acreage living October 1998

ISU cooperative extension

In this issue: acreage living home page

 Which Forage Specie is For You?

(Prepared by Carroll Olsen, ISU Extension Field Specialist/Crops, SW Area Extension, 712/769-2600)

You’ve probably been to a neighborhood or coffee shop gathering and heard that "Nothing beats (fill in the blank) for pasture." The statement may be true for the individual that said it but may not be true for you. You need to decide what your pasture and forage goals are and then take steps to achieve those goals.

Pasture quality probably follows a continuum from unimproved, weedy, tree infested bluegrass to a solid seeding of alfalfa. And, all may be correct for the owner. Your problem is to decide where you think you want to be, realizing it’s okay to move in either direction.

I generally divide forage specie several ways, the first division being warm or cool season.

Warm season plants include the popular so-called prairie grasses such as Indiangrass, big bluestem, and switchgrass. All are perennials (they live over the winter and don’t need to be re-established annually). They tend to produce well during hot summer days when cool season grasses are in a dormant mode. (You may still be able to see these grasses along many roadsides.)

Of the three, switchgrass is probably the most widely planted. Switchgrass seedings tend to be more successful than the other two grasses and it’s just easier to seed. The seed is smooth and works well in many seeders.

Big bluestem and Indiangrass tend to be harder to seed since they have "beards" and are light and chaffy. Both species are more palatable than switchgrass after heading.

Cool season grasses are mostly introduced grasses that tend to do well in the spring and in the fall—hence their classification. Their low production time is in the middle of the summer.

Smooth bromegrass is probably the most popular cool season forage grass in Iowa. It grows readily on most soils, spreads by underground roots, and can take a beating.

Bluegrass is like a little sister to bromegrass. It can take abuse and spreads by root. Yield of bluegrass is appreciably less than bromegrass.

Orchardgrass is a bunch grass (it won’t spread to fill bare spots) but each clump will become a little larger with time. It has a reputation for recovering faster than brome or bluegrass during the summer but it’s still a cool season grass and can’t be depended on for much forage during hot summer months. If abused, it will probably die out.

Tall fescue is a high yielding, bunch-type grass, probably best adapted to southern Iowa. Downfall seems to be palatability—livestock won’t eat mature plants if there’s anything else available. Best pastured when young and more palatable. One researcher says it’s the next best thing to concrete and can be beneficial in lanes and other high traffic areas. It is used on many football fields and play areas.

A rap against tall fescue is a fungus in some of the plants that can cause problems with livestock if fescue is the sole source of food. It’s interesting that the same problem is one of the plus features of tall fescue as a lawn grass. Insects don’t like the fungus and do not bother the tall fescue. No insects, no moles!

Reed canarygrass is a native cool season grass, usually found in waterways and other damp areas. However, it can be grown on hills and is a high producer. It’s problems are similar to fescue. Sometimes, you have to force livestock to eat it.

Adding legumes to a grass stand does two things—adds nitrogen for the grass and produces forage during hot summer months when cool season grass production slows. Solid stands of all but birdsfoot trefoil can cause cattle to bloat, sometimes leading to death of the animal. Make sure your pastures have at least 50 percent grasses to protect from bloat.

Alfalfa is undoubtedly the highest producing legume in both quality and quantity. And there are some varieties better suited to grazing than others. Alfalfa stands typically tend to die after 5-8 years and will need to be reseeded. And seed is usually relatively expensive.

Red clover is quite popular for interseeding into pastures because it is relatively cheap and it seems to be easier to get a "catch." Although red clover is a perennial, it is susceptible to disease and typically lasts only two years. At the ISU McNay Research Farm, they automatically seed a little bit each year to insure a constant stand.

Birdsfoot trefoil is a perennial legume that is bloat free and produces somewhere between alfalfa and red clover. Got to be a catch doesn’t there? There is. It has a very weak seedling and may take at least three years to establish. Individual plants may only last three to five years and stand renewal depends on new seedlings each year

There are other species available and you can find out more by contacting your county ISU Extension office. Or, read some of the back issues of this news letter. For a listing of forage publications available from your county ISU Extension office, check the Internet at the ISU Extension home page and look for publications. There is also a new charge bulletin, "Pasture Management Guide For Livestock Producers," that is very thorough in all phases of pasture management.

We are always reading about the "new" forage that will solve all of our problems. But keep in mind, there’s no free lunch.

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 Recognize Yourself?

An article in the Wall Street Journal sets out to prove that millionaires aren't much different from average folks like you and me. According to the article, you can recognize the average millionaire because he:
Is a 57-year-old married man with three children;
Works somewhere between 45 and 55 hours a week;
Has a median household annual income of $131,000;
Has an average household net worth of about $3.7 million;
Drives an older model automobile and buys rather than leases;
Is self-employed in a practical business such as farming, pest control or paving contracting.

Farm Journal/April 1997

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 Physical Activity and Health

(Prepared by Pat Anderson, ISU Extension Field Specialist/Nutrition & Health, East Pottawattamie County, 712/482-6449)

I hope you haven't missed the message "you don't have to train like you're going to run the Boston Marathon to derive real health benefits from being physically active".

Many Americans evidently have missed the message, because our national statistics aren't good. Approximately 25 percent of U.S. adults are not active at all on a daily basis and more than 60 percent of adults don't engage in the recommended amount of activity.

