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February 2016

Published by W.D. Hoard & Sons Co.

Redesigning alfalfa pg 6 Perennial peanut pg 8 Drones used to monitor alfalfa disease pg 22 Stacking offers scalability and profit pg 26

On our farms, we practice stewardship. We tend to the land, to the livestock and to our legacy in agriculture. We are steadfast in our values, and our handshake is worth its weight in gold. We believe in being efficient and getting the job done, and with the most dependable equipment, we reach new levels of success.


Š Kubota Tractor Corporation, 2016

February 2016 · VOL. 31 · No. 2 MANAGING EDITOR Michael C. Rankin ART DIRECTOR Ryan D. Ebert ONLINE MANAGER Patti J. Hurtgen AUDIENCE MARKETING MGR. John R. Mansavage ADVERTISING SALES Jan C. Ford jford@hoards.com Kim E. Zilverberg kzilverberg@hayandforage.com ADVERTISING COORDINATOR Patti J. Kressin pkressin@hayandforage.com W.D. HOARD & SONS

6 Redesigning alfalfa for improved protein utilization

PRESIDENT Brian V. Knox VICE PRESIDENT OF MARKETING Gary L. Vorpahl EDITORIAL OFFICE 28 Milwaukee Ave. West, Fort Atkinson, WI, 53538 WEBSITE www.hayandforage.com EMAIL info@hayandforage.com PHONE (920) 563-5551

Feeding and environmental benefits will eventually be substantial.


Perennial peanut provides opportunities and challenges This legume is gaining a foothold on some Florida farms.


Pay attention to irrigation downtime around cuttings Adequate moisture is needed through harvest period.






DEPARTMENTS 4 First Cut 16 Custom Corner 18 Forage Shop Talk 24 Feed Analysis 26 Pasture Ponderings 28 Research Round-up








39 42

Forage IQ Hay Market Update


New grass hybrid provides feed, fuel Texas A&M researcher develops pearl millet x napiergrass cross.





ON THE COVER An alfalfa-grass mixture is baled at Breezy View Dairy near Paoli, Wis. The third generation dairy is operated by Harold and Jean Eichelkraut along with son, Darren, and his wife, Nicky. The 265-acre farm was certified organic in 2010. Photo by Harlen Persinger, Milwaukee, WI

HAY & FORAGE GROWER (ISSN 0891-5946) copyright © 2016 W. D. Hoard & Sons Company. All rights reserved. Published six times annually in January, February, March, April/May, August/September and November by W. D. Hoard & Sons Co., 28 Milwaukee Ave., W., Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin 53538 USA. Tel: 920-563-5551. Fax: 920-563-7298. Email: info@hayandforage.com. Website: www.hayandforage. com. Periodicals Postage paid at Fort Atkinson, Wis., and additional mail offices. SUBSCRIPTION RATES: Free and controlled circulation to qualified subscribers. Non-qualified subscribers may subscribe at: USA: 1 year $20 U.S.; Outside USA: Canada & Mexico, 1 year $80 U.S.; All other countries, 1 year $120 U.S. For Subscriber Services contact: Hay & Forage Grower, PO Box 801, Fort Atkinson, WI 53538 USA; call: 920-563-5551, email: info@hayandforage.com or visit: www.hayandforage.com. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to HAY & FORAGE GROWER, 28 Milwaukee Ave., W., Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin 53538 USA. Subscribers who have provided a valid email address may receive the Hay & Forage Grower email newsletter eHay Weekly.

February 2016 | hayandforage.com | 3

HayBossG2_HayForage2016_Spring 16005_A HR.pdf



1:04 PM


Mike Rankin Managing Editor

A bright alfalfa future


N A JOB like mine, traveling to meetings and conferences around the country comes with the territory. Following a slug of recent fall and winter forage fests, one of the many things I’ve taken home is the thought that alfalfa is in a pretty good place for the future if a lot of what’s in the works comes together. Before this gets too sappy, we need to recognize that not everything is a bed of roses in the land of alfalfa. Private breeding programs continue to consolidate, leaving less infrastructure for new and diverse breeding initiatives and probably fewer options in the marketplace. Water issues in California have contributed to significant alfalfa acreage reductions in that state, though it remains a leading alfalfa hub. Alfalfa hay exports to countries like Japan and South Korea, our largest export partners, have declined somewhat in the past few years. Furthermore, alfalfa acres in the U.S. have eroded in many of our dairy regions in favor of higher yielding corn silage. OK, that’s the bad news; however, there’s plenty to be optimistic about. Leading that list is the launch of reduced lignin alfalfa. Alfalfa growers I’ve talked to are excited; seed company representatives indicated that they had no problem selling their limited inventories. Looking to the future, there’s the promise of better protein utilization in alfalfa. This will have huge ramifications from both a feeding and environmental standpoint and you can read more about it on page 6. It’s not just about transgenic trait breeding gains. Conventional alfalfa varieties today are better than they’ve ever been and there’s no sign of that changing. Varieties now have greater yield potential, stress tolerance, winterhardiness and persistence than at any

time in the past. Yes, there are fewer in the alfalfa breeding business, but the ones that remain are a dedicated lot with a passion for alfalfa. Alfalfa also seems to be making a comeback in the South, both as a harvested hay crop and as a grazing legume drilled into existing bermudagrass stands. Joe Bouton’s development of several grazing-tolerant alfalfa varieties adapted to the South helped fuel the increase in acres. Bouton, professor emeritus at the University of Georgia, is the subject of this issue’s Forage Shop Talk on page 18. On the export front, China is taking almost exclusively alfalfa hay and the U.S. Forage Export Counsel reports sales to that country were up nearly 40 percent in 2015. More than 50 percent of our total forage exports are now alfalfa. From a research perspective, alfalfa has never come close to receiving the public research dollars doled out for corn, soybeans, cotton, wheat and rice. In fact, for a lot of years the alfalfa number totaled zero. That’s changing. Thanks to the efforts of the National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance (NAFA), almost $3 million have been allocated for public research the past two years and another $2 million is targeted for 2016. Though these are still comparatively small amounts for a top-five value crop, it’s a start. In summary, it looks like there’s some renewed alfalfa momentum building in several sectors of the industry. Though acres have been lost in some U.S. regions because of corn silage, water or nut trees, it looks to me like there’s good reason for optimism. That’s great news for farmers, livestock, our soils and the environment. •

Write Managing Editor Mike Rankin, 28 Milwaukee Ave., P.O. Box 801, Fort Atkinson, WI 53538, call (920) 563-5551 or email mrankin@hayandforage.com

4 | Hay & Forage Grower | February 2016


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For a full list of varieties, visit americasalfalfa.com America’s Alfalfa is a registered trademark and Traffic Tested, the America’s Alfalfa logo and the Traffic Tested logo are trademarks of Forage Genetics International, LLC. © 2015 Forage Genetics International, LLC. Genuity® Roundup Ready® Alfalfa seed is available for sale and distribution by authorized Seed Companies or their dealers for use in the United States only. This seed may not be planted outside of the United States, or for the production of seed, or sprouts. Monsanto Company is a member of Excellence Through Stewardship® (ETS). Monsanto products are commercialized in accordance with ETS Product Launch Stewardship Guidance, and in compliance with Monsanto’s Policy for Commercialization of Biotechnology-Derived Plant Products in Commodity Crops. This product has been approved for import into key export markets with functioning regulatory systems. Any crop or material produced from this product can only be exported to, or used, processed or sold in countries where all necessary regulatory approvals have been granted. Do not export Genuity® Roundup Ready® alfalfa seed or crop, including hay or hay products, to China pending import approval. It is a violation of national and international law to move material containing biotech traits across boundaries into nations where import is not permitted. Growers should talk to their grain handler or product purchaser to confirm their buying position for this product. Excellence Through Stewardship® is a registered trademark of Biotechnology Industry Organization. For the 2016 growing season, HarvXtra™ Alfalfa with Roundup Ready® Technology is available for planting in a limited geography and growers must direct any product produced from HarvXtra Alfalfa with Roundup Ready Technology seed or crops (including hay and hay products) only to US domestic use. It is a violation of national and international law to move material containing biotech traits across boundaries into nations where import is not permitted. Growers should talk to their product purchaser to confirm their buying position for this product. ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW PESTICIDE LABEL DIRECTIONS. Roundup Ready® crops contain genes that confer tolerance to glyphosate. Glyphosate agricultural herbicides will kill crops that are not tolerant to glyphosate. Roundup®, and Roundup Ready® are registered trademarks of Monsanto Technology LLC. HarvXtra™ is a trademark of Forage Genetics International, LLC. HarvXtraTM Alfalfa with Roundup Ready® Technology is enabled with technology from The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Inc.


Redesigning alfalfa for improved protein utilization by Lori Ward Bocher


LFALFA is the most widely used perennial forage in the U.S. due to its high digestibility, its ability to fix nitrogen, and its high protein content. But much of that protein is degraded during ensiling and in the cow’s rumen — as much as 80 percent is under poor ensiling conditions. Protein degraded during ensiling is poorly utilized by the cow, and much of the nitrogen in that protein is excreted in manure and lost to the environment. If researchers could redesign alfalfa to improve its protein utilization, the economic and environmental payback would be substantial. How substantial? Different estimates show that a redesigned alfalfa with a 25 to 40 percent decrease in protein degradation during ensiling and ruminal digestion would save an estimated $100 to $300 million per year for the U.S. dairy industry by reducing the amount of protein supplements purchased. In addition, with more protein utilized by the cow, there would be substantial reductions in manure nitrogen excretions and subsequent nitrogen losses as ammonia, nitrous oxide (the most potent agricultural greenhouse gas) and nitrate. Scientists at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center (USDA Agricultural Research Service) are working on two long-term projects to potentially develop an alfalfa with improved protein utilization. One approach uses condensed tannins, the other uses an enzyme and its substrate. It’s interesting to note that both approaches are based on compounds found in other legumes but not in the alfalfa plant.

Why protein is lost When a forage is harvested, the plant releases proteases, a broad term for enzymes that break down protein into nonprotein nitrogen products. With silage, these proteases keep breaking down plant protein until the silage pH drops below 5. This is one reason ensiling practices emphasize the need to rapidly decrease silage pH. Losses of “true protein” in alfalfa during ensil6 | Hay & Forage Grower | February 2016

Amount of protein degradation (Protease activity)

1.2 1.0 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0-

Control alfalfa No CA

Control alfalfa With CA

PPO alfalfa No CA

Control alfalfa With CA

CA = caffeic acid, an o-diphenol substrate This chart shows the reduction in protein degradation at 24 hours when a PPO alfalfa is ensiled with its substrate, o-diphenols, in the form of caffeic acid (CA). The presence of PPO alone or CA alone did not reduce protein degradation.

ing can reach as high as 80 percent. Although a portion of this nonprotein nitrogen can be converted to nutritionally valuable microbial protein in the rumen, excessive levels are converted to urea and excreted in urine. In the rumen, reducing protein degradation means that more feed protein “escapes” the rumen and moves into the hindgut where it can be digested, absorbed, and used to make milk and keep the cow healthy.

Enter red clover When studying protein degradation among various legume forages several years ago, USDFRC researchers noticed that red clover, even under poor ensiling conditions, typically has minimal degradation, maintaining 70 to 80 percent of its protein intact. Further research discovered that red clover has an enzyme, polyphenol oxidase (PPO), along with its substrates — special chemicals called o-diphenols. When PPO acts on the o-diphenols, o-quinones are produced. The highly reactive o-quinones bind with protein and prevent the proteases from degrading protein.

