Tag Archive: 2016

Sea Turtles of the Panhandle: 2016 Nesting Numbers and Notes

Sea Turtles of the Panhandle: 2016 Nesting Numbers and Notes

There are five species of sea turtles that nest from May through October on Florida beaches. The loggerhead, the green turtle and the leatherback all nest regularly in the Panhandle, with the loggerhead being the most frequent visitor.  Two other species, the hawksbill and Kemp’s Ridley nest infrequently.  All five species are listed as either threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Due to their threatened and endangered status, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission/Fish and Wildlife Research Institute monitors sea turtle nesting activity on an annual basis. They conduct surveys using a network of permit holders specially trained to collect this type of information.  Managers then use the results to identify important nesting sites, provide enhanced protection and minimize the impacts of human activities.

Statewide, approximately 215 beaches are surveyed annually, representing about 825 miles. From 2011 to 2015, an average of 106,625 sea turtle nests (all species combined) were recorded annually on these monitored beaches.  This is not a true reflection of all of the sea turtle nests each year in Florida, as it doesn’t cover every beach, but it gives a good indication of nesting trends and distribution of species.

If you want to see a sea turtle in the Florida Panhandle, please visit one of the state-permitted captive sea turtle facilities listed below, admission fees may be charged. Please call the number listed for more information.

  1. Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory, 222 Clark Dr, Panacea, FL 32346 850-984-5297 Admission Fee
  2. Gulf World Marine Park, 15412 Front Beach Rd, Panama City, FL 32413 850-234-5271 Admission Fee
  3. Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, 1010 Miracle Strip Parkway SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548 850-243-9046 or 800-247-8575 Admission Fee
  4. Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Center, 8740 Gulf Blvd, Navarre, FL 32566 850-499-6774

To watch a female loggerhead turtle nest on the beach, please join a permitted public turtle watch. During sea turtle nesting season, The Emerald Coast CVB/Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council offers Nighttime Educational Beach Walks. The walks are part of an effort to protect the sea turtle populations along the Emerald Coast, increase ecotourism in the area and provide additional family-friendly activities. For more information or to sign up, please email ECTurtleWatch@gmail.com. An event page may also be found on the Emerald Coast CVB’s Facebook page: facebook.com/FloridasEmeraldCoast.


Author: Laura Tiu – lgtiu@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent – Okaloosa and Walton Counties

Laura Tiu

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/06/03/sea-turtles-of-the-panhandle-2016-nesting-numbers-and-notes/

Panhandle Ag e-News 2016 Reader’s Choice Awards

The Panhandle Ag e-news project began in April of 2012.  Over the past five years,  1,131 articles have been published that are searchable by topic area, keyword, author, or by using the search engine box provided on the site.  The Panhandle Agriculture Extension Team is made up of 40 county agents and specialists serving commercial agriculture in Northwest Florida.  This faculty team contributed articles on a weekly basis to provide educational information to farmers and ranchers in the region related to farm management, pest management, best management practice recommendations, as well as announcements for upcoming educational events.  The electronic newsletter is made up of four parts:  a WordPress website that allows numerous authors to add content, weekly notifications via email using the Subscription Management System (SMS), as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts which provide direct links to newly published articles for subscribers.

2016 was an even more successful year for Panhandle Ag e-News.  18 county agents and 18 state specialists contributed 304 articles in 2016, that were posted to the website, with links shared through Facebook and twitter accounts. 46 issues of the electronic newsletter were emailed to 3,775 subscribers.  The newsletters, along with Facebook and twitter posts generated 167,881 page views (459/day) in 2016.  This represented a 26% increase in subscribers from the previous year, and a 52% increase in readership as compared to 2015. In 2016, the Facebook followers grew 240% from 318 to 1,084, and the number of twitter followers grew 30% from 350 to 456 at the end of the year.

