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hayandforage.com

April/May 2016

Published by W.D. Hoard & Sons Co.

Marketing versus selling alfalfa pg 10 LESA offers irrigation alternative pg 18 Save the leaves pg 24 Hone your forage sampling skills pg 28


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April/May 2016 · VOL. 31 · No. 4 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 PRESIDENT Brian V. Knox VICE PRESIDENT OF MARKETING Gary L. Vorpahl

6 Manage around fescue toxicosis

There are several strategies available to mitigate the effects of toxic tall fescue.

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LESA produces forage crops with less water The march continues to get the most from every water drop.

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Georgia dairy values forage, family

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This grazing dairy strives to get the most from every acre.

Moving from cool season to warm season forage takes a plan.

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DEPARTMENTS 4 First Cut 12 Pasture Ponderings 14 Forage Shop Talk 16 Custom Corner

MISSOURI CATTLEMAN DOES IT BY THE NUMBERS

SAVE THE LEAVES FOR QUALITY ALFALFA

MARKETING VERSUS SELLING HAY

SAMPLING A 24-TON TRUCK OR 5,000-TON BUNKER

EDITORIAL OFFICE 28 Milwaukee Ave. West, Fort Atkinson, WI, 53538 WEBSITE www.hayandforage.com EMAIL info@hayandforage.com PHONE (920) 563-5551

RICK GRANT TALKS FORAGE AND MINER INSTITUTE

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MAKE HARVEST CONNECTIONS

28 41 42

Feed Analysis Research Round-up Hay Market Update

Manage the ryegrass transition

WINTER LEGUMES OFFER BENEFITS

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MANURE AFTER ALFALFA: CONSIDER THE OPTIONS

ON THE COVER Harvesting alfalfa during the 2015 Wisconsin Farm Technology Days at Statz Brothers Dairy in Sun Prairie, Wis. Beginning with 32 cows in the mid-1960s, the Statz family currently milks a total of 4,000 cows at two separate milking centers and farms about 6,000 acres. Photo by Mike Rankin

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.

April/May 2016 | hayandforage.com | 3


HayBossG2_HayForage2016_Spring 16005_A HR.pdf

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FIRST CUT

Unlike any other cutting

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HETHER you’re cutting alfalfa in southern Vermont or northern California, one commonality across the miles is that first-cut alfalfa is different than all of the rest. It’s this uniqueness that likely has led the forage fraternity, both farmer and researcher, to debate the first-cut harvest strategy with unmatched rigor, at least as far as numbered alfalfa harvests go. Why is the initial spring harvest so different and, might I add, so important? Here is my collection of factors. 1. The growing environment is like no other during the growing season. Temperatures during most of the growth cycle are likely going to be cool. That’s good from a forage quality standpoint. As harvest time nears, all bets are off as it could be cool, hot, wet, dry, or some combination. These extremes as alfalfa approaches harvest wreak havoc on the ability to predict forage quality. At mid-bud stage, one year you might have rocket fuel, the next year it might be cordwood. Never underestimate the impact of growing environment on forage quality and realize that the range of possible outcomes are nearly endless for spring growth. 2. Fiber digestibility can easily go from first to worst. First cutting neutral detergent fiber (NDF) digestibility can be, and often is, the highest of the season because of cooler temperatures. But all good things must come to an end, and if hot weather sets in or the harvest is delayed by extended wet weather, the rate of first crop fiber digestibility decline is unmatched. Hence, a timely first cut is essential if high forage quality is the primary objective. To achieve a target forage quality, the spring harvest window is often narrower compared to subsequent growth cycles.

Mike Rankin Managing Editor

3. Initial attempts to gauge first-cut forage quality based solely on calendar date or maturity stage failed miserably because of annual fluctuations in growing environment. For this reason, researchers have developed methods to estimate spring alfalfa quality “on the hoof.” Several approaches are available: predictive equations for alfalfa quality (PEAQ), growing degree accumulation, and simply taking fresh cuttings from the field and submitting them to a forage lab for analysis. None of these methods are perfect, but they do help to prevent forage quality train wrecks. 4. First cutting often provides the greatest percentage of dry matter yield compared to subsequent harvests. Similar to forage quality that declines at a faster rate than subsequent cuttings, forage dry matter accumulates at a faster rate; some research estimates are 100 pounds of dry matter per acre per day during the late-vegetative to late-bud stages. Cut on time and you have a lot of high-quality forage. Miss the mark and you’ll pay the price with mountains of coarse, low-quality fodder. The yield-quality trade-off is never more relevant than with first cut. 5. First cutting sets the pace for the rest of the growing season. It often dictates how many future cuttings will be taken, the interval between cuttings, and how late into the fall the last cutting will be harvested. It’s the only cutting of the year when there is no number of days since the previous harvest. The decision of when to cut first crop is wide open, but the consequences of the decision impact the remainder of the season. Let the harvest games begin. •

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

4 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2016


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Manage around fescue toxicosis by Glen Aiken

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ATTLE that graze toxic endophyte-infected tall fescue can have a vulnerability to severe heat stress under moderate air temperatures, rough hair coats in the summer to add to the heat stress, reduced dry matter intake, and generally poor performance and thriftiness. Conception/calving percentages and weaning weights can be reduced, and poor post-weaning weight gains have caused toxic endophyte tall fescue to be minimally used for stocker production and heifer development. There are several options for livestock producers in dealing with fescue toxicosis. Toxic endophyte tall fescue can be replaced with endophyte-free cultivars, but once the endophyte is removed from fescue, the plants lack the persistence to have long-term reliability. Heavy grazing combined with dry weather and the stand is gone! The only option to alleviate fescue toxicosis is by replacing toxic endophyte tall fescue with a nontoxic, novel endophyte fescue (see pages 24 and 25 of the March issue of Hay & Forage Grower). These nontoxic endophyte tall fescue may require more attention than toxic endophyte fescue, but the extra management can reduce a risk of stand loss. Remember, all grass stands can be lost, including toxic endophyte fescue, 6 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2016

when heavy grazing is combined with drought conditions! What if your farm has steep, shallow, and rocky hillsides that make you hesitate to replant? You might consider that you have enough other grasses in your pastures to dilute the toxic endophyte fescue, but what is the maximum percentage of tall fescue before the toxic endophyte can have a subtle effect on livestock performance? Research done at the University of Tennessee over 30 years ago indicated that the toxic endophyte affects animal physiology and performance when toxic endophyte fescue is over 20 percent of the pasture stand. There are management options to mitigate the adverse effects of tall fescue on livestock physiology and performance: 1) chemical suppression of tall fescue seedheads, 2) feeding of soy hulls, or 3) overseeding with red clovers. Each has advantages and disadvantages that will be discussed.

Suppress seedheads Cattle readily consume seedheads of tall fescue, primarily when the seedheads are immature and not fully developed. The seedheads offer an excellent source of soluble carbohydrates but, unfortunately, are highly concentrated with the toxic ergot alkaloids that cause the toxicosis. Our

research has demonstrated that treatment of endophyte-infected tall fescue with metsulfuron-methyl, an active ingredient in Chaparral herbicide (Dow AgroSciences; Indianapolis, Ind.) can suppress the emergence of seedheads. A two-year grazing experiment with steers grazing toxic endophyte-infected fescue found a 39 percent increase in average daily weight gain with seedhead suppression as compared to those on unsuppressed pastures. Prolactin, the hormone that is consistently low in cattle exhibiting signs of fescue toxicosis, was twofold greater in the serum of steers grazing seedhead suppressed fescue pastures. Furthermore, maintaining the fescue in a vegetative stage of growth resulted in higher crude protein and digestibility being maintained through the two grazing seasons. Another grazing experiment with endophyte-free tall fescue grazed with

GLEN AIKEN The author is a research scientist at the USDA-ARS Forage-Animal Production Research Unit, Lexington, Ky.


Scott Flynn

be mowed, but this must be done at or just prior to the boot stage because cattle will graze the seedheads as they emerge out of the boot. You could find a pasture of barren stems with no seedheads if you wait too long to mow. A second mowing will also likely be needed to remove seedheads of late developing plants. Another consideration should be made if weed control is needed. Weed control by mowing will be best with close mowing, something you may not want to do when you have good, lush vegetative growth. For maximum suppression, spraying should be done according to the

