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Schmidt: Go easy on fall pruning

By Staff | Oct 14, 2016

It is a good idea to give loppers and pruning shears the autumn off. Here’s why:

Pruning promotes new growth- something you don’t want to encourage when plants are preparing to go dormant for the winter.

Pruning creates a “wound” which will be slower healing this time of year which can attract and provide an opportunity for fungal, bacterial, and insect invaders to overwinter and create problems during the next growing season. Unhealed wounds can also result in winter damage.

Like everything there are always exceptions to the rule. Fall is still a good time to cut dead branches from trees to prevent insects from overwintering in the dead wood. Suckers and broken, dead and diseased branches should be removed at any time.

The best time to prune most woody plants is while they are still dormant. This is typically late winter or early spring the danger of severe cold weather has passed and before new growth occurs. Trees that bloom on old wood should be pruned immediately after blooming. Examples of these are lilacs and spirea. Evergreens can be pruned in the early spring (March-May) or in early summer after any new growth has hardened. Junipers, arborvitaes, and yews can be pruned anytime from mid-April to mid-August.

Testing forages pays dividends

Having the forages tested is the best way for producers to know the quality of feed their livestock is consuming. Predicting the nutritive value of forages, such as hay cut on CRP land, as well as crop residues such as corn stalks, is difficult without having them tested by a qualified nutrition laboratory. Using book values for these types of forages can lead to inaccurate conclusions about forage quality.

Nutritional quality can vary dramatically with CRP hay. Nutritive quality depends on when the field was last hayed or grazed, the timing of haying relative to forage maturity, the proportion of alfalfa to grass, and precipitation.

CRP hay, as well as most grass-dominant hays, harvested in August will have a crude protein value of less than 7 percent and digestibility value of less than 50 percent. However, if the CRP growth or hay field is green when harvested or contained more than 30 percent alfalfa, nutritional quality can approach 9 to 11 percent crude protein and digestibility of more than 55 percent.

If the field is brown and dry, crude protein can be as low as 5 percent and digestibility can be less than 45 percent. If the CRP field has not been cut for three or more years and standing litter is high, the hay’s nutritional quality will be well below the needs of all classes of livestock.

Minerals and vitamins, especially vitamin A, also can be deficient. It is recommended that producers purchase supplemental feeds to make up for deficiencies uncovered with nutrient analysis.

Testing forages will allow management decisions that improve livestock productivity and overall profitability of the ranching operation.

More information on forage quality also is available in an NDSU Extension publication titled “Interpreting Composition and Determining Market Value” which can be found online at www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/plantsci/hay/as1080.pdf. You may also Yolanda Schmidt, Pierce County Extension Agent, with the NDSU Extension Service at 776-6234 or yolanda.schmidt@ndsu.edu.

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