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Story in Brief

After losing $10,000 worth of cattle, a producer contacted the Harris County Extension agent. The cattle died from impaction, caused when poor quality forage cannot be digested. Harris County Extension agent ran a forage test on the hay. The hay tested 6 percent protein and had less than 76 percent relative forage quality (RFQ). Anything below 100 RFQ is considered low quality. Another compounding factor is dry matter intake was only 1.84 percent of live body weight. To meet the nutritional needs of a mature cow, this should be 2.5 percent. This low-quality forage, in addition to inadequate energy levels, caused impaction. While working with the individual producer to improve forage quality, the county agent developed county-wide programming to educate producers on the importance of quality forage production. In a collaborative effort between an Extension beef cattle specialist and NRCS, the county agent offered Harris producers the Pasture Condition Score Sheet. He introduced pasture condition scoring into Harris County to provide forage/livestock producers a standard method to identify shortfalls in pasture care and learn what they can do to improve pasture condition. He trained interested clients through the Harris County Cattleman’s Association as well as one-on-one consultations. Pasture condition scoring was done in the field using the score sheet. In addition to pasture condition scoring, the county agent promoted soil testing and forage testing of hay through one-on-one consultations. This gave producers a baseline from which they could build a year-round management program. Timely pasture condition scoring and monitoring avoids having loss of desirable forage to the point that total pasture renovation is needed. Similarly, soil testing improves soil fertility which improves pasture forage and hay quality. One of the benefits of improved hay quality is higher digestibility and higher dry matter intake. This increases performance which correlates to increased profits for livestock producers. Forage testing verifies hay quality and allows producers to determine if any supplements are needed to meet the needs of livestock in order to avoid problems in the future.