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Kearny County

Hallie's Highlights

October 27, 2021

Bug Joke of the Week: What would armyworms be if they were in the military?Major Pain

War on Armyworms – Second Generation

Second-generation fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda, caterpillars are present throughout portions of Kansas. Those of you that have re-seeded your turfgrass should be on the lookout for the young caterpillars and take appropriate measures to prevent or minimize turfgrass damage.

The good news is, fall armyworm cannot survive exposure to freezing temperatures. Consequently, fall armyworm does not overwinter in Kansas. The ability of fall armyworm to invade an area depends on prevailing weather conditions during the winter months in the regions where they overwinter. Cool, wet springs followed by warm, humid weather and abundant rainfall favor the movement of fall armyworm northward.

Early instar (young) caterpillars are light-green and later instar (older) caterpillars are tan to olive-green, with stripes that extend the length of both sides of the body. Fall armyworm caterpillars can be distinguished from true armyworm, caterpillars by the presence of a light-colored, inverted Y-shaped marking on the front of the head. In addition, fall armyworm caterpillars have four black tubercles on the back of each abdominal segment

There are six larval instars. The first three instars feed on the underside of leaf blades, in leaf folds, or on the leaf margins resulting in a tattered appearance. The last three instars feed on leaf blades all the way down to the crown of the turfgrass resulting in extensive damage in two to three days. Caterpillars feed during the day and night. If disturbed, caterpillars will fall onto the soil surface and curl up. If you look at the soil surface where the leaf blades have been chewed-down, you will notice piles of green frass or ‘caterpillar poop’. Eventually, the sixth larval instar enters the soil and pupates in a silken webbing or cocoon at depths of 1.0 to 3.0 inches. The soil depth that pupation occurs is contingent on soil texture, moisture, and temperature. Adult moths that emerge from the pupae can live up to 21 days. They go on on to lay more eggs and start another generation. The life cycle takes approximately four weeks to complete although development is dependent on temperature. Bermudagrass, tall fescue, and creeping bentgrass, may be fed upon by fall armyworm caterpillars. There are one to two generations per year in Kansas and we are dealing with the second generation.

These worms can be controlled by using common insecticide applications like Sevin; 38 Plus turf, Termite, & Ornamental Insect Spray; or Lawn, Garden, Pet, & Livestock Spray. Spray treatments have been proven to work better and faster over a granular application because a granular treatment requires rain or irrigation to activate it.

October 20, 2021

Joke of the Week:  Big round bales of hay just became illegal out west. Turns out the animals weren’t getting three square meals a day.

Forage Testing – Prussic Acid Poisoning

Many Kansas cattle operations rely on harvested feed to use in the winter months. Forages in the sorghum family are prone to two different problems for feeding cattle, nitrate poisoning and prussic acid poisoning (HCN). They are easy to get confused because both result in a lack of oxygen availability to the animal and are more likely to occur when the plant is stressed (fertility, hail, drought). Elevated nitrates may not result in death but could cause abortions. If hay is made from forages in the sorghum family or other susceptible species, testing for prussic acid in forage that has suffered from drought, hail or fertility issues is advised. Testing is cheap compared to the cost of losing even one animal.

Management recommendations common to both prussic acid and nitrates

  • Test first, don’t gamble. Tests are offered through K-State, Servitech, and our local Alfalfa Analytical
  • Manure build up in corrals can contribute to the elevation of nitrates in the weeds.
  • Feed animals with a known safe feedstuff and have them full before introduction to potentially problematic feeds. Don’t turn in hungry, they could have a high intake of nitrates.
  • Ensiling will reduce concentrations of either by 40-60% in well-made silage, but silage put up under less-than-optimal conditions could still contain very high levels. If extremely high before ensiling, a 50% reduction may not be enough to result in safe feed.
  • Nitrate concentrates in the base of the plant and is lowest in head and leaves, grazing or cutting high can reduce nitrate levels in the forage.
  • Do not harvest drought stressed forage within 7 to 14 days after good rainfall to reduce the levels of accumulated nitrates.
  • New growth of sorghum species after frost can be high in prussic acid. Prussic acid content decreases during the hay drying process and ensiling. Wait 10 days after a killing freeze before grazing.

