Waiting on 2018 Soybean Harvest

The cool, damp weather has put the brakes on many acres of soybean harvest this year. Although the Upper Midwest has seen late harvest seasons in the past, this year is testing many farmers’ patience considering the wet weather of the past few weeks and current climate outlook.

Climate Outlook
October has started out very wet, which has followed on the heels of an exceptionally wet September. This excessive moisture has made field access impossible and stalled grain drying in field. Cool temperatures have further limited evaporation and the ability to dry grain in the field.

At the time of this writing, the latter part of October is trending drier in many forecast models. The area of cool temperatures will also gradually move to the east. However, there is limited ability to warm up substantially at the end of October as days are shorter and we have lower sun angle than in mid-summer. The additional moisture in the soils and atmosphere will also limit warming after the rain ends.

Drying
For most, the best case scenario is to wait out the weather. This means waiting until the precipitation stops and the sun comes out, making soils dry enough for field traffic-ability and hopefully lowering seed moisture content. With many commercial outlets taking only ‘dry’ soybeans (less than 13-14% moisture), the increase in commercial storage costs in some areas, and the current market outlook, many producers have made the decision that their beans will be heading to the bin. For long-term storage of soybeans (several months up to a year) it is recommended to dry soybeans down to 11% moisture; with drying facilities available on-farm, some producers may choose to harvest wet beans, but others will most likely wait out the damp fall as long as reasonably possible. For information on the limits of natural air-drying verses low or high temperature drying, view Grain Storage: Climate Inside The Bin.

As soybean pods mature and turn brown, seed moisture begins to decrease quickly. In a three-year Iowa State University study, researchers found that the dry down weight was affected by maturity group selection, planting date, and year. The study found that in the first 12 days after plant maturity begins, soybeans dried rapidly at 3.2% per day. Then, after 12 days, dry down was stabilized at approximately 13% moisture (Figure 1). Under these cool and humid conditions, seeds will tend to absorb additional moisture from the atmosphere, which will most likely cause many fields to be harvested above 13% this year if dry weather is not predicted soon.

Grain Quality
Depending upon how long crops may need to remain in the field, grain quality may become a concern. Many fungal soybean diseases such as Diaporthe pod and stem blight, Frogeye leaf spot, Anthracnose, and many other secondary fungi can impact seed quality. The weather conditions we have had during the growing season may have favored some of these diseases. At this point in the season, our main concerns are moisture and storage temperatures to prevent spoilage during storage. The best way to protect your crop from seed quality problems, is to get it out of the field and dried down as soon as possible. However, when balancing the forecast and drying costs with potential quality issues, each producer needs to consider what is best for their operation.

If soybeans are heavily affected by a late season fungi, they may reflect poor seed quality. In addition, although these soybean fungi are not known for toxicity, a livestock nutritionist should be consulted before adding any soybeans to a feeding ration. For additional information on feeding soybeans, view Adding Value to Soybeans Through Cattle.

When storing infected grain, keeping it dry is the key to prevent further colonization and maintain the best seed quality possible. We can avoid reoccurrence of some of these late season diseases by implementing crop rotation, planting resistant lines in 2019, utilize a fungicide seed treatment, and regularly scouting for disease infestation on stems and pods. For additional grain storage tips, view Storage Mold: Precautions to Avoid Grain Spoilage During Storage.

This year has been the perfect storm of late season moisture and temperature to cause harvest and seed quality issues. We cannot always avoid these problems, but salvaging the best harvest possible and managing for next year should be first priority.

Resources and References:

Source: iGrow

Be Careful Grazing the Green This Fall

With fall grazing upon us, some areas have been blessed with plenty of precipitation this year and other areas are still experiencing drought conditions. Regardless of where your ranch is located, a rancher must be very careful when grazing the fall green up of cool season grasses.

Cool season grasses have two growing seasons. They grow in the spring and early summer and then get another growth spurt in the fall. Warm season grasses grow later in the season during the summer and late summer and do not get another green up in the fall of the year.

Extreme diligence must be taken not to overgraze during the fall green up of cool season grasses. During the fall green up, cool season grasses are storing their energy reserves to ensure health through the dormant season and vigor next spring when the growing season starts again.

Tremendous damage to cool season grasses can happen if they are overgrazed during the fall green up and they are unable to build those root reserves. The plant will have less vigor next spring and may die out completely during the dormant season.

Native cool season grasses should not be grazed shorter than 6 inches in plant height. Also, by leaving sufficient plant height into the dormant season the soil surface will be protected from erosion and snow capture during the winter is optimized.

