Hay & Forage Grower - Apr/May 2018

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April/May 2018

Published by W.D. Hoard & Sons Co.

Early adopter is an understatement pg 16 Observations from New Zealand pg 24 Legume-finished beef pg 30 Quality in hand pg 32



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April/May 2018 · VOL. 33 · No. 4 MANAGING EDITOR Michael C. Rankin ART DIRECTOR Ryan D. Ebert ONLINE MANAGER Patti J. Hurtgen DIRECTOR OF MARKETING John R. Mansavage ADVERTISING SALES Jan C. Ford jford@hoards.com Kim E. Zilverberg kzilverberg@hayandforage.com ADVERTISING COORDINATOR Patti J. Kressin pkressin@hayandforage.com W.D. HOARD & SONS

6 He’s a master hay farmer and educator


This western New York hay producer credits much of the farm’s success to family involvement. He also strives for success in the classroom.

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

Early adopter is an understatement


Reduced-lignin alfalfa offers flexibility


This Georgia rotational grazer has been learning for 50 years.

A six-state study confirms that reduced-lignin alfalfa deserves consideration.

Hand-held NIRS units are easy to use, but won’t replace your forage-testing lab.


16 8





DEPARTMENTS 4 First Cut 12 Pasture Pondering 14 Feed Analysis 19 Forage Gearhead 22 Beef Feedbunk 28 Forage Shop Talk








34 36 46 46

Dairy Feedbunk Machine Shed Forage IQ Hay Market Update

In-hand forage quality




ON THE COVER Mike Stefan checks the early-fall growth of one of his hayfields. Stefan farms in North Collins, N.Y., and produces hay, corn, soybeans, and grapes on about 2,200 owned and rented acres. But there’s much more to his story, which can be found on page 6. Photo by Mike Rankin

HAY & FORAGE GROWER (ISSN 0891-5946) copyright © 2018 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 2018 | hayandforage.com | 3

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Bad timing


ERBERT Hoover received plenty of accolades prior to his presidency for a wide range of humanitarian efforts. He was overwhelmingly elected as our 31st president in 1928. Hoover assumed office early in 1929 and on October 24 of that year the U.S. stock market crashed and the Great Depression ensued. Hoover believed in a limited government role and largely invoked that approach during his term. He also became extremely unpopular for his hands-off policies regarding the economic crisis and was ousted from office during the next election by Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal. Politics and personal beliefs aside, Herbert Hoover was largely a victim of bad timing. Who among us hasn’t also been on the losing end of a timing decision? Has anyone cut hay prior to a previously unpredicted rain event? Who bought Facebook stock two months ago? There’s an old cowboy proverb that goes something like this: Timing has a lot to with the outcome of a rain dance. No truer words have ever been spoken. So many of our successes and failures in life and work are purely a function of timing. Good timing can be the residue of hard work, experience, knowledge, and foresight. It also can occur because of nothing more than blind luck. Conversely, like Hoover’s experience, sometimes bad timing is simply the result of factors beyond our control, or bad luck. I’ve always maintained that timing is perhaps the greatest factor governing a farm’s success and profitability. Sure, there’s plenty of new “tech” that is touted to farmers and ranchers and these tools can also enhance financial success. But without good timing, their utility can quickly become neutralized. Even the marketers of new technology will agree with this premise. Perhaps nobody lives with the conse-

Mike Rankin Managing Editor

quences of good and bad timing more so than a forage producer. Let’s be frank: There are some producers who seem to consistently put up good-quality forage every year. These are the ones who are always ready to go, even given the tightest of harvest windows. Others seem to constantly struggle with forage yield and quality issues, seemingly never able to pull the trigger when it needs to be pulled. Moving to the pasture, some livestock producers never have a problem with overgrazing and are able to time cattle movement from paddock to paddock with thoughtful precision. They seem to know when to supplement hay and when not to. Their decision-making is impeccable, and they are mostly rewarded for their attention to timing. Unlike seed, feed, fertilizer, machinery, or polywire, timing is not a sold commodity, yet the impact on profitability may be much greater. Why? It’s because good and poor timing often cost the same in terms of real dollars, but the outcomes of good and poor timing are dramatically different when forage quality, yield, and animal performance are considered. This is the case whether we are talking about planting dates, harvest dates, timing of weed control, fertilizer applications, or timing of cattle movement on pastures. Good timing is often a residue of good planning. Planning involves the ability to be nimble and quickly change plans on the fly when unforeseen circumstances, such as drought, present themselves. We can’t control weather or markets, but we can control our timing decisions. Further, good timing is a learned skill. As we move into the 2018 growing season, put timing at the top of the priority list. •

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

4 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2018

S:7.875 in

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Stefan Hay Company grows and harvests nearly 1,000 acres of orchardgrass and timothy hay each year on their western New York farm.

He’s a master hay farmer and educator by Mike Rankin


EBSTER defines the word unique as “being without a like or equal.” I wasn’t searching for unique when I first called Mike Stefan last fall; I was just looking for a commercial hay farm to visit, and Stefan Hay Company in North Collins, N.Y., seemed to fit the bill. I got the hay farm that I desired. I also got unique. At first glance, the Stefan operation grades out like a lot of other farms: nearly 1,000 acres of hay (including new seedings), 500 acres of corn, and 500 acres of soybeans. However, those traditional crops are paired with 186 acres of grapevines. Drilling down on those hay acres, you won’t find 1 acre of alfalfa. Stefan grows an equal amount of pure orchardgrass and pure timothy hay. That’s the way it’s always been. To draw on the theme of an old country tune, he was all grass before all grass was cool. But wait . . . there’s more. Each summer for a period of several weeks, Stefan moves his operation about 120 miles to the northeast, near 6 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2018

the shores of Lake Ontario, and bales 2,000 to 3,000 acres of wheat straw. Finally, and it’s a big finally, Mike Stefan is a full-time middle school teacher and has been for a long time. How does it all happen? The answer is an easy one: Stefan Hay Company is a family farm in every sense of the concept. Mike’s wife, Dolly, is an emergency room nurse. The couple has four children: Dylan (18 years old), Tyler (16), Ryan (13), and Carrisa (11). The farm has only two full-time employees. “My dad helped me a lot in the early years, and now the kids are an integral part of what we do,” Stefan said. “They keep things moving when I’m tied up at school or working away from home. The boys can operate any piece of equipment we have. In fact, some of the workers prefer to talk to my sons over me,” he chuckled.

In the beginning The home Stefan farm, which consists of 210 acres, wasn’t always a diversified hay farm. Mike’s dad was a dairy farmer, but that wasn’t going to fit the

younger Stefan’s goal of teaching, and he really didn’t have a desire to milk cows. However, he also didn’t want to lose the family’s farm. Stefan started in the hay business in 1999, a couple of years after he started his teaching career. At that time, his dad was still milking and there wasn’t any extra land available on the home farm; it was needed to feed the 70 dairy cows. He bought a large square baler and started doing custom work for the neighbors. “The learning curve was steep,” recalled Stefan of those early days. “Big square bales just weren’t common, and most of my customers had to figure out how to handle and feed them. I had to figure out how to bale them. Some bales were too tight, others were too loose. Working with that early hay preservative equipment was also a challenge. Small square bales still ruled the day,” he added. In addition to custom baling, Stefan also made some of his own hay from rented acres. “My creditor mentioned that I was doing pretty well with what hay I was selling and that maybe I should concentrate on that side of the

business. By that time, more people were getting into the custom baling business, and it was a good time to transition,” he added.

In search of CRP It was on the advice of a hay broker friend that Stefan started seeking out Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land to build an acreage base. “I found out where the CRP land was and would contact the owner to see when it was coming out of the program, then I’d offer to farm it,” Stefan explained. “Sometimes I’d slip them $100 to give me a call when their contract expired. The custom work gradually went away,” he added. These days, Stefan owns 500 acres and rents another 1,700. What hasn’t changed is that he has always grown pure grass hay. At first, he only seeded orchardgrass. The timothy acres were added about 10 years ago. “The timothy market kind of found me as more dairy farms were in search of straight timothy,” the Empire State hay farmer said. “I knew if I tried to grow alfalfa that my hay would be too variable with alfalfa in the high spots and grass in the low spots,” Stefan explained. “I wanted a pure product and one where it was easy to control weeds.” Initially, Stefan produced

orchardgrass hay because dairy farmers had an interest in putting a little dry hay into their total mixed rations. Now, Stefan’s orchardgrass and timothy are also sought by dairy farmers as an effective calf, heifer, and dry cow fiber source that is palatable. Nearly all of Stefan’s production goes to Northeast dairy farms, stretching from Pennsylvania to Maine. Many, of course, are in New York. Stefan noted that a lot of his customers have highend cow genetics and show cows.

Quality grass and straw Stefan will usually seed his orchardgrass or timothy fields in the spring, but there are years when he will seed in the late summer. If seeded in the spring, he also will include some oats as a companion crop for his timothy seeding fields. Stefan buys an orchardgrass variety mixture, planting 18 pounds of seed per acre. He generally obtains yields of 3.5 to 4 tons per acre from his orchardgrass fields, which are harvested four times per year. “We usually quit baling about mid-October when the time changes,” Stefan noted. Timothy is seeded at 15 pounds per acre, yielding about 4.5 tons per acre on two cuttings. Broadleaf weeds are controlled

Kristin Schlenker

Stefan Hay Company

Stefan Hay Company fills and ships 100 semi loads of wheat straw that they buy behind the combine each summer. Family is key to Stefan Hay Company’s success: Pictured are Ryan, Tyler, Dolly, Mike, Dylan, and Carrisa. Mike Stefan poses with some of his technology class students. He has taught for 21 years and said, “I teach because I love it.”

using 2,4-D, and hayfields generally stay productive for five to seven years. About 50 pounds of nitrogen per acre is applied after each grass cutting in the form of urea ammonium nitrogen (UAN). The machinery inventory is maintained to efficiently harvest for a high-quality grass crop. Stefan’s lineup includes a 16-foot Massey Ferguson mower equipped with a double conditioner, two 57-foot Kuhn tedders, a Kuhn wheel rake, two bale loaders, and two Case IH 3 by 4 balers. Stefan Hay Company also runs four semitrucks and trailers. It’s between hay harvests during the summer, and when school is out, that the Stefan crew makes their way northeast to bale wheat straw. They work from near New York’s northern border down to almost the Pennsylvania state line. Stefan buys straw behind the combine at four to five different farms. His two Case IH balers make enough straw to fill over 100 semi loads each year off the field. “The straw market really picked up when dairy farmers started using it as a feed ration component,” Stefan explained. “Most of the straw we load on the trucks in the field and deliver it directly to the customer. If a truck is going home, we’ll unload it there and store it.”

A passionate teacher With nearly 1,000 acres of hay, an equal amount of row crops, and 186 acres of grapevines, there would seem to be plenty to keep a farm owner occupied. But Mike Stefan is a teacher with several degrees, including a master’s degree in education. Stefan teaches at the SpringvilleGriffith Institute Central School District. He currently instructs his middle school students on a range of technology topics in the district’s industrial technology department. A typical school day begins at 4 a.m. for the teacher-farmer. He spends a little time at home doing billing, checking emails, and taking care of other farm business. He likes to be at school by 6:30 a.m. where he prepares for the day’s classes. After school, he’s back home to take care of any remaining farm duties, which are at least less demanding during the winter months. “I teach because I love it,” Stefan said. “It’s been my profession for 21 years. Farming, on the other hand, is my lifestyle. This all works because of my family.” To be sure, a unique operation in many ways. • April/May 2018 | hayandforage.com | 7

Strive for hay-feeding efficiency by Evan Whitley

8 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2018

Rob Mattson, Noble Research Institute


UMINANTS have a distinct advantage compared to other livestock because of their ability to process highly fibrous, otherwise nonutilizable, feedstuffs into a marketable product. They also thrive in geographic regions that would otherwise go underutilized. Oftentimes, this conversion advantage is only referenced to specific, industry-related outcomes such as body condition, parturition, and/or weight gain. However, a bigger picture perspective points to the societal benefits these animals possess. This is especially true for cattle based on their contribution to human-consumable protein (per capita beef consumption is approximately 55 pounds) and the overall magnitude of the cattle industry’s economic impact ($88.25 billion in receipts). Considering beef’s broader contribution and the likelihood that hay and pasture costs comprise between 30 to 35 percent of a spring-calving cow herd’s total production cost, it is imperative for operations to strive for efficient capture, allocation, and utilization of forage resources. This can be done through a systematic grazing plan and an efficient supplemental feeding program that includes hay as a potential option. Whether hay is raised or purchased and regardless of quality, it’s important to ensure we get the most from its consumption. If hay will be supplemented, there is no substitute for a nutrient analysis. Testing is preferably done prior to purchasing and especially before feeding to determine any major deficiencies and additional nutrient needs. Your allocation is also important and can alter the overall efficiency by which the hay’s “stored” nutrients are utilized. Most often, allocation consists of a hay bale placed in the middle of a pasture, or next to mineral and a water source. Although this is commonly the case, it isn’t the most efficient means of feeding hay. Minimally, use a bale ring to maintain the integrity of the bale for as long as possible and to reduce losses caused by trampling and contamination from urination and defecation. To further reduce wastage, consider labor availability and minimize the amount of hay offered, but be

sure to meet the daily intake needs of the animals being fed, especially if a hay ring isn’t being used.

