Preparing Your Cattle for the Winter

Preparing Your Cattle for the Winter

As the winter winds begin to blow in, it is time to start preparing cattle for the colder temperatures that lies ahead. Good management decisions are crucial to maintaining cattle health throughout the winter. Check out these three keys to success to consider during the colder months.

1. Body condition score
According to Ted Perry with Purina, this is the best way to reduce cold stress. You should score your cattle regularly and record the data. This record will allow you to make effective feeding decisions during the winter months. The layer of fat insulation in a cow with a 5 or 6 score will enable them to conserve body heat and be productive during the winter. When viewing your cattle every day, you may not notice if they are losing weight. Be sure to have another set of eyes look at the cattle for precaution.

2. Take inventory of available forages
During cold weather, a cow’s feed intake increases by 20 percent. When cold weather is in the upcoming forecast, you will need to increase the offered feed by 20 percent or provide additional hay at least 24 hours in advance. You must have this on hand even if you plan on continued winter grazing with rye or other winter forages. Lisa Baxter, a forage specialist with the University of Georgia, states, “although we have the ability to graze 365 days a year in Georgia, the reality is we will always have a few weeks that require supplementation. It is always good to have a month or so of high-quality hay on hand just in case of a failed stand of annual forage or inclement weather.”

3. Stay up-to-date on cattle health
According to the Oregon State Extension Catalog, cattle can present health problems during and after stress periods. The temperature change can induce stress, and stress reduces the cattle’s ability to resist infection. Vaccines are one way to keep them healthy in addition to deworming them to avoid parasites. Additionally, during cold weather months, giving extra time to examine the cattle daily is essential to prevent runny noses, pneumonia, and other respiratory issues that could lead to larger health problems in the future.

Sorghum in the South

Sorghum in the South

Although we see sorghum in the Southeast today, it has deep roots in ancient history around the world. In an archeological dig at Nabta Playa, in northeast Africa, archeologists found sorghum dating back to when it was first domesticated.

Throughout time, the ancient Egyptians found ways to help sorghum grow in other areas. Eventually, the crop was able to grow in Australia, and as the explores moved west so did sorghum.

The sorghum belt in the United States spans from South Dakota to Texas, but those are not the only places you can find it growing in America. While you can see sorghum growing in Georgia, it is not a top ten producing state of this grain, but other Southern states make the cut, like Louisiana, North Carolina, and Mississippi.

Sorghum is usually located in a field with a pH range of 6.0-7.8 and is planted as soon as the soil temperature is greater than 60 degrees Fahrenheit. As the plant begins to grow it can take up to 14 days for the first leave to emerge.

As the plant grows, the sorghum gets more leaves, usually 15-18 leaves. The last leaf to form is the flag leaf. As soon as you can see the leaf tip the countdown is on for the sorghum head to form. This process usually takes around seven to ten days.

After the sorghum head is formed the flower starts to form from the top of the plant down. Quickly after that process is over, the grain is formed and begins to mature. The transformation from soft grain to hard grain can be seen by a change of color. The final color of the grain can vary from bronze, red, tan, or white.

Sorghum is harvested with a combine, and once it is harvested, it can be used to produce a variety of products. That can be Sorghum syrup, popped sorghum, sorghum flour, or just whole grain sorghum. Sorghum has many different uses in the kitchen. It can be used as a starch substitute, plant-based protein, or sweetener.

The ancient grain from Africa has a big impact both in and out of the field and kitchen since its domestication in the West. Next time you drive pass a field full of sorghum you will know the history of the crop.

Sorghum in the South

South Georgia Snow

When you think of snow, frozen crystals falling from the sky to settling and creating a white layer on the ground may come to mind. However, in the South, where snow is not common because of the climate, cotton is referred to as the snow in South Georgia.

Cotton is one of Georgia’s top ten commodities, so it will not take you long to locate some while traveling through the state.

Cotton is planted in the spring when the soil is warm enough for the seeds to germinate. The soil temperature should be at 65 degrees Fahrenheit cotton also grows best in sandy loam soils, making them the southern part of the United States the ideal spot to grow southern “snow.”

While the cotton is growing, farmers need to keep their field as weed-free as possible. There are also other threats that can diminish cotton growth and impact cotton yields. The biggest threat is the weather, specifically rain and hurricanes in the Southeast. This is a critical reason why harvesting cotton on time is important.