There were quite a number of the articles that were very popular, but there were some articles that really stood out as favorites.  The following are the 30 most read articles, and the 10 most popular jokes published in 2016:

1st Place

Hay Bale Size Really Does Matter

The 2016 Reader’s Choice Award goes to an article written by Matt Hersom, UF/IFAS Beef Extension Specialist.  Matt’s article that discussed the difference in weight of round bales of varying dimension and the numbers of bales need to feed 25 cows per week.  His article was a smash hit on social media, because it was relevant to both hay producers and hay buyers, and was read 10,169 times in 2016.

2nd Place

What Happened to Your Pasture?

The runner up this year was an article written by Mark Mauldin, Washington County Ag Agent.  Mark’s article discussed issues that cause pastures to decline to the point they need to be renovated.  His article was read 1,409 times because he tackled such an intriguing topic.

3rd Place

Enhancing the Market Value of Your Next Calf Crop

The third most read article was written by Kalyn Waters, Holmes County Extension Director.  Kalyn captured some great advice to share from Ed Neel, Dothan Livestock Market on basic techniques to get more value from calves sold through a livestock market.  Her article was read 974 times.

Honorable Mention

USDA Confirms Screwworms in the Florida Keys

The fourth most popular article was written by Doug Mayo, Jackson County Extension Director.  Doug’s article shared the disturbing reports of screw worms that are infesting the native deer population in the Florida Keys.  This article was read 949 times.

The other most read articles, listed in order of popularity, are:

10 Most popular Friday Funnies

  1. Top 20 Cow One-liners – 1,707 page views
  2. You Might be a Farmer – 509
  3. Cowboy Math – 448
  4. Couple Sex – 429
  5. Football Rivalry Insults – 396
  6. The Cow Salesman – 353
  7. English is a Crazy Language – 336
  8. The Guard Mule – 309
  9. The Lifesaving Lie – 309
  10. Friday Not so Funny – 307

These articles were ranked based on the number of times readers opened the link to each page in 2016.  The editors and authors would love to hear your feedback on the articles that were most helpful to you.  Use the comment box below to share what articles, or types of articles you got the most benefit from this past year.



Author: Doug Mayo – demayo@ufl.edu

Lead Editor for Panhandle Ag e-news – Jackson County Extension Director – Livestock & Forages Agent. My true expertise is with beef cattle and pasture management, but I can assist with information on other livestock species, as well as recreational fish ponds.

Doug Mayo

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/01/07/panhandle-ag-e-news-2016-readers-choice-awards/

Cattle Market Price Watch: December 2016

Cattle Market Price Watch: December 2016

The August 2017 Feeder Cattle futures contract decreased by $ 0.22/cwt. during December.  Based on this futures price decrease, August Feeder Cattle revenues decreased by approximately $ 1.65/head ($ 0.22/cwt. * 7.5 cwt.) on a 750-pound feeder steer which amounts to $ 110.00/truckload (50,000 lbs.). The August Feeder Cattle futures contract high, contract low, and price range since September 2016 are $ 128.00, $ 109.90, and $ 18.10/cwt., respectively. The price range of $ 18.10/cwt. on a 750-pound feeder steer totals $ 135.75/head and $ 9,050.00/truckload.

  1. The breakeven price was estimated to be $ 722.10/hd. or $ 131.29/cwt. ($ 722.10/hd. divided by 5.50 cwt.). The breakeven price includes production costs of $ 705/hd. and death loss of $ 17.10/hd.
  2. The price objective was estimated to be $ 872.10/hd. or $ 158.56/cwt. ($ 872.10/hd. divided by 5.50 cwt.). The price objective includes production costs of $ 705/hd., death loss ($ 17.10/hd.), family living withdrawal ($ 100/hd.), and growth capital/retirement ($ 50/hd.).
  3. The expected cash price is equal to the daily August 2017 Feeder Cattle futures closing price plus an expected August 2017 South Florida 550 lb. Feeder Calf Basis of $ 2/cwt.



