Agriculture News | Montgomery County Extension Office (2023)

AG News - May 15, 2023

Spring Tornado Safety

Each year, the United States experiences an average of 1,200 tornadoes. Many strike rural areas and cause little damage, and most have paths well under one mile in length and winds under 100 mph. However, a few tornadoes can become large and violent, with wind speeds approaching 200 mph, tracking tens of miles and leaving swaths of destruction and death. In Kentucky, tornadoes have occurred during every month of the year and at every hour of the day. However, they occur most frequently from March through June and typically between 3 and 10 PM. Nighttime tornadoes are often more dangerous as they are harder to see and most people are sleeping.

So what do you do if there is a tornado? How do you stay safe?

Before a Tornado

  • Have a family tornado plan in place and practice a family tornado drill at least once a year.
  • Have a predetermined place to meet after a disaster.
  • Learn the signs of a tornado: dark, greenish sky; large hail; dark, low clouds; and loud roaring sounds.
  • When a tornado watch is issued, practice your drill and check your safety supplies.
  • Increase your situational awareness by monitoring the weather on, watching local TV, or listening to NOAA Weather Radio.
  • Flying debris is the greatest danger in tornadoes; so store protective coverings (e.g., mattress, helmets, sleeping bags, thick blankets, etc) in or next to your shelter space, ready to use on a few seconds notice.
  • Tornado rule of thumb: Put as many walls and floors between you and the tornado as possible!
  • If you are planning to build a house, consider an underground tornado shelter or an interior "safe room".
  • In a mobile home: GET OUT! Go to a neighbor’s house, underground shelter, or a nearby permanent structure. Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes.

During a Tornado

  • Wear a bicycle or motorcycle helmet to protect your head and neck or cover your head with a thick book.
  • In a house with a basement: Avoid windows. Get in the basement and under some type of sturdy protection (heavy table or workbench), or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag. Know where very heavy objects rest on the floor above (pianos, refrigerators, dressers, etc.) and do not go under them. They may fall down through a weakened floor and crush you.
  • In a house without a basement, a dorm, or an apartment: Avoid windows. Go to the lowest floor, in a small interior room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down. A bath tub may offer a shell of partial protection. Even in an interior room, you should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, etc.), to protect against falling debris in case the roof and ceiling fail.
  • In a car or truck: If you are caught by extreme winds or flying debris, park the car as quickly and safely as possible - out of the traffic lanes. Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows; cover your head with your hands and a blanket, coat, or other cushion if possible. If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, leave your car and lie in that area. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges.
  • In the open outdoors: lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can.

After a Tornado

  • Remain calm and alert, and listen to the radio or TV for instructions from authorities.
  • Keep your family together and wait for emergency personnel to arrive.
  • Carefully render aid to those who are injured.
  • Stay away from downed power lines.
  • Watch your step to avoid broken glass, nails, and other sharp objects.
  • Stay out of any heavily damaged houses or buildings.
  • Do not use matches or lighters, there might be leaking natural gas pipes or fuel tanks nearby.

By Jane Marie Wix - National Weather Service Jackson, KY (in coordination with Kentucky Emergency Management)

Container gardening

Not everyone has acreage orlandwheretheycan justdig in the soil.As long asyou have a sunny spot, whether it be a balcony or parking lot, if you can get sunlight,you can grow flowers or vegetables in containers.It isn’tdifficult.

Just about any containerwill do, but the smaller the container,you will bemore of a slave to it. Unless you work from home, are astay at homeparent, orretired, small containers do not make any sense.Don’t use anythingsmaller than half of a bourbon barrel, 24 inches in diameter, if you are going to grow tomato plants. The more soil you can give that plant, relative to its size,the less water andmaintenance you will have to do.

You can grow anything in a container, but remember, the larger the plant the more challenging it is.Lettuce,radishes and plants that don’t grow tall, anddon’t require a lot of water,are very easyto grow in containers.There is no denying, plants in containers depend on you for everything.Generally, watering is adailychoreandif you let plants dry out and become stressed, you willlimithow much they can produce.

Being in containers, plants don’t have access to the nutrients in natural soil, which is usually a potting soil or soil mix. You have the commitment of feeding or fertilizing on a regular basis. Young people are veryinterestedin horticultureright now.Theyusuallylive in apartmentsbefore owning a home, and that makes container gardeninga perfect fit.

Containers can be of any size or shape.Containergardensareelevated anddonot contain native soil.Raisedbeds requiremuchlesswateringthan container gardening.

One of the mostpopularquestionsat extension offices concerning container gardening is about blossom endrot, which is associated with tomatoes, and is technically a calcium deficiency.Blossom end rot isactually thelack of consistent watering,making it hard to grow afull-sizedtomato in a container without runningintoissues.Plant breeders have gotten around that by developing container-bred varieties whicharemuch shorter plants.Dwarf tomatoplantsgetabout twofeettall andneed only about athird of thewater that afull-size tomatoplantrequires.There are a multitude of varieties of other vegetables that are bred for container gardening.

Contact your Montgomery County officeof the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Servicefor information on container gardening.Source:Jamie Dockery, UK extension horticulture agent.

