May 23: Corn is looking good for the most part with few major concerns yet. Some have commented on the yellow-looking corn. This is most likely due to cool, wet soils rather than any nutrient issues. There may be field-specific issues such as saturated soils, compaction, and some herbicides that can cause this yellowing too. Also had a call on cutworms in seed corn but not widespread calls on this yet. Extension Educators have set up light traps for tracking cutworm moths and you can find that information here: http://go.unl.edu/rhhe. Cutworms will cause the most damage the first 7 days after corn emergence so scouting is important. The York County Corn Grower Plot was planted on April 24th with the corn currently at 2 leaf stage. Special thanks to Ron, Ray, and Brad Makovicka for hosting and the work put into this plot each year!
May 1: It never ceases to amaze me how quickly planting occurs each year! Corn planted the week of April 10th has emerged and for those fields that received hail from last week’s storms, I’m hoping we don’t see disease issues later on. Also of note, some have asked me about the CropWatch soil temperatures as they are higher than what some of you have been measuring in your fields before planting. The CropWatch soil temps at http://cropwatch.unl.edu/cropwatchsoiltemperature are averages of 24 hours under bare soil which may be different than the residue conditions in your fields and is an average of the entire day vs. one point in time. This may help explain some of the differences.
Many stands of alfalfa are lush green with over a foot of growth at this point. I looked at some alfalfa in Clay County that got dinged by cold temperatures in areas of the field and stopped growing. At this time I’m also finding quite a few aphids and a few alfalfa weevils. A disease common this time of year called spring black stem can be observed in nearly all alfalfa fields right now in the lower canopies. This disease consists of small black lesions on the leaves which eventually cause the leaves to turn yellow and drop. Normally this disappears with later cuttings as humidity and rainfall are typically high during the first cutting and can be managed with cutting the alfalfa. One option to consider according to Dr. Bruce Anderson, our Extension Forage Specialist, is to consider cutting alfalfa before bloom. He shares that weather can cause long delays and alfalfa doesn’t bloom very aggressively during spring. Bruce felt there were advantages to cutting alfalfa when it is 15-20” tall before bloom during first cutting including: weather compared to later spring, spread out alfalfa harvest if you consider cutting one field earlier, reduction in insect and disease problems by early harvest, and high feed value. It also potentially allows the second cutting to be ready before the summer heat which can lower forage quality. Disadvantages include lower yield from cutting early which could be made up in later harvest, regrowth may be slower if cut early, and the need to allow for longer recovery after first or second cutting to maintain long-term stands. So, harvesting before bloom may be something you wish to test in one of your fields this year and consider how this works for you, especially if you did have some frost damage or are having insect/disease issues in your alfalfa right now.
March 10th marks the third annual Nebraska Ag Water Management Network Conference with 2016 being the 11th year since the Network was formed! If you’re interested in learning how you can better schedule your irrigation in addition to learning about the latest in irrigation research from Nebraska Extension, consider attending this free event!
Many stalks in Nebraska are left ungrazed for various reasons. One reason I’ve heard is the potential impact of increased compaction and reduced yield of the next crop. Nebraska Extension has long-term research addressing this concern…in fact, 16 years of research conducted at the Ag Research and Development Center near Mead. There’s various components to this study and you can view the full report at: http://go.unl.edu/8mp6.
In this study, cattle were allowed to graze corn residue in the spring (February to mid-April) or the fall (November through January) and these treatments were compared to an area not grazed. Corn and soybeans were planted the spring after grazing the residue for 16 years to determine the effect of grazing on the subsequent crop yield.
In the fall grazing treatments, the corn and soybeans were planted no-till. For corn or soybeans planted into the spring grazing treatments, three tillage treatments were also implemented for nine years: no-till, ridge-till, and spring conventional till, after which all treatments were converted to no-till. This result of the tillage by spring grazing treatments for either corn or soybean yield over nine years showed no interaction and suggested the same effect on yield regardless of tillage treatment used after spring grazing.
Spring grazing across all tillage treatments did increase soybean yields statistically (58.5 bu/ac for spring grazed vs. 57.0 bu/ac for ungrazed) and had no effect on corn yields. The results were similar looking at 16 years of grazing vs. not grazing under no-till for both corn and soybeans in the spring; there was no yield effect found for corn and the soybeans showed a slight yield increase with grazing.
