Angus at Work

What Can We Do About Toxic Weeds?

April 27, 2022 Angus Beef Bulletin Season 1 Episode 7
Angus at Work
What Can We Do About Toxic Weeds?
Show Notes Transcript

One of the beauties of ruminant animals is their ability to use forages, but it's our job to manage those forages for the best use possible. Managing forages well increases dry-matter intake,  decreases the need and expense of supplemental feed, and even improves herd health. However, weeds — especially toxic weeds — throw a huge wrench in all of that. Learn from Jeff Clark with Corteva AgriScience about what you can do to proactively manage your forages and keep weeds at bay.

Learn more in our Greener Pastures: The Nutrition Edition issues. Check out the:
Angus Beef Bulletin — https://bit.ly/AAWmarchABB
Angus Beef Bulletin EXTRA — https://bit.ly/AAWmarchEXTRA


Hello, and welcome to Angus at Work. I'm your host, Kasey Brown. Well listeners, I hope you're starting to get some spring weather wherever you are, but my heart goes out to our friends in the Northern Plains and the Northwest with that recent calf killer storm. I pray that it at least provided some much needed moisture for you. Around here in Northwest Missouri, we're getting some, let's call it, sporadic spring weather. With that, we're finally seeing some green pop up into the pastures. As my family drives around, I see a lot of these really pretty purple little flowers. Now the practical side of my brain knows these are weeds, but do I know what kind of weeds? No. I was not blessed with agronomic identification skills. However, that's one of the joys of getting to talk to very smart people who do know what weeds look like and why you should be scouting them in your pastures now. I sat down with Jeff Clark from Corteva Agriscience and he gave some great information on how pasture management affects your cattle and what we can do now about toxic weeds. Let's dig in.

Kasey Brown:
We're coming to you from the Cattle Industry Convention here in Houston, Texas, which we are a lot warmer than most of the country right now, which is pretty nice. I am joined today by Jeff Clark with Corteva. We're going to talk about pasture management. Hello. Welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining me.

Jeff Clark:
Yeah, thanks for having me.

Kasey Brown:
Jeff, tell us a little bit about your background in the beef industry.

Jeff Clark:
I was born and raised in Texas. I'm a Texas native. Owned a cattle operation. I would be considered a fourth generation. Sadly, we ended up dispersing, but we still run cattle today, me and my wife, in West Virginia, where she is a third generation rancher as well. We run a commercial cow-calf operation, few stockers, and so been in the cow business all my life.

Kasey Brown:
What got you started with Corteva?

Jeff Clark:
I was with Mississippi State University working on their Beef Unit at that point in time and got introduced to them from a friend. Next thing I know, it was back when it was still Dow Agrisciences, I got picked up, went to work for Dow in the range and pasture. Been a range and pasture specialist since that was not only my passion, but my background, I have an agronomy degree as well. All of that fit together really well. Worked in the Tennessee-Georgia market for several years, and then just went into a market development specialist position last year.

Kasey Brown:
Wow. You said you're in West Virginia now. Is your wife from there?

Jeff Clark:
She is from there. She won the coin toss. Yeah. She won the coin toss when it came down to where are we going to live. We were in Tennessee raising cattle there. Love Tennessee. Like I said, her family has a large cattle operation. She's a veterinarian, and she had an opportunity to buy the veterinary clinic that is in her hometown. That was pretty appealing for her and made a really wise choice to do that. She's got a successful practice there today.

Kasey Brown:
Oh, that's wonderful. Let's talk about getting the most from your pastures, and your topic tomorrow, you're talking on that. Walk me through some of the high points that you're planning on talking about tomorrow, if you would.

Jeff Clark:
Yeah. The high point that I'll be discussing on tomorrow will mainly be around herd health in our pasture management. A lot of people don't think Corteva is a part of the herd health program. It's usually a feed company or a pharmaceutical company, or I've got to have the right mineral out there and all those play a great factor. At the end of the day, when it comes down to cattle, we're dealing with ruminant animals, and they have to have forage. They need clean forage. They need good protein forage, high TDN and something that's going to retain within them. When we're talking about weeds within our pastures, weeds are thieves. They take away our nutrients. They take away the waters that grasses need, that the forages need, that our ruminant animal need to graze to survive.

Jeff Clark:
Not only knowing that, but knowing which weeds are in our pastures, is very important because a lot of those weeds can be highly toxic. Not only can they cause a lot of BCS issues, body condition score issues, with our cattle, they can cause aborting calves. They can cause just a lot of heat stress within the body, so therefore they're not even wanting to graze. Therefore again, they're losing weight. Lot of issues that play a role in that, and honestly it starts with Corteva with our pasture products.

Kasey Brown:
How do you go about figuring out what kind of weeds you have?