The method matters The delivery method of forages stimulates intake and affects consumption. For example, driving into a pasture brings cattle up to a feeding area, which stimulates greater feed and supplement intake compared to simply setting out a bale of hay. Many producers are trying to further improve the overall efficiency of feeding hay and are investigating other means of allocation. Bale processors are one such mechanism of choice and are used to deliver hay in both pasture (windrows or troughs) and pen environments. Here at the Noble Research Institute, we have been processing hay at our Oswalt cattle facility for the last year and feeding cows and calves in windrows and bunks. Vermeer Corporation has helped us with technical assistance and with evaluating equipment and accessories. From a strictly nutritional perspective, processing (lightly chopping) hay improves utilization by allowing easier access to structural and nonstructural carbohydrates by the rumen’s microbial population. This is especially true for roughages that are lower in quality. Digestibility typically improves 10 to 12 percent anytime a forage is processed. Operationally, the processor is very easy to use and does a good job of uniformly chopping most roughage sources, including bermudagrass, alfalfa, soybean, rye/ryegrass, switchgrass, and native grasses. Overall, we have witnessed less wastage when “windrowing” the hay

for cows on pasture, but we have had some difficulty feeding in our concrete bunks, especially during high winds. As with any piece of equipment, we continue to learn more and better ways to use it. A good example is using the processor to cover newly constructed pond dams and right-of-ways, where it worked very well and raised organic matter in those areas.

Cost versus benefit As one would imagine, the biggest potential downside is the machine cost. This must be weighed on a case-by-case basis depending on the size of the operation, access to resources such as labor and capital, and the value placed upon convenience. Overall hay quality may also be a consideration. For large cattle operations, the expense can be spread across a greater number of head, providing a greater economy of scale. Backgrounding operations have the ability to use a bale processor more often throughout the year. For smaller producers, convenience may be an important consideration. With good equipment care, a bale processor should last for many years. Processing of feedstuffs isn’t a new idea. Using a bale processor is just a new way of accomplishing the task. •

EVAN WHITLEY The author is the cattle systems contract research manager for the Noble Research Institute.



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3/20/18 10:20 AM

Too good to be true by Kim Mullenix


HEN feeding hay or baleage to beef cattle, quality is king. However, can stored forage quality actually be too good? Are there “forage extremes” that should be avoided when feeding beef cattle? The best place to start this discussion is by reviewing cow nutrient requirements. Beef cattle nutrient and energy needs start climbing 60 days prior to calving and reach their highest point during the 60 days following calving, or peak lactation. Energy and protein demands average 60 percent total digestible nutrients (TDN) and 12 percent crude protein (CP) for a 1,200-pound, mature brood cow in peak lactation. Cow nutrient needs decline as it moves closer to weaning a calf because of lower lactation demands. After weaning, a dry, pregnant brood cow often requires a diet that is 48 percent TDN and 7 percent CP, which leads to the question — is some hay “too good” for my cows during certain periods of the production cycle? The following provides some rules of thumb for evaluating hay and making the most efficient use of high-quality stored forage nutrients in the herd.

Match quality to needs Know the forage quality and match it with animal requirements — use the best hay to meet the greatest demands and reserve lower quality forage for dry, 10 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2018

pregnant cows. Feed higher quality hay (58 percent TDN and 10 percent CP) to cattle as they enter the calving season because nutrient demands change rapidly during this time. A higher plane of nutrition beginning 60 days prior to calving allows cows to better maintain body condition score. Cattle entering into peak lactation, first-calf heifers, and replacement heifers have the greatest nutrient needs and may be better suited for feeding the highest quality stored forage.

Feeding options exist A diet much greater than 12 percent CP means that we are exceeding the CP needs of a lactating beef cow. This could easily be the reality with good-quality cool-season grass hay, legume hay, or baleage. If the crude protein needs are exceeded, where does the extra go? You guessed it . . . most of the time excess protein that is not used by the animal ends up being excreted in the urine, which can amount to quite a bit of “free” nitrogen that is going elsewhere in the system. Is there a way to capture some of the extra and make use of those valuable nutrients? There are three potential paths to do so. Use a limit-feeding approach: Reducing the amount of time cattle have access to hay may improve hay use efficiency with high-quality stored

forage by limiting forage intake and subsequently more intentionally trying to match pounds of forage TDN and CP with daily animal needs. A limit-feeding approach is only recommended with higher quality forage. A research trial by Purdue University evaluated how much hay mature cows will consume when free-choice access to hay was reduced to a few hours per day. When access was restricted to four hours per day, hay consumption was reduced by roughly 20 percent. Estimating the amount of forage consumed when limit-feeding hay is important so that the diet can be supplemented correctly as needed to maintain animal performance. Whereas it may seem counterintuitive to supplement high-quality hay, when used in a limit-feeding approach, this may be a way to stretch hay supplies and efficiently meet cattle nutrient demands. A helpful guide on limit-feeding hay can be found in an extension guide

KIM MULLENIX The author is a beef specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service based in Auburn.

from South Dakota State University at http:\\bit.ly/HFG-SDSU-limit. Dilute: High-quality hay or baleage may be used more effectively by providing a ratio of good to mid-quality bales at the time of feeding. If the quality of various lots of forage on the operation differ, providing one high-quality bale for every one or two mid-quality bales may help even out the playing field in terms of diet quality for the animal, especially for animals with lower nutrient requirements. While it is true that cattle will tend to eat the best-quality forage first, they will then move to the lower quality forage. This can have a positive associative effect on the digestion of the lower quality forage in the diet. High-quality forage provides the fuel for rumen microbes to better digest subsequent lower quality forage that might be consumed, thus improving efficiency of digestion and use by the animal.

Distribute nutrients Knowing that cattle recycle a significant amount of what they consume to

the environment (upward of 70 percent), there is an opportunity to uniformly distribute these nutrients on the farm during the hay feeding season. Bale grazing is a method by which rolls of hay are set out systematically across a pasture area before the winter feeding period begins, and cattle are restricted access to them using polywire fencing. Generally, cattle are allocated two to three bales initially, depending on the size of the herd, and more sections are made available as they begin to finish each bale. This strategy provides a more even distribution of nutrients across the field and the potential to capture excess nutrients from hay. A research trial in Canada observed that feeding hay during the winter in a confined area allowed the recovery of only 1 percent of the original nitrogen content of the hay being fed, whereas bale grazing helped recover close to 35 percent of the original nitrogen value. Unrolling round bales on the ground may be another option for capturing excess nutrients, but care must be

taken to only provide the amount of hay that can be consumed by cows in a two-day time period; otherwise, hay losses of up to 40 percent can occur from animals bedding down, urinating, and defecating on loose hay. Moving the location of where bales are unrolled may provide a more even spread of nutrients around the pasture area. Can stored forage quality actually be too good for cows? In short, yes or sometimes, but the reality is often the opposite — the quality is lower than expected. The only way to know the starting point in your winter feeding program is to conduct a forage analysis. This information helps determine the most efficient feeding strategies based on the quality of current forage inventories. •

Additional information on forage analysis methods can be found at www.aces.edu/ go/523.

109 million

head of livestock are fed by forages in the US. This is more than the combined population of the four most populated states of the USA.

1/4 of all acres in the US produces forage, for a total of

528 million acres in forage alone.

An acre of forage can prevent

2 million pounds

June 17–23, 2018

of soil from eroding each year.


50 percent

Forages are the most important plants on earth. Forage grasses provide most of the nutrition for cattle, sheep, goats, horses and other livestock as well as wildlife habitat.

of the total land area of the US is occupied by forage.

Forage accounts for about

25 percent

of the total value of agriculture in the US.

A dairy cow consuming 1 acre of forage for a year can produce enough milk to fill a bowl of cereal that is

14’ x 7’. United States dairy farmers use forage to produce

61.4 million tons

of alfalfa was produced by US farmers in 2015. In small square bales, this would reach from the earth to the moon and back again 24 times.

20 billion gallons

28.9 million tons

of forage was produced by US farmers in 2015, which is equal to the weight of 80 Empire State buildings.

of milk each year. It is enough for each person in the US to drink 1 gallon per week for the entire year.

To learn more, visit http://afgc.org Forage facts compiled by the American Forage & Grassland Council

April/May 2018 | hayandforage.com | 11


by Jesse Bussard

Ranchers learn from network


N LATE January, ranchers and rangeland researchers gathered together in Nevada for the Society for Range Management’s (SRM) 71st Annual Meeting. Among the many sessions held was the Rancher to Rancher Symposium. This halfday session, organized by wildlife ecologist and ranching consultant Kent Reeves, highlighted some of the influential producers and projects part of the Rancher to Rancher (R2R) Network in California. Founded by a coalition of ranchers and soil health and ecology experts, the R2R Network acts as a communication forum for California producers to share ideas with one another. The network was inspired and modeled after a similar program initiated by Graeme Hand and other holistic educators in Australia. In addition, the program is supported by the Regenerative Agriculture Foundation, 11th Hour Project, the TomKat Ranch Education Foundation, and Sallie Calhoun of the Paicines Ranch.

Listen to the land What makes R2R different from other producer groups, Reeves said, is this network isn’t just focused on idea sharing. R2R’s facilitators also work diligently to promote the importance of listening, networking, and communicating. “This is important because when we learn to listen to one another, we also learn how to listen to the land,” said Reeves. “We’re slowing down and really looking at how our soil and land functions. And, if we slow down enough to really hear one another, we might take that knowledge and apply it to other things.” Ranchers who participate in R2R create demonstration sites on their ranch to answer questions they have. These queries might range from how to enhance native grass populations on a particular site to what is the best management tactic to reduce an invasive weed or pest problem. As part of the network, participating ranchers host a learning day for their demonstration sites and invite neighboring producers. “The idea of the learning day is to 12 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2018

open up the discussion so that while you are learning yourself, you are also learning from others who get to see it and they might have a different perspective,” said Reeves. “We come in not as the expert, but as a partner in the process.” At the start, Reeves noted R2R learning days functioned mainly as invitation-only events. This was done to help attendees feel more comfortable to ask questions and talk. Today, however, the discussion has opened up to include many other stakeholders. During the R2R symposium at SRM’s annual meeting, founding members of the program, including Joe Morris of Morris Grassfed Beef and Richard King of Poppy Hill Farm, shared about the history and development of R2R. In addition, lessons learned from demonstration sites, outreach, and data collected, as well as how that information can be practically applied to ranch management, were discussed. Among the presenters was Jeffrey Mundell, ranch manager of Rancho Ciengaga del Gabilan in San Juan Batista, Calif. Mundell shared about his personal experience participating in the R2R Network and the benefits he’s experienced since establishing learning sites on his operation. “Rancher to Rancher has offered me the ability to experiment with different management schemes and see what is working over time,” says Mundell. “I believe we still have a lot to learn here in California about the best way to manage for our social, environmental, and economic challenges.” The symposium ended with a “RancHer to RancHer” session, featuring a panel of women ranchers and moderated by Freestone Ranch grazing manager Ariel Greenwood. The women spoke sincerely about the joys and challenges of working on the land, relationships with family, and their involvement in community outreach efforts with urban communities. “The RancHer to RancHer session allowed hardworking women in ranching to articulate the ways in which they’ve been held back by men and the ways that men’s support matters,” said Greenwood, who not only moderated but

also participated in the panel. “I think it was the first time some men in the audience heard the specifics of those gender dynamics, and we got great feedback on it.”

Plans to expand Overall, Reeves said, “The workshop at SRM made my heart soar. People came to hear ranchers’ stories. We had about 50 to 75 people throughout the session, and during the final hour we did a grounding circle with 20 people that included the original (founding) ranchers, essentially modeling what we do at the R2R days.” While still only open to California producers, Reeves and his partners in R2R hope to expand the network into new regions such as Nevada, Texas, and Hawaii. Currently, the next R2R learning day is scheduled for April 20th at the Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve in San Diego County, Calif. Going forward, Reeves and his counterparts plan to continue to search for ways to build upon, diversify, and grow the existing R2R Network. “We want to keep helping ranchers better understand ecosystem processes and functions,” said Reeves. “We’ll always be trying to find ways to do that better and get more people involved.” While he knows their methods are slow, Reeves said, it’s still one more rancher reached each time and that’s what matters. • Learn more about the R2R Network and how to get involved at https://soilcarboncoalition.org/R2R/.

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


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by John Goeser

Working through winterkill


N AN already challenging agriculture economy, it may seem like this year has little positive to offer — especially if substantial winterkill of forage stands has occurred on your farm. However, with each challenging situation comes a shred of opportunity, regardless of how small that opportunity may appear. The most impactful path for improving your farm’s year-over-year margin is through aggressively managing forage quality. If your fields experienced winterkill, embrace the opportunity to implement alternative forage strategies and crop options. Experience here will prove valuable for your farm in the long run. When working to understand winterkill, recognize that freezing and thawing, minimal snow pack (insulation) and/or flooding can cause substantial alfalfa plant damage. Cold-tolerant alfalfa varieties can withstand temperatures as low as 5°F. However, with a thaw or minimal to nonexistent snow cover, the ground may reach dangerously cold temperatures and can kill off alfalfa plants by freezing. With freezing and thawing cycles, both heaving and ice sheets can kill alfalfa stands. Heaving uproots the crown and ice sheets limit air exchange with the soil, concentrating toxic metabolites at the crown and injuring the plant. Research shows us that alfalfa can tolerate up to three weeks under an ice sheet before incurring damage. With a better understanding of winterkill causative factors, reflect upon the conditions your fields experienced and then move to assess your fields’ status.

Assess the situation Watch fields for slow or uneven growth as plants break dormancy. Research has suggested that stands with less than 55 stems per square foot are aging or injured, and yield will be depressed relative to healthy stands. When the stem count is less than 40 stems per square foot, think about replacing the stand. Use the following equation to estimate yield losses with winter-damaged fields for partial budgeting purposes: Yield (tons per acre) = (Stems per square foot x 0.1) + 0.38. For example, at 45 versus 55 stems per square foot, the tons per acre (dry matter) and dry 14 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2018

In assessing alfalfa winter survival, monitor fields for slow or uneven growth as plants begin to break dormancy. Consider replacing the stand if there are less than 40 stems per square foot.

hay equivalent losses would be 1 and 1.1 tons, respectively. At a $150 per-ton dry hay value, this could be equated to approximately $170 per-acre loss for the year. This value can then be used in a partial budget for evaluating alternative options. Unfortunately, stem counts need to be made as the crop is standing. Consult with your crop adviser and evaluate root damage prior to that.