Source: Sean Kelly, iGrow

Cowsonality Important to a Productive Cow Herd

Developing and maintaining a producing cow herd is no easy task, and doing that task well is close to the heart of every producer.

Even when the cows aren’t tagged, every producer can pick out the favorite cow or cows and recite a unique story about many of them. That brings us to the topic of “cowsonality,” the attitude and behavior exhibited by individual cows that contribute to their place in the development of a productive cow herd.

Those anecdotes are indicative of each cow’s cowsonality, which, if positive, is an important trait to retain in the herd.

That brings us to the process of who stays and who gets marketed, along with the debate of raising or buying replacements. Producers realize that successful cow herds are more than just what is on paper. Knowing the cowsonality within your cow herd is important and is often the reason producers opt to raise their own replacements. Good cow families are the core of a herd.

In the fall, as the cows are gathered, perhaps some reflection from the cow’s point of view is good:

“I have tried to keep an eye on you (the calf) as we follow the annual trek, a path I know well,” the cow says. “I hope you learned as I prepare to ‘cut the cord’ and say goodbye, at least for now. This summer was pleasant. The grass now is not what it was earlier in the year. The chill in the air means the horses and riders will be appearing on the horizon to take us home.

“It seems like yesterday when all 84 pounds of you arrived (the same weight as my first calf) during a dark, chilly April night with no complications. I am glad my producer has chosen some warmer times to calve. I certainly do not miss those cold nursing periods with minus 30-degree wind chills.

“When you were born, I had a slight chill, but a good time, and the help were proud when their flashlight showed you up and nursing. A gentle ‘moo’ satisfied them and they moved on to check a young heifer calving just below the hill.

“As I get older, I appreciate a lighter birthweight. I remember your 105-pound older brother. I had to more than sneeze to pop him out, but I was in my prime, a strong 6 years of age and boss of bunk No. 9.

“Today, at 12, I’m holding my own. This year had good, green grass over our knees. The rancher said the crested wheat was good this year, and the trails in the native summer pastures were familiar. That next generation of ‘know-it-alls’ who took over Bunk 9 last winter had to ask for guidance through the wide-open spaces of the northwest pasture.

“After all, I know the choice spots to graze and nurture a young, growing heifer like you. The watering holes soon were learned by all your friends; the smell of summer grass was soothing and produced milk for your well-being.

“Summer was one of those dry, but sometimes wet, years when we had to look a little harder to find the grass at times. The grass was good as riders started to scout the pasture for all the family. I know well where your cousin hides. For some reason, she is always the last to come in. I guess she is smarter than the average, but to no avail.

“Your growth report card is great. You weighed in at 608 pounds, gained 2.14 pounds a day, framed in at 5.5 and weighed 2.48 pounds per day of age. I’m pleased at how you have performed, and I noticed you didn’t get unruly when the herdsman gave you your vaccinations. That is a plus.

“I remember one of your sisters turning on the herdsman when she came out of the chute. I haven’t seen her since. The crew mumbled something about disposition, and your father’s temper, which your sister inherited.

“Let’s enjoy these next couple of weeks. If history holds, once we are turned into the stubble, our final separation is not too far away. I noticed the word ‘replacement’ on the comment section of your report card. The other heifers averaged 536 pounds, so that puts your ranking very high. With a 5.5 frame score, you will fit in fine.

“My advice to you: Eat a balanced diet, watch your winter weight gain and wiggle your ears when you see anybody with a pipette in their hand in the spring. Now, I can feel Junior doing a few cartwheels getting ready for next spring’s delivery, so we better get back to eating to maintain my current weight at 1,250 pounds and condition score at 6. At my age, I don’t want to give the crew any reason to look twice.”

At the same time, producers looking over the herd may be wondering, “What is that cow really thinking?”

Cowsonality is real and, when selecting replacements, I hope it is making the cow herd more functional and productive. The best advice for producers may need to be filtered by taking time to understand the cows within the herd, and after a lifetime of understanding, a producer becomes a rancher, one who knows the land and the cattle.

Remember to take care and appreciate that individual cowsonality, and that cow will take care of you.

Weather Creating Harvest Challenges for Soybean Growers

Fall 2018’s cool, damp weather has put the brakes on many acres of soybean harvest this year.

“This year has been the perfect storm of late season moisture and temperature to cause harvest and seed quality issues,” said Sara Bauder, SDSU Extension Agronomy Field Specialist. “We cannot always avoid these problems, but salvaging the best harvest possible and managing for next year should be first priority.”

To aid soybean growers, Bauder, together with Laura Edwards, SDSU Extension State Climatologist and Connie Strunk, SDSU Extension Plant Pathology Field Specialist, share best practices.

