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Lego Forage Specialist

Published on 09/19/19

‘Lego Forage Specialist’ helping spread forage news across Georgia

By Clint Thompson for CAES News

University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Forage Agronomist Lisa Baxter is using her social media savvy and love for Legos to share timely information with Georgia farmers.

When Baxter joined the UGA Tifton campus in March, she set out to find a way to reach as many people as possible with information in her field.

Inspired by a Facebook advertisement for custom Legos, Baxter customized her own Lego minifigure to create the “Lego Forage Specialist” or “Lego Lisa.” Several times a week, Baxter photographs her “mini-me” at work in the field or in the office. Then she adds captions to the photos, including useful tidbits of information for audiences on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

To date, Lego Lisa has about 250 followers on social media where she tells jokes, advises Georgia producers about upcoming state meetings, and cautions growers about problems that could affect their crops.

“It’s a different way of getting a message across than just listening to a 30-minute PowerPoint presentation or reading another email,” Baxter said. “If we see armyworms that have been reported, we’ll do a picture with a sweep net saying, ‘You need to scout for armyworms.’ We had some herbicide damage in some Bermuda grass plots, so we took a picture of that and said, ‘If you’re pursuing summer weed control options, be aware of potential stunting.’”

Using her affinity for Legos, Baxter customizes the minifigure’s attire and accessories based on the message.

When she’s working outside, the weather conditions generally determine how Lego Lisa is dressed. In most photos, Baxter holds the figure’s feet and keeps her hand out of the picture and to keep the little Lego from blowing away in strong winds.

For National Forage Week in June, Baxter ordered several costumes, including a lab coat, for her Lego sidekick. Her clients have joined in on the fun and one UGA Extension county agent brought in a few of her child’s Lego accessories for Lego Lisa because the child was worried she didn’t have any toys to play with.

Many industry representatives even request the Lego’s presence for events and their own social media efforts. Even though she is tiny, Lego Lisa is bridging the gap between industry and Extension.

Baxter feels that having Lego Lisa appear on her social media pages rather than her own image is a novel way to bring attention to the information she shares.

“We have a lot of new Extension agents. When I was at winter conference, they asked how many agents have five years or fewer experience and about half the room shot their hand up. (I created) Lego Lisa to reach that clientele. They’ll see things scrolling through their phone and she does provide a chuckle,” Baxter said.

David Allen, communications coordinator for the UGA CAES Office of Communications and Creative Services, believes Baxter’s creativity will serve her and UGA Extension well in relaying messages via social media.

“We love to see faculty embracing social media and finding creative ways to connect with constituents through the web. It will be fun to see the Lego Forage Specialist build its following and see the engagement generated across multiple platforms,” Allen said.

To see where Lego Lisa has been lately, follow her at, or

Clint Thompson is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences based in Tifton.

Southeastren Hay Contest

Published on 08/19/19

UGA Extension forage agronomist encourages producers to submit hay samples

By Clint Thompson for CAES News

During the Southeastern Hay Contest at the 2019 Sunbelt Ag Expo, Georgia hay producers have a chance to compare the quality of their hay and win cash prizes.

Any producer in Georgia and other Southeastern states including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma (east of I-35), South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas (east of I-35) and Virginia can submit a sample, but entries must be submitted by the farm where the forage was grown.

Those interested in submitting an entry can download the rules and entry form at Southeastern Hay Contest website. The deadline to enter is Thursday, Sept. 19.

The entries are divided into seven categories with a $150 prize for first place, $100 for second place and $75 for third in each category. The categories are warm season perennial grass hay; cool season perennial grass hay; perennial peanut hay; alfalfa hay; mixed annual grass or other hay; legume baleage; and grass baleage.

A grand prize winner of $1,000 and the use of a Massey Ferguson RK Series rotary rake or a new Massey Ferguson DM Series Professional disc mower for the 2020 hay production season will also be announced.

“From an Extension point of view, the purpose of the contest is to encourage producers to test their hay samples. Regardless of whether they win or not, that’s going to help them to know how they need to feed that hay in the winter,” said Lisa Baxter, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension forage agronomist. “It can save them money down the road.”

Entries will be judged by the UGA Feed and Environmental Water Lab using near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIR) testing procedures. The sample with the highest relative forage quality (RFQ) score wins. The RFQ score rates the forage quality based on protein, energy and fiber digestibility.