We tend to think of young people as being active; however, 14 percent of our young people report no recent physical activity and nearly half are not vigorously active on a regular basis.

We have become a nation of "couch potatoes" tuned into the television, burning only about one calorie a minute, and "mouse potatoes" surfing the net with our computer and burning about two calories a minute. We are losing the battle of the bulge and have high health care costs from diseases that could be prevented or delayed with physical activity.

Moderate physical activity performed on most days of the week can substantially reduce your risk of dying from heart disease, and can reduce your risk of developing colon cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Physical activity also improves mood, and individuals with arthritis experience improved quality of life through improved flexibility.

When physical activity is combined with calorie control it provides a more effective strategy for long-term weight regulation than dieting alone.

While some reducing diets result in a loss of lean body mass, physical activity is more likely to increase the rate at which fat is metabolized and the amount of fat that is metabolized. Research shows that physical activity has a more favorable effect on reducing upper body fat than dieting. Most effective, for weight loss, seems to be exercise of longer duration (50-60 minutes per session), but other health benefits are gained from getting at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, a minimum of five times a week.

Moderate physical activity uses approximately 150 calories of energy per day, or 1,000 calories per week. Since the number of calories you burn is influenced by your weight, as well as the type of activity, I thought you would like to see how some of your outdoor activity stacks up in terms of calorie burning. Use the chart to see if your activity reaches the calorie goal per week.

Calories are given for one minute of the activity at three different weight levels.

Activity 125 lbs. 150 lbs. 175 lbs.
Chopping & Splitting wood 6 7 8
Carrying & Stacking wood 5 6 7
Digging & Spading Dirt 5 7 6
Gardening (weeding) 5 6 6
Mowing Lawn: Push Power mower 5 5 6
Raking Lawn 4 5 6
Sacking Leaves or Grass 4 5 6
Walking (17 min/mi) 4 5 6
Walking (15 min/mi) 5 5 6
Walking (13 min/mi) 5 6 7
Operate snowblower 5 5 6
Shovel Snow by hand 6 7 8

A good physical activity program includes strength training with weights, along with other moderate activity. Strength training helps muscles stablilize bones, and reduces the number of falls experienced by older adults.

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 Reducing Mouse and Rabbit Damage

(Prepared by Eldon Everhart, ISU Extension Field Specialist/Horticulture, Shelby County, 712/755-3104)

mouse.jpg (6394 bytes)Rabbits, meadow mice, and voles can do a lot of damage to fruit trees and landscape plants.

Mice eat the bark of the trunk and roots both above and below ground level. Voles nest underground, eating bark from the roots near the surface. Rabbits girdle trunks and branches.

The following control procedures are offered as suggestions to help reduce the potential for damage.

octphoto2.jpg (82332 bytes)• Guards — Use one-quarter inch mesh hard-ware cloth (wire mesh) around the base of fruit and ornamental trees and shrubs. Set the guards about two to three inches in the ground at the base of the trunk or around the crown of the plant. Extend the wire up at least 18 inches above the ground. In areas where snowdrifts develop, the wire guards will need to be extended up even higher.

• Change Habitat — This includes the elimination of high grass cover through repeated mowing or the use of nonselective herbicides (such as glyphosphate, Roundup) in and around but not on the leaves or trunks of trees and shrubs (protect them from direct contact, splash, and drift). This will reduce the mouse population by giving predators (such as owls) a better chance to do their job. Pea gravel (small stones) placed one inch below the soil surface and around the tree will discourage mice. When planting trees, allow the soil to settle one inch and apply the stone two inches deep.

• Trapping — Wooden snap-traps placed in runways will help control mice. Peanut butter, oatmeal, or small slices of apple make the best bait. Rabbits can be captured alive in commercially available or homemade box traps made of wire or wood. When permitted, rabbit hunting may be another option.

• Repellents — There are several commercially available repellents on the market. When you apply them in the fall, they may not last throughout the winter and may need to be reapplied. Thiram is an active ingredient that repels both rabbits and mice. Mix it with diluted latex paint. Mix ten parts water with one part paint and spray or brush it on. Commercial repellents that contain Thiram or other active ingredients are also available at garden centers and farm supply stores.

These safeguards will help reduce mouse and rabbit damage. However, when snowdrifts are deep, rabbits can eat the tips of branches and even girdle limbs. So, it is very important to reduce rabbit populations in early or mid winter. Leaving pruned branches on the ground also reduces damage to living trees because rabbits are more apt to chew the bark from the branches and leave trees alone.

If these methods are ineffective, then commercial rodent baits containing poisoned grain are available. However, baits may be hazardous to humans, pets, and beneficial wildlife. Injury or death may result if non-target animals eat the bait directly or consume rodents killed by the bait.


Acreage Living is published monthly. For more information, contact your local county ISU Extension Office.
Editor: Shawn Shouse, ISU Extension FS/Ag Engineering, SW Area Extension, 53020 Hitchcock Avenue, Lewis, Iowa, 51544, Ph: 712/769-2600
Layout & Design: Paulette Cambridge, Office Assistant, SW Area Extension, 53020 Hitchcock Avenue, Lewis, Iowa 51544, Ph: 712/769-2600

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