But red clover lacks many other qualities compared to alfalfa. So the next research question became, “Can the PPO system that works so well in red clover be transferred to alfalfa?” First, the scientists conducted an extensive survey of alfalfa germplasm and found no natural variants that contained active PPO in the vegetative portions of the plant. Therefore, a precision breeding approach was used to insert the red clover PPO gene into alfalfa. This process was quite successful, and alfalfa plants expressing the red clover gene can inhibit protein degradation when appropriate o-diphenols are added as a substrate. The next step is to find a way to supply alfalfa with o-diphenols since alfalfa currently does not produce this substrate upon which the PPO can act to produce the o-quinones. The

LORI WARD BOCHER The author is an agricultural information specialist at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Madison, Wis. Several USDA-ARS scientists contributed information for this article.

Alfalfa plant is redesigned to include compounds that protect protein Silage or hay Ïprotein degradation, Ïfeed costs, Íprofit Inside the cow

Íprotein passed to hindgut where it’s better utilized, ÏMUN, Ímilk production, Íprotein in milk, Íprofit Manure

Adopt UHSD grazing cautiously


UGH Aljoe, producer relations manager for the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, warns that livestock producers need to be cautious before taking the ultra-high stock density (UHSD) plunge. Aljoe suggests this list of precautions for producers to consider before making the UHSD decision: 1. UHSD is not for the novice grazier.

Ïurine urea, Ïammonia emissions, Ífertilizer value A redesigned alfalfa with protein protecting characteristics would improve farm profits and nitrogen use efficiency, and it would reduce the amount of nitrogen lost to the environment.

There needs to be an infrastructure in place to manage the entire herd in close proximity. Aljoe notes the need for items such as adequate pen and corral space; adequate drinking water and recharge capabilities; adequate fencing with a quality energizer to carry electricity to extremities of property; and plenty of temporary electric fence supplies. Additionally, you need some experience in managed multi-paddock grazing. 2. Start with a goal in mind.

“With UHSD grazing, the focus is often on the landscape (herd impact), but there should also be emphasis on livestock performance. You don’t have to sacrifice performance to achieve landscape goals,” says Aljoe.

In small-scale ensiling experiments, the PPO-alfalfa on the right turned brown and had reduced protein degradation because an o-diphenol substrate was added. The silage on the left was not treated with the o-diphenol.

most desirable approach would be to have alfalfa synthesize the o-diphenol substrate, and USDFRC scientists are currently working on ways to introduce the necessary genes into alfalfa. An alternative approach would be to add external sources of o-diphenols (abundant in many plants such as potato peels, coffee grounds, and forages like timothy) to alfalfa at the time of ensiling. And a third approach is to co-ensile the PPO-modified alfalfa with other plant materials or extracts that contain o-diphenols.

Condensed tannins Tannins, as a general definition, are a subclass of compounds (called polyphenols) that are produced by plants and are distinguished from other polyphenols by their ability to bind to proteins. Condensed tannins have been found to reduce protein degradation in forages. The exact mechanism

is not known, but it is thought to be accomplished when tannins form complexes with forage protein during the ensiling process and during rumen digestion, thereby preventing the proteases present from doing their job of breaking down protein. Condensed tannins are produced naturally in forages such as birdsfoot trefoil; but, in alfalfa, it is only found in the seed. USDFRC scientists are now assisting scientists from Forage Genetics International in analyzing alfalfa plants whose genetics have been altered to produce condensed tannins in edible portions of the alfalfa plant. This research is in its preliminary stages of development. It will be several years before alfalfa redesigned to reduce protein degradation reaches the market. But researchers believe the economic and environmental paybacks make it worth the effort. •

3. UHSD grazing does not mean ultra-high grazing intensity.

Grazing intensity actually decreases and residual forage increases, but with a high proportion of it left at or on the soil surface due to herd impact. Grasses are top-grazed and cattle are moved frequently, with multiple moves per day. Forage recovery periods are usually longer. 4. UHSD grazing requires adequate forage quantity to begin.

Aljoe suggests to set the initial stocking rate conservatively based on forage availability; then increase stocking rate only after forage production increases measurably. Furthermore, it doesn’t have to be an “all-in” approach. 5. There is no known “magical” stock density value that expedites the desired outcomes, but the greater the stock density then the greater the herd impact.

Many people suggest stock densities exceeding 1 million pounds of live animal per acre. Aljoe notes that level of stock density requires frequent cattle movement. He suggests fitting UHSD grazing to your operation, management plan and labor capabilities. • February 2016 | hayandforage.com | 7

Jose Dubeux

Strip planting perennial peanut into bahiagrass reduces establishment costs and allows the grass to be harvested for hay during legume establishment.

Perennial peanut provides opportunities and challenges by Jose Dubeux


ROWING forage legumes in the southeastern U.S. can be challenging. The combination of warm weather, high moisture and sandy soils provide a perfect environment for a variety of crop pests and diseases. The premium hay market in the Southeast, however, represents a multimillion dollar industry creating opportunities for hay producers. Perennial peanut (Arachis glabrata Benth.) is a forage legume well adapted to the Southern Coastal Plains and Florida Peninsula. Its nutritive and hay market value is similar to alfalfa. Perennial peanut grows well in sandy soils and develops a strong root/rhizome system that enables this crop to tolerate a range of harsh conditions. Hay yields in dryland annually range from 3 to 6 tons per acre, distributed in three harvests (usually June, August, and October). Once established, perennial peanut is

8 | Hay & Forage Grower | February 2016

a long-lived perennial crop. When well managed, it persists for more than 30 years. Because of its adaptation and ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen, production costs of perennial peanut are lower than other hay crops. Perennial peanut is best suited for well-drained sites. It tolerates the mild winter of the Southern Coastal Plains, areas south of 30 to 32 degrees latitude. In a variety trial performed in Stephenville, Texas (located north of the 32 latitude), the only entry that survived the winter was a more cold-tolerant variety named Latitude 34. Have soils tested before planting and apply fertilizer based on state extension recommendations. Perennial peanut has a target pH of 6.0.

Varieties differ Perennial peanut is planted from sprigs (root and stolon pieces). It takes 80 bushels of sprigs per acre in order to

properly establish a field. One acre of well-managed nursery produces enough planting material to establish 15 to 20 acres of perennial peanut. Several varieties of perennial peanut are available for growers in the Southeast. Florigraze is perhaps one of the most planted varieties, but its productivity has been declining recently due to the presence of a stunt virus. Newer varieties such as UF Peace and UF Tito are more productive than Florigraze and are good options for hay production. Ecoturf is not as productive as UF Peace JOSE DUBEUX The author is a forage specialist at the University of Florida’s North Florida Research and Education Center.

Weed control is critical Establishing in early spring (March or April) reduces weed competition and extends the establishment year growing season; this allows the perennial peanut to develop the roots and rhizomes before winter. Applying glyphosate prior to planting helps to reduce weed pressure. A prepared seedbed often leads to better establishment than no-till planting; however, more weeds will likely be present at the initial stages. Weed control is critical during the establishment phase. Imazapic applied pre- or postemergence for broadleaf weeds and clethodim for grassy weed control are the preferred herbicide options for perennial peanut establishment. Keeping the sod clean helps to rapidly establish this forage. For more information on weed control, refer to the publication Weed Control in Perennial Peanut (https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/wg216). For producers interested in getting started with perennial peanut, the Perennial Peanut Producers Association (www.perennialpeanuthay.org) provides a list of rhizome producers and commercial sprigger services. Establishing a smaller area at the beginning can save costs on the establishment. This area can be used as a nursery and provide planting material for future expansion.

nitrogen fertilizer inputs. Because establishment costs are high and early growth rate is slow, we propose the strip planting of perennial peanut. Using this approach, the producer establishes 50 percent of the area with 9-foot wide strips of perennial peanut intercropped with 9-foot wide strips of bahiagrass. The width can be adjusted to the size of the sprigging equipment. Match the grass strip width to that of the farm’s haying equipment. During the establishment period, the grass strips can still be used to produce hay. We recommend not to graze cattle on the field until the perennial peanut is established (the first one to two years). Using this approach, we established a trial at the University of Florida – NFREC in Marianna, Fla. We continuously stocked perennial peanut/bahiagrass pastures and contrasted with bahiagrass pastures in monoculture. The preliminary results from the first year are promising. Steers had twice the gain on the mixed perennial pea-

nut/bahiagrass pastures compared to the pure bahiagrass. We will continue the study for two more years in order to obtain long-term results for cattle productivity, persistence of the perennial peanut, and nitrogen inputs.

Take-home messages Perennial peanut is one of the few perennial legume options for the Southern Coastal Plains and Florida Peninsula. It adapts well to the region and provides a high-quality source of hay for the horse and dairy industries. Perennial peanut can also be integrated into grazing systems to enhance cattle productivity and to reduce inputs of nitrogen fertilizer. Strip planting perennial peanut reduces establishment costs and allows the use of the grass component during the establishment phase. Integrating perennial peanut into a pasture system presents an option to establish a sustainable grazing system for cattle producers in the far southern regions of the U.S. •

Jose Dubeux

and UF Tito but it is well suited for grazing. Among the perennial peanut varieties, Ecoturf is a prolific producer of roots and rhizomes. It also has a prostrate growth habit, which enhances grazing tolerance and adaptation. Perennial peanut forage has in vitro organic matter digestibility (IVOMD) ranging from 67 to 73 percent. The lowest digestibility is usually observed in the variety Arbrook, but it’s still high compared to other warm-season forages. The crude protein value of perennial peanut ranges from 13 to 18 percent, though Arbrook can sometimes be lower.

Grazing an option Integrating perennial peanut into bahiagrass pastures is a way to enhance cattle productivity and reduce

Perennial peanut varieties differ in production and forage quality. This is a field of UF Peace in North Florida.

February 2016 | hayandforage.com | 9

Wheel-line irrigation system. Moisture stress to alfalfa regrowing after a cutting has the greatest impact on yield.

Pay attention to irrigation downtime around cuttings by Steve Orloff


HE dead of winter is probably not the time producers are thinking about how to best irrigate their alfalfa crop. However, this may be a good time for Western alfalfa producers to consider irrigation modifications in time for the coming season. In the western U.S., alfalfa yield is likely limited more often and to a greater degree by irrigation management than by any other single factor. Optimum irrigation also is absolutely critical for top yield. One would think that alfalfa, a deep rooted perennial crop that can survive long periods of drought conditions, would be an easy crop to irrigate properly. However, alfalfa is actually a fairly difficult crop to irrigate for several reasons. Yield is directly related to evapotranspiration (ET, or crop water use). Unlike many other crops where only a portion of the crop is harvested (typically the seed head, fruit or root), nearly the entire aboveground biomass is harvested with

10 | Hay & Forage Grower | February 2016

alfalfa. Therefore, when less than full ET is available to the crop, growth is reduced and yield suffers.

Long downtimes Another key factor complicating alfalfa irrigation compared with other crops are the long irrigation downtimes due to the multiple cuttings per year. For this reason, alfalfa growers have significantly reduced flexibility as to when they can irrigate. The overwhelming majority of the alfalfa in the western U.S. is grown for hay production. There is a long time period around cuttings when growers cannot irrigate. To aid curing, growers do not want to irrigate too close to harvest because cutting on “wet ground� slows the drying rate of the alfalfa. Similarly, growers obviously cannot irrigate while the alfalfa lies on the field curing and must wait until the bales are removed before irrigating.