Play it conservative There are two options with an injured stand: Nurse the stand back to health or replace it. If the stand is young or only modestly damaged, try to nurse the stand back to health. Allow the crop to mature to bloom stage during the year’s cuttings. Waiting to cut allows the plant opportunity to replenish carbohydrate reserves and affords the plants the best opportunity to recover. Raise the cut height to allow new shoots to develop and flourish. Aggressively control weeds to avoid alfalfa competition and then fertilize the stand. Do not take a late-fall cutting. Consult with your nutritionist and discuss how this mature crop may be allocated as it will not be dairy quality feed. Seeding a high-quality forage grass (2 to 10 pounds per acre, depending on species) into a damaged alfalfa stand may be an option; however, consult with your crop adviser for variety selection and guidance. Alfalfa is difficult to reseed into an existing stand due to autotoxicity unless the stands are young.

Other forage options If replacing the stand, make the next decision based on forage inventory and the current hay and high-fiber (forage replacing) commodity market prices. Ask yourself, “How soon is the forage needed?” For early season tonnage needs, forage oat is one of the best options. When

seeded at around 60 pounds per acre, it can yield over 2 tons of dry matter per acre. For yield and protein needs, seed peas along with the oats. Oats are not an ideal option from a forage quality standpoint as fiber digestibility is inferior relative to other grasses. If forage inventory can be stretched, planting a higher quality grass, forage sorghum, or silage corn is often the desirable choice. As a midseason harvest solution, forage sorghum, especially brown midrib hybrids, can provide greater yield relative to oats and improved fiber digestibility if harvested when immature (less than a 36-inch height). Another midseason solution, cool-season grasses such as ryegrass or meadow fescue have exceptional forage quality but may be slower to establish and not tolerate hot, summer conditions as well as sorghum. Lastly, when forage demands are not urgent, the best late-season harvest option is planting silage-specific corn. Before pulling the tillage equipment or planter out of the shed, bring your agronomy and nutritional team together to talk about what options are sound for your farm. Consider yield opportunities and balance that against forage quality using a partial budget approach. Put pen to paper and evaluate the economic impact when making final strategy decisions. Most of all, remember to stay positive. •

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.

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Ted and Patsy Hughes take land stewardship seriously. Over the course of nearly 50 years they have transformed a worn-out cotton farm into a productive, rotationally-grazed grass mecca.

Early adopter is an understatement by Mike Rankin


Hughes tried his luck at the University HERE are some people you meet of Georgia. “I loved agriculture and in life whom you’ll never forget, nor wanted to learn but really struggled do you ever want to. For me, count with some of those first classes,” Hughes Ted and Patsy Hughes in that category. said. “I was way out of my league.” Ted, an amiable Georgia catHughes, however, was as tleman from Comer, Ga., has likable then as he is today lived a life of grass like few and developed a rapport with others. Talking to Hughes several of his professors. As it about rotational grazing is turned out, instead of learnmuch akin to having a conPatsy and Ted Hughes ing in their classrooms, versation with Thomas Edithe professors and Hughes son regarding the lightbulb. flipped the switch and turned the Unlike Edison, however, Hughes small Hughes farm into a learning is very much alive and active at the and teaching laboratory. Essentially, age of 75. Hughes would be homeschooled with his “In 1966, my wife, Patsy, and I bought farm being the classroom. 25 acres of the farm where she was That role continues into the present. born and raised; it was a worn-out “At the time, Elvis Beaty was the cotton farm,” explained Hughes last fall Georgia forage agronomist,” Hughes from the kitchen table in their home. As recalled. “He came out to my farm and a matter of fact, at that time, Oglethowe talked. He recommended that I start rpe County was a giant, red sore on the something called rotational grazing. He map. Farmers tilled the soil and grew said, ‘Ted, people will probably laugh cotton until there was no topsoil left.” at what you’re doing, but you’ll be way After spending some time in the Navy,

ahead of your time.’” That conversation was the beginning of a long road and learning curve. In 1970, Hughes started simple by splitting a few pastures for his cows. Through the years, additional land was purchased and rented, mistakes were made, more fences were installed, and the cattle herd grew. The red dirt, over time, turned green with grass. Along with it, the soils became more fertile and were able to produce even more grass and legumes. As it turned out, Elvis Beaty was right — Ted Hughes was way ahead of his time.

Still learning As Hughes and I rode around on his Kawasaki Mule, there was seemingly a stop and story or lesson at every fence post. The teaching and learning never stops on Chantilly Farm; nor does the grass stop growing. These days, the farm consists of 210 acres with 150 owned. Not all of the Inset photo: Becky Mills

16 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2018

acreage is grazeable with woods and a couple of ponds dotting the landscape — about 160 acres is in permanent pasture. He keeps the cattle out of the ponds. Instead, Hughes uses strategically placed permanent, concrete water troughs that provide access to multiples of his 28 paddocks. Many of Hughes’ paddocks are configured into a wagon wheel pattern. With the water source as a hub, fences radiate out like spokes. If needed, paddocks are split with polywire based on forage availability and cattle numbers. Animals are moved frequently through the rotation. “My cattle are accustomed to being moved; they look forward to it,” Hughes said. Walking among the cows, and even the stockers, the animals were docile, a clear indication that human interaction was not a foreign experience. Hughes also has an indoor facility to work cattle. “It’s easier that way on both man and beast,” he noted. In addition to moving cattle from paddock to paddock on a frequent basis, Hughes encourages the cattle to move themselves as well within a paddock. A portable mineral feeder is pulled to areas where the animals are prone to undergraze. This generally means someplace away from the water. By doing so, the grass is more uniformly utilized and manure nutrients are spread over the entire acreage. Hughes, who understandably has reduced his herd size in recent years, currently runs about 35 Angus cow-calf

pairs while also backgrounding calves and grazing stockers until they hit 800 to 850 pounds. When I was there, he was also running some of his neighbor’s heifers on extra pasture he had available. The mostly A.I.-bred herd calves beginning in January. “Cows are a good place to store forage,” Hughes chuckled. “I like to put a lot of condition on cows through gestation. Having a body condition score of around 7 really pays off when that cow calves. You can’t do that, at least economically, without good pastures.”

A grass farmer A cattleman by any definition, it’s the pastures and grass that really gets Hughes’ mind and mouth moving. “I raise cattle, but my cash crop is grass,” Hughes opined. In the heart of Georgia’s Piedmont region, the pastures on Chantilly Farm are mostly tall fescue-based, but Hughes also utilizes bermudagrass, ryegrass, and clovers. The ryegrass is broadcast or no-till drilled in the fall where Hughes feels it is needed. Chicken litter comprises his main source of fertilizer, using it judiciously not to suppress the legume component of his pastures. Walking through the pastures, clovers are ever present. Hughes broadcasts white clover seed where needed each fall and winter using a seeder that mounts to his Mule or tractor. Recently, he has used Durana white clover, a variety developed by University of

Georgia’s Joe Bouton that has significantly better persistence under grazing compared to ladino clover. “Having legumes is really important,” Hughes said. “Clover can save you a lot of money on fertilizer, but it also improves livestock performance and adds plant diversity, which helps the soil.” On Chantilly Farm, it also helps to dilute the effects of consuming tall fescue during periods when toxin concentrations are the highest. Hughes’ pastures are productive and dense, but not necessarily weedfree. “I don’t like to use chemicals, but I will spot spray for problem weeds and brush,” Hughes explained. “Some weeds seem to be pretty palatable to cattle and those just become part of the system.”

Winter program If you ask Hughes, the best kind of hay feeder is an empty one. That’s not because the cows ate it all, but rather because pastures are providing all of the needed nutrition. Each year, some hay is custom made from excess pasture production on Chantilly Farm and stored in a pole shed, but it’s mostly fed as a supplement and kept as a matter of insurance against drought or some other weather calamity. Generally, fields that are cut for hay have poultry litter applied to them. To maintain the herd through the winter, Hughes stockpiles some pastures beginning in the fall. Cows and calves are kept on pastures throughout continued on following page >>>

Concrete waterers (left) serve as hubs on Chantilly Farms. Fences radiate from the waterers like spokes on a wheel, allowing the waterers to service several paddocks. Chlorine pills are put into jars (above) that float in each waterer to help keep the tanks clean.

April/May 2018 | hayandforage.com | 17

Most of Chantilly Farm’s pastures are tall fescue-based. Hughes routinely overseeds clover to improve forage quality and animal performance. Durana white clover (below) has performed exceptionally well.

>>> continued from previous page the winter, though some hay is supplemented beginning in January. Over the course of a typical year, Hughes’ average hay use is less than one-half ton per cow. When grazing stockpiled fescue, Hughes is careful not to overgraze, leaving adequate leaf area for regrowth and long-term persistence. A December 2017 interview focusing on Chan-

tilly Farm’s stockpiling program with University of Georgia extension forage specialist Dennis Hancock can be found at bit.ly/HFG-Chantilly.

A stewardship disciple Grass and cattle production make up only part of the Ted and Patsy Hughes’ story. In fact, they may be the smallest part. What really drives

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the 2018 American Forage and Grassland Council’s (AFGC) Forage Spokesperson winner is environmental stewardship. Taking care of the land has become engrained in his DNA, perhaps because he has witnessed firsthand over the past 50 years how a depleted agricultural “giant, red sore” can be transformed into a vibrant and productive landscape. “When I started in the late 1960s, I didn’t know what I was doing,” Hughes said. “Any success Patsy and I had is a credit to the many people who have helped us through the years, grass production, and the ability to conserve and build our soil.” In his presentation at the AFGC Conference in Louisville, Ky., last January, Hughes remarked, “I view stewardship as an act of reverence to God.” Hughes doesn’t just give environmental stewardship lip service; he truly wants things to be better today than they were yesterday. Living with that mantra, Hughes speaks with pride about receiving the 2008 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award for Agriculture. He and Patsy have twice (1986 and 2006) been recognized as Farm Family of the Year in their local Broad River Watershed. Ted Hughes left college because it was too tough. However, his unrelenting thirst for knowledge, his humility and ability to listen to others’ advice, a keen awareness of his farm surroundings, his desire to succeed financially while at the same time making his farm a better place everyday have resulted in a lifetime diploma that is unmatched by any college degree he might have obtained. On top of this, he has had a strong willingness to share his knowledge and experiences with others. •


by Adam Verner offered from several manufacturers, the same type of plastic is used. This type of plastic only works in wet hay (baleage) scenarios because the sticky side of the plastic does not work well with the dust when baling dry hay.

Adding knives

Round baler options have multiplied


E’VE been really busy at our store this spring with customers who are chopping haylage, planting corn, and making baleage. We’ve sent out numerous pieces of new and used equipment. One piece of equipment that has become more difficult to order because of ever-expanding available options is the round baler. In years past, the only considerations entailed bale size, the number of bales produced per year, and the make or model of the baler. These days, ordering your next round baler has an order sheet that almost mirrors that of a tractor. Items to consider include pickup sizes, tire and axle options, net wrap capabilities, and precutters. Let’s break it down and take a look at some of these considerations. Bale size is the first important option that deserves some thought. With baleage becoming more popular each year, smaller bales are needed to limit the additional weight created by the higher moisture content. On our farm, we averaged almost 2,100 pounds per bale on our first cutting of ryegrass harvested in a 55-inch bale. That’s much different than a 900-pound bale of dry hay. Bale size needs to match the capability of the handling equipment. If you are currently baling wet hay and making less than a maximum size bale, give a smaller baler some consideration. I know you will be happy with the price compared to a larger 5-foot by 6-foot baler

and it might allow for adding some of the other options that we will discuss.

Width matters The next decision that has been made available in the last 10 years is pickup width. Most every model now has several wide pickup options. Wide pickups make the baler driver and rake operator’s life less complicated. These large pickup options work well, but they are more expensive and some have more parts than others. I would suggest looking at a camless pickup when selecting options, as they have fewer parts, typically turn faster, and often do a better job picking up various forage lengths and crops. A majority of baler owners have made the switch to net wrap. Twine-tie systems are still effective but, in my opinion, net wrap is the only way to go. In addition to twine and net wrap, there are also a few different types of cover wrap. One that has both net and plastic wrap is geared for dry hay. This is a great option for ranchers who must store their hay outside all winter. Though it’s a little more expensive, it can be cheaper than building a barn. Another option that comes from Europe is plastic wrap designed for baleage. This material originated mainly in Ireland where they recycle most of their plastics, and the net wrap and plastic wrap could not be recycled together. With this plastic wrap system, which is

Precutter knives have also seen a sales boost in the last few years. As baleage gains momentum, so do balers with knives. There are a few options and ways to order the knife package, so be sure to get the one that fits into your budget. A typical cutter option on a baler with the drop floor to clear out clogs will cost about $5,000 to $6,000. Speaking from experience, it’s worth every penny. You save time, fuel, and wear on vertical mixers. On our farm, we saw both higher bale weights and better forage quality when comparing our chopping baler to our nonchopping baler. In our experience, this was due to improved bale density and crop fermentation. Our bales were around 250 pounds heavier, and we only had half of the knives engaged. Adding a cutting system changed the way we fed baleage; that was also the case for one of our dairy customers who had to change their ration when they began feeding the processed baleage. They experienced improved quality and dry matter intake. A cutting system may not be needed in your current operation, but it may be something to consider for the future. One of the latest options to come over from the large square bale world is an accumulator for round balers. Though still relatively new to the market, accumulators can be a real time saver when collecting bales and reduce the amount of wheel traffic on fields. These accumulators will soon be standard for all custom balers and larger operations. The next time you’re in the market for a new baler, make sure you take a good look at the many options now available. It’s a much different buying process than it was just a few short years ago. Good luck this summer in the hayfields. •

ADAM VERNER The author is a managing partner in Elite Ag LLC, Leesburg, Ga. He also is active in the family farm in Rutledge.

