I have had several questions and reports about premature corn kernel sprouting occurring in some fields before harvest.

There are corn ear rots, in particular Trichoderma ear rot, that can cause germination of corn kernels while still in the husk. There are also other reasons, related to environmental conditions and corn hybrid characteristics, in which kernel sprouting can occur. Recently OSU Extension specialists Pierce Paul and Peter Thomison provided the following comments about premature kernel sprouting.

"Not all ear rots are commonly associated with premature sprouting. In fact, under the right set of conditions, this phenomenon may occur in perfectly healthy ears, without visual disease symptoms. In addition to ear rots, a combination of other factors, including erect ears, bird damage, and wet weather, may contribute to premature sprouting.

"Premature sprouting is most likely to occur when reasonably dry kernels (less than about 20 percent grain moisture content) are re-wetted, especially when temperatures are warm and ear dry-down is in an upright position. Rainfall collected by husk leaves on upright ears often leads to kernel sprouting near the butt of the ear.

"Premature sprouting also occurs when ears are lying on or near the soil surface due to severe stalk breakage or lodging. In such situations, the proximity of ears to moist soil allows a similar re-wetting of the kernels and extensive germination on the cob. The problem is usually limited within fields but if it’s evident across a field, it has the potential to cause drying and storage problems.

"Ears with sprouted kernels are usually lighter than healthy ears. In some cases, this ‘lightness’ can reduce grain yield and test weight. Sprouted kernels are also more likely to develop molds that are associated with mycotoxins. This could result in price discounts if the problem is extensive. Often, during the harvesting and drying processes, sprouts will disappear, and grain will appear normal. Fields showing widespread sprouting should be prioritized for early harvest. Dry grain at higher temperatures to prevent further growth of the young seedlings and screen the grain prior to storage to reduce the amount of damaged grain and seedling tissue."

Beef cattle body condition scoring

Fall is a good time for cow/calf enterprises to evaluate the body condition of spring calving cows. After weaning, the nutrient requirements of cows are low and so fall represents an opportunity to add body condition (weight) relatively easily and economically, especially when compared to late gestation and/or more severe winter weather conditions that increase nutrient requirements. Often even moderate quality pasture or hay will allow cows to gain body condition after weaning, without any additional supplementation. Consider body condition, scoring cows at weaning time and then again about 45 days after weaning. You will be able to judge how quickly cows are gaining back weight lost over the lactation period and make adjustments for better quality feed for cows that remain thin.

Beef cattle are typically body condition scored based on a 1 to 9 scale where 1 = no evidence of fat deposits or muscling, bone structures are clearly visible, the animal is emaciated and 9 = the animal is excessively fat and the tailhead is buried in fat.

Body condition score (BCS) is correlated to calving interval, an important economic indicator for beef cow/calf operations. In order for a cow to maintain a 365-day calving interval, she must rebreed by 82 days post calving. Cows that calve at a BCS of 5 or 6 tend to exhibit heat by 55 days after calving, giving them a good opportunity to produce another calf each year. In contrast, cows that calve with a BCS of 3 or 4 typically take longer to exhibit first heat, often not until 80 days, or possibly longer, after calving. This makes it difficult, if not nearly impossible, to achieve a 365-day calving interval. According to a University of Nebraska publication, "Body Condition Scoring Your Beef Herd" by Dr. Rick Rasby, cows that calve at a BCS of 4 or lower "produce less colostrum, give birth to less vigorous calves that are slower to stand and these calves have lower immunoglobulin levels, thus impairing their ability to overcome early calfhood disease challenges."

Generally, the goal is to have cows at a BCS of 5 or 6 at the time of calving. First calf heifers, due to their additional nutritional requirement for growth, should be a BCS of 6 at calving. An OSU Extension fact sheet, "Scoring Cows Can Improve Profits" that includes photos of cows at various body condition scores is available online at https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/anr-54 or contact me at the Wayne County Extension office at 330-264-8722 and I can provide you with a hard copy.

Rory Lewandowski is an OSU Extension Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.