The team at Ward Laboratories has been hard at work guiding producers through the growing season.
 ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

               As sunsets become earlier, we know harvest and bringing home the cattle is at the top of our priorities. For the lab this means we prepare for fall soil and forage sampling season. Soil sampling post harvest is one of the best ways to make nutrient management plans for the next crop season. As low commodity prices continue to tighten margins, having a “WHY” for that fertilizer application is so crucial to profitability. Likewise, with weaning season concluding and winter calving around the corner, maintaining balanced rations and proper animal nutrition will ensure good gain, healthy calves, and sustain body condition score. We at Ward want everyone to be safe and successful this fall and to enjoy the fruits of 2020.

--Nick Ward, President, Ward Laboratories, Inc.

We are making plans for a 2020/2021 Ward Summit, but planning an event has become quite a challenge lately. We would appreciate your input!

Stockpiling Winter Nutrients

It’s time for beef producers to look to the future and that inventory of stockpiled winter nutrients!  By this time of year cattlemen should have a plan in place to feed their herd through the winter. For many, that means they have stored hay or stockpiled forages. When we think of having hay reserves or stockpiled forage, we often consider the tonnage. Do we have enough yield to get through the winter? While it is important to consider dry matter intake requirements of your herd, it is also important to make sure we are strategically making the best use of our forages to meet nutrient requirements, specifically protein and energy.  So, how have you stockpiled nutrients? 

It is always important to have stored hay as an emergency reserve. We need to ensure cattle can be fed even when winter’s blizzards have covered our pastures.  Does your stored hay meet your cattle’s requirements? Does it account for the extra need for energy under cold temperatures and wind chills?  A 1200 pound gestating beef cow will require 7.1% crude protein and 50% total digestible nutrients (TDN) on a dry basis. This is a reasonable goal for the quality of stored hay; however, as the temperature drops and wind picks up, the TDN will need to be adjusted by 1% for each degree below their lower critical temperature (approximately 18°F). This means if the lows reach -10°F she will require 71% TDN.  This consideration will change the requirement of stored feed.  Additionally, ensure you have accounted for wasted feed, to avoid running short on hay mid-February. Using a feeder will reduce waste, but if you plan to unroll a bale on the ground up to 40% of the forage could be wasted.

In some geographies, producers who plan to use cover crops for late fall grazing and early spring grazing should already have these planted, but in other geographies there may still be time.  Consider sampling these forages as cattle graze them to ensure they do not require supplementation.  The same consideration should be taken for cattle grazing crop residues, consider that cornstalks can be as low as 3% crude protein. It will be important when grazing these types of residual forages to ensure an economical supplement strategy is in place to ensure these cattle are getting the protein, energy, and micronutrients they require.

Finally, pastures and windrows are often used as stockpiled feed for winter nutrients. It is crucial to test these forages as well. Often forages that have been left standing to mature will have high fiber content impeding intake and therefore animals do not meet their pounds per day requirements for protein or energy. Windrowed forages are typically more protected from the elements and can be cut to optimize quality. Understanding the nutritional value of these forages as well as their characteristics that affect how they are utilized by the animal is key. Observing body condition scores should also play a key role in assuring nutrient requirements are met.

So, take an inventory of your forages and supplemental feeds available. This will help you plan to feed out stockpiled forages in the most strategic way. Cow requirements increase as she progresses from early to late gestation and on to lactation in early spring. Take that into consideration when building your feeding plan. Knowing the nutrients and characteristics of your forages will always help make the best possible feeding decisions. Let's make the best use of our stockpiled winter nutrients.


Overcoming Challenges from Coast to Coast

This year, Mother Nature has provided plenty of challenges across agricultural acres. Despite the hardships incurred from the weather, farmers pushed on to ensure profit from their land. In many cases, this requires a degree of resilience and even more hard work. I spoke with a few consultants who help producers from the Midwest, to the East Coast, all the way to the Gulf Coast. Some challenges were universal with the commonality of weather-induced dilemmas. Here are some important takeaways.

Speaking with Jeremiah Durbin of Sustainable Legacy Consulting and the Tennessee Association of Conservation Districts, he details his experiences with farmers that range in management practices from utilizing several tillage passes, to no-till producers. Jeremiah consults for a wide territory of producers from 5 states including Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina. Excess water followed by a frost event caused massive issues early season for producers. “{Along} the East Coast, we had a lot of rain up front. A lot of people are either working ground or had cover crops...either planting green or termination. Their covers got away from them because they couldn't get in there and get it terminated,” Durbin detailed. “Things stayed wet longer. Then once {producers} finally got in and got planted, we had a late frost. That kind of wiped all the way across Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Carolina… a lot of soybeans had to be replanted… corn, as we sat back and watched, it frosted, but it came out of it. There's a lot of replant and just hard termination, trying to get in there and get fertility on.”