Late harvest
“Although growers have seen late harvest seasons in the past, this year is testing many farmers’ patience considering the wet weather of the past few weeks and current climate outlook,” Edwards explained.

Edwards references data from the High Plains Regional Climate Center, explaining that October started out very wet, following on the heels of an exceptionally wet September.

“In the Sioux Falls’ area, 9.5-inches of rain was reported between September 1 and October 9,” Edwards said. “This excessive moisture has made field access impossible and stalled grain drying in field.”

Edwards added, “Cool temperatures have further limited evaporation and the ability to dry grain in the field.”

Drier weather predicted

Although current forecast models predict drier weather ahead, (as of October 10, 2018), with cool temperatures gradually moving east, Edwards said even if predictions are true, they will not help South Dakota’s soybean growers much.

“There is limited ability to warm up substantially at the end of October, as days are shorter and we have lower sun angle than in mid-summer,” Edwards said. “The additional moisture in the soils and atmosphere also limits warming and grain drying after the rain ends.”

Drying
Bauder said for most, the best case scenario this soybean harvest is to wait out the weather.

“This means, waiting until the precipitation stops and the sun comes out, making soils dry enough for field traffic-ability and hopefully lowering seed moisture content,” she said.

Based on multiple factors, many producers have made the decision to store soybeans on-farm. Some of these factors include:

  • Farmers holding over old grain
  • Many commercial outlets only accepting dry soybeans (less than 13 to 14 percent moisture)
  • Increased commercial storage costs in some areas
  • Current market outlook

“For long-term storage of soybeans (several months up to a year), it is recommended to dry soybeans down to 11 percent moisture,” Bauder said. “With drying facilities available on-farm, some producers may choose to harvest wet beans, but others will most likely wait out the damp fall as long as reasonably possible.”

Cool & humid conditions not ideal
“Under these cool and humid conditions, seeds will tend to absorb additional moisture from the atmosphere, which will most likely cause many fields to be harvested above 13 percent this year if dry weather is not predicted soon,” Bauder said.

As soybean pods mature and turn brown, seed moisture begins to decrease quickly.

In a three-year Iowa State University study, researchers found that soybeans’ dry down weight was affected by maturity group selection, planting date, and year.

The study found in the first 12 days after plant maturity begins, soybeans dried rapidly at 3.2 percent per day. Then, after 12 days, dry down was stabilized at approximately 13 percent moisture (Figure 1).

Grain quality issues
Depending upon how long crops may need to remain in the field, grain quality may become a concern, because certain diseases thrive in current weather conditions,explained Strunk.

“Many fungal soybean diseases, such as Diaporthe pod and stem blight, Frogeye leaf spot, Anthracnose and many other secondary fungi, can impact seed quality,” Strunk said.

Strunk said that at this point in the season, soybean growers’ main concerns are moisture and storage temperatures to prevent spoilage during storage.

“The best way to protect your crop from seed quality problems is to get it out of the field and dried down as soon as possible,” Strunk said. “However, when balancing the forecast and drying costs with potential quality issues, each producer needs to consider what is best for their operation.”

Consult nutritionist before feeding infected soybeans
If soybeans are heavily affected by a late season fungi, they may reflect poor seed quality. And, Strunk said that although these soybean fungi are not known for toxicity, a livestock nutritionist should be consulted before adding any soybeans to a feeding ration.

When storing infected grain, Strunk said keeping it dry is key to preventing further colonization and maintain the best seed quality possible.

“We can avoid re-occurrence of some of these late season diseases by implementing crop rotation, planting resistant lines in 2019, utilize a fungicide seed treatment and regularly scouting for disease infestation on stems and pods,” Strunk said.

Source: iGrow

Silage Harvest Options for a Wet Fall

Fall has arrived; however, with many saturated fields, some producers are growing concerned that there will be little to no opportunity to harvest silage before corn dries down past desired moisture levels or frost occurs. There is no easy fix to a ‘missed’ silage cutting, but there are a few options to consider.

Creating quality silage is most dependent on harvest plant moisture. Ideally, when chopping silage, kernels should be 1/3 to 2/3 down the milk line and on average, 32-38% dry matter (Akins, 2018). Harvesting at over 40% dry matter reduces digestibility of fiber and starch, and also causes packing issues. More specifically, the optimum silage moisture ranges from 55-60% for upright oxygen-limiting solos, 60-65% for upright stave silos, 60-70% for bags, and 65-70% for bunkers (Bernhart, 2018). In other words, wetter silage tends to work better in bags, bunkers, and piles for better packing; dryer silage tends to work better in upright silos to minimize seepage. For information on calculating dry matter view Moisture the Critical Component to Good Silage.

