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LaFayette Grows Healthy Kickoff September 8th

I  have a question for you: “What’s healthy and growing in Chambers County?” The answer: Healthy resources and opportunities for YOU and your family! That’s right. So, what’s new? Well, there’s the LaFayette Raised-bed Community Gardens, the LaFayette Farmers Market, and the outdoor Walking Trail. Soon we will also install sturdy outdoor exercise equipment. Shortly thereafter, we will install children’s playground equipment.

It is time to celebrate these accomplishments and see how you can benefit from these opportunities!!!  How???  By having an epic Chambers County CDC Grant Kickoff Thursday, September 8th, 2016 from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM Central.  Location: 1084 Alabama Highway 77, LaFayette, AL 36862 (Chambers County Agricultural Center). There is no cost to attend.

What will be available? After the Opening Ceremony you will have access to:

  • Fitness education using Stretch bands (first 100 participants can keep their free bands)
  • Health and nutrition information by the Auburn University School of Nursing, the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM), and EAMC – Lanier experts
  • Raised-bed gardening education
  • Sheriff Sid Lockhart’s famous grilled delicacies
  • Nutrition Education Program Cooking Demonstration

How did these resources and opportunities occur? Chambers County Extension and a gamut of community partners have been tirelessly working to prevent and reduce obesity in Chambers

Guidelines for Submitting, Interpreting, and Using Soil Tests

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Providing adequate nutrition to one’s animals is a common goal of livestock producers. Without adequate nutrients and minerals, animals are less productive and return less profit. Many producers understand that one cannot simply “make up for” a protein deficiency by providing animals extra energy, and that dollars are lost by over feeding animals past their nutrient requirements for desired production. We have tools available to help us understand the nutrient requirements of our livestock, help develop a ration (feed), and help determine how much of that ration animals should eat.

However, have you ever considered that these basic principles apply to your forages? To achieve maximum performance of one’s forages, a soil test can be performed to determine the nutrients available in your soil. Then, the requirements of the forage you wish to grow are considered, and fertilizer recommendations are reported from the soil test. Producers can then use test results to apply the correct amount of each nutrient in their specific pasture. More forage growth is seen because your forages have the correct amount of the nutrients they require, and less nutrients (and money) are wasted compared to fertilizing fields with a “best guess” mixture and amount that lacks scientific calculations based off your soil.

How to obtain and interpret a soil test:

1: Take Soil Samples:

Soil can vary in nutrient composition depending on its location in the field. Therefore, it is  important that your soil sample contains soil from each part of the field you wish to fertilize. It is recommended that 15-20 uniform samples of soil are collected from your field. These samples should be 4-6 inches deep and collected in a planned pattern to insure all areas are inspected. Place samples in a bucket, mix well, and place 1 pint in a soil collection box. Soil sample boxes, information sheets, and other supplies for soil testing are available from your county Extension office. When mailing your samples, enclose the filled soil boxes, the information sheet, and a check or money order to cover service charges in a cardboard shipping box and mail to the soil testing lab. More details on sample collection and sample submission can be found on Alabama’s soil test website.

2: Interpreting your Soil Sample Report:

In this article we will focus on the Limestone, Nitrogen(N), Phosphorus(P), and Potassium(K) recommendations from your soil test.

Limestone: Limestone application helps raise the pH of your soil. The pH scale ranges from 0-14 and helps you determine how acidic or basic your soil is. Soil with a pH lower than 7 is considered acidic, soil with a pH of 7 is considered neutral, and soil with a pH higher than 7 is considered basic. In general, if pH drops much below 6, it is time to lime your pasture to raise pH. Apply the amount of Limestone recommended to your pasture. For help with Lime calculations, follow this link.

N, P, K: The amount of each nutrient needed by your pasture is listed in your soil test. Amounts will vary, but the goal of applying fertilizer is to purchase a mixture that best allows these recommendations to be met.  If your soil test recommends 60 pounds of N, 40 pounds of P, and 40 pounds of K, you can custom order this mixture or use a pre-mixed fertilizer to meet your soil’s requirements. For more information on how to calculate the amount of fertilizer needed or the fertilizer mix to use, contact your REA or visit a help page by clicking on the chemical fertilizer calculator help page or the organic fertilizer calculator help page.