April/May 2018 | hayandforage.com | 19

The industry’s venture into reduced-lignin alfalfa is still in the early stages, but initial results point to some positive benefits for both alfalfa and dairy producers.

Reduced-lignin alfalfa offers flexibility by Angela Arnold


HE high nutritive value of alfalfa makes it a valuable forage for ruminant animals. However, alfalfa producers are continually faced with balancing yield and quality during the growing season. Research and on-farm experience has shown that just a few days delay in alfalfa harvest boosts neutral detergent fiber (NDF) concentration, which leads to reduced animal intake. In addition, the fiber is less digestible because of higher lignin content in the plant cell walls. A number of years ago, a group of scientists set out to solve this problem. That consortium for alfalfa improvement included scientists from Forage Genetics International, the USDA Dairy Forage Research Center, and the Noble Research Institute. Their work resulted in reduced-lignin alfalfa that

20 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2018

was commercially released in 2015. This reduced-lignin alfalfa technology is marketed as HarvXtra.

Multistate study HarvXtra is a genetically modified alfalfa trait developed through a technique that suppresses the activity of a lignin pathway enzyme resulting in less total plant lignin. The suppressed pathway enzyme is responsible for producing a type of lignin that is highly branched; high-branching lignin limits fiber digestibility. The suppression or down-regulation of this pathway enzyme reduces the synthesis of the high-branching type lignin to help improve fiber digestibility, resulting in higher quality alfalfa. With the release of HarvXtra alfalfa, many alfalfa producers across the country are becoming interested in its perfor-

mance. In spring 2015, we established a research study to evaluate HarvXtra against two nonreduced-lignin alfalfa varieties (54R02 — selected for yield and WL 355RR — selected for higher quality). The trial was conducted in six states: California, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The main objective of this research was to evaluate reduced-lignin alfalfa versus nonreduced-lignin alfalfa subjected to three harvest schedules (28-, 33-, and ANGELA ARNOLD The author is a research associate at The Ohio State University in the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science.

38-day intervals) at each location. Yield and forage nutritive values were determined at every cutting in both 2015 and 2016. Forage quality was determined using near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS). The NIRS was calibrated using samples from the entire six state data set for estimating crude protein (CP), NDF, and neutral detergent fiber digestibility (NDFD).

Consistent differences HarvXtra always had greater NDFD than the nonreduced-lignin varieties when averaged across all locations and cuttings in both years (Figure 1, 2016 data). The differences in NDFD across harvest schedules ranged from 5 percent to 9 percent (2.7 to 4.2 percentage units of NDFD greater for HarvXtra). In Figure 1, we can also see that HarvXtra alfalfa harvested on 38-day intervals had higher NDFD than the two other varieties harvested 10 days earlier, when averaged across all locations and cuttings. In some cuttings, the NDFD of HarvXtra at 38 days was similar to the NDFD of the other varieties at 28 days, but it was never significantly lower. The NDF for HarvXtra was similar to that of WL 355RR but was always about 7 percent lower (2.5 units of NDF percent) than that of 54R02. Crude protein differences between all the varieties were minimal and nonsignificant. We also found that HarvXtra consistently matured more slowly than the nonreduced-lignin alfalfa cultivars. Overall, variety differences in

forage quality were quite consistent across all cuttings.

Yield is important, too The HarvXtra variety we tested demonstrated that it was consistently superior in forage quality throughout the growing season. However, yield is also a primary consideration for alfalfa producers. The total annual yield for the HarvXtra variety was about 7 percent less than the nonreduced-lignin alfalfa varieties for the average across all locations. One should remember that this was just one cultivar comparison, and other studies have shown no yield drag due to the reduced-lignin trait. We were more interested in comparing the yield of HarvXtra harvested on longer harvest schedules with the nonreduced-lignin varieties harvested at shorter harvest schedules. The yield of HarvXtra harvested on the 33-day harvest interval was similar to the yield of the nonreduced-lignin varieties harvested on 28-day intervals (Figure 2). Likewise, the yield of HarvXtra harvested on the 38-day schedule was similar to the yield of the nonreduced-lignin varieties harvested on the 33-day schedules (Figure 2). The results from this study demonstrated that if HarvXtra is harvested later, it would yield similarly and have the same quality as nonreduced-lignin cultivars harvested earlier. Looking forward, what does this mean for alfalfa producers?

Figure 2: 2016 total-season yield

(season average across six states)


53 HarvXtra 51 49

WL355RR 54R02


Total yield (tons/acre)


Average NDFD (%)

The author wishes to acknowledge the other researchers involved in this project: R. Mark Sulc (The Ohio State University), Kenneth Albrecht and Dan Undersander (University of Wisconsin), Kim Cassida (Michigan State University), Marvin Hall (Pennsylvania State University), DooHong Min and Xuan Xu (Kansas State University), Steve Orloff (University of California-Davis), and Edzard van Santen (University of Florida).

Bright future

Figure 1: 2016 NDF digestibility


Alfalfa producers are offered more flexibility when making harvest management decisions. Growers can harvest HarvXtra five to 10 days later and maintain adequate nutritive value and similar yield to nonreduced-lignin cultivars harvested five to 10 days earlier. This flexibility in harvest would be particularly helpful to growers when alfalfa harvest is delayed because of weather conditions or other farm needs that may require immediate attention. Our results also show if HarvXtra is maintained on the same cutting schedule, growers could get higher quality alfalfa. The HarvXtra variety we tested was one of the first commercially released reduced-lignin alfalfa varieties. Since then, additional reduced-lignin varieties have been released commercially. As genetic improvement continues in the development of new reduced-lignin alfalfa varieties, yield will likely continue to be improved. This technology promises to be a tremendous tool for alfalfa producers striving to harvest high-quality alfalfa on a consistent basis. •

(season average across six states)




6 5 4 3 2 1 0

28 days

33 days Harvest interval

38 days

28 days

33 days Harvest interval

38 days

April/May 2018 | hayandforage.com | 21


by Jason Banta number of cows as previous generations. When considering how many “cows” the property will run, don’t forgot to include land for bulls, replacement heifers, and any calves held past the 45- to 60-day preconditioning period.

Many factors involved

How many cows?


HE title is a common question that I get when discussing the management of a property or when a producer considers buying or leasing a new property. Determining the best stocking rate for a farm or ranch is critical to its financial success and for good environmental stewardship. One of the first things that should be done is to determine the number of grazeable acres. This number can be significantly lower than the total number of acres because of woods, roads, ponds, lakes, barns, houses, and other land uses that prevent forage production and grazing. For example, a few years ago when oil exploration expanded, I know of one operation that lost 25 percent of their grazeable acres due to new roads and drilling pads. In just a short time, this greatly changed the number of cows that could be stocked on the ranch. The USDA’s Web Soil Survey is one tool that can be used to help determine grazeable acres. By using the area of interest feature, it will let you measure the size of pastures as well as wooded areas and ponds. For planning and discussion purposes, let’s assume that on average during a year a cow will consume about 2.25 percent of its body weight per day. Actual consumption will vary depending on stage of production, forage quality, weather conditions, and animal genetics. A 1,200-pound cow would consume about 9,855 pounds of forage per year (1,200 pounds x 2.25 percent x 365 days = 9,855 pounds). Research data is limited on forage intake of nursing calves, but we know the calf is consuming forage and the amount will increase as it gets older. For this example, 1,810 pounds of forage

22 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2018

for the calf from birth through weaning and then 45 days of preconditioning will be used. This means the cow-calf pair would consume about 11,655 pounds of forage during the year.

Available forage Forage production per acre and appropriate utilization rates are the next factors to consider when determining stocking rates. Forage production per acre is influenced by many factors; we will look at those later. For this example, 6,000 pounds of forage produced per acre will be used. The forage base and how much forage needs to be left to maintain a healthy productive stand must also be considered. Introduced forages like bermudagrass and bahiagrass can be utilized at much higher rates than native range forages. If we assume an introduced forage and allow the cows to consume 70 percent of the forage produced, then each acre could provide 4,200 pounds of forage for consumption (6,000 pounds x 70 percent = 4,200 pounds). The final step is to divide the amount of forage needed for the pair by the amount of forage that is consumed per acre. In this example, the 1,200-pound cow and its calf would need 2.8 acres (11,655 pounds of forage needed per pair ÷ by 4,200 pounds of forage consumed per acre = 2.8 acres per cow-calf pair). As you might expect, cow size has a huge impact on stocking rate. Using the assumptions from above, a 1,000-pound cow and its calf would need 2.3 acres, and a 1,400-pound cow and its calf would need 3.3 acres. Because cows are now larger, many properties become overstocked when they try to run the same

Forage production per acre is influenced by several factors, including rainfall, length of the growing season, soil type, forage species, and soil fertility. Soil type is often overlooked when evaluating a property. For most properties, the Web Soil Survey can be used to identify soil types and their relative production potential. Stocking strategies will vary based on operational goals, management style, and risk tolerance. Two main approaches can be taken. An aggressive stocking rate will allow for the opportunity to run more cattle on a given property. However, any time conditions are not optimal, additional feed resources must be purchased or herd numbers reduced. Another approach is to stock more conservatively at a level below the property’s average carrying capacity. This approach provides some insurance against drought and other adverse weather conditions. In most situations, it results in greater plant health, animal performance, and financial success for the operation. In most years, this approach allows the operator to manage extra forage, instead of trying to figure out how to deal with a lack of forage. This extra forage could be baled for hay and sold or stored for future use. It could also be used to retain ownership of calves through a stocker phase. It might allow for reduced fertilizer applications in some years. There is also nothing wrong with not grazing all forage that is grown; leaving extra forage can help thicken stands and reduce weed competition. Remember the best stocking rate is not a fixed number. It should be adjusted based on weather and operational changes. •

JASON BANTA The author is a beef cattle specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension based in Overton, Texas.

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Steep terrain is cause for a number of challenges in New Zealand. Seeding is often done by helicopter and supplemental solar-powered panels are needed at the summits.

Elise Brown

Grass, mud, and gold by Elise Brown


N ONLINE search for photographs of New Zealand agriculture often results in landscapes of happy sheep grazing on lush pasture against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, all under bright blue skies. During my year in New Zealand, I marveled at many similar scenes. Paddocks of ryegrass, fodder beet, clover, and even kale filled the Canterbury Plains, with the majestic Southern Alps in the background. Alfalfa thrived in the high altitudes of Mackenzie Country with the help of irrigation. Sheep were everywhere, and surprisingly, so were dairy cattle. Beef cattle sat peacefully on steep hill slopes, dappled sunlight streaming through the surrounding trees. I was in the country on a working holiday visa, which allowed me to take seasonal jobs as I traveled. I worked on two dairy farms, a sheep and beef cattle station, and a university research farm. I also briefly joined American Forage and Grassland Council (AFGC) members on their New Zealand tour, journeying around the South Island to attend the New Zealand Grassland Association annual meeting and visit Kiwi farms. Through my work and travels, I saw innovation in forage production, vari-

24 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2018

ety development, grazing, irrigation, and more.

Forage dominates Many livestock producers in New Zealand use grass-based systems with minimal buildings. An overall temperate climate means that grass can grow year-round. In mountainous and hilly regions, animals find shelter in brush or rocks. In the plains, evergreen trees are planted for shelter around farm borders. Within these borders were permanent and temporary paddocks full of various forages. Ryegrass, clover, and alfalfa were popular. Mixes were used often. Several dairy farms grazed kale in winter. Animals rotated through paddocks at varying speeds, depending on the species. On the dairy farms where I was employed, cows were moved every day after milking. At the university research farm, we moved lambs to the next paddock once per week. On the first dairy farm, staff spent three hours a day rolling down paddocks as the soil was so soft the cattle left deep hoofmarks across the entire area. Flattening the soil readied the field for the next mob of cows. When that group moved on, the paddock would be rolled down again.

This soft soil also was found on my second dairy farm. There, my picture of New Zealand’s eternal lush green grass changed.

A sticky situation I worked there during a rainy autumn and in a lot of mud. Similar to the first dairy farm, this operation comprised 1,600 cows and more than 40 paddocks surrounding the dairy shed (milking parlor). To add some variety to their diets, a mob of 400 to 500 cows grazed on a 6-footwide strip of fodder beet that stretched the length of the paddock for about 45 minutes before farm staff moved them to their night paddock. In theory, it sounded good, adding nutritional variety while still using a grazing system. In practice, it became a sticky situation. The cows would graze everything in ELISE BROWN The author is a freelance writer from Kingman, Ind., who spent a year working and touring in New Zealand.

Steep terrain Thankfully, I didn’t see much mud when I worked on a beef cattle and sheep station in the hills of Otago. There, I learned how to drive on the steepest grades I’d ever seen. Holstein yearling bulls and Dorset Down sheep grazed on ryegrass, clover, and turnip mixes, their seeds distributed by a helicopter. In more gently sloping areas, a tractor and planter were used in bare soil. Before any of these forages could be established, the farmers needed to

Elise Brown

Elise Brown

sight, including thorny Scottish thistles and other weeds. They would pull up roots and trod on bare soil created from previous grazings. Combined with constant rain and mist, this process formed slick, deep, dark brown mud. I didn’t know how deep until I drove into it with a four-wheeler. I’d been moving a temporary polywire fence halfway down the paddock and needed to change direction. Rather than make a three-point turn, I ventured into the mud. I’m on a four-wheeler, I thought. It’ll be fine! I didn’t make it far before mud gripped the tires and pulled them down half a foot. I dug into the gas lever. It was no use. The wheels spun and sank even deeper. The ground below the mud was so soft there was no support for even a light machine. I shut off the four-wheeler. Boots sinking deep, I squelched my way to the safety of the fodder beet and called a co-worker for backup. He brought an ATV and connected a rope from its rear hitch to the fourwheeler. The ATV tried and failed to gain traction in the mud. Soon, it was stuck, too. My co-worker glared at the situation, then stomped to the four-wheeler and said, “The four-wheel drive’s off.” He flipped a switch and drove it to solid ground. He then fetched the tractor to pull out the ATV. I controlled its wheels as the tractor dragged it out of the mire. Thick globs of mud splattered and mottled my left side and face. I couldn’t see through the windshield. I leaned out of the side to drive the vehicle back to the dairy shed and hose it off. To add insult to injury, the cows’ udders were coated in mud the next morning. We washed the udders with a hose before attaching the milking units, struggling with a rotary parlor milking that took three hours on a good day. The farmer said he didn’t want to graze the fodder beet again the next year.

