasons, the use of non-SCN hosts or poor SCN host crops is recommended.

SCN Management

SCN management starts with sampling your soil to determine the presence or absence of this nematode. A positive SCN detection requires adoption of an integrated management approach that includes planting resistant cultivars, crop rotation with non-hosts, and use of nematicide seed treatments especially for fields where SCN egg counts are high (>6,000 eggs/100 cc of soil). A periodic SCN soil test is also needed to monitor the SCN population changes in the field. An increase in SCN numbers would indicate the methods being used are not working efficiently and therefore would call for change in tactics. The SCN test is free of charge to SD soybean producers courtesy of the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council. Soil samples for SCN test can mailed or dropped off at the SDSU Plant Diagnostic Clinic. Make sure to download and fill out the SCN Soil Sampling Information Sheet to accompany your samples before submitting them for analysis.

Cover Crop Considerations

Legumes that supported moderate levels of SCN as a host:

  • Lupine (white)
  • Field pea
  • Forage pea

Nitrogen Fixing Legumes that are poor SCN hosts or are non-SCN host crops:

  • Alfalfa
  • Austrian winter pea
  • Berseem clover
  • Cowpea
  • Crimson clover
  • Hairy vetch
  • Red clover
  • White clover

Grasses and cereal grains that are poor SCN hosts or non-SCN host crops:

  • Annual ryegrass
  • Barley
  • Cereal rye
  • Oats
  • Wheat

Brassicas that are poor SCN hosts or non-SCN hosts:

  • Canola
  • Daikon-type radish
  • Mustard
  • Oilseed radish

Additional Resources

Acharya et al. 2016. Evaluation of cover crops for hosts and population reduction of soybean cyst nematode.

Source: South Dakota State University

New Round of Farm Aid for COVID Losses Announced, and Causes Snag in Congressional Spending Bill

Andrew Restuccia and Jesse Newman reported in Friday’s Wall Street Journal that, “President Trump unveiled $13 billion in new aid to farmers facing economic harm from the coronavirus pandemic as he aimed to boost support among rural voters at a campaign rally.

‘I’m proud to announce that I’m doing even more to support Wisconsin farmers,’ said Mr. Trump, speaking outside an airport hangar with Air Force One parked behind him, as he announced the agriculture aid.

The Journal writers explained that, “The newly announced aid would be the second tranche of money issued as part of the Trump administration’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. In April, the administration unveiled $19 billion in relief for the agriculture sector, including $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers and $3 billion in mass purchases of dairy, meat and produce. The funds came from coronavirus-relief legislation passed by Congress earlier this year as well as from the Department of Agriculture’s Commodity Credit Corp., a Depression-era program designed to stabilize farm incomes.

“This time, the USDA said up to an additional $14 billion dollars would be available to farmers and ranchers facing continuing market disruptions and costs from the pandemic, including producers of row crops, livestock, specialty crops, dairy, aquaculture and other commodities. Farmers can apply for the aid at USDA’s county offices between Sept. 21 and Dec. 11 of this year. It couldn’t be determined why there was a discrepancy between the amount announced by Mr. Trump and the sum given by the USDA.

“The second round of direct payments likely supplements an already historic cash infusion into the nation’s Farm Belt. Projections released by USDA earlier this month showed government payments are set to surge 66% this year, to an annual record $37.2 billion.

“2020 Farm Sector Income Forecast,” September 2020 (USDA-ERS).

“Even before taking the new tranche into account, those payments would push U.S. net farm income 23% higher to $102.7 billion, the highest since 2013, according to the USDA. They would comprise 36% of that total income, the highest share in nearly two decades.”

USDA- Economic Research Service Webinar: Farm Income and Financial Forecasts (September 2, 2020).

DTN writer Chris Clayton pointed out on Friday that, “CFAP 2 will have three different categories of payments to farmers based on price triggers, flat-rate crops and overall commodity sales.

“Under the price-trigger category are mainly major commodity crops that meet a 5% price decline over a specific period of time. This will include the broad range of commodities such as barley, corn, sorghum, soybeans, sunflowers, upland cotton and all classes of wheat.”

Mr. Clayton pointed out that, “Payments will be made based on 2020 planted acres for the crop — excluding prevented planting and experimental acres.”

The DTN article added that, “USDA again has multiple determinations on how payments will be made with some complicated formulas steps thrown in. Payments will be the greater of:

“– Eligible acres multiplied by $15 per acre, or;

“– The eligible acres multiplied by a nationwide crop marketing percentage, multiplied by a crop-specific payment rate, and then by the producer’s weighted 2020 Actual Production History approved yield. If APH is not available, then the calculation will use 85% of the 2019 Agricultural Risk Coverage-County Option (ARC-CO) benchmark yield for that crop.”

Donnelle Eller reported on the front page of Saturday’s Des Moines Register that, “The USDA said the money for the second ag package would come from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — or CARES — and the Commodity Credit Corporation, an independent agency with authority to borrow $30 billion that’s being tapped to provide aid to farmers hit by coronavirus and trade disruptions.

“USDA will send $14B in aid to #farmers,” by Donnelle Eller. The Des Moines Register (front page- September 19, 2020).

“The coronavirus assistance comes on top of $28 billion the Trump administration provided in 2018 and 2019 to offset losses because of U.S. trade wars with China, Mexico, Canada and other nations, some of which continue.

“Congressional leaders are looking at a continuing resolution that would replenish the credit corporation’s funds.”