3: When to fertilize your pasture:

The key to successful fertilizing is to replace nutrients when they are used by the forages growing in your soil. Different management strategies (grazing vs cutting hay) remove nutrients at different rates and require different fertilizing schedules. Links to fertilizing recommendations for various grasses are given on the ACES website. Click here and select your specific forage to view fertilizer recommendations.

If you have questions regarding submitting and using soil tests, contact myself or other members of the ACES Animal Science and Forages Team.

Sarah Dickinson, M.S.

Regional Extension Agent I

Animal Science & Forages

Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Cell: 256-537-0024

Office: 2560-825-1050

Email:sed0029@auburn.edu

Serving Chambers, Clay, Cleburne, Coosa, Lee, Randolph, Shelby, Talladega, and Tallapoosa Counties

Soil Testing: Why It’s Important and How to Get Started

Did you know there is a simple tool available to help landowners and producers know how much fertilizer to use in their gardens, lawns and fields? This tool is a soil sample test. A soil test first determines the nutrients available in your soil. Then, the nutrient requirements of the forage you wish to grow are considered and fertilizer recommendations are provided based off your soil test. You can use these recommendations to apply the correct amount of each fertilizer component in your pasture. More forage growth is seen because your forages have the correct amount of required nutrients. Additionally, less nutrients (and money) are wasted compared to fertilizing fields with a “best guess” mixture and amount that lacks scientific calculations based off your soil.

Taking a soil test in your pasture is easy. You just need to contact your local Extension Office or Regional Extension Agent. You should collect about 20 samples of soil from various locations in your field. Dig soil 6-8 inches deep, or use a soil probe that can be borrowed from the County Extension Office or Agent. Once samples are collected, mix them well and place 1 pint in a soil sample box to send to the Soil Testing Laboratory at Auburn University. Soil sample boxes, information sheets, and other supplies for soil testing are available from your County Extension Office. More information can be found online at: http://www.aces.edu/anr/soillab/forms/index.php

Your soil test results allow you to properly fertilize your pastures, which leads to better forage growth and less waste. Why guess next time you purchase fertilizer? Get optimum forage growth and increased forage availability for your livestock by performing an easy soil test. For more information on this and other Extension topics, please contact Sarah Dickinson, Animal Sciences and Forages Regional Extension Agent, at 256-537-0024, sed0029@auburn.edu or the Chambers County Extension Office at 334-864-9373. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn University), is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

The Worms Go Marching: Combating Fall Army Worm Infestations

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Many producers vividly remember their encounters with fall army worms. The discovery of large, later stage army worms in one’s pasture quickly leads to tremendous destruction of valuable forage. Producers generally see the damage of these pests in late July/August through early fall.

Mature fall army worm moths lay eggs that hatch after just 2-4 days. Upon hatching, young army worms begin to feed and grow. Army worm growth occurs in stages, with the worms’ capacity for destruction increasing with each growth stage. Army worms reach full size 2-3 weeks after hatching, and will then burrow into the soil for 10-14 days. Afterward, they emerge as mature army worm moths and continue the life cycle.

A key to managing fall army worms is the understanding of their life cycle and growth phases. Shortly after hatching, small worms are far less destructive than their more mature counterparts. Figure 1 demonstrates the amount of damage observed from worms at each growth stage. Notice that the vast majority of damage occurs during the last growth phase (which occurs 2 weeks after their hatching). Scouting for worms before you notice their destruction allows for one to spray and kill the worms while they are small and in earlier, less destructive growth phases. This reduces their negative impacts on one’s pastures and allows for better control of future infestations since the lifecycle is interrupted.

Fall armyworm

Use a sweep net to scan your pastures for worms. Follow the links to view a video or article on proper sweep net usage. Treatment for fall army worms is effective if worms are found early on. If infestation is discovered too late, major destruction may be unavoidable. This is why it is essential to scout for worms BEFORE you notice their impact on your forages. Once discovered, worms can be killed by spraying. Click here for an article that contains suggestions for fall army worm control.

Also, remember to help your fellow producers know if army worms are in your area by reporting occurrences of fall army worms. Click here to view the updated map of army worm infestation in Alabama, and let us know if you have fall army worms.

More information about fall army worms is available at the Alabama Forages Pest Management website in the Fall Armyworm section.