Looking at a 10 year period of no-till management for both spring and fall grazed corn residue and subsequent corn and soybean crops, fall grazing statistically improved soybean yields over both spring grazing and no grazing (65.5 bu/ac vs. 63.5 bu/ac and 62.1 bu/ac respectively). No grazing effects were observed on corn yields in either season. All statistics were at the 95% confidence level meaning the researchers were 95% confident any yield differences were due to the treatments themselves vs. random chance.
Regarding compaction, in the fall, the field was typically frozen and the researchers felt any mud and compaction associated with grazing cattle was minimized; highest subsequent soybean yields were achieved with fall grazing. The spring treatment was designed to look more at potential compaction and muddy conditions after spring thaw till right before planting-thus the implementation of different tillage treatments as well. They used a stocking rate consistent with UNL grazing recommendations resulting in removal of half the husks and leaves produced (8 lbs of leaf and husk per bushel of corn grain produced). Results of this study indicate that even with muddy conditions in the spring, grazing increased subsequent soybean yields compared to not grazing regardless of tillage system used and that corn yields were not different between grazing vs. not grazing and regardless of tillage system used in the spring. This study was conducted in Eastern Nebraska in a rainfed environment with yields ranging from 186-253 bu/ac with a 16 year median yield of 203 bu/ac.
Additional Grazing Study
A five year fall grazing study (December through January) was conducted in an irrigated continuous no-till corn field at Brule, NE to determine the effect of corn residue removal via baling corn residue or fall grazing on subsequent corn yields. That environment receives limited rainfall and residue is deemed important for reducing evaporation of soil moisture in addition for catching/keeping snow on fields. Farmers were questioning the effects of any residue removal on subsequent corn yields and the study was implemented.
Treatments were 1) fall grazing at 1 animal unit month/acre (AUM), 2) fall grazing 2 AUM/ac, 3) baled, or 4) ungrazed. The researchers found that residue removal did not affect corn grain yields from 2009-2013 in the continuous corn rotation. There were no statistical yield differences with 5 year average yields of: 152 bu/ac, 155 bu/ac, 147 bu/ac and 148 bu/ac respectively for the above-mentioned treatments.
Dr. Sheila Purdum, Nebraska Extension Poultry Specialist asked us to share the following
information about avian influenza. Unfortunately, Nebraska has HPAI H5N2 in a commercial flock of laying hens in Dixon County. This is the same virus that has been infecting turkeys in MN and WI and laying hens in the state of IA for the past 3 months. It is a deadly flu virus to poultry, killing as many as 90% of the flock within 3 days of the first symptoms. The major source of the virus has been migrating waterfowl, but it is believed to be airborne now traveling on numerous vectors to include people’s clothing, vehicles and other animals that may have come into contact with migrating waterfowl excrement, dust, etc.
The good news is that Biosecurity measures such as disinfecting all equipment coming into contact with your bird’s environment will help keep it out of small flocks. It is highly advised that backyard flock owners move their birds into indoor shelters and keep them away from interaction with migrating waterfowl on ponds. Simply do not share pasture or space, water with wild birds. This may be hard for some backyard folks, but they are just as susceptible to this nasty virus as the big producers.
USDA is working quickly on an Avian Influenza vaccine; it does have some problems matching strains to what the outbreak virus is (just as in human vaccine development). One other positive outcome is that this strain of AI is not harmful to humans; it is species specific to birds. The USDA/APHIS website provides current updates about outbreaks.
Infected birds that do not perish by natural causes are euthanized when a premise is tested positive and birds are composted on site. If backyard flocks have high mortality, we urge you to call the Nebraska Department of Ag at 877-800-4080.
What if I purchased chicks from a local farm store?
All of those chicks should be clean; breeders could not sell chicks from positive flocks
according to State and National regulations. The virus can incubate and live in an environment for up to 3 weeks before the birds become sick. That is why Biosecurity is the best precaution. Do not visit your neighbors flock, live bird auctions or parks with migrating birds, stay in a high awareness alert to protect your birds. If you have questions, please feel free to call Dr. Sheila Purdum, Extension Poultry Specialist, 402-472-6362; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Dennis Hughes, Nebraska Department of Agriculture State Veterinarian has shared that swap meets, exotic sales and live bird auctions east of Highway 281 will not be permitted to sell poultry until further notice. In addition, poultry from east of Highway 281 will not be permitted to be sold at swap meets, exotic sales and live bird auctions anywhere in Nebraska until further notice. Questions on this topic may be directed to Dr. Tom Schomer at (402) 471-2351.