How long fields cannot be irrigated around a cutting varies considerably between areas, primarily depending on the yield level, soil type and weather conditions. High yields simply require more time to cure. Soils with a high clay content retain more moisture, and a longer interval between irrigation and cutting is needed. Lastly, warm and arid weather conditions are more conducive to rapid curing. Depending on these factors and how quickly the alfalfa cures, growers in theory may be unable to irrigate for a STEVE ORLOFF The author is a farm adviser with the University of Callifornia Cooperative Extension in Siskiyou County, Calif.

six to 20 day period around cuttings. However, in actuality the interval between irrigations around a cutting may be much longer, and can depend on the irrigation system.

Table 1. Interval around cuttings for wheel-line irrigated alfalfa


Evaluating water use 2013

Irrigation interval Before – after second cut (days)

30 52 25 41 38 48 42 34 39

24 29 22 19 30 41 24 33 28

1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4

Fields in Scott Valley (Intermountain area of Northern California), 2012 and 2013.

Table 2. Interval around cuttings for center pivot irrigated alfalfa



Grower Grower Grower Grower Grower Grower Grower Mean

Irrigation interval Before – after first cut (days)

Irrigation interval Before – after second cut (days)

Irrigation interval Before – after third cut (days)

-29 29 35 24 26 42 31

25 20 29 14 18 17 17 19

---18 16 --17

1 2 3 1 2 3 4

Fields in Scott Valley (Intermountain area of Northern California), 2012 and 2013.

the amount of precipitation is usually not enough to keep up with the water needs of the crop.

Soil moisture levels suffer This long period without irrigation around cuttings is reflected in soil moisture levels. Our research over the years with soil moisture sensors has shown levels are at their lowest during the harvest period. Oftentimes, soil moisture falls below those required for optimum yield. Sometimes the soil becomes so dry that growers are not able to refill the soil profile with subsequent irriga-

Thomas Harter

In an alfalfa water use study we conducted in the Intermountain area of Northern California, we found that on average (over four fields and two years) the interval between irrigations in wheel-line irrigated fields was 39 days on first cut and 28 days on second cut (Table 1). And, the interval was even much longer for some growers — up to 52 days on first cut and 41 days on second cut. The interval was shortened somewhat for fields irrigated with a center pivot (Table 2). The non-irrigation interval around cuttings for center pivot irrigated fields was 31 days, 19 days, and 17 days for first, second, and third cuttings, respectively. (Two of these fields had four cuttings rather than three per year and that is the reason for irrigation data for the third cutting on some of the pivot-irrigated fields.) A logical question is why were the observed intervals without irrigation so much longer than one might think? The estimate above of six to 20 days is the combined amount of time it may be from when irrigation is ceased until it can be resumed after the hay is baled and bales removed. However, this is only part of the delay. Multiple irrigation sets are normally needed to irrigate a field and it can take several days up to a couple of weeks to irrigate an entire field. The portion of the field that is irrigated last before a cutting is also irrigated last after irrigation resumes. Therefore, the interval between irrigations around a cutting is not just the time between irrigation and cutting plus the curing time, but must also include the amount of time it takes to irrigate an entire field. Center pivots normally apply less water per irrigation and travel faster across the field and therefore the non-irrigation interval around cuttings is usually shorter than with wheel-lines or border-strip flood irrigation. Other factors such as decisions about weather can further lengthen the time period without irrigation around cuttings. Oftentimes, growers delay cuttings to dodge rain events and this further lengthens the time from the last irrigation until cutting. Even if it does rain,

Grower Grower Grower Grower Grower Grower Grower Grower Mean

Irrigation interval Before – after first cut (days)

Center pivot irrigation has an advantage over wheel-line and flood-irrigated fields in that the whole field can usually be irrigated quicker after a cutting.

tions and soil moisture remains below that needed for maximum yield for the remainder of the season. Growers should pay close attention to how long irrigation is suspended around cuttings on their own fields to see if improvements can be made. Excessively long intervals around cuttings can have a significant impact on yield because moisture stress to alfalfa regrowth after cutting is believed to have a greater detrimental effect than moisture stress at other growth stages. It is important to monitor soil moisture levels and irrigate as needed before a cutting thereby ensuring that the soil does not become excessively dry through the haymaking process until the field can be irrigated again. Additionally, it is important to employ haymaking practices that accelerate the drying rate of alfalfa (proper conditioning, wide windrows, timely raking, and so forth) to shorten the haymaking process and allow earlier irrigation after cutting. There is no easy silver bullet solution. A big part is just being aware how dry soil can become around cuttings and tweaking irrigation practices to avoid excessively dry soil moisture conditions. • February 2016 | hayandforage.com | 11

New grass hybrid provides feed, fuel by Mike Rankin


ERSATILITY is always a commendable attribute and Texas A&M University’s Russ Jessup is developing a new grass plant that can be used for both forage or as a biofuel. The grass breeder crossed pearl millet with napiergrass to create a sterile hybrid. “It’s similar to seedless watermelons or seedless grapes in the sense that the new grass, which we’re calling PMN, doesn’t produce seed,” says Jessup. Pearl millet, a grain crop native to Africa, and napiergrass, used in Africa as a cut-and-carry hay or silage crop, both provide good forage quality and stress tolerance. The millet is an annual and has two sets of chromosomes, while napiergrass is a perennial and has four sets of chromosomes. Because they are close cousins, the plants can be crossed and the result is a sterile, perennial hybrid with three sets of chromosomes that doesn’t set seed. “The seed for PMN is collected from the pearl millet parent,” explains Jessup. “Pearl millet is a prolific seed producer so seed production costs are relatively low.”

Expanded adaptation With both parents being adapted to the semi-arid regions of Africa, it’s no surprise that PMN is highly efficient at utilizing available water and nutrients. The new plant shines in drought and hot conditions. In fact, it’s cold tolerance that limits PMN’s adaptation range. “Currently, our hybrids are suitable for USDA’s 8b plant hardiness zone,” says Jessup. This area encompasses central Texas and east into the coastal

areas of the Carolinas. Production can also go west of Texas across southern Arizona and up the coastal regions of California, Oregon and Washington. “Our goal is to extend adaptation,” explains Jessup. “We have some hybrids that look like they will be able to move at least one zone north.”

Many advantages PMN has a larger seed than other high-biomass perennial grasses. Additionally, its hybrid seed production approaches that of forage sorghum. One of the best characteristics of the plant is its sterility; this means growers will not need to worry about the plant becoming invasive and spreading to areas where it’s not wanted. The napiergrass parent gives PMN high protein content. It ranges from 10 to 18 percent, depending on input level. With adequate nitrogen fertilization, it touts one of the highest leaf protein concentrations among perennial grasses. PMN can also produce four to five times the amount of protein per unit of water compared to alfalfa and is more water-use efficient. Jessup reports that neutral detergent fiber (NDF) values range from 55 to 65 percent, with NDF digestibility of 45 to 55 percent. “PMN can be cut multiple times per season, typically every 45 to 60 days, but as short as 30 days under high management,” says Jessup. In tropical regions where there is no risk of frost, cutting heights can be 4 inches. In temperate regions, Jessup suggests 8 inches in summer and 12 inches during fall. This

allows sufficient reserves to be maintained to allow the plant to overwinter. To date, no grazing studies have been done with PMN. PMN possesses a wide natural range of carbohydrate composition. This makes it possible to develop hybrids specifically designed for forage use or for biofuel conversion. “We also think PMN offers potential for bio-based co-products such as bioplastics and biosilica,” says Jessup. Because of its heat and drought tolerance, Jessup believes PMN is suitable for planting on large areas of marginal or abandoned grasslands that exist across the Southern states.

Commercialization There are several components of Jessup’s breeding program that are ongoing. In addition to developing improved PMN hybrids for commercial use, he is also making improvements to the pearl millet and napiergrass parents. Already, Jessup has developed a pearl millet with profuse tillering that can be used for biomass production rather than seed or grain. Jessup’s goal in the short term is to release an improved pearl millet parent and at least two improved napiergrasses in the next 12 months. The first planned PMN hybrid release is scheduled for early 2017. •

If you want to learn and see more of Jessup and his new hybrid, Texas A&M AgriLife has produced a video that can be viewed on the internet at bit.ly/TAM-PMN

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What does fall dormancy of alfalfa really mean? by Dan Undersander


ANY do not understand what fall dormancy really is and its value to alfalfa growers. Fall dormancy is the ability of alfalfa to grow tall in the fall. It is measured by determining plant height about 25 days after a fall cutting is taken following a spring planting. The taller alfalfa grows in the fall, the less dormant it is. Dormancy scores range from 1 to 11, with 1 being the most dormant and 11 being the least dormant. To survive the winter, alfalfa undergoes an acclimation period in the late summer that is induced by a combination of falling temperatures and shorter days. It’s intuitive to think that those alfalfa plants that spend the fall storing carbohydrates and proteins in the taproot and changing their structure and physiology are the ones most able to survive cold temperatures. This is certainly true over the entire range of fall dormancy, where fall dormancies of 1 and 2 are very winterhardy and fall dormancies of 10 and 11 have no ability to survive cold weather. At the same time, less fall dormancy results in more fall growth, faster spring recovery and higher yield in the next year. For this reason, most alfalfa growers like to plant the least fall-dormant type that will survive their winters in their region. The good news is that over the last 30 years plant breeders have broken the relationship between fall dormancy and winter survival for northern alfalfa varieties. As shown in Figure 1, trials at the

14 | Hay & Forage Grower | February 2016

Universities of Minnesota and Wisconsin show little relationship between fall dormancy and winter survival over the range of 2 to 5 fall dormancy varieties. Breaking of the relationship between fall dormancy and winter survival means that, while much of the Northern states used to grow a fall dormancy 2 to have adequate winter survival, they can now grow a 4 or 5 fall dormancy variety. The advantage of growing less fall dormant varieties is higher yield. This is documented in Figure 2. While the relationship is not direct because some varieties have less disease and insect resistance than others, clearly varieties with less fall dormancy (higher scores) tended to have higher yield. The higher yield of fall dormancy 4 to 5 varieties compared to fall dormancy 2 varieties occurs for three reasons: 1. They tend to start growing earlier in the spring. 2. They tend to green up faster following cutting during the season. 3. They tend to grow taller in the fall.

Disadvantages of fast regrowth However, each of the three benefits of less fall-dormant types can have negative impacts in particular farming situations. While earlier spring green up will increase yield, if green up is too early, a late frost can kill the top growth and force the plant to start over making new buds and shoots. This can actually delay green up and reduce yield below more fall dormant types that did not have enough

growth to be impacted by the frost. Furthermore, less fall dormant types will green up faster if a short period of warm weather occurs over winter. For example, a fall dormancy 2 variety generally takes four to five days with temperatures above 60°F to start growing, while a fall dormancy 5 will start growing in as little as two days with temperatures above 60°F. Once plants have started to grow they lose some of their winterhardiness and spend stored carbohydrates; false starts over winter can hurt winter survival and yield the next year if plants green up prematurely. Snow cover can delay the regrowth when short warm periods occur. Faster green up following cutting is advantageous if the farmer can take advantage of it. The benefit of faster green up occurs if the farmer can cut and remove the forage before regrowth occurs. If regrowth is driven over and stems are broken, the advantage of faster regrowth for the next cutting’s yield is lost. This is why fields harvested for haylage (within 24 hours of cutting) tend to yield more than fields harvested for hay. DAN UNDERSANDER The author is an extension forage agronomist with the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Figure 1: Relationship of fall dormancy to winter survival in MN and WI trials Yield, percent of trial mean

Winter survival


Figure 2: Yield vs fall dormancy

4 3 2 1



3 4 Fall dormancy

Taking advantage of the faster regrowth means that farmers must manage hay drying to get it off the field in three or four days rather than longer time periods. I usually recommend fall dormancy 5 in northern regions only for fields harvested entirely for haylage, and 4.5 or less fall dormancy for fields harvested for hay on any or all cuttings. If it takes longer than three days to get hay off the field, much of the advantage of quick alfalfa recovery after cutting is lost.