Jeff Clark:
Yeah. The best way, when we're talking about knowing what weeds we have in our pastures, the best thing to do is first of all, be proactive. Go out there and look early, scout early. The main thing is get out of the truck and go and look. How I usually break it down is when you go to a restaurant and you sit down, before you start eating, you look at your plate to make sure that you got what you ordered. Well, we need to be doing that in our pastures.

Jeff Clark:
We need to be getting out of the truck, out of the UTVs, off of our horses and looking at what our cattle are fixing to eat because a lot of those weeds that we see in the spring have been out there since October. We see them this time of year. We can also work with our Corteva range and pasture specialists, put a program together and save a lot of money and have a lot more return investment when we make that investment. Then again, the other thing is when you get some weeds identified that have some high end toxic properties, we can really address that immediately instead of running into an issue where you might have to quarantine that pasture and have no cattle on it.

Kasey Brown:
Gotcha. What kind of timeline are we talking about? How early do we need to scout? I'm sure it depends on the forages, but can you talk to that a bit?

Jeff Clark:
If we're talking about a timeline on when we should start scouting for weeds, I always say you can't start early enough. If you have a problem in the springtime, when we're starting to spring calve, or we're starting to turn out some calves on green grass and you know that you've got a spring weed issue or you've had that in the past ... I would say, we need to start around that October time period because a lot of our annual, perennial, and biennial weeds that we see in the spring months, and I'm saying March, April, May, they're germinated, and they're out there in October. They're small. Except for, of course, you've got the rosette, but things like buttercup that we see, that are really prevalent in majority of the grazing area of the United States. It's a size of a thumbnail come October. It lays that way until it does develop out through the spring. It puts out its nice little yellow flowers around that April/May time period.

Jeff Clark:
If we can start early, we can identify these weeds by using a Corteva range and pasture specialist, put a plan together, use lower rates of our herbicide; therefore you're saving a ton of money and then we're increasing that dry matter forage, which at that point in time, you are increasing not only your herd size, if you want to, but your grazing days, which then eliminates having to use so much hay or supplemental feed.

Kasey Brown:
Which is so important, especially as input costs are skyrocketing.

Jeff Clark:
Skyrocketing. And forages too, with a 1,200 pound cow eating 30 pounds of dry matter a day is less than a dollar. You can't buy supplemental feed that cheap.

Kasey Brown:
Absolutely. Can you talk to me a little bit more about herd health and how so much of that is affected by what they're eating and by our forages?

Jeff Clark:
Yeah, absolutely. When we're talking about herd health, which I'll be talking about tomorrow, there's three things I'm going to be positioning. Number one, there's toxic weeds. You take perilla mint, something that is an annual weed. It's a summer annual weed. It pops up in majority of the US. It takes very little for calves, which calves are like kids. They're really nosy. They like to get into everything to ingest. Here's the thing. There is no cure for it. By the time you show symptoms and signs, it's already too late, which is basically 45 minutes after consumption. We want to make sure that we're getting that weed identified because that grows in our grazing pastures and our hay fields. When we get that identified, we can put a plan together, get that immediately out of the way so that we don't have anything that would be really toxic to our calves and even our cattle, but mainly our calves and kill them.

Jeff Clark:
We're talking about easy, up to a million dollars in a loss a year, just with perilla mint issues. Then you've also got not only toxic weeds, but you also have toxic forages. When you talk to someone about toxic forages, they're like, "My gosh. How can a forage be toxic?" You start talking about Johnson grass, or you start talking about fescue. Fescue would be the number one. It cost the cattle industry a billion dollars a year just in fescue toxicity. It's where the cattle go out, and they graze the seed of fescue, which is a very good forage, but if you don't manage it, becomes basically a toxic forage. That's where you can run into BCS drop and score. You can run into pregnancy issues. Even bulls have a semen drop because of the increase of the body temperature up to 106 degrees, and many other things, but it's getting those weeds and forages, but also parasites. When we're talking about stomach worms, all that plays into a fact of grazing.

Jeff Clark:
If we can have folks understand that, honestly, your herd health protocol starts with grazing, they will be so much a head of the curve. They'll have the forages there that they need that are going to produce good protein, good TDN. It's going to slick those cows off. The cows are going to get fuller quicker because they've met their protein intake. They're going to lay around, chew their cud. They're not going to expenditure that energy. That's another problem if you don't have good protein in your forages. Then again, it runs all the way down into stomach worms, the parasites that really cause issue. Maybe you have to use too much dewormer.

Kasey Brown:
You mentioned just how the perilla mint can work so quickly. What kind of signs? What kind of, I guess, symptoms happen?