More specifically regarding the continuing resolution issue, Kristina Peterson reported in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal that, “A spending bill that Congress needs to pass to avoid a partial government shutdown next month hit last-minute snags Friday, as lawmakers and President Trump sparred over aid for farmers and election security.

“Lawmakers had hoped to unveil Friday a short-term spending bill to keep the government running after its current funding expires on Oct. 1. But fights over what to include in the legislation—potentially the only major bill to get signed into law before the election—delayed finalizing what is expected to be a bipartisan agreement that could pass in both the House and Senate next week.

One debate emerged over the White House’s request to include $21 billion for the Agriculture Department’s Commodity Credit Corp., or CCC, a Depression-era program designed to stabilize farm incomes and which permits borrowing of as much as $30 billion from the Treasury to finance its activities. Democrats said they had concerns over replenishing a program if that meant giving President Trump a blank check to use for political purposes after he announced more aid for farmers at a campaign rally in Wisconsin Thursday night.”

The Journal article stated that, “The CCC program helped finance the first round of coronavirus-related aid to farmers, although Congress included some funding to reimburse it in previous relief legislation passed in March. But aides said its resources were already being depleted even before Mr. Trump announced a second round of $13 billion in farm aid at Thursday night’s rally.

“Funding that second round could impede the program’s ability to send out noncontroversial commodity support and conservation programs established by the farm bill, aides said. Once early October payments have been sent, the CCC program could be exhausted by November, the Farm Bureau estimated this week.”

Source: Keith Good, Farm Policy News

Fall-applied Herbicides-What Goes Around Comes Around

Fall herbicide treatments have fallen off over the past several years for a couple of reasons, among them the effectiveness of new soybean trait systems for managing marestail, some generally crappy weather in late fall, and efforts to reduce input costs.  We are seeing a resurgence in some weeds, such as dandelion, which respond well to fall herbicides, though.   Some growers have also experience issues with messy fields and late spring burndowns that could have been avoided with fall herbicides.  It’s worth recalling the history of fall herbicide applications, which helps explain some of their benefits, especially if you have not been managing weeds or making recommendations for as long as some of us have. 

In the late 1990s, a few years after the initial introduction of Roundup Ready soybeans, a number of growers were experiencing problems in spring with dense infestations of winter annual weeds – chickweed, purple deadnettle, mustards, cressleaf groundsel, etc – and also dandelion.  These weeds were generally interfering with spring tillage and crop establishment, slowing the drying and warming of soils, and also harboring insects.  Spring burndown herbicides could be variably effective and, under cool conditions, slow to kill the weeds.  One of the reasons for the increase in these weeds was the use of only glyphosate in soybeans, and the oversimplification of herbicide programs.  This included a failure to apply burndown early enough (the “hey I’ll just plant soybeans into weeds and spray glyphosate whenever I get around to it” approach), which allowed winter annuals to go to seed, and a failure to include residual herbicides, some of which could possibly persist long enough to shut down some of the late-season winter annual weed emergence.  This approach also allowed dandelion to proliferate and become more difficult to kill, because it had too much time to increase it’s root size and go to seed unimpeded.  We recall walking fields infested with dandelion in the fall where the weeds were so dense we almost could not see the soil.  Application of herbicides in fall largely solved these issues, providing for a weedfree seedbed well into spring, and reducing dandelion back to manageable levels. 

Fast forward to the mid 2000s when glyphosate-resistant marestail became widespread.  While the spring-applied mix of glyphosate and 2,4-D worked for a while on marestail, the increase in the level of glyphosate resistance shifted all of the work to the 2,4-D, which is really only about 70% effective on overwintered marestail.  The net result was a failure of many burndown treatments for control of the overwintered plants.  The solution was fall application of 2,4-D mixtures, which controls fall-emerging plants, so that the spring burndown has to control only small spring emergers.  Fall herbicide treatments have been standard component of marestail management programs for many growers since then.  More recently, the availability of some alternative spring burndown treatments that can include Sharpen, glufosinate, Gramoxone, and/or dicamba have reduced the need for fall herbicide treatments on marestail.  A consequence of this, along with a move once again to oversimplify herbicide programs,  appears to be an increase in dandelion and winter annuals again.  The Xtend, Enlist, and LibertyLink soybean programs cannot adequately control some of these weeds if not used in an integrated, multi-application system that includes an occasional fall herbicide treatment.  The bottom line here is that fall-applied herbicides, even if used only every other year or so, go a long way toward preventing issues with these weeds and maintaining a more problem-free no-till planting situation.  This can be especially true when wet weather in spring delays herbicide application and planting, and the result is a big, dense weed population that herbicides struggle to control.  Fields with a fall herbicide treatment are likely to stay much more manageable into late spring compared to those without. 

So this is just a suggestion to think about making fall herbicides part of the weed management program again, and especially where the increase in winter annual weeds, dandelion, wild carrot, and curly dock has been noticeable and problematic.  We have previously run articles in C.O.R.N. that cover the details of fall herbicide treatments, and this information really has not changed much.  Links to some these articles below:

“Five things to know about fall herbicide treatments” (2014)

“Fall herbicide treatments and new technology” (2015)

“Fall herbicide applications – an integral part of marestail management” (2012)

Dandelion – King of the Weeds – is making a resurgence (Youtube video)

Source: Ohio State University

Management Tips for Frost-damaged Soybeans

An early frost has producers wondering what to do with immature frost-damaged soybeans.

“Soybeans killed at growth stages of full seed development (R6) and beginning maturity (R7) should be left out in the field to dry and harvested along with mature soybeans (R8) when the beans are at the desired moisture content,” advises Ken Hellevang, North Dakota State University Extension agricultural engineer and grain drying expert.

