Fall is upon us and time to think about harvesting fields and calving of cows in a fall beef herd. At the University of Illinois’ Dixon Springs Agricultural Center, recent rain has stalled harvest, but some producers in the southern Illinois region have started harvesting corn with high yields reported. Fall calving is underway with approximately 600 of the 850 pregnant cows at the Dixon Springs Agricultural Center recently calving. Cows and heifers are being sorted for the upcoming reproductive research on synchronization of estrus and timed breeding. It is anticipated that approximately 175 to 90 heifers will be bred in late November and approximately 750 to 800 cows in mid-December.

Heifers going into the breeding herd will be given pre-breeding vaccinations on Oct. 3-4 when they complete this summer’s data collection on feed intake and efficiency. Heifers have been receiving diets high in forages — alfalfa hay, soybean hulls and fescue hay — while in confinement. During the past 100 days, individual feed intake has been collected on each heifer through the use of a GrowSafe feeding system.

Fall is a time to think about improving pasture fertility. Monitoring and adjusting the pH of pastures where legumes are grown can dramatically improve the survivability of the legumes. For red clover, I like to see the pH above 6.0 with 6.2 to 6.4 even better. With that goal in mind, we will begin applying lime to pastures at the Dixon Springs Agricultural Center soon. Applying lime in the fall prior to planting in the spring allows time for the pH adjustment.

With this summer’s rainfall, most producers are indicating that they have adequate quantities of hay for this winter. The quality of the hay reported is highly variable. Getting a laboratory analysis of hay supplies is a good practice to assure that rations are balanced for energy and protein. For the brood cow, while milk production increases the requirements for protein, energy is usually the limiting factor. Grain, grain co-products and liquid supplements can all be used to supplement forages that do not meet the nutritional requirements of the beef cow. When comparing these products, cost should be compared on a dry matter basis for each pound of energy or protein that they provide, as well as the labor involved in getting it to the cows.

For more information on research and teaching at the Dixon Springs Agricultural Center, contact us at (618) 695-2441.