For those farmers interested in learning more about taking a hay or baleage sample, see this Massey Ferguson instructional video.

While all farmers should regularly test their hay, Baxter admits that not all do. This contest provides added incentive for all hay producers.

“It does cost to submit a sample to a UGA lab or other labs and to enter the contest, but when you consider what that could save you this winte,r and knowing how you need to feed that hay, it generally pays for itself. This is especially true in a year like this where we run a risk of high-nitrate or low-quality forage. That $20 hay sample is a lot cheaper than what it would cost to replace an animal,” Baxter said.

Nitrates refers to nitrate ions in the forage, which can kill forage animals. This happens when farmers apply too much nitrogen in anticipation of rain, which would promote regrowth and lower nitrate levels. However, rains were sparse this summer and nitrate levels will peak immediately following a rain event. Although producers may be tempted to turn animals onto the forage or cut hay/baleage, they should wait a minimum of seven days from application to allow the nitrates concentrations to decrease, Baxter said.

“What’s going to throw a lot of people out this year are the nitrates. You could have the best sample in the world, but if it’s more than 5,000 (parts per million nitrate-to-nitrogen), you’re immediately disqualified,” Baxter said.

Also at stake this year is a cash prize for the Extension agent responsible for submitting the most samples.

The winners of this year’s hay contest will be announced at the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Georgia, on Tuesday, Oct. 15.

Clint Thompson is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences based in Tifton.

Bermuda Grass Stem Maggot

Published on 08/06/19

Drought changes management strategy for Bermuda grass stem maggot

By Clint Thompson for CAES News

Drought-like conditions this summer are forcing Georgia forage farmers to delay treatments for Bermuda grass stem maggot, according to Lisa Baxter, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension forage specialist.

It is normally recommended that farmers wait seven to 10 days after harvest, then apply a pyrethroid insecticide labeled for forages at the recommended rate, then repeat treatment seven to 10 days later.

A lack of rain across the state this summer calls for that treatment timeline to be tweaked, Baxter said.

“The problem is that, in a drought, we don’t have green leaves seven days after harvest. If there aren’t green leaves, there are no adult flies out there and that is what the pyrethroid is killing — the adult flies — not the other stages of the stem maggot,” she said.

For this reason, Baxter is recommending that Georgia forage producers hold off on the first treatment if they are experiencing below normal rainfall.

“It feels good to put out the chemical like it says to on the calendar, but if the grass doesn’t match that, we’ve got to wait,” she said.

Most producers harvest on a 28-day interval, while some try to stretch their harvest window to 35 days to attempt to harvest more hay, although the quality may drop, Baxter said.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, parts of Georgia are experiencing abnormally dry conditions, especially in middle Georgia around Houston County. Little rainfall equates to slow growth for forages, especially if they’re not being irrigated.

“The way the damage happens, the fly has to lay its egg on a leaf. When the egg hatches, the larvae go into the stem and chew around in there, which is what kills the top (of the plant). If there are no green leaves for flies to lay eggs on, the whole life cycle stops,” Baxter said.

Baxter has delayed some research trials and Extension demonstrations on lightly irrigated plots because there wasn’t enough growth to treat with insecticide.

Bermuda grass stem maggot was first discovered in southern Georgia in 2010 and is a persistent problem for hay producers. Baxter said that the pest appeared earlier this year because of unseasonably warm temperatures. The pest damages Bermuda grass hayfields and pastures throughout the Southeast U.S. and is regularly seen throughout the Coastal Plain region up to Macon.

“(The pest) kills the top two leaves of the plant. Once it damages the top, we don’t get any more upright growth out of the plant and it really hurts our yield. We can see as much as 80% yield loss if we’re not careful,” Baxter said. “It’ll look like you’ve frosted the top of your hayfield because of the dead stems at the top.”

For up to date information about Georgia’s climate conditions, see UGA agricultural climatologist Pam Knox’s blog, Climate and Agriculture in the Southeast.

Clint Thompson is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences based in Tifton.

