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Regional Roundup

The Regional Roundup is production advice to help meet challenges found in specific areas of the United States. Regions include Midwest/North, Southeast, Southern Plains and West.

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Buying a new bull can be a daunting task. But the work is not done. Receiving and transitioning new bulls to your operation is crucial to the success of your investment.

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Forage legumes provide many benefits to beef cattle operations in terms of their quality, productivity and ability to contribute nitrogen back to the system. In times of increased fertility input costs, forage legumes are generally revisited as an option to help provide nitrogen in forage systems. However, it is important to understand how forage legumes work in our Southeastern systems, especially when most forage legumes are grown in combination with grasses during the grazing season.

Legumes have a mutually beneficial relationship with the bacteria rhizobium. These bacteria infect legume root hairs, forming small nodules near the point of root elongation, or root nodes. These bacteria help remove nitrogen gas from the atmosphere and convert it to a plant-usable form. This process is referred to as nitrogen fixation. Biologically fixed nitrogen is available to the legume once the roots have been infected and nodulated. A good way to know if legumes in your pasture are fixing nitrogen is to dig up a plant with roots attached and physically cut open one of the nodules on the root system. If the color inside of the node is pinkish-red, then nitrogen is actively being fixed by the plant.

Legumes can help provide a source of nitrogen for grasses in the system through a “give and take” relationship. As legumes are defoliated, either by grazing or mowing, this causes the roots to die back, releasing some nitrogen for surrounding plants. Aboveground legume leaf litter, or leaves that have fallen from plants over time, can degrade and go back to the soil. Grazing animals also recycle nutrients back to the soil while grazing mixed legume-grass pastures, which represents another source of nutrient return.

In other words, nitrogen fixed by forage legumes takes some time to become available to surrounding grass plants in a stand. It is generally recommended that legumes make up at least 30% of the pasture for no nitrogen to be applied. It is important that legume plants are well distributed across the pasture to see a more uniform response. Annual use of legumes in pastures will help build soil quality, increase plant diversity in pastures and provide a high plane of nutrition in beef cattle grazing systems.  end mark

Kim Mullenix
  • Kim Mullenix

  • Extension Beef Specialist/Associate Professor
  • Auburn University
  • Email Kim Mullenix

Unfortunately, drought and abnormally dry conditions are ongoing and have spread across much of the region. Additionally, current forecasts call for these conditions to continue and spread into additional areas.

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With spring work starting and calving season coming to an end for most of us, the last thing on our minds is looking at the old bull pen. However, now is the time to do it.

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Rising input costs are posing a major threat to profitability in nearly all sectors. For most cattle producers, the largest input is feed. While I think everyone should be looking at ways to reduce feed costs, I believe timely supplementation is a good investment.

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There is a reason green is the “lucky color” during the month of March for most cattle producers. Cool-season forages are about to reach their peak production for the year, and many producers are enjoying the benefits of high-quality forage for their herds.

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