AG News - April 17, 2023

Farm and home safety tips for stormy weather

It’s that time of year when we get more thunderstorms. Weather patterns are more active, and storms thrive with the moisture and rapidly rising warm air that is very common during the transition to warmer seasons.

Stormy conditions also increase the potential for lightning to strike people at work or play outdoors and, possibly, while they’re inside a building. Although thunderstorms are more common during the spring and summer, they can take place all year long and at all hours.

All thunderstorms produce lightning. Sometimes called “nature’s fireworks,” lightning is produced by the buildup and discharge of electrical energy between negatively and positively charged areas. An average lightning charge can provide enough energy to keep a 100-watt light bulb burning for more than three months.

Other dangers associated with thunderstorms are heavy rains that lead to flash floods, strong winds, hail and tornadoes. These weather conditions can injure or kill people and pets, as well as cause billions of dollars in crop and property damage.

Thunder is the result of a shock wave caused by rapid heating and cooling of air near the lightning channel.

If you want to estimate the miles between yourself and a lightning flash, simply count seconds between lightning and thunder and divide this time by five. Sound travels about a mile every five seconds. So if you count 30 seconds between lightning and thunder, lightning has flashed within six miles of you. This puts you within lightning striking distance, according to scientific research.

The most important thunderstorm safety precaution is simply to be aware of an approaching thunderstorm and move to a safe shelter before the storm arrives in your area. If you see lightning, hear thunder, observe dark clouds, or your hair stands on end, immediately go inside a sturdy, completely enclosed building, home or a hard-top vehicle with closed windows. Avoid picnic shelters, sports dugouts, covered patios, carports and open garages. Small wooden, vinyl or metal sheds provide little to no protection.

Since metal conducts lightning, don’t touch metal inside or outdoors; drop metal backpacks; release golf clubs, tennis rackets, fishing gear and tools, and get off bicycles and motorcycles.

Lightning can strike water and travel a long distance in it. So standing in water, even in rubber boots, isn’t safe during a thunderstorm. It’s also unsafe to go swimming, wading, snorkeling and scuba diving if lightning is present. If you’re in a small boat during a storm, crouch in the middle and stay away from metal items and surfaces.

Crouch down in an open, exposed area and stay away from tall objects, such as trees. Remember to stay away from clotheslines, fences, exposed sheds and other elevated items that can conduct lightning.

If you’re indoors, remember lightning can enter buildings as a direct strike, through pipes and wires extending outside, or through the ground. Telephone use is a leading cause of indoor lightning injuries in America, because the charges can travel a long way in telephone and electrical wires, especially in rural areas.

Windows and doors provide a direct path for lightning to enter a building; so avoid them. During a thunderstorm, stay away from laundry appliances as they are connected to plumbing and electrical systems. Dryer vents offer a direct electrical pathway outdoors.

On the farm, ungrounded wire fences can put livestock at risk when lightning strikes. Surprisingly, lightning can travel almost two miles along an ungrounded fence. According to the National Ag Safety Database, you can ground wooden or steel posts that are set in concrete by driving ½-inch or ¾ inch steel rods or pipes next to fence posts at least 5 feet into the ground, at intervals of no more than 150 feet along the fence. You should securely fasten the grounding rods so that all the fence wires come into contact with them. You can also substitute galvanized steel fence posts for wooden posts at intervals of no more than 150 feet. You should not however, ground electric fences in this manner, because they have a direct path to the ground in their circuitry. More tips for lightning protection on the farm are available on the National Ag Safety Database website,

Also remember pet safety. Lightning can easily strike animals chained to a tree or wire runner. Doghouses generally aren’t protected against lightning strikes. Sources: Matt Dixon, UK Agricultural Meteorologist; National Weather Service, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ag Safety Database.

For more information, contact your Montgomery County Cooperative Extension Service.

Growing asparagus

Asparagus is a wonderful vegetable, it can be prepared in so many different ways, it is full of nutrients, and by the end of April, there should plenty of asparagus available. It is an easy crop to grow and is very popular, but different than most vegetables because it is a perennial.

If done correctly, one planting of asparagus crowns can keep you in asparagus for 20 to 25 years. Asparagus produces something other than the little spear you see in the grocery store. That spear is actually the sprout; it’s the tip. After you stop harvesting, you have to let it grow to a ferny, shrub-like plant, six-to-eight feet in height, to make more food for the sprouts you will harvest next year.

It is easy to grow in the home garden and doesn’t have a tremendous amount of disease or insect pressure. Asparagus is a slow reward because when you plant it, you are generally not going to get any that first season; it will produce spears, but you should not cut them. There will be only minimal production the second season and by year three, you will have a six-to-eight week harvest season.

When it comes to selecting asparagus, you should look for all-male varieties. Asparagus is seedling propagated, even in an all-male variety, there will be a few female plants. The ratio is less if they don’t spend energy producing flowers and little berries, and that means more asparagus for you.

As far as varieties are concerned, Purple Passion is an older variety. Purple Pacifica has less lignin, is less fibrous, making it more crispy and crunchy, but it will turn green when you cook it. The sugar content is higher and it is great broken up in salads.