the use of ear implantation with steroid hormones (estradiol-progesterone) and feeding soy hulls for increasing average daily weight gain of 8- to 10-month-old steers on toxic endophyte fescue. Compared to the pasture-only control treatment, the implants improved average daily gain by 13 percent, and the soy hulls, fed at approximately 0.8 percent of body weight, increased average daily Use rotational stocking gain by 31 percent. However, by combining the two treatments we found a 70 The research we had done was percent increase in average daily weight with pastures that were continuously gain. Feeding soy hulls also increased stocked, but it was apparent the cattle prolactin concentrations in the blood, selectively grazed the tall fescue and and a higher percentage of these cattle no other cool-season grasses, such as shed their hair coats. It was Kentucky bluegrass and not understood why there orchardgrass, that were in was a synergistic effect of the mixture with fescue and “A two-year grazing experiment with steers combining ear implantation allowed to accumulate and mature. The intensive grazgrazing toxic endophyte-infected fescue found with soy hulls, but we now know that soy hulls contain ing of fescue and lack of uniphytoestrogens, isoflavones, form grazing across pastures a 39 percent increase in average daily weight that could have the same was a concern, so another gain with seedhead suppression . . .â€? activity as estradiol in prograzing experiment was conmoting animal growth. ducted to compare between It appears that ear implanrotational and continuous label and in the late vegetative stage tation of estradiol can be combined with stocking of seedhead-suppressed toxic of growth as close to the boot stage as the isoflavones of soy hulls to boost calf endophyte tall fescue. possible. Spraying too early can cause weight gain in a synergistic manner. The thought was that higher stocking excessive yellowing and dampening of Further, published results from a pen densities (stocking rate at a given point growth; Chaparral will also kill any experiment with goats demonstrated in time when a rotationally stocked clovers in the stand. that an isoflavone produced by red paddock is grazed) would force the cattle clover, biochanin A, can reverse the to graze other grasses. With rotational Interseed legumes reduction in blood flow to the peripheral stocking of seedhead-suppressed pastissues caused by ergot alkaloids that tures, the cattle in the experiment grazed Pastures of toxic endophyte tall lead to severe heat stress and fescue all forage grasses, and the uniform fescue also can be overseeded with foot. More research is needed to verify grazing was indicated to provide higher clovers to dilute the ergot alkaloids in this work but, thus far, it appears that individual performance and weight gain the cattle diets to mitigate the adverse red clover can provide good benefits to per acre. Therefore, rotational stocking effects they have on cattle performance; the cattle when it is overseeded into is highly recommended when using however, our research has shown there toxic endophyte-infected tall fescue. chemical seedhead suppression. could be more than a dilution effect on These technologies provide methWhat about controlling seedheads of mitigating fescue toxicosis. We conods to mitigate the adverse effects of tall fescue by mowing? Seedheads can ducted grazing research to evaluate ergot alkaloids on cattle performance and physiology. The use of seedhead suppression, feeding soy hulls, or overseeding with red clover are methods to manage around fescue toxicosis, but it must be understood the cattle are still consuming some ergot alkaloids with these strategies. Nonetheless, these practices have shown to increase cattle growth performance and provide enough mitigation of fescue toxicosis to warrant their use by cattle operations that cannot justify replacement of their toxic endophyte fescue with a non-toxic endophyte fescue. • light and moderate grazing intensities determined that seedhead suppression provided a 19 percent bump in average daily weight gain, which indicated that approximately half of the improvement in steer performance with seedhead suppression could be linked to maintaining the plants in a vegetative stage of growth.

Cattle often desire tall fescue seedheads, which contain high levels of ergot alkaloids. The area on the right was sprayed with Chaparral herbicide (metsulfuron-methyl) to suppress seedheads. The application was made about two months previous to the picture being taken.

This is the second of a two-part series on strategies to alleviate the effects of fescue toxicosis. April/May 2016 | hayandforage.com | 7


Darrel Franson has spent the past 15 years renovating his pastures with novel, nontoxic fescue. He’s been entering numbers into computer databases and spreadsheets for even longer.

Missouri cattleman does it by the numbers by Mike Rankin

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HE PROOF is always in the data, and Darrel Franson has plenty of that. Franson, a beef producer from Mount Vernon, Mo., moved to the state from Minnesota in 1993. “My learning curve was nearly vertical,” said Franson, who spoke at the Novel Tall Fescue Renovation School in Columbia, Mo., in March. “Summer heat, pests, soil conditions, and toxic tall fescue were all new to me,” he added. These days, the outgoing Franson shares his successes, mistakes, and journey to grazing nontoxic, novel tall fescue with anyone who cares to listen. He backs his words up with a scroll, not of ancient writings, but of cattle performance data that stretches over 20 feet. Trained at the University of Minnesota, Franson was resolved to manage his cattle and grass when he arrived in Missouri. He initiated a managed grazing system in 1994, installed a water system, and built a cattle-handling facility. Everything was by the book, but there was still one problem — the cattle weren’t performing to expectations. The issues with grazing Kentucky 31 tall fescue, which contains an endophyte fungus that produces toxic ergot alkaloid compounds, are well documented: poor calf gains, shaggy hair coats, low conception rates, abortions, and loss of hooves, also known as “fescue foot.” Franson’s cattle exhibited all of these maladies. In 1994, there were few options to combat toxic tall fescue. It had been

8 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2016

determined that endophyte-free varieties weren’t able to persist during the hot, dry southwest Missouri summers. “The only real option was to try and mitigate the toxin,” said Franson. The Minnesota native seeded lespedeza, red clover, and ladino clover in an effort to dilute the toxin. He managed the fescue to keep it vegetative, fed a medicated mineral mix, limited nitrogen applications, and started fall calving. His success in beating the toxin was moderate, at best.

The big breakthrough It was 2000 when Franson learned about Max-Q, a novel endophyte variety touted as having the fungus for persistence, but without the toxic endophyte. The self-proclaimed “numbers guy” researched the product for a full year. In 2001, he pulled his sprayer loaded with glyphosate across 10 acres and took the novel tall fescue plunge using the spray-smother-spray approach. After eliminating the old fescue over the course of the summer, he seeded the new novel variety in the fall. “I did the same thing in 2002 on 20 acres, then continued to renovate 10 to 20 acres at a time until 2009 when I killed the last of the Kentucky 31 on my owned land,” explained Franson.

Proof is in the numbers Some people just talk a good game, but Franson backs up his success renovat-

ing pastures with numbers . . . a lot of them. He has tracked performance of every animal for 22 years using computer-based databases and spreadsheets. Each calf has 31 data entries, while each cow is tracked with 29 metrics. “I spend an hour each week entering data and four to five times that looking at the records. I learn something new every time,” said Franson. It is with these same records that Franson is able to preach the virtues of novel tall fescue. He figures his renovation cost $200 per acre, or $304 per cow using his 1.52 acres per cow stocking rate. Since the novel tall fescue renovation, Franson has determined he’s gained $209 per cow in sales value. This added value has come from gains in weaning weight (plus 60 pounds), weaning percentage (plus 11 percent), and additional weight gain (plus 0.75 pound per day) for backgrounding and replacement heifers. “At my stocking rate, the payback on pasture conversion took about one and a half years,” noted Franson. When asked about his thoughts of selecting cattle with tolerance to toxic fescue, Franson said that he has been hesitant to do so. His focus remains on performance traits, which he doesn’t want to compromise. Franson used several different varieties of novel endophyte tall fescue during the renovation years. Asked if he had a favorite, he replied, “No, not really. Each has its own small nuances, but they’ve all been very good.” The Show-Me State cattleman serves on the board of the Alliance for Grassland Renewal (www.grasslandrenewal.org), an organization dedicated to renovating toxic tall fescue pastures throughout the U.S. Fescue Belt and ensuring the quality of novel endophyte seed. “I’d never want to go back to toxic fescue,” concluded Franson. •


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CHOOSE FROM A RANGE OF MATURITIES


Marketing versus selling hay by Doug Mayo

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S A COUNTY agent for the past 20 years, one of the things I have noticed is that there are two general categories of hay operations. There are “sellers” and “marketers.” The real difference in these two operations is the focus of the owner or manager. In general, farmers spend most of their efforts on production. When it comes to hay production, there are a lot of variables to deal with: machinery, weather, fertilizer, pest control, harvest, and storage. While all of these are vitally important, one area that tends to be overlooked is the sale of the product. “Sellers” focus on what is most important to them and simply try to find customers who like what they produce. While this can be successful, a challenge is inconsistent sales. The goal is to sell at a fair price and move hay as quickly as possible. The problem with this approach is that there is no real relationship forged with the customer. Deals are made based on quantity, price, and perceived quality. One year a customer buys a large quantity and the next year you don’t hear from them. One year all the hay sells in just a few months, but the next year hay sits in the shed and sells only after prices have been significantly reduced. Sellers also tend to rely 10 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2016

more heavily on a local market, which are greatly influenced by local supply and demand.

Shift the focus Certainly for part-time operations, or producers who are mainly focused on producing hay for their own needs, this “seller” system may be the only real option. It’s also true if your inventory varies greatly from year to year. However, if your goal is to truly develop a business where significant income is going to be derived from producing hay, then shift your attention. A true “marketer” is focused on the needs and desires of their customers. Making this transformation to become a “marketer” requires several key paradigm shifts. The first step is to figure out the profile of the “ideal” customer. In many cases, it is not the large volume buyers. Volume buyers expect a discounted price and special services, like free or reduced delivery. In Florida, the ideal hay customer is the small to medium-sized horse farm that buys square-baled hay almost year around for stalled horses. Typically, these farms lack adequate storage to purchase large quantities of hay soon after harvest. Instead, they need a constant supply and recognize that they

will be paying a premium for their hay. Selling to these customers means you will either have to provide storage directly for the customer, or work through a local supplier such as a feed store or hay broker for continuous sales throughout the year. Either way, this will require a shift from immediate sales to year-round sales. While this shift in cash flow may not be feasible for your entire inventory in the first year, it may be something you can slowly work toward.

Build a relationship The second step is communication. Whether sales are direct with the customer or with a retail outlet, communication is paramount for building customer relationships. This does not have to be elaborate newsletters or a fantastic professional website, but at least enough two-way communication to stay connected. DOUG MAYO The author is an agricultural extension educator in Jackson County, Fla.


Record customer needs Once you begin to establish a loyal customer base, the third step is to develop a better understanding of their needs and the answers to some key questions: 1) How much hay do they need for the year? 2) How often do they need deliveries or purchases? 3) How satisfied are they with your product? This is going to require some sort of customer record system. It may be as simple as an index card box, a notebook with tabs and records for each customer, or a more powerful Excel spreadsheet with a tab for each customer. Whatever system you develop, the

Hay marketing success comes with building a strong relationship with the customer and producing a product that meets their needs.

ultimate goal is to figure out how much hay your best customers need, and when they will want it so that you can manage your inventory to consistently meet demand. It only takes one breakdown in this system to lose a valued customer.

Customer is always right The fourth and final step is service. Customer service is not just what you do, but also your attitude as you perform the service. Customer loyalty ultimately comes down to how happy they are with the service you provide. They will come to rely on you for their hay if they are treated well, the product they purchase is consistent and satisfactory, and they can get it when they need it. The old adage is true, “the customer is always right.” It is not worth haggling over a few broken bales, how the ants got in a few bales, or how a few off-colored bales accidentally got loaded. Make it right for the customer and they won’t forget it. Haggle and force them to pay full price for an inferior product, and they will not only remember it but will share their frustration with their friends as well. If there are multiple family members or employees working on the hay operation, figure out who has the most patience and the best attitude — let them lead in this area. Your service will be evaluated with each and every transaction. The way to build loyal customers is to go the extra mile to keep them happy, and do it with a positive attitude that shows you genuinely care about their needs.