Weather conditions during the field drying period, after plants are frozen, impact the color of the harvested soybeans. NDSU research during 2019 found R6 soybeans that were field dried during nice weather had a significant change in the color of the seed coat. The beans developed a golden yellow tone approaching that of mature soybean (R8-control) after field drying.

However, R6 soybeans that were field dried during freezing temperatures, snow and rain, and lacked exposure to sunlight after desiccation, had a green tone to the golden color. The green is chlorophyll, which is not desirable in the oil. Removing the chlorophyll costs the processor, so the soybeans are discounted at the elevator. The elevator determines the amount of green soybeans and applies a price reduction.

Even though the bean yellow/green tone was observed after field drying, little green was seen in the extracted oil from the seeds during the 2019 study and was close to that of the mature R8-control.

“Despite the snow and rain encountered prior to harvesting of the desiccated seeds, leaving the seeds out in the field likely aided the natural ripening, causing degradation of chlorophyll pigments in the seeds,” Hellevang says.

According to a Wisconsin study in 1998, soybeans on frost-damaged plants showed quicker maturity and color change than those on undamaged plants.

Effect of Storage on Bean Quality

A study showed only a slight change in color during six months of storage for field-dried soybeans. A green tone still existed in the stored soybeans at the end of the sixth month. Researchers also saw a very small change in the chlorophyll content in the oil. However, the chlorophyll level was low after field drying, so little change was expected.

During the first year of the research, soybeans were stored at 40 and 75 F, with and without light, and with and without aeration for four months. Researchers saw a marginal increase in the yellow and dissipation of the green in all the soybeans during storage.

However, the only parameter that significantly impacted the color change in the soybeans during storage was exposure to light. The beans cannot be exposed to light in storage, so research during the second year of the study examined color change in leaving the soybeans in the field after a killing frost.

A reduction in chlorophyll occurred in all the soybeans during the four months of storage during the first year. However, the chlorophyll content of immature soybeans exceeded the level in mature soybeans.

Source: North Dakota State University

After Resolving a Fight Over Farm Payments, House Passes Continuing Resolution

David Lerman and Jennifer Shutt reported on Tuesday night at Roll Call Online that, “The House swiftly passed a stopgap funding measure needed to avert a partial government shutdown in eight days after top congressional leaders reached a deal resolving a fight over farm payments.

“On a lopsided vote of 359-57, the House sent to the Senate a revised continuing resolution that would extend current funding for all federal agencies through Dec. 11.

“The bipartisan pact would restore money for farm payments sought by lawmakers from both parties that House leaders had rejected in an earlier stopgap measure introduced Monday. It also would restore new money for a pandemic-related program funding subsidized meals to children who would normally receive them when schools are open, among other nutrition assistance, Democrats said.”

The Roll Call article pointed out that, “The agreement also contains language [Speaker Nancy Pelosi] said would prevent ‘funds for farmers from being misused for a Big Oil bailout,’ after earlier reports surfaced that the administration has been planning to divert Commodity Credit Corporation funds to refiners.

“‘The last thing the United States needs right now, in the midst of a pandemic, is a lapse in government funding that was set to expire at the end of this month,’ Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., said during floor debate.”

Wall Street Journal writers Kristina Peterson and Lindsay Wise reported in Wednesday’s paper that, “The bipartisan agreement between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, reached just hours before the vote, is expected to smooth the bill’s passage in the GOP-controlled Senate and avert a partial shutdown when the government’s funding expires next Thursday.”

The Journal article explained that, “The agreement between Mrs. Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Mr. Mnuchin would add to the spending bill $21 billion sought by the White House for the Commodity Credit Corp., or CCC, a Depression-era program designed to stabilize farm incomes that permits borrowing as much as $30 billion from the Treasury to finance its activities. The agreement prohibits any payments from going to fossil fuel refiners and importers, a concern of Democrats, and includes roughly $8 billion in additional nutrition funding.”

“President Trump has tapped the CCC program to finance both trade relief and coronavirus-related aid for farmers, a second round of which he announced at a campaign rally in Wisconsin last week. But the program has traditionally been used to send out payments established under bipartisan farm bills, some of which the Agriculture Department had said could be subject to delays as soon as October.”

Peterson and Wise noted that, “Tuesday night’s deal ended an intensifying partisan battle over the farm aid. Democrats and Republicans had  in their assessment of whether the CCC program would need to be shored up early. The program’s annual replenishment typically takes place in November or December after the CCC submits financial forms and is audited, according to the Congressional Research Service.

“The Agriculture Department said that Covid-19 relief payments pledged by the Trump administration had left the program with only about $2 billion, and that it would be forced to prioritize which farm-bill payments could be made starting in October. Republicans and some Democrats said that any delays in payments could be detrimental to farmers already under pressure from the coronavirus’ effect on the agricultural economy.”

Emily Cochrane reported in Wednesday’s New York Times that, “House Democratic leaders had initially sought to advance the [Continuing Resolution] bill without the Commodity Credit Corporation money. But lawmakers in both parties balked at the omission, arguing that it was a critical resource for farmers across the country and helped fund a series of bipartisan programs. Moderate Democrats who count farmers and agriculture businesses as significant constituencies within their districts lobbied Ms. Pelosi to reconsider.”

“2020 Farm Sector Income Forecast,” September 2020 (USDA-ERS).