County Fairs and Other Shows:
Your local County Extension Office and/or FFA Advisor will keep you updated regarding the status of County Fair 4-H/FFA poultry shows. For those coordinating additional upcoming poultry shows, they would appreciate you informing them. While they have not enacted a ban on poultry shows at present time, they would like to process the risk associated with each show on a case by case basis and help you determine the best course of action for your event.
They ask that you please report a contact name, phone number/email address, the name of your event, date and location via email to Jeanne Egger at NDA via email at email@example.com or by calling (402) 471-6880.
This week, I’d like to share some information that came out in a white paper from the UNL Agricultural Economics Department on the special relationship we have here in Nebraska between crops, livestock, and biofuel production capacity not found in other parts of the U.S. to the extent we have here. It’s called the “Nebraska Advantage”.
I think it’s important for all of ag industry to realize we need each other as it seems we sometimes forget how inter-dependent we are. Crop producers need the livestock and ethanol industries as they are a high percentage of our end users. Yet many times I hear of crop producers fighting livestock expansion or livestock coming into an area. The purpose of the white paper was to share the numbers of where Nebraska livestock, grain production, and ethanol production currently stands, and what Nebraska could gain if we worked to increase livestock production in-state where we have a wealth of resources with our crops, water, and biofuel production.
Nebraska currently ranks 1st in irrigated acres, 1st in commercial red meat production and is tied with Texas for cattle on feed, 2nd in corn-based ethanol production, 3rd in corn for grain production, 4th in soybean productions, 6th in all hogs and pigs, and 7th in commercial hog slaughter, and 9th in table egg layers. However, in reading this white paper, one quickly realizes we’re not taking advantage of the tremendous grain production capacity here in the State.
We export over 1/3 of our annual corn crop, at least half of the in-state production of distiller’s grains (a co-product from ethanol production that is fed to livestock), and more than 80% of our soybean meal output. Corn and soybean production have increased in our State by 50 and 25% respectively, which is a blessing due to our irrigation capacity. But increasing amounts of this grain are being shipped out-state instead of benefiting rural economies in Nebraska if it was used in-state for value-added livestock production and processing instead.
In the white paper, graphs are shown comparing Nebraska to neighboring states. These graphs show Nebraska lagging neighboring states in growth of the livestock industry. For example, while Nebraska overall increased in hog production, the inventory increased 17.2% during the first half of the decade, but declined 11.8% in the second half. In comparison, Iowa realized an increase of 31.5% within the decade. What was really interesting to me is the fact that Nebraska exports 2.5 million pigs annually to neighboring states to be finished and shipped back to Nebraska for processing, showing potential for growth in the market hog sector. The dairy sector has also declined in herd numbers in Nebraska compared to other states and Nebraska’s poultry industry (mostly egg laying hens) has declined over the past decade in spite of constant numbers across the U.S.
When one looks at Nebraska’s economy, cash receipts from all farm commodities totaled over $25.6 billion in 2012 and livestock/livestock product sales was 45% of this total ($11.6 billion). Increased employment, local tax revenue, value-added activity, and manure for fertilizer are all economic benefits of livestock expansion. The paper stated,
A base expansion scenario that includes a 25% increase in market hogs, a doubling of dairy cow numbers, a ten percent increase in fed cattle production and a tripling of egg production, along with the associated processing industries, has the potential to provide an additional 19,040 jobs, with labor income of almost $800 million and value-added activity of over $1.4 billion. This activity has the potential to generate over $38 million in local tax revenue. While this amounts to a fairly small percentage of Nebraska’s total economy, these impacts will occur almost entirely in non-metropolitan areas of the state and would be quite beneficial to rural economies.
Livestock development has been held back by various issues and policies including: limitations on corporate farming activity in Nebraska, state and local permitting processes, nuisance roles and lawsuits, and issues/concerns from the general public and interest groups. The final conclusion of the paper was that significant growth in employment and economic output throughout Nebraska is dependent upon these issues being overcome.
I would challenge all of us to keep an open mind when producers desire to diversify by including livestock in their operations or through livestock expansion. In many cases, doing so allows another person to come back to an operation, or allows someone to get started farming, which in the long run benefits our rural economies. It’s ok to ask questions, to become more educated. It’s through these questions that one learns how production practices have changed to ensure the health and welfare of our livestock and in odor reduction from the facility and manure application. You can read the entire white paper contents here.