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Livestock 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:

Pastures are short this year, hay is in tight supply, and the cost of feeding a cow is up. Whether feeding your own hay or buying on the market, having the hay tested to know it’s true value is vital.
Winter can be a stressful time for pasture plants, but sending them into the cold months ahead fully prepared will result in better growth when warmth returns next spring. With dry conditions already putting a strain on our pastures, how we manage this fall can have a big impact next year.
With forage being tight this year as we head into winter, a late alfalfa cutting may be on your mind, but we need to take into consideration the impactions a harvest in later September or October have for next spring. Typically alfalfa needs six weeks of uninterrupted growth before the average first frost to winterize.
Late summer always seems like a time when weeds can become quite noticeable in pastures. While they may be an eye sore, control methods now are limited. Preventing seed spread is key to control the population of annual weeds next year. Improve grazing management and time herbicides for the best window of control so herbicides won’t be needed as often in the future.
Besides limiting forage production, dry weather can create another problem for producers to deal with, that of nitrate toxicity. When growth stops due to stress like drought, plants continue to uptake nitrogen if they can. However, with nowhere for this nitrogen to be used up, it collects in the lower part of the stem as nitrate. When livestock consume this high nitrate forage, we have issues.