Because the climate can vary greatly among regions, water is often needed for irrigation. Water for irrigation on the South Island is brought down from the Southern Alps to the lower hills and plains through water channels like the one seen on the left.

rip out gorse, an invasive plant from England that settlers introduced to create hedgerows. Because the New Zealand climate is more temperate than England’s, gorse flowered twice instead of once. It took over, choking native plants. Before successfully farming a piece of ground, the gorse needed to be removed. The field with the thickest forage establishment sprawled at the base of the hills, enclosed by a permanent six-strand wire fence. Within it, temporary paddocks were created with white polywire and a variety of metal, plastic, or fiberglass posts. The yearling bulls grazed there, and they were moved to a new paddock every two or three days. I would lay down the polywire by zooming across the paddock in an ATV with my left hand holding the reel straight out to the side, unrolling the wire as I drove. Then, I’d set the posts. The tricky part was the electricity. It couldn’t be shut off because the bulls would flood into the new paddock as soon as the electricity disappeared. Sometimes, I needed to thread a hot wire through a post. If I twisted the post the wrong way, I received a shock. The electricity wasn’t easily transmitted up the hills, though. Mobile solar-powered panels were used for rotational grazing systems at the summits. We set the panel box on the ground and connected a jumper cable cord to the polywire. While I worked as seasonal labor and didn’t always hear the reasoning for management decisions, I read newspapers like NZ Farmer to learn more about the challenges that Kiwis faced. One such challenge was the change in water quality after a steep increase in livestock numbers and irrigation use. Journalists, farmers, and business representatives talked often about maintaining the country’s reputation as the home of grass-fed animals and a clean environment. On-farm waterways and precision irrigation were some of

the potential solutions discussed for maintaining that reputation.

Green gold Regulation also was frequently discussed, especially during a visit with AFGC members to a station just outside the borders of Mackenzie Country. This region is a mix of mountain lakes, valleys, and rocky peaks; it includes Aoraki Mount Cook, the nation’s highest point. Many sheep and beef cattle are run there, and tourists from across the globe visit the area. This high country station ran 4,000 sheep and 100 beef cattle. The operation was established in the early 1900s when the owner’s family emigrated from Scotland. Since then, the landscape has changed a lot. Several decades ago, a man-made lake submersed thousands of acres from the original station. The farm relocated 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) away. Government regulations now place a nutrient cap and a limit on how many animals can be managed there. The producers had to reconsider their business, finding ways to produce more meat and wool from the same number of animals and continue supporting their family. They also wanted to be able to pass the farm to the next generation. Stock performance needed to improve. To facilitate that improvement, the stock needed good-quality forage — in this case, alfalfa. The soil was rocky, but the plants thrived under a new irrigation system, and alfalfa was planted wherever a tractor could go. As we toured the station and its paddocks, viewing thousands of sheep and miles of irrigation rigs, one of the AFGC tour attendees said, “You’ve turned iron into gold here.” Those words sum up Kiwi farms and ingenuity. In this somewhat isolated nation surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, farmers produce quality meat, milk, and wool through using forage, working to maintain their international reputation, and turning iron into gold. • April/May 2018 | hayandforage.com | 25

Overgrazing and its effects on pasture and animal productivity has plagued farmers and ranchers for decades. There are many reasons for overgrazing, but none are economically sound.

The sin of all sins by Robert Fears


AINTAINING proper stocking rates to avoid overgrazing is the number one requirement for a financially successful ranch. Emi Kimura, an agronomist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, discussed overgrazing in a recent webinar presentation sponsored by the Texas Section Society of Range Management. Some of his comments are included here. Continual monitoring of available forage and adjusting stocking rates to the amount of forage is necessary for maintaining land productivity, healthy ecosystems, and resource preservation for future generations. Conversely, what are the major benefits from overgrazed pastures? You might say they provide for easy inspection of the soil texture or for fire protection resulting from lack of forage. Certainly overgrazed pastures allow for less chance of losing golf balls when honing your tee shots or providing a field for baseball games with the family. If a land manager uses any of these proposed benefits as a reason for overgrazing, serious consideration of a different career is in order. Simply stated, there are no benefits to overgrazing. In fact, overgrazed pastures struggle during hot, dry summers; cold, wet winters; cold springs when soil nutrient release is slow; and cool falls when soil nutrient release is 26 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2018

fast, resulting in high losses. How should a land manager react to the bladeless appearance of grass in overgrazed pastures? Should the manager avoid making any changes and maintain the current stocking rate? The results of doing nothing include cost savings on seed and fertilizer, additional daily exercise while feeding hay, and easy monitoring of hoof health. There are many more reasons for doing nothing, but none of them are economically sound. A pasture requires three years or more to fully recover from overgrazing, so patience is required in order for Mother Nature to heal herself. The first step is to remove all grazing livestock and keep them off until the pasture has fully recovered. Sometimes it is possible to reduce the recovery time span through pasture renovation, which may include aerating, replanting, fertilizing, and/or controlling weeds. The goal should be to manage animals and pastures in a manner that negates the need for pasture renovation.

Give plants a chance Proper grazing protocols protect and maintain meristems on forage plants. Meristems are regions of cell division and elongation resulting in plant growth. Apical meristems are found at

the top of shoots and are responsible for originating plant growth. Intercalary meristems are located at the base of leaf blades, sheath, and internodes. They promote spring growth flushes of vegetation. Axillary buds are a type of meristem found at the nodes of stems, rhizomes, and stolons. These meristem buds produce new plants. Plant leaf area and photosynthesis are enhanced through proper grazing management. By definition, photosynthesis is the conversion of sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air into carbohydrates and oxygen (O2). It’s these carbohydrates that are converted to sugar and stored in plant roots or stem bases to support plant growth and nutrient uptake.

Size matters “The sin of all sins is overgrazing,” said Kimura. “Overgrazing results in lower forage production and persistence, as well as causing more ROBERT FEARS The author is a freelance writer based in Georgetown, Texas.

water runoff, which allows pollution of streams, rivers, and other bodies of water with fertilizer and sediment. Due to insufficient forage, animal performance is depressed. It also raises the chances of water or wind erosion, weed and brush invasions, and creation of an unusable pasture during drought events,” he added. Manage native grass and improved grass in different ways because their characteristics are different. Native range contains primarily bunch grasses that are not as tolerant to grazing as sod-forming grasses found in improved pastures. This results from the growing points on native grass being located higher on the stems than on improved grasses where growing points are near the ground. Native grass requires close monitoring for proper grazing management. Monitoring stubble height provides an indication as to when stocking rates should be adjusted and when a pasture should be grazed. Don’t graze warm-season native grass in the spring until stubble height reaches 15 inches. Beginning too early may prevent plants from developing adequate leaf surface area. More leaves means more photosynthesis, enhancing nutrient and water uptake, which result in additional leaf production. This cycle is necessary for having enough grass to continue grazing through the season. During spring and early summer, maintain native grass at a height greater than 12 inches so growing points are left intact to stimulate root growth, sugar storage, and uptake of water and nutrients. Maintain stubble height between 15 and 20 inches during mid- and late-summer because forage below that range is lower quality due to plant maturity. Stop grazing native grass six weeks before the first frost pageheight - 4 color and maintain 15- to 18-inch1/2 stubble during the dor3.62” x 10” reserves in mancy period. Plants need enough carbohydrate their root systems through winter dormancy to maintain the Hay & Forage Grower stand and provide plant vigor for spring growth.


rea Now sed , w pro ith duc tivi ty


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Drought response Properly managed pastures are more drought tolerant than overgrazed pastures because plant root systems are larger and healthier. When drought is in the forecast, lower stocking rates to adjust for less forage production. Pay close attention to plant height during the drought period, keeping adequate forage cover on the landscape. Soil test earlier than normal and collect more samples. Use the results to formulate a fertilizer application plan based on local recommendations. Dig plants and check the size of the root system to confirm plant health. Consider overgrazing a sin because it ruins land for future generations. Be a good land steward and strive to leave your pastures and rangelands in better condition than when you began managing them. •

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Dan Putnam


Forage extension specialist at the University of California-Davis

HFG: Though you’ve been in California since the early 1990s, your early roots were in the Midwest and Northeast. How have those vastly different perspectives helped you during your career? DP: I think having the perspective of both rain-fed and irrigated systems has been of real benefit. The cropping systems are quite different, as well as the size of farms and the crops grown, but the fundamentals of agriculture remain a constant. I have tremendous admiration for farmers who contend with so many challenges, whether in the frozen tundra of the Upper Midwest or in the searing deserts of Southern California. HFG: The University of California’s (UC) extension system has a long-held reputation of being one of the best in the nation. Do you feel good about its future moving forward? Any concerns? DP: I feel both positive and worried about it. With a team concept, we are able to make genuine progress with a scientific approach to agriculture and form partnerships with industry and the farming community. However, this state is both the largest agriculture state and the largest urban state with nearly 40 million people. The politics are clearly urban, and the UC system in the Agriculture and Natural Resource area has leaned toward trying to satisfy that demand. The concern is that urban dwellers will fail to have a deeper understanding of what it actually takes to bring food to the table for both the farmer and the scientific infrastructure that supports the producer. Will the politics (and tax money) continue to support the partnership between the university and the farming community? We’ve had severe budget cuts in the past and, given a downturn, could happen again. HFG: California is a leader in alfalfa production, but the acres of alfalfa in the state are declining at an alarming rate and now are at the lowest point they’ve been since USDA began keeping records in 1919. Why is this occurring? DP: This is due to several factors, both short-term and long-term. The first is the dramatic rise in “permanent crops” such as almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and grapes. Last year, almonds alone exceeded 1.1 million acres; 15 years ago they were half of that number. That’s a permanent change, driven by microeconomics and labor issues. It has clearly been more profitable during the past 15 years to plant almonds on good ground. However, since these crops are very dependent upon exports, we’ll see whether this is sustainable. Another factor for alfalfa acreage decline is water uncer-

tainty; it was hard to commit to a four-year alfalfa crop during the drought. The groundwater sustainability act in 2014 will force growers to make hard decisions on what they can or cannot irrigate. The recent economic downturn in the dairy industry has also hurt alfalfa production. On the positive side, foreign exports of alfalfa are up, and those producers still growing alfalfa should see a boost in demand for their hay due to the low acreage. This year, we’ve seen hay prices strengthen. HFG: During the extended California drought, alfalfa took a major public relations hit as an inefficient user of water resources. You were instrumental in offering some counter arguments. Do you feel your efforts were successful in persuading decision makers and the public? DP: I think we’ve had at least some impact on decision makers. We’ve met with the sustainability officers of some of the major California companies (for example, Disney and Apple) about alfalfa, rice, and other “water wasting” crops that produce a lot of food but are relatively large water users. The alternative perspective of efficient food production and environmental benefits has helped improve the critique and trajectory somewhat, but we have a ways to go. Ironically, the ascendancy of the almond industry has put the almond growers squarely on the “hot seat,” making alfalfa second fiddle in the “evil agriculture” category. I think the main message when a region is experiencing drought is to acknowledge that indeed, yes, food production takes a lot of water — much more than most people understand. We measure not in gallons but in acre-feet (326,000 gallons), which is shocking to many. Urban water use in California is a fraction of that used in agriculture. The fundamental concept is that plants use lots of water, and we have to become more efficient in how we manage it, but also can’t eliminate this basic fact. It’s an educational challenge. HFG: What roles will subsurface drip irrigation and new pivot irrigation technologies play in California’s alfalfa future? Do you see adoption occurring fast enough, and will flood irrigation remain a viable alternative? DP: I think these will be quite important. The introduction of better-designed systems, including advanced sprinklers, drip, and even better flood systems, will greatly help with application efficiency, conservation of water, and, importantly, yield. However, those systems don’t change the fundamentals of plant growth and water demand as mentioned above. We sometimes use more water in a well-designed system, but water productivity (tons or product per acre inch) goes up.