Fall harvest considerations The increased fall height can be beneficial and justify a late-fall cut-


UW variety trials, 2015

125 120 115 110 105 100


95 90


ting. With the older, fall dormancy 2 varieties, fall rarely accumulates enough to warrant an additional harvest. Fall dormancy 4 or higher varieties will sometimes produce sufficient growth to make a late-fall harvest feasible; it can add 15 to 18 percent to total season yield. It can also be beneficial to fill silos one last time before winter. However, the additional fall growth, if unharvested, can insulate the crown against cold temperature and can catch and hold snow more than a clipped field. Both of these factors can enhance winter survival and yield for the next


3 4 Fall dormancy



year. If winters are mild and/or snow cover is good, the residue is not necessary for good winter survival or yield next year. Breaking of the relationship of fall dormancy and winter survival presents many opportunities to farmers for higher yield. However, appropriate management must be in place to take advantage of the genetics for higher yield without hurting stand survival. Farmers should look at the winter survival score to determine the ability of an alfalfa plant to survive the winter and fall dormancy score to determine alfalfa growth characteristics. •

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February 2016 | hayandforage.com | 15


by Jon Orr

Striving for a better kernel processing score


WANT to take a swing at a kernel processing article. We all have read so many thoughts on the subject, what new light could I add? Maybe nothing, but with some of the dismal kernel processing scores (KPS) that are still being achieved, I am ready to pick up a ball bat and swing hard. So here it goes . . . Since kernel processors (KP) were conceived in the early 1980s, the industry has evolved significantly. The first machines to use a KP would have struggled to cut 100 tons per hour and were merely trying to nick the grain. We could probably set our current day KP at 4 or 5 millimeters (mm) and achieve the “nick” or “crack.” At this setting, rolls and bearings last hundreds of thousands of tons, fuel consumption is less, but milk production suffers. We all embrace the goal of more milk production. We all understand that the old standard of processing is not acceptable. So why are KPS scores often low? I am not going to put pretty graphs and charts in the middle of this article to prove what we all know is happening — way too many harvesters are not making the grade! The failures are not limited to the custom chopping guy. Many dairies cutting their own are getting dismal scores. I have seen as low as a 24 KPS. There is an attitude at some locations that if we are getting 80 to 85 pounds of milk with a 50 KPS, then that’s good enough. I guess that attitude would help with the milk surplus we have right now, but it sure does not help a dairy’s bottom line.

Many factors at play How do we fix the problem? This is where it gets complicated. It’s not just about the unit or processor type, be it conventional, shredlage, self-propelled, pull-type, green, blue or pink. Kernel processing scores for all of these can range from horrible to great. Corn at one farm or field location will process easier than at another. Some corn hybrids get easier to process as they mature, while others become 16 | Hay & Forage Grower | February 2016

more difficult. I compare our silage harvester to a race car. In NASCAR, a winning team is constantly evaluating performance, adjusting suspension, tweaking the engine and changing the tires. Have you ever seen the huge pile of tires that get used at every race? That same level of attention and adjustment needs to also happen during silage harvest. Everything from the performance of the corn head to the obvious amount of wear on the KP rolls contributes to the final KPS. As a processor wears, the roll gap needs to get tighter. As the roll gap closes, the length of cut might need to be a bit longer. If the wear parts on the head are about shot, the head will slug feed and the KPS will suffer. If your drum bottom is not set right, the crop flow will slug feed and KPS will suffer. If the accelerator is worn or out of adjustment, the crop will not get away from the KP and KPS will suffer. It’s almost as tricky as the race car!

Monitor during harvest How do we judge (guess) at the processing score while we are cutting? Do we use the 32-ounce cup method? If so, what is considered a whole kernel? What is considered a half? Does the size of the whole kernel not get factored in? What about a bucket of water and looking at just the grain portion? How long does it have to soak in the bucket before all the grain sinks? How many large kernel chunks are allowed per handful of silage in the water bucket? Maybe we use the 32-ounce cup to put the right amount of silage in the bucket. Is this a representative sample of what is coming out of the spout from this whole field? Can we buy a testing setup and check samples just like the labs — but at the farm? My point is that the number of variables is endless and the official KPS is always well after the harvest is over. Is there any way to make sure that we get a good KPS? YES! Train your whole team on the importance of processing. Make sure they know how to

use a Penn State shaker box because we can actually over process. High scores require all kernels to be totally destroyed and this also can shorten the particle length to the point effective fiber in the rumen becomes a problem. Teach the truck drivers to watch for large kernel chunks on their truck hood (somehow silage might end up there every now and then). Teach the pushing tractor operators to look for large kernel pieces. Make sure the chopper operator totally understands the cutter. Problems such as head slugging need to be “felt” or identified from the seat of the harvester. Visual inspections of the silage need to happen often through the day and in a safe place. This safe place is not on top of the pile with tractors pushing around you. Make it a practice to thoroughly check out the processor daily. Bearing temperatures are monitored on some machines from inside the cab; if your machine does not have this option, then buy a temperature gun and check bearings daily. Always have the machine shut off when making this check and replace parts as needed. KP rolls are very aggressive when brand new; once initial sharpness is gone, adjustments might be needed. Eventually, rolls will wear out and need to be scrapped. Like tires at the racetrack, don’t wait too long. Sooner is better than later. Every color of machine and processor type can do a great job or a horrible job. The pit crew is the difference between winning and losing in both NASCAR and silage harvesting. If we are constantly monitoring our performance, and making adjustments, we will quit getting our butts kicked by the KPS. Are you ready to start winning? •

JON ORR The author is a partner in Orrson Custom Farming Ltd., Apple Creek, Ohio. He is past president of the U.S. Custom Harvesters Inc.

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Joe Bouton


Emeritus professor and forage breeder at the University of Georgia and current owner of Bouton Consulting Group, LLC.

HFG: Looking back on your 27 years at the University of Georgia, is there any one accomplishment that holds special significance for you? JB: I cannot say there was one particular accomplishment. Forage-livestock management is traditionally diverse with many management approaches and crop species involved. For our breeding program, it was always simply asking, “Will an improved variety of this species make an on-farm impact by overcoming a fundamental management problem?” Therefore, helping farmers and ranchers by developing varieties from different species that could positively impact forage production across the board was always our goal. It was this “portfolio” of varieties we developed that, when viewed as a group, has special significance to me. HFG: There has been a lot of effort to beat or minimize the effects of fescue toxicosis. When did the concept of an endophyte-free variety come about? JB: The concept probably occurred in the late 1970s when the endophyte was conclusively associated with the animal health problems of fescue toxicosis. Once the association was made, endophyte-free, or removing the endophyte from the seed, became the simple answer to the problem. However, there was a downside of less stand persistence when the endophyte was removed; this was realized too late. Hundreds of thousands of acres were planted and then died out. HFG: What about the novel endophyte? JB: The persistence problems of endophyte-free tall fescue presented the classic dilemma: animal health and productivity versus pasture persistence and dependability. Most farmers opted for better pasture persistence and tried to manage toxicosis with mitigation through interplanting clovers, removing seedheads, dosing animals with pharmaceuticals and so forth. However, it was known that not all endophytes were toxic, and strains were isolated that did not produce the main ergot alkaloid toxins. So, from a research standpoint, the goal for nontoxic, or “novel strains” as they came to be known, was to use them to capture the persistence and productivity of toxic endophyte infection without production of the negative toxic ergot alkaloids. This meant matching up the best novel strains with elite fescue varieties being developed in our breeding programs. Using novel strains from, and in collaboration with, AgResearch Grasslands (New Zealand), we conducted the first published “proof of concept” research for novel strains, and concurrently developed the first successful commercial product called Jesup MaxQ. This fundamental research and variety

development program was definitely one of the main accomplishments from our Georgia breeding program. HFG: Given the persistence issues with endophyte-free fescues, do you think this has had an impact on the acceptance of novel tall fescues? JB: I am sure the negative legacy of endophyte-free has spilled over into the limited sales of all current novel endophyte varieties; though they are more persistent than endophyte-free varieties, and if properly managed, as persistent as traditional toxic endophyte varieties. So, in my mind, for novel endophyte varieties to assume a major role in grassland agriculture, a cultural change is needed where the producer again becomes more willing to take the risk of replacing their current toxic acreage with novel fescue. In other words, we need to convince them that novel endophytes are the opportunity; their mindset is the challenge. This is starting to happen through on-farm demonstrations and educational initiatives like those of the Alliance for Grassland Renewal (http://grasslandrenewal.org/), but as with all cultural changes, it will take time. HFG: There seems to be renewed interest in growing alfalfa in the Southeast. This corresponded with the development of cultivars adapted to the area such as Alfagraze, Bulldog 505 and Bulldog 805. What prompted the development of Alfagraze? JB: When I started my career, forage production systems in the Southeast were based almost exclusively on beef cattle, direct grazing and grasses. Perennials such as bermudagrass, tall fescue and bahiagrass, along cool-season annuals like ryegrass and cereals, were the dominant grass species. And this is true today, but these grass systems have two major limitations: the need for expensive nitrogen fertilizer to be productive, and even at their best, poor nutritional characteristics. So, our goal was never to replace this grass base, but to build on it with species that overcame these basic limitations. Alfalfa is a long-lived perennial that fixes its own nitrogen and possesses desirable crude protein, fiber and energy concentrations. However, as a species, it was not persistent under grazing. Therefore, to become a component of this Southeastern grass-based system, it would need to withstand being grazed — sometimes continuously and intensively. So, we developed Alfagraze as the first grazing tolerant variety with newer varieties such as Alfagraze 600RR, Bulldog 805 and Bulldog 505 coming later out of our program. The real surprise came when we found out that producers in traditional alfalfa growing regions outside the Southeast also wanted to graze

In each issue of Hay & Forage Grower, we talk to a forage industry newsmaker to get their answers on a variety of topics.