What Now?
There are still a few options for farmers who want to produce wet feed this year and are growing concerned of corn drying down too quickly. Equipment availability and plant moisture should help determine what works best on your operation. If precipitation continues, famers may have to wait until freeze-up to enter some fields.

Chopping Dry Silage
Although not ideal for optimum feed value and storage, if a producer chooses to chop silage above 40% dry matter, there are several considerations to make:

  • Reduce chop length to release more plant fluids and improve packing.
  • Use a kernel processor to improve digestibility- the more mature the corn the less digestible it becomes.
  • Use silage inoculants to improve fermentation. Liquid inoculants may be more effective in dry silage.
  • If piling or using bunker silos, use extra heavy tractors for packing and pack no more than 6 inches at a time.
  • Blend wetter feeds with your dry silage like forage sorghum, alfalfa, or later-planted green corn.
  • Place your wettest forage on the top layer of the pile or horizontal bunker for sealing and weight. Adding water to the top layer of the pile may also help with this.
  • Cover tightly with silage plastic and/or oxygen barrier to keep the environment as anaerobic as possible.

Some producers may choose to add water as they pile or fill silos; however, it takes approximately 7 gallons of water for every ton of silage to raise moisture content 1 point and corn plant material absorbs water quite slowly. Therefore, a large amount of water would be required at a very fast rate to keep up with most silage harvest processes, making wetting nearly impossible to render major results.

Remember that dry silage can often heat and mold, lowering protein digestibility and energy; this happens mainly due to oxygen embedded in the silage due to poor packing.

Chopping Earlage
Earlage is defined as ensiled corn grain, cobs, and in some cases, husks and a portion of the stalk depending upon harvest method (Lardy, 2016). With an energy content higher than corn silage but lower than corn grain and a similar protein content to corn silage, earlage makes a good alternative. Ideally moisture content is 35 to 40% (60-65% dry matter). A silage chopper with a snapper head can be used. Other producers have successfully used combines set to retain a portion of the cob with the grain. Much like silage, if harvested too wet, seepage may occur; if harvested too dry it will not pack well which will cause excessive spoilage. Things to consider when chopping earlage:

  • Make sure that every kernel is cracked and that the cob portions are no larger than a thumbnail to improve pack density and digestibility.
  • Consider using a kernel processor to improve digestibility.
  • Use inoculants to improve fermentation.
  • If piling or using bunker silos, use extra heavy tractors for packing.
  • Cover tightly with silage plastic and/or an oxygen barrier to keep the environment as anaerobic as possible.

Baling Corn Residue
Although removing all corn residue off of a field in the late fall is hard on soil health (much like chopping silage), if an operator feels it is their only option, harvesting corn for grain and baling corn residue may be a viable feed option. Corn grain and corn stover can be ground and mixed into feed rations as an alternative to feeding corn silage. Contact an animal nutritionist for assistance creating a total mixed ration. If at all possible, plan on returning manure with or without bedding to these fields to help replace soil organic matter.

Grazing Corn
This practice can be accomplished successfully, but it requires intensive management and involves livestock health risks if not carefully monitored. Strip grazing and/or limit feeding are both important parts of grazing corn fields. For more information on grazing standing corn see the OSU Using Corn for Livestock Grazing fact sheet.

Swath grazing is sometimes a good alternative to grazing standing corn. In this process the producer swaths the standing corn or corn stover and allows mature cattle to graze throughout the winter.

Nitrates can be a concern if the corn crop was under stress, particularly drought. Grain overload or founder is a greater concern. If access is not strictly controlled, cattle run the risk of severe digestive upset or death due to consuming too much corn at one.

Again, swath grazing the entire corn plant requires intensive management. Implementing this strategy should be planned carefully and in most cases is a last resort if all other options to salvage value are not feasible.

Baling the Entire Plant
Although not recommended, baling standing corn can be accomplished in some cases. According to Bruce Anderson, UNL Extension Forge Specialist, whole plant dry matter levels should be at 80%+ when baling. Stalks should be conditioned or cut with a rotary mower to allow moisture to escape. Getting stalks dry for baling, keeping bales tight, and avoiding ear molds in this case can be very difficult. If a producer does bale standing corn it is best to feed bales quickly to avoid storage problems.

What to Watch For
Flooded corn can contain many contaminants. Watch for corn ear molds, stalk molds, and if the plant is quite dirty, soil contaminants. Preservatives and fermentation do not lower the concentration of these toxins in your feed. If you have concerns or have seen any of these issues in the field, first consider identifying ear or stalk diseases. Then, contact your crop insurance agent to determine the right procedure. For more information on moldy corn and silage concerns view Moldy Corn and Corn Silages Q&A.

