February 2018
For What It's Worth

Checklist to Prepare for Spring

February is here with hopes for warmer temperatures around the corner. It is time to start thinking of preparing for spring and identifying some best management practices for livestock production.

Our strategy could be to utilize quality inputs to ensure quality livestock production with the goal of profitability. Quality inputs do not have to be the most expensive, but rather the most effective at an affordable price.

Take a look at this checklist and justifications to see what might be applicable to your situation.

  • Soil testing – For a mere $7, you can have a basic soil analysis conducted at Auburn University. For more information, visit http://www.aces.edu/anr/soillab/. This will determine if there is need for nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and lime for proper soil pH (6.5-7). With additional tests and fees, the sample can also be analyzed for soil quality/health, special soil and water analysis, and feed and forage analysis. Contact your local cooperative Extension office to see about sample boxes and instructions. Your local Quality Co-op can also accommodate your soil analysis needs, just call or pay a visit. After all, they will likely be the ones to provide any applications.

  • Budgeting for soil supplementation – Once you are able to determine if or how much soil supplements are needed, you can start allocating funds for pending applications over the next few months. While it is best to apply most soil nutrients during spring and early summer, fall is the best time to apply lime to improve soil pH. Also, lime is the most efficient soil supplement; not only because it improves soil pH but it also allows soil nutrients and minerals to become more accessible to forages.

  • Hay testing – If the nutrient levels of any remaining hay on your farm are unknown, send a sample for analysis. If the hay is from your farm, you will know quality levels and if improvements are needed. If the hay is from another farm, hay testing will determine whether to make future purchases from the same farm or seek out another source.

  • Birthing kit – Whether you have cattle, goats, sheep or horses, and if birthing season is pending, you need to have basic birthing supplies including: hypodermic syringes and needles, iodine, shears, antibiotics, docking (for sheep) or castrating (for cattle or sheep) equipment, newborn nutrient supplementation, vitamin E or selenium, ear tags and container to hold all the items.

  • Documentation for all livestock – Whether it is on paper, in a computer or both, recordkeeping is essential to identifying animal ownership in case of escape, disaster or insurance claims. The old adage, "If it isn’t documented, it does not exist," is so true in any of the aforementioned cases.

This article may have left out some best management strategies relevant to your situation. If so, please implement them as part of your checklist to prepare for spring and share with others.

I hope this is of benefit to you and your farm, and increases your likelihood for sustainability and profitability.



Robert Spencer is interim facilities manager for Alabama A&M’s Agribition Center. You can contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..