Pasture and Forage Minute: Equipment Maintenance, Controlling Musk Thistle and No-Till on the Plains Tours

Musk thistle
Musk thistle control should be done in spring when plants are in their short rosette growth form, as herbicides are ineffective after the flowering stage.

Pasture and Forage Minute: Equipment Maintenance, Controlling Musk Thistle and No-Till on the Plains Tours

Pre-season Hay Equipment Maintenance

By Ben Beckman

Spring is busy with getting crops in the ground, but if much needed moisture keeps you from the field, take some time to maintain your haying equipment and prevent costly downtime later.

First, inspect, lubricate and service all power-driven areas such as belts, bearings, chains and gears. Set tension on belts and chains. For sicklebar headers, check, sharpen or replace cutterbar sections and adjust wear plates, hold-down clips and guards. Make sure your cutterbar has proper knife register. On disc mowers, replace knives and rotate or replace worn turtles over the knives.

Conditioning rollers often are overlooked. Look for uneven wear and adjust the roll gap, roll timing and roll pressure for your crop.

On round balers, inspect belts, chains, and slats or rollers frequently for wear. Trim frayed edges and repair belts as needed to maintain uniform tension. When not in use, keep belts clean and release belt tension.

Check plunger knife clearance and plunger alignment on square balers and inspect the tying mechanism and adjust as needed. Pick-up teeth on balers and on rakes frequently are broken or bent. Replace defective teeth and adjust height if necessary.

Also, be sure you have replacement parts on hand for frequently broken or replaced items. And most important of all, review your owner's manual to identify recommended maintenance procedures and proper settings.

Controlling Musk Thistle

By Jerry Volesky

Did you have musk thistles last year? If so, I’m sure you’ll have them again this spring. And even though you may have done some herbicide control last fall, there are always those that may have been missed.   

While corn and soybean planting are a top priority for many, this is also a very good time to control musk thistles. And I’ll also bet that you can get into your pastures to spray at least one or two days sooner than you can get into row crop fields to plant.

The short rosette growth form in the spring is the ideal stage for controlling these plants. That means spray herbicides soon, while your musk thistle plants still are in that rosette form, and very few plants will live to send up flowering stalks.

Several herbicides are effective and recommended for musk thistle control. Some popular herbicides include Milestone, Graslan L and Tordon 22K. These herbicides will help control other difficult weeds like common mullein as well.

Other herbicides that can control musk thistles in pastures this spring include Chaparral/Oversight, Cimarron, Telar, Transline, Redeem R&P and Curtail. A tank mix of dicamba and 2,4-D also works very well. No matter which herbicide you use, be sure to read and follow label instructions, and be especially sure to spray on time.

All these herbicides will work for you this spring if you spray soon, before musk thistles bolt and send up their flowering stalks. After flowering, the shovel is about the only method remaining to control thistles this year.  

Grazing and Cover Crops Tours

By Todd Whitney

The Nebraska No-Till on the Plains Whirlwind annual statewide educational tours on Wednesday, June 14 and Tuesday, June 20 in 2023 will honor the legacy of Jody Saathoff, a former soil health enthusiast from south-central Nebraska. Participants will be no-till farmers and ranchers, youth and agri-business.

On June 14, the daytime event will begin at 11 a.m. on the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Franklin, Nebraska with a lunch and keynote speaker Jay Fuhrer, a Menoken Farms no-tiller from Bismarck, North Dakota. Other speakers will be Ray Ward of Ward Labs and Paul Jasa, UNL extension engineering specialist. Featured topics and demonstrations will include using diversified no-till crop rotations with livestock grazing, drilling cereals and beans into heavy residue with livestock grazing, and improving forage biomass. The 5:30 p.m. social and 6:30 p.m. meal topics will center around cover crops, diversification and livestock grazing, followed by a fundraising auction.

The Tuesday, June 20 Whirlwind No-Till Tour will begin at 9 a.m. on the Wine Glass Ranch at Imperial, Nebraska. Speakers will include Logan Pribbeno, Drew Olson, Steve Tucker and Candy Thomas. Tours and presentations will focus on diversifying row crops with animal impact, “How a Farmer Can Partner with a ‘Cow-guy’ Rancher,” and diversifying crop rotations and grazing. After lunch, soil health field tours will follow.

More information is available online. Nominal tour and meal costs are listed on the web link for each tour location, or call Aaron Sawyer, No-Till on the Plains director, at 785-210-4549.

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