18 | Hay & Forage Grower | February 2016

alfalfa. Alfagraze became the vehicle that made grazing alfalfa a more acceptable management practice in many traditional alfalfa-growing areas around the world. HFG: Where do you see alfalfa production headed in the Southeast? JB: Being able to graze alfalfa with southern bred and adapted varieties has certainly helped improve its use, but a better way to more easily fit the crop into southern forage management systems was also needed. For many southern hay producers, bermudagrass was the main hay crop, with over 28 million acres planted. When we spoke with these producers about using alfalfa, they always thought they would need to plow up their existing bermudagrass fields in order to plant alfalfa. However, we “rediscovered” some past research that demonstrated one could grow alfalfa and bermudagrass together; they were very compatible as a mixture. So, the answer became to interseed alfalfa into existing bermudagrass stands! Therefore, using alfalfa in the Southeast is definitely expanding. University extension and commercial cooperative initiatives to promote alfalfa as a “tool” in traditional bermudagrass management will definitely accelerate this expansion. HFG: As both a teacher and plant breeder, was it more satisfying to see one of your students go on to establish a successful plant breeding career or to see one of your developed forage varieties receive widespread use on farms? JB: As a plant breeder practicing in academia, you want to help farmers by developing something tangible and practical for them, but at the same time, as a teacher, educating students is why you entered the profession in the first place. For me, there was equal satisfaction both from seeing my varieties and students succeed. HFG: In 2004, you retired from the University of Georgia to become a divisional director at the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Okla. Explain that decision. JB: It was simply the right time and place for my wife, Mary Jeanne, and me. It was a time in my UGA career where retirement was possible and our children were grown and on their own. I also felt I had gone as far as I could for the university. Noble provided a great opportunity for me to become part of developing and directing forage breeding research on a national and international scale. With accomplished scientists like Rick Dixon already there, the foundation was also the perfect place to assess the possibility of incorporating basic biotech research into traditional forage breeding efforts. Finally, it was a matter of simply meeting and getting to know the Noble Foundation President, Mike Cawley, and its board that was made up of several Noble family members that influenced my decision. They were always professional and forward thinking in their goals and funding and a joy to have a bosses and friends. HFG: What do you consider your most impactful effort or accomplishment while at the Noble Foundation? JB: My main accomplishment was founding and developing the Forage Improvement Division as a main operating unit within the Foundation. By the time I retired as director, the foundation had built over $100 million in research facilities, and the Forage Improvement Division had grown to over 65 staff and scientists in seven research areas. We had also

implemented a “pipeline” for developing new varieties with several of these now being released and commercialized; many through commercial partners that we attracted during that time. It is this overall legacy of founding, growing and putting the Forage Improvement Division on a productive footing that I am most proud. HFG: How important is regional adaptation in the development of a cultivar? JB: Adaptation is the first thing you must have in a cultivar before you can add any other traits. It is simply fundamental and analogous to an athlete’s ability to run and jump; if they can inherently run and jump well, they will probably be a good athlete in most sports. If a variety is adapted, it will probably be successful in the region it will be grown. HFG: What is the biggest challenge of getting biotech-traited varieties to market? JB: Public perception of the perceived risks is out of whack with the real risks. This has led to higher costs and regulatory problems. Although potentially powerful tools, genomics and transgenics have proven costly to develop and implement in any breeding program, but especially forage breeding. Transgenics also have the added burden of requiring freedom to operate for all the underlying patents and the great expense in time and money to meet regulatory requirements. These costs have been a big challenge for many crop species, but are even more so for traditionally low margin forage species. We are making slow progress, but the issue still remains of making these biotech tools easy to use and more cost effective for practical forage breeding programs. HFG: Are you concerned that many universities and private companies have dropped their forage breeding programs? JB: Oh, yes. I am really concerned about this trend because its negative impact is twofold: reduced training of the next generation of forage breeders and less development of improved varieties for a diversity of forage species. For the latter, it will have a major impact on the breadth and scope of pastoral agriculture, especially for the many minor, but important, forage species that rarely generate a high return proportional to research investment that only non-profit entities like foundations and universities accept as their mandates. HFG: Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing now. JB: After my retirement from Noble, we moved back to Athens, Ga., and I sat around for a few months just spending time with children and grandchildren; catching up; and organizing things. As an emeritus professor at UGA, I am also asked to attend and give seminars, along with mentoring graduate students. I also started getting calls from seed companies and other entities to review their programs, give research advice and even help with farmer information and outreach. This activity grew so much that I had to form a consulting entity, Bouton Consulting Group, LLC; it’s not really a group, only me. So, according to my wife, “He hasn’t missed a day of work since he retired.” HFG: What is your favorite food? JB: If I had to choose one food, one last meal if you please, it would be the great American hamburger; fully trimmed with mustard, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, cheese and so forth. To quote my old boss, Mike Cawley, of course it also wouldn’t hurt if a few fries fell onto the plate! • February 2016 | hayandforage.com | 19

Marketing hay to the horse owner by Mike Rankin


RODUCING hay for the horse market can be a profitable enterprise but brings a different set of considerations compared to selling hay destined for ruminant livestock. At the recent Western Alfalfa & Forage Symposium in Reno, Nev., Emily Glunk, a horse owner and the extension forage specialist at Montana State University, discussed how both horses and their owners have unique needs. For starters, most horse clientele are going to prefer small square bales because often they don’t have the equipment or facilities to handle the large hay packages. “Many horse owners do not come from farming or ranching backgrounds,” explained Glunk. “They normally aren’t part of the hay-making process, and they rely heavily on their veterinarian or the internet for information on how they should feed their horses. As a result, relationships between the hay producer and horse owner become important.” Glunk noted that even though horses are not ruminants, they still have an effective fiber requirement. Forages should comprise the basis for any horse diet. That said, not all horses have the same nutrient needs. The nutritional requirements for a horse will vary based on production (activity) level, age and maintenance needs. Horses that are at maintenance with average to low activity levels can usually have energy and protein needs met with grass hay (Table 1). “It’s rare that a horse’s protein needs don’t get met, though specific amino acids may sometimes be an issue,” said Glunk.

Energy excess Only in cases where a horse has a high activity level or during pregnancy is top-quality alfalfa really needed to meet energy requirements. “Overfeeding energy results in horses becoming too fat,” said Glunk. “Research studies have estimated that nearly 50 percent of the horse population is overweight.” Many horse owners are now becoming more cognizant of feeding excess sugar in the diet. “This is fueled by the fact that more horses are experiencing equine metabolic issues such as laminitis, insulin resistance and obesity,” explained Glunk. For horses 20 | Hay & Forage Grower | February 2016

with metabolic syndrome, the recommendation is to feed hay that is below 12 percent nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC). The forage specialist noted that this doesn’t necessarily mean to feed only grass hay. She pointed out that sometimes grass hays have a higher NSC content than alfalfa. Forage anti-quality factors are also more heavily scrutinized by horse owners than by most other types of hay buyers. Many horse owners maintain a “no weeds” policy, whether it impacts the forage quality or not. Of greater concern are any traces of mold. Horses are more sensitive to moldy hay than ruminant livestock. Consumption of moldy hay has been linked to impaired breathing, digestive upsets and recurrent airway obstruction (RAO or heaves). Mold spore count risk and action levels are presented in Table 2. Mycotoxins produced by some molds may impact reproductive performance.

the hay smells or feels still carry weight as to whether or not a horse owner is willing to purchase hay and for what price. Sunbleached or weathered hay will often sell at reduced value even though it may be relatively high quality. Horses do not adjust easily to changes in their diet. Glunk cited research studies that confirmed horses experiencing abrupt changes in diet are more predisposed to colic, a digestive disorder resulting in severe abdominal pain. “This can be brought on by both changes in the type of hay as well as in the amount of forage fed,” explained Glunk. She suggested that changes in the type of hay fed be done gradually.

Build relationships The horse industry is an important market for U.S. hay producers. To capture premium prices in this market, hay sellers need to understand that horses utilize forage differently than ruminant livestock. Providing a consistent hay product is important. Hay sellers also will need to build a relationship of trust and communication with the horse owner. It will demand a bit more effort and perhaps biting of tongue, but for the hay producer who is willing, there is extra profit to be captured. •

Consistency is important “Horse owners still place high value on the visual appearance of hay,” said Glunk. “They often equate outward appearance with nutritional value.” Factors such as color; content (species); stage of maturity; presence or lack of seedheads; and how

Table 1. Daily energy and protein requirements for a 1,100-pound horse Adult at average maintenance Adult at high maintenance Pregnant 8 months Adult moderate working

Intake (% BW) lbs

Digestible energy Mcal

Crude protein g

22 (2%) 22 (2%) 27.5 (2.5%) 22 (2%)

16.65 18.15 18.49 23.31

630 720 759 768

Nutrients supplied by high-quality alfalfa or grass hay

Alfalfa hay Grass hay

22 22

26.4 20.0

2,118 1,076

From NRC, 2007

Table 2. Feeding risks at various mold spore count levels Mold spore count per gram

Feeding risk and cautions

Under 500,000 1/2 to 1 million 1 to 2 million 2 to 3 million 3 to 5 million Over 5 million

Relatively low risk Relatively safe Feed with caution Closely observe animals and performance Dilute with other feeds Discontinue feeding

From Mold and Mycotoxin Problems in Livestock Feeding. Penn State University.

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©2016 Forage Genetics International, LLC. Genuity® Roundup Ready® Alfalfa seed is available for sale and distribution by authorized Seed Companies or their dealers for use in the United States only. This seed may not be planted outside of the United States, or for the production of seed, or sprouts. Monsanto Company is a member of Excellence Through Stewardship® (ETS). Monsanto products are commercialized in accordance with ETS Product Launch Stewardship Guidance, and in compliance with Monsanto’s Policy for Commercialization of Biotechnology-Derived Plant Products in Commodity Crops. This product has been approved for import into key export markets with functioning regulatory systems. Any crop or material produced from this product can only be exported to, or used, processed or sold in countries where all necessary regulatory approvals have been granted. Do not export Genuity® Roundup Ready® alfalfa seed or crop, including hay or hay products, to China pending import approval. It is a violation of national and international law to move material containing biotech traits across boundaries into nations where import is not permitted. Growers should talk to their grain handler or product purchaser to confirm their buying position for this product. Excellence Through Stewardship® is a registered trademark of Biotechnology Industry Organization. For the 2016 growing season, HarvXtra™ Alfalfa with Roundup Ready® Technology is available for planting in a limited geography and growers must direct any product produced from HarvXtra Alfalfa with Roundup Ready Technology seed or crops (including hay and hay products) only to US domestic use. It is a violation of national and international law to move material containing biotech traits across boundaries into nations where import is not permitted. Growers should talk to their product purchaser to confirm their buying position for this product. ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW PESTICIDE LABEL DIRECTIONS. Roundup Ready® crops contain genes that confer tolerance to glyphosate. Glyphosate agricultural herbicides will kill crops that are not tolerant to glyphosate. Roundup®, and Roundup Ready® are registered trademarks of Monsanto Technology LLC. HarvXtra™ is a trademark and NEXGROW® is a registered trademark of Forage Genetics International, LLC. HarvXtraTM Alfalfa with Roundup Ready® Technology is enabled with Technology from The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Inc.

Drones used to monitor alfalfa root rot disease by Chakradhar Mattupalli


LFALFA growers would not be happy to see a field riddled with large diseased areas as in the accompanying image. But, who would have ever imagined that a military surveillance tool — an unmanned aerial vehicle, more commonly known as a drone — could also provide disease surveillance in agricultural fields? Alfalfa stands in the southwestern United States can become infected with a soil-borne fungal pathogen called Phymatotrichopsis omnivora. The fungus causes Phymatotrichopsis root rot, commonly referred to as cotton root rot or Texas root rot. More than 2,000 dicotyledonous plants are susceptible to this fungal disease including important agronomic crops such as cotton, alfalfa and pecans. In alfalfa, the fungus attacks

Phymatotrichopsis root rot, also known as cotton root rot or Texas root rot, infests a three-year-old, 60-acre stand of alfalfa. This aerial image was acquired using a drone at the Noble Foundation’s Red River Research and Demonstration Farm near Burneyville, Okla.

22 | Hay & Forage Grower | February 2016

roots, causing vascular discoloration and lesions, which in turn results in the formation of numerous diseased areas that are circular to irregular in shape.

