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Beef Systems

Click to view Archived News Articles by Ben Beckman
Ben Beckman is a beef systems Extension Educator serving the counties of Antelope, Cedar, Knox, Madison and Pierce.  He is based out of the Cedar County Extension office in Hartington.  You can reach him by phone: (402) 254-6821 or email:

Despite the cold temperatures this week, pastures are greening up. As we let animals out to summer pasture, deciding which pastures should be first and when to pull the trigger are important questions to consider. While the plants we utilize in a pasture develop to withstand grazing, it still puts a certain amount of stress on them when it happens. As leaf material is removed, the plant has to pull upon reserves in the stems and roots to restart growth and build back the area for photosynthesis that was lost. Base the time of turn-out to plant growth, not a set date, shooting for the 3 leaf stage of target grasses. Rotate grazing sequence of pastures throughout the season to prevent stressing specific species annually. Utilize targeted grazing on unwanted species to set them back and give the rest of your pasture a chance to fill in.
Poison hemlock and its cousin, water hemlock, are on the list of top ten poisonous Nebraska plants. A species that has really seemed to take over in wet or moist soils across the eastern portion of the state, hemlock can cause serious issues if ingested, by either livestock or humans. Proper identification is key to control as it can be confused with non-toxic species like wild carrot. The good news is that hemlock can be controlled with mowing or herbicide applications. Do not try to control hemlock during the grazing season!
Proper stocking is a cornerstone of proper grazing management and a healthy pasture. While we might be aware of the importance of proper stocking, we may fail to properly adjust rates to match the current reality of our operation. Proper stocking depends on two factors, animal intake and pasture productivity. Changes to either of these factors requires an adjustment to occur.
A good bull is the cornerstone of any cow calf operation. Cows influence the genetic makeup of only one calf every year, but a bull has the opportunity to impact 20-50 calves depending on the breeding season. Making sure your bulls are able to locate and breed cows this breeding season is vital to success and a good way to test that is with a Breeding Soundness Exam, or BSE. Young bulls entering their first breeding season should have a BSE as well as older bulls that have had a health problem, injury, or scrotal damage due to extreme cold during the winter.
Greening spring pastures and growing cover crops are great opportunities for livestock to graze and get out of yards and dry lots. However, this is also the perfect set of conditions for a case of grass tetany. Grass tetany is the result of low levels of magnesium in an animal’s blood stream. This mineral imbalance can be brought on by diet due to low magnesium levels in lush, newly growing grass. With proper management, it doesn’t have to negatively impact your herd. Plan now to adjust grazing management or mineral supplementation for a tetany-free spring.