If you have questions regarding managing fall armyworms, contact myself or other members of the ACES Animal Science and Forages Team.

Sarah Dickinson, M.S.

Regional Extension Agent I

Animal Science & Forages

Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Cell: 256-537-0024

Office: 2560-825-1050

Email:sed0029@auburn.edu

Serving Chambers, Clay, Cleburne, Coosa, Lee, Randolph, Shelby, Talladega, and Tallapoosa Counties

Beef Cow Evaluation Tips for Selective Culling of the Herd

In hot, dry years beef cow evaluation and selective culling of the herd can allow for better management of limited resources and enhance the average production per animal to boost herd productivity in future years.

When resources are abundant and calf prices are high, it is tempting to retain cows that are not pulling their weight in adding to your bottom line. While such animals reduce one’s profitability regardless of scenario, utilizing selective culling to eliminate these individuals is of utmost importance for management of the herd in times when climate fluctuations lead to lowered nutrient availability. By culling low producing individuals, the overall herd size is reduced allowing hay and pasture to be better stretched among remaining animals. Furthermore, income from the marketing of culled animals can be used to purchase hay or feedstuffs for the upcoming winter. The following checklist outlines criteria that should be considered when evaluating the cowherd, and may be of special relevance in low resource availability years when stringent culling is necessary.

  1. Pregnancy Status: Regardless of climate and market reports, cows that do not produce a calf annually reduce profitability and consume resources needed by their productive herdmates. Open cows should be identified and culled following the conclusion of the breeding season. If you do not have a defined breeding season, keep in mind that a cow must conceive within roughly 80 days of calving to maintain a 365-day calving interval. If she’s open for months longer, she’s not earning her keep. Work with a veterinarian to establish dates for pregnancy examination by palpation or ultrasound, or consider utilizing blood samples sent to a diagnostic lab to determine pregnancy status.
  2. Teeth/Eyes/Feet/Udder: Animals with physical limitations may slip through the culling process in high resource availability years. However, animals unable to easily travel and consume available forage are more likely to lose condition and experience reduced productivity than their physically capable herd mates, and animals with poor udder/teat quality may experience calf loss following birth if suckling is prevented. Culling such animals before a fall calving season and the start of winter feeding eliminates candidates for lowered productivity up front, and marketing these animals before rapid weight loss or health decline results in a more desirable final product and higher compensation.
  3. Body Condition Score (BCS): A BCS allows one to determine the condition of the cowherd. Animals are scored through visual appraisal and external palpation, and a score of 1(emaciated) to 9(obese) is assigned.  At calving, beef cows should have a minimal BCS of 5 to allow for maximum productivity. Thin cows approaching the calving season can lead to lowered pregnancy rates in the upcoming breeding season. BCS appraisal at calf weaning, followed by management to improve condition in thin, dry cows allows such animals to gain condition by calving time. On average, a mature beef cow requires 80 pounds of gain to move up one BCS. However, without adequate feedstuffs to allow for proper gain before calving, culling thin cows at weaning minimizes reduced future production of the herd.
  4. Low production record: Cows that wean late and/or light weight calves pull down the overall productivity of the herd. If conditions require additional culling, look to these animals to lessen your total numbers and increase average productivity per animal.
  5. Disposition: Culling animals with flighty or aggressive behaviors may reduce frustration, producer injury, and fence/equipment damage.
  6. Cows calving out of season or that lack uniformity with the herd: Animals that calve in a season differing from the main herd or that differ in frame size, breed composition, or color may be good candidates for marketing in years when low resources lead to necessary reduction of the herd. Producing uniform calves of the same weight, age, and type can pay dividends when it comes time to wean and market calves. Eliminating animals from the herd that prevent such uniformity may improve overall future profitability. Importantly, such animals can be marketed through different avenues than animals culled for the criteria 1-5 listed above to. Quality individuals that don’t calve in your calving season or are not of the same type as the remainder of your herd may fit others’ calving seasons or herd profiles perfectly. Take advantage of value added marketing schemes to reap the full benefit these animals offer.

While each operation differs in goals and objectives, balance usage of the above cow evaluation criteria can help producers make educated culling or selling decisions in times when resources are both bountiful or limited.

See more articles with further information of this type:

If you have questions regarding cow evaluation and culling/marketing strategies to enhance your program’s profitability, contact myself or other members of the ACES Animal Science and Forages Team.

