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hayandforage.com

February 2019

Grazing the Blue Ridge pg 6 Alfalfa-bermudagrass baleage pg 10 Alfalfa checkoff dollars at work pg 20

Published by W.D. Hoard & Sons Co.

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Reduce silage loss pg 30 1/31/19 10:40 AM


M OW . CONDITION. BALE. BETTER.

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February 2019 · VOL. 34 · No. 2

MANAGING EDITOR Michael C. Rankin ART DIRECTOR Todd Garrett 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

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W.D. HOARD & SONS PRESIDENT Brian V. Knox

Grazing the Blue Ridge

Beef operations in the Blue Ridge Mountains are not large, and their success hinges on maximum forage utilization for every acre.

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

DEPARTMENTS 4 First Cut 6 Beef Feedbunk 14 Forage Gearhead 16 Feed Analysis 18 Beef Feedbunk

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Finding a solution to declining bahiagrass pastures

20 Alfalfa Checkoff 22 Pasture Ponderings

They think out of the box

Find out why some Florida bahiagrass pastures are losing productivity.

This Minnesota dairy is finding initial success with establishing alfalfa under corn.

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FORAGE TO FEED TO FERTILIZER

NITROGEN CONSIDERATIONS FOR WINTER PASTURE

TEDDING’S IMPACT ON THE PRODUCTION OF ALFALFA SILAGE

TEARING INTO THE DISC CUTTERBAR

BALE GRAZING GETS THEM THROUGH WINTER

34 Machine Shed 42 Forage IQ 42 Hay Market Update

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ALFALFABERMUDAGRASS BALEAGE

30 Dairy Feedbunk

SONAR HELPS HIM BE A BETTER GRAZIER

REDUCE SILAGE LOSS AT THE EXPOSED FACE

STEP UP AND EVALUATE SEED GENETICS IN 2019

MYCOTOXINS REMAIN A SILAGE CHALLENGE

ON THE COVER Drex Gauntt checks the alfalfa moisture at his Kennewick, Wash., farm. The third-generation producer farms 2,000 acres in the Columbia Basin and grows 750 acres of irrigated alfalfa along with 600 acres of timothy. The vast majority of his forage production is exported. Gauntt operates the farm with his father and children. “We are big users of technology to increase our efficiency and maximize product quality,” he said. Photo by Mike Rankin

HAY & FORAGE GROWER (ISSN 0891-5946) copyright © 2019 W. D. Hoard & Sons Company. All rights reserved. Published six times annually in January, February, March, April/May, August/September and November by W. D. Hoard & Sons Co., 28 Milwaukee Ave., W., Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin 53538 USA. Tel: 920-563-5551. Fax: 920-563-7298. Email: info@hayandforage.com. Website: www.hayandforage. com. Periodicals Postage paid at Fort Atkinson, Wis., and additional mail offices. SUBSCRIPTION RATES: Free and controlled circulation to qualified subscribers. Non-qualified subscribers may subscribe at: USA: 1 year $20 U.S.; Outside USA: Canada & Mexico, 1 year $80 U.S.; All other countries, 1 year $120 U.S. For Subscriber Services contact: Hay & Forage Grower, PO Box 801, Fort Atkinson, WI 53538 USA; call: 920-563-5551, email: info@hayandforage.com or visit: www.hayandforage.com. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to HAY & FORAGE GROWER, 28 Milwaukee Ave., W., Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin 53538 USA. Subscribers who have provided a valid email address may receive the Hay & Forage Grower email newsletter eHay Weekly.