Author: Chris Prevatt – prevacg@ufl.edu

Chris Prevatt

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/01/07/cattle-market-price-watch-december-2016/

2016 NASS Farm Land Rent and Labor Survey Summary

2016 NASS Farm Land Rent and Labor Survey Summary

Some of the most challenging conversations, in almost any relationship, are the ones about money.  This is certainly true as land owners and farmers, or managers and laborers negotiate for the year ahead. It can be pretty challenging to determine what is a fair price to rent a specific farm, or to set the wages for the skill sets of a specific employee, but, if you know the average rate, it does provide an unbiased place to start negotiations.  As with all statistics, just knowing the average is only part of the story, but at least it offers a reference point for both parties to begin the conversation.

Farm Land Rental Rates

The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistic Service (NASS) no longer provides annual summaries of land rental rates by county, but does compile a report on even years.  Unfortunately their survey summary does not offer the range of rates paid, but does offer county, regional, or state averages that provide an unbiased place to begin negotiations. There are a number of factors that influence the rental value of farm land.  Certainly farm size, crop history, soil type, and location influence lease rates.  A large, 300 acre field would be more attractive to rent than 15 acres, or a farm next door more valuable than an operation 10 miles away.  The amount of Farm Bill Base Acreage on the land also plays a role in setting the value of crop land rental rates.

The following is a summary of the information NASS provides on average land rental rates.  Table 1 provides the average rate for renting non-irrigated, or dryland crop land by county.  The average for the whole Panhandle region in 2016 was $ 64.50 per acre. There was certainly variation from county to county, with a high of $ 92.50/acre in Santa Rosa to a low $ 41/acre in Holmes County.

Table 1. Average Dryland crop rental rates reported by USDA NASS.

Since there are not as many irrigated farms, NASS reports their survey results by region, instead of by county.  Irrigated crop land is generally more productive and certainly more consistent, so the lease rates are generally much higher per acre. Table 2 shows the variation in irrigated farm lease rates in the tri-states region, with an average of $ 180/acre for the Southeast.

Table 2. Average irrigated crop land rental rates reported by USDA NASS.

Pasture rental rates were also surveyed.  Pasture lease rates are considerably lower than crop land, because livestock generate a much lower return per acre.  Table 3 illustrates the range of average pasture rent from $ 23.50/acre in Walton County to $ 40/acre in Escambia County.  The average pasture rent for the entire Panhandle was $ 34.50/acre in 2016.

Table 3 Average pasture rental rates reported by USDA NASS.

Farm Labor Wages

The other challenge that farmers and ranchers face is knowing what is a fair rate to pay their hired labor.  NASS only reports farm workers in general categories, so the averages provided in Table 4 may not fit specialized categories of workers.  NASS does not provide a regional or by county hired worker wage report, so this information came from across the state of Florida.

Table 4 Florida average farm worker wages reported by USDA NASS.

The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistic Services offers a wide range of additional information based on annual surveys and the Ag Census every five years.  To look at the information provided in this article, and other information from their surveys go to:  http://quickstats.nass.usda.gov/



Author: Doug Mayo – demayo@ufl.edu

Lead Editor for Panhandle Ag e-news – Jackson County Extension Director – Livestock & Forages Agent. My true expertise is with beef cattle and pasture management, but I can assist with information on other livestock species, as well as recreational fish ponds.

Doug Mayo

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/01/07/2016-nass-farm-land-rent-and-labor-survey-summary/

2016 Corn Variety Trial Summary from Jay, Florida

Photo: Tyler Jones.

Santa Rosa County is not a major corn producer, as compared to the Midwest, but farmers there do grow 600-800 acres of field corn each year. These producers plant corn as a summer rotational crop, some for cattle feed, and a significant acreage is planted and sold to our wildlife enthusiasts.

The University of Florida/IFAS, West Florida Research and Education Center (WFREC) in Jay conducted a corn variety trial in 2016, consisting of 27 field corn entries. These data represent only one year, so results should be considered over several locations and years, before conclusions are valid.

In addition there is a multi-year summary of varieties that have been evaluated for two and three years, that demonstrate variety performance over multiple years.

