To Acquire The New Crop Scouting Field Guide

On April 01, 2019

To Acquire The New Crop Scouting Field Guide

The newly revised Corn, Soybean, Wheat, and Forages Field Guide is a compilation of the latest research by Extension specialists from The Ohio State University in partnership with Penn State University.

Designed as a guide for scouts, crop advisors, and farmers, this handy spiral-bound book contains updated information and images to aid with insect, disease, and weed identification. Major revisions to the book include the latest fertilizer recommendations, broadleaf weed ID keys, and a manure sampling and manure applicator calibration section. Tar spot, a new disease to Ohio, is now included in the Corn Disease section. The Forages section also received a major upgrade, and now includes grass crops as well.

The guide is divided into six sections: Corn Management, Soybean Management, Wheat Management, Forage Management, Weed Identification, and General Crop Management, which includes updated sampling information. The index at the back of the Bulletin 827 can be used to quickly locate page numbers for your topic of interest while in the field.

The Field Guide should be available in Extension offices very soon, or you can purchase the hard copy or a digital version online  The price is $14.75 for the hard copy and $8 for the digital version. Discounts are available for quantity purchases.

To Understand Grass-fed Beef Markets and Terminology

There has been a growing interest in the production of “grass-fed beef”. On January 12, 2016, the USDA actually revoked the “USDA Grass-fed” label or claim (USDA, 2016); although, the USDA left the standards for the claim on their website for producers to follow. However, many grass-fed or grass-finished markets persist. 

This interest in grass-fed beef stems not only from consumers looking for a perceived improvement in animal welfare or quality of the product they purchase; but, it also stems from producers looking to fill a niche market or maintain cattle in a more pastoral setting. Along with this interest from both consumers and producers comes a lot of terms and ideas that may or may not be fully understood. 

Because of the aforementioned consumer perceptions, demand for the grass-fed beef is greater than the supply in much of the U.S. due to land values, lack of grazing infrastructure, lack of grass-finishing production knowledge, and other constraints. Despite the consumer demand, however, approximately 95% of the cattle in the United States continue to be finished, or fattened, on grain for the last 160 to 180 days of life (~25 to 30% of their life), on average. The logic behind grain finishing dates back to research as early as the 1800’s. Cattle become less efficient, less able to convert feed to muscle or meat, as they age. Grain contains more energy allowing cattle to maintain greater growth rates later in to their lives when compared to feeding only grass or forage. In addition, feeding grain frees up valuable land resources necessary to produce forages and other grain crops by concentrating the cattle in a smaller area. Because of the challenges with land mass availability in the U.S., some of the beef in the U.S. that comes in labeled as grass-fed actually comes from outside the U.S.

Rather than debate advantages and disadvantages of the grain versus grass-fed systems, the take-home here is that all beef cattle, whether farmers choose to raise them as grass-fed or grain-fed animals, spend at least two-thirds of their lifetime in a pasture setting. Therefore, all beef may be considered “grass-fed” for the majority of its life. Thus, beef production in the United States has been, and continues to be, a forage-based industry. The differentiation in what makes cattle grass-fed then, generally occurs towards the end of life. 

One of the key areas scientists have investigated are the characteristics of the beef from cattle finished on grass, as they can be quite different from characteristics of beef from grain-fed cattle. Research suggests that when finished to the same fat endpoint (0.4 in. back fat) there is no consumer detectable difference in tenderness between beef from grass-fed or grain-fed cattle (Faucitano et al., 2008). However, beef from grass-fed cattle is generally more lean than beef from cattle fed grain, especially when compared at the same age. Therefore, cattle finished on grass typically have lower USDA quality grades, an indication of fat within the muscle, than grain fed cattle (Matthews and Johnson, 2013). For some consumers, less fat may be a desirable trait. The reduction in total fat found in grass-fed beef has been lauded as one of the benefits for consumers looking to cut cholesterol, for example. While no difference in cholesterol concentrations have been reported between beef from grass-fed and grain-fed cattle (Matthews and Johnson, 2013), consumers being advised to lower their total fat consumption may find grass-finished beef or USDA Select grain-finished beef to be a better fit in their diet.

Regardless of the personal choices consumers may have for purchasing grass-fed beef, producers must first manage the cattle and the grass they are consuming to produce the product. During this production, grazing management and forage quality are both essential factors to consider.

Demand for grass-fed beef is greater than the supply in the U.S. due to land values and other constraints. Even though all beef may be considered “grass-fed” for the majority of its life, finishing cattle on grass takes a great deal of management and requires good quality forages to achieve gains of at least 2 lbs per day. Cool-season perennial forages are the most common permanent forages used in the northeastern United States, and will likely supply the most benefit in terms of digestible energy and protein to cattle finishing on forages. Finishing cattle on grass can be a way for producers to maintain a pastoral setting on their farms and fill the niche market for grass-fed beef that consumers are demanding.

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