Cotton harvest is usually completed during late fall. Machines like cotton pickers and combines harvest the cotton. These machines are in charge of removing the bolls from the stalk and removing the seed cotton from the spindles.

After the harvest, cotton stalks can become a decoration in your house, or the cotton itself may be used in items that are found around your house like q-tips, bedding, and your favorite t-shirt. If you don’t use the cotton stalks as decoration, most chop the stalks to prevent nematodes in the soil.

Cotton is used in our daily lives and continues to grow into new things each year. Most notably, it is also biodegradable. While the harvest season is coming to a close in south Georgia, be sure to look out your window to take in the beauty of the south Georgia snow.

Sorghum in the South

Soybeans Beyond the Midwest

When thinking of crayons do you think of soybeans? You probably should because they are a key ingredient in making soy crayons. That’s not the only household item they are used to make. Soybeans are used to make candles, hair-care products, and so much more!

When thinking of the states that produce this legume, the Midwestern usually comes to mind. However, the Southeast produces them, also. Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and the Carolina’s all have acres dedicated to the production of soybeans. According to the United Soybean Board and National Oilseed Processors Association, soybeans contributes $115.8 billion to the U.S. economy and approximately $927 million to Georgia’s economy.

These legumes are planted in the spring, usually two or three weeks after the last frost is over. In the Southeast, can start earlier in the spring, though, since there are generally less frosts. Before planting, be sure to check that the soil temperature is at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

This legume is an annual plant that is free-branching and has hairs. Each plant has pods, and these pods can contain up to four seeds in them. Once the pods are mature and turn a tan color, it is time for harvest.

Soybeans are harvested with a combine like corn and wheat. The front of the combine has a piece called a header. This piece cuts and collects the soybean plant while the beans are separated and taken out. The soybeans, then, go to a holding tank in the back of the combine.

After the harvest, soybeans are either sent directly to a grain dealer or they are taken to a storage facility until it is time to sell them. Eventually, all soybeans will be transported to a processing plant. At this plant the soybean meal is separated from the soy components. The soybean meal is great for livestock feed, and this oil can be used in cooking oils, paint, diesel, and other products mentioned above.

Soybeans’ impact travels far beyond the Midwest. So, think about them the next time you feed livestock, cook in the kitchen, or color with some crayons.

Sorghum in the South

Peanut Harvest in the United States

We are all familiar with Girl Scout cookies, but did you know that around 230,000 pounds of peanut butter per week is used for baking Girl Scout’s Tagalongs and Do-si-dos?

Peanuts are only grown in 13 states, which are in the southern region of the United States. Six of these states grow nearly all of the United States peanut crop. Those states include Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Unlike pecans or walnuts peanuts actually grow underground. The flowering plant is what you see when passing by the plant, but the peanut pod is just below the soil. In addition, a peanut is classified as a legume not a nut.

Furthermore, farmers are quick to grow peanuts because they require less water and fertilizer than most crops and are considered a “zero waste” plant. This means the farmer can use every part of the plant, and from picking the peanuts off the vine to bailing the dried stems for peanut hay. This crop also adds nitrogen back into the soil. All of these factors make peanuts a sustainable crop. Peanut farmers are also trailblazers for innovation and efficiency in the farming community.

In the southeastern region, these tasty legumes reach their harvest time around September or October. When it comes harvest time, peanuts have a two-step harvesting process. First, the plant is carefully dug up by a machine called a digger. The digger flips the peanuts upside down and places them back in their row. They are left for a few days to dry out before picking the crop. The next step is for the peanut to be separated from the plant. This process is usually performed with a machine called a picker or shaker, and you “pick” the peanuts from the vines.

While they are small, peanuts are might when it comes to the sustainability of the land, economic impact, and nutrition. So, the next time you are at your local grocery store, think about picking up these salty legumes to help support the peanut industry.

Get This Out of My Garden!!

Get This Out of My Garden!!

Nothing is more irritating than seeing a crop you have invested time and money into be destroyed by pests and diseases. There are many practices you can put in place to keep these annoyances out. Today we will take a deeper dive into what is preventing you from having your best harvest.

Some of the most common pests and diseases we see in our vegetables throughout the southeast include powdery mildew, root-knot nematodes, and southern blight. It is vital to know how to identify diseases and pests to put practices in place to prevent them.

Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that commonly affects cucurbits, including pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, and melons. Powdery mildew is easiest to identify as it covers the upper part of the leaves with white powdery spots. Powdery mildew slows the growth of your plant and reduces fruit and yield quality.

The other disease to keep an eye out for in the garden is southern blight, also known as southern wilt or southern stem rot. This disease is a soil-borne fungus and can attack many different vegetable and ornamental plants. To spot southern blight, you need to look for discolored lower leaves and wilted foliage; these symptoms will usually lead the plant to collapse, resulting in a crop loss.

Not only do you have to watch out for diseases in the garden but also be on the watch for non-beneficial pests. Root-knot nematodes are a parasitic nematode and are different from predatory nematodes. Predatory nematodes are often referred to as beneficial nematodes because they attack other pests. Root-knot nematodes are invisible to the naked eye and attack living plant matter, causing the plant to wilt, and it may result in stunted growth and lack of fruit production.

These are just a few of the common pests and diseases found in the home garden. Though many things can hinder you from having a successful garden, there are also many ways to prevent it. One major thing to do to keep these things out of your garden is selecting the right seeds. If you realize last year you had powdery mildew on your cabbage, next year, you need to get seeds that are powdery mildew resistant. Growing the correct variety for your garden will ensure fewer diseases and pests, which will lead to a successful harvest.


Get This Out of My Garden!!

Conservation in the Home Garden

Carrying out conservation practices within your garden will ensure a healthy harvest for many years. Conservation in the garden can come in all shapes and sizes. Three main conservation tips we are going to touch on today are irrigation, cover crops, and crop rotation.

Irrigation is the process of applying controlled amounts of water to plants at set intervals. This practice can vary on water usage depending on the scale of your garden. If you have a more extensive garden, investing in drip irrigation may be a smart idea as it can be re-used. Drip irrigation only applies water right to the roots, which is an excellent conservation method even if you water your plants with a hose or watering can. Conserving water will cut down on your costs and time invested in your garden in addition to implementing best management practices.

The second conservation tip that will help your garden become more efficient is crop rotation. Crop rotation is the act of not planting the same type of crop in the same spot every year. This rotation will help keep soil healthy since growing the same kind of crops repeatedly will strip the soil of its nutrients. Having a good crop rotation is only possible with good planning. Planning out where you will plant what and having records of where you planted certain crops last year will help you in this conservation method. Not only should you not plant the same crop in one spot, but you need to make sure the crop you follow it up with isn’t from the same family. You can find crop families with a quick Google search.

If you would prefer not to rotate crops, another option to use is cover crops. Cover crops are crops you plant in-between seasons in the garden. There are many different cover crops such as sunflowers, buckwheat, and iron clay peas. Each cover crop adds other nutrients into the garden and can help with specific problems you may identify in your garden. Cover cropping is significant in making sure your cash crops get the essentials it needs. You don’t want to put too much effort into your cover crops, though, since they may not give you much of a return other than added nutrients to the ground. Spread the seed out and just let them grow. Take the time you are cover cropping as your break from the garden before you gear up for the next season.

These are just a few conservation practices that will help your garden and soil stay bountiful for many years. If you were to implement all three, you’ll see a positive change in your garden.


Get This Out of My Garden!!

Equipment to have in your tool shed

Gardener Must Haves: Tools You Need to be a Successful Gardener

A green thumb is one of those characteristics that if you don’t have it, you definitely wish you did. Some people are blessed with the ability to take care of a garden easily, and the rest of us need a little bit of help. Last week, we gave tips on where to start with this backyard garden, and today we’re going to touch on some tools to help keep it growing.

Equipment, like watering tools, shovels, and wheel barrels, that you use throughout the duration of the crop can have a significant impact on the success of your garden. Once you have your garden crops selected and planted, it is important to keep them hydrated. A basic water hose allows for easier access to make sure the plants have enough water to grow. If you don’t want to use a hose, a watering can is another good option. A shovel will come in handy for digging up weeds or when the crops are finished and ready to get out of the garden. It is crucial to get plants that are finished producing out of the garden promptly. Doing this will prevent pests and weeds. A wheel barrel can also be nice to have for your garden because you can haul waste and weeds off or bring in new compost with it.