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

28 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2018

That’s a more important metric . . . more crop per drop. All three types of systems hold promise for irrigated regions, but there is no single, magic solution. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Flood irrigation remains a viable option in many areas, but can be improved with better designs. Drip irrigation can definitely improve irrigation efficiency if well managed and maintained. Overhead sprinklers and subsurface drip are very useful for alfalfa since one can apply smaller amounts in between harvests (unlike flood). However, many sprinkler systems have evaporation issues, and drip has gopher-damage issues . . . nothing is perfect. We need to improve irrigation efficiencies, water use efficiency, and distribution uniformity for forage crops. We have a long way to go. HFG: You’ve been a strong proponent of changing the USDA hay market grades to better reflect animal response. What would be your criteria if you were the architect of a new system, and how can the industry instigate a change, or can it? DP: The marketing system for forages has always been fraught with difficulty. I think this is due to two big factors, both genuine: 1) A high level of innate variability in hay crops, and 2) The complexity of forage feeding value, since hays provide a combination of energy, high intake, protein, minerals, and the functional properties of fiber itself. That’s why fiber content alone, which is the basis of the relative feed value (RFV) and total digestible nutrients (TDN) systems, is inadequate as a stand-alone marketing tool. I have promoted the use of neutral detergent fiber (aNDFom), NDF digestibility (NDFD), crude protein (CP), and ash (dry matter basis) as core measurements for marketing, with equations often being of use for simplification purposes. Digestibility, in particular, needs to be included in our evaluation of quality. But let’s not forget the analyses behind these. We understand that as markets and feeding habits change, the value of each of these components is likely to change as well. The future of testing and marketing has to be nimble and flexible enough to adjust to changes, accommodate different livestock classes, and reflect the complex values of energy, protein, intake, and the functional value of forage fiber. This is the problem with simplified indexes: “Feeding value” remains a complex concept. HFG: Western alfalfa production has been buoyed by a strong export market. Will that trend continue? DP: Absolutely. While there may be ups and downs, it’s here to stay. Ask an Iowa farmer whether our cropping systems are dependent upon international markets for soybean or pork, especially this year of pending trade wars. Hay is now no exception, but forages are Johnny-come-latelies to international trade. The equations of land and water availability and food production are really an international question, as witnessed by the recent curtailment of Saudi Arabia’s alfalfa production due to limited water. This instantly created a large import demand from the United States. Western states have competitive advantages in weather patterns, expertise, and infrastructure, which enable high-quality hay production. This is unlike eastern Asia with summer rainfall threats to dry hay. With the expansion of demand for milk products in China and their limitations for hay production in several regions, Asian and Middle Eastern buyers will have interest in U.S. hay for many years to come. Export hay is still

less than 5 percent of total U.S. production but over 15 percent of the Western states’ hay market. HFG: Many California alfalfa growers who produce for the export market are unable to use genetically modified (GMO) varieties such as Roundup Ready or HarvXtra. Has coexistence with growers who do use these technologies been an issue, or do challenges still exist? DP: I think challenges still exist, but mostly on the seed side. I’ve seen hay growers successfully produce non-GMO hay for export or organic hay very close to GMO hayfields. However, others who have planted conventional varieties may produce hay with a low level of an unwanted gene. The key issue for hay growers is to demand that the seed they plant be tested for “nondetect” to the level of comfort for their particular market. For exports, this is essentially a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) standard, a pretty low tolerance at less than about 0.1 percent! Any detection is a problem for the exporters and could be refused at port, so most exporters test. There have been exports of Roundup Ready alfalfa to countries that accept it. For sensitive markets, a few other steps are needed such as keeping balers clean between fields and making sure there isn’t excess plant flowering. Some further industry discussions with foreign buyers to develop tolerances and protocols would be helpful to work out practical solutions. Of course, at some level, this issue may devolve into good-old trade disputes over price. HFG: The dairy industry has been struggling in California with low milk prices and intense regulatory oversight. Dairy producers are feeding record-low amounts of alfalfa hay. Do you see this situation getting better or at least stabilizing in the near future? DP: There is a lot of negative talk about the current and future prospects of dairying in this state. The price situation for dairies is miserable with high costs and low profitability. Environmental and labor regulations are also part of the problem, but fundamentally I think it’s mostly a supply and demand issue, both here and across the United States. Although California has the largest market for milk of any state, per capita consumption continues to go down in this state, and we produce more than the state requires. We have become more dependent upon world markets for the demand side. The dairy industry has periodically struggled for many years with oversupply. Part of the problem is the high level of dairy farm efficiency productivity per cow. Unless markets grow at the same rate or cow numbers are reduced, the problem will continue. Dairy farmers have been amazing in what they have been able to accomplish, but they do tend to expel ammunition into their own phalanges. I don’t have the answers, but suspect that California milk production will continue to moderate after more than three decades of relentless expansion. HFG: You are to be commended on putting together a top-notch alfalfa educational conference each year. Can you give readers a heads up on when and where the California Alfalfa & Forage Symposium will be in 2018? DP: It will be held in Reno, Nev., November 27 to 29. See http://alfalfa.ucdavis.edu/ for details. HFG: Favorite food? DP: I like Italian, Mexican, Indian, Thai, American, ice cream (alfalfa is ice cream in the making). I think my problem is that I like too many foods! • April/May 2018 | hayandforage.com | 29

Researchers at Utah State University are evaluating finishing programs for forage-fed beef animals. The key to higher performance and consumer acceptability is exceptionally high forage quality.

Legume-finished beef by Jennifer MacAdam


Most pastures are seeded to grasses or grass-legume mixtures. Compared with a feedlot ration, well-managed grassbased pastures have all the protein that’s needed for finishing, but are low in energy (readily digestible carbohydrates). Grasses are, however, high in fiber, reported as NDF (neutral detergent fiber) on a forage quality analysis. The bulk of NDF is cellulose, which is digested by microbes in the rumen and releases plenty of energy to keep a growing steer healthy. However, NDF digestion takes far longer than the conversion of starch into energy, and cattle require a high level of energy to accumulate intramuscular fat during a 90- to 120-day finishing period. Con-

LL cattle are “grass-fed” until they reach the finishing phase. Calves are usually sent to a feedlot for finishing, where they’re put on a high-concentrate diet to add marbling (intramuscular fat) that makes “grainfed” beef tender and juicy. Ongoing studies at Utah State University are demonstrating that springborn cattle can be finished on legume pastures in a time frame similar to feedlot-finished cattle. The secret to higher gain — and higher consumer acceptability relative to grass-finished beef — is the exceptionally high quality of the forage, which has low fiber and high energy, and is similar in nutritive value to a feedlot-finishing ration.

Table 1. A comparison study of three finishing diets Feedlot diet

Birdsfoot trefoil pasture

Grass pasture

Weight gain (lbs.)

Weaned calf
















Dressing percentage




Carcass weight (lbs.)




Percent of feedlot yield




Utah State University

30 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2018

centrate diets are low in fiber and high in nonfibrous carbohydrates, so intake and gains are higher in the feedlot than on grass-based pastures.

Birdsfoot trefoil shines A study of beef gain on irrigated birdsfoot trefoil pastures near Logan, Utah, demonstrated that steers could gain more rapidly on irrigated birdsfoot trefoil than on high-quality irrigated grasses (Table 1). The spring-born Angus steers used in the beef-finishing study were weaned at about 7 months and were fed a ration of alfalfa and corn silage for another 7 months until they began their respective finishing diets. From the end of May, when they weighed about 1,000 pounds, until slaughter in mid-September, they grazed irrigated grass or birdsfoot trefoil pastures, or were fed a ration containing about 85 percent concentrates.

JENNIFER MACADAM The author is a professor of plant physiology and forage production at Utah State University in Logan.

None of the cattle were implanted or supplemented with growth stimulants. Steers were on finishing diets for 111 days, and their final body weights were 1,420, 1,228, and 1,129 pounds on the feedlot, birdsfoot trefoil, or grass pastures, respectively. Cattle were all slaughtered at the same age (18 months) and assessed for carcass quality. Grain-finished and birdsfoot trefoil-finished steers had similar carcass weights and fat thicknesses at slaughter. Dressing percentages were significantly higher for the birdsfoot trefoil-finished steers than for either feedlot-finished or grass-finished steers, so the carcass weights of birdsfoot trefoil-finished steers were similar to grain-finished steers and higher than grass-finished steers. Ribeye rolls were collected for consumer taste panels and meat quality; see “Not all forage-finished beef is created equal” by Jerrad Legako, Hay and Forage Grower, August-September 2016. Birdsfoot trefoil-finished beef had tenderness and juiciness comparable to grain-finished beef, and both were preferred for all attributes over grass-finished beef. The balance of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, however, were similarly low for the birdsfoot trefoil- and grass-finished beef (between 2 and 3; less than 4 is a healthy ratio) but higher (between 6 and 15) for grain-finished beef.

Feeding advantage What are the characteristics of birdsfoot trefoil that result in better gain and higher carcass quality compared with grass-finished beef? Perhaps of more interest to consumers, how does a 90- to 120-day finishing period on birdsfoot trefoil pastures result in meat that’s juicy and tender, like grain-finished beef, while retaining a more healthful balance of fatty acids like grass-finished beef? We know that legumes are lower in fiber and higher in protein than grasses, but the key to better beef production appears to be the high levels of nonfibrous carbohydrates in birdsfoot trefoil. Comparing the nutritive value characteristics of the three diets (Table 2), fiber (NDF) is similarly low in the legume and concentrate diets, and readily digestible (nonfibrous) carbohydrate is similarly high for the legume and concentrate diets. In the Mountain West, soil pH is

Birdsfoot trefoil has performed well in grass-finished beef trials. The low levels of tannins in the species aids in protein utilization and helps to prevent bloat.

Table 2. Nutritive value of the grass and legume pastures compared with the feedlot diets Species






Meadow brome






Birdsfoot trefoil






Feedlot diet






CP=crude protein, NDF=neutral detergent fiber, ADF=acid detergent fiber, and NFC=nonfibrous carbohydrates, including water-soluble carbohydrates and starch

neutral to alkaline, which is ideal for perennial legumes. Growing season temperatures are high during the day but cool at night, which reduces plant respiration and allows grasses and legumes to retain more of the carbohydrates made by photosynthesis. While climate may explain the persistence and yield of birdsfoot trefoil under irrigation in the West, a University of Missouri study resulted in Angus crossbred steer gains of 3 pounds per day on birdsfoot trefoil pastures compared with 1.5 pounds per day on tall fescue.

Tannins have impact The tannin concentration of birdsfoot trefoil is relatively low, between 1 and 2 percent of shoot dry matter in pastures, but this is high enough to prevent bloat. All tannins precipitate plant proteins in the rumen, boosting bypass protein, but the type of tannin in birdsfoot trefoil and its low concentration do not interfere with the subsequent digestion of this protein. In fact, studies have demonstrated higher gains and greater milk production from ruminants grazing birdsfoot trefoil than alfalfa, perhaps because protein is more efficiently utilized. Although the birdsfoot trefoil finishing diet was higher in crude protein than the feedlot diet, tannins precipitate excess proteins in the rumen and allow them to be digested later, along

with microbial protein. Less nitrogen is partitioned into the urine of ruminants grazing tannin-containing legumes, and so more nitrogen is excreted in the feces compared with nontannin legumes like alfalfa. This means less ammonia is volatilized from urine, and the likelihood of nitrate leaching or runoff after rainfall or irrigation is also reduced. Legumes can produce all the nitrogen they need for growth but can also switch off nitrogen production if there’s already enough soil nitrogen available. This means that the loss of nitrogen to the environment is reduced, and the need for nitrogen fertilization is eliminated. The costs and environmental impacts of nitrogen fertilizer are also eliminated. Cattle finished on legume pastures that have as much energy (nonfibrous carbohydrates) as a feedlot diet still meet the definition of “grass-fed” beef, but the higher available energy means that yearlings can be finished in a single grazing season. Finishing cattle on pastures rather than in a feedlot has appeal for consumers (and chefs!). Now that we know that finishing cattle on birdsfoot trefoil pastures results in tender, juicy meat with a healthy fatty acid profile, we’re interested in identifying other tannin-containing forage legumes with similarly low NDF and high nonfibrous carbohydrate concentrations. • April/May 2018 | hayandforage.com | 31

Several in-hand NIRS instruments are currently being marketed. Pictured here are the Aurora NIR unit (far left), the X-NIR (above left), and the poliSPEC (above right).

In-hand forage quality by Matthew Digman


VER the past decade, near-infrared reflectance spectrometers (NIRS) have gone from the lab to the field and can now fit into the palm of your hand. But how do these systems work, and why is the calibration such an important consideration? How can the output be incorporated into your decision-making? The NIR spectrometer illuminates the sample and measures the light reflected. If we make a plot of the light reflected for each wavelength of light, we’ll notice that some wavelengths were reflected better than others. The near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy technique assumes that the missing light was absorbed by the sample and is related to its chemical properties. While this assumption is advantageous, there are some caveats. Although we cannot see near-infrared light, it obeys the same physical laws as visible light. Consequently, not only does the chemical makeup of the sample influence

the light measured but also the physical properties. For example, have you ever misjudged the color of an object because its surface finish affected how the light was scattered or reflected? Additionally, the interaction and overlapping absorption of light by chemicals makes prediction of the chemical makeup of a sample even more challenging.

Calibration is key Managing variability is the job of the spectrometer’s calibration, and consequently, the calibration is the most important part of the NIRS method. Table 1 depicts the various calibrations available for current hand-held commercial systems. You’ll note that a separate calibration is utilized for each crop species and for fresh or ensiled crops. This is because the manufacturer has determined that calibration performance can be improved by this separation. In calibration development, it is important to either control

the variability so that it doesn’t influence the calibration, or include it so that the calibration can account for it.  The results obtained from these handheld NIRS units probably won’t be quite as accurate as those from a commercial testing lab. Recall our discussion about controlling variability. The NIRS forage testing laboratories work tirelessly to not only dry (water is a strong absorber of near-infrared light) and grind your forage samples but also to maintain their instruments and calibrations. The laboratories also have implemented protocols to monitor their instrument’s performance on a daily basis. The calibrations used at many laboratories are maintained by a consortium of laboratories that monitor calibration performance and share samples to improve prediction accuracy. Furthermore, the reference method used to calibrate your NIRS may be different than the one used by the forage-testing laboratory. It’s worth asking the manufacturer of the NIRS system to provide their reference methods before

Table 1. Crop calibrations available for handheld NIRS systems* Fresh, ensiled




Wholeplant corn

Whole-plant small grains












Alfalfa hay

Grass hay



*These data were provided by each manufacturer and are continually updated. Check with them for the latest capabilities.

32 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2018



The author is an agricultural engineer at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

investing, especially if you plan to use the instrument in conjunction with periodic laboratory testing — a good practice in my opinion. On-farm NIRS does have some advantages over laboratory NIRS. Results are rapid and can be readily incorporated into management decisions. Additionally, you can scan more samples to ensure that you’re working with analysis from a more representative sample, to assess variability in your feedstuffs, and to make decisions based on historical trends in analysis.

