Forage Concerns After Hurricane Matthew

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Hurricane Matthew caused historic flooding here in Wayne County. Roads and fields were flooded, homes were damaged, and people were displaced. The waters have all but receded and people are trying to pick up the pieces and move on. For those of you with pastures, this includes determining whether those fields are completely lost or if you can salvage some forage for your animals.

If you have lost hay, make sure you document exactly what was lost, how many bales, the quality, and take as many pictures as you can. All of this will be needed if you want to receive federal money to help you feed your animals this winter. The FSA office on George Street is the place to go with questions concerning the paperwork. Call the Extension office if you need help determining if your hay is a complete lost or need assistance in gathering the necessary information. Hay that has been flooded, or sat covered by over a foot of water for more than a day, will be severely damaged with little salvageable forage left. Hay that was merely rained on, or only sat in a few inches of water, may have large sections that are safe to feed. Be sure to inspect your hay, and have it analyzed if possible, before feeding to any livestock species!

Bermudagrass and bahiagrass pastures are surprisingly resilient and may recover just fine from the flooding. Fescue pastures cannot withstand more than a few days of submersion so the chances of these fields recovering is very slim. Take this account when determining how you will feed your animals this winter! Small grains and winter annuals are also likely lost and will need to be replanted before Nov 15 in order to have some early spring grazing options. Before planting be sure that you have mowed and removed the residual grass, it will contain lots of dirt and the livestock may not graze it down well enough. There are also FSA programs to cover pasture losses, and grazing days lost, so be sure to check with them on what information is needed.

With all these challenges ahead with pasture and hay losses, you may be wondering what do I feed my animals? Cows can be fed concentrates but will need some forage or fiber in order for their digestive systems to function properly. Up to 15 lbs shelled corn and 2 lbs of a protein supplement will be sufficient as long as hay (5 lbs or so) is offered as well. Swine and poultry feed should not be fed to grazing livestock! Keep an eye on your animals as winter hits, after Floyd there were several cases of severe dermatitis, poor body condition, weak calves, and higher than normal death losses. It’s always important to feed your animals properly but with the lessened supply chain it is even more important going in to this winter season.

Please call the extension office at (919) 731-1525 if you have any questions regarding hay, pastures, flooding, animal health, or anything else related to livestock.