You should plant your asparagus six-to-eight inches deep and cover it as it grows. Asparagus is pretty much the first vegetable you can get out of the garden each season and is beloved because of the flavor. It tastes so much better when it is fresh-picked and hasn’t been on a truck for weeks. Source: Jamie Dockery, UK extension horticulture agent.

Contact your Montgomery County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service for information on growing asparagus.

AG News - April 10, 2023

Cattlemen’s Ribeye Drive Thru – April 21

Are you craving a Cattlemen’s Ribeye Sandwich? If so the Montgomery County Cattlemen’s Association is now taking orders to be picked up on Friday, April 21st from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM. You may place an order for a Ribeye Steak Sandwich, Chips and an Ale-8 or Water by calling 859-498-8733. To help us plan please call in your order by 4:30 PM, Wednesday, April 19th.

When you call just leave your Name, Number of Orders and the approximate time you will pick up your order. Orders can only be picked up between 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM on April 21st at the Montgomery County Extension Annex Garage located at 153 South Maysville Street. Follow the signs. Orders will be brought to your car when you drive up. The cost per order is $10.00. Cash or Card. Don’t miss out on this chance to get a Montgomery County Cattlemen’s Association Ribeye Sandwich!!!!

Stocking recreational fish ponds

Fishing is a wonderful warm-weather pastime many of us enjoy. At the extension office, we often receive calls in the spring and fall from landowners on how to properly stock recreational ponds with fish.

Pond owners can call farm supply stores during the spring and fall to find out when their live fish trucks may arrive. Fish are typically transported during cool weather to reduce handling stress. The fish are typically small and can be hauled short distances in large, water filled containers.

Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources no longer stocks recreational ponds, but the department recommends the following fish species to establish a balanced fish population that will provide good pond fishing in about two years’ time. Bluegill (not hybrid bluegill) and largemouth bass form a predator-prey relationship where the prolific spawning of bluegill provide enough food to support a largemouth bass population. Largemouth bass consume some of the bluegill and control their overpopulation. Two years after you stock a pond, you should have largemouth bass at least a foot long and bluegill at least 6 inches in length. You can catch these fish provided they are stocked and harvested in the proper numbers.

You can stock redear sunfish and channel catfish as supplemental species if desired. Fish stocking rates are listed below:

Stock 400 fingering bluegill (1 to 2 inches long) per acre in the fall*

Stock 120 largemouth bass per acre in the spring.

50 channel catfish fingerlings may be stocked per acre in the fall if desired.

*40% of the bluegill (160 fingerings) may be substituted with redear sunfish (shell crackers) if desired. Redear sunfish only spawn once a year and will not provide an adequate food source for bass if stocked without bluegill.

It’s more difficult to maintain a balanced fish population in smaller ponds. You can be better off stocking ponds less than a half-acre in size with 50 -100 channel catfish fingerlings and fathead minnows for forage fish or feed them a commercial catfish feed instead.

It is important to stock only bluegill, largemouth bass, redear sunfish and channel catfish in ponds. You should not stock fish species such as crappie, hybrid sunfish, gizzard shad, golden shiners, bullhead catfish and yellow perch, as they may overpopulate small ponds. Ponds containing undesirable species often need to be drained or the entire fish population chemically eliminated and later restocked.

Restocking ponds that contain existing fish populations is challenging since fish fingerlings are typically small and easily consumed by larger fish. Buying large replacement fish may be expensive. Transferring fish from other ponds or lakes is not recommended, because it may introduce disease problems.

In time, many ponds may become overcrowded with small, stunted largemouth bass. Removing some of these small fish may correct the problem. However, these ponds may provide fewer but larger bluegill.

Ponds with overpopulated bluegill will produce many 2- to 3-inch long fish and often a few large largemouth bass that are hard to catch. You can add more largemouth bass to the pond to try to obtain a balanced population.

To maintain a proper balance among fish populations, a rule of thumb is to harvest 4 or 5 pounds of bluegill for every pound of largemouth bass removed.

More information on aquaculture topics is available at the Montgomery County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. Source: Forrest Wynne, extension aquaculture specialist, Kentucky State University

Transplanting tips for vibrant gardens

Last time, we talked about how growing your own vegetables and flowers from seed indoors or under a protective covering outside can expand your choices. You can find that information at

When the chance of frost has passed, it’s time to think about transplanting your young plants to the garden. About two weeks before you do that, you should harden (toughen) them off to help them withstand the outside environment. To do so, begin reducing water and fertilizer (but don’t let them dry out) and expose them to lower temperatures by taking your plants outside. Bring them in at night if the temperature is expected to drop into the 40s. Also expose them gradually to brighter and brighter light outside. Start off protecting them from strong midday sun and then over the course of a few days move them into full sun conditions.

Transplanting will temporarily check a plant’s growth. Therefore, for successful transplanting, try to interrupt plant growth as little as possible. Follow these steps when transferring them to your garden:

1. Transplant on a shady day in late afternoon or in early evening to prevent wilting.

2. Soak transplants’ roots thoroughly an hour or two before setting them in the garden.

3. Handle the plants carefully. Avoid disturbing the roots. It is better to grasp plants by their leaves than their tender stems.