For the complete report, use the following link:




Author: John Doyle Atkins – srcextag@ufl.edu

John Doyle Atkins is the Agricultural Agent in Santa Rosa County.

John Doyle Atkins

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/12/17/2016-corn-variety-trial-summary-from-jay-florida/

Cotton Marketing News: 2016 Situation Update and 2017 Crop Outlook

Cotton Marketing News:  2016 Situation Update and 2017 Crop Outlook

shurley-header-11-18-16The 2016 US crop may still be somewhat of a question mark but USDA’s November numbers provided clarity on a few things—the crop got smaller in some areas as expected and the crop still got bigger overall.

The North Carolina and South Carolina crops were reduced by a total of 95,000 bales.  The Georgia crop is now closer to being correct after being reduced 150,000 bales and the crop could get a bit smaller in all 3 instances.  But these reductions totaling almost ¼ million bales were more than offset by increases in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas.

US exports are projected at 12 million bales—unchanged from the October estimate.  This is a good level of exports considering that China is expected to limit imports for the second consecutive year.  As of Nov 10, export sales this marketing year total approximately 7.0 million 480-lb equivalent bales—58% of the USDA estimate.  This compares to 47% at this time last year.  Shipments total 2.55 million or 21% of the estimate.  To date, the pace of shipments projects to only 9.2 million bales for the marketing year—but shipments were 17% at this time last year.

China is expected to import (from all sources) 4.5 million bales this crop year compared to 4.41 million last year.  As of 11/10, US export shipments to China totaled approximately 264,400 bales.  Sales totaled approximately 910,000 bales or 20% of China’s expected total imports.

This month’s USDA numbers lowered World cotton Use or demand just slightly to 111.99 million bales.  In the big picture, this number itself is insignificant.  But psychologically, this nervous market will pay close attention to this number.   This is only .65% above last year and less than 2% growth since 2013.

One issue is the “price problem” or loss of market share to man-made fibers due to substitution at the mill.  Other issues are “structural” and reflect change in consumer preference and buying patterns.  Also, part of the decline may be due to cotton production viewed by some as not environmentally friendly and sustainable.  Research, education, and promotion are on-going to improve cotton’s image and develop new fabrics that appeal to the consumer.  These are longer-term solutions, however.

In the near term, if prices are to sustain themselves at the current level or improve, demand must show stability and growth.  Otherwise, price direction will be largely dictated by the supply side—production and production shocks.

USDA’s November projections revised 2016 crop year World ending stocks up by almost 1 million bales.  This was largely the result of a 300K bale increase in beginning stocks (carry-in from the 2015 crop year) and 590K increase in production.  The increase in carry-in was due to revisions in production and Use from the 2015 crop year.  Higher production is now projected for India along with the US—although the India increase is now questionable.  The China crop stands at 21 million bales compared to 22 million last year and 30 million in 2014.

shurley-11-21-16-chartChina will have another round of reserve sales in 2017.  Sales exceeded 12 million bales in 2016.  Sales, plus lower production, and stable/slight increase in Use is projected to trim total stocks by 10.1 million bales by end of the 2016 crop year.

Questions are whether or not reserve sales and pace of sales will match that of this year and whether or not, as sales dig deeper into the stockpile, fiber quality will become a factor.


March 17 futures advanced sharply this week, based on cold weather forecast here in the US, and on reports that both the China and India crops may be lowered.  Prices are back above 70 cents—giving growers a good pricing opportunity.  Opinion is already circulating that US acreage will be up for 2017.  December 17 futures are also slightly above 70 cents—representing an early risk-management opportunity on at least a small portion of expected production.

