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Mitchell Livestock

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Weed Control in Pasture Photo

What and Why?

As Spring comes into full swing, pastures begin to grow. With this growth comes unwanted weeds. Weeds grow at a more rapid pace than desired grasses, so they often “snuff-out” the grasses in pastures, taking up the soil’s nutrients and shading the immature grasses from much-needed sunlight. This decrease in growth of desired grasses contributes to Livestock not adequately growing and gaining, decreasing profits.

Where?

Weeds thrive in areas where soil is compacted or has been turned over. Areas such as high traffic areas, holding pens, feeding and water areas, and shelter areas, become the most densely populated with weeds. Once the weeds mature, they release seeds and spread to other parts of the pasture by wind, birds, or even on the hair or hooves of the livestock; thus, making the pasture become more populated with non-nutritious weeds.

How and When to Control?

The opportune time to control weeds is when the plants are in an immature stage of life. This is when the weeds reach 4-6 inches in height for most species. At this stage, the weeds have leaf growth but are still vulnerable. It is suggested that at this stage, an herbicide be used that best fits the weed species, desired pasture species, and the livestock operation. This stage typically occurs around mid to late-April in this area. The proper timing does depend on the weather and temperature. If temperatures are lower, the timing may need to be later in April or May.
When timing is ideal, most herbicides are administered through a spraying technique. The herbicide is sprayed over all species of grass and weed throughout the pasture. The Herbicide then attacks the broadleaf species, killing the plant. This is why knowing what desired forage species are present in a pasture before a herbicide is chosen. If a desired species is considered a broadleaf, the herbicide will attack this plant too, eliminating it.
For more information on weed species identification, spraying techniques, and available herbicides, contact Michelle South at 828.688.4811.

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VIDEO: Too Few or Too Many Grazing Animals…? Defining an Adequate Stocking Rate

Below is a video that has to do with defining an adequate stocking rate for grazing systems.

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Picture of a goat in a pasture
With spring just around the corner, pasture improvements and forages become a priority. Multiple actions can be taken to improve your pasture. This time of year, overseeding/frost seeding is one of the main methods.

What

Overseeding/Frost seeding is the act of casting cool-season forage and legume seed over an established pasture to increase the species stand of that particular forage or legume. This is beneficial to pastures because it increases the desired forage or legume available to livestock, making the pasture more efficient. This increases livestock’s consumption and weight gain on forage, increasing profits.

When

For this particular area, mountains above 2500 ft elevation, overseeding/frostseeding should occur between March 1 through April 30, for optimal germination of seeds. This time period allows seeds to be introduced to the soil through freezing and thawing of snow and frost. This allows seeds to germinate and start growth before other stands of unwanted species giving the beneficial species optimal time to become established.

How

To start this process of pasture improvement, it is helpful for the producer to prepare now so materials and equipment are ready for use during the optimal time window. During this preparation time, producers are advised to do the following:
  1. Purchase desired seed.
  2. If current grass stand is higher than 4 inches, bushhog or cut pastures to allow seed to reach the ground adequately.
  3. Prepare equipment such as tractor and broadcaster.
  4. Schedule a tentative time, during the optimal frost seeding window (March 1 – April 30) to frost seed the pasture.
For more information, contact Michelle South, Area Extension Agent, Agriculture- Livestock at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Mitchell County Center at 828-688-4811.
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Horse at Fence

Horse Management in Winter

During the winter months, a horse’s basic need of feed and shelter are critical to maintaining overall health.

WATER

On average, a horse needs about 10-12 gallons of water each day. In the winter months, water troughs freeze and need to be busted so that horses and other livestock can drink from them. To avoid this, you can buy a tank heater to prevent the trough from freezing. This also aids in the prevention of horses avoiding water consumption due to the cold-water temperature. An old trick to coax livestock, including horses, to drink more water is to provide salt blocks free choice or include a small amount of salt in their feed. A preferred action, is to add warm water to their grain, making the feed soupy when being fed.

GRAIN & FORAGE

All livestock, including horses, need nutrients to maintain their health and body condition. During cold temperatures, these requirements increase. A horse in maintenance should consume 1.5% – 2% of their body weight of hay or forage per day. This increases greatly with weather conditions, age, and the reproduction stage of your horse. To meet these nutrient requirements, horses must be provided with an adequate amount of good-quality hay. Hay not only provides calories for your horse but it also increases their internal temperature as the hay is being digested. Hay increases metabolic temperature more than grain, but sometimes supplemental grain is necessary to boost your horse’s calorie intake in the winter. When providing hay to your horse, it is ideal to decrease the amount that will be lost or wasted. To accomplish this, hay must be fed in a rack or hay net. When hay is fed on the ground, it not only increases forage loss but increases intestinal parasites due to its close proximity to the ground and manure. Hay fed on the ground also increases dustiness of the hay which could lead to respiratory issues. When storing hay, remember that yield loss is greatest where there is high moisture and low airflow. That being said, store hay out of the weather in a barn or shed, under tarps and store hay off the ground, in a hay loft, on pallets, or on large sized gravel. To increase calorie intake and increase body condition, horses need to be fed grain in addition to forage (hay). There are many different types and brands of feed. A horse’s feed needs to be selected to meet the needs of that specific horse. Younger, older, working, and bred horses need to be fed a higher protein and fat content-based feed rather than middle-aged horses that are not being worked or ridden. Feed/grain can be utilized to entice horses to take medications, or even drink more water.

SHELTER

When temperatures drop and the wind picks up, horses need some sort of shelter and wind block. Depending on your pasture location, it can be as simple as trees, a run-in shed, or even a barn. Low temperatures, precipitation, and high winds are what will cause your horse to get extremely cold. Turnout blankets can be useful in extreme conditions but need be removed when conditions and temperatures improve. If your horse sweats in a blanket during cold temperatures, it may result in sickness. Horses that have a good winter coat should not need a blanket unless temperatures are extremely low, precipitation is present and wind chill is a factor. Horses that have been clipped for the winter show season will almost always need a blanket if the temperature dips below freezing.

FOOTING

Horses are often shod due to being ridden. In this area, this can cause an issue when snow is on the ground. If a horse is shod during the winter months, they can build up snow in between the shoe and the hoof, making it difficult to walk. In this area, the snow is often wet and compacts, making this more of a concern. To avoid this, it is suggested that horses either be stalled during snow accumulation, hooves are picked out twice daily, or shoes be removed. The most common response, is shoe removal. This also allows the hoof to breathe and flex naturally for a couple months before being shod again. A horse with corrective shoeing may not have the option of being barefoot, so stalling or daily pick-outs must be performed. Another issue during winter months is the accumulation of deep mud. It is important to move feeding to dry areas so that the horse(s) can stand to eat in a dry safe place. Feeding in high mud areas causes hoof issues, scratches, and possible infection in horses. Try rotating your feeding areas to allow for mud to dry out before returning. For more information, please contact Michelle South at 828-688-4811.