Washington Post writer Erica Werner reported on Tuesday night that, “The [Continuing Resolution] deal was negotiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a chaotic series of events over the past several days. Talks abruptly collapsed late Friday just as a deal appeared within reach, and Pelosi released a partisan bill on Monday that was swiftly rejected by Republicans. But on Tuesday morning, Pelosi and Mnuchin resumed negotiations, and Pelosi announced late Tuesday that they had reached a deal.”

The Post article added that, “At a campaign rally in Wisconsin last week, Trump announced a new package of aid for farmers from the CCC, which he has used in an unprecedented way. Under previous administrations, the CCC was used for much more limited purposes, and some Democrats charge that Trump has essentially turned it into a slush fund.

“But there are also several endangered House Democrats who support the program, including Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenauer of Iowa, freshman members who flipped GOP-held seats in 2018 and now face tough reelection races. Axne and Finkenauer both signed a letter along with Iowa’s two Republican senators, Charles E. Grassley and Joni Ernst, blasting exclusion of the CCC money from the bill Pelosi had released on Monday and declaring, ‘Our farmers should not be used as a bargaining chip for negotiations.’”

And Bloomberg writers Erik Wasson and John Fitzpatrick reported Tuesday that, “Democratic critics have accused President Donald Trump of using the CCC to dole out political favors. The president last Thursday announced he was drawing $13 billion in aid from the CCC to help rural areas, which are important to his re-election prospects. He unveiled the move at a campaign event in Wisconsin, a key battleground state in the presidential election.

Democrats from farm states and those in narrowly divided districts pushed Pelosi to include the farm money. Swing district Representative Cindy Axne of Iowa issued a statement calling for inclusion of the CCC funds and warning about a shortfall for traditional farm subsidies.”

Source: Keith Good, Farm Policy News

Farm-Aid Not Included in House Short-Term Spending Measure, as Funding Deadline Approaches

Wall Street Journal writers Kristina Peterson and Jesse Newman reported in Tuesday’s paper that, “The House was expected to move Tuesday to pass a spending bill that would keep the government running through Dec. 11 but without farm-aid funds sought by the White House.

“The bill, introduced Monday by House Democrats, sparked frustration in the GOP-controlled Senate. Partisan tension is running high after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said he would move to swiftly fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death Friday of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The government’s current funding expires at 12:01 a.m. Oct. 1.

The Journal writers explained that, “[House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.)] and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had agreed earlier this month to pass a short-term spending bill devoid of any contentious measures, referred to as ‘clean‘ on Capitol Hill. But the bill became controversial Monday when Democratic leaders opted not to include a request from the White House to replenish early a program President Trump has tapped as aid to farmers.

“Negotiators had been discussing pairing an infusion of farm-aid funds with a provision sought by Democrats to extend a program expiring at month’s end for families of school-age children, according to aides from both parties. The program enables families to buy groceries, replacing the free or reduced-price meals they would have received at school. But the spending bill released Monday left out both.”

Peterson and Newman added that, “The White House had requested $21 billion for the Agriculture Department’s Commodity Credit Corp., or CCC, a Depression-era program designed to stabilize farm incomes. It permits borrowing as much as $30 billion from the Treasury to finance its activities.

“Democrats said they had concerns over replenishing a program if that meant giving President Trump a blank check to use for political purposes after he announced more aid for farmers at a campaign rally in Wisconsin last week.”

The Trump administration has tapped the CCC to help finance trade relief for farmers as well as the first round of coronavirus-related aid to farmers. However, Congress included some funding to reimburse it in previous relief legislation passed in March,” the Journal article said.

Politico writers Caitlin Emma and John Breshahan noted on Monday that, “Democrats have opposed throwing money at a problem that they believe Trump created through his trade policies, and in exchange, they have wanted at least $2 billion to help families with school-aged children buy groceries during the pandemic.”

Emily Cochrane explained in Tuesday’s New York Times that, “Because Congress has failed to reach agreement on the dozen annual spending bills required to fund the federal government, a stopgap bill is necessary to avoid a shutdown. Republicans and Democrats had been nearing agreement on such a measure on Friday before the aid to farmers emerged as a sticking point.”

USDA- Economic Research Service Webinar: Farm Income and Financial Forecasts (September 2, 2020).

And Washington Post writer Erica Werner pointed out on Monday that, “Although a large portion of the federal budget — including programs such as Medicare and Social Security — runs on autopilot, funding for multiple government agencies and programs must be renewed annually by Congress.”

Nonetheless, Bloomberg writers Erik Wasson and John Fitzpatrick reported on Monday that, “Both parties indicated they wanted to avoid a government shutdown just weeks before the election.

“‘We do prefer additional farm aid in the CR. Most of all we want a clean CR, keep the government open,’ Larry Kudlow, President Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser, told reporters Monday.

“Pelosi said on ABC’s ‘This Week’ program Sunday that ‘none of us has any interest in shutting down government.’”

The Bloomberg article also noted that, “Senate Republicans from farm states pushed for the $30 billion to replenish funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Commodity Credit Corp., a government-owned entity that aims to stabilize farm income. Trump announced $13 billion in new aid to farmers, drawing from the CCC, at a rally in Wisconsin on Thursday, and the corporation had already projected an increase in demand for agriculture-risk coverage, price-loss coverage and marketing-assistance loans.”

Note that Tweets from Congressional reporters Tuesday morning indicated that the planned vote on the Continuing Resolution (CR) would be delayed as discussions continue:

Source: Keith Good, Farm Policy News

Is Fall a Good Time to Apply Nitrogen?