If testing before grazing, samples should reflect what the animals are expected to consume, generally leaves and upper portion of the plant. Sample a minimum of 15 sites across a given field. One method is to sample from each corner and the center by walking diagonal lines and sample plants every 50-100 steps or as appropriate for field size.

We expect levels of nitrates and prussic acid to be variable across a field, so more samples are better than less. A rule of thumb is to sample 10 to 20 % of the bales per field or cutting as a minimum. Be aware of areas of the field that exhibited more plant stress than others. If large enough areas, you may want to sample them separately. Your acreage size and feeding methods likely factor into this decision. Use a forage probe that cuts across all plant parts in a bale rather than a grab sample from individual bales or windrows

October 13, 2021

Joke of the Week: The steaks have gotten so high I’m afraid I will start to butcher my jokes.

Post-Weaning Management

Cow body condition is important in planning the herd’s post-weaning management. Nutrient fluctuations happen in the beef cow throughout their lifecycle. Right after weaning, the cow’s energy requirements are low. They are no longer focusing on lactation, which is a very large draw on nutritional resources.  They are prioritizing maintenance and their own growth. They will still be focusing on fetal growth also though so it is important to ensure there are enough calories in their diet to get to that level of needs. The first step in making a nutrition plan for your cow herd is to assess their body conditions. By knowing the body condition, producers can make better plans for the nutrition moving forward. If cattle are in good nutritional shape, producers can get by with minimal supplementation.

 If cows are thin, the best time to add weight on them while they are in mid-gestation and not lactating. For thin cows, the most economical way to add weight is by turning them out on grass while it is still available.  Aside from the inconvenience of hauling hay and cost of feeding supplements later in the winter, by waiting to supplement the cows in the last trimester of their pregnancy, producers will have less time to ensure that cows reach a desired body condition by calving. However, from an efficiency standpoint, research has shown that adding body condition in late lactation is improved over that of a non-lactating, or dry, cow.  If you can separate the thin cows and their calves and feed them away from the other cows in the herd, that can be an advantage, but it also takes more work to manage that system. The management strategy will be dependent on several factors on the operation, one of which is access to the cows, time, and facilities.  Logistically, it may be easier to add weight on the cows after weaning.  

October 6, 2021

Joke of the Week: Why shouldn’t you tell secrets on the farm? Because the potatoes have eyes, the corn has ears, and the beans stalk.

Harvest Safety

Harvest is right around the corner and it is important for everyone to stay safe. Not only our farmers who are working non-stop, but also our families sharing the road. We want to ensure that everyone makes it home safely to their loved ones.

Good tips for farming families this harvest season:

Create a family checklist. Make a list of everything that needs done to maintain your equipment to ensure a lower stress harvest. Assign a family member to complete the tasks. This way, nothing will be overlooked of forgotten ad you will prevent safety hiccups. It’s when things break down and we lose time that we take unsafe shortcuts that can lead to accidents.

Have an emergency plan. Most likely you won’t need it but if you do you will be glad to have it. These plans ensure that when there is an emergency situation then everyone knows how to respond right away. You will save time and potentially a life. For example, if someone isn’t back by 9 p.m. do you know what field they are in or what route they are on?

If you are tired, stop. It is easy to want to push on and get the work done but if you are fatigued, you’re more likely to take short cuts and risk injury to yourself or others. Extra cups of coffee aren’t the answer either. That can be a short term fix but your body is still fatigued and it is safer if you just take a quick 30 minute power nap or rotate drivers if you have that luxury.

Tips to keep in mind when sharing Kansas roads with farmers:

Don’t assume the farmer knows you are there. Farmers do their best to regularly check behind them, but they have to watch for oncoming traffic as well and watch out for their implement. Tractors and equipment are loud and they won’t be able to hear your car.