Few control options Currently, there are no known alfalfa cultivars with resistance to the disease, and limited management options may force alfalfa growers to give up on alfalfa production. Flutriafol, the active ingredient of the fungicide Topguard, is used to control this fungal disease in cotton. However, it has yet to be determined whether or not applying the fungicide to a perennial crop, such as alfalfa, will be effective. The field in the picture shows the disease progression on a three-year-old alfalfa stand. The stand remained in

Phymatotrichopsis root rot disease progression in the alfalfa field monitored from ground. The arrow represents the disease spread from June 2015 (marked by whiskers) through October 2015.

production for an additional year, but the disease pressure increased and the stand was removed at the end of the 2015 growing season. The questions that growers keep asking are: How can I reduce the disease spread? When is the stand no longer profitable and ready for replanting? Researchers at The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Okla., and with USDA’s Southern Plains Range Research Station are working to provide answers to these questions. We are currently testing the feasibility of using drones as a monitoring tool for identifying the disease and tracking its progression at several Noble Foundation research farms in southern Oklahoma. Drones can be equipped with a small digital camera and flown over hundreds of acres in just a few hours. The images are transferred to a computer and processed using image analysis software. The image analysis software will stitch and georeference the images into a complete picture of the flown area. Currently, it’s possible to acquire images with pixels that cover just a few square inches on the ground. Drones are especially useful for these applications by making it easy and relatively inexpensive to repeatedly monitor diseased zones in the field, which allows us to see how these areas change over time.

Research continues While this technology gives us the ability to get a good overview of the field and locate potential problem areas, growers should still determine the cause before implementing management practices. The unhealthy plants could be due to disease, some kind of stress or a combination of both, and a field inspection is still the best method to confirm what is seen from the air. Initial research results showed the disease spread measured using drone-acquired images agree with ground-based observations, wherein the monitored diseased areas had extended 110 inches over the course of a year. Efforts are also geared toward using this information to make site-specific fungicide recommendations. More research is in progress to capture changes that occur in a plant before the disease symptoms are present, so stay tuned. • CHAKRADHAR MATTUPALLI The author is a Noble Foundation postdoctoral fellow, with contributions from Noble Foundation researchers Carolyn Young, James Rogers and Corey Moffet (USDA-ARS).

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1/22/16 3:07 PM


by John Goeser

Adequately processed kernels separated from the stover and leaves using the float test.

What’s the score?


HE title might fool you into thinking we’re discussing NFL stats, but the focus is actually a topic with more potential impact to dairy and beef cattle performance: kernel processing score (KPS). In 2005, Dave Mertens of the USDA Dairy Forage Research Center and his former graduate student, Gonzalo Ferreira, developed the KPS approach to estimate how well corn grain was processed within corn silage. The two USDA researchers compared

this newly developed ranking (KPS) against rumen digestion, finding a positive relationship. The measure has since grown in popularity and is held as a gold standard to evaluate silage chopper performance. KPS, sometimes referred to as corn silage processing score (CSPS), evaluates kernel breakage by drying the silage, shaking the dried silage across several sieves, and then determining the starch content that passes through a 4.75 mm screen. More simply put,

Corn silage kernel processing scores (KPS) from 2013 to 2015 (Rock River Labs) 1,250

this process determines the percent of grain from the sample that is roughly the size (width) of a 0.22 caliber bullet or smaller. Historically, we perceive that if the kernel seed coat was cracked or damaged, our processing was adequate. Due to shrinking margins and increasing demand to gain every pound of performance per pound of TMR (total mixed ration), coupled with a much better understanding of starch breakdown thanks to research and farm experience, the aim of corn silage processing has greatly intensified.

Hitting the KPS goal Particle size, measured as KPS, helps to better define a new benchmark. KPS is critical because the surface area of exposed starch in grain is directly related to energy available for milk or gain. Beef steer or dairy cow digest-

1,000 750 500


250 0


Adequate 2013



Adequate 2014



Adequate 2015


Optimal corresponds to more than 70 percent starch being less than 4.75 mm in width, with Adequate being 50 to 70 percent and Low being less than 50 percent.

24 | Hay & Forage Grower | February 2016

The author is the director of nutrition research and innovation with Rock River Lab Inc, and adjunct assistant professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Dairy Science Department.

ing bacteria and enzymes break down accessible starch into energy. This energy’s relation to performance is outlined with Mertens’ defined goals: • KPS more than 70 percent — Goal • KPS 50 to 70 percent — Adequate • KPS less than 50 percent — Poor Corn silage with KPS at 70 percent or greater will nearly always outperform similar silage with KPS less than 50 percent, with greater gains and milk production in the higher score. As mentioned previously, our industry has embraced KPS and worked to improve year over year. In the figure, we can visualize how the KPS ranking has improved from 2013 to 2015. The number of optimal versus adequate or low silages has increased. Yet, even in 2015, roughly one-half of all silages did not meet the 70 percent KPS goal. There is clearly opportunity and margin to be captured within this realm. There is also continuing research in this area, with leading researchers such as Randy Shaver at the University of Wisconsin, evaluating how KPS may change during harvest and ensiling or be related to better animal performance measures. As we continue to learn more, new information continues to show that greater kernel breakage results in improved animal performance and profitability.

c. Enlist the pack tractor operator, bagger, or person tending to the silo to check kernel processing quality via the float test to start and finish each harvest day. 2. Laboratory analysis: Aim for 60 percent KPS or better at harvest. While this test is slower and more costly, it is quantitative for better benchmarking and more specific results. a. Send a representative whole-plant

chopped corn sample to your laboratory. Opt to check KPS daily through harvest and make adjustments accordingly. Work with your harvest and consulting team to check your score both at the harvest event and when feeding out. Set a benchmark for your farm and harvest team. Do you know how your silage scored? Make plans to improve each year with better performance and profitability in mind. •

Harvest time evaluation Nutrition consultants and their dairymen should consider closely evaluating kernel breakage and making adjustments as harvest takes place. Each year, corn grain hardness is vastly different thanks to the growing season. Score monitoring during harvest can be completed using the following two simple approaches: 1. On-farm float test: This is a surrogate for laboratory KPS. It is quick and simple, but is not quantitative. a. Collect two to three representative handfuls of fresh chopped whole-plant corn into a calf pail or 5-gallon bucket, half full with water. b. The leaves and stover will float on the top of the water and the grain will sink. You can skim the water surface with your hand to remove fiber and then use a kitchen strainer to separate and view the grain. i. Focusing on the grain processing, you want to view adequate to complete kernel destruction, as depicted in the photo. February 2016 | hayandforage.com | 25


by Jesse Bussard

Stacking offers scalability and profit


estimated annual net profit of $620 TACKED livestock enterprise per acre, pastured hogs pencil out at production models are proving $810 per acre and pastured laying hens to be a viable option to increase return $3,000 per acre. profit on forage-based operations. One Hitzfield recommends when selecting such farm which has had success with livestock enterprises to add-on to existthis production model is Seven Sons ing ones, consider choosing enterprises Farm of Roanoke, Ind. The 550-acre that are more easily scaled with a quick pasture-based operation has found turnover. For example, adding pastured unique ways to direct market their layers to a grass-fed beef or lamb opergrass-fed beef, bison and lamb; pasation. Shorter production cycles will tured pork; and pasture-raised poultry. mean a faster profit turnover. Second son, Blaine Hitzfield, manAlong with production and turnover ages marketing and distribution for his cycles, another consideration, says family’s farm. He notes nearly 80 to 90 Hitzfield, is seasonal availability of percent of their products are sold direct products marketed from each species. to their over 4,000 customers via metIf customers want to buy ropolitan buying clubs, online sales and a particular product their on-farm store. such as grass-fed beef According to Hitzfield, year-round, a means to one of the advantages store product will come of stacking livestock in handy in the long enterprises is the run. Additionally, he scalability this producstresses that with pastion model provides. tured products, farmers An element of scale is need to realize they necessary for a business are selling a completely to be sustainable. Pastured poultry provide a different product than “In the commodity profitable value-added enterwhat goes into the comsystem, there is such prise at Seven Sons Farm. modity market. a barrier to entry “Things really changed because of size,” says for us the day we realHitzfield. “For example, ized we were still trying to market our if you are in the dairy business and you products like they were for the commodity have a couple thousand cows, it doesn’t market,” says Hitzfield. “At first, we didn’t mean you are going to make money.” have a vision for direct marketing when Stacking livestock enterprises by we got into pastured beef.” raising multiple species on the same While the value added by stacking land base allows forage-based operlivestock enterprises is quite obvious, ations to vertically scale, explains there are many behind-the-scenes Hitzfield, avoiding the size barrier dynamics that go into making this commodity producers face altogether. model work successfully, such as His family started with grass-fed beef production components and learning as their first livestock enterprise in the challenges. However, the final and most late 1990s, eventually adding pastured important key to running a profitable laying hens (seven years later) and passtacked livestock enterprise model, tured pork (10 years later) to the mix of Hitzfield explains, is the marketing. their product offerings at the request “Allan Nation says the highest return of their growing customer base. Seven for pure knowledge is, has been and Sons has since diversified to even more always will be marketing,” comments species, including bison and lamb. Hitzfield. “It’s the last and final step of Strive for fast turnover getting further up the value chain and determines the return we get for the On the economic side, the value added hard work and effort we put in. from multiple enterprises mounts up “With pastured-based products, half swiftly, notes Hitzfield. In Seven Sons’ the job is already done,” says Hitzfield. situation, grass-fed beef yields an 26 | Hay & Forage Grower | February 2016

“We have a product that’s already in high demand. However, we knew if we were going to produce a quality product, we needed to find a customer base that appreciated that quality.”

Connecting with customers When it comes to marketing, Hitzfield emphasizes the challenge farmers, and more specifically, direct marketers, face is inconvenience. Farmers sometimes forget how inconvenient they are just by the very nature of what they do (farming). Farms are located outside cities, miles away from populated areas. They are not very visible or accessible to the passerby. Seven Sons’ marketing strategy takes the inconvenience barrier and turns it on its head. Instead of seeking out customers, the farm has taken a different approach by positioning the farm to be more accessible and easily found by customers both online and in the real world. Hitzfield bases the farm’s online marketing around their website. He uses social media and e-newsletters to share content and drive traffic back to the website. He’s found having a strategy is the key to using time wisely and involves sticking to a schedule, figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and integrating networks when possible. Combined with the creation of metropolitan buying clubs (now spanning five Midwest states) and the already existing on-farm store, Seven Sons Farm has been able to successfully expand the accessibility of their pastured products, making it easier than ever before to get them in the hands of their customers. •

Learn more about Seven Sons Farm on their website, https://sevensons.net/ JESSE BUSSARD The author is a freelance writer from Bozeman, Mont., and has her own communications business, Cowpunch Creative.


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Do not export Genuity® Roundup Ready® Alfalfa seed or crop, including hay or hay products, to China pending import approval. In addition, due to the unique cropping practices do not plant Genuity® Roundup Ready® Alfalfa in Imperial County, California, pending import approvals and until Monsanto grants express permission for such planting. Monsanto Company is a member of Excellence Through Stewardship® (ETS). Monsanto products are commercialized in accordance with ETS Product Launch Stewardship Guidance, and in compliance with Monsanto’s Policy for Commercialization of Biotechnology-Derived Plant Products in Commodity Crops. Commercialized products have been approved for import into key export markets with functioning regulatory systems. Any crop or material produced from this product can only be exported to, or used, processed or sold in countries where all necessary regulatory approvals have been granted. It is a violation of national and international law to move material containing biotech traits across boundaries into nations where import is not permitted. Growers should talk to their grain handler or product purchaser to confirm their buying position for this product. ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW PESTICIDE LABEL DIRECTIONS. Roundup Ready ® crops contain genes that confer tolerance to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup® brand agricultural herbicides. Roundup® brand agricultural herbicides will kill crops that are not tolerant to glyphosate. Genuity Design®, Genuity Icons, Genuity ®, Roundup Ready ® and Roundup® are trademarks of Monsanto Technology LLC. © 2016 W-L Research.


