CLEMSON, S.C. — People who raise livestock know how important forages are for proper nutrition in their herds. But that nutirional value also is passed along to humans.
To help South Carolina livestock owners produce forages year around, the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is holding cool-season forages field days in March and April.
The first field day was held March 9 at Clemson’s Edisto Research and Education Center (REC) in Blackville, South Carolina, where livestock owners and agricultural professionals learned about diversifying forage systems to extend forage production, digital solutions, budgets, weed management, nutrient cycling and more.
“Cool-season forages are higher in total digestible nutrients and crude protein than warm-season forages,” said Liliane Silva, Clemson Extension forages specialist and event coordinator. “Eating cool-season forages can support greater animal performance and reproductive development for livestock.”
Cool-season forages for South Carolina include grasses such as rye, rye grass, oat, wheat and triticale. Legumes can be used for nitrogen incorporation info forage systems using alfalfa, hairy vetch, winter pea and clovers. Mixing forages is also an option and recommended to help with better forage distribution. Planting brassicas is an option for fall and winter grazing.
Clemson Cool-Season Forages Field Days
March 31, 2023, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
900 Clemson Road, Columbia, SC 29229
Info: Brian Beer, firstname.lastname@example.org
April 6, 2023, 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Piedmont REC, Simpson Beef Farm
State Rd S-4-29, Pendleton, SC 29670
Info: Sam Quinney, email@example.com
April 13, 2023, 10 a.m. to noon
380 Feed Lot Road, Fairfax, SC 29827
Info: Liliane Silva, firstname.lastname@example.org
Digital tools for management decisions
Clemson Extension has developed calculators and web applications to help growers determine fertilizer sources needed, recommend input rates to adjust soil pH, as well as balance rations and generate mix sheets for livestock rations. These tools are available at http://bit.ly/3mUOnhR.
“We created these digital tools to help South Carolina livestock owners run their operations more efficiently,” said Kendall Kirk, Clemson Extension precision agriculture engineer. “These tools are designed to be simple to use and are available on our Precision Agriculture website for use on mobile devices, as well as laptop and desktop computers.”
For help in identifying weeds, Michael Marshall, Clemson Extension weed specialist, said online tools are available from land grant universities. These tools include North Carolina State Extension’s Plants Toolbox and Virginia Extension’s Weed Identification tool.
“I’ve also used the Picture This app,” Marshall said. “Proper weed identification is important. Growers need to know what type of weeds are present so that they can choose the correct herbicides to use.”
Weed identification services are available through the Clemson Regulatory Services Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic. Samples may be submitted through County Extension offices or directly to the laboratory. For fees and other information, go to www.clemson.edu/plantclinic. Local Extension agents are also a great resource to help identify weeds and help plan for control.
Use budgets to maximize returns
Participants also learned how to maximize returns.
“One important step you can take is to use budgets to help make the best decisions for effectively running your operations,” said Matthew Fischer, Clemson Extension area agribusiness agent located in the Pickens County Extension office.
Fischer mentioned Enterprise Budgets provided by the agribusiness team. Budgets are available at http://bit.ly/3mEOoX8for agronomic crops, forages, livestock, melons and vegetables, and more.
While taking steps to properly care for their animals, Fischer said it is important livestock owners don’t forget to care for themselves. He talked about the South Carolina Farm Bureau’s SC AgriWellness program that offers free counseling services for farmers and farm families. Information can be found at www.scfb.org/farmstress.
“Taking care of our mental health is important,” Fischer said. “Counselors are available to talk and I encourage farmers and their families to use this opportunity to get help if and when they need it.”
Forage benefits for humans
Forages for livestock benefit humans as well. Many of the products humans use or consume are provided by animals that eat forages. These include food products such as milk, cheese, ice cream and meat. Other products provided by livestock include wool, leather, biomass fuels and medicinal products.
In addition, forage plants produce oxygen for clean air, reduce soil erosion, provide food and shelter for wildlife, as well as provide numerous other benefits including carbon sequestration.