Pricing or Buying Feed
If it becomes necessary, use the Silage Earlage Decision Aid for help pricing silage or earlage in South Dakota. Alternatively, use the Feed & Forage Finder for help finding feed for sale in your area.

This has been a challenging year with heavy spring precipitation and now extensive fall precipitation in some parts of southeastern SD. Remember, all hope is not lost for your silage crop- keep the options above in mind and have a safe harvest this year. 

Source: Sara Bauder, iGrow

Grain Storage: Do’s and Don’t’s

Fall is a very busy time on most grain farms in South Dakota. In the hustle and bustle of running the combine, hauling grain, and storing or selling a crop, it is easy to forget the importance of safety. According to the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), agriculture ranks among the most hazardous industries. This does not come by surprise to most ag producers. However, the potential for accidents due to inexperience or complacency (after many years of farming) is real.

Every year, farmers across the US are injured or killed in grain handling related accidents. In 2017, 54 cases of agricultural ‘confined space-related’ accidents were reported, with 31 fatalities in total. Of these incidents, grain entrapment was the leading cause with 23 cases reported, resulting in 12 fatalities. (Figure 1). According to a recent publication, South Dakota had one reported confined space incident in 2017, but 49 cases documented since 1962 (n=1989) (Cheng and Field, 2018). It takes only 3-4 seconds to be rendered helpless in flowing grain, and the average person can be buried in about 20 seconds (Hellevang, 2013).

Suffocation, entanglement, crushing, explosions, and carbon dioxide poisoning are some of the biggest risk factors when handling grain. What steps can be taken to keep yourself, your family, or your employees from becoming a statistic? Education and precaution should come first; farm safety should be a daily habit for all involved in the operation.

Safety Tools to Install
Install exit ladders inside of bins. Paint them with bright colors to make them easy to see in a dark, dusty environment.
Hang a ‘life-line’ from the center of the roof to provide an additional escape route (Figure 2). Life-lines are available for commercial purpose or you can create one by attaching a rope with knots or a sturdy hanging ladder from the peak of the inside of a bin.
Lock out procedures should be in place on grain moving equipment so that when entering a bin, no one else can turn on augers or other equipment. This can be as simple as a padlock.
Use safety decals on storage facilities as a reminder of the dangers of flowing grains.
Be sure all exterior ladders are stable and caged (especially if longer than 20’) to avoid falls upon entrance.
Figure 3
Figure 2. Always stop machinery before entering bins. Use a life line if you must enter a grain bin! If improperly used, a life line can cause injury to the spinal column. Install a permanent life line in each bin. Courtesy: NDSU Extension

Operating Procedures
Never allow children to play or work in the area of flowing grain no matter what the circumstance.
Before entering a bin, shut off power to all grain moving equipment and lock it out to prevent others from starting equipment while you’re inside.
Never enter a bin/wagon/truck when grain is flowing.
Always wear a safety harness when entering bins.
Upon entering a bin, stay near the outer wall and keep walking if grain starts to move.
If grain is crusted, take extra caution (Figure 3). Break up crust from outside the bin with a long rod or stick before entering, taking care to avoid electrical lines.
If grain is in a steep pile, use a long pole to dislodge- not a shovel.
Work in groups. Grain handling can be very dangerous and having 2-3 people present at all times can significantly impact the safety of workers, especially in the event of an emergency.
Wear an appropriate filtered mask when working in bins, especially when cleaning.
Figure 3
Figure 3. Hollows may develop under crusted grain when grain is removed from the bin; this forms a bridge of grain. When the bridge collapses under your weight, you can be buried in seconds. Courtesy: NDSU Extension

Rescue Procedures
Shut off and lock out any grain-moving equipment and call for help.
If someone is totally covered in grain, turn on the fan to move air into the bin- always assume the submerged person is alive.
Protect rescue workers with safety lines and respiratory equipment.
Avoid exerting additional grain pressure on the victim and use retaining walls around them.
Cut V or U shaped holes in bin side (~5’ up) to drain grain if victim is submerged. Use a loader, saw or air chisel; cutting torches are a last resort as they pose a fire danger. Be very careful of bin collapse if unloaded unevenly.
In addition to bins and other storage facilities, there are several pieces of hazardous equipment to be mindful of while working with grain. Grain augers, wagons, trucks, fans and dryers all come with dangers and deserve the operators attention and respect to avoid accidents.

Don’t become a farm accident statistic! Assessing your grain handling facilities and discussing the dangers with family and employees may save a life this year. For additional information on grain handling topics see the links listed in ‘References’ as well as those in ‘Additional Resources’.

