Farm Facts and Furrows

Unruly cows = fewer pregnancies

Research out of the US shows that grumpy cows are less likely to get in calf compared to more docile animals. Animals that are nervous and hard to handle are less likely to conceive and raise a calf. Cows were scored for temperament and blood samples analyzed for elevated cortisol concentrations, a hormone   released when animals are excited. Those with a high temperament score and elevated cortisol were found to have less probability of becoming pregnant. Another reason to send grumpy cows for a ride!


Check for alfalfa winterkill

Winterkill is more common in some of the higher risk older stands, flat heavier clays, and fall harvested stands. A cool, wet spring has delayed green-up and spring seeding, further complicating how to manage the situation. Alfalfa fields should be scouted for winterkill by digging plants and assessing roots and crowns for plant health. It is especially important to monitor fields that showed signs of stress last year, fall harvested fields, and fields that are slow to green-up. Dig alfalfa roots and use a knife to cut open the root and crown. Watch for root rots, brownish discolouration, spongy texture and lack of secondary roots and nodulation. Plant health is often more significant than plant density to a successful yield. The minimum number of healthy plants per square foot should be 12 – 20 for first year stand, eight to 12 plants for second year stands and five plants for a third year or older stands. If winterkill is identified early enough, the best option is often to simply replace the winterkilled stand by seeding a new forage stand in a new field in the crop rotation. A direct seeding can be done, or by using a companion forage crop such as cereals or cereal-pea mixtures. If an alfalfa stand is uniformly thin or weakened but the grass content is good, an application of nitrogen can significantly increase yields and increase protein levels. Unless the stand was just seeded the preceding year, do not try to repair a stand by interseeding alfalfa into an alfalfa stand because of autotoxicity and disease. Where winterkilled areas are large and patchy, some farmers attempt to repair these areas by no-tilling in red clover and/or Italian rye-grass.