Applying anhydrous ammonia in the fall to provide N to the corn crop the following year has a long history in Illinois and in other parts of the Corn Belt where rotation, tillage, and manure management practices allow it.  Fall application means getting a major field operation done when soil conditions are generally more favorable than they are in the spring, and it helps to spread the work load across more months. Historically, the cost of ammonia has also been lower in the fall than in the following spring, which has provided an extra incentive for fall application.

Although fall application remains a common practice in Illinois, it has come under increasing scrutiny in recent decades. Fall application means having N in the soil about six months before the crop will begin to take it up, and soil conditions during these months are not predictable. Ammonia converts to ammonium in the soil after application, and as long as soil temperatures remain low, the microbial conversion of ammonium to nitrate is slow. Once N is in the nitrate form, however, it can move downward with water moving though the soil, and, in tile-drained fields, can leave the soil and move into surface water. Fall-applied ammonia usually has a nitrification inhibitor added to slow this conversion process, but if soils warm up and there’s substantial rainfall by May, some of the ammonium will convert to nitrate, and some this nitrate may be lost. Spikes in river and surface water nitrate usually come in the spring, and while much of this N is from residual left after the previous fall’s harvest, fall-applied N undoubtedly contributes some to this.

As we might expect, the amount of fall-applied N that is lost (moved out of the field, denitrified, or moved below the rooting zone) before plants can take it up varies widely over years and soils. Measured and modeled estimates of loss show this variability, but as long as guidelines are followed, we do not believe that losses reach the high levels that some models have shown. These guidelines include: 1) no fall application on light or very heavy-textured soil; 2) no application at soil temperatures above 50 degrees; and 3) no fall application in regions without cold winters, including southern Illinois. There can of course be loss of spring-applied N as well, especially if N fertilizer used in the spring contains nitrate (for example, UAN) which can move in the soil without delay. Surface-applied, urea-based N sources can also volatilize (lose N as ammonia gas), dissolve and run off the field with heavy rain, or convert to nitrate rapidly when soil temperatures are warm; such N can be lost to downward movement or to denitrification if water stands in the field.

The best way to measure the actual effect of fall versus spring N application is to compare timings in side-by-side N rate strips in field trials. We are fortunate in Illinois to have a set of such trials, managed by Dan Schaefer of IFCA and conducted, with funding support from the fertilizer tonnage fee through the Illinois Nutrient Research & Education Council, in farm fields from 2014 through 2018. To our considerable surprise, we found that in nearly every case, corn responded to N rate almost the same for fall-applied as for spring-applied N. Figure 1 below shows N responses in one of these trials in which both the optimum N rate and the yield at the optimum N rate were slightly higher for fall-applied N.

Figure 1. Comparison of fall- versus spring-applied ammonia in an on-farm N rate trial in 2018.

The results found in fifteen other trials were similar to those shown in Figure 1. Most of these trials were with corn following soybeans, and most were in central Illinois. Averaged over these 16 trials, the optimum N rate, using a corn price of $3.75/bushel and an N cost of $0.30/lb ($492 per ton of ammonia) was 186 lb N per acre with fall-applied ammonia and 176 lb N per acre with spring-applied ammonia. The yield at the optimum N rate averaged 235 bushels per acre for fall-applied N and 236 bushels per acre for spring-applied N. We can also use these responses to calculate a “return to N” (bushels added by N × corn price minus N rate × N price); the RTN averaged across these 16 sites was $406 per acre for fall-applied N and $414 per acre for spring-applied N.

We elected to drop one trial from this set of data due to its unusual response. This trial was in the river bottoms near the bluff, and it’s possible that the lighter-textured soil there received extra water that moved off the bluff. At that site in 2017, it took 193 lb of N as fall-applied ammonia to produce 227 bushels, while it took only 125 lb of N as spring-applied ammonia to produce 245 bushels. There was a considerable amount of variability in the trial, and using the MRTN rate of 180 lb N/acre for both would have produced yields only 12 bushels higher for spring-applied N. But this does show that when conditions for N loss are high, fall-applied N losses can be substantial. At the same time, these results show that the crop has nearly the same access to fall-applied N as to spring-applied N, and that applying N in the fall is not as economically or environmentally problematic as some have suggested.

So why not continue to apply N in the fall, or even move more application to the fall? In some areas this option has become limited by the fact that some fertilizer dealers no longer offer anhydrous ammonia, but instead offer other forms, typically UAN solution. Reasons for this often include safety—anhydrous ammonia is more hazardous to transport and apply than other forms of N. Ammonia needs to be injected into the soil, and this requires toolbars, large tractors, and labor when harvest and tillage may still be underway. Soil conditions also need to be dry enough, but not too dry, to allow application and proper sealing. Wet fall weather, the need to wait until about November 1 for soils to be cool enough for safe application, then having a short window to apply before soils freeze are all factors that have acted to nudge N application towards spring. We have found, in recent years when fall application has been limited, that moving a lot of N application to the spring is possible with existing equipment. Although this pushes a lot of extra work into the spring months, dealers and producers have been creative in finding ways to make application and very wet spring weather and late planting, producers managed to get N applied on the crop that got planted.

Despite its limitations, anhydrous ammonia typically remains the lowest-cost source per unit of N, although application costs and safety concerns may decrease that advantage some. More importantly, ammonia is the form of N most likely to stay in the soil and remain available to the plant. Uniformity of application has improved with development of better equipment, and at 82% N, using ammonia means transporting less weight. As I’ve written many times before, there needs to be some N fertilizer applied near the row at or very soon after planting; UAN is probably a better source than ammonia to place N in this way. A nitrogen management program that includes perhaps a third of the N as preplant or planting-time UAN, then the rest as sidedressed ammonia, may be worth considering.

