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Hay/Forage Management
Produce hay to make a profit

Whether a rancher grows hay to feed his livestock or someone else’s, the enterprise isn’t worthwhile unless it makes money.

Wise fertility management cuts costs

Fertilizer purchases don’t hurt as much today as they did a year ago, but they’re still high enough to warrant wise econo-misering.

Contented cows

Just the hint of a breeze off the southern tip of the Ozark Mountains holds the promise of changing seasons as cattle producers Steve and Shari Swenson look toward winter.

Growers save on feed costs by using grass

When the price of fuel, fertilizer and feed went through the roof three years ago, a group of University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture experts went back to basics to help struggling cattle producers manage their costs.

Tips for seeding forage

Late summer can be an excellent time to establish forage crops, provided there is sufficient moisture for germination and good seedling growth. It is also a good time to seed bare or thin spots in spring-established forage stands. The following steps will improve the chances for successful late-summer forage stand establishment. These guidelines come from Steve Barnhart, Iowa State University Extension forage agronomist.

Don’t deprive alfalfa of potassium

Soil potassium takes years to build up, but it only takes a few growing seasons to become depleted when growing alfalfa. Fertilizer prices have increased steadily over the past decade, but when they reached record highs prior to the 2008 growing season, farmers started looking for ways to reduce fertilizer expenses. Every farm seemed to have a different strategy, but many significantly reduced potassium applications to alfalfa, corn and soybeans.

You should know how grass grows

It’s important to understand how grasses grow so you can better manage them. In this column, I will talk only about cool-season grasses such as ryegrass, tall fescue, orchardgrass, smooth bromegrass, timothy and reed canarygrass, and not warm-season grasses — bermudagrass, bahiagrass and switchgrass, for example.

Test bad hay, too

As the summer draws to a close, farmers often find they have made some good hay and some not-so-good hay, because of rain delay, less legume than expected or other reasons. They often don’t test the lesser-quality hay and simply feed it to heifers or other animals. This can be a big mistake!

Managing alfalfa for highest yields

With the end of summer in sight, alfalfa growers have two primary things to think about when evaluating their forage needs and alfalfa stands in the fall:

Texas haymaker

Taylor County, Texas, producer Jerry Little juggles his own manufacturing business in town — which by itself requires considerable travel — along with his hay farms. Somehow he makes both ventures work.

Making the cut

Jerry Little expects to get at least four cuttings of coastal bermuda-grass hay per season for both round and square bales.

Harvest corn silage at right time

Timely corn silage harvest is critical to producing high-quality forage for best livestock performance. To determine the right time for harvesting, you need to diligently monitor the corn’s moisture content.

Alfalfa with reduced lignin looks good in Idaho trials

As the debate about genetically modified crops continues to swirl around forage producers, agriculture researchers are refining gene modification techniques to improve forage quality. The most recent is reduced lignin, or RL, alfalfa.

Carefully select alfalfa varieties

Many of us carefully select corn hybrids and soybean varieties, but choose alfalfa varieties based on price, marketer, etc., rather than performance. Yet, the differences among alfalfa varieties are at least as great as those of corn and soybeans.

Tips for spring forage seeding

With the wet spring weather the past couple of years, many farmers have had problems getting spring-seeded forages established. Some of the resulting stands of alfalfa, for example, aren’t very good.

Late summer can be ideal opportunity to seed an alfalfa crop

It’s late summer already. Kids are going back to school, and soon fall will be in the air. It’s also a prime time to seed alfalfa.

Set the schedule for hay quality

When to make the first cutting of alfalfa and mixed alfalfa/grass hay sets the stage for the rest of the year.

Boost fermentation in haylage

When making haylage or baleage (above 50% moisture), farmers depend on two factors to preserve the forage: absence of oxygen (anaerobic conditions) and fermentation that produces organic acids (lactic and acetic acids).

Manage your fall alfalfa for winter injury

With Texas’ record number of 100-degree-plus days and historic drought this year, it has been so hot for so long it’s hard to even imagine cooler temperatures finally will return. But they will — eventually.

Hay is worth testing to improve feedings

An inexpensive hay test can offer the best guidance as to how much supplemental feed is required for a beef cattle herd, and at the same time, save ranchers money, says a Texas AgriLife Research scientist.

Even good grass hay still shy on protein

For the second year in a row select hay samples from the Morgan County Fair were subjected to the ultimate judge — forage analysis. The idea was to repeat the experiment from last year, where bales selected by the judge were tested to see how tough it is to judge hay by looking. Several 4-H’ers at county fairs had never heard of forage testing.

Great year to test hay

Chris Parker doesn’t care if only a few people take the time to test their forages. He still beats the drum, saying it’s a tool that’s not used enough by those who spend thousands of dollars for hay.

How to interpret your forage test report

Whether you do it by looks, feel and smell, or whether you ask for a forage test if you’re buying hay, you need to know if you’re getting your money’s worth before you buy the first bale.

Partnering for progress

Monty and Bobbie Jo Williams — and a silent partner who does not want to be identified — have made many improvements in recent years to the ranch that they operate together, and have increased its carrying capacity by 40%.

Good eye for hay gets you in the ballgame

Editor’s note: I judged 50 4-H hay exhibits at the 2010 Morgan County fair. To see how visual judging paired up with actual value, I asked Chris Parker to core-sample various flakes. Parker sent samples to Litchfield Analytical Services, Litchfield, Mich., for near-infrared (NIR) analysis.

Make windrows right size for baler

The secret to making good hay is curing it correctly, then forming windrows that allow even feed into the baler. You need good tools that won’t knock off too many valuable leaves, yet make windrows of the right size and shape for good baling.

Evaluate forage stands for injury

It’s been an unusual winter — warmer than most and not much snow cover. Although winter was mild, you should still get out and evaluate alfalfa fields, mixed hay fields, pastures and other perennial forage plants. Now is the time to do it, says Steve Barnhart, Iowa State University Extension forage agronomist.

Forages win out in this operation

A farm family who raises Angus seedstock and puts most of their farm acres into commercial hay production was named winner of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association’s Environmental Stewardship Award Program for 2012. Greg and Lola Wood and son Chris operate BitterSweet Acres, near Greenville in Clay County in northwest Iowa.

Forage silage options sought after drought

Silage worries have had producers asking a bunch of questions this spring.

Making the cut

Dale Duggan is meticulous in growing — and harvesting — hay in an efficient manner at Ballinger, Texas. Duggan puts down 107 pounds of 20-20-0-12 per acre to meet the nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur needs for his three-way cross of sorghum-sudan.

Hay is in demand

Glen Leduc is just one of many farmers who traveled to Iowa from another state to attend the 2012 Hay Expo at the Central Iowa Expo site June 20-21 near Boone. Farmers like Leduc, who raises 200 acres of hay near Edwardsville, Ill., came from parts of the United States where hay production is crucial to other sectors of agriculture — usually horse owners and dairy farmers. “Hay is my specialty crop,” says Leduc. “I have a passion for hay.”

Test for nitrates if chopping corn

In drought-stricken areas this year, corn yields may likely end up being measured by tons of forage, not bushels of grain. If you are going to chop or bale droughty corn plants for forage, or chop the crop for silage, what are the risks of causing nitrate poisoning when feeding the forage to cattle?

Steps to forage seeding

Late summer can be an excellent time to establish forage crops, provided there is sufficient moisture for germination and good seedling growth. It is also a good time to plant seed in bare or thin spots in forage stands established this spring.

Harvest grass along highways?

Can the grass that’s growing within the right-of-way of state-maintained highways be legally harvested for livestock feed? Yes, during certain periods of the year and with a permit issued by the Iowa Department of Transportation, according to state DOT officials.

Helping forage stands recover

Many pastures and hay fields were damaged by the extreme drought conditions of 2012 and are still in recovery mode. What can you do now to help? In the case of hay fields, should you leave the stand for one more year or make a new seeding in another field to replace it? Iowa State University Extension forage agronomist Steve Barnhart suggests some things to think about as you prioritize your management options.

Bale cutters can add value to hay

A new option for balers, available just in the past few years, is the bale cutter. This attachment to the front of a baler cuts the hay into shorter lengths. This option is available for round and square balers.

Managed grazing makes sense

According to the 2007 U.S. Ag Census, more than 11,000 Wisconsin dairy and livestock farms utilize some form of rotational or managed grazing. For dairy herds of all sizes, managed grazing is a flexible practice that can fit into current feed management and forage production strategies. Pasture resources can be managed to provide forage needs of individual groups of lactating cows, dry cows, heifers or the entire herd during the grazing season.

Producer knows how to store WDGS

Jim Goggins of Springview knows the value of wet distillers grain with solubles, or WDGS, in his operation. WDGS has been long touted by cattle feeders, and now cow-calf producers like Jim and Shelly Goggins and their son, Coy, are also noticing the advantages, particularly when the cost is 75% to 85% of corn in the summer months.

I love grass — forages, that is!

There, I said it! I prefer grass forages to alfalfa!

Hold off opening that silage bunker

Nothing’s more exciting than opening a corn silage bunker to see how this year’s crop turned out. OK, so maybe there are a few things that might be more exciting.

Feed advice: Test quality of your hay, make plan

Too much rain early and too little late squelched both quality and quantity of normal forage sources. For some, “winter hay feeding” started in October. How can you chart a course to survive winter without breaking the bank?

How to survive a tough forage year

If you’re an Indiana forage producer, you know 2010 was challenging. In many parts of Indiana, persistent rains prevented timely harvesting, resulting in poor-quality hay. In parts of southern Indiana, lack of moisture produced a serious lack of quantity.

February tests skills of cow-calf producer

Don’t tell cow-calf producers that February is a short month. February can stretch into weeks of misery, worry and calving-night thoughts of “Why me, Lord?”

University of Missouri Extension agronomists share their RR alfalfa advice

Since USDA authorized resumption of the sale of Roundup Ready alfalfa in late January, University of Missouri Extension agronomists have fielded a few inquiries from farmers around the state.

Supplement hay now for more grass later

March is a month of forage anticipation. Even late “spring” calving is wrapping up. Lactating mama cows need the best nutrition of their reproductive cycle. And, if hay supply is to become sparse or run out, this is the month to turn out to pastures.

Grazing cows favor meadow fescue

After being forgotten in the wake of developing tall fescues, meadow fescue is staging a comeback for pasture grazing. “The grass has great potential for grazing-based livestock operations, where it’s adapted,” says Geoffrey Brink, research agronomist at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, Wis.

Don’t let leafhoppers ‘burn’ hay

Potato leafhopper is a tiny insect that can feed on leaves of alfalfa plants, lowering both yield and quality of forage. Leafhopper populations don’t typically build up to damaging levels during the first crop in Iowa. But after you harvest that first cutting, keep an eye out for signs of this pest.

Revere residue

Many beef cow-calf and dairy producers overlook one of the most economical feed sources that’s readily available.

Tribute Farms: dairy under irrigation

Three things brought Peter Gaul to southeast Missouri: soil, water and climate. The New Zealand native says this trifecta makes a large-scale, forage-based seasonal dairy successful.

Native grass works

Native grasses that have proven themselves suitable to the Shackelford County, Texas, environment are the backbone for cattle and wildlife on the Merrick Davis Ranch, operated by H&M Cattle Co.