- Author: Dustin Flavell
We went through January in a precarious state with only about 270 lbs of forage per acre on the ground by February 1st when normally we should have about 500 bs of forage per acre by February 1st, so the brief wet and warm period we had in early February (precipitation totals) did help us reduce the forage deficit. March is our second largest forage production month where on average we grow more than 800 lbs per acre ac so we need to see close to 1000 lbs per acre of growth in March to get us back on track for the season.
While March 1st is an indicator of how well things were (or not) for the winter months, April 1st has always been a better gauge as to where we might end up at peak standing crop. The table below shows several years that had similar forage values on March 1st but ended up with large differences in forage by the end of spring. For example in 1979-1980 we started March at 500 lbs per acre and by the end of spring ended up with total forage production that was 56% of average while in 2001-2002 we started March at 447 lbs per acre and by the end of spring had forage production that was 93% of average. Last year, with the severe drought, we started March with 400 lbs of forage on the grounded and by the end of spring forage production was about 77% of average.
It is difficult to predict how this season will turn out as of today, but March is not looking too encouraging in the way of predicted precipitation for the month. While this weekend's 0.21 inches of precipitation was a welcome site we are going to need more than a few thunderstorms to get us back on track. Our next round of data will come out shortly after April 1st and will give us a more definitive idea of where the rest of the growing season may be headed. For more information on long-term weather and forage production trends in the Sierra Foothills click here. If you are interested in getting more information managing through low rainfall/forage years SFREC has a number of videos and publications that explore this topic.
To get more information about how producers can benefit from forage production data, click here.
- Author: Megan G Osbourn
In the latest Research Spotlight, Glenn Nader, Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor, describes the project currently underway at SFREC to test the efficacy of utilizing rice strawlage as a supplement for beef cattle. In past studies, rice strawlage has greatly increased the laboratory nutritional quality of rice straw. The strawlage process, could greatly impact both California livestock and rice operations. It also could have potential worldwide impacts, as rice straw is one of the world's largest cereal residues produced. The current use of rice straw in the dry form has very limited applications in animal feeding systems.
For more information on rice strawlage research, click here.
- Contributors: Madison Easley, Larry Forero and Nikolai Schweitzer
For this project, researchers and staff regularly monitor and assess four factors associated with the production of foothill flood irrigated pasture utilizing pipe and ditch delivery methods. These factors include the amount of water applied to the pasture, the amount of water run-off, the effectiveness of irrigation, and the production of the pasture (measured in biomass and AUM harvest).
Preliminary findings indicate that the interval between irrigations could be lengthened in the fall as the days shorten and become cooler. Fewer applications result in less water being used, saving ranchers time, money, and stress. The monitoring for this project will continue through the summer and fall, so check back for additional updates.
With July being “Smart Irrigation Month” this is the time for ranchers to explore opportunities for more efficient irrigation methods using resources like those offered in this post.
- Author: Megan G Osbourn
Adaptation to changing weather and economic conditions is fundamental to farm and ranch survival but this year's drought is pushing variable adaptation strategies to their limit. The international community is closely watching how this dire situation is progressing in California and on June 19th the Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC) visited the Sierra Foothill Research & Extension Center (SFREC) to document how ranchers are adapting to these extreme events and the implications these events have on agriculture and ultimately food production worldwide. Filming involved capturing interviews of three ranchers to explore their perspectives as well as a tour of SFREC to examine potential adaptation strategies to drought.
Joe Fischer, cattle rancher and President of the Placer County Farm Bureau, told CBC the economic impacts and emotional toll of the drought on ranching families have forced ranchers to rethink their management strategies and find innovative ways to manage the land. “Ranchers tend to be profitable if the land is productive,” Fischer said. “We have to look ahead five to ten years or more and try to be as conservative as possible with our stocking rates. Under these conditions, we have a much smaller margin for error so we have to be more precise than ever with our management strategies.”
SFREC Director Jeremy James and Livestock and Natural resource Advisor Glenn Nader used SFERC as an opportunity to demonstrate how intensive grazing management, agricultural by-products and culling strategies could be deployed to mitigate some of the impacts of drought. Many producers with limited feed sources are utilizing agricultural by-products that are available in their area in order to sustain the nutritional requirements of their livestock. Nader, pointed out that almond hulls are high in energy and have limited protein, which allows cows to more efficiently digest hay and can limit the quantity of hay they need to consume. Nader warned that the almond hulls fed must contain a low level of almond shell, in order to avoid problems with rumen digestibility. Rice straw and rice bran are more local agricultural by-products that, under the right conditions, have been utilized as dietary supplements for cattle.
To view the proceedings from the January 29th SFREC Drought Workshop, click here.
- Author: Dustin Flavell
Peak standing crop at SFREC for the 2013-2014 forage production year occurred on May 20, 2014 and yielded 2300 pounds per acre for the season. This is 77% of the historic average of 2971 pounds per acre. Ending the forage production season at 77% of average is better than originally predicted, considering the cold, dry fall and early winter , along with the historic low forage production through January.
Precipitation totals for the season came to 16.63 inches which is 56% of the historic average of 29.5 inches annually. Considering we received 12.5 inches of rain from February to May further shows that rain during the rapid forage growth season means more to overall forage growth than total precipitation. In fact, had we not had the very cold early December temperatures that immediately followed the 2.26 inches of precipitation at the end of November this forage season would have looked altogether different. Starting the rapid forage growth season at 98 lbs per acre instead of closer to our average of 515 pounds per acre is what most likely kept this from being closer to or better than an average forage season.