The benefits of windbreaks and utilizing cover crops to improve soil health were highlighted at the August 13 KLA/Kansas State University Ranch Management Field Day near Quinter. Nearly 100 ranchers attended the event, hosted by Tyler and Kassie Remington.
Jami Seirer, northwest district forester with the Kansas Forest Service in Hays, said a good windbreak can increase calving success rate by 20% on open grassland, improve overall crop yield and reduce home energy costs by 30%. Windbreaks are especially helpful in reducing winter stress on livestock.
“By lowering wind velocity, windbreaks help livestock maintain their body temperature, thereby reducing feed energy requirements,” said Seirer. “This results in better animal health, lower feed costs and greater financial gain.”
Careful planning and management are needed to have a successful windbreak, starting with selecting the best trees and shrubs. Seirer said plants should be selected based on adaptability to the area, mature size and function within the windbreak.
Another “protection mechanism” discussed at the field day was growing cover crops during the fallow period to improve soil health and control erosion. K-State agronomist John Holman explained integrating cover crops into traditional grain crop rotations can increase residue cover, help with weed management and increase profitability.
“If the crop is grown for forage rather than just cover, the economic benefits are more quickly obtained,” he said.
Stocker operator Larry Manhart of Quinter, who spoke on the field day program, utilizes cover crops for grazing during the fallow period between corn and wheat. He said 700 lb. steers have gained 2.3 lbs. to 3.4 lbs. per day depending on the amount of moisture received. Manhart uses a rotational grazing system made up of 20-acre paddocks.
More coverage from the Remington filed day will appear in the Kansas Stockman magazine. Bayer Animal Health and the Farm Credit Associations of Kansas sponsored the field day.