Flooded farmers this spring have been the benefactors of a large amount of generosity from other producers across the nation who have donated fencing supplies, animal health supplies, and hay and forages to help them during this difficult time.
At one point, at least 11 hay-and-forage donation sites were operating in Nebraska, including several livestock markets and county fairgrounds, as well as the University of Nebraska Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center at Ithaca, UNL Haskell Agriculture Laboratory at Concord, Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture at Curtis and the state fairgrounds at Fonner Park in Grand Island.
Care with donated forages
With donated forages coming in from other parts of the country, Nebraska farmers may be unfamiliar with how to properly feed some of the forages.
“If a farmer is uncertain about how to feed a certain annual or feedstuff, I would suggest reaching out to an Extension educator or specialist,” says Travis Mulliniks, a Nebraska Extension range nutritionist and beef production systems specialist based in North Platte.
“We are getting hay donated from all over the U.S. and will definitely come across forages that are not typical for Nebraska,” he adds. “If the hay didn’t come with a forage analysis, sending a sample off to a forage testing laboratory for nutrient analysis and nitrates would be very important.”
“Annual grasses like millet, oats and cane can have elevated nitrate levels,” Mulliniks says. “Knowing the nitrate concentrations will help in developing a feeding strategy to use the hay if it is moderate or high in nitrates.” Farmers can consider diluting high-nitrate hay with corn or low-nitrate forages.
New weed seed is another potential risk factor from donated forages.
“Two concerns of establishment of weeds would be at the site of feeding hay and spreading of digested seeds through defecation,” Mulliniks says. “I would limit feeding sites to decrease the area potentially having future weed problems, to allow for better and more timely management of any future weed infestations.”
The rumen environment, including pH and microbial fermentation, can make certain weed seeds unviable after consumption and then defecated. One Canadian study looked at weed seed viability after 24 hours of rumen incubation for some common weeds, compared with a control that had no rumen exposure.
“Grass weed seeds were greatly affected, compared to broadleaf weed species,” Mulliniks says. Downy brome, foxtail barley and barnyard grass had no viable seeds after rumen exposure. Green foxtail and kochia had small amounts of viable seed at 17% or less. Other common broadleaf weeds such as redroot pigweed, common lambsquarters, wild buckwheat and roundleaf mallow had more than 45% viability in the same study.
“Viability of broadleaf weed species are still negatively impacted, but not as great as grass species,” Mulliniks says. “The seed viability results illustrate that the chances of infestation can be limited to a feeding site, rather than dispersed by grazing cows.”
He advises careful spring and summer monitoring of feeding sites to identify potential weed infestations early, so they can be controlled easily while the weeds still are immature.
Learn more by contacting Mulliniks at email@example.com.