Sarah Dickinson, M.S.

Regional Extension Agent I

Animal Science & Forages

Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Cell: 256-537-0024

Office: 2560-825-1050

Email:sed0029@auburn.edu

Serving Chambers, Clay, Cleburne, Coosa, Lee, Randolph, Shelby, Talladega, and Tallapoosa Counties

Sarah Dickinson joins ACES Animal Science and Forages Team

Sara - banner

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System welcomes Sarah Dickinson to the statewide Animal Science and Forages team as a Regional Extension Agent serving Chambers, Clay, Cleburne, Coosa, Lee, Randolph, Shelby, Talladega, and Tallapoosa counties.  An Alabama native, Dickinson was raised on her family’s beef cattle operation in Citronelle and became involved in 4-H Livestock project. She exhibited swine and beef market projects in Alabama and beef heifers in state and across the county. Sarah’s heifer projects and utilization of artificial insemination led to the development of her small herd of Simmental influenced females, Sarah Dickinson Simmental Farm.

Sarah earned her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from Auburn University in 2014. She was actively involved in the Auburn Block and Bridle club, Ag Ambassadors, Auburn Collegiate Cattlemen, and American Junior Simmental Association during her college years, and nourished a strong passion for the agriculture community during this time. She then traveled to Columbia, Missouri and was mentored by Dr. Michael Smith of the University of Missouri. There, she recently completed her Master’s degree in Animal Science concentrating on beef cattle reproduction. Dickinson’s Thesis research was centered on increasing AI pregnancy rates in beef cows following a single, fixed-time insemination. More specifically, she examined the effect of ovulatory follicle size on oocyte (egg) competence in beef females following estrous synchronization.

The cattle through which Sarah’s research data was obtained were located at Fort Keogh, a USDA research station in Miles City, Montana. Therefore, she spent two summers in southeastern Montana gathering data and learning about beef cattle production on the high plains. Sarah’s beef production knowledge was also broadened in Missouri by her extensive training in extension work related to beef cattle reproductive management. Here, she became proficient in beef heifer reproductive tract scoring and pelvic measurements, beef cattle estrous synchronization procedures, artificial insemination, palpation, and ultrasonography. Sarah was further mentored by Dr. David Patterson, and gained a strong understanding of principles surrounding beef heifer development through involvement with the Missouri Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program©.

Sarah is housed in the Tallapoosa County extension office, and is excited to make an impact on Alabama’s agricultural community. She states: “I feel blessed to have the opportunity to provide relevant information to help my fellow producers advance their given endeavors. I cannot relay how grateful I am to the talented individuals who mentored me in our state and across the country, and am now excited to put my scientific training, production background, and networking skills to use by helping others!”

Please contact Sarah with animal science or forage related questions, programming ideas for your area, or to discuss agriculture and your operation.

Sarah Dickinson, M.S.

Regional Extension Agent I

Animal Science & Forages

Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Cell: 256-537-0024

Office: 256-825-1050

Email:sed0029@auburn.edu

Serving Chambers, Clay, Cleburne, Coosa, Lee, Randolph, Shelby, Talladega, and Tallapoosa Counties

Pond Weeds

 

Got pond weeds? There is a plethora of aquatic vegetation that can potentially plague ponds across Alabama. Filamentous algae, duckweed, southern naiad, watershield, and several species of water lily are just a few of the weeds that come to mind. There are several other types of aquatic vegetation that can become a nuisance for pond owners across the state. The first step in dealing with aquatic vegetation is to correctly identify the species you have in your pond. Then you can take proper measures to control and/or eradicate these unwanted plants. There are several options in controlling “pond weeds.” Mechanical, biological, and chemical treatments are the 3 different ways to combat unwanted vegetation.

Mechanical treatment is simply the removal of weeds by hand or with use of machinery. This is a great tool in conjunction with one of the other two methods, especially in small ponds where weeds have covered a large surface area. Rarely is mechanical removal a complete solution, due to seed, roots, or other plant particles being left in the pond, which will eventually allow the vegetation to grow again.