Going into the fall, the main challenge with ammonia application is to wait until soil temperatures are low enough to keep the nitrification process to a minimum. In a typical fall that means waiting until the end of October. While going a few days early may not seem like a big deal, remember that soil microbial activity doesn’t stop completely until temperatures near freezing, and with soil temperatures continuing to fluctuate, soils will usually spend some time at temperatures above 50 even if they’re at or below 50 on the day of application.

Source: Emerson Nafziger, University of Illinois

Many Market Ready Hogs with Industry Contraction to Follow

The USDA’s September Hogs and Pigs report places the September 1 inventory of all hogs and pigs at 79.1 million head, a record for this quarter, up just 0.7% from last year and slightly above the average pre-report estimate of 0.3% higher but still within the expected range. While down 0.7% from last quarter, the record for this quarter on its own could be viewed as a continuation of industry expansion. However, the somewhat higher than anticipated inventory basically reflects a market hog inventory that, at 0.8% higher than a year ago, is also just above pre-report expectations of 0.6% higher, while the breeding herd is down 1.5%, compared to expectations of 1.1% to 3.3% lower. That is, for two consecutive quarters, the cutting of the breeding herd in response to low prices may be signaling oncoming industry contraction; even if it is not as strong of a response as anticipated.

The number of hogs in the heaviest two weight classes of 120-to-179-pounds and over-180-pounds are up 6.1% and 9.8%, respectively from a year ago; well above pre-report expectations of 1.5% and 2.6% higher. If these numbers are accurate, then more market-ready supply exists than anticipated. Last June’s Hogs and Pigs Report also estimated above year-ago inventories for the top two weight classes, but slaughter last quarter fell well short of what those numbers implied. Why the discrepancy? It appears that although packers made great strides to return slaughter rates above 95% of capacity, COVID-19 related labor constraints and producers’ efforts to slow hog growth rates in response to concerns for slaughter capacity are the cause. With these market hog inventories and last spring’s pig crop unrevised, hog supply could exceed slaughter capacity this fall, putting downward pressure on near-term prices, despite strong potential for exports. Looking further out, both the under-50-pound and 50-to-119-pound classes come in 3.5% lower than last year, compared to expectations of only 2% and 0.3% lower. Overall, compared to a year ago, there are now 1.1% fewer hogs weighing less than 180 pounds, which will be the market hogs arriving at processing plants from October 2020 through February 2021.

The decline in lighter weight-class hogs partly reflects that the June-August pig crop—though not as small as the anticipated 4.9% drop—was almost 3.5% smaller than last year, with nearly 2.9% fewer sows farrowed and 11.04 pigs saved per litter—or about 0.6% lower than the 11.11 pigs per litter for the same period last year. With annual averages of 10.68 and 10.98 pigs per litter in 2018 and 2019, respectively, this year will almost certainly continue the upward trend observed over the last decade. The smaller pig crop should imply a similarly smaller slaughter this winter.

Farrowing intentions for the fall and winter, respectively, are down about 5% and 1% from the prior year. The projected drop for the fall, in particular, may be a bit large with only a 1.5% reduction in the breeding herd, and hence, may underestimate actual realized farrowings. Last June’s Hogs and Pigs Report estimated summer farrowing intentions to be 5% lower than the previous year with a 1.3% smaller breeding herd but, as noted above, only 2.9% fewer sows were farrowed. Still, the numbers suggest that producers have responded to lower prices and the possibility that COVID-19 could again constrain slaughter rates and demand.

If slaughter facilities that were previously shut down due to COVID-19 concerns, are able to continue operating at current slaughter rates or higher, there is plenty of room in cold storage, as it has not yet been replenished since being pulled down earlier during the pandemic. According to last week’s USDA cold storage report, cold stocks of pork on August 31 are up 2% from the previous month but still down 23% from a year ago. Poultry stocks are up 1% from last month but down 2% a year ago, while beef is up 5% from last month and down 2% from last year.

The USDA has revised its forecast of U.S. per capita pork consumption in 2020 back up to 51 pounds per person from its earlier estimate of 50.4, with the number dropping back to 50.6 pounds per person in 2021. Prior to COVID-19, U.S. per capita pork consumption reached 52.4 pounds in 2019 or the highest it has been since it was 54.2 pounds in 1981. With fairly stable domestic demand expected, exports remain the big wildcard.

The big news is that China, Korea, and Japan have temporarily banned pork imports from Germany due to detection of African Swine Fever in wild boars, which could help U.S. exports. While the dollar has been competitive, re-emerging COVID-19 concerns in parts of Europe are causing its value to rise relative to currencies of other countries that may be better suited to supply the pork products previously sourced from Germany. Prior to this news, the U.S. exported 555 million pounds of pork in July, or about 2.5% more than in July of 2019, again largely due to shipments to China and Hong Kong. These shipments and strong exports to Canada and Mexico partly reflect trade deals with these countries, which should continue to be important export markets for U.S. pork. Although the potential for COVID-19 to negatively impact demand remains, U.S. pork exports are still expected to exceed year ago levels.

The USDA estimates U.S. pork exports to be 1.75 and 2 billion pounds in the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2020, or about 16% and 10% greater, respectively, than last year. The 1st quarter of 2021 is forecast to just exceed the record 2.02 billion pounds for the 1st quarter of 2020, and the second quarter of 2021 is similarly forecast to be about on pace with 2nd quarter of 2020. Hence, export demand is expected to remain high.