What I have described is a lot of extra work. However, if you want to sell hay to the best customers every year, you have to become “my hay farmer,” or the trusted source they feel confident will treat them right every time. People don’t mind paying full price or possibly even a small premium for excellent service. Consider the businesses that you have become loyal to, and think about the extra things they do to keep you coming back. It may be a lot less effort to simply sell hay “first come first served,” but in the end marketing to a loyal customer base will make your business much more stable and more profitable for the long term. •

SELLING VS. MARKETING Sellers º focused on fast sales • Produce what is easiest to grow • Sell at the most convenient time • Sell at most convenient place • Sell as soon as possible • Customers come and go • Price taker • Get cheaper to move hay out

Marketer º focused on customers • Produce what the customers wants • Focus on long-term sales • Communication with customers • Have some control over price • Customer focused • “You are my hay farmer”

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Begin with a simple contact list of your most valued customers. Whether this is an old-school physical address book or a more powerful tool on your computer, the point is to keep track of your customers so you can touch base throughout the year. A simple letter, email blast or phone call can trigger your customers to make you aware of their needs for the year. Many farms are finding that simple social media sites like a Facebook page is a low-maintenance way to communicate, but you do have to get your customers to follow your page. Communication is a key component for developing working relationships, instead of random purchases initiated by the customer. With this type of basic communication, you can take care of your most loyal customers and truly become “my hay farmer.”

April/May 2016 | hayandforage.com | 11


PASTURE PONDERINGS

by Jesse Bussard and have lower energy requirements), allows more cows to be added to the herd further enhancing the carrying capacity improved grazing management brings. Syncing calving season with the forage growth curve further adds to the benefits these changes bring by reducing harvested feed costs.

Start with timed grazing

Let nature guide path to higher profits

C

OLORADO ranching expert Chip Hines (chiphines.com) believes the cattle industry is in dire need of some change. This change, Hines notes, is a switch from today’s high-input, performance-oriented model to a more low-input, managed method focused on net profit per acre. He calls this system “environmentally adaptive management.” Hines is a well-seasoned and opinionated cowboy who also happens to be quite the author with four books under his belt. In his latest self-published book, Cow Country Essays and a Little Slantwise Logic, he takes a stark and honest look at the current state of affairs in the cattle business offering up what he sees as four must-do solutions to get ranch management back to “keeping it simple” values. The basis of Hines’ low-input, environmentally adapted ranching philosophy comes down to four fundamental management principles: • Calve in sync with your environment • Feed no or very little hay • Proper size and type of cow • Grazing management / improvement “Well over 75 percent of the possible growth in profitability will come from these four points,” says Hines. “These also have a complementary, compounding effect. Improving one will help the others. When these are mastered, then, and only then, might it be worthwhile to go after a few extra dollars.” When implementing these principles, Hines admonishes to two mantras: On management, keep it simple. On cows, if one can do it, they all should be able 12 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2016

to. He recommends ranchers to be as self-reliant as possible, redefine what they consider to be “efficient,” and maintain an open mind.

Work with nature According to Hines, net profit will be the determinant of success when it comes to the ranch. However, understanding and adapting to nature’s model will be the basis for this success. Doing so will include changes such as: • Breeding or purchasing cattle adapted to the environment of a given farm or ranch • Calving in sync with nature (for example, green grass calving) • Selecting for the proper size and type of cattle with low milk production and birth weight traits • Eliminating or greatly reducing hay feeding and other inputs • Initiating grazing management to mimic nature’s outline Of all potential changes, Hines says grazing management is one of the major players and a switch that should be made early in the game as this is the easiest and quickest area one can have an effect. “Grazing management can significantly increase numbers,” says Hines. “Increasing the number of cattle on your given acres is imperative for profit.” Hines points out implementing proper rest periods will lead to healthier pastures and soil, which in turn will grow more and better forage. Done in suit with reducing cow size, the switch to smaller cows (that produce less milk

To learn the basics, Hines encourages producers to take a class or attend a grazing workshop. “These courses get right to work with what you need to know and only what you need to know,” says Hines. “Comprehending the correct procedures in a class will make it easier to grasp the fundamentals and how to fit everything together for the real learning process, which is on the land.” Hines urges producers to get away from the longtime industry standard of continuous grazing. “Though only a small portion of the industry is practicing some variation of timed grazing,” says Hines, “it is becoming universally accepted as the only effective method of grazing to build productivity, increase profits, and truly restore natural soil health.” Start small by creating multiple paddocks and incorporating frequent moves, this could be as little as a couple times a week to begin. Hines stresses producers should get familiar with how these changes are affecting their pastures and cattle’s body condition before attempting multiple moves per day. Overall, none of the ideas mentioned in Hines’ latest book are necessarily new or unusual when it comes to making management changes. He gives plenty of examples as evidence to support his philosophies throughout. Where the real value may lie, however, is in Hines’ challenge to producers to take a step back and reevaluate “the way they’ve always done it.” As any good manager knows, reevaluation on a regular basis is critical for continued success. •

JESSE BUSSARD The author is a freelance writer from Bozeman, Mont., and has her own communications business, Cowpunch Creative.


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1

Sulfur Deficiency in Alfalfa; Jim Camberato, Stephen Maloney, Shaun Casteel, and Keith Johnson; Purdue University Department of Agronomy; Soil Fertility Update; May 3, 2012.

2

Soil Test Levels in North America, 2015 International Plant Nutrition Institute.

3

Chen et al, Flue Gas Desulfurization Products as S for Alfalfa and Soybean, Agronomy Journal, Vol 97, January –February 2005.

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FORAGE SHOP TALK

Rick Grant

Q&A

President of the Miner Institute in Chazy, N.Y., since 2003. His research and expertise in dairy forage relationships has made him a high-demand speaker.

HFG: Please give our readers a brief overview of the unique mission of the Miner Institute and how it was established. RG: On the home page of our website, you’ll find our mission: carrying on William Miner’s vision of science and technology in the service of agriculture and the environment. Miner Institute’s research programs focus on the forage-cow-environment interface. We offer a range of undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education programs in dairy and field crop science, equine management, and environmental conservation. We demonstrate best management practices on our 350-cow dairy farm and associated cropping enterprise as well as our 25-head Morgan horse herd. William Miner built Heart’s Delight Farm at the turn of the last century as a showcase of the latest technology applied to solving the challenges facing farmers of his day. In his will, he laid out his desire that the farm evolve into a research and educational institution – and 100 years later, here we are! HFG: How difficult is it to balance farm profitability, research, and youth education at the Miner Institute? RG: Our primary focus is on conducting research to boost dairy profitability, bring the latest research to the dairy industry, and conduct educational programs to train the next generation of farmers and agribusiness professionals. Our farm and the entire Institute exist for that purpose. We are fortunate to have the Miner Foundation – created by William Miner to support the work of the Miner Institute – to fund about 60 to 70 percent of our annual budget. The remainder of our income is primarily from the farm, research grants, and tuition. Having the Foundation financial resources available lets us focus on high priority topics such as forage quality; ways to improve dairy cow use of forages and forage fiber; and nutrient management. HFG: Tell us about the dairy herd. RG: The dairy herd at the Institute is one of our greatest assets. We are fortunate to have a highly productive herd, dedicated staff, and outstanding management of the herd and the forage crops. Herd size is about 350 Holstein cows housed in a freestall barn complex that also includes tie stalls for intensive research. We have 80 Calan doors for nutrition research, an SCR system to monitor rumination, and rumen cannulated cows for monitoring rumen pH. The herd itself is highly productive: we are currently averaging close to 100 pounds of milk per day, with 4.0 percent fat and 3.2 percent protein. Somatic cell count runs about 150,000, and the pregnancy rate is 24 percent. We feel that this high

level of herd productivity makes our research results more applicable to the dairy industry. HFG: What is the general cropping plan at the Miner Institute? RG: I asked Eric Young, our research agronomist, and here is his answer: We shoot for economically optimum yields while at the same time optimizing the quality of harvested forages. Emphasis is placed on matching hay-crop forage species to the drainage of our soils. We strive for good crop rotations that maintain soil quality (four years of alfalfa-grass or grass and four years of corn silage is typical). We also try to utilize our manure efficiently to reduce the need for purchased fertilizer nutrients, and we sample manure nutrient content at least twice per year. Careful corn hybrid selection, harvest timing, proper chopper setup during harvest, and monitoring are critical to our cropping plan. HFG: Do you have a basic forage production philosophy at the farm? RG: Again from Dr. Young: Our basic philosophy would be optimizing production, quality and use of homegrown forages. So, in order to maintain the high level of productivity we need for research and education, our forage production has also got to be top-notch. HFG: What current forage research is ongoing at the Miner Institute? RG: Currently, we are focusing on uNDF, fast-NDF, and slow-NDF analysis as a means to better formulate diets. We are also doing comparisons of bm1 and bm3 BMR genetics as well as other corn hybrids with varying NDF and starch digestibility. Other areas are use of cover crops and their role in surface and subsurface nutrient runoff. We continue to evaluate silage additives and inoculants and feed additives and ration formulation strategies that enhance rumen digestive efficiency and overall efficiency of the forage-cow system. HFG: During your time at the Miner Institute, what do you consider to be the best or most impactful forage enterprise decision or change that’s been made from a crop production or profitability standpoint? RG: We made the decision a few years ago to invest in tiling most of our fields where drainage limited productivity. We also cleared some land for crop production. We expect these decisions to pay large dividends and help ensure the sustainability of our forage system here at the Institute.