Don Shurley – donshur@uga.edu

shurely-signature-blockCotton News Sponsor







Author: admin – webmaster@ifas.ufl.edu


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/12/03/cotton-marketing-news-2016-situation-update-and-2017-crop-outlook/

2016 Gadsden Tomato Forum December 1

2016 Gadsden Tomato Forum December 1


2016 Gadsden Tomato Forum

December 1, 2016

North Florida Research & Education Center – Quincy, Florida

Hosted by the Gadsden County Extension Service

2016 Gadsden Tomato Forum Agenda

A.M.  (All Times Eastern)

8:00     Registration and coffee

8:15     Opening remarks – Dr. Comerford, NFREC Center Director

8:30     Variety trials and research update – Dr. Josh Freeman

9:15     Disease management options and update – Dr. Mathews Paret

10:00   “Progress and challenges in managing Phytophthora fruit rot of watermelon”

Dr. Shaker Kousik, USDA ARS – Charleston, SC

10:45   Break

11:00   “1-MCP: A new stress management tool for vegetable crops”

Dr. Shinsuke Agehara, Gulf Coast Research and Education Center

11:30   Management of insect pests in tomatoes – Dr. Xavier Martini, UF NFREC

12:00   Update on Food Safety Modernization Act PSA Grower Training – Matt Lollar, UF Jackson County

12:20   Q&A and Sponsors Presentation

12:30   Lunch

1:30     Annual meeting of Gadsden Tomato Growers

For more information contact the Gadsden County Extension office at 850-875-7255.




Author: Shep Eubanks – bigbuck@ufl.edu

Shep Eubanks is the County Extension Director and Agriculture Agent in Gadsden County.

Shep Eubanks

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/11/18/2016-gadsden-tomato-forum-december-1/

When It’s All Said and Done – Lessons Learned from the 2016 Peanut Season

When It’s All Said and Done – Lessons Learned from the 2016 Peanut Season

Professor Barry Tillman (left) helping to examine peanut quality at the NFREC in Marianna, Florida. Peanuts, agronomy, factory, food production. UF/IFAS Photo: Tyler Jones.

Professor Barry Tillman (left) helping to examine peanut quality at the NFREC in Marianna, Florida. Photo: Tyler Jones.

As the saying goes, “hind-sight is 20-20.”   As I’m writing this, peering through my bifocals, I wish my vision was still 20-20.  But that’s another topic.  As peanut harvest comes to a close, it’s often a good time to assess the successes and the disappointments of the season before they are forgotten or become exaggerated, like my fishing stories.

If you’re like me, you’re anxious about the crop from the time the seed are planted until the crop is in the wagon.  After a few days, with a few cold nights, I begin to wonder if what I call planting was nothing more than a fancy burial, a final resting spot, a grave for my precious seed.  Then the spring sun rises warm and the ground begins to crack and I’m relieved at the sight of a few green leaves peeking out.  My mind turns to the plant stand.  Will I get the four plants per foot needed?  What if there are fewer than that?

A week later, after a heavy rain, green turns to brown and anxiety returns. Valor burn- Ugh!  “Just come back in two weeks” I’m told.  But I can’t help myself, so I watch every day- a good lesson in patience if you want to try it.  In a few weeks, I discover how amazingly resilient those little seed and newborn plants really are.  In fact, the plant stand was less then optimal, only around three plants per foot of row instead of four. But they are finally growing well and I’m relieved.  Relieved because I know the research shows that two and one-half to three plants per foot of row, somewhat evenly spaced are sufficient.

Valor injury. Photo credit: Barry Tillman

Valor injury. Photo credit: Barry Tillman

I’m relieved until a few plants, now the size of my hand, begin to die suddenly.  Crown rot- Ugh!  But, I’m lucky since only a few plants succumb.  By now, I know that crown rot was a significant problem in some fields in 2016 and caused some to be replanted.  The value of seed treatment, adequately applied, at the correct rate, cannot be overstated.  There is no substitute for it when it comes to battling crown rot.