4. Dig a hole large enough to hold the roots. For most plants, keep the soil depth similar to how they were previously growing. Tomatoes and peppers can be transplanted more deeply, since they develop roots on parts of the stem that is submerged in the soil. Press soil firmly around the roots.

5. Pour one cup of water around each plant and for a bonus start add some soluble fertilizer to the water (follow label directions).

6. Put more soil around each plant leaving a slight depression for water to collect.

7. Water the plants once or twice during their first week in the garden. If you didn’t fertilize at planting, add fertilizer to the water at some point during the first week or so of growth. Follow fertilizer label directions for when to add additional fertilizer.

8. Watch your garden thrive.

Source: Rick Durham, extension professor, Department of Horticulture

For more information about starting plants for your flower or vegetable garden, contact the Montgomery County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.


From now through May, you might see swarms of winged termites, called swarmers, inside your home, signaling an infestation that can cause extensive and costly damage. Since swarmers are attracted to light, you often see them, or their shed wings, around windows, doors and light fixtures.

We also see winged ants in the springtime. By examining the insect you can learn whether it’s a termite or an ant. Termites have straight antennae; ants have elbowed antennae. Also, termites have uniform waists; ants have constricted waists between body regions. Termites have two pair of wings of equal size. Ants also have two pair of wings, but the forewings are longer than the hind wings.

Other signs of a termite infestation are pencil-thin mud “tubes” on inside and outside surfaces such as foundation walls, piers, sills and floor joists. Termites make these mud tunnels to travel between underground colonies and your home. Another sign of an infestation is damaged wood hollowed out along the grain with dried bits of mud or soil lining the feeding galleries.

Termite feeding, and resulting damage, can remain undetected in exposed wood because the outer surface usually is left intact.

You can reduce the risk of a termite attack by following these suggestions: Store wood off of the ground, Keep moisture from accumulating near the foundation, Reduce humidity in crawl spaces, Store firewood, lumber or other wood debris away from the foundation, Don’t store wood in the crawl space, Sparingly use decorative wood chips and mulch, and Consider having your home treated by a professional pest control firm.

AG News - April 3, 2023

Pesticide safety in and around your home

Our homes are our private sanctuaries, where we can escape and unwind. We want to protect and preserve our homes and our privacy at all costs. When insect pests begin to appear in and around our home, they can breach or invade that privacy. Depending on the severity of the pest problem, some of us may have to use pesticides to regain control of our gardens, landscapes and homes. It is important that we practice wise, safe pesticide applications to protect ourselves and our families.

Here are some tips to minimize your and your families risks from improper pesticide use.

  • Match the pesticide to the pest. Know what insect pest is causing the damage, health and safety risks or irritation. Only use pesticides labeled to control that insect. If you use the incorrect pesticide, not only will the problem pests not go away, but you have wasted money using the wrong pesticide and put you and your family at unnecessary risk to pesticide exposure. At the extension office, we can help you correctly identify insects and choose the right pesticide to treat your problem.
  • Read pesticide labels and follow them. Pesticide labels are law, and you must follow them. The label directions are for your safety. If its intended placement is not on the label, it may not be safe or legal to apply an insecticide in a certain location. Also, some pesticides are not approved to be use in or around homes. By reading and following the pesticide labels, you can have the confidence that the product was safely applied and will effectively manage problem pests.
  • Do not mix pesticides and household items. Make sure the containers, spouts, funnels, wands and other items you plan to use to apply the pesticide are only used for that purpose. Do not reuse these items for other household reasons once you have applied pesticides in them. Only mix the exact amount of pesticide needed to control your problem. Do not pour unused pesticides down sinks or toilets.
  • Dress for the job. By wearing the proper attire, you can reduce your pesticide exposure. Some pesticide labels will clearly state the personal protective equipment that you should wear to apply the product, but some won’t. At a minimum, you should wear plastic gloves, shoes, socks and long pants and long-sleeve T-shirts when applying a pesticide.
  • Remove children and pets from the area before applying pesticides and during application. Many labels will specify when it is safe for people and animals to return to the application area, but if not, at least keep them out of the space until the pesticide has had time to thoroughly dry.
  • Clean up. Wash and rinse reusable PPE like gloves and goggles. Wash the clothes you were wearing separately from the rest of your family’s clothes. Wash your face and hands, especially before eating, drinking or using tobacco products.

Properly store pesticides. Most labels will say how to store the pesticide. At a minimum, make sure it is in a location that is out of reach from children or pets and stored at the correct temperature. Most pesticides should be stored in an area that is above 40 degrees F and out of extreme hot or cold temperatures. Source: Ric Bessin, UK extension entomologist. For more information on managing insect pests and correct pesticide use, contact the Montgomery County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

Home vegetable gardening publication is a must have

Each spring, we get a lot of questions about gardening and growing vegetables. One of the first places we direct people to is the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service’s ID-128, Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky. Some people refer to this publication as the Bible for home vegetable gardening in this state because it provides educational foundation for successful gardening in Kentucky.

Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky is available in all county extension offices. It is also available online and can be downloaded to any device. The 50-page book has information to benefit new and seasoned gardeners. The publication walks you through plant selection, soil preparation, site selection, crop rotation, crops, planting dates, diseases, pests and their treatment options for organic and conventional operations. You can also find information on gardening small spaces, intensive gardening, container gardening and how to extend the growing season.

The booklet covers the ins and outs of caring for your vegetables during the growing season and how to store your vegetables after harvest.

Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky and is available online at

Contact the Montgomery County office of the UK Cooperative Extension Service for information on gardening.

Basics of on-farm animal mortality composting

Despite adequate care and management, animal mortalities occasionally occur on farms. When they do, Kentucky livestock producers have few options to safely dispose of the carcass. On-farm composting is a low-cost, effective way to dispose of dead animals without contaminating waterways or causing a smelly nuisance.

Two materials are needed for composting: the carcass and a bulking agent. Bulking agents are things like sawdust, wood shavings, and wood mulch. These materials provide a source of carbon to offset the nitrogen from the carcass. They soak up liquid produced during decomposition, regulate airflow through the pile and keep scavengers away. Usually, producers will layer 2 feet of bulking agent on the bottom, the carcass and at least another 2 feet of the bulking material on top of and on the sides of the carcass. A front-end loader is helpful to transport the carcass and bulking agent and create the pile.

Ideally, you will have an enclosed composting facility. A roof keeps the pile from getting too wet and prevents runoff. Sidewalls or fences can protect the decomposing carcass from scavengers and pests. Concrete floors keep compost from entering ground water. The size of the pile will depend on the type of facility size and the type of bulking agent and equipment you use. A typical pile for a large animal (more than 1,000 pounds) should have a height of approximately 6 feet.

Moisture and temperature control is critical to proper composting. If the material is too wet, it could pollute surface or ground water. You can check the moisture by squeezing material in your hand. If it drips, it is too wet. If your palm does not get wet when squeezed, the material is too dry. Temperatures inside the compost pile need to be between 140-160 degrees F. You can purchase a long-stemmed compost thermometer to make sure the pile is reaching the right temperature.

The compost should not emit foul odors at any point in the process. If it starts to smell bad, then something is wrong. You will need to check the pile’s moisture content, temperature, airflow, carbon-to-nitrogen ratio and the amount of material covering the carcass to determine the problem and resolve the issue.

If done correctly, the carcass should decompose within three to six months. You can apply the compost to cropland as fertilizer or reuse it to compost other livestock mortalities.

More information on on-farm dead animal composting is available in the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service publication ID 166: On-farm composting of Animal Mortalities. It is available online at or by contacting the Montgomery County Extension office. Source: Steve Higgins, director of environmental compliance for the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station

Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expressions, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.

AG News - March 20, 2023

Preventing Grass Tetany

As spring approaches and grass begins to grow, grazing livestock may experience a forage-related problem known as grass tetany, grass staggers, lactation tetany, or hypomagnesemia. Grass tetany is a metabolic disorder caused by reduced magnesium (Mg) levels in the animal’s blood. In cattle, it generally affects older, lactating cows but can also be seen in dry cows, young cows, and in rare cases, growing calves. Symptoms often observed include nervousness, lack of coordination, muscular spasms, staggering, convulsions, coma, milk yield decrease, and death. If you suspect cattle are stricken with grass tetany, a veterinarian should be contacted immediately as early treatment can save animals.

Young cool-season grasses and small grains are commonly associated with this disorder. Grass tetany occurs most frequently in the spring, but may occur in the fall and winter when these forages start growing rapidly again or when cereal grain forages are grazed High levels of nitrogen (N) and potassium (K) in the soil can increase the risk of grass tetany because they reduce the availability of magnesium to the animal. Farmers should refrain from placing cattle in a field that has been recently fertilized or has resulted in the disease before. Pastures where a significant amount of manure has been applied often have excessive potassium fertility increasing the risk to grass tetany. A farmer can also increase the legume content in his/her pastures with clover or alfalfa since they have higher magnesium levels to compensate for the lack of it in the new lush grass.

Feeding high magnesium or high “mag” mineral supplements is the preferred method to reduce the occurrence of grass tetany. High “mag” mineral mixes are available at most feed stores and contain higher inclusions of magnesium oxide than other complete mineral mixes. Cattle should begin consuming this high “mag” mineral during the late winter months and into early spring when new plant growth is starting. In late spring once temperatures are consistently above 60ºF, a producer can quit feeding the high “mag” mixtures. High mag mineral does not need to be fed year round, but is not problematic if it is. Free-choice high mag mineral should contain 12 to 15% magnesium from magnesium oxide. Cattle need to consume four ounces of the mineral supplement daily. Magnesium oxide is unpalatable, which can result in low mineral intake. Co-product feedstuffs such as dried distillers grains, molasses or a flavoring agent is added to the mineral mix to increase palatability.