In addition, you may want to consider some other tools outside of the basics, but they do add some additional costs. Tools to consider using before planting include a wheel hoe, a single tine cultivator, or a walk-behind tiller. These tools will ease the process of getting your soil ready to plant. These items can be a little more costly, but you will get a large return on your investment. Another garden investment is a good lawnmower. Though most people don’t think of it as garden equipment, a lawnmower can be a very vital piece to help trim the garden once plants are done producing.

Having the right tools is just one of many factors that go into having that successful backyard garden. Next week’s blog will be all about conservation practices and how to water your garden efficiently, which is another critical factor when growing a garden. Come back to learn more about achieving your best garden!

Get This Out of My Garden!!

Backyard Gardening-What to Plant

Want to Plant Your Own Garden? Here’s Where to Start!

During the months of quarantine, many people stuck at home took up the new hobby of gardening. Backyard gardening is possible for anyone but looks different for everyone; the garden can live in raised beds, bigger plots, or containers. More and more people are finding comfort in growing their own food. If you took up this new hobby or want to join the trend, how do you start with fall coming? The first step is to decide what you want to plant in your garden.

Popular and successful fall crops include sweet corn, herbs, and any leafy greens. Specific varieties include Ambrosia or Temptress sweet corn, herbs like cilantro and parsley, and any lettuce mixes. Some other plants that would be great for a backyard garden in the fall could be eggplants, peppers, and carrots.

The next step, once you decide what you want to grow, is to create a plan. Planning is an essential step when becoming a successful gardener. When planning for the crops you want to grow, there are two critical things to consider – first, maturity dates and, second, if they need to be transplanted or just directly seeded.

Maturity dates can be found on most seed packets or just with a simple google. It is an important date to know because this determines when you should plant by working backward from the maturity date to select your plant date. You want to have enough growing days that you can harvest your crop before the first frost date.

The other thing to consider is what seeds need to go directly into the ground or start as transplants. Seeds that would go straight into the ground would be lettuce, corn, peas, and carrots. Crops that would be better off as transplants include eggplant, peppers, beets, and any of the herbs.

Our garden at the Sunbelt Ag Expo is growing many of these favorites right now. Though we do not have people coming to see it for educational purposes, the garden is still making an impact. Every crop coming out of our Sunbelt Ag Expo garden is being donated to the Moultrie Food Bank to help those in need. Continue looking out for our gardening blog series so we can help you have a bountiful harvest to share with your friends, family, and those in your community.

Marketing Your Hay

Marketing Your Hay

“HAY FOR SALE!” Driving down a lonely country road in the middle of Smalltown, USA, you are more than likely to see a sign screaming at you in bright red letters about hay. This seems to be the way it has always been when you have some extra hay to spare for the year. There may be an ad placed in the local newspaper, phone calls made to friends and acquaintances who have cows or a dairy, or a sign posted on the side of the road with a number to call. While these methods are still common practice, a beginning hay farmer or someone looking to expand their operation may need new ways to reach a broader audience.

This was true in the case of Adam Verner whose family owned a hay farm in Madison, Georgia. The family farm had been in the Verner name for over 135 years; at its peak producing over 40,000 square hay bales, and 5,000 round bales were produced while also importing more hay and haylage from western states. This hay went to many ranches and dairies around the state and horse facilities in the Atlanta area as well as many bales going to the UGA Vet Science School. Verner Farms learned over the years that nothing sold hay better than just producing good, high quality hay.

“If you’ve got good hay, it will sell itself,” Verner says.

Verner believes, rather than marketing your hay to your neighbors and friends, entering it into hay contests such as the Southeastern Hay Contest, where winners are recognized at the Sunbelt Ag Expo, and the Georgia Farm Bureau Hay Contest is good practice in addition to donating it to local shows where hay is needed. With these tactics, the hay’s quality can speak for itself.

“Being a dependable producer that always provides a quality product will keep you in business,” says Verner. “It also helps to put yourself and your product out there through being involved in the industry.”

After Verner’s grandparents passed, the farm was sold, but the love for agriculture, and of course quality hay, still lives in his heart. He now owns a tractor dealership in Leesburg, Georgia, where he specializes in dairy, beef, and commercial hay equipment. He carried his ideals of being a dependable businessman with knowledge of the hay industry into his new venture and because of this, owns a thriving enterprise.