Even with strong domestic and export demand, the large number of nearly market ready hogs and the lower than anticipated decrease in breeding inventory are likely to constrain prices for the remainder of 2020, with greater profit potential in 2021. The forecast presented here is for the national weighted average net price on a carcass basis for all transactions for producer-sold barrows and gilts, including negotiated and contract prices. This net price should be more reflective of what producers receive, on average, and normally runs at a premium of more than $2/cwt over the base price on average. This net price averaged $56.23/cwt for June, July, and August compared to $34.49/cwt for the corresponding net prices for negotiated or spot transactions.

Hog prices typically drop seasonally from the 3rd to 4th quarters, with much of that ground regained over the next two quarters. Assuming that the U.S. picks up some export demand due to bans on imports of German pork, this forecast diverges from that pattern with somewhat higher 4th quarter prices at about $64.15/cwt, reflecting that strong export demand tempered by slaughter capacity constraints. Of course, prices could rise even further if concerns for slaughtering bottlenecks, with the projected large inventories of nearly market ready hogs, prove unwarranted. For the first three quarters of 2021, prices are forecast to rise seasonally to $70.79/cwt, $73.24/cwt, and $79.19/cwt. However, if during that time, China’s hog production recovers sufficiently from its own bout with African Swine Fever, then export demand may be insufficient to reach these price projections.

YouTube Video: Discussion and graphs associated with this article at

Source: Jason Franken, Farmdocdaily

Precautions for Feeding Frosted and Drought-Stressed Forages

Livestock owners feeding forage need to keep in mind the potential for some forage toxicities and other problems that can develop this fall. High nitrates and prussic acid poisoning are the main potential concerns. These are primarily an issue with annual forages and several weed species, but nitrates can be an issue even in drought stressed perennial forages. There is also an increased risk of bloat when grazing legumes after a frost.

Nitrate Toxicity

Drought stressed forages can accumulate toxic nitrate levels. This can occur in many different forage species, including both annuals and perennials. Several areas in Ohio have been dry of late. Corn, oat and other small grains, sudangrass, and sorghum sudangrass, and many weed species including johnsongrass can accumulate toxic levels of nitrates. Even alfalfa can accumulate toxic nitrate levels under severe drought stress.

Before feeding or grazing drought stressed forage, send in a forage sample to be tested for nitrates. Most labs now offer nitrate tests, so it is likely that you can get a forage nitrate test by your favorite lab. Several labs are listed at the end of this article that do nitrate testing. This list is for your convenience and no labs are intentionally omitted. Check your chosen lab’s website or call them and follow their specific instructions about how to collect and handle the sample. The cost is well worth it against the risk of losing animals.

See the following references for more details:

Nitrates in Cattle Sheep and Goats (University of Wisconsin Extension)

Nitrates and Prussic Acid in Forages (Texas Cooperative Extension)

Nitrate accumulation in frosted forages. Freezing damage slows down metabolism in all plants, and this might result in nitrate accumulation in plants that are still growing, especially grasses like oats and other small grains, millet, and sudangrass.  This build-up usually is not hazardous to grazing animals, but greenchop or hay cut right after a freeze can be more dangerous. When in doubt, test the forage for nitrates before grazing or feeding it.

Prussic Acid Toxicity

Several forage and weed species contain compounds called cyanogenic glucosides that are converted quickly to prussic acid (i.e. hydrogen cyanide) in freeze-damaged plant tissues, or under drought conditions. Some labs provide prussic acid testing of forages. Sampling and shipping guidelines should be carefully followed because prussic acid is a gas and can dissipate during shipping leading to a false sense of security when no prussic acid is found in the sample.

Drought stress can affect prussic acid poisoning risk. Drought-stunted plants can contain or produce prussic acid and can possess toxic levels at maturity. Prussic acid poisoning can be associated with new regrowth following a drought-ending rain. Rain after drought plus young stages of plant maturity can combine to cause toxic levels of prussic acid in forage.

Plant age affects toxicity. Young, rapidly growing plants of species that contain cyanogenic glucosides will have the highest levels of prussic acid. Pure stands of indiangrass can have lethal levels of cyanide if they are grazed when the plants are less than 8 inches tall.

Species with prussic acid poisoning potential. Forage species that can contain prussic acid are listed below in decreasing order of risk of toxicity:

  • Grain sorghum = high to very high toxic potential
  • Indiangrass = high toxic potential
  • Sorghum-sudangrass hybrids and forage sorghums = intermediate to high potential
  • Sudangrass hybrids = intermediate potential
  • Sudangrass varieties = low to intermediate in cyanide poisoning potential
  • Piper sudangrass = low prussic acid poisoning potential
  • Pearl millet and foxtail millet = rarely cause toxicity

Species not usually planted for agronomic use can also develop toxic levels of prussic acid, including the following:

  • Johnsongrass
  • Shattercane
  • Chokecherry
  • Black cherry
  • Elderberry

It is always a good idea to check areas where wild cherry trees grow after a storm and pick up and discard any fallen limbs to prevent animals from grazing on the leaves and twigs.

Frost affects toxicity. Cyanogenic glucosides are converted quickly to prussic acid (i.e. hydrogen cyanide) in freeze-damaged plant tissues. Prussic acid poisoning potential is most common after the first autumn frost. New growth from frosted plants is palatable but can be dangerously high in prussic acid.

Fertility can affect poisoning risk. Plants growing under high nitrogen levels or in soils deficient in phosphorus or potassium will be more likely to have high prussic acid poisoning potential.