Crown rot. Photo credit: Barry Tillman

Crown rot. Photo credit: Barry Tillman

A month later and the plants have nearly lapped the middles and all evidence of cold soils, crown rot, and Valor injury are gone.  On to the inevitable- diseases, dreaded peanut diseases.  I know the crop is at higher risk for spotted wilt because it was planted in late April without Thimet® (I used Imidacloprid in-furrow), in single rows, and because the final plant stand is less than four plants per foot of row.  I’m anxious again because the thrips are hammering the plants where the spray nozzle was clogged.  But, I tell myself, “it was a strip-tilled field and I have some varieties with good resistance, so maybe it won’t be too bad.”  However, I know that spotted wilt is unforgiving- everything I can do to minimize it must be done when the seed are planted.

Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV). Photo credit: Barry Tillman

Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV). Photo credit: Barry Tillman

What’s the moral of the spotted wilt story you ask? For minimum risk, here it is: plant after May 10, but before June 1, apply Thimet® in-furrow at planting, plant twin rows, achieve a plant stand of four plants per foot of row, utilize strip-tillage with a good winter cover, and above all, plant a variety with resistance.  Only six things to remember for 2017, actually seven with Classic® herbicide: Variety, Planting Date, Plant Population, In-furrow Insecticide, Row Pattern, Tillage and Classic® herbicide.

Another six weeks passes and its mid- summer.   Fortunately, spotted wilt, while present all around, is less than 5% incidence- that’s manageable.  Fast forward to late August and the plants are big, nearly knee high, and its hot, very hot and humid.  A few black spots begin to appear and a limb here and there begins to wilt – leaf spot and white mold- Ugh!  But, I’ve followed an excellent fungicide program and have only a few weeks until digging.  Surely it will hold until then.

White mold sclerotia at the base of a peanut plant. Photo: Josh Thompson

White mold sclerotia at the base of a peanut plant. Photo: Josh Thompson

Anxiety returns.  Should I spray more frequently? Should I change chemistry?  What I know is this – it’s late in the season and the crop is set, the adjusted Growing Degree Days are close to 2100, the pod profile says three weeks until digging, I just applied my last scheduled fungicide, and the disease incidence is low.  There are only a few leaves falling off in the lower canopy and only a few hits of white mold, otherwise the plants look healthy.  Just another rain or two, or some irrigation and that’s it, it’s time to get the digger ready.

Three weeks pass and the pod profile confirms that it’s time to dig.  I’m pleased with what I see.  Despite the early stand loss, some Valor® burn, a little crown rot, some spotted wilt, leaf spot and white mold, those vines have a lot of peanuts on them.  A few days of sun and they are in the wagon.  Nice, plump peanuts.

Anxiety relieved.  What seemed devastating turned out to be manageable.  What appeared to be insurmountable proved controllable.  So it is with every peanut season it seems, and when it’s all said and done, I can look back and learn a few things to help for the next season.



Author: btillman – btillman@ufl.edu


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/10/29/when-its-all-said-and-done-lessons-learned-from-the-2016-peanut-season/

Three Panhandle Farms Recognized through the 2016 SE Hay Contest

Three Panhandle Farms Recognized through the 2016 SE Hay Contest

Bill and Donna Conrad, Bascom were recognized for their 3rd place alfalfa hay entry in the 2016 SE Hay Contest. Photo credit: Doug Mayo

Bill and Donna Conrad, Bascom, FL were recognized for their 3rd place alfalfa hay entry in the 2016 SE Hay Contest with an RFQ score of 238. Dr. Dennis Hancock, UGA Forage Specialist (right)  coordinated the 12th annual contest and recognized the winners at the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie Georgia.  Photo credit: Doug Mayo

The 2016 Southeastern Hay Contest (SEHC) presented by Massey Ferguson was a fierce competition, with 269 entries vying for the top spot. Three Florida Panhandle Farms were recognized for excellent quality hay:  Bill Conrad, Bascom had the third place entry in the alfalfa division with an RFQ score of 238, and Stoltzfus Farms, Blountstown  RFQ-168 and Basford Farms, Grand Ridge RFQ-155 placed first and second in the perennial peanut division.