Time to Pregnancy Check Cows

Harvest is well underway which means the breeding season should be wrapping up soon for spring calving herds. If you have thought to yourself recently “When did we turn out the bulls?”, you might work on a very busy operation. The start and end of the breeding season needs to be put on the calendar just like other special events. By planning when to pull bulls, other tasks such as weaning and pregnancy checks can be planned.

Determine Breeding Season Length
The length of the breeding season is directly correlated to the length of the calving season. However, it seems that everyone is always ready for calving to be done, but never ready to pull the bulls. With proper herd management, nutrition and body condition, cows should be cycling within a month after calving. Therefore, when bulls are turned out to pasture, a majority of cows should be capable of conceiving at first service. According to CHAPS data (NDSU), 60% of cows should conceive during the first 21 days of the breeding season. So, the remaining 40% should be able to conceive during the next 21 days, right? Outside factors such as bull servicing ability and environment (heat, flies, pasture quality), can make meeting this benchmark difficult. One option that is often the best of both worlds, is to strive for a 60-day breeding season that should yield optimal pregnancy rates, while still resulting in a condensed calving season and uniform calf crop.

Pregnancy Detection
With the evolution of technology, there are several methods of pregnancy detection available for producers to choose. Rectal palpation has been utilized for decades, and still remains as a viable way for an experienced person to physically palpate the fetus and determine the gestation length (age of the fetus). This method is quick, requires no extra equipment and is a low cost option for producers. Palpation can be done starting at day 45 up to the last trimester. Another option available is transrectal ultrasonography. With this method, an ultrasound machine connected to a probe inserted in the rectum, either by hand or with a hands-free probe extender, allowing the fetus to be examined visually. Advantages of ultrasound include earlier determination of pregnancy (as early as 30 days), more accurate fetal age determination, sexing, presence of multiple fetuses, as well as visual inspection of other structures of the reproductive tract. Lastly, blood tests can detect pregnancy by measuring the amount of pregnancy-associated glycoproteins (PAGs) secreted by the placenta. Blood sample taken as early as day 28 and can be evaluated for these PAGs. The advantages of blood tests are they can be done early, and do not require skilled technicians. However, some disadvantages are that results are not immediate and cattle cannot be sorted immediately. Lastly, if the pregnancy is lost, PAGs will remain in the blood for an extended period of time, so false positives are possible and companies recommend re-checking the pregnancy again later in the season.

Open vs. Bred Cow Price
Bred cows are worth more than open cows, so why should the bulls be pulled? Leaving the bulls in year round can be a much less efficient program to manage. For example, preg-checking cows before removing bulls from the pasture can be difficult for the technician, since fetuses of all ages will be present. In addition, cows that may appear “open”, could be less than 30 days bred, and will have to be re-checked at a later date to be certain of her pregnancy status. At the same time, the fetuses in cows bred early in the season may be difficult to age since calves will be large and out of arms reach. If you forget to pull the bull or if a longer breeding season is required to increase pregnancy rates, for financial and management reasons, cows should be managed and sorted based on pregnancy distribution. Preg-checking cows and keeping all early bred cows can be one way accomplish this. Anything bred later than desired (after 45 or 60 days) could then be marketed to herds that calve later than yours do. Cows that come up open can be marketed either right after pregnancy check to eliminate further feed costs or feed a high energy ration to increase weight and condition before sale at a later date.

To-Do List
Take some time to calculate how long bulls have been out to pasture, and determine when they need to be pulled based on your marketing, weaning and cow herd goals. Determine the desired calving season length and dedicate yourself to selling later bred cows. Lengthening the breeding season doesn’t mean greater revenue, and can often be the exact opposite. By properly managing the breeding season and pregnancy checking cows, bred cows can be managed more efficiently throughout the winter months.

Source: Taylor Grussing, iGrow

Storage Mold: Precautions to Avoid Grain Spoilage During Storage

Harvesting of corn and soybean is underway and/or will soon be starting throughout the state. Growers need to be aware of storage mold which can spoil the grain during storage. This is especially important for those who are storing their grain for longer periods of time as part of their grain marketing strategy.

The main pathogens responsible for seed spoilage during storage are fungal pathogens and these can be grouped into two types: i) field fungi and ii) storage fungi. Field fungi are those which infect grain in the field and require higher grain moisture content (>20%) for infection to take place. During storage when moisture content is low, these fungi are not active. Storage fungi; on the other hand, may contaminate the seed and do not usually invade the seed in the field but instead develop on the seed in storage under optimum conditions. Storage fungi spoil the grain by reducing dry matter content, rotting the seed, and lowering nutritional quality and some of these fungi may also produce mycotoxins which are poisonous when consumed either by livestock or humans.