Jeff Clark:
Yeah. When we're talking about perilla mint, usually, especially around 500-600 pound calves, what you'll see there is they're going to have a little bit of froth around the mouth. They're trying to breathe. It causes a respiratory disruption. You might see their neck stuck out, elongated. Again, that froth at the mouth. Just acting really weird and really strange. It's mainly because they're suffocating. Typically within 45 minutes after ingestion, they're dead. To go to the plant, if you're wanting to know maybe about what the plant looks like in case, my gosh, do I even have this? Number one: it's going to pop up in the summer months. Number two, it's going to have a square stem to it. The telltale sign is it's got a green leaf on top. If you flip it upside down, it's purple on the bottom. That's perilla mint. It's a summer annual plant, but man alive, it causes a lot of issues in the cattle industry.

Kasey Brown:
You said it's pretty prevalent.

Jeff Clark:
It's pretty prevalent around the U.S. Again, wherever there's heavy grazing or a hayfield, you'll see it sporadically go out. It typically in the past would grow in shade trees and vent rows. Now, in the last probably three or four years, it's been out in the middle of the pasture in the sunlight. It's a stronger plant than what it used to be.

Kasey Brown:
It's definitely something to take care of.

Jeff Clark:
Definitely something to take care of early. Yes ma'am.

Kasey Brown:
Walk me through some of the solutions that are available to cattlemen.

Jeff Clark:
You can go, if you're a cattleman right now, and first of all, you don't really know where to start because maybe input costs are so high or you're coming out of a drought, or you've gotten too much moisture. It seems like Mother Nature's just been off of rocker here the last 12 months. I would say, first of all, contact your range and pasture specialist. Go to rangeandpasture.com. You can put in your zip code. You can find out what a location is that sells our products. We can get you lined up with a rep that will come out and, again, will walk through with you everything that you are curious about and then put a plan together for you. Work with a retailer that uses our products and sells our products so that they can make sure to get you the product that you need and when you need it because that's another thing.

Jeff Clark:
There's a lot of times, if you don't have a plan, a proactive plan, and then it's time for you to pull the trigger, you're two weeks waiting because other people have already gotten things lined up. especially if it's our UltiGraz, which is our DuraCor and dry fertilizer. If you're just needing some DuraCor and someone bought in bulk, being proactive will help you get away from being really late. Put a plan together and you will save a lot of money.

Kasey Brown:
Can you tell us where ranchers can find more information?

Jeff Clark:
Two places herdhealth.rangeandpasture.com and then rangeandpasture.com.

Kasey Brown:
All right. Excellent. Well thank you for your information. Thank you for insight. I always like to end my podcast on a good note because we know the cattle business is really a people business. Tell me something good that's happened to you professionally, personally or both. Doesn't matter.

Jeff Clark:
Well, professionally, really everything's good because I get to meet people like yourself and great ranchers. Personally, it would be my daughter runs barrels and she's getting ready to start year three of Peewee barrels and she's excited. I'm the dad that gets to pull the trailer and that part's exciting to me. We're getting ready to start back on the road and hitting some rodeos.

Kasey Brown:
Oh cool. How old is she?

Jeff Clark:
She's five.

Kasey Brown:
Oh wow.

Jeff Clark:
Yeah, she is. She is a handful.

Kasey Brown:
You said this is her third year of-

Jeff Clark:
Third year of Peewee barrels. Yeah.

Kasey Brown:
That's impressive.

Jeff Clark:
Yeah, her mama does it. Her aunt does it. She's bred right in there to do it too.

Kasey Brown:
Does she ride a pony or is she on a full sized horse?

Jeff Clark:
No, she's on a full size quarter horse. Her horse is named Penny. Year one was we would lead her out and lead her around the barrels, but now she's doing it on her own, so she's excited.

Kasey Brown:
Cool. I love that. You learn such new, cool things about people with this. Well again, thank you for your time. Thank you for your insight. Thank you for listening. If you want more information about our coverage of the Cattle Industry Convention, check out the Angus Beef Bulletin and the Angus Beef Bulletin EXTRA. Access, and subscribe to both the Bulletin and the EXTRA from the website, angusbeefbulletin.com/extra. If you've gotten your March Bulletin already, you'll have already seen that it's full of articles on nutrition and pasture management, which is why this podcast ties in so nicely, as the next issue of the EXTRA will be full of more articles on pasture management and nutrition and how the cattle rumen is just a huge work of art. How those things work together so well.

Kasey Brown:
If you are liking these podcast episodes or find them useful at all, we would really appreciate it if you would leave us a review or a rating on Apple podcasts or whichever platform you use to listen to podcasts. This will help us grow the podcast and make it more accessible for more cattlemen to find and so we can give you information that helps Angus work for you. Thank you so much for listening. This has been Angus at Work.