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

14 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2016


HFG: Along the lines of the previous question, what about the best or most impactful forage-related decision or change that’s been made from a dairy production or profitability standpoint? RG: We have been using brown midrib (BMR) corn silage for many years, and our herd responds well to it. We have about 900 acres of total cropland to support our livestock, so we do need to balance yield of corn silage with quality. Based on this, we are constantly searching for and evaluating hybrids in addition to BMR that have desirable yield and enhanced fiber and starch digestibility. HFG: What about a forage decision that resulted in a “Wow, we shouldn’t have done that”? RG: I visited with Eric about this question, and we both agreed on one decision that seemed correct at the time, but didn’t work out as well as we would have liked. Several years ago we had a poor growing season, and we knew we were going to be short of corn silage. So, we jumped on a field of corn close to the Institute and purchased it to make sure we would have enough tonnage. Unfortunately, the quality of this purchased corn silage was not that good, and our herd production paid a price. We could have done a better job of identifying higher quality corn. The fundamental lesson for us was to not ever put ourselves in that predicament of needing to purchase forage again. HFG: What’s the one thing about feeding forage to dairy cows that you wish we knew more about? What areas do we need more research? RG: We are on the threshold of a new era in our ability to

measure forage NDF (neutral detergent fiber) digestion characteristics and to accurately model cow response to forage quality. Recent research on improved ways to fractionate forage fiber into undigested NDF (uNDF), fast, and slow NDF will help us to do a better job of feeding forage. The proportion of fast and slow NDF within a forage or diet determines the relationship between digestion rate, rate of particle breakdown, and passage from the rumen. We should be able to optimize efficiency of feed use by identifying the optimal ratio of fast NDF to slow NDF to uNDF. Overall, we’ll do a much better job of predicting dry matter intake and milk production from dietary forage. HFG: What’s been your experience with brown midrib corn? RG: Our herd loves BMR silage and always responds well to it. Over the past decade, the average difference in NDF digestibility between BMR and our other corn silage hybrids has been about 10 percentage units. How much we plant each year is dictated primarily by our corn silage inventory needs. HFG: If people want to visit the Miner Institute, are tours available? RG: Yes – we invite people to contact us for tours anytime. The details are on our website (www.whminer.org). HFG: Favorite food? RG: Has to be cheese of any kind, although I have a special fondness for extra sharp Cheddar. •

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April/May 2016 | hayandforage.com | 15 25-01-16 18:29


CUSTOM CORNER

by Jon Sykes

Make harvest connections

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T’S THAT time of the year again. Cereal grain crops are maturing, spring harvest is in full swing, and corn planters are heading to the field. Custom harvesters and crop farmers are anxious to see if the hard work in the office and shop over winter will translate into improvements in production and ultimately the bottom line. We tend to focus a lot of attention, and rightly so, on things like preventive maintenance, personnel changes and my favorite, investing in new and shiny equipment. While these are certainly important, I would like to suggest three additional ideas that will make your harvesting plan a little less stressful.

Know the nutritionist Get to know the nutritionist and feed manager at each job. I’m not implying that you should vacation together or even exchange gifts on each other’s birthday; however, I think it’s important as a harvester to have a basic understanding of what goals these folks are trying to accomplish. Every farm is unique, and nutritionists and feed managers will have established quality standards that are specific for that farm’s cows. I think it is important for harvesters to understand what these goals are and the reasons behind them. Most nutritionists I know think that custom harvesters only care about tons per hour, and most custom harvesters think that nutritionists only exist to cause pain and heartache. We like to set up a time during the winter to meet with each of our customers to review the past year’s crop. This is a great time to celebrate the success and address areas that need improvement. Our experience has been that we are able to produce a superior product and our customers also gain a better understanding of the challenges we face while harvesting their crops.

Ditto for the crop grower Get to know the farm manager or custom grower. Once again, I’m not suggesting you exchange Christmas cards or arrange the marriage of your firstborn children. I am saying that each farm is very different and unique, as are the management practices of 16 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2016

There are as many reasons to have a contract for custom harvesting as there are opinions on the best way to feed cows, but I want to focus on one specific benefit — communication! The more information that all involved have prior to harvest, the greater chance that all will be happy with the results.

Preparing a written contract will give the harvester, grower, and the dairyman peace of mind knowing that everyone involved is on the same page. These documents do not have to be complicated. I prefer a one-page contract that simply states what service I will provide; that I will meet the quality standards given to me by the nutritionist, feed manager, and crop farmer; and it contains the cost to the dairy for my services. Harvesting has become terribly expensive and there is not a lot of wiggle room in our budgets, so taking steps to improve communication has become as important as preventive maintenance on our equipment. Beware of anyone who resists the idea of contracts. Sadly, the era of looking a person in the eye, a handshake, and my word is my bond seems to be all but forgotten in today’s business landscape. The dairy industry looks to be in for a tough year in 2016. Let’s do all we can to make the process of harvesting silage as smooth as possible. Have fun and be safe! •

Jon Sykes owns M&L Farms Inc., located in Quitman, Ga. The farm has been custom harvesting since 2000 and custom farming since 2008. They currently grow corn, sorghum, and ryegrass for a local dairy. They also harvest from north Florida up into north central Georgia using John Deere forage harvesting equipment. The business has four full-time employees

and up to 15 seasonal employees. Jon’s wife, Brandy, is the bookkeeper. Jon and Brandy have three daughters: Morgan is a freshman in college, Lindsey is a sophomore in high school, and Jenna is in 7th grade. The girls actively participate in the operation, including working the scale house, delivering lunch, assisting move equipment, helping with office work, and running irrigations.

people who are in charge of them. As dairies continue to grow in size, a greater percent of the feed they need is coming from outside sources. These farmers may not have any idea of the challenges that come with harvesting silage. We like to have our customers give us a list of growers as soon as possible, and then we make time to visit each farm and see what the field conditions are prior to planting. We then visit each location again a few weeks prior to harvest. This program has given us a better understanding of what each farmer is trying to accomplish, and it has opened the door for us to make subtle suggestions that will make harvesting more efficient.

Get a contract


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Troy Peters, Washington State University

Double goosenecks and truss-rod hose clamps used to decrease the drop spacing and increase the number of drops.

LESA produces forage crops with less water by Howard Neibling

I

RRIGATED agriculture is under greater pressure to produce forage and other crops with less water. This requirement is driven by a number of factors: a series of below-normal irrigation water supply years, a series of higher-than-normal crop water use years, and growing demand for limited water resources. Our water supply experiences of the past few years may be a preview of more serious conditions to come. Although the timing and severity of water supply reduction will vary with location, general trends indicate that future supplies will be limited to some degree. Therefore, adoption of changes in irrigation equipment design and practices that conserve water while maintaining crop yield and quality will help minimize

18 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2016

the long-term impact of reduced water supply on irrigated agriculture.

A different approach LESA, or Low Elevation Sprinkler Application, is a modification to typical sprinkler head mounting on center pivots or linear-move machines that minimizes evaporation and wind drift losses by placing sprinkler heads closer to the soil surface. From 2013 to 2015, the Bonneville Power Administration funded a joint University of Idaho / Washington State University study to develop a more efficient water application method for center pivots in the Pacific Northwest. Because most irrigation systems designed for the inter-mountain Northwest require uniform soil coverage for

germination, and must apply nearly all the water required for crop production, our design objectives were to: 1) apply water in-canopy near the soil surface to minimize evaporation and wind drift, 2) apply water uniformly for germination and quality crop production, 3) apply water in a manner that will minimize soil surface crusting and maintain infiltration rates throughout the entire HOWARD NEIBLING The author is an extension water management engineer at the University of Idaho.


Additional benefits may include reduced lodging in alfalfa and small grains and the ability to keep developing wheat or barley heads drier, therefore minimizing head disease conditions. Although this approach of mounting sprinkler heads about 1 foot above the ground saved considerable water, it is most effectively used on sandy or other high-infiltration soils where surface runoff is not an issue. Extreme care must be taken if this approach is used on silt loam or other low-infiltration soils, or on fields with slopes in excess of about 1 percent. Additional testing is underway this year to determine the soil and slope limits for use of this practice

irrigation season, and 4) minimize costs for new or retrofitted systems. The LESA system we developed and tested (image shown left) had the following characteristics: • All equipment is currently available “off the shelf” from most irrigation equipment dealers. • Spray nozzles with grooved plates that apply water in about a 15-foot wetted diameter. • Six psi pressure regulators for water from groundwater sources and 10 psi regulators for water. from surface or canal water sources. • Drop nozzles suspended from the pivot lateral by flexible drop hose, passing over the pivot truss rods, and held in place by snap-on clamps on the truss rods. • Sprinkler head height of about 12 inches above the soil surface. • Drop spacing about 4 to 5 feet (typically double the number of drops). • Applies to moderate or high-intake soils where runoff is not an issue. • For older pivots with spacing between outlets of 9 to 10 feet, we replaced the single outlet gooseneck fitting with a double gooseneck. • Retrofit cost is approximately $25 per LESA drop.

Studies show promise A paired pivot study using one full pivot of the LESA system and one pivot of prevailing equipment (drop nozzles on about 10-foot spacings) was also conducted near Eureka, Nev., beginning in the summer of 2014. Two sets of adjacent pivots (one LESA and one conventional) were established in alfalfa. A third LESA-conventional comparison was conducted on timothy hay. In 2014, the LESA-irrigated alfalfa pivots were able to be shut off for one, and sometimes two days per week while the conventional alfalfa pivots required continuous operation

Adjacent spans of LESA and conventional sprinkler mounting were tested on six pivots in Idaho, four in Nevada, and a number more in Washington and Oregon. Sprinkler package designs that applied water near or in the crop canopy delivered almost twice the water to the soil surface on hot, windy days compared to a traditional system (image shown right). Seasonal water savings were 20 to 30 percent relative to the existing sprinkler packages (for example, rotator and wobbler mounted about 5 to 7 feet above the ground). Water savings are due to less evaporation and wind drift loss of irrigation water as it falls from the pivot, and to reduction in evaporation of water caught on plant leaves that evaporates and never reaches the soil. This effect is shown in the image at the right.

The author acknowledges Troy Peters, (Washington State University) and Richard Stroh (Bonneville Power Administration) as co-authors and contributors to this project.