Pass with Extreme caution. Do no pass unless you can clearly see ahead of both your vehicle and the farm equipment you are passing. It may seem easier to pass an implement than a car because they are going slower, but you need to make sure that you can pass safely.

Pulling to the right doesn’t mean they are letting you pass. Farmers will have to make very wide left turns with some of their equipment so before you zoom around them thinking they are letting you pass, make sure there isn’t a drive or intersection they could be turning into. Be patient and pay attention. If you follow these tips we can make sure everyone makes it home to their families and gets about their day in a timely fashion.

Sepember 22, 2021

Joke of the Week: I know there is something wrong with my cactus, but I just can’t put my finger on it.

Keep your Christmas cactus happy this fall to receive blooms in winter 

Christmas cacti have become a popular houseplant because they are low maintenance and bloom right in time for Christmas and look stunning once they flower. These plants also have a long blooming period, over several weeks. Christmas cacti are epiphytes, which means they grow on other plants for support and use nutrients from the environment around it. This is what contributes to them being low maintenance.

One of the most common mistakes when caring for a Christmas cactus is exposing the plant to too much sunlight. Naturally, it is assumed that since this is a cactus, they like hot and dry weather. These special cacti are actually quite opposite. They perform their best when they have some humidity and plenty of indirect sunlight. One of the best places to have a Christmas cactus is in an east facing window so they receive moderate light and some direct sun. too much direct sun will cause the leaves to turn yellow. The simple fix to this problem is to move it a little farther away from the window. Other optimum conditions for your cactus include, keeping it at temperatures above 50°F and keep the soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged. You can also use a potassium rich fertilizer every two weeks to keep your plants blooming beautifully.

A Christmas cactus will usually require 25 consecutive nights for flower initiation. The nights must be greater than 12 hours long, which will naturally occur starting with the Fall Equinox on September 22nd. A plant naturally under these conditions should have the 25-day requirement met on October 17th. You can speed up this process by putting your cactus in a dark place for more than 12 hours each day to induce flowering.

To encourage more blooming, keep plants cool (around 50°F) immediately after their blooming period. Keep the soil barely moist and withhold fertilizer. Once new growth begins, keep them in an environment between 55 and 65 degrees and alternate between giving them 10 hours of light and 14 hours of darkness for 4-6 weeks until buds appear. Then introduce the plant to warmer temperatures and begin regular care. These plants should bloom in 6 weeks.

September 8, 2021

Joke of the Week: The best way to garden is to put on a wide-brimmed straw hat and some old clothes.  And with a hoe in one hand and a cold drink in the other, tell somebody else where to dig.

Pleasing Peonies

Peonies have grown in popularity because they grow beautifully with very little maintenance. A peony can be left in place indefinitely but divisions keep plants healthy by spreading the blooms and preventing overcrowding, which naturally increases coverage. Additionally, dividing helps prevent weak stems or bald patches. If either of these signs are present in the garden, it may be an indication it is time to divide.  

To divide peonies, first remove the foliage. Then the entire plant must be dug out. As much soil as possible will need to be washed off so the pink buds -- known as “eyes” -- are visible. Each division should have 3-4 buds. When planting the new peony divisions, there are a few important factors to keep in mind: 

  • Ensure the peonies will receive at least a half-day of full sun, but the more sun, the better. 
  • There should be at least 2 feet between dwarf type peonies or 4 feet between standard types. 
  • If you want to grow a $100 plant, you need a $100 hole. Adding a little fertilizer into the bottom of your hole will help your peony take off. You can use any fertilizer as long as the first number is the lowest (5-10-10, 4-8-9). Too much Nitrogen will give you a beautiful plant but no blooms, the last 2 numbers promote strong stems and good bloom set.
  • The buds should be planted about 1 inch below the soil surface. If planted more than 2 inches deep, flowering may be delayed or prevented.  
  • Firm the soil as the plant is set in the ground. Unfirmed soil can settle and pull the plant down. 
  • Water after planting, and then water as necessary throughout the fall and winter in order to keep the soil moist.  