Stoltzfus Farms, Blountstown was recognized for the 1st place perennial peanut hay entry in the SE Hay Contest. Photo credit: Doug Mayo

Stoltzfus Farms, Blountstown, FL was recognized for the 1st place perennial peanut hay entry in the SE Hay Contest with an RFQ score of 168. Photo credit: Doug Mayo

Final results for the 2016 SE Hay Contest are listed below:2016-se-hay-contest-results

The results are broken down into the Contest’s categories of the contest: warm season perennial grass hay (bermudagrass, bahiagrass), alfalfa hay, perennial peanut hay, perennial cool season grass (tall fescue, orchardgrass, etc.) hay, mixed and annual grass hay, grass baleage, legume baleage, and high moisture legume or grass-legume mix hay. This contest is held in conjunction with the Sunbelt Agricultural Expo in Moultrie, GA. Winners were announced during the opening ceremonies at the Sunbelt Expo on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016. In each of the categories, the highest three entries in terms of relative forage quality (RFQ) received cash prizes. First place received $ 125, second received $ 75, and the third place entry received $ 50. Top honors in terms of highest overall RFQ also received their choice of the use of a new Massey Ferguson DM Series disc mower or RK Series rotary rake for the 2016 hay production season plus $ 1,000 in cash! This year, the overall high RFQ was 254, which was from some extremely high quality alfalfa made at Bohlen and Son Farm in Madison, GA.

Boheln & Son Farms was the overall grand prize winner with their 1st place alfalfa hay entry with an RFQ score of 254. Photo credit: Doug Mayo

Boheln & Son Farm, Madison, GA was the overall grand prize winner with their 1st place alfalfa hay entry with an RFQ score of 254. Photo credit: Doug Mayo

Weather is always a major limiting factor when attempting to produce high quality forage. This year, dry conditions throughout most of the growing season caused drought to be a major limitation for many producers. Drought stress increased the incidence of high nitrate levels in the forage in 2016, and 9% of the samples submitted to the contest were disqualified because nitrates were greater than 5,000 ppm. Still, the forage quality this year was very high. The average relative forage quality (RFQ) was on par with, or equal to, the winning values in the Contest’s 12-year history. Good management can make a remarkable improvement in forage quality in both favorable and unfavorable weather conditions.

What is Relative Forage Quality?

In the past, hay quality prediction equations were based on the fiber concentration of the hay crop. However, forage crops can have similar fiber content yet have very different digestibility. For instance, Tifton 85 bermudagrass often has a higher fiber concentration than other bermudagrass varieties, yet it is more digestible. This improved digestibility results in enhanced animal performance, but is not reflected using traditional forage testing methods. The Relative Forage Quality index was developed by the University of Florida and the University of Wisconsin to predict the fiber digestibility and animal intake of harvested crops. Since 2003, hundreds of warm season samples have been used to refine the RFQ equation for bermudagrass and other warm season forages. Currently, all forage sample results from the UGA’s Feed and Environmental Water Lab in Athens contain an estimate of Relative Forage Quality. This value is a single, easy to interpret number that improves producer understanding of a forage’s nutritive quality and helps in establishing a fair market value for the product.

How can Relative Forage Quality help me?

Relative Forage Quality allows hay producers to easily categorize and price hay lots based on relative quality. Producers can purchase hay lots depending on its end use. For example, there is little need to feed high-quality hay to livestock that could easily utilize poorer quality forage. Hay with a RFQ of 100 or more can usually be economically fed to maintain beef cows, while hay with an RFQ of 125-150 is adequate for stocker cattle or young growing replacement heifers, and hay with an RFQ of 140-160 is suitable for dairy cattle in the first three months of lactation. It is also easy to see that Relative Forage Quality could provide the framework for a quality hay marketing system. For example, hay with a RFQ of 155 could conceptually be labeled “premium” hay, while hay with an RFQ of 100 could be labeled “fair.” This simple system could allow producers to price hay consistently and fairly across harvest maturity, fertilization regimes, or plant species (i.e. bermudagrass, bahiagrass, perennial peanut, or tall fescue).