Howard Neibling, University of Idaho

Reduced evaporation and drift

during the majority of the season to achieve similar yields. In 2015, the LESA pivot on one alfalfa field had water supply reduced by about 20 percent due to well problems, but still yielded nearly the same as the conventionally irrigated field with full water application. Similar results were obtained from the other alfalfa pair, with the grower planning to reduce capacity on the LESA pivot from 900 to 750 gallons per minute. Irrigation on all six pivots was scheduled using soil moisture sensors and data loggers, with information available from web-connected devices. In all test locations, the 5-foot spacing was sufficiently close to eliminate streaking of crops due to variation in water application, and no surface runoff problems were observed. On fields where topography varies sufficiently to cause nozzles to drag on a significant portion of the field, a spacing of 30 to 40 inches with a modified “bubbler” outlet instead of a sprinkler head may be required for good crop establishment and uniformity. •

Traditional sprinkler head arrangement (left) and LESA sprinkler placement about 1 foot above the ground (right). Photo by Howard Neibling, University of Idaho.

April/May 2016 | hayandforage.com | 19


Legumes such as hairy vetch can improve the quality of winter annual grasses.

Winter legumes offer benefits by Gonzalo Ferreira

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OVER crops are planted to enhance health and fertility of soils and to benefit the surrounding environment. By covering the soil surface, cover crops reduce soil erosion caused by rainfall, water runoff, wind or their combinations. The mulch-like cover also limits the access of light, inhibiting or retarding growth of weeds. The root system of cover crops improves pore formation, which allows for water infiltration, soil aeration, and reduces soil compaction. Adding legumes to annual crops can increase nitrogen capture from the atmosphere. This process, known as nitrogen fixation, occurs through a symbiotic relationship between legume plants and bacteria from the soil. When left as cover or mulch, the biomass of the winter crop can provide additional residual nitrogen for the following crop. Alternatively, because winter annual crops are typically harvested as a forage source for feeding cattle in dairy farming systems, adding legumes to annual crops often improves the protein concentration of the forage. The use of annual crops in dairy farming systems for forage is typically oriented to winter annual grasses. As part of the Conservative Innovation Grant (CIG) Program at Virginia Tech, and in collaboration with the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), we evaluated how adding different legumes to annual grasses affected yields and the nutritional composition of winter crops

20 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2016

for forage. We also evaluated the residual effects of the winter crops by measuring yield and forage quality of the succeeding corn crop for silage. For this study, five grasses (barley, rye, ryegrass, triticale, and wheat) were planted alone or in combination with each of two legumes (crimson clover or hairy vetch). Four replicates of each of the 15 treatments were planted at three Virginia Tech experimental stations. Plots were planted during fall 2014 and harvested during spring 2015.

Protein boost with lower fiber Forage dry matter yield trended higher when grasses were grown in combination with crimson clover but not when grown in combination with hairy vetch. Adding legumes raised protein concentration of the forage. Protein concentrations were 13.0 percent for grasses in monoculture, 15.5 percent for mixtures including crimson clover, and 17.3 percent for mixtures including hairy vetch. Adding legumes also reduced fiber concentration of the forage. Neutral detergent fiber concentrations were 49.7 percent for grasses in monoculture and 46.5 percent for mixtures. The concentration of sugars declined from 14.3 percent to 10.5 percent when grasses were grown in combination with hairy vetch. The concentration of sugars was not affected when grasses were grown with crimson clover (13.2 percent sugars). So far, these data suggest that adding legumes to grasses boosted yield and improved the

forage nutritional composition. Harvested forages were also fermented in mini-silos to evaluate the effects of including legumes on silage quality. Including legumes raised the pH of the silages. In the case of hairy vetch, silage pH increased from 4.14 to 4.42, whereas for crimson clover silage pH rose from 4.14 to 4.20. Very likely, differences in pH relate to differences in sugar concentrations. These observations suggest that silage fermentation and conservation can be more challenging when including hairy vetch in winter crop mixtures. If hairy vetch is included in winter crop mixtures, the use of inoculants is strongly recommended. Same as for fresh forages, adding legumes boosted the protein concentration, especially with hairy vetch, and reduced fiber concentration.

Soil health benefits Adding legumes to the crop mixture did not affect the subsequent corn yield for silage. Plots containing ryegrass in monoculture or in combination with legumes tended to reduce corn yields for silage. These observations were attributed to the regrowth of ryegrass after corn emergence, which offered competition to the corn during early growth. Despite these differences, the nutritional composition of the corn plant was unaffected as reflected by the similar fiber concentration of the harvested corn silage. Including legumes with annual winter crops can enhance yields and quality of forages for silage. However, the impacts of these changes will be variable when formulating diets for high-producing cows, given that these silages will likely be mixed with several other feed ingredients. As a final remark, one frequent misconception is that winter crops are not beneficial to soil health in dairy farming systems because harvesting for silage does not allow for the mulching effect. Although true, winter crops destined for forage still promote soil health by controlling weed growth, minimizing soil erosion, and preventing nutrient leakage. Winter crops also benefit soil health with below-ground biomass development through root growth. • GONZALO FERREIRA The author is an assistant professor in the department of dairy science at Virginia Tech.


We made $300 more per acre in milk. And saved 13¢ per cow per day on supplemental minerals. –Dan & Paul Natzke, Wayside Dairy

Better Forage, More Profit Dairy farmers can see multiple benefits from improved soil health. As forage yields increase, milk production per acre rises. As the quality of that forage increases, out-of-pocket supplemental mineral costs are reduced — because many of the necessary minerals are present in the forage. And minerals in plant form are more bioavailable to the cow than minerals in supplement form. These savings can be significant — just ask the team at Wayside Dairy. For over 30 years, Midwestern BioAg has helped farmers improve soil health to increase yields and improve forage quality. Our fertilizers and soil amendments are blended with high-quality, plantavailable ingredients that activate soil microbes and help grow forages with higher levels of digestible fiber, protein, and essential minerals such as calcium. Every aspect of our program promotes soil health, is gentle on roots and soil microbes, and optimizes plant growth, resiliency and quality.

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Georgia dairy values forage, family by Mike Rankin

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OU ONLY need to spend a few minutes talking to Al Wehner before you realize that he really enjoys life, especially his forage, cows, and family. All three components make up what is an integrated dairy business in south central Georgia, where dairy operations of any ilk are difficult to find. Wehner and his wife, Desiree, once were partners in an 1,100-cow conventional dairy located in Ashville, Fla. Though that enterprise was successful, in 1993 Al and Desiree decided to venture out and start their own grazing-based dairy near Quitman, Ga., located about 15 miles north of the Florida state line. Little did they know that this would be the start of something much bigger. That first grazing dairy, called Green Hill, has now ballooned into a total of five grazing platforms — three for milking and two for young stock. There is also a cheese processing/retail store and a yogurt processing operation. The Wehners’ three children and their spouses are all actively involved in ownership and management at some level. Combined, the three dairies milk 1,800 cows. All of the young stock, 1,400 in total, are also grazed from the time they are young calves. Across the entirety of farm locations, there are 1,200 acres, 1,100 of which are irrigated. “Having heat units and water is a

22 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2016

big advantage here,” said Wehner, on a picture-perfect early March morning when Hay & Forage Grower visited Jumping Gully Dairy near the town of Pavo. “We are always pushing our ground, and it enables us to graze 365 days a year,” he added. Jumping Gully is one of the three milking cow platforms. It’s home to 550 cows that graze 220 acres of irrigated pasture. The cows are milked in a swing30 open milking shed and bred to calve October through December, allowing for late lactation and a dry period during the hottest time of the year. Forage growth also slows during this same period.

Forage is king The real story at Jumping Gully is the massive amount of forage that gets produced and consumed. “Depending on the system, we get 10 to 20 tons of dry matter per acre each year,” said Wehner. Here’s how that happens. For the cows, the backbone of the system is a mixture of oats and tetraploid annual ryegrass. The preferred oat is a grazing variety developed at Louisiana State University. The mixture is seeded mid-September to mid-October, and cows are on the pastures in about 20 days postseeding. The crossbred herd grazes these pastures until May, when native crabgrass begins to reestablish.

“The cows rotate through the paddocks in 10 to 16 days,” noted Wehner. “Even in a cold winter we can complete a rotation cycle in about three weeks,” he added. Most of the paddocks are five to 11 acres in size, and cattle are moved every 12 to 24 hours. During summer, about half of the dairy grazing platform is planted with corn for silage. The corn is custom planted and harvested, then stored in silage bags. Wehner noted that between the five farms there are only five owned tractors. The corn silage program is a new wrinkle that was precipitated by the rapid rise in corn prices several years ago. “We can produce 30 wet tons of corn silage per acre and those acres are only out of grazing for about 120 days,” said Wehner. “I’d prefer not to have to grow my own corn, but economically it makes the most sense right now,” he added. The milking herd is supplemented with corn silage for most of the year. When the corn silage is harvested, those fields are seeded to Tifleaf 3 pearl millet. Once established, the millet provides about 60 days of grazing in late summer and fall; then it’s back to seeding oats and ryegrass for winter grazing.

Quad-purpose pivots “We get about 60 inches of rain per year but are never more than three


days away from a drought,” chuckled Wehner. The coarse-textured soils and lack of uniform rainfall throughout the year make irrigation an integral grazing system component. The center pivots at Jumping Gully serve four purposes. They provide water from a large aquifer to the vast amounts of forage being grown. In summer, at least 1 inch of rain or irrigation water is needed to maintain pasture and corn growth. The pivots are also used to fertilize pastures. Liquid fertilizer is injected with a pump to provide about 1 pound of nitrogen per acre per day to the growing forage. Through a separate piping system, manure wastewater from the dairy unit is also applied to pastures using the center pivots. Finally, the pivots are equipped with sprinklers to keep cows and heifers cool during the hot, dry Georgia summers.

Right: Pastures stay productive with frequent irrigations.

