Agriculture News: A few more tips on heat and livestock

By Keenan Bishop Published:

It just seems to get hotter and drier and the forecast isn’t very promising. While hot, dry weather shouldn’t come as a surprise to us, it is unusual to start this early in the season although according to UK Meteorologist Tom Priddy, we had three 100-degree days last June and again in 1988.

Frankfort has had 38 100-degree days in June since 1895. According to the UK Long Term Forecast, the rest of July should see above average temperatures and below average rainfall, At this point we’ve been joking that it could rain on Field Day and not hurt anybody’s feelings!

We talked a little last week about livestock and the heat. Roy Burris, UK Livestock Specialist had a few more points that are good to go over:

Beware of poisonous plants. Drought and hot weather increase the likelihood of cattle consuming poisonous plants.  Cattle don’t normally consume several poisonous plants, like perilla mint but since they grow in the shade where cattle are spending most of their time, cattle might now consume them. My suggestion is to take hay to these areas where cattle congregate so they won’t be as tempted to consume any “unusual” plants.

Don’t just assume that automatic waterers are working. Check them frequently.

Early weaning of calves might be beneficial to minimize the nutrient needs of spring-calving cows.  Calves can be fed to make efficient gains and sold as heavier, weaned calves. Alternative feeds will be an option to decrease feed costs so don’t be surprised at what folks will consider feeding.  Check with us if you have questions.

Nitrate poisoning is a real possibility.  That is one of nature’s cruel tricks because farmers are trying to salvage corn crop disasters but toxic nitrate levels are definite possibilities.    Drought, heat, stunting and high fertility levels mean that increased nitrate levels are likely.

Nitrate levels should be assessed before proceeding to salvage the corn crop.  Corn plants with high nitrate levels should not be grazed, fed as green chop or cut for hay.  Nitrate levels will not decrease in hay during storage.

Ensiling can be a viable option since about 40-60 percent of nitrate is lost during fermentation but check for nitrate since extremely high levels might be difficult to overcome.  Don’t feed the silage until it has had about three weeks to become fully ensiled.

Cattle may become accustomed to low levels of nitrate if they are gradually adjusted to them. Cattle producers must keep an eye on their feed stocks for winter feeding.  Many people had lower hay yields this spring and feeding now will likely decrease their hay reserves.  They might consider purchasing feed now before prices get higher.

Moisture for corn is critical right about now. A crop is made or lost when the tassels emerge. At the same time silks are growing out of the ear. When pollen drops, the silks need to be out of the husk and ready to catch the pollen.

Silks and pollination require adequate moisture. Its painfully evident when this process fails, every silk feeds to a grain. When pollination doesn’t happen (like when insects eat the emerged silks off) the kernel won’t form. Corn crops that fail to pollinate can be salvaged for livestock feed if the nitrates are low enough.


Don’t forget that this Thursday is Farm-City Field Day. Tickets will be available in advance until Wednesday and then at the tour site at the Peyton Farm, 739 Colston Lane. Come on out and we’ll do a collective rain dance!

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