If free-choice mineral is not a viable option, producers can also mix their own supplement by adding the appropriate amount of magnesium oxide to another palatable feedstuff, i.e. feeding in or with 1 to 2 lbs. of corn or other by-product that provides 20-25 grams of magnesium. For dairy cows, magnesium oxide can be added to the grain mix to provide an intake of 20 g of magnesium per cow per day. Magnesium oxide may be routinely used as a buffer in these grain mixes for dairy cows, so producers should check with their nutritionist to make sure adequate amounts and proper sources are being used to prevent grass tetany.

Besides magnesium oxide, another source of Mg is magnesium sulfate, which is more palatable than magnesium oxide. The downside to feeding magnesium sulfate is it can be an issue where cattle are consuming high sulfate water or other feedstuffs high in sulfur. Producers that are feeding corn co-products (distiller’s grains or corn gluten feed), adding additional sulfur to the diet in the form of magnesium sulfate, or have high sulfur water could create a sulfur toxicity.

Grass tetany blocks provide magnesium similar to that of a mineral supplement. The major disadvantage of this method is that all the animals may not consume an adequate amount of the block. Multiple blocks should be available with one block per ten cows.

The season for grass tetany will be developing as temperatures rise and grasses begin to grow. To reduce health problems and livestock death to this disorder, it is important to provide a quality high “mag” mineral or supplement containing Magnesium oxide.

Ways to minimize brown marmorated stink bug damage

Not only do they stink, as their name suggests, but brown marmorated stink bugs can do a number on crops. No matter the size of your garden or field, you will need to take action to keep this pest at bay.

Brown marmorated stink bugs have been in the eastern half of the state for some time but have been appearing in an increasing number of Western Kentucky counties since 2019. While they look similar to native stink bugs, this invasive species has a brown, mottled top, a gray belly and white bands on their antennas.

These stink bugs will feed on all kinds of crops. Some of their favorites include tomatoes, sweet corn, peppers and eggplant. They also attack field crops like soybeans and ornamental trees like redbuds. Their feeding causes crop discoloration, makes the insides of crops corky and most importantly, inedible.

Due to their ability to quickly decimate crops, home gardeners and commercial growers should take action to control brown marmorated stink bugs as soon as they appear. Because of their strong scent, you likely do not want tosmash them. But if you do accidentally crush them, their scent will not attract other stink bugs to your crops. However, you can sweep them off of plants and into buckets of soapy water to kill them in large numbers.

Homeowners can control the stink bugs when they are small with insecticidal soap or the larger stink bugs with products containing pyrethroids. You can also use physical exclusion methods like row covers or netting to exclude the stink bugs. Timing is everything with row covers as you don’t want to hinder pollination by using them.

Commercial producers can focus their monitoring efforts along field edges, where the brown marmorated stink bug is most often found infiltrating. Pyrethroid products can also help in these situations.

Keep a close watch over your crops because you will likely see two generations of stink bugs during the summer. The first generation will appear in early summer and the second shows up in late summer or early fall.

When the weather gets cooler, you may start finding brown marmorated stink bugs in your home as they seek shelter from the colder temperatures.Source: Jonathan Larson, UK extension entomologist

For more information on controlling brown marmorated stink bugs or other pests, contact the Montgomery County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

Spring Is Coming … So Is Alfalfa Weevil!

The UK Ag Weather Center’s degree day (DD) model for alfalfa weevil indicates that many counties in Kentucky are likely to exceed 190 DD (used as a starting point to begin scouting) by the third week of March. Once temperature accumulations reach 190 DD, growers are advised to look at their alfalfa fields and begin alfalfa weevil larval counts. So far, degree day accumulations for this year are trending close to average for the last 10 years. Scouting: To scout for alfalfa weevil, use the stem sampling method. While walking in a “U” or “Z” pattern through a field, collect 30 alfalfa stems. Carefully cup the top of each stem in one hand and break it off the crown with your other hand; place it bud-end downward in a plastic bucket. Be sure samples are at least 20 feet from the edge of a field so that they are representative of the entire interior of a field. Knock groups of 4 or 5 stems at a time against the inside of the bucket to dislodge the larvae. Count the number of larvae. Measure the length of 10 random alfalfa stems. Use the economic threshold tables in ENTFACT 127 or ENT-17 Extension Publications, available at the Montgomery County Extension Office to determine the need to spray the field for alfalfa weevil. If the field is close to harvest, harvest can be an alternative to spraying, but producers need to watch for damage to the regrowth; there are similar scouting tables for regrowth after the first cutting.

Alfalfa Weevil Update video can be found at

AG News - March 13, 2023

Spring tasks for beef cattle producers

Rural Kentucky pastures are beginning to show off spring calves. For cattle producers, this brings in a new cycle of farm management. Farmers have a lot to remember to ensure healthy calves and to successfully rebreed cows.

You need to observe spring calves closely and check them at least twice a day and check your first-calf heifers even more than that. Be ready to assist heifers after one to two hours of hard labor or 90 minutes after the ‘water bag’ is visible. Be prepared to dry and warm chilled calves as soon as possible. Remember that each calf should get colostrum within an hour of birth.