They are weird plants in the way that they like to be trimmed back when they are moved. If you move them fully in tact they will sit and sulk for a while and not flourish like they should. If you trim off some excess roots and the original stem, this will trigger the plant to grow when it is transplanted into its new home. To ensure the new peony divisions last through the winter, it is suggested to add a mulch to protect from the alternate freezing and thawing of the soil. Adding a mulch of straw, leaves, or compost after the soil freezes can prevent heaving and keep plants in prime condition during the harsh winter months. As long as these guidelines are followed, healthy peony divisions can be expected to rise in the spring. Gardeners can expect peonies to return to their full bloom around three years after dividing. 

September 1, 2021

Joke of the Week: Déjà Moo is the feeling that you’ve heard this bull before.

Jump on the Weaning Wagon

It has reached the time of year when producers will start weaning their calves and giving vaccinations to prepare them to be marketed. The timing of these vaccinations should be dependent on when they will be marketed. If cattle will be marketed immediately after weaning, it is best to vaccinate before they are weaned. But, if you will keep your calves past weaning, they can be vaccinated a little later.

A good rule of thumb when it comes to vaccinations is to vaccinate early. Vaccines should be given a few weeks before cattle will become exposed to the disease while maintaining a low stress lifestyle to reduce the chances of becoming immunocompromised. A vaccine is just one tool in a producer’s toolbox. If you can provide cattle a good diet and reduce the stress at weaning, you will reduce the strain on the cattle’s immune system and they can remain healthier. If you have to vaccinate at weaning, think about ways to reduce stress at weaning to receive greater efficacy from your vaccine.

Animals going straight to the feedlot are at a high risk for BVD and IBR with the stress of weaning, transport, and then comingling as well. Two other important things to vaccinate for are blackleg and rabies. Rabies is most often characterized by walking in a stupor and behaving abnormally. There is no treatment and animals have to be euthanized, so this is an important disease to jump in front of. Blackleg is caused by a clostridial bacteria, similar to tetanus, in the soil that can infect animals through an open wound. This disease is hard to catch because it has such a rapid effect on muscle degeneration. Your animal is fine one day and dead the next. The most common sign is lameness when they are alive, the most obvious is when they are necropsied and have black muscle tissue. We have these same threats to our herd health every year but we can make our lives easier by timing our vaccines correctly.

August 25, 2021

Bug Joke of the Week: How do fireflies start a race?Ready, Set, Glow!

War on Armyworms

In the sense of fall armyworms, western Kansas would rather them ready, set, go away. Fall armyworms are a tropical insect species that migrate to Kansas from southern regions along the Gulf or farther south in Mexico and Central America. Young worms are ½- to ¾-inch long while mature ones are 1 ½ inches long. They can vary from green to almost black in color, but their identifying mark is a white inverted Y on their heads.

The large, nearly mature larvae are responsible for your green lawn turning brown overnight. Fall armyworms work quickly, they appear suddenly and feed, cease feeding quickly, then enter the soil to pupate, and become moths. They will spend the winter in the tropical areas because they can not survive the Kansas winter. The moths will migrate north and begin laying eggs with a short generation interval of 23-25 days. Kansas can see 2-4 generations in a season. Female armyworm moths can lay 1000 eggs in clusters of 400. The small larvae will do more superficial feeding on the tender grass where the larger larvae will be responsible for the more extensive damage. If there is a large population with heavy feeding pressure, brown areas can appear within 24 hours.

These pesky worms can be controlled simply by using common insecticide applications like Sevin; 38 Plus turf, Termite, & Ornamental Insect Spray; or Lawn, Garden, Pet, & Livestock Spray. Spray treatments have been proven to work better and faster over a granular application because a granular treatment requires rain or irrigation to activate it.