Young stock graze, too

A family affair

“I love to see calves on pasture,” said Wehner, as he walked through the carpet of annual ryegrass and oats at the heifer farm platform near Pavo. Calves are weaned in 50 to 60 days and supplemented with a free-choice grain mix until May. During the winter months, heifer calves graze the oats and ryegrass pasture base, though some fields also include a mixture of seeded clover species. In summer, the calves graze Alicia bermudagrass, crabgrass (which Wehner really likes), and pearl millet. From May through September, they are supplemented with corn silage and gluten feed. Bred heifers are put into a leader-follower system with the milking herd during the early spring flush of grass growth. In summer, heifers are

Beyond the success of that initial dairy established in Quitman over 20 years ago, Al and Desiree have had even greater success incorporating their children into ownership and management positions. Their son Clay and his wife, Amanda, own the cattle on Green Hill Dairy in Quitman. Clay also acts as general manager for the other grazing-based dairies, both Jumping Gully and Grassy Flats dairies near Pavo. Amanda fills the role of business office manager for the operations. Wehner’s daughter, Jessica, and her husband, Jeremy Little, own and operate Sweet Grass Dairy in Thomasville (sweetgrassdairy.com). Originally started by Al and Desiree in

Below: Bred heifers are moved into a paddock recently occupied by the milking herd.

moved to a different farm where pearl millet and crabgrass are utilized as a forage source. Once the crabgrass goes dormant, oats and ryegrass are grazed during the winter until the animals are put back into a leader-follower system with the milking herd.

2000, Sweet Grass Dairy is a retail dairy store and award-winning artisan cheese processing facility. The business sells product throughout the United States. Milk is supplied by the Wehners’ dairy platforms. The youngest son, Kyle, and his wife, Janelle (a native New Zealander), started Dreaming Cow Creamery in 2009; it’s a yogurt processing facility in Pavo that sells product under the “Dreaming Cow” label (dreamingcow.com). The milk is supplied by Jumping Gully. “We’ve learned a lot about grassbased dairying since Desiree and I started in 1993. Back then, there weren’t a lot of models to follow for a New Zealand-style operation in southern Georgia,” said Wehner. “Like everyone else, we made mistakes and tried to learn from them. We now feel fortunate to be in a position where our children and their spouses play a significant role in the operation,” he added. That no doubt makes for more time to sit back and enjoy the spoils from the forage — Sweet Grass Dairy cheese and Dreaming Cow yogurt. •

April/May 2016 | hayandforage.com | 23


Manure after alfalfa: Consider the options by Bill Jokela

A

PPLYING manure immediately after alfalfa harvest opens up windows of time for manure application not available with most annual crops, and it expands the acreage base for nutrient management plan requirements. In addition, alfalfa can benefit from the potassium, phosphorus, sulfur, and micronutrients in manure. When it comes to nitrogen (N), it seems counterintuitive to apply manure to alfalfa and other nitrogenfixing legumes. But here the benefit can be to the environment because applying N actually reduces the amount of symbiotic N fixation, thus reducing the risk of nitrate leaching from the applied manure. Application of liquid manure on established stands of alfalfa has shown mixed results. Topdressed slurry resulted in higher, lower or no change to harvested yield in research from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Maryland. Probably the most comprehensive study was one in Ontario where liquid dairy manure was band-applied twice annually to 49 alfalfa cultivars for three years. Average alfalfa yields rose 14 percent with manure compared to the no-manure control, with some varieties showing much larger yield responses.

Broadcast alternatives Surface broadcast is the dominant method of manure application for alfalfa and other perennial forages in the U.S. Beyond soil compaction and plant damage, there are other challenges associ-

ated with broadcast manure application on alfalfa following a harvest — plant smothering, introduction of pathogens that may contaminate feed, nutrient runoff, and odor or ammonia emissions. However, careful management can minimize these challenges. So, too, can alternative broadcast application options such as shallow injection, surface banding above the canopy, banding on the soil surface with drag-shoe or trailing-foot, and band application with tine aeration. These methods can reduce challenges associated with broadcast application because manure is applied in narrow bands directly into the soil or on the soil surface, often underneath the crop canopy. Other possible benefits are reduced odor, nutrient runoff and gaseous emissions. Such benefits need to be balanced against the potential for stand or yield loss from soil disturbance and mechanical damage to plants. There has been only limited research with alternative application methods on alfalfa. In a Saskatchewan study, injection of manure improved alfalfa yields on a low-fertility site but lowered yields on a high-fertility site due to stand damage. We have completed two years of a three-year study evaluating different methods for applying liquid dairy manure on alfalfa in central Wisconsin. The following treatments were applied to an established alfalfa site: a) control (no manure; fertilizer based on need); b) broadcast liquid dairy manure; c) surface-banded manure; d) aerator/banded

manure (AerWay SSD); and e) shallow injection (Yetter Avenger). See photos. Manure was applied annually after first (2015) or second (2014) harvest with an 1,800-gallon research model spreader. The target manure application rate was 4,000 to 5,000 gallons per acre, but equipment problems in 2014 resulted in an excessive rate that year.

Initial Wisconsin results Alfalfa yields for individual harvests ranged from 1.0 to 1.5 tons per acre for third cut to over 3.0 tons per acre for first harvest with no significant yield differences in most cases. There were no significant treatment effects on yields in the first harvest after the August 7, 2014, manure application, nor on the next harvest in June of 2015. This suggests that there was little or no damage to the stand due to manure or mechanical effects. However, yield from shallow injection was significantly lower than most other treatments in the first harvest (July 22) following the 2015 manure application. But the yield effect had disappeared by the next harvest in August. Ammonia emission was greatly reduced by shallow injection compared to the other methods. Emission of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, was increased by manure application but was limited primarily to the few weeks following application. Treatment effects were somewhat variable, but in 2015 nitrous oxide emission was greater from the injection and aerator-band treatments than from broadcast. In summary, preliminary results from the first two years of this study show minimal effects of manure application on yield compared to the no-manure control (optimum or higher soil test P and K); however, there was some indication of a short-term (one harvest) decrease in yield from the injection treatment. Injection greatly reduced ammonia emission, but there may be a trade-off with increased greenhouse gas emission. • BILL JOKELA The author is a research soil scientist for the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Marshfield, Wis.

Aerator/banded manure (Aerway SSD; left) and shallow injection (Yetter Avenger; right) application implements.

24 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2016


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Save the leaves for quality alfalfa by Dan Undersander

I

N A RECENT study, where we sampled alfalfa that was standing, after mowing, after raking, and in the chopper wagon or bale, 71 percent of the change in forage quality was related to leaf content. While we all know that leafy alfalfa is higher quality than stemmy alfalfa, the magnitude of leaf percentage importance has just recently been brought to our attention. The reason leaf content is so critical is that leaves have two to four times the crude protein (CP) concentration of stems, less than one-third of the fiber, and twice as much nonfiberous carbohydrate (NFC). (See Table 1.) Further, leaves don’t change much in quality as the plant matures, while stems increase in neutral detergent fiber (NDF), and decline in protein and fiber digestibility. There is a need to focus attention on growing and harvesting alfalfa leaves. Recognize that leaves on the ground or green dust during harvest are a loss of dry matter and, more importantly, forage quality. Figure 1 shows that each 5 percent in leaf loss results in 1.2 percent less protein and 2.2 percent more NDF. The traditional 20 percent CP and 40 percent NDF forage for dairy cattle are assuming 45 percent leaves and 55 percent stems (as indicated in Figure 1). The following practices may be 26 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2016

helpful in keeping leaves through the harvesting process.

Timely cutting needed Look for leaves on the ground in the standing alfalfa at mowing. If there is a significant amount, then leaf disease is likely the cause. Diseases are often prevalent in the cool, wet environments of the Midwest and Northeast. Foliar fungicides may be economical in reducing leaf drop. The problem is that fungicides must be applied before the diseases occur. So, when using fungicides, leave an untreated strip to see if a difference in leaf drop is visible. Alfalfa is the highest quality when cut and declines in quality throughout the harvesting process. Cut when quality is sufficiently high for the animals being fed. This means harvesting alfalfa at a 28-inch height or bud stage (whichever comes first) for dairy and a 32-inch height or 10 percent flower for growing animals. Our data has shown that alfalfa NDF climbs 0.4 units per day and fiber digestibility declines 0.4 percent per day in the spring. Spread hay in a wide swath (covering 70 to 80 percent of the cut area) to minimize NFC loss due to plant respiration. The goal is to drive-off the first 15 percent moisture as quickly as possible to slow down respiration. This will reduce

overall drying time and preserve more of the starch and sugar for the animals being fed. Respiratory losses can reduce yield by 4 percent and RFQ (relative forage quality) of the forage by 20 points or more.