Bermudagrass hybrid, environment affect beef steer performance

Comparison of mob, rotational and continuous grazing systems

Bermudagrass is an important feed source for ruminant cattle across the southern states. Researchers at Louisiana State and Mississippi State Universities evaluated the performance of beef steers on three different bermudagrass hybrids: Alicia, Jiggs and Tifton 85. The trial was run for four consecutive years at the Iberia Research Center in Jeanerette, La. As the grazing season advanced, forage quality declined. Percentages of crude protein and total digestible nutrients declined over the 112-day sampling period, while concentrations of structural fiber components and non-fiber carbohydrates increased. Alicia had the lowest nutritional quality of the three hybrids with the highest percentage of lignin and indigestible fraction. The steers rotationally grazing Jiggs and Tifton-85 had the greatest average daily gains and body weight gains per acre. The researchers attribute this response to the inferior forage quality exhibited by the Alicia hybrid. Researchers also evaluated grazing behavior of the steers. Time of day had a significant influence on when steers grazed. Two major grazing events were observed at dawn and dusk. During mid-day, when temperature and humidity were highest, steers spent a majority of their time standing (140 minutes) or lying (98 minutes) rather than grazing (32 minutes).

Researchers at Virginia Tech University initiated a study in 2013 to look at three different grazing systems: high density (mob), rotational and continuous. The study was done on two different farms in Virginia. Across all three systems, both red and white (ladino) clover was frost seeded in the spring. Forage yield, nutrient value, clover establishment success and indices of soil health were evaluated. Animal density was 110 animals (beef) per acre for the mob-stocked treatment, seven animals per acre for the rotationally grazed treatment and one animal per acre for the continuous system. Stocking rate was about the same for each of the systems. At the conclusion of three years, the researchers measured higher accumulated forage yield (herbage mass) for the mobstocked pastures. The continuous system promoted more white clover establishment and higher nutritive value, although forage quality was adequate with all of the systems. Red clover established better than white clover in the mob and rotationally grazed stocking systems. Indices of potential carbon sequestration did not differ among grazing systems, though the researchers surmised that more time may be needed for significant changes to occur. The study, with one additional location, will continue in the future years.

Delays in covering silage can be costly Covering silage in a pile or bunker silo is a no-brainer decision. When to cover and what with are also important considerations. Researchers at California Polytechnic State University and Kansas State University compared silage pile sealing time (immediate versus 24-hour delay) and sealing material (standard plastic alone versus standard plastic plus oxygen barrier film). The results were reported at the 2015 joint annual meeting of the American Dairy Science Association and American Society of Animal Science. Silage was harvested and packed with a payloader. Treatments were imposed and silage was subsequently sampled to 18 inches after 90 days of storage. Silage that was immediately sealed had a lower pH value than the delay-sealed silage. The silage that was delay sealed with standard plastic had a higher ash content, higher neutral detergent fiber (NDF) percent, and lower NDF digestibility than the delay sealed silage using an oxygen barrier film and any of the silage that was sealed immediately. The oxygen barrier film was superior to the standard 28 | Hay & Forage Grower | February 2016

plastic for eliminating oxygen in the silage. Delayed sealing increased organic matter (OM) loss in the top 18 inches by 27.2 percent compared with immediate sealing. Further, delayed sealing with the oxygen barrier film improved OM recovery by 20.6 percent compared to immediate sealing with the standard plastic.

Grass adaptation to climate change If climate change becomes a reality as most scientists predict, how will predominantly cool-season grass pastures adapt to the potential changes in temperature and precipitation during future growing seasons . . . or won’t they? Research at the University of Kentucky investigated this question and reported their results at the 2015 joint annual meeting of the American Dairy Science Association and American Society of Animal Science. Potential changes that may impact forage include productivity, quality and plant species composition. The researchers hypothesized that warming would cause species shifts from cool-season (C3) to warm-season (C4) grasses and would reduce both productivity and forage quality; however, it was expected that more precipitation would moderate the effect. Mixed specie, climate manipulated field plots were established and managed as an ambient control (current weather conditions), with increased temperature, with increased precipitation, or a combination of increased temperature and precipitation. The treatments were imposed for five years (2009 through 2013) and measurements were taken seasonally each year.

Warming, with or without additional precipitation, significantly elevated the composition percentage of warm-season grasses, especially in the summer and fall. During spring, cool-season grasses continued to dominate. Though productivity varied from year-to-year, harvested biomass summed across the five experimental years was not significant. Forage quality measures (crude protein percent and lignin) also varied annually, but changes were less dramatic than species composition and productivity. Though it’s impossible to know for sure the rate and extent of climate change, the results of this experiment seem to indicate that some species shifts may occur with warming, but productivity and forage quality will be sufficient to maintain livestock production at present levels.

Shredlage studies reported from New York Dairy One on-farm feeding trial: A 12-week feeding trial completed on a New York farm in 2015 compared shredlage and conventionally processed corn silage. The on-farm study results were recently reported by Sally Flis, feed and crops support specialist for Dairy One laboratory in Ithaca, N.Y. Two groups of lactating cows in at least their second lactation were fed either shredlage or conventionally processed corn silage. Each group started with 152 cows. The diets were formulated to contain 22.4 pounds of dry matter from either the shredlage or conventionally processed silage. All other ration ingredients were the same. Forage analysis and dry matter intake were similar between the two groups from Weeks 3 through 9. The conventionally processed treatment group averaged 120 days in milk (DIM) and the cows fed shredlage averaged 115 DIM. The percentage of material on the top screen of the Penn State particle separator was 36.8 percent for the shredlage and 13.9 percent for the conventional kernel processing. Corn silage processing score averaged 62.2 (plus-or-minus 2.8) for the shredlage and 56.2 (plus-or-minus 4.0) for conventional processing. Milk production in the study did not correlate well with corn silage processing score. A better relationship was found with starch and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) concentrations in the fractions of the corn silage particle score. The researchers plan to look further into this relationship in 2016. Limited studies have been done feeding shredlage, but overall results from this one are similar to two Wisconsin trials. Milk quality, degree of feed sorting, dry matter intake and fecal starch were similar between the two treatment groups. There was a milk response: From Weeks 3 through 9, milk production was 2.2 to 3.2 pounds per day greater for the shredlage than the conventionally processed silage diet.

The study was done on Allenwaite Farm in Schaghticoke, N.Y. For a complete trial report, contact Sally Flis (sally.flis@dairyone.com). Cornell study sees no milk response: Researchers at Cornell University compared shredlage to conventionally processed corn silage in a dairy feeding trial. The results were reported on at the Cornell Nutrition Conference last October. Corn silage was chopped at the same time using two forage harvesters; one was equipped with a shredlage processor, the other a conventional kernel processor. Processing was monitored during harvest using the Penn State particle separator. The two silages were stored separately in bunker silos and opened about eight months after harvest. The study used four pens with 32 cows per pen. The rations, which contained 50 percent corn silage on a dry matter basis, were rotated between pens every four weeks so that all pens were fed both shredlage and conventionally processed silage. The percentage of material on the top screen of the Penn State particle separator was 34.1 percent for the shredlage and 18.3 percent for the conventional kernel processing. Corn silage processing score averaged 59.5 for the shredlage and 50.7 for conventional processing. Between the two treatment groups, the researchers found no differences in dry matter intake, total tract starch digestibility, milk production or milk components. February 2016 | hayandforage.com | 29


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Every day, all day, find out what’s going on in the hay and forage industry

Participate in shared news and information

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4-H Sourcebook

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Current events, special features and Hay & Forage Grower updates

Track the pulse of the forage industry on Hay & Forage Grower’s Twitter page

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Connect with us at hayandforage.com 32 | Hay & Forage Grower | February 2016


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Featuring memorable photos and a timeline of dairy history beginning in 1870. Hoard Leadership documents the changes, challenges and success of the industry. The images are accompanied by 63 striking, thoughtful and relevant quotes of W.D. Hoard, founder of r ’s r and strong proponent for the dairy industry. 96 pages, 8” x 8” • premium dust jacket • elegant double foil stamped hardcover

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RAKE AND BALE IN ONE PASS Save 40% on your baling cost. • Baler-Connections go on H&S high capacity hay rakes as a bolt on kit, adaptable to most wheel type rakes. It comes in 12, 14, and 16 wheel rakes, and other sizes by special order. • 4500 RPM carrier bearings; more carrier bearings than any other design • Heavy duty frame construction that will outlast the life of the rake in which you can unbolt the unit and attach it to a new rake.

• The system requires about 20 more horsepower than operating the baler alone. • All rakes with Baler-Connection come standard with walking tandem axles on rear to provide added stability for the weight of the baler and a smoother ride.

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When it comes to ground preparation no one can come close to the level of dedication and experience than Northwest Tillers. With over 60 years in business and many more in collective experience the Northwest line has become something that farms have come to rely on for years on end. Available in a range of sizes from 10' to 20' the Hay & Forage unit is capable of having a seed bed ready floor in as little as one pass. All this is achieved by utilizing additional blades and rotors allowing for a much finer cut; in turn resulting in a better seed bed in a fraction of the time. UPCOMING SHOWS

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Bale hay when you need to. Not just when you can find help. The versatile Model 1000 accumulator features the new telescopic push-over arm, for increased productivity. Preserve your hay quality by stacking the bales on edge, without bending or dragging them.


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Is injury, illness or arthritis impacting your farming? Sustained success in hay production doesn’t happen by chance.

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SERIOUS SILAGE Ag-Bag silage quality lowers feed costs

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Large Square Bale Squeeze Boost productivity when handling wrapped or unwrapped large square or round bales. Gently handles square bales from 48” to 96” in length, up to 3,400 lbs. Models for skid steer loaders and tractor loaders with Euro/Global carrier. Visit worksaver.com to learn more.

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Michigan State Focus on Forage Meetings Six regional Focus on Forages meetings will be held in Michigan beginning on February 8 and ending March 2. Michigan State University forage specialists will be discussing low-lignin alfalfa, management of alfalfa-grass mixtures, birdsfoot trefoil, bunker silo safety, forage economics and results from the Michigan alfalfa sulfur survey. For additional information on locations or to register online, visit http://bit.ly/MSU-FOF.

nia dairy industry. Included will be presentations on crop production and forage preservation. Registration information is available at http://bit.ly/GS-DC.

Great Lakes Forage & Grazing Conference Dan Undersander, University of Wisconsin-Extension forage spe-

cialist, will be the keynote speaker for the 2016 Great Lakes Forage & Grazing Conference on March 10. The event will be held at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center in East Lansing, Mich. Several topics on alfalfa production will be presented along with a producer panel discussing grass-fed beef. Preregistration is requested and can be done online. More information is available at http://bit.ly/2016-GLFGC. •

SW Missouri Spring Forage Conference The 32nd Annual Southwest Missouri Spring Forage Conference is slated for March 1 at the University Plaza Hotel in Springfield, Mo. This year’s conference keynote speaker is farmer and radio personality, Trent Loos, who travels the U.S. and abroad advocating for agriculture. In addition to Loos, there will be 16 different forage sessions ranging from grazing topics to farm succession planning. A large trade show is also planned. The conference website can be found at http://springforageconference.com.