Bermudagrass Stem Maggot in Hayfields

By Will Hudson, Lisa Baxter and Dennis Hancock

We’ve had a number of calls from growers and agents in the last week or so concerned that they should be spraying for BSM.  Even in south GA, the flies are just now starting to show up.  You may be able to find some damaged stems, but most of the widespread browning of the grass is probably due to the extreme heat and dry weather following an unusually cool and wet spring.  BSM damage kills just the last 2 leaves, and does not turn the tips of the leaves brown.  They generally do not affect leaves lower on the tiller than the top 2.  Even in our well-watered research plots in Tifton, we are only seeing 10-20% damage in the most susceptible varieties.  The current drought situation has many producers delaying their hay harvest.  This means we have more mature bermudagrass than usual (and so there appears to be more damage).  There is likely no need to spray yet, but growers should be alert and be ready to spray after the next cutting if there is a noticeable amount of damage.

Winter rains to impact forage management

Published on 03/15/
By Clint Thompson for CAES News

According to Lisa Baxter, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension’s newest forage agronomist, an unusually wet winter will cause problems with summer forage crop quality in Georgia.

Baxter, who started work on the UGA Tifton campus on March 1, expects to field her share of questions about forage management and quality concerns from Georgia producers this year.

“This year, with all the rain we’ve had, we’re going to see fertility issues, weeds and potentially diseases like we haven’t seen in a long time. It’s something that we’re gearing up and preparing for,” Baxter said.

Many of the issues facing forage producers will be discussed in greater detail at this year’s Georgia Forages Conference, held in conjunction with the Georgia Cattlemen’s Association Convention in Perry, Georgia, on April 4.

As an Extension forage agronomist, Baxter serves as the southern counterpart to UGA Extension forage agronomist Dennis Hancock, who is based in Athens, Georgia, and serves farmers in the northern part of Georgia. Baxter will serve south Georgia’s farmers with concerns ranging from pests and diseases to forage management and grazing issues.

Because of south Georgia’s warmer climate and different soil types, the crops grown in Tifton, Georgia, and other south Georgia areas vary from what’s produced in more northern locations such as Blairsville, Georgia. For example, Bahiagrass is a long-lived perennial grass that’s grown in south Georgia but not north Georgia. Bermudagrass is used more extensively in the southern part of the state than in north Georgia.

Baxter believes that these warm-season crops will be impacted significantly by the excess rain experienced this winter.

“When Bermudagrass starts greening up, it’s may be struggling this year. We have already seen reports of warm-season weed species. It’s going to be competing with crabgrass and warm-season broadleaf species, and ryegrass is going to be hanging around with these cool, cloudy conditions. We are preparing for anything in the textbook that could potentially hit us this year,” Baxter said.

One problem producers have had in managing their crops this year was the use of preemergence herbicides. To combat the weed pressure in most fields, producers normally apply chemical treatments, but it was too wet for many farmers to get in the fields during the winter. If the treatments were not applied at the right time, weed pressure will be high this summer.

Baxter also expects the Bermudagrass stem maggot to be a problem again this year. Since first being discovered in 2010 in southern Georgia, the pest has damaged Bermudagrass hayfields and pastures throughout the Southeast U.S. If left untreated, Bermudagrass stem maggots can cause farmers to lose up to 80 percent of their yield during the peak season, which runs from late July to early September.

Although farmers can’t fully control the pest, taking an integrated biological, cultural, physical and chemical approach will reduce economic damage.

Baxter hopes to coordinate research projects in her new role so that growers will have additional options to combat this pest. “It’s a major problem throughout the Southeast. So much of our state’s hay production is Bermudagrass, so it hits Georgia a lot harder than other areas,” Baxter said.

She also plans to continue several collaborative research projects, including those with Jennifer Tucker, a UGA Extension beef nutrition and forage management specialist; Bill Anderson, U.S. Department of Agriculture plant research geneticist; Tim Grey, UGA weed scientist; and Brian Schwartz, UGA Extension turfgrass breeder.

For more information about Bermudagrass stem maggots, see UGA Extension Bulletin 1484, “Managing Bermudagrass Stem Maggots,” at

For more information about forages, visit

Hay Quality 2018

UGA Extension Forage Scientist Dr. Dennis Hancock is encouraging cattlemen and producers to sample their hay and baleage to assess the nutritive value of it. This is a little from Dr. Hancock:

Earlier this afternoon, I asked Dr. Saha at the Feed and Environmental Water Lab to summarize the samples received from this growing season so far (April 1-current). He responded quickly and provided the attached summary.