Fresh forage has more risk. After frost damage, cyanide levels will likely be higher in fresh forage as compared with silage or hay. This is because cyanide is a gas and dissipates as the forage is wilted and dried for making silage or dry hay.

Prussic Acid Toxicity Symptoms

Animals can die within minutes if they consume forage with high concentrations of prussic acid. Prussic acid interferes with oxygen transfer in the blood stream of the animal, causing it to die of asphyxiation. Before death, symptoms include excess salivation, difficult breathing, staggering, convulsions, and collapse.

Ruminants are more susceptible to prussic acid poisoning than horses or swine because cud chewing and rumen bacteria help release the cyanide from plant tissue.

Grazing Precautions Against Nitrate & Prussic Acid Poisoning

The following guidelines will help you avoid danger to your livestock this fall when feeding species with nitrates or prussic acid poisoning potential:

  • Under drought conditions, allow animals to graze only the upper one-third to one-half of the plant or the leaves of coarse-stemmed forages if the nitrate levels in these plant parts is safe. Monitor animals closely and remove them quickly when the upper portion of plants is grazed off.
  • Generally, forage nitrate levels drop significantly 3 to 5 days after sufficient rainfall, but it is always safer to send in a sample for testing before grazing or feeding forage soon after drought stress periods.
  • Making hay does not reduce nitrate levels in the forage, but the hay can be tested and diluted sufficiently with other feeds to make it safe for animals.
  • Ensiling forage converts nitrates to volatile nitrous oxides, or “silo gases”. These gases are highly toxic to humans. Safety practices include removing tarps from a portion of the silo a day or two before removing the silage from the bunker.
  • Do not graze on nights when frost is likely. High levels of toxic prussic acid are produced within hours after a frost, even if it was a light frost.
  • Do not graze after a killing frost until plants are dry, which usually takes 5 to 7 days.
  • After a non-killing frost, do not allow animals to graze for two weeks because the plants usually contain high concentrations of prussic acid.  
  • New growth may appear at the base of the plant after a non-killing frost. If this occurs, wait for a killing freeze, then wait another 10 to 14 days before grazing the new growth.
  • Do not allow hungry or stressed animals to graze young growth of species with prussic acid potential. To reduce the risk, feed ground cereal grains to animals before turning them out to graze.
  • Use heavy stocking rates (4-6 head of cattle/acre) and rotational grazing to reduce the risk of animals selectively grazing leaves that can contain high levels of prussic acid.
  • Never graze immature growth or short regrowth following a harvest or grazing (at any time of the year). Graze or greenchop sudangrass only after it is 15 to 18 inches tall. Sorghum-sudangrass should be 24 to 30 inches tall before grazing.
  • Do not graze wilted plants or plants with young tillers.


Green-chopping will not reduce the level of nitrates and is not likely to greatly reduce the level of prussic acid present. However, green-chopping frost-damaged plants will lower the risk compared with grazing directly, because animals are less likely to selectively graze damaged tissue. Stems in the forage dilute the high prussic acid content that can occur in leaves. However, the forage can still be toxic, so feed greenchop with great caution after a frost. If feeding greenchopped forage of species containing cyanogenic glucosides, feed it within a few hours of greenchopping, and do not leave greenchopped forage in wagons or feedbunks overnight.

Hay and Silage

Prussic acid content in the plant decreases dramatically during the hay drying process and the forage should be safe once baled as dry hay. The forage can be mowed any time after a frost if you are making hay. It is rare for dry hay to contain toxic levels of prussic acid. However, if the hay was not properly cured and dried before baling, it should be tested for prussic acid content before feeding to livestock.

Forage with prussic acid potential that is stored as silage is generally safe to feed. To be extra cautious, wait 5 to 7 days after a frost before chopping for silage. If the plants appear to be drying down quickly after a killing frost, it is safe to ensile sooner.

Delay feeding silage for 8 weeks after ensiling. If the forage likely contained high levels of cyanide at the time of chopping, hazardous levels of cyanide might remain and the silage should be analyzed before feeding.

Species That Can Cause Bloat After Frost

Forage legumes such as alfalfa and clovers have an increased risk of bloat when grazed one or two days after a hard frost. The bloat risk is highest when grazing pure legume stands and least when grazing stands having mostly grass.

The safest management is to wait a few days after a killing frost before grazing pure legume stands – wait until the forage begins to dry from the frost damage. It is also a good idea to make sure animals have some dry hay before being introduced to lush fall pastures that contain significant amounts of legumes. You can also swath your legume-rich pasture ahead of grazing and let animals graze dry hay in the swath.  Bloat protectants like poloxalene can be fed as blocks or mixed with grain. While this an expensive supplement, it does work well when animals eat a uniform amount each day.

Frost and Equine Toxicity Problems

(source: Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska)

Minnesota specialists report that fall pasture, especially frost damaged pasture, can have high concentrations of nonstructural carbohydrates, like sugars.  This can lead to various health problems for horses, such as founder and colic.  They recommend pulling horses off of pasture for about one week following the first killing frost.

High concentrations of nonstructural carbohydrates are most likely in leafy regrowth of cool-season grasses such as brome, timothy, and bluegrass but native warm-season grasses also may occasionally have similar risks.

Another unexpected risk can come from dead maple leaves that fall or are blown into horse pastures.  Red blood cells can be damaged in horses that eat 1.5 to 3 pounds of dried maple leaves per one thousand pounds of bodyweight.  This problem apparently does not occur with fresh green leaves or with any other animal type.  Fortunately, the toxicity does not appear to remain in the leaves the following spring.

Source: Ohio State University

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