Biological control generally refers to the stocking of grass carp (white amur) to feed on and help control vegetation growth. Correct identification of your pond weeds will tell you whether grass carp will be beneficial. Some weeds in Alabama may not be controlled by grass carp, whereas others may be completely controlled using these fish. It is also important to remember that grass carp will benefit your pond for the first 5 or so years that they are stocked. After that, the fish do not feed as heavily as they do the first few years, thus allowing vegetation to grow back.

Chemical treatment is our third treatment option and can be a very effective method for controlling pond weeds. Again, correct identification of vegetation in your pond is needed to accurately prescribe a herbicide treatment. Based on what “weed” you are dealing with, a professional will then tell you what chemical (active ingredient) you need to control said weed. Some recommendations may suggest a combination of herbicides. It is of utmost importance to ALWAYS READ THE LABEL of any herbicide before applying. Never apply a terrestrial (land use) herbicide in an aquatic setting. Always look to purchase a herbicide that is labeled for aquatic use. There are all kinds of brands and tradenames for herbicides with the same active ingredients. When comparing products, recommend comparing prices while also looking at the amount of active ingredient in each formula and the recommended application rate. This will allow you to find the “best bang for your buck.” For more information on Fish Pond Management including Aquatic weed control, please visit our webpage www.alearn.info, then click on “Recreational Fishing.” Through this website you can also view a list of grass carp suppliers and a list of Pond Management Consultants who can provide herbicide application. For more information on this and other Extension topics, please contact Jordan Graves, Forestry, Wildlife and Natural Resource Management Regional Extension Agent, at 334-672-4826, jdg0041@aces.edu or the Chambers County Extension Office at 334-864-9373. The Alabama

Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn University), is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Everyone is welcome!

 

Cogongrass

Overview

A Chambers County landowner recently had an unwelcomed visitor – Cogongrass. Cogongrass is an aggressive exotic perennial grass that was introduced to Mobile, Alabama in 1911. It was used in packing material from Japan. Cogongrass is spreading rapidly across Alabama, reducing forest productivity, destroying wildlife habitat, and encroaching in pasture and hayland acreage. Cogongrass can quickly become the dominant understory plant which can outcompete the desired vegetation. Cogongrass is highly flammable and creates a severe fire hazard, especially in drought conditions and the winter. The extreme temperatures generated when cogongrass burns can kill seedling trees and native plants. Dense stands of cogongrass will also destroy wildlife habitat by out-competing native grasses and forbs utilized as forage.

Identification

Cogongrass forms patches in a circular pattern. It grows in full sunlight to partial shade and varies in height from 1 to 4 feet. Leaves measure .5- to 1-inch wide and are commonly 12 to 30 inches long. The whitish upper midrib of a mature leaf is often not centered on the blade. Leaf margins are rough to the touch due to tiny serrations. The leaves appear to grow directly from the soil, but short stems are present. The plant is hairless except where a few short hairs can be found at the node (where the leaf grows from the stem). Seed heads (fluffy, white, plume-like) range from 2 to 8 inches in length and appear in late spring, early summer, or after a disturbance. Each seed has silky, white hairs that are wind dispersed. Rhizomes of cogongrass are white, segmented, branched, and are sharp pointed and often pierce the roots of other plants.

Recommended Control Measures

Tillage can eliminate new patches of Cogongrass if continued during the growing season. Herbicides with the active ingredients Glyphosate and Imazapyr have been used to effectively control established stands of cogongrass; however, the plant often regenerates within a year following a single application. A minimum of two applications per year is needed, with older infestations requiring 2 to 3 years of treatment to eliminate rhizomes. Herbicide labels specify application methods, rates and precautions – which should be followed. Cogongrass is often spread throughout the state by contaminated equipment. To prevent spread of Cogongrass, do not mow, bush hog, or go through the grass when seed heads are present. Do not work in an infested area when soil is muddy, as rhizomes can break off and get stuck on equipment. Do not push roads or fire lanes or grade roads through cogongrass. If you must work in Cogongrass-infested areas, it is important to clean vehicles, equipment, and clothing before moving into an uncontaminated site.

For more information and Cogongrass photographs, please see Extension Publications ANR-1241 at http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-1241/ANR-1241.pdf and ANR 1321 at http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-1321/ANR-1321.pdf . If you have further questions or need assistance in identification, please contact your Chambers County Extension office (334-864-9373), Forestry Commission (334-864-9368), or NRCS (334-745-4791, ext. 3) office.