Monitor forage variability Published accuracies will help you determine how predictions from your handheld NIR unit could be used in assessing the variability in your feeding program. For example, let’s consider a producer who would like to use a handheld NIR spectrometer to manage dry matter in corn silage. The producer considers that a manufacturer reports an accuracy of plus or minus 1.5 percent of dry matter. What does that exactly mean? It isn’t always clear and typically requires a discussion with the instru-

Table 2. Chemical constituents predicted by on-farm NIRS systems Instrument

Dry matter




Crude protein

Crude fat






















++ available for all crop species, + available for most crop species, +- available for some crop species

ment provider. However, generally it means that if you predict a sample of corn silage that’s 35 percent dry matter, the actual dry matter content is between 33.5 percent and 36.5 percent. How much does dry matter vary in your forages? I think it’s safe to say that it’s more than plus or minus 1.5 percent, and consequently these instruments have utility in managing ration dry matter. Several studies in the U.S. and Europe support this conclusion. What about managing dry matter in other feed ingredients? First, a separate calibration for that ingredient would need to exist. Next, you would compare the variability of the ingredient with the accuracy of the instrument. For example, a 2015 study of compositional variability of feed

ingredients indicated that soybean meal dry matter varied 1.9 percent. If the dry matter prediction accuracy of the NIR spectrometer for soybean meal was plus or minus 1.5 percent, then that system would have little utility in managing soybean meal moisture. Accordingly, one must consider the economics of managing soybean meal based on dry matter. This process should be extended to each and every chemical constituent that your operation would like to predict and manage (for example, neutral detergent fiber, starch, and crude protein), keeping in mind that NIRS is particularly sensitive to organic molecules. I hope this article sheds some light (pun intended) on the utility of and the growing number of options that producers have for in-hand forage analysis with NIRS. •



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by Luiz Ferraretto

Good silage: a matter of fermentation and stability


HE ensiling process is a well-established tool to store forages while maintaining their nutrient composition and availability. Thus, ensiled forages are predominant feed ingredients used in diets to supply adequate levels of energy, protein, and physically effective fiber to high-producing dairy cows. Attention to detail is required in order to achieve a successful ensiling process. The objective of this article is to provide an overview of the fermentation process, aerobic stability, and to briefly discuss strategies to optimize each of them.

Eliminate oxygen Silage fermentation occurs naturally under anaerobic conditions. Thus, it’s crucial to fill and seal silos rapidly in order to limit the amount of oxygen introduced into the silage. After the silo is sealed, the remaining oxygen is used up by respiration of plant material and microorganisms. Fermentation by anaerobic epiphytic (native) bacteria begins as soon as oxygen is absent. These bacteria are present in the fresh forage mass and ferment water-soluble carbohydrates (sugars) into lactate and acetate. As lactate and acetate accumulate, pH drops until silage reaches a stable phase. Fermentation is still undergoing during the stable phase, but changes

are not as pronounced as during the initial ensiling period. Many factors influence the silo fermentation process. Some items are related to forage characteristics whereas others are management issues. Excess oxygen allows for the growth of undesired microorganisms such as yeasts and molds and prolongs plant respiration, allowing for enhanced utilization of sugars prior to the anaerobic fermentation process. Some harvesting practices such as coarse chop length and a late harvest maturity may impair oxygen removal due to greater silo porosity. Simply stated, porosity is the gap space between the forage mass that is filled with air, including but not limited to oxygen. Packing density is likely the best indicator of porosity. Greater packing density reduces porosity, improves fermentation, and reduces storage losses. Inadequate fermentation, however, may occur even in dense silage material. Some crop-related factors that influence fermentation include moisture content, buffering capacity, availability of water-soluble carbohydrates, and the amount and type of epiphytic bacteria. These considerations are thought to restrict bacterial growth and reduce the accumulation of acids that could prevent the growth of yeasts and molds.

Maintain stability Overall, the fermentation process will determine silage stability or instability.

Table 1. Effect of lactate-producing bacteria inoculants on fermentation profile1,2 Item






Lactate, % of DM



Acetate, % of DM



Butyrate, % of DM



Mold, log cfu/g



Clostridia, log/g



DM recovery, %



Adapted from Oliveira et al. (2017). 2 Difference calculate as inoculated – noninoculated (control) silage for various crops. 1

34 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2018

Table 2. Effect of Lactobacillus buchneri on corn silage fermentation profile1,2 Item

pH Lactate, % of DM Acetate, % of DM Yeast, log cfu/g DM recovery, % Aerobic stability, h



3.70 6.59 2.18 4.18 95.5 25

0.18 -1.80 1.71 -2.30 -1.0 478

Adapted from Kleinschmit and Kung (2006). Difference calculate as inoculated – noninoculated (control) silage.

1 2

Aerobic stability is the length of time that silage lasts before heating or being spoiled after air exposure. Impaired fermentation and reduced acid accumulation exacerbate this issue, but other factors also contribute. Although bacteria in the silo ferment sugars, yeasts can ferment not only sugars but also starch. Thus, forages with greater starch concentration such as corn tend to be more prone to spoilage after air exposure. Practices that allow for air infiltration into the silage material also reduce aerobic stability. Some common observations include an uneven silo face, a slow rate of silage removal, and plastic removed from a given section of the silo too far in advance. Weather also plays a major role in aerobic stability. Silage fed during the summer or in warmer climates is more prone to reduced aerobic stability.

Can inoculants help? Epiphytic bacterial populations vary within and across crops and fields. Microbial inoculants are additives containing bacteria selected to improve silage fermentation efficiency and may aid in scenarios where the epiphytic bacterial population is unable to dominate the fermentation process. Thus, inoculants may preserve more nutrients. Alternatively, greater aerobic stability may be achieved depending on the type of inoculant selected. Bacteria commonly found in microbial inoculants are divided into two main groups, homofermentative and heterofermentative. These groups differ in fermentation end product produced and are also known as homolactic and heterolactic bacteria, respectively. Homofermentative bacteria have

LUIZ FERRARETTO The author is an assistant professor of livestock nutrition in the University of Florida Department of Animal Sciences.

lactate as their main fermentation end product. Microbial inoculants based on this type of bacteria accelerates the pH drop as lactate is a stronger acid than acetate. A fast decline in pH prevents growth of undesired microorganisms and reduces protein degradation. A recent review evaluating homofermentative inoculants is in Table 1. Briefly, it compared noninoculated (control) silage with silage inoculated with lactate-producing bacteria. Some of the benefits observed include: lower pH, reduced acetate and butyrate concentrations, lower mold and clostridia counts, greater lactate concentration, and improved dry matter recovery. Furthermore, this study also revealed greater milk production (1 pound per cow per day) when cows were fed inoculated silage. Homofermentative-based inoculants may be a perfect fit in scenarios where the epiphytic bacterial population is scarce or the crop buffering capacity is too high. For example, in legume silages such as alfalfa, the high crude protein levels lead to greater ammonia-nitrogen concentrations. Ammonia-nitrogen is a natural buffer and inhibits a rapid pH drop. It is important to remember, however, that silage inoculated with homofermentative inoculants is more susceptible to lower aerobic stability.

it is critical to remember that poor management practices cause many issues related to aerobic stability, and priority must be given to adjusting your silage-making techniques before selecting a microbial inoculant. Ensuring adequate fermentation and aerobic stability is crucial to provide high-quality silage to dairy cows. Many factors alter fermentation and aerobic

stability, and the sum of these factors determines silage quality. Using a microbial inoculant is a good technology to consider in order to protect your silage investment. However, inoculants cannot replace recommended filling, packing, and storage practices. If using microbial inoculants, relying on research trials and not price to make your decision is the best option. •



Another option Heterofermentative bacteria produce lactate, acetate, and ethanol. The most used heterofermentative bacteria in silage as microbial inoculants is Lactobacillus buchneri. This type of inoculant has a slower fermentation rate than lactate-producing bacteria but has the ability to convert lactate to acetate. A review evaluating the use of L. buchneri in corn silage is summarized in Table 2. Greater aerobic stability is often observed with this type of inoculant and it is likely related to greater acetate concentration. Acetate has antifungal activity and inhibits yeast and mold growth. Microbial inoculants containing heterofermentative bacteria are suggested when ensiling crops that are rich in starch and will be fed during the summer; these silages may have lower aerobic stability. In addition, farms that experienced poor aerobic stability could also benefit from this technology. However,

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New Case IH L10 series loaders

Titan offers Goodyear R14 tractor tire

The new L10 series premium loaders from Case IH deliver features that help make livestock feeding, material handling, and other loader work more efficient and productive. Improvement designs have been made to incorporate better operator visibility, flow-optimized hydraulics, and fast mount and dismount. More efficient oil flow with the L10 series loaders means the hydraulic system performs faster while generating less heat and using less fuel for lower operating costs. Hydraulic couplers speed connect and disconnect times — the loader can be removed or put back on the tractor in a minute or less. A chamfered and embossed arm design improves strength. Cast and forged components add durability at critical stress points. Design features, such as smart hose routing and protective covers, help keep hydraulic lines out of the way. Arm styling provides easy access for routine tractor maintenance. Each of the six available models in the L10 series loader lineup is specifically designed for Case IH Farmall, Maxxum, Puma, and Magnum tractors, so producers can choose the loader suited to the type of loader and lift capacities they need. A full range of attachments help to improve loader versatility. For more information, visit caseih.com.

Titan International (Titan) announced a new versatile tire — the Goodyear R14 — that can meet growers’ needs whether they are in the field or on the road. Titan engineers combined the traction and cleaning features of an R-1 agriculture tire with the wear and ride features of an R-4 industrial tire, eliminating the need to choose between one tread style or the other and giving the R14 its name. The line is available in both Low Sidewall Technology (LST) and conventional sizes. The tire’s versatility has the potential to save growers significant time and money over the life of the tire. Its continuous arc bar angle shape is inspired by the premium Goodyear OPTITRAC R-1W line. Titan’s MXL E3/ L3 element down the center of the tire provides superior wear. Another feature that adds to the versatility of the R14 is its high lug-to-void ratio, which makes it a great choice for hard surface applications, while the lug is designed for cleaning and traction in softer soils. Titan also developed wheels to match the LSW sizes for the R14, allowing users to enjoy the many benefits of LST, such as reduced soil compaction, power hop, and road lope. For more information, visit www.titan-intl.com.

Gas-powered Kubota RTV-XG850 Sidekick debuts The Kubota RTV-XG850 has a powerful 48-horsepower gasoline engine, delivering speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. Equipped with a continuously variable transmission and centrifugal clutch, the Sidekick’s water-cooled engine provides plenty of torque. The idle speed control and highland correction ensure stable power for any situation. Designed for easy handling at any speed, the Sidekick offers a comfortable drive with its enhanced speed-sensitive electronic power steering, improving both handling and stability. Tuned front and rear independent suspension offers a consistently smooth ride, and engine-assisted braking allows for greater control and increased safety during descents. A selectable full-time 4WD system gives the operator optimum traction and control on any terrain, even under heavy loads. With a 2,000-pound towing capacity and standard equipped with a trailer hitch, the Sidekick is ready for a wide range of towing jobs. Additionally, the Sidekick’s cargo capacity enables it to carry up to 15.2 cubic feet or half a ton (1,000 pounds/600 pounds California models) of gear, tools, and supplies in its heavy-duty steel cargo box. The cargo box comes with optional electric hydraulic lift for fast and effortless dumping. From the smart ergonomic meter panel, steering wheel and

shift knob, to the bright LED headlights, the Kubota Sidekick offers many convenient features that will make the drive safe and comfortable. For added operator comfort, shoulder guards on the ROPS keep all riders within passenger area during tight turns, while half doors keep brush and other elements out of the vehicle. The ergonomically designed split-bench seat style provides working comfort and ample space while offering large compartments underneath for storing tools and personal items. A full line of new attachments and accessory options, developed specifically for the Sidekick, will be available for customers to enhance their RTV driving experience. These include a premium audio system, LED headlights, sports roof, and a bed extender. Available at Kubota dealerships this spring, the Sidekick will be offered in four distinct colors — Kubota Orange, RealTree AP Camo, green, and black. For more information, visit KubotaUSA.com.

The Machine Shed column will provide an opportunity to share information with readers on new equipment to enhance hay and forage production. Contact Managing Editor Mike Rankin at mrankin@hayandforage.com.

36 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2018

TracPacker levels irrigation wheel tracks TracPacker LLC offers perennial forage producers the ability to move only the necessary amount of soil to fill irrigation wheel tracks back to field level. It was designed and developed by Nebraska no-till farmer Dan Gillespie. The TracPacker system is the only pivot track closer that uses the weight of the tractor on rubber tires to form a filled pivot track. The compaction induced by the weight of the tractor keeps TracPacker-filled tracks shallow and stable throughout the year. The TracPacker is designed to run in hydraulic float mode, meaning it is a hands-off operation as the machine responds to variable field topography and changing track depths on the go. All the operator has to do is lower the machine into the

track and drive. The minimal disturbance concept also is a soil health-friendly factor. The TracPacker is the only pivot track closer that allows the operator to look forward comfortably during operation, offering a better work experience. For alfalfa growers, the minimal disturbance TracPacker concept just uncovers those perennial plant crowns instead of cutting them off and compromising the stand. For more information, visit tracpacker.com.