Machine losses mount Move the wilting forage as little as possible between mowing and harvest. Every time forage is moved, leaves are lost. The wetter alfalfa is when moved, the lower the leaf loss. So, raking at 50 percent moisture causes less leaf loss than raking at 40 percent moisture. Every additional operation beyond the one raking or merging causes additional dry matter and forage quality loss. Minimize leaf loss during harvest. Many have grown accustomed to a layer of green fines falling onto the ground as bales come out of the baler. This should be recognized as a loss of leaves. We are dropping the 500 RFQ forage on the DAN UNDERSANDER The author is an extension forage agronomist with the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Table 1. Average composition of alfalfa leaves and stems near harvest. Plant part

CP

NDF

NFC

RFQ

-------------- % DM --------------

Leaves Stems, prebud to flowering

35

17

41

500

15 to 6

55 to 75

23 to 11

120 to 50

Figure 1: Effect of leaf percentage on alfalfa composition Composition, Percent DM

50

NDF CP

45 40 35 30 25 20 15

25

30

35

40

45

50

55

Leaf percentage

60

65

Figure 2: Quality loss from the field to the bunker* 160

Relative feed value

ground and thereby increasing the percentage of stems (50 to 120 RFQ forage). Similarly, with a round baler, consider how many fines are falling between the belts as the bale is being made. Losses can also be significant when harvesting for haylage with a chopper. Figure 2 is a graph of forage quality samples taken at different stages in the harvesting process by an intern in the Croplan (Winfield) internship program. The graph shows minimal forage quality loss in mowing/conditioning and merging (7 RFV total), and then a loss of 18 points RFV in the chopping process. Losses of leaves during chopping can be significant as the fine material blows out of the truck or wagon and creates a cloud of green. Five to 10 percent or more of the forage dry matter can easily be lost during harvesting. These dry matter losses reduce yield but, more importantly, are losses of leaves that reduce the forage quality of the harvested forage. Good management is required to observe where losses are occurring and to change equipment and practices to minimize the losses. •

150 140 130 120 110

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FEED ANALYSIS

by John Goeser

Sampling a 24-ton truck or 5,000-ton bunker

A

TRUCKLOAD of hay is 48,000 pounds, a “small” 250-ton silo bag and a 1,000-ton pile or bunker are 500,000 and 2,000,000 pounds, respectively. The forage sample used to value hay or accurately balance a performance-based feed ration is a fraction of these sizes. Exactly how big is a forage sample relative to the truck or silo it is meant to represent? Beyond scale. To put a single 1-pound forage sample in context, consider these analogies: • A hay truckload (24 tons): This is comparable to choosing one person in a 50,000-seat baseball stadium and expecting the single person to be representative of the entire crowd. • A silo bag (250 tons): This comparison is equivalent to picking one person in 10 stadiums and expecting the person to represent the combined crowds. • A small forage bunker or pile (1,000 tons): More crazy yet; this is akin to selecting one person out of all of the baseball stadiums in the major leagues and expecting the individual to be representative of all the crowds across the U.S. Now, with a few analogies to help understand the challenge at hand in accurately sampling the truckload or silo, how should you best sample dry hay, baleage or wet forage? Taking larger samples is not the 28 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2016

answer. Bigger samples present challenges for commercial testing labs and should be avoided. The image shows two forage samples, with the correct forage amount necessary for optimal feed analysis; stuffing the bag full is not necessary. Better sampling techniques, with just a bit more effort spent on the farm, and more frequent sampling is the superior way to accurately reflect feed value. Discuss forage variation and technique with your broker or consulting team. Decide on an agreed-upon sampling protocol and frequency, then ensure your team follows them. Consider incorporating the following guidelines into your protocol for sampling dry hay or wet forage. These guidelines incorporate recommendations from university researchers and extension personnel from across the U.S. and will help drive accuracy and precision on your farm.

Dry hay or baleage Consider taking a sample from each truckload or hay “lot.” A hay lot represents one field of a single cutting; multiple fields or cuttings should not be mixed. Do not attempt to split samples; on-farm sample differences when attempting to split, even with the same hay lot, can equate to 10 to 20 percent difference in value. Work with your testing laboratory to obtain dried and ground sample splits back from the lab when value discrepancies arise.

The dry forage or baleage sampling guidelines per the National Forage Testing Association are as follows: Sample as close to time of sale or feeding as possible. Do not sample freshly harvested hay. Use a sharp, well-engineered coring device that is 3/8- to 3/4-inch in diameter. The corer can be hand crank or cordless drill driven. Randomly select at least 10 bales for sampling. Bales are not uniform – do not grab a sample from the outside of bale, and avoid moldy or spoiled bale sections. Use the corer to take at least two core samples per bale, collecting at least 20 cores per lot. Sample from the curved or wrapped side on round bales or in the center of the ends for square bales. For large square bales on truckloads, sample at a 45-degree angle from the side if the bale end is not accessible. Core to between 12- and 24-inch depths within each bale. Composite the entire sample (all 20

JOHN GOESER 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.


or more cores) in a laboratory-provided plastic sampling bag or sandwichtype plastic bag. Properly identify the sample with the farm name and sample identification. Submit your sample(s) to the laboratory along with a completed analysis request form or using the laboratory’s smartphone app. Work with a National Forage Testing Association (NFTA) certified laboratory (www.foragetesting.org).

Wet forage sampling guidelines Work to collect a composite sample into a pail or bucket. Collect subsamples using your hand as a scoop, do not grab from the top down. For upright silos: Collect at least three subsamples from the unloader during load-out, equally spaced in time from start to finish. For silo bags: Forage varies substantially through the bag length, work to represent the bag length. Ideally, sample multiple spots throughout the bag length with a sample probe, carefully seal holes created with bag tape (do not use duct tape). If sampling only during feedout, collect several times during feeding for the day. Collect a subsample from the top, both sides, middle and bottom of the bag face. For bunker silos or piles: After defacing the feed for daily feeding, collect five to 10 subsamples equally spaced out from the width of the bunker or pile. Be safe – do not sample directly from the face. Forage varies in dry matter and nutrient content from top to bottom and left to right across the face; try to capture it all, taking one subsample for every 10 feet of silo width. Thoroughly mix all subsamples in the pail, turning the feed over like a laundry machine to avoid fines settling at the bottom. This composite sample should be at least 2 pounds and with larger bunkers or piles may be 6 to 8 pounds. Use the mixing and quartering technique to decrease the composite sample size down to roughly 1 pound. Find an area of clean concrete or a counter and dump out the pail contents. Divide the feed into four subsamples, then discard the two diagonal quarters and put the remaining two quarters back into the pail, making sure to capture all the fines. This technique effectively cuts the sample size in half (for example, from 4 pounds to 2). Thoroughly mix this new subsample, and repeat the quartering process until the sample is roughly 1 pound. The mixing and quartering technique can be viewed

app. Again, work with a National Forage Testing Association (NFTA) certified laboratory (www.foragetesting.org).

Sample frequently

Appropriate forage samples, containing adequate feed forage analysis, and representing roughly 1 pound. Larger samples (for example, 1 gallon) are not necessary and can lead to subsampling challenges at the forage testing laboratory.

online at http://bit.ly/4sample. Dump the entire final sample into a plastic sampling bag. Use the laboratory-provided plastic sampling bag or sandwich-type plastic bag. Do not use larger bags, such as gallon sizes. Properly identify the sample with the farm name and sample description; submit the sample to the laboratory along with completed analysis request form or using the laboratory’s smartphone

Depending on your farm size, consider sampling during forage feedout at these research-developed frequencies. • 50-cow herd – sample monthly • 100- to 200-cow herd – sample every two weeks • 400-plus cow herd – sample every 10 days to two weeks The sample intervals may seem aggressive yet are based upon practical on-farm research. Field experience has also proven that more frequent sampling may have value. Recently, while working with a 1,000-cow dairy that sampled biweekly, corn silage starch content varied from week to week so much that the nutrition team routinely added or subtracted a little over 1 pound of corn. The dairy more precisely managed feed costs and ingredients based on this information. Regardless of the sampling interval your nutrition team chooses, build protocols for proper sampling guidelines to accurately represent the forage being fed or sold. •

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At the base of healthy ryegrass, a mass of white adventitious roots and cobweb-like fungal mycelia develop just as it enters its most rapid phase of growth.

Manage the ryegrass transition by Dennis Hancock

E

figure). Cool season forages harvest light energy and turn it into carbohydrates via C3 photosynthesis. There are certain enzymes and proteins involved in C3 photosynthesis that become distorted and unstable when exposed to high temperature. So, hot weather slows down the photosynthetic “assembly line.” Once the temperature goes above 85°F for three to four hours or more per day, this assembly line essentially stops. Consequently, the plants cease to produce vegetative growth. Cool season annuals respond to these conditions by rapidly reallocating most of their resources into setting seed, giving rise to an abundance of seedheads and lower quality forage.

VERY fall, around 3 million acres of bermudagrass and bahiagrass are overseeded with annual ryegrass. The use of ryegrass to extend the grazing season is a great tool to minimize hay feeding. But the transition from annual ryegrass back to summer pasture sometimes comes up fast. In the South, spring is measured in days, not weeks or months. As the temperatures rise, ryegrass goes from lush and vegetative to stemmy and mature over the course of just a few days. So, it is good to have a plan to handle that transition.

Ryegrass can’t handle heat Cool season forages are very sensitive to high temperatures. Once temperatures consistently get above 75°F for three to four hours or more per day, cool season forages cannot grow rapidly (see

Anticipate rapid growth One of the major challenges in using ryegrass is that its forage production is

Growth of cool season and warm season grasses in response to canopy temperature.

Relative growth

Warm season grasses

skewed to the end of the season. Almost all of its production comes in the last 60 days. For the first four to five months after planting, ryegrass typically grows less than 40 pounds of dry matter per acre per day. In the last 40 to 60 days, it may grow more than 200 pounds of dry matter per acre per day! Just as ryegrass enters its rapid growth phase, veteran growers have noticed the canopy floor often gets covered with a white mass of adventitious roots and the cobweb-like mycelia of fungi, which grow in association with the roots (see photo). An old-timer once told me, “Those white roots and web were so that ryegrass would stay anchored, otherwise it grows so fast it would jump out of the ground.” His humorous take on this observation has proven to be a useful visual clue to determine when ryegrass growth starts to skyrocket. Most will stock ryegrass pastures on the basis of its early season growth rate and may not have the high stock densities necessary to keep up with the growth in March and April. Understocked pastures end up with

Cool season grasses DENNIS HANCOCK The author is an associate professor and extension forage specialist at the University of Georgia.

40

50

60

70

80

Temperature, °F

30 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2016

90

100


a massive amount of ryegrass that is growing over the top of bermudagrass and bahiagrass. This is challenging to these warm season perennials, as they are trying to wake up from winter dormancy at this same time. As a result, the bermudagrass or bahiagrass underneath the ryegrass is severely weakened and starved for sunlight, water and nutrients. Research in North Carolina showed that bermudagrass yields were reduced by 40 to 50 percent when the fields were overseeded with ryegrass and the ryegrass was taken as a hay cutting. There is also some evidence to suggest that ryegrass can be allelopathic, meaning it exudes chemicals that suppress other plants that grow near it. The risk of ryegrass allelopathy is highest when the ryegrass is stressed by disease, heat stress or drought.