Risk Factors for Mold Development During Storage
A number of factors increase the risk for storage mold to develop. These include:

  • Presence of inoculum on the grain before storage
  • Initial grain moisture content and moisture content throughout storage period
  • Impurities in the grain such as weed seed, insects, broken seed, plant debris
  • Storage temperature
  • Storage length

Storage fungi are ubiquitous and may contaminate the seed during harvesting, transportation, bin loading or during storage. However, grain that has already been invaded by field fungi is likely to deteriorate faster if proper storage conditions are not followed. The main risk factor for storage fungi to develop is grain moisture content at time of harvest and during storage. Fungal pathogens require a minimum amount of moisture in order to germinate and invade the grain. When the moisture level is below this threshold, the pathogen propagule remain on the seed surface without causing any damage. Moisture in stored grain may also increase due to leaks in the storage bins or from moisture resulting from convention currents. Active insects in the grain, in addition to, breaking the physical barrier for pathogens to initiate infection also increase temperature and moisture in the stored grain through their feeding and respiration. Impurities such as weed seed increase the risk of storage mold because these contain high moisture content and may provide an initial infection point. Broken seeds, as well as, insect carcasses such as dead grasshoppers may also provide the moisture needed for infection initiation.

Temperature and length of storage can also influence the development of storage fungi. Grain stored below 50 F will have a lower tendency to develop storage fungi. At higher temperatures in the storage bin, fungal pathogens become more active. Similarly, the length of time when grain is in storage influences the extent of storage fungi development. Grain with a high moisture content can be stored safely for a few weeks before processing. However, such grain would quickly deteriorate if stored at a high moisture content for a longer period of time (months).


Management

  • Prevention of storage mold by monitoring pre-harvest and post-harvest grain moisture content is the best way to manage storage fungi. For recommended moisture content at harvest and options for drying grain, refer to Grain Storage: It Starts With Harvest. Recommended moisture content for soybean grain storage to limit storage mold growth is <12% and <13% for corn.
  • Grain should be cleaned to ensure the grain is free of broken seeds, plant debris, insect carcasses, and other foreign material.
  • Ensure grain bins and handling systems are clean to limit introducing debris and old grain that may have high moisture content.
  • Storage insects and rodents should be managed in order to avoid injury to the grain, and the temperature and moisture content should be monitored to observe if a change occurs such as a rise in temperature or moisture content as a result of the pests’ feeding and respiration. See How do I
  • Manage Insects in my Stored Grain?
  • Monitor temperature and grain crusting during storage. Aerate grain periodically and equalize temperature throughout the grain mass in the storage facility.

Source: Emmanuel Byamukama, iGrow

Autumn Care of Evergreen Trees

We expect oaks, maples and sycamores to change colors and shed leaves each autumn, but many are surprised and concerned when evergreens begin to shed needles. Most conifers stay green all year, but they do drop needles in the fall – just not all of them. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulturists answer questions about evergreens, shedding light on what’s natural and what needs attention.

In recent days, some of the needles on my white pines have turned yellow and begun dropping to the ground. Is this a problem?

The yellowing and needle loss is probably due to seasonal needle drop. Deciduous trees, such as maple and ash, drop all of their leaves in fall. Though it largely goes unnoticed, evergreens also lose a portion of their foliage (needles) on a yearly basis. Seasonal needle drop on most evergreens occurs in fall.

Needle loss is most noticeable on white pines. As much as one-half of the needles on white pines may drop in early fall. Seasonal needle loss is less noticeable on spruces, firs and other pines as they retain a higher percentage of their needles. Seasonal needle drop is uniformly distributed throughout the inner part of the evergreen. It is the oldest needles which are shed. The needles turn uniformly yellow or brown and drop to the ground.

There are several bands of holes around the trunk of my pine tree. Is the tree infested with borers?

The holes were likely created by sapsuckers. Sapsuckers, members of the woodpecker family, damage trees by drilling holes in the trunk or large branches. Sapsucker damage is very distinctive. They drill uniform, quarter-inch holes in distinct rows. (In contrast, the holes created by insects are random.) Sap that flows from these wounds is eaten by the sapsuckers. They also feed on insects, such as ants, beetles and wasps, which are attracted to the sap. The damage caused by sapsuckers is usually not serious.

Sapsuckers can destroy trees if they drill several rows of holes around the trunk within a small area. The bands of holes effectively girdle the tree trunk. To discourage additional damage to trees, home gardeners can wrap a piece of burlap around the damaged area. Another option would be to spread a sticky substance, such as Tanglefoot, around the affected area. Trees most commonly attacked by sapsuckers include apple, crabapple, sugar maple, mountain ash, birch and pine.