Pöttinger introduces new tedder The new HIT 8.9 T is a compact, cost-effective, efficient tedder with a working width of 29 feet that can be powered by tractors with as little as 60 horsepower. The heart of the new HIT 8.9 T is the innovative Dynatech rotor unit. A small rotor diameter of 4.66 feet delivers a cleanly tedded crop. Optimum ground tracking of the individual rotors ensures clean forage and minimizes raw ash contamination. The forage is distributed uniformly to form a neat spread pattern. The spreading angle can be adjusted on each rotor in five different positions without the need for tools. Thanks to the swept shape of the arms, the crop cannot snag and there is no wrapping around the rotor. This keeps the rotors free of forage. The unique rotor geometry offers even more advantages: forage is picked up more easily and is subjected to less of a beating between the tine arms, meaning lower losses due to disintegration. This careful uptake is achieved by the sweeping arms that “pull” the tines. The tines are under less stress, so service life is prolonged. The proven, closed tine-saver

system is also integrated. The tine carrier arms are precisely positioned on the rotor dish and are bolted to the hub. This guarantees stability with no additional weight. Large gears and bearings on the rotors ensure smooth operation. The unique lifting mechanism gives the tedder a true headland position that provides major advantages: high ground clearance, swaths remain undamaged when driven over, unrestricted reversing and improved maneuverability. A double cylinder moves the rotors via a motion link into the horizontal position and then raises them. This intelligent hydraulic control system prevents tines from contacting or penetrating the ground. The new tedder is also compact in storage with a low storage height. For more information, visit www.poettinger.at

New Holland upgrades forage harvester lineup New Holland Agriculture has expanded its lineup of Forage Cruiser self-propelled forage harvesters with its new flagship model, the FR920. Featuring a new industrial V20 engine, the FR920 delivers a massive 911 horsepower and 44 percent torque rise. The in-line concept and direct driveline logic of the FR Forage Cruiser ensure that all the power is efficiently transmitted to the driven parts and, ultimately, to the ground. The entire driveline and components on the FR920 have been reinforced to manage improved engine output. The FR920’s new feedroll module and drive is designed to handle higher feeding rates. The FR920 features a new heavy-duty four-wheel-drive system. It raises the maximum torque transferred to the wheels by 60 percent compared to the standard four-wheel-drive system. It features new heavy-duty axles that are guidance ready and a reinforced steering axle support. The new system also meets the demand for being able to mount larger steering tires. The engagement of the new heavy-duty four-wheel drive on the FR920 is controlled by the standard Terralock feature, which automatically activates and deactivates the four-wheeldrive axle depending on the steering angle setting, minimizing field damage during headland turns.

The FR Forage Cruiser offers a choice of three new crop processors in the FR920. The new DuraCracker system has been designed for the FR920 with reinforced frames and an eight-groove belt drive to deliver uniform kernel cracking and outstanding processing performance to match the high throughput of the most powerful model. Its 100/130 tooth rolls work well with traditional lengths of cut. The DuraShredder adds a further element: 110/138 tooth rolls with additional spiral grooves that shred the stover and deliver more intensive processing the kernels. The hard-chromed rolls of both processors reduce the thickness of the crop mat going through to ensure the best possible processing. These processing systems, combined with other FR features like the exclusive VariFlow system and HydroLoc technology ensure constant chop length independently of throughput. Further, the ActiveLoc system automatically adapts chop lengths to moisture content. For more information, visit www.newholland.com/na. April/May 2018 | hayandforage.com | 37

Fertilizing bermudagrass pastures by Eddie Funderburg


ANY factors should be considered when determining how much, if any, fertilizer to apply to bermudagrass pastures. In the Southern Great Plains, here are some of the things that we take into consideration. You might have additional considerations in your area. Stocking rate: The first consideration in fertilization is the desired stocking rate. Bermudagrass is an excellent forage species to manipulate carrying capacity through fertilization. Unfertilized bermudagrass will carry a certain number of animals per field. Adding fertilizer will boost forage production, which will allow for a higher number of grazing animals that can utilize a field. If you do not need additional forage, there is no need to fertilize. Whatever amount of fertilizer you plan to apply, be realistic in determining your stocking rate. Overgrazing is damaging to the land and unprofitable. Having more animals than an operation can support with forage leads to purchasing large amounts of hay. Soil tests: Base fertilizer applications on current soil test results. Many producers only apply nitrogen (N) and do not consider the soil’s pH, phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) levels. The full potential of nitrogen is not realized unless low P and/or K levels are first addressed, along with correcting highly acidic soils. If soil test recommendations call for lime, P, or K, and you are unwilling to apply them, do not apply N either. Soil productivity: The rate of N fertilizer to apply depends on the soil productivity, the bermudagrass variety present, and the yield goal. Soils with low, inherent productivity such as shallow, rocky, or severely eroded soils are limited by factors other than soil fertility. It’s best to identify the most productive soils and fertilize them first. These soils have the most potential to convert fertilizer into grass. Some producers desire to apply more fertilizer on the less productive soils to make them produce yield like a higher productive soil. This is a bit like taking a plow horse, feeding it a racehorse diet, and training it like a racehorse. You will end up with a horse that is faster than the average plow horse, but still nowhere near as fast as a racehorse. 38 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2018

There are may factors that influence the economic return when fertilizing bermudagrass pastures. The best returns are generally on the most productive soils.

Variety: The bermudagrass variety is important in determining N rate. In general, varieties selected from common bermudagrass do not respond as well to fertilizer as hybrid varieties. In our area, common bermudagrass rarely responds to N rates higher than 100 pounds per acre. We generally recommend 50 pounds of N per acre where common is the variety. Hybrid varieties such as Coastal, Midland 99, and Tifton 85 will respond to much higher N rates. If a good stand is present, these varieties will utilize N and convert it into forage until precipitation is limited. Obviously, nonirrigated bermudagrass in the eastern United States can utilize more N than in the Southwest due to higher precipitation. Crude protein: Many people think fertilizing bermudagrass dramatically raises crude protein content. It is true that crude protein will be higher in fertilized bermudagrass, but the difference is small. A research study conducted by Noble Research Institute from 2008 to 2010 compared yields and forage quality between seven varieties of bermudagrass with five rates of N fertilizer. This study showed crude protein content improved by 1 to 1.5 percentage units per 100 pounds of N per acre applied. We harvested these plots every 30 days, and crude protein contents were above 11 percent in the unfertilized plots. Plant growth stage has more influence on crude protein content than fertilizer rate. Use a rotation plan and graze each field at least every 30 days, taking only the upper portion of the plant to optimize crude protein. Weed status: Another factor to consider before fertilizing bermudagrass

is the weed status in the field. Do not fertilize if the field has a lot of weeds and you don’t plan to control them that year. If you do fertilize, you will grow very large weeds.

Formulate a strategy One way to plan a fertilization program is to overlay your soil test results with field productivity. Prioritize N fertilizer applications to those highly productive fields that do not require additional P and K fertilizer. These are the cheapest fields to fertilize. Second, prioritize fields with average to good productivity that do not require P and K. Third, consider fertilizing highly productive fields that need P and/or K. The last option for spending your N fertilizer dollars should be the low productivity fields or those that require a lot of P and K, unless money is not limiting. There are at least two ways to determine the productivity of your fields. One is your experience. The other is the Web Soil Survey, a website that hosts the digital version of the soil survey for each county in the United States. Type Web Soil Survey into a search engine, find your place on a map, and see what soil types make up your fields. •

EDDIE FUNDERBURG The author is a senior soils and crops consultant at the Noble Research Institute.


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Solutions for Moving Large Round and/or Square Bales

Some say our equipment is “over-built”. We say there’s no such thing! CONTACT YOUR LOCAL JOHN DEERE FORAGE PRO DEALER

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www.rrbalecovers.com 42 Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2018

Jan Ford Jford@hoards.com Kim Zilverberg Kzilverberg@hayandforage.com

7/18/16 8:13 AM


HaySoftware Ad 2.25” w X 2” h Visit www.tubeline.ca/silage.php to download our free high moisture hay guidebook.

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FARM EQUIPMENT BEST PIVOT TRACK CLOSER FOR ALFALFA! Right amount of soil moved and packed with weight of your tractor. Tracks stay shallow. 402-750-2199 /23 www.tracpacker.com TRACPA

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44 Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2018


HO–60 KERNEL PROCESSOR Scherer has the processor custom harvesters & nutritionists demand for increasing gain & bottom line. Improve your KP score with exceptional processing of kernels and cobs. The HO will handle all desired crop lengths. •

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hayandforage.com April/May 2018 | hayandforage.com | 45

FORAGE IQ Alfalfa and Small Grains Field Day May 17, University of California-Davis Details: alfalfa.ucdavis.edu Alfalfa in the South Workshops May 1 to 10, various locations Details: georgiaforages.com Southern Pasture & Forage Crop Improvement Conference May 14 to 16, Fayetteville, Ark. Details: agrilife.org/spfcic/ Coastal Plain Experiment Station Forage Production Field Day May 23, Newton, Miss. Details: forages.pss.msstate.edu/events. html UF/UGA Corn Silage and Forage Field Day May 24, Citra, Fla. Details: http://bit.ly/HFG-UFCSDay Grassfed Beef Conference May 31 and June 1, College Station, Texas Details: bit.ly/HFG-TXGrassfed Joint Meeting of the NAAIC, Trifolium & Grass Breeders June 4 to 6, Logan, Utah Details: www.naaic.org Wyoming Forage Field Day June 12, Lingle, Wyo. Details: bit.ly/HFG-WyoFFD Four-State Dairy Nutrition Conference June 13 and 14, Dubuque, Iowa Details: bit.ly/HFG-4state Texoma Cattlemen’s Conference June 15, Ardmore, Okla. Details: noble.org/events/tcc/ 10th Grassfed Exchange Conference June 20 to 22, Rapid City, S.D. Details: grassfedexchange.com Wisconsin Farm Technology Days July 10 to 12, Marshfield, Wis. Details: wifarmtechnologydays.com/wood World Dairy Expo World Forage Analysis Superbowl October 2 to 6, Madison, Wis. Corn silage entries due July 1 Hay crop entries due Aug. 30 Details: bit.ly/HFG-WFAS 46 | Hay & Forage Grower | April/May 2018


It’s slow going this spring Hay prices continue to remain ahead of last year as we steadily push through spring. In the West and South, first-cut alfalfa has been or soon will be harvested. Harvest in California has been slowed by rain. Extremely cool/cold spring weather

has delayed alfalfa growth. This will likely push first crop cutting dates later than normal. The prices below are primarily from USDA hay market reports as of mid-April. Prices are FOB barn/stack unless otherwise noted.•

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

Nebraska (western) Price $/ton 231-245 Nebraska (Platte Valley)-lrb 260 Pennsylvania (southeast) 175-185 Pennsylvania (southeast)-ssb 175-195 South Dakota (Corsica)-lrb 150-210 Texas (north,central, east) 180-250 Texas (Panhandle) 200-250 Utah (central) 185 Washington (Columbia Basin) 190 Wisconsin (Lancaster)-lrb 215 Wyoming (eastern) 270 Fair-quality alfalfa 260 (d) California (northern SJV) 270 (d) Iowa (Rock Valley)-lrb 125-150 Kansas (north central/east) 130-180 Minnesota (Pipestone)-lrb 253-255 Missouri Montana Price $/ton 220-280 Nebraska (western) 270 Oklahoma (western) 225-235 Pennsylvania (southeast)-ssb 275-285 South Dakota (Corsica)-lrb 240 Utah (Uintah Basin) 175 Washington (Columbia Basin) 225 Wyoming (central/western)-ssb 270-355 Bermudagrass hay 160-170 Alabama-Premium lrb 160-200 Alabama-Premium ssb 150-175 Texas (Panhandle)-Good/Premium lrb 150-160 Texas (south)-Good/Premium ssb 170-175 Texas (south)-Good/Premium lrb 220 Bromegrass hay 185 Kansas-Good 190-205 Missouri-Good 180 Orchardgrass hay 200 (d) Colorado (northeast)-Premium 250 (d) Oregon (Crook-Wasco)-Premium ssb 240 Oregon (Harney County)-Premium 100-120 Oregon (eastern)-Premium-ssb 90-100 Timothy hay 180-185 Montana-Premium ssb 210 Pennsylvania (southeast)-Premium 165 Oat hay 180-200 Iowa (Rock Valley) Kansas (south central) Price $/ton 250 (d) Straw 150 (o) Alabama-ssb 175-178 Iowa (Rock Valley) 168-185 Kansas (north central/east) 140-150 Minnesota (Sauk Centre) 140-145 Montana 110-150 Nebraska (western) 120-160 Pennsylvania (southeast)-ssb 150-175 South Dakota (Corsica)-lrb

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

155-165 90-105 140-185 205 108-135 240 205 80-90 150 140 165 Price $/ton 215 140-168 105-115 120-130 100-120 130-160 140 125-140 115-135 88-105 50-70 140 150 Price $/ton 87-133 180-300 160-180 231-265 100 Price $/ton 100-130 100-150 Price $/ton 318 235-240 175 175 Price $/ton 210-240 205-240 Price $/ton 95 85-95 Price $/ton 160 93-133 75-85 60-95 90-125 65 165-200 75

(d) (d)


(d) (d)


SINCE 1958

WE’VE BEEN PLANTING FOR THE FUTURE SINCE OUR FIRST BAG OF SEED. In 1958, the founders of W-L Alfalfas saw something no one else did: the future of the industry. Throughout the six decades since, we have been focused on one thing: bringing you the highest-producing, highest-quality alfalfa seed in the world.


HarvXtra® Alfalfa with Roundup Ready® Technology and Roundup Ready® Alfalfa are subject to planting and use restrictions. Visit www.ForageGenetics.com/legal for the full legal, stewardship and trademark statements for these products. W-L Alfalfas is a registered trademark of Forage Genetics International, LLC. © 2018 Forage Genetics International, LLC



Roundup Ready® is a registered trademark of Monsanto Technology LLC, used under license by Forage Genetics International, LLC. HarvXtra® is a registered trademark of Forage Genetics International, LLC.

SAVE BIG ON SELECT HAY TOOLS Take advantage of discounts on select mowers, mower conditioners, or rotary rakes with special coupon offerings from KUHN. Visit your local dealer or our website today for details and to receive your coupon. Offers end: June 29, 2018

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