It’s also important to begin to identify calves with ear tags or tattoos while they are still young and easy to handle. Record the birthdate and the dam ID. You need to catrate and implant commercial male calves as soon as possible and you should weigh registered calves within the first 24 hours of birth.

Go ahead and separate cows that have calved and increase their feed. Supplemental energy is important for cows receiving hay to prepare them for rebreeding.

A 1,250-pound cow giving about 25 pounds of milk per day will need about 25 pounds of fescue hay and 5 pounds of concentrate daily to maintain good condition.

If you need to go from a condition score of 4 to 5, you will need to add an additional 2 pounds of concentrate to support that cow. Cows must be in good condition to conceive early in the upcoming breeding season.

Avoid feeding hay in excessively muddy areas of your pasture to avoid contaminating cows’ udders. Calf scours is something you need to watch for in the herd. If scours becomes a problem, you will need to move cows that have not calved to a clean pasture.

Calves with scours may become dehydrated and will need fluids to reverse the situation. You can consult your veterinarian and send fecal samples to the UK Veterinary Diagnostic Lab to determine the most effective drug therapy.

You should plan to vaccinate calves for clostridial diseases like blackleg and malignant edema as soon as possible. It’s also a good time to get yearling measurements on bulls and heifers if necessary, for special sales. You may need to increase bulls’ feed to increase their conditioning for breeding or order semen if you plan to use artificial insemination.

For more information on beef cattle management, contact the Montgomery County Cooperative Extension Service. Source: Les Anderson, extension beef specialist.

Get your home garden off to a good start

Springtime in Kentucky is the perfect time to get outside and start your home garden. A few tasks will help you have a successful season.

Planning your garden on paper before you begin allows you to visualize the plants you want to grow and when they will be ready to harvest.

Next, select a good gardening site. Plan a site in full sun, relatively level, well-drained, close to a water source and dries quickly from morning dew. You may need to get a soil test to best prepare the soil. Add fertilizer according to soil test results.

Remember to only plan a garden as large as you can easily maintain. Beginning gardeners often overplant and fail because they can’t keep up with the required tasks. You must manage weeds and pests and apply water so your plants will be ready to harvest on time.

A few other important tips:

  1. Grow vegetables that will produce the maximum amount of food in your available space.
  2. Plant during the correct season for the crop.
  3. Choose varieties recommended for Kentucky.
  4. Harvest vegetables at their proper stage of maturity. Consider how you will store them if you don’t use them right away.

Consult the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment’s Home Vegetable Gardening publication ID-128, available online at

For more information about gardening or other horticulture topics, contact the Montgomery County Cooperative Extension Service. Source: Rachel Rudolph, UK horticulture extension specialist.


Controlling poison hemlock in pastures in early spring could help keep pastures and livestock healthy, according to Dr. J.D. Green, extension weeds specialist at the UK College of Agriculture. Poison hemlock is potentially poisonous to livestock, particularly when animals may graze poison hemlock plants when other forages are limited, or if large quantities of hay containing poison hemlock are consumed by animals. In addition, poison hemlock can crowd out desirable plants in areas where it becomes established.

Introduced to the United States as an ornamental in the 1800s, poison hemlock is widespread throughout most of the state and much of North America. In the past, it was typically found along roadways, abandoned lots, fence rows and other non-cropland sites. But in recent years, its population has exploded across Kentucky, and it is now in many pastures and hayfields.

Poison hemlock can be toxic if ingested by livestock or humans. Cattle, goats and horses are considered to be the most susceptible animals but other animals can consume it. If ingested, poisoning symptoms appear within 30 minutes to two hours, depending on several factors including the animal species and quantity consumed. Lethal doses for cattle range between 0.2 and 0.5 percent of the animal’s weight. Poisoning symptoms include nervousness, trembling, muscle weakness, loss of coordination, pupil dilation, coma and eventually death from respiratory failure. If ingested by a pregnant animal, it can cause fetal deformities.

The best time of the year to effectively control poison hemlock using herbicides is in the early spring when plants are smaller and in the rosette growth stage, particularly when applying herbicides that contain 2,4-D. In the rosette growth stage, plants can be more difficult to find since poison hemlock is growing close to the ground, but producers can easily recognize it in fields due to its parsley-like leaves that are shiny green and triangular. Producers should look in field areas where the plant was present last year; larger plants may be up to 12 to 18 inches tall. When full grown, this invasive, noxious weed can reach 6 to 8 feet tall.

Poison hemlock is often confused with Queen Anne's lace, which also is called wild carrot and is a non-toxic weed. Both plants produce leaves and clusters of small, white flowers that look similar. However, poison hemlock has smooth stems with purple spots throughout while Queen Anne's lace has hair along its stem and leaf bases. During poison hemlock’s peak bloom period in late May and early June; Queen Anne's lace is just beginning active growth for the season.

If producers find poison hemlock later in the season, they should mow it over before it flowers to prevent further seed production. If it is found while making hay, Green recommends mowing around the plant to keep it out of the animals’ food supply.

