Pasture and Forage Minute: Harvesting Drought-stressed Corn and Milo, Controlling Grasshoppers
Salvaging Drought-stressed Corn and Milo
With much of the state of Nebraska in some level of drought, salvaging drought-stressed corn and milo is a challenge, particularly for producers in the southwest region of the state where severe to extreme drought conditions persist.
The primary symptom of drought stress in both corn and milo is the inward rolling of leaves. In severe drought conditions, the lower leaves of milo may die off while in corn, the greying of leaf tissue may occur. While these crops have the ability to recover from less severe drought, the current extreme conditions may warrant earlier harvesting for hay silage in order to salvage the crop.
When harvesting drought-stressed corn or milo to feed, there are important considerations to keep in mind. Insurance claims should be filed before any action is taken to determine what is permitted according to your policy. Chemical labels should be checked for any grazing, haying or pre-harvesting restrictions. Finally, nitrate testing is an affordable way to determine nitrate levels in your crop and help prevent nitrate poisoning in livestock that feed on drought-stressed hay or silage. With drought, nitrates are likely to accumulate, particularly in the lower stems, so increase cutting height to about 10 to 12 inches. Because of the nitrate potential, grazing of drought-stressed crops can be risky.
Severely drought-stressed corn and milo can be salvageable with proper preparation and timing of harvest.
Grasshoppers on the Range
With dry conditions statewide, natural grasshopper population controls that thrive in warm, humid weather are not as effective and the resulting large population starts to eat any remaining forage they can find. While dry themselves, pastures offer hungry insects food that they readily consume.
Economic thresholds for grasshopper densities in pastures or rangeland vary from eight to 40 grasshoppers per square yard. The thresholds are influenced by several factors, including the cost of insecticide treatment and projected forage yield and the value of forage in the pasture. Grasshoppers compete for forage with animals in the pasture and can reduce grazing days, so control may be of higher importance when grazing resources are tight.
If control is needed, insecticide sprays or baits can be effective. Some options labeled for use on rangeland are Baythroid®; Lamba-cyhalothrin (Warrior®, Beseige®, Silencer®); dimilin; malathion; dimethoate (Cygon®); Mustang Maxx®; Prevathon®; Cyfluthrin (Renounce®, Tombstone®;, Proaxis®; Respect®; Steward®; and carbaryl (Sevin). Instead of treating the entire area, the reduced agent/area treatment method pioneered by the University of Wyoming has been proven an effective control technique while reducing herbicide applied.
To use this approach, apply eight ounces of carbaryl per acre in 100 ft. swaths alternating with 100 ft. untreated swaths in between, dimilin at a rate of 0.75 oz. per acre with eight ounces of water and four ounces of oil in 100 ft. swaths with alternating 100 ft. untreated swaths in between, or four ounces per acre of malathion in 100 ft. swaths alternating with 25 ft. untreated swaths in between. Corn or canola oil used as a carrier in grasshopper treatments can increase effectiveness as these are grasshopper feeding attractants.
Baits are best used on rangeland with short, dry vegetation. Some grasshopper species will not feed on baits, so knowing what species you are trying to control is important. Uniform distribution of bait and re-application if the bait no longer is attractive to the grasshoppers is important. Attractiveness of the bait will be substantially reduced by rain or heavy dew.
Fall Forage Inventory
How much feed or hay do you have for this fall or going into winter? It seems odd to be asking this question already, but uncertainty with inflation, drought, early weaning and cow numbers should get us thinking about this now.
A dry spring and continued dry conditions have created a shortage of feed resources for many areas this year. Many cows have been sold, drylotted, and early weaning is starting to occur. Will you have enough feed this fall or winter with current cattle populations? If waiting for cornstalks for fall and winter feed, hay may have to be fed before stalks can be grazed.
Consider the “best case” and “worst case” scenarios. Count bales, measure silage, calculate remaining pasture and get a real idea of how many calves and feeders you may have. Some may have too much feed lying around that is getting old. Selling may come at a premium.
Another action plan to consider is buying feeds that are cheaper now and storing them through the winter. We know how to do this with hay and silage, but what about distillers grains? Mixing with low quality feeds and packing in a bunker or in a bag can significantly reduce the cost of protein and energy supplements during the winter months. This is especially helpful if cows are coming of off grass thin and need to improve condition before calving.
Planning is indispensable. Having a feed inventory and checking prices and availability now will go a long way to reducing the anxiety of what we will feed our cows this fall and winter.