My Scotch pine suddenly turned brown and died this past summer. Why?

Pine wilt is likely responsible for the death of the Scotch pine. Infected trees turn brown and die within a few months. Pine wilt mainly attacks Scotch pines. However, it may also infect Austrian, red and other non-native pines.

Pine wilt is caused by the pinewood nematode, a microscopic worm. The nematodes clog the water-conducting vessels of the pine tree, causing the tree to wilt and die. It is spread from tree to tree by pine sawyer beetles. Infected, dying trees are often attacked by secondary bark beetles, which leave small holes in the trunk and carry a fungus that causes blue staining of the wood, often visible as blue radial wedges when the trunk is cut in cross-section.

Pine wilt cannot be controlled with chemical treatments. Dead trees should be removed during the winter months when pine sawyer beetles are inactive. The dead trees should be promptly chipped, burned, or buried to reduce the risk of the beetles spreading the disease to healthy trees.

Source: Iowa State University

The Challenge of Managing Human Resources

A major challenge to beef production today is finding the right labor force with training, knowledge and common sense.

Factors such as pay, time and place are important, and, yes, the beef production business has lots of discussable points. But the bottom line is this: Having the right team is critical to the success of the day’s desired outcomes.

Managers are challenged every day to interact and engage with those who work for them to meet the day’s predetermined goal. Cattle operations do not often have human resource departments to assist with finding the right team members. That task generally is relegated to the manager.

I am not an expert, but allow me to share some “in-the-field” management training perceptions. One key is being positive: What can we do, not what we can’t do.

Of paramount importance is management presence, which is necessary in serving and assisting the team. Managers need to be present, displaying consistent, predictable actions that make those they supervise relaxed and comfortable.

Jumping through hoops, opening opportunities in situations that seem stagnant, shifting excessive burdens or simply adding words of encouragement to move forward allows growth. People prefer consistent, predictable expectations within their daily life, at work and at home.

Another important factor is risk. Employees need an assurance that if they take a risk, they still have a supportive network behind them. Growth requires risk.

However, I believe people can become too complacent. A manager must know when congratulatory, appreciative praise is appropriate versus the occasional tap indicative of decreasing or mediocre work performance. I believe all people have the capacity to excel in their job within their own capacity to perform.

As a manager, appropriate acknowledgment must occur, regardless of perceived job importance or ranking. Productive efforts will succeed quicker from a strong, broad base within a well-focused team. Acknowledging the base is critical.

I believe not all people are congenial toward co-workers. Invariably, a negative person-to-person interaction within the work environment arises. The manager must understand how these relationships develop and why the situation persists, and take the appropriate action, which could mean seeking outside advice and professional help.

I also believe that managers:

  • Must be prepared to deal with crises, which occur even with excellent managerial processes – An appropriate assessment, evaluation and implementation of a response plan must occur with timely decisions and follow-up. All crises eventually must lead to preventive programs when feasible.
  • Are leaders who listen, evaluate and respond – Managers must maintain an adequate working knowledge of the disciplines they supervise to redirect or re-inspire employees successfully.
  • Must be fiscally savvy – The world still functions on money and, without money, even the best ideas wither. Appropriate fiscal management teams must be developed and utilized to assure a broad-based, thorough review of all aspects of management.
  • Must be a reflection on what life means and how we live – We each have an obligation for the future and are called to look for hope and inspiration. Leadership allows a self-determining planning process to focus on what we truly seek, which is a future that does not jeopardize future generations.
  • Are challenged to use present resources to move forward and opportunistically impact the future through leadership and service – Preparation and consensus-building within the many choices are critical. Managers need to look to the future and give witness to the determination of a successful future.
  • Need to challenge conventional thinking – A new consensus can turn the fork in the road into multiple options that enrich our spirituality, create viable communities and sustain individual lifestyles within various environments.

In summary, following lessons learned in biosecurity and crisis management, one person can hold only seven balls; the eighth ball always will fall to the ground. Management is no different; I can only do so much.

The key to success is knowing when someone is handing you the eighth ball. Oftentimes, as a manager, the response is, “I will do it myself!” Unfortunately, such a response only results in a tired manager at the end of the day and a less responsive team tomorrow.

The bottom line: People are people. People do not come with a set of instructions, yet their capacity to learn is exponential. Harnessing that goodness for the betterment of the whole is the heart of every good manager. And remember, yes, the cows are important, but people come first.

Source: North Dakota State University

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