February 2019 | hayandforage.com | 3

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FIRST CUT

Mike Rankin Managing Editor

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Digesting digestibility

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EOPLE often ask me, “What’s new in the forage world?” My answer begins with forage digestibility, or to be more specific, fiber digestibility. I then get a facial expression similar to what I might receive if I had told them the automobile is revolutionizing human transportation. Perhaps it’s not so much that fiber digestibility is a new concept, but how we are valuing and measuring it certainly is. Further, we haven’t reached the last mile marker. As analyses go, the total fiber content, as measured by neutral detergent fiber or NDF, is perhaps the first and most important metric to know, but following closely behind is the digestibility of that fiber. Livestock producers, nutritionists, agronomists, and researchers are currently exploiting forage and fiber quality concepts in a variety of new ways. But why? It’s because highly digestible forages can boost dry matter intake and cut feed costs. It also doesn’t cost any more to harvest highly digestible forage compared to a similar forage with low digestibility. A lack of energy in the livestock diet often limits performance, especially for lactating cows or growing animals. In a forage-based diet, high energy often is dictated by fiber digestibility and the rate of digestion. Protein is important, but rarely limits animal performance. The alphabet soup of fiber digestibility metrics is ever growing. You can count among them NDF digestibility (NDFD), undigested NDF (uNDF240), total tract NDF digestibility (TTNDFD), relative forage quality (RFQ), or a summative TDN calculation. These metrics now litter most forage test analysis sheets, often turning your forage testing results page into some-

thing that more resembles an ancient Greek scroll. However, if these analyses don’t appear, perhaps it’s time to investigate using a different forage lab. As you assess the fiber digestibility status of last year’s forages, keep in mind that there are three primary factors that will explain the results — good or bad. Growing environment: This is one factor that can’t be controlled and often has a profound negative impact on fiber digestibility in regions plagued by hot weather and drought. Cool temperatures, especially at night, will have a positive impact on fiber digestibility. Time of harvest: Fiber digestibility declines with plant maturity. Hence, the stage of plant development when forage is cut or grazed will in most situations have the largest impact on the harvested fiber digestibility. To capture the “grass advantage,” stands must be cut early before seedheads appear. Genetics: Species and variety selection is another way to improve fiber digestibility. Among grasses, species such as meadow fescue and ryegrass have proven superior to their counterparts. Also, since fiber digestibility has risen in hierarchy, plant breeders have developed alfalfa varieties that are significantly better than previous offerings. It makes little sense to capture yield of additional fiber that isn’t digestible. Though not all livestock classes demand forages with high-fiber digestibility, rare is the year when too much high-quality forage is a problem. Harvesting relatively high fiber digestibility forage is economically beneficial whether you feed it or sell it. As a forage producer, seize that opportunity. •

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

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T:8.375” S:7.875”

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GRAZING THE

BLUE RIDGE by Mike Rankin

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agent based in Haywood County. “We’ve tried to get as much buy-in for management-intensive grazing as we can.” The Kelleys participate in North Carolina State’s Amazing Grazing Program; they currently own 150 acres while renting another 100 acres. About 40 percent of the acreage is wooded. The pastureland base is divided up into 25 paddocks and can be further divided using polywire. They graze 30 mother cows, 35 ewes, and 17 goats. Kelley has found sheep and goats to be good “clean up” animals; they also add profit. The perennial pastures consist of both novel and toxic tall fescue along with orchardgrass. Both red and white clovers are frost seeded to maintain an adequate legume component. This helps from a nutritional standpoint and reduces the need for added nitrogen.

All photos Mike Rankin

NEVER get tired of looking at these mountains,” Tim Kelley reflected. “I’ve always said that I’m the most blessed man on earth to live here and farm. The Lord has been good to our family.” Kelley and his wife, Jamie, raise cattle, sheep, and goats in western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains near Clyde. The scenery is jaw dropping and land is a valuable commodity. Would-be buyers, mostly retirees, shell out $30,000 to $40,000 per acre to build homes in these mountains. The Kelleys have little in common with the mountains’ modern-day homesteaders, and they certainly are not in retirement mode despite having three grown

children and five grandchildren. The family of this third generation livestock producer has been on the current farm since 1964. At that time, the primary enterprises were tobacco, molasses, and cattle. Kelley took command of the farm from his parents in the early 1980s, after getting married and graduating from Western Carolina University. Though the Blue Ridge mountain range is expansive, its farms are not. Like Kelley’s Chestnut Hill Farm, most livestock operations are tucked away in small valleys or on rolling hills. Many of the mountain’s livestock producers also have off-farm jobs, as does Kelley. “Given the land prices and the size of our farms, livestock producers really need to maximize production from every acre,” said Ethan Henderson, North Carolina State University’s extension livestock