Further south, I visit with Caleb Fields of Gulf Coast Crop Solutions. In our conversation, it seems he deals with every challenge that could be thrown at you in a season of consulting in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. In this region, major crops include corn, milo, and cotton. “Drought is always our number one problem. Usually doesn't rain enough at the right time,” Fields outlined. “Most of the coastal plain in Texas is dryland acres. And the further north you go, the more rainfall you get. So the Rio Grande Valley being at the southern tip gets the least amount, and the further up the coast you go, the average rainfall totals go up.” Another problem was the immense disease pressure experienced on corn acres. “Disease pressure was extreme this year with corn. Never seen Northern Corn Leaf Blight or southern rust this heavy in 20 years.” With tight margins, it is a tough sell to get a fungicide down with the dryland yields they produce. Farm profitability continues to be a challenge on many operations.  

Closer to home, Skip Hecox of South Loup Seed shared some unique challenges producers faced in south-central Nebraska. Agronomically, we had a warm spring and never seemed to cool off until late. This caused issues with soil moisture, especially for producers with cover crops. “It seemed like early on after we got to V2 or V3 (corn), those cover crops really started taking on a lot of water just with the stage they were at and the really good spring that they had,” Hecox explains. “{I had} to manage water that early for customers, something typically we really don't need to worry about, because we either get a lot of rain or we get a lot of cool, and we got neither of those this spring.” The early moisture issues coupled with insect pressure created increased need for timely scouting. “We had to manage quite a few more beetles this year and larvae as well. Just a lot more scouting went in on the insect side of things as far as rootworm goes this year.”


The Names Behind the Numbers

The last few months have brought record sample numbers, and we are excited for what 2021 has in store. To maintain the level of quality and expertise that you expect from us, we have brought several experienced new employees into the lab.  Due to continued growth we created positions that will help us better serve and educate producers across the world!

To uphold our commitment to education and providing the consulting necessary for our customers to make impactful decisions on their operations, we added two of the best consultants in the biz!  Dr. Warren Ashley Hammac joined us as a Soil Science/Agronomic Specialist and Willie Pretorius joined us a Soil Health Consultant.  Willie received his B.Sc. (Agric) and M.Sc. (Agric) from the Universities of Pretoria and Stellenbosch, respectively majoring in Fruit Science, Horticulture and Plant Physiology.  He also obtained a Hons. B (B & A) from the Stellenbosch Business School. His background is Agricultural research, managing food companies and soil health.  Dr. Hammac received his Ph.D. in Crop and Soil Science from Washington State University, his M.S. in Agronomy and Soils from Auburn University, and his B.S. in Environmental Soil and Water Science from the University of Arkansas. He has served various roles in production agriculture including researching the impact of conservation cropping systems on soil properties, crop yield, and yield stability; promoting the adoption of conservation practices; and improving efficiency in large scale soil, plant tissue, water, and manure analysis.  As in true Ward fashion, each one of these experts are a phone call away!

Our Soil Health Department is thriving and is analyzing record sample numbers. Knowing that, we have added three NEW lab technician positions to help us maintain quality and turnaround time.  We leave no stone unturned in our recruiting efforts and were able to find the best three candidates out of a very talented pool of people.  Andres Orozco comes to us from Laredo Texas where he spent several years as a lab tech, most recently working for the City of Laredo analyzing Covid-19 tests.  Kelsey Menke is a graduate of UNK and previously worked for USDA evaluating microbial community variations with bovine respiratory disease and most recently worked as a Lab Tech for NovaTech.  Finally, we welcomed Colorado State grad Bradley Blevins.  Brad brings years of agricultural and medical experience to the soil health department!

Join us in welcoming these individuals to the lab!


Heavy Metal Analysis at Ward Laboratories

We are pleased to announce that we are offering the following heavy metal analyses:
Soil:  Arsenic, Cadmium, Cobalt, Lead, Nickel, Selenium
Feed:  Selenium, Cobalt
Water: Arsenic, Cadmium, Chromium, Cobalt, Lead, Nickel, Selenium

We look forward to analyzing these samples for you!


We are accepting photo submissions for our 2021 Calendar! Email your submission to by Tuesday, October 13!


Email Marketing by ActiveCampaign