A forage testing and feeding project, aimed at helping beef producers deal with this year’s poor-quality forages and prevent calving problems, has been developed by Iowa State University (ISU) Extension beef specialists.

Dan Loy, interim director of the Iowa Beef Center (IBC) at ISU, says continued rain has made hay baling extremely difficult, resulting in over-mature hay, rain-damaged hay and lack of hay supplies in some areas.

“This forage-testing project is a multi-pronged approach by ISU Extension beef program specialists to determine the nutrient value of this year’s forages, assist in balancing feed rations for cattle performance and educate people about forage nutrient values and rations,” says Loy.

IBC, the Grass Based Livestock Working Group from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa Forage and Grassland Council and the Southern Iowa Forage and Livestock Committee are sponsoring the first phase of the project this fall: collecting and testing forages. Additional sponsors are being sought for the education portion of the project and a second year of testing. The project currently includes a 50% cost-share on sample testing for producers, thanks in part to a collaboration with Dairyland Laboratories, Arcadia, WI.

In addition to receiving information on quality of their forages, producers might use test results to prove losses under the Farm Service Agency’s Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) Program, says Loy.

Denise Schwab, ISU Extension beef specialist who is helping lead the project, says county Extension offices are vital links in the project.

“The extension beef specialists will work directly with county offices to provide all necessary sample bags, information forms and mailing envelopes, and do necessary monitoring of samples and sample locations,” she says. “We consider county offices our partners in this project, from publicizing its availability to helping direct producers to the appropriate people and resources to participate in the project. Producers will bring their samples to the county office, so the county office staff are vital to the success of this project.”

While most of the samples will be weather-impacted hay, some silage samples will be tested, says Loy.

“We want to be sure we have adequate sample numbers to be able to offer ration balance assistance yet this fall for winter feeding,” he says. “So, if you’re interested in taking part, or you have questions about the project, contact your county ISU Extension office or your beef specialist soon.”

A listing of Extension beef specialists and their contact information is available at www.extension.iastate.edu/ag/fs.html. To learn more about forage sampling, download, print and use a newly updated publication from IBC, Forage Sampling and Sampling Equipment at www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/PM1098B.pdf.

For more information about IBC, visit www.iowabeefcenter.org or check out the IBC blog at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/iowabeef/.