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The journey to a successful rotationally-grazed farm takes time, and it’s generally wrought with both successes and failures. “We need to be willing to try new techniques and technologies,” Kelley affirmed. “Over the years, I’ve learned that you have to observe and learn from your mistakes. You have to adjust and try again,” he added.

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All photos Mike Rankin

Steady improvement For the Kelleys, the journey began in the 1990s when he started rotational grazing his cattle. Working with federal and state government agencies, cattle were fenced out of the streams and waterways to improve water quality. It also had the unexpected outcome of improving cow and calf health. “Once we got the cows out of the mud and manure, their udders were cleaner and it virtually eliminated calf scours, which was causing us some calf death loss,” Kelley explained. With the help of government costshare programs, the Kelleys had a new well dug on their farm and installed permanent water tanks along with several quick-connect couplers. This now ensures an adequate, clean water supply at all times and allows for access at different locations. The real epiphany for Kelley came once he understood that the livestock he produced were simply a by-product of the forage. “I needed to put my priority on the forage,” Kelley said. “That mindset has made all the difference. We’ve nearly doubled our livestock carrying capacity.” It was about eight years ago that Kelley took his rotational grazing program to a higher level. With assistance from the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), he developed a forage plan that would have his cows grazing 300 days out of the year. He began to fall stockpile and strip graze about 30 acres of forage; this aided in dropping his feed input costs by 40 to 50 percent. Last year, the stockpiled forage was tested in late January after several hard killing freezes. It was still 16 percent crude protein and 69 percent total digestible nutrients (TDN). Cattle generally stay on pasture through mid-February and maintain excellent body condition. Kelley grows a small amount of corn that he harvests as silage. This, along with hay that he bales, is fed during the two months of nongrazing. The Blue Ridge livestock producer also dedicates acreage for the produc-

tion of summer and winter annuals. These help fill the gaps when his perennial pastures go dormant in the summer or are just coming out of winter dormancy during early spring. Kelley’s winter annual of choice is Ray’s Crazy Fall Mix, which consists of winter peas, winter oats, wheat, hairy vetch, crimson clover, ryegrass, Daikon radish, and turnips. The sheep and goats graze this mix throughout the winter; then Kelly applies 50 units per acre of nitrogen in the spring and begins grazing cattle on the mixture in late April. Once the winter annuals run their course, they are terminated and either

When the lambs are born, they grow fast in early spring on high-quality forage, and then we sell them in June at around 60 to 75 pounds. I want them out of here before the cool-season perennial pastures start to go dormant. In most years, the lambs make us more profit per acre than the calves,” he explained. Kelley can’t say enough good things about how management-intensive grazing has transformed his farm. “The best thing is that the ecosystem we’ve built now holds more of the moisture that falls,” he noted. “Droughts are always tough to get through, but our farm is a lot more bulletproof than it used to be.

Sheep and goats compliment Tim Kelley’s beef herd and help to maximize returns on his grazing acres.

corn or a summer annual is planted. Kelley uses pearl millet, sorghum-sudangrass, and Ray’s Crazy Summer Mix. The latter is a combination of cowpeas, sorghum-sudangrass, radish, sunflowers, pearl millet, and brassicas.

Matching animal to forage Through trial and error, Kelley has become adept at matching his available forage to livestock needs. The cows are bred in late December through February to calve the following October and November. During the breeding season, cows strip-graze the stockpiled forage when the fescue toxicity risk is low. Conception rates on the farm are around 95 percent. Calves are weaned during the summer and then preconditioned for 60 days on novel-endophyte fescue and the summer annuals. A small amount of grain is also fed. Over the past