Programs and Resources
Douglas County farmers produce approximately 45,000 acres of hay annually. This translates into an income of around $5.4 million, if we use a conservative average of 2 tons per acre, and a conservative price of $60 per ton. Hay is an important crop in Douglas County.
Management of hay land can influence the quality and value of the hay, and the longevity of the stand. KSU Extension has created management guides for various hay crops. Here are a few guides for our primary hay crops:
The quality of hay influences the value of the hay. The only way to know for certain the quality of the hay is to get a lab analysis of it, to take a forage test. A forage test may run from $12-24 per sample, depending on what you want the hay tested for. In general, dairy producers like alfalfa hay to have a Relative Feed Value test done. Hay used for beef, horses and other livestock normally is tested for protein and energy.
See how to take a proper forage sample.
The forage testing labs we are aware of that are located in Kansas are:
There may be other labs located in Kansas, and there are labs in other states.
The USDA Ag Marketing Service has developed hay quality guidelines.
The Kansas Department of Agriculture has developed a service to provide for hay inspections for hay that needs to be certified as "weed free." Hay used for livestock in National Parks needs to be certified weed free. Please call the Department of Ag at 785-862-2180 for information on this service.
The Kansas Farm Bureau in cooperation with Kansas State University host a "Hay and Pasture Exchange" website. It is a free service.
Download a basic "Hay Sale Agreement."
With the high price of fertilizers, I get many questions concerning "does it pay to fertilize brome?" Using current fertilizer prices, long term brome yields from KSU research, and custom rates for haying brome, I have developed a Brome Fertility Costs fact sheet to help answer this question.
Further questions may be directed to K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County at 785-843-7058.
Soil testing before planting is no longer a simple yes-no decision. Farming is changing so fast that growers now have many strong reasons to test soil. Whether seeding a crop or new fescue lawn, Kansans should make sound choices about chemical use, types, amounts, timing or application method.
Applying unneeded fertilizer is very costly and the purchase price is only part of that cost. Over-fertilizing can lead to environmental concerns, such as runoff from lawns and farms.
Planting choices based on soil tests are an ecologically sound practice. They help to achieve consistent top results, no matter if you are renewing your backyard turf or producing alfalfa.
Download instructions on how to take a soil sample.
Selecting an appropriate stocking rate for a pasture is one of the most important management decisions a cattle producer makes. Stocking rate is the land area allocated to a grazing animal for a specified time period. It varies depending upon pounds of forage produced and it is expressed in a variety of ways such as 1.5 AUM's (animal-unit-months)/acre or 3.0 acres/summer stocker. The total grazable acres of a pasture along with stocking rate provide an estimate of the pasture carrying capacity. Stocking rate significantly influences how well grass plants recover from grazing during the growing season and how well the grass will produce in future years. It is consequently a factor in pasture susceptibility to brush encroachment.
The 1991 and 2002 photos to the right show results of managed (top) and unmanaged (bottom) brush encroachment on a 160 acre parcel. When brush encroachment is ignored, grazed acres rapidly decline along with carrying capacity.
Forage intake by cattle is predominantly from grasses but includes some forbes and limited woody browse. Management of productive grasslands should be based on an understanding of energy reserves in the root mass of grasses and an understanding of competition for root space in the soil. Initial grass growth at the beginning of the growing season depends on carbohydrates stored in roots from the previous growing season. During the growing season a grass plant collects energy from the sun in an amount proportionate to its green leaf area. Energy not used for growth that year is stored back in the roots. If the leaves of the grass plant are grazed too heavily then its root mass and energy reserves are not replenished. Maintaining root mass is important because throughout the pasture, plant roots are competing for the space they need for extracting water and nutrients. If the roots of grass plants totally occupy a portion of the soil profile, invasion of other species is limited.
Prescribed burning is an effective tool for enhancing grass growth, improving grazing distribution and controlling developing brush plants. It should be used in combination with mechanical, chemical and biological measures to manage existing woody plants and prevent encroachment into grass areas. Brush management programs should begin by targeting open areas of scattered brush, followed by areas with more dense brush. Priority should be given to the most timely and cost-effective method appropriate for the situation.
Note: Before destroying any hardwoods that may have potential economic value, such as walnut and oak, an assessment by a forester may be desirable. When using pesticides, always read and follow label cautions and directions.
Grass production, utilization and animal performance is influenced by numerous factors. Factors include soil quality, root reserves, forage type, animal type, season of use, temperature, precipitation, terrain and others. Many grazing operations have successfully based stocking rates on tradition, local knowledge or regional research results. Recognize however, that appropriate stocking rates vary between pastures, and vary for the same pasture between years depending on past use and weather conditions.
A good production goal is to attain a compromise between maximum gain per animal and maximum gain per acre. To prevent erosion and protect water quality, it is important to ensure that vegetative cover is maintained or improved. These goals are most often achieved with a moderate stocking rate. However, managers should be prepared to reduce stocking rate and/or provide supplemental feed during periods of drought.
Only the palatable species should be considered in determining stocking rates and carrying capacity. Acres of brush (or other unpalatable species) should be excluded from the estimate of forage production and grazable acres. This is necessary to avoid overuse of the palatable species, reduced long-term productivity, erosion, water pollution and to avoid further invasion of undesirable plants.
The table below provides a further overview of stocking rate considerations.
For more information or copies of related Extension publications, contact your County Extension Office or visit the K-State Research and Extension web site.
View this helpful site: Forage Facts Notebook
Access these helpful documents:
Stocking Rate and Grazing Management
Prescribed Burning: A Management Tool
Managing Kansas Grazing Lands for Multiple Purposes
Contact Will Boyer, Extension Watershed Specialist
Your new fence can be expected to last for 15 years or more. Given this life expectancy it is really important to start with an adequate plan. Such a plan should include future modifications that you can reasonably foresee. These modifications might include partitions and/or gates that facilitate movement from one area to another.
Think about the kind of traffic that is expected to move through gates, as well as placement of gates to provide easy access to different areas. Thus, it is important to start with a map of the area that will be fenced, and to take time to play around with different plans. Once that first post hole goes in you should consider everything you do as being permanent.
A fence can be built with basic hand tools. It is important to obtain high quality tools. Purchasing discount tools is usually an exercise in frustration. Not only do they not last as long, they seldom work as well. Keep your tools clean, and in good repair and they will last for a very long time.
At a minimum, building a fence will require posts, wire, staples and fasteners, and gates. Select each with permanence in mind. The livestock that is in your paddocks today may change over the years. Your fencing can add value to your property, and if you sell the new owner may want to utilize the property for different animals than you have.
Select posts that are adequate to the task. Select wire that is of a heavy enough gauge, and that will survive the weather in your area. Use staples and fasteners of a length that will endure.
View our fence building slide show guide.