Have a plan Despite these risks, annual ryegrass is a great forage and quite cost-effective because it reduces the need for winter hay feeding. However, you need a plan to deal with the rapid spring growth rate. One helpful tactic is to

reduce or avoid late winter or spring nitrogen (N) applications on some paddocks. For example, you may have 10 paddocks in a rotationally grazed system and choose not to apply N on two or more of them after February. This will avoid promoting too much forage production. Another useful tactic is to raise the grazing pressure on the ryegrass. Do this by adding more livestock or by changing the rotation sequence. For example, a livestock producer may see that three or four of his 10 paddocks are going to be well beyond the target grazing height by the time the rotation brings the herd back to them. So, take those three or four ryegrass paddocks out of the grazing rotation and cut those paddocks for baled silage (or hay if drying conditions allow). Alternatively, one could take the ryegrass out of the three or four paddocks that were just grazed by applying 1.5 ounces of Pastora herbicide per acre once it has begun to regrow. This should kill the ryegrass and release the bermudagrass. Don’t use Pastora for this purpose in bahiagrass pastures, as Pastora will kill bahiagrass. Also, don’t

use Pastora on fields where summer annual forage plantings are planned.

Feed the summer grass Once the bermudagrass or bahiagrass emerges from the literal shadow of the annual ryegrass, it is crucial to provide nutrition so that it will recover quickly. Immediately after ryegrass growth ceases or is terminated, provide the summer pasture with 50 to 75 pounds of N per acre and any phosphorus that may be recommended based on the soil test. Unless the soil test potassium (K) level is high enough that none is recommended, apply at least an equivalent amount of K 2O per acre as the N rate being applied. Keep in mind that a good ryegrass crop may remove or tie-up the equivalent of more than 200 pounds of K2O per acre during the season. Even with more uniform manure distribution in rotationally grazed pastures, there still can be K-deficient areas. Apply any additional K that is recommended based on the soil test levels in early August through mid-September. This is when K applications can most effectively strengthen bermudagrass and bahiagrass as root reserves are beginning to be stored for winter dormancy. •

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Missing back issues? Visit: hayandforage.com/issues to view previous issues online. 38 Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2016

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RESEARCH ROUND-UP

Sulfur found deficient in Michigan alfalfa Results of a 2015 statewide survey evaluating the sulfur status of alfalfa in Michigan were recently reported by Phil Kaatz, Michigan State University extension educator. Plant tissue samples were collected from fields located across the state. A total of 52 samples were analyzed from second, third, and fourth cuttings. Sulfur deficiency was most prominent after the initial spring harvest. Of the tested samples, 38 percent were found to be deficient in sulfur; deficiency was defined as less than 0.25 percent. Another 14 percent of the samples fell into a range that was barely adequate (0.25 to 0.27 percent sulfur). Only 8 percent of the samples tested in the high range (>0.50 percent). The greatest concentration of deficient fields was found in the Upper Peninsula and northern regions, where 58 percent of the samples fell below adequate levels. The deficiencies were attributed to a higher prominence of coarse textured soils. In the Thumb region, where the lowest percent of deficient samples were found, soils are finer textured and routine manure applications are more common. If sulfur deficiency is suspected, Kaatz recommends a tissue test confirmation followed by a good sulfur fertility program. Annual applications of sulfur may be needed on fields with a history of sulfur deficiency. View detailed results on the MSU website at bit.ly/ HFG-MSU-S.

Alfalfa nitrogen credits in California Alfalfa fixes significant amounts of nitrogen (N) that benefits a subsequent grass crop and reduces or eliminates the need to purchase N fertilizer. The amount of available N, often referred to as the N credit, can vary based on factors such as stand age, environment, and soil type. Many studies have been done in rain-fed regions of the U.S. to quantify the appropriate N credit under a given set of circumstances. Fewer studies have been done in the semi-arid, irrigated regions of the West. Currently, California recommendations are 40 to 80 pounds of N per acre, lower than what is recommended in most humid regions. Researchers at the University of California-Davis evaluated the N-credit question at experimental locations in Tulelake (north), Davis (southern Sacramento Valley), and Kearney (San Joaquin Valley). Wheat was grown after either 2.5 or more years of alfalfa or a sudangrass-wheat rotation. Nitrogen treatments on the subsequent wheat crop ranged from 0 to 250 pounds per acre to assess and contrast alfalfa’s N contribution. Following two years of experimentation (2013 and 2014), it was determined that the alfalfa N credit at Kearney, on a sandy soil, was about 50 pounds per acre. On the heavier clay loam soils of Tulelake and Davis, an N credit of 125 pounds per acre was documented. The results were higher than anticipated and mostly well above current recommendations. The study was reported at the 2015 Western Alfalfa and Forage Conference, and more detailed results can be viewed online at bit.ly/HFG-CA-N.

Performance differences of warm season annuals Warm season annual forages supplement forage supplies or extend the grazing season. Species such as forage sorghum, sorghum-sudangrass, and pearl millet are popular choices, but varieties of these species are often not selected with the same rigor as other cool season forage options. To be confident of selections, testing in multiple environments is needed. Researchers at the University of Georgia completed a project where performance data from several testing environments was combined and analyzed. Data was merged from the testing programs at the University of Georgia (1998-2014), University of Kentucky (2001-2014), Virginia Tech (2009-2014), and the Noble Foundation (2001-2010). Varieties were excluded if fewer than six site-year comparisons weren’t available. Yields were expressed as a percentage of the trial mean for a particular site-year test, and then these values were averaged across all site-years where a particular variety was tested.

The final analysis included performance data for 34 sorghum-sudangrass varieties, 22 forage sorghum varieties, and 15 pearl millet varieties. Relative yield for sorghum-sudangrass varieties ranged from 75 to 120 percent of test means, indicating a wide range in performance differences. Forage sorghum varieties ranged from 82 to 122 percent, while commercial varieties of pearl millet spanned from 93 to 106 percent. In addition to relative yield, a coefficient of variation (CV) was also calculated for each variety. The CV is a statistical measure of how consistent a variety performs across multiple locations and years. A low CV (below 10 percent) represents more consistent performance. Results of this study were reported at the American Forage and Grassland Conference in Baton Rouge, La., last January. The data can be viewed at bit.ly/HFG-WSAG. April/May 2016 | hayandforage.com | 41


HAY MARKET UPDATE Subscribe to

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Out with the old, in with the new Demand has stayed light to moderate throughout the winter in most U.S. regions. Hay producers are now trying to clean out storage facilities in anticipation of the new harvest. In Southern California and Arizona, alfalfa harvest is underway. According to USDA reports,

U.S. hay acres in 2016 will be similar to last year. The prices below were primarily obtained from USDA hay market reports in early April. Prices are FOB barn/stack for large square bales unless otherwise noted (abbreviations are below table). •

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

Washington (Columbia Basin) 125-140 Price $/ton 220-246 Wisconsin 100-140 150 Wyoming (central/western) 120 140 (d) Fair-quality alfalfa Price $/ton 270 (d) Illinois (northern) 120-160 163-170 Iowa (Rock Valley) 90-110 150-180 Kansas (northwest) 65-85 175-210 Minnesota (Pipestone)-lrb 65-85 180-200 Missouri 100-120 200 Montana-lrb 100-120 215-225 Nebraska (northeast/central) 140 165-175 Nebraska (western) 85-90 200-220 Oregon (Klamath Basin) 110 115-130 Pennsylvania (southeast) 110-130 South Dakota (Corsica)-lrb 98 Price $/ton 210-220 South Dakota (western)-lrb 60-70 160-175 Utah (southern) 90-100 200 Wisconsin 45-85 180 Wyoming (eastern)-lrb 104 (d) 230-260 (d) Bermudagrass hay Price $/ton 160-180 Alabama-Premium lrb 130 140-175 Alabama-Premium ssb 180-300 150-190 Texas (Panhandle)-Good/Premium 180 (d) 135-150 Texas (north, central, east)-G/P ssb 231-297 200 Texas (south)-Good/Premium lrb 80-120 120-130 Bromegrass hay Price $/ton 250 Kansas (north central/east)-Good ssb 120-145 200 Kansas (southeast) Good 95-110 200-245 Missouri-Fair to Good 50-80 180 Orchardgrass hay Price $/ton 110-120 California (north SJV)-Premium 360 (d) 140 California (Sacramento Valley)-Good 160 160-210 Colorado (southwest)-Premium-ssb 233 Illinois (southern)-Fair-lrb 100 Price $/ton 100 Oregon-Premium ssb 230-250 150 Virginia-Good-lrb 95 130 Timothy hay Price $/ton 125 Montana-Premium ssb 180-200 140-200 Montana-Good lrb 120 240 Oregon (Lake County)-Premium ssb 200 140-160 Pennsylvania (southeast)-Good 170-230 115-130 Washington (Columbia Basin)-Prem.-ssb 260 120-160 Oat hay Price $/ton 120-150 California (Sacramento Valley) 120 165 Idaho-Good 105 75-85 Iowa (Rock Valley)-lrb 70 70-100 Kansas (south central) 60-70 160 Oregon (Lake County)-Good 150 145-190 Straw Price $/ton 200 Illinois (northern) 120-125 100-120 Iowa (oat) 105 145-155 Kansas (southeast) 60-70 160 Montana (northern)-lrb 40 90-100 Pennsylvania (southeast) 150-210 201-210 South Dakota (Corsica)-lrb 40-48

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

42 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2016


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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. ©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 U.S. domestic use. 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. HarvXtra™ is a trademark of Forage Genetics International, LLC. HarvXtra™ Alfalfa with Roundup Ready ® Technology is enabled with technology from The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Inc. Genuity Design ®, Genuity Icons, Genuity ®, Roundup Ready ® are trademarks of Monsanto Technology LLC. © 2016 W-L Research.


Stay up to date at hayandforage.com Hay & Forage Grower Online • News and intelligence from the field

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