For more information on the SE Hay Contest, other upcoming events, and forage management issues, visit www.georgiaforages.com or contact your local County Extension Office.


Source: Dr. Dennis Hancock, Associate Professor and Forage Extension Specialist


Author: Doug Mayo – demayo@ufl.edu

Lead Editor for Panhandle Ag e-news – Jackson County Extension Director – Livestock & Forages Agent. My true expertise is with beef cattle and pasture management, but I can assist with information on other livestock species, as well as recreational fish ponds.

Doug Mayo

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/10/22/three-panhandle-farms-recognized-through-the-2016-se-hay-contest/

The Inaugural 2016 FWC Lionfish Challenge has come to an End… So What Now?

The Inaugural 2016 FWC Lionfish Challenge has come to an End… So What Now?

Most coastal residents along the panhandle are aware of the invasive lionfish and the potential impacts they could have on local fisheries and ecosystems. Since they were first detected in this area in 2010, there have been tournaments, workshops, and presentations, to help locals both learn about the animal and ways to control them.  Existing non-profits have joined the fight and new non-profits have formed.  In 2015 FWC and local organizations began hosting the Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day (LRAD) events.  These are held the weekend after Mother’s Day.  During the 2016 event in Pensacola, 8,089 lionfish were removed.  In 2016 FWC introduced the Lionfish Challenge.  This program began at the conclusion of the LRAD event and ran through September 30.  Lionfish, or lionfish tails for those who wanted to keep the animal, could be turned into local collection sights and submitted for state awards and recognition – a Hall of Fame was created and King Lionfish.   Over 16,000 lionfish were logged during this event. But has any of this helped?  Are we getting control of this invasive species?

The Invasive Lionfish

The Invasive Lionfish

Maybe… having conversations with local divers who work with researchers and remove for profit, it appears that the 2016 Pensacola LRAD may have made an impact. If you review the literature it states that to control an invasive species a minimum of 25% of the population should be removed annually.  Others say you need to remove 75% and others still say it should be 25% each month.  The problem here is that we do not know how many lionfish are actually out there.  We know how many we are bringing in but is it enough?


One report, submitted by the non-profit REEF (from Key Largo) a few years ago, indicated they had removed about 70% of the lionfish in their area during one tournament. Based on this, the argument that tournaments are effective was supported.  The recent Pensacola LRAD suggest the same.  Local divers who remove lionfish with researchers, tourists, and as a commercial venture for themselves told us that their “sweet spots” – where high numbers of lionfish can be found – are not so sweet anymore.  They are finding lionfish, but prior to LRAD it was not uncommon for some locations to have 50-100 lionfish around them.  These same locations may yield 10-20 now.  Though this information is anecdotal; it does suggest that these intensive tournaments may be having an effect on managing them.  Of course a quantitative study is needed to confirm these observations, but it is encouraging none the less.


It is believed the tournaments alone will not solve the problem. With their high reproductive rates, continuous removals are needed.  To encourage this divers can obtain a Saltwater Products License from FWC and sell what they catch.  Some dive charters are now making it a tourism trip – “lionfish hunting”.  As long as it marketed properly (as in they are not going to find tons of them – but will enjoy shooting a few) customers seem to be happy and are enjoying it.  Of course they are still working on an effective trap so that non-divers can participate in control programs.  It is also important to note that you should not get into a commercial venture on lionfish as your main source of income.  To do so would lead to the argument “we do not want to get rid of lionfish because they are my livelihood”.  The objective is to make them uncommon and reduce their impact on our marine resources.


Of course it will take time to know for sure just how effective the tournaments have been. Several will be meeting this week in Ocala to discuss the 2017 tournament season.  I have written a longer update on the lionfish, which can be found at the Escambia County Extension Marine Science page.


Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/10/14/the-inaugural-2016-fwc-lionfish-challenge-has-come-to-an-end-so-what-now/

Older posts «