AG News - March 6, 2023

All-weather surfaces can improve livestock mobility

As an attentive livestock producer, you have probably noticed your animals tend to follow the same paths to get food and water. Over time, these well-traveled paths start to lose their vegetation and erode the topsoil, particularly if they endure heavy traffic from large animals. Erosion not only wears away your topsoil, but it makes it difficult for livestock to continue to effortlessly move along these paths. In wet weather, these paths get slick and muddy and can become treacherous for animals.

You can help your animals move along these paths by installing all-weather surfaces, such as mechanical concrete. Mechanical concrete uses tires, geotextile fabric and dense-grade aggregate stone to create a sturdy surface for animals to travel.

Use a backhoe or trackhoe with a 36-inch bucket to create an 8-inch-deep trench down the well-traveled path and cover the trench with nonwoven geotextile fabric. The fabric provides drainage, friction and overall path stability. Next, remove the sidewalls of the tires leaving the tread. Semitruck tires are the best size for this project. Once you install the tires in the path, cover them with dense-grade aggregate rock.

This pathway should last for many years and will allow your animals to use less energy moving around your farm.Source: Steve Higgins, CAFE director of environmental compliance.

You can get more information about installing these all-weather surfaces in the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension publication AEN 165: Improving Cow Paths. It is available online at or by contacting the Montgomery County Extension office.

Bugs and other things that make you itch

People generally don’t like bugs. In fairness, this feeling isn’t without cause. Throughout history, we have consistently dealt with insects and their relatives that like to use us as a food source. Phrases like “sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite” are rooted in a time when we had to worry about being bitten by insects even while we slept. As a result, our bodies and minds are wired to be on the lookout for pests that want to bite us. Sometimes, though, the cause of an itch isn’t a bug at all. Here is a sampling of pests and other conditions that cause itches.

Bed bugs: As the name implies, these pests will take up residence in your bed or any other areas where you sleep or spend considerable amounts of time. They are relatively quick feeders, only taking 5-10 minutes for a meal before disappearing into nearby cracks and crevices. Everyone reacts differently to a bed bug bite, but the most common reaction is an itchy raised bump that resembles a mosquito bite. You can learn more about bed bugs through the University of Kentucky Entfact 636 which is available online at If you suspect you have a bed bug infestation, contact a pest control professional.

Fleas: These tiny, blood suckers often end up in homes after hitching a ride on pets. The adults are the ones responsible for the itchy bites that can appear on people and pets. Adult fleas are amazing jumpers and live on their host. But they have a hard time sticking to humans, because we don’t have enough hair. Often, the larvae live in animal bedding and feed on the feces of their parents.

Lice: Humans can encounter head, body and pubic lice. Head lice are the most common and are the ones that people often think of, especially with school-age children. Lice have modified legs that help them hang on to human hairs, where they live and feed. They do not fly, jump or do a lot of crawling in the environment.

Mosquitoes: Mosquitoes are not normally an issue in the winter months, but the females will land on humans in the summer to take a blood meal. Their saliva usually induces an itchy red welt on the skin. Larvae live in water and don’t feed on humans.

Chiggers: Another classic summer foe, chiggers are immature mites that will partially digest skin cells and slurp them up for nutrition. They do not burrow into the skin but do insert a long tube into our bodies. Their digestive enzymes and tube can induce a maddening itch.

Scabies: Unlike chiggers, scabies mites actually live inside of the body. Scabies can induce pimple-like pustules on the skin and may leave behind noticeable “tunnels” in the skin when a person has an infestation. Scabies tend to be transmitted by long-term skin contact and can be transmitted between family members or sexual partners. Only a dermatologist can help you identify and treat a scabies problem. Most entomologists or county extension agents will not have a powerful enough microscope to identify them.

Invisible Itches: Sometimes people may experience sensations that feel like insects crawling on them or that something is biting them, but they find no evidence of pests. These “invisible itches” can be very tricky. Sometimes people may be dealing with transient issues involving insects like thrips that can prod the skin or even problems with fowl mites that have left a recently abandoned bird nest. You might be dealing with sensations that resemble a bug problem but are actually caused by something else. This time of year, one primary cause of invisible itches is dry skin. In addition, some medications can produce side effects that mirror the sensations of insects, as can problems with unmanaged diabetes, lupus or arthritis, among others. In other cases, homes can become contaminated with irritants like fiberglass or paper shards. Chemicals can also cause irritation similar to a bug bite. It is important to keep an open mind when you experience these kinds of symptoms and to consider other possible sources that don’t have six or more legs.

If your skin itches, it is best to consult your dermatologist or primary care provider. Home remedies such as topical anti-inch creams, oatmeal baths, witch hazel and over-the-counter allergy medications may provide some relief. Sources: Jonathan Larson and Zachary DeVries, UK entomologists.

More information on bug identification is available at the Montgomery County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.


If you need to have dead farm animals removed from your Montgomery County Farm, Call Mike Hall at 606-359-4407. This program is sponsored by the Montgomery County Fiscal Court with partial funding from the Governor’s Office of Agriculture Policy and approved by the Montgomery County Agriculture Development Council.

Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.

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