Copy of NIRStats_2018 Growing Season

If you compare the values to the means shown in the long-term summary found in Figure 11 of the “Understanding and Improving Forage Quality” Extension Bulletin, you will see that the average values from 2018 compare favorably to these long-term data. BUT (and I strongly emphasize this BUT), there is tremendous variability this year. He kindly provided the ranges in values for these forage categories, as well as the standard deviation. These summary statistics alert us to the real risks out there: There are many samples that are extremely low quality. For reference, wheat straw generally has a TDN value of ~45% or less. Note the range in the quality on some of these samples.

The final column in the attached is one that I calculated which is the coefficient of variation (standard deviation as a percent of the mean). Normally, we see a CV of ~10%. This year, the we have a LOOOOTTTTT more variability. Some categories are showing as much as 38% CV!

So, please, please, please!!! Encourage your producers to test their hay. Hay testing is almost always economical, but it may just help the producer prevent the death of some of their livestock.


Bermudagrass Stem Maggot Control Options

Chemical Control

Many of us county agents are working with Dr. Lisa Baxter who is helping look for new products with BSM efficacy. Still today the use of a pyrethroid labeled for forage use around 10 days after the previous cutting appears to be the best strategy for control. Sometimes a second application 10 days later will be beneficial, especially if the forage is growing slowly. UGA Extension Forage Scientist Dr. Dennis Hancock adds that some formulations add residual control for fall armyworm, but residual insecticides (chlorantraniliprole, dimilin, spinosad, etc.) have proven ineffective at preventing the BSM. They are great for FAW, though. So, consider formulations or tank mixes with them when we start seeing more FAM show up.

Physical Control

With some who missed the first cutting and damage is showing up (6 to 8 inches tall), the best option is to cut or graze the field now and encourage regrowth. It’s better to cut early and accept the loss than have low-yielding, damage crop harboring fly populations. This also prevents shading of any regrowth. The maggot does not remain in cut stems. It exits the stem to the soil and adult flies escape to field margins and other fields. A prompt treatment gives best reduction in damage.

Varieties with smaller stems and leaves seem to be more susceptible to damage. Below is a table from the updated publication Managing Bermudagrass Stem Maggot.

Is your stocking rate correct?

By Steve Morgan

Harris County CEC

There are many important components in a successful livestock production system. One of the most important tasks in grazing management is understanding livestock stocking rate. It is critical in making timely management decisions that affect profits in beef cattle production. The optimum number of animals on a pasture makes efficient use of the forage and still leaves enough forage behind to allow a quick and complete recovery. Therefore, producers must understand how to determine the correct stocking rate for their pastures.

Stocking rate is defined as the concentration of grazing livestock on a given amount of land over a season, year or period of time. Generally, stocking rate is expressed as “animal units” for a given amount of land. This is to allow stocking rates to universally cover all livestock types since an animal unit is equivalent to 1000 pounds of body weight regardless of the type of livestock. Though stocking rate depends on the intensity of grazing management, most pastures would be approximately 2 acres per animal unit. This would provide a forage allowance of approximately 2.5% of body weight per day. However, not all livestock have the same forage demand as a 1000 pound lactating cow. For this reason, animal unit equivalents (AUE) have been developed to assist with the approximate determination of forage demand based on the kind, class and size of animal.

   Animal                                            AUE  

Cow – dry                                             1.00 – 1.50

Cow with calf                                  1.20 – 1.60

Bull – mature                                   1.25 – 1.75

Calf – weaned                                   0.50 – 0.70

Steer/Heifer – 18 months                  0.80 – 1.00

Sheep – mature ewe or ram             0.20 – .030

Sheep – yearling                              0.15 – 0.20

Goat                                                 0.17 – 0.20

Horse – mature                                  1.25 – 2.00

The usefulness of animal units is especially apparent considering the weight difference among various producers’ livestock and the fluctuation of average weights in a herd over time. For example, the average cow size varies considerably and has increased over the past 50 years. Today’s beef cow averages around 1300 – 1400 pounds. These cows are not equivalent to one animal unit. In addition, forage demand varies within a livestock species based on its growth rate (e.g. heifers and steers vs. mature cow). For example:

If the estimated stocking rate for a 1,000 pound cow is 2 acres, the estimated stocking rate for the 1,150 pound cow (assuming both cows have the same forage intake rate of 2.5 percent of body weight) is found as follows:

1,150 pounds x 2.5% = 29 pounds forage intake per day ÷ 25 pounds forage per animal unit = 1.16 animal units per cow

Therefore, 1.16 animal units per cow x 2 acres per animal unit =

2.3 acres per 1,150-pound cow

Condition of the pasture impacts stocking rate. Factors such as previous grazing management, forage species, age of stand, soil type, texture, fertility level and moisture conditions all impact forage yield and consequently stocking rate.

Livestock need forage year-round, but providing an adequate supply of forage for grazing 12 months out of the year can be challenging. Ideally, forage production should correspond with livestock needs. However, pasture production is variable during the growing season while livestock nutritional requirements are relatively stable or steadily increasing. One way to balance this equation is to make hay from some pastures during periods of rapid forage growth. In addition, calving before rapid growth will allow the period of highest animal need to match the greatest production of quality forage. A second way is to manage for a more uniform pasture growth. Some Best Management Practices to accomplish uniform growth include:

  • Keeping forage healthy and unstressed. These plants begin growth earlier in the spring, produce higher yields through the grazing season and continue growing longer in the fall.
  • Switching from continuous to rotational grazing can extend the grazing season and boost yields, since rotational grazing, by virtue of its rest periods, is less stressful to the forage.
  • Maintaining a good fertility program will extend the season and boost yields.

Many forage problems can be avoided by fertilizing properly. To determine fertilizer requirements, take regular soil tests and follow the recommendations given. Be sure to state the type of pasture being grown when submitting your sample because fertilizer recommendations will be based on the crop stated. Many producers incorporate grass/legume mixtures to meet more of the fertility needs of the pasture. Seeding legumes into poor quality pastures is the most common form of renovation. Legumes reduce dependence on nitrogen fertilizer, complement grasses by balancing forage production throughout the season, and improve pasture quality.

Switching from continuous to rotational grazing increases forage utilization. Forage utilization is a critical component that helps determine stocking rate. Most pastures contain a great deal of forage that is never consumed and eventually decays. Traditional continuous grazing systems may use only 30 to 40% of the available forage. The rest of the forage is either trampled, soiled, or of little nutritional value because it becomes overly mature. Most of this loss occurs with underutilized fall stockpiles and during periods of rapid growth where there is surplus beyond what is needed for livestock. When the appropriate stocking density is used, shortening grazing periods through rotational grazing increases forage utilization to 60-75%.

Good producers strive to achieve the right balance between forage availability, forage utilization, and animal performance. They stock pastures heavily enough to graze available forage down to a target height that will allow rapid and maximum regrowth without compromising nutritional needs of livestock. Good producers will observe pastures frequently for overgrazing and undergrazing and will periodically adjust the stocking rate or movement of cattle as needed. Overstocking and overgrazing leads to a reduction in palatable plant species and an increase in less desirable plants. Overuse also means that livestock must graze for longer periods to meet their needs. Over time, heavy stocking causes the more palatable and productive forage species to disappear. These desirable forages are replaced by less productive, less palatable plants.

2018 Perennial Peanut Field Day

2018 Perennial Peanut Field Day
Thursday, May 31st, 2018
155 Research Road, Quincy, Florida 32351
9:30 a.m. (EST) Registration begins
10:00 – 10:05 a.m. Welcome, Glen Aiken, NFREC director
10:05 – 10:20 a.m. Business Meeting, Steve Caruthers, PPPA President
10:20 – 10:40 a.m. “Perennial Peanut Roots: Getting to Know Your Neighbors,”
Victor Guerra
10:40 – 11:00 a.m. “Digging Deep, Perennial Peanut Belowground,”
Katie Cooley
Walk to perennial peanut research plots.
11:10 – 12:00 p.m. Field tours of ornamentals, diseases, and weed ID,
Sunny Liao, Ian Small, Gary Knox, Cheryl Mackowiak,
Brent Sellers, Doug Mayo, Jose Dubeux, and Ann Blount
12:00 – 12:45 p.m. Lunch
12:45 – 1:05 p.m. “Landscapes with Perennial Peanut,” Gary Knox,
Clay Olson, Jerry Stageman
1:05 – 1:30 p.m. “Soil Type and Grass Influences on Perennial Peanut,”
Cheryl Mackowiak
1:30 – 2:15 p.m. “Weed and Herbicide Update,” Brent Sellers
2:15 – 3:00 p.m. Producer panel discussion, wrap up and evaluation,
Moderated by Doug Mayo, Jackson County Extension