Southern Indiana Grazing Conference Allan Nation, book author and publisher of the Stockman Grass Farmer, will headline the Southern Indiana Grazing Conference at WestGate Academy near Odon, Ind., on March 2. Other speakers include Wesley Tucker, a Missouri beef farmer and farm business extension specialist, and Doug Peterson, who operates a Missouri grazing operation and is a NRCS State Soil Health Conservationist. For more information, visit http://bit.ly/SO-IN-GC.

Golden State Dairy Management Conference The inaugural Golden State Dairy Management Conference will be held March 8 to 10 in Seaside, Calif., at the Embassy Suites Monterey Bay. The program will offer presentations on a variety of topics pertinent to the CaliforFebruary 2016 | hayandforage.com | 39

Fiber digestibility matters by John Hibma


ROGRESS continues to be made in the analysis of forages and in determining how they ferment and digest in a dairy cow. The impetus for this advanced research is driven by the expanding interest in utilizing more forages in milk cow diets as grains and commodity by-products become more expensive and supplies less dependable. A fundamental characteristic — and therefore a challenge — of forages is that they are highly variable both physically and chemically. This results in the uncertainty of their quality and the unpredictability of the digestible nutrients they deliver. The term “fiber” is used as a general description for the indigestible or slowly digestible parts of feedstuffs. Fiber — especially forage fiber — affects feed intakes, passage rates, rumen fill and nutrient absorption. The analysis of forages, the application of the results and the prediction of milk production has been an ongoing evolution. In the earliest days of balancing dairy cow diets, the inverse relationship between protein and fiber was used as a means to measure forage quality. In the 1960s, tests were developed to measure the different fractions of forage fiber that distinguished between lignin and other types of cellulose. For many years the lignin level in a forage was used as a proxy to predict fiber indigestibility and energy values.

Determining dry matter intake The test for NDF — neutral detergent fiber — is currently considered 40 | Hay & Forage Grower | February 2016

the best test for measuring insoluble fiber and predicting rates of passage for feedstuffs. Forages such as grasses and legumes have high percentages of NDF compared to grains, which are low in NDF and commodity by-products such as soyhulls, beet pulp or cottonseed, which have intermediate levels of NDF. Most of the studies and research directed toward NDF digestibility is focused on forages. Milk production is highly correlated to the amount of feed dry matter a cow can consume each day. Dry matter intakes (DMI) are very dependent upon feed digestibility and rumen fill. The challenge faced by dairy scientists and nutritionist in establishing the energy value and potential milk production coming from forages is predicting how quickly (the passage rate) forages move through the rumen. A concept that is gaining acceptance among dairy scientists is that there are at least three pools of fiber digestion — a rapidly digestible pool, a slowly digestible pool and an indigestible pool that is excreted by the cow. These forage fiber pools vary from forage to forage and the differences will have a profound impact on forage intakes, forage fermentation and ultimately how much milk a cow produces. Especially for dairy farms that strive to feed high percentages of forage to their cows — at over 60 percent of dry matter, even small changes in forage digestibility will affect milk production due to the impact on both gut fill, pas-

sage rate and rates of fermentation. Older research established the maximum level of forage NDF intake for dairy cows at about 1.2 percent of a cow’s body weight. However, it has been found that in some feeding situations, cows can consume forage NDF at higher levels. What has been suspected is that NDF in various forages have differing rates of digestibility and passage. Each of the common forages — corn silage, grasses or legumes — can have markedly different pools of fiber digestion. When rates of fiber digestibility are higher, more feed can be consumed. Forage testing laboratories have been analyzing for different rates of NDF digestibility — 24-hour, 30-hour and 48-hour — estimating the amount of NDF that would be digested prior to passing from the rumen. Knowing these values enables the ruminant scientist to estimate the rumen retention of forage, gut fill and how much VFA — volatile fatty acids — will be produced, allowing for an estimation of energy metabolism and milk production. In addition to the 24-, 30- and 48-hour NDF digestibility, labs have JOHN HIBMA The author is a dairy nutritional consultant and freelance agricultural writer based out of Connecticut.

also developed a 120- and 240-hour NDF digestibility that essentially measures the slow and indigestible pools. Digestion trials for corn silage, legume haylage and grass haylage all indicate that over half of the NDF is digested by 30 hours after the cow consumes her feed. Diminishing amounts of NDF disappear by 120 hours — this being the slower NDF pool — with a continuing amount of digestion after 120 hours. This new information has altered the earlier belief that much of the forage NDF is indigestible.

Digestibility differs Data collected from Dairy One Forage Testing Lab (Ithaca, N.Y.) shows the significant difference of NDF digestibility (NDFD) for the three forage groups (see table). Corn silage, overall, has the highest average NDFD at almost 80 percent. Total average NDFD for grass haylage is over 73 percent, while total average NDFD for legume haylage was the lowest at just below 60 percent. It’s noteworthy that the greatest nutrient yield coming from the legume haylage occurs during the first 30 hours

NDFD 30 hr

NDFD 120 hr

NDFD 240 hr

Corn silage




Legume haylage




Grass haylage




Cornell Nutrition Conference, 2015 & Dairy One Forage Testing Laboratory, Ithaca, N.Y.

and then slows significantly. This would suggest that VFA is produced more quickly from a legume forage but then significantly slows down. The digestible NDF coming from corn silage and grass, while similar for the 30-hour pool, continue to digest more of their total NDF after 30 hours, possibly maintaining continued VFA production. The differing rates of NDF digestibility for these three forage groups will impact the amount of rumen forage fill and fermentation at any given time. As suggested earlier, there are also large variations from the high to the low for the NDFD within each of the forage groups. For all of the samplings within the forage groups, there were samples

with 240-hour NDFD of over 90 percent but as low as 37 percent (not shown in table). This makes the need for regular NDFD testing at different time points as well as sampling all cuttings and forage species imperative to the accurate balancing of milk cow diets. For forage growers and dairy farmers, understanding the variability of fiber digestibility in forages is becoming more critical when balancing rations, particularly for high-producing herds. Especially with hay crop forages, NDF digestibility will change from cutting to cutting and field to field throughout the course of a growing season. To test just one cutting for digestibility and assume that a diet will be in balance all year long based on that number is a mistake. NDFD for corn silage will vary based on hybrid and from field to field based on growing conditions, as well. The cows will always tell you if a forage is going to milk or not. But in these days of unpredictable milk prices, knowing ahead of time the digestibility characteristics of forages will prevent any unwanted surprises that will negatively impact the dairy’s milk revenue. •

February 2016 | hayandforage.com | 41


eHay WEEKLY e-newsletter

Demand still light in many regions Many reports are still indicating light to moderate demand, though in some areas there seems to be a modest uptick in sales activity. Extreme weather events continue to have an impact in some areas. The USDA reports that hay stocks in December are in good supply

• Headline News • Field Reports • Market Insight and Crop Updates • Original Features • Event Coverage • Direct to your inbox every Tuesday a.m.


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for most regions. The prices reported below were obtained primarily from USDA hay market reports in late January. Prices are FOB barn/stack for large square bales unless otherwise denoted (abbreviations are listed below the table) •

For weekly updated hay prices, go to “USDA Hay Prices” at hayandforage.com Supreme-quality hay California (intermountain) Colorado (northeast)-ssb Colorado (southwest) Idaho Iowa (Rock Valley) Kansas (southwest) Kansas (south central) Missouri Montana Montana-ssb Oklahoma (central) Oklahoma (western) Pennsylvania (southeast)-ssb South Dakota (East River) Texas (Panhandle) Texas (western) Texas (western)-ssb Utah (central/northern) Premium-quality hay California (southern) California (southeast) Colorado (southeast)-ssb Illinois (central) Kansas (north central/east) Missouri Montana Nebraska (northeast/central)-lrb Oklahoma (central) Oregon (Klamath Basin) Oregon (Lake County)-ssb Pennsylvania (southeast) Pennsylvania (southeast)-ssb South Dakota (East River) Texas (Panhandle)-ssb Utah (southern) Washington (Columbia Basin)-ssb Wisconsin Good-quality hay Illinois (southern)-ssb Iowa (Rock Valley) Kansas (north central/east) Kansas (southwest) Minnesota (Pipestone)-ssb Missouri Montana Nebraska (northeast/central) Nebraska (Platte Valley)-lrb Oklahoma (central) Oregon (Crook-Wasco) Pennsylvania (southeast) South Dakota (Corsica)-lrb South Dakota (western) Utah (northern) Washington (Columbia Basin)

Wisconsin Price $/ton 320 (o) Wyoming (central/western) 229 Fair-quality hay 175 California (central SJV) 140 California (southeast) 155-170 Illinois (northern) 170-190 Illinois (southern) 190-200 Iowa (Rock Valley) 180-200 Kansas (southwest) 150-185 Kansas (north central/east) 200 Minnesota (Pipestone)-lrb 165-185 Missouri 160-170 Montana-lrb 250-280 Nebraska (Platte Valley)-lrb 200 Nebraska (western) 205-230 South Dakota (Corsica)-lrb 220-240 Texas (north, central, east) 315-333 (d) Utah (northern) 150-175 Utah (Uintah Basin) Wisconsin 260 (d) Wyoming (eastern) 225-230 Bermudagrass hay 200 Alabama-Premium lrb 230-285 (d) Alabama-Premium ssb 160-180 Texas (Panhandle)-Good/Premium 150-190 Texas (north, central, east)-G/P ssb 150-165 Texas (south)-Good/Premium lrb 92-95 Bromegrass hay 135-165 Kansas (north central/east)-Good ssb 180 Kansas (southeast) Good 200 Missouri-Fair to Good 200-270 Orchardgrass hay 185-235 Colorado (southwest)-Premium ssb 190 Oregon (Crook-Wasco)-Premium ssb 280-290 Oregon (Crook-Wasco)-Good ssb 120-150 Virginia-Good lrb 260-265 Timothy hay 112-123 Colorado (southeast)-Premium ssb Montana-Premium ssb 200-240 Pennsylvania (southeast)-Good 110-130 Virginia-Good 100-120 Washington (Col. Basin)-Premium ssb 150-160 Oat hay 120 Minnesota (Pipestone)-lrb 120-160 Oregon (Lake County) 140-150 South Dakota (Corsica)-lrb 150-160 Texas (Panhandle) 80-85 Straw 100-130 Alabama-ssb 225 California (north SJV) 150-210 Illinois (northern) 105-125 Iowa (Rock Valley) 90 Kansas (southwest) 120-140 Pennsylvania (southeast) 135-147 South Dakota (Corsica)-lrb

Abbreviations: d=delivered, lrb=large round bales, ssb=small square bales, o=organic

42 | Hay & Forage Grower | February 2016

85-110 110-120 198 (d) 125 120 128-145 93-108 90-100 100-120 80-90 100-120 100-110 70-75 90 90-98 160 90-120 85-100 60-80 70 130 180-300 140-180 (d) 231-265 120-130 120-145 75-100 50-80 277 240 225 65-110 154-167 180-210 160-225 155 170 65 100 65 160 160 125 (d) 120-125 (d) 80-100 60-65 (d) 160-260 65-68


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Hay & Forage Grower Magazine Issues  

Hay & Forage Grower provides the newest production and marketing information in print, online and in person for large-acreage forage produce...

Hay & Forage Grower Magazine Issues  

Hay & Forage Grower provides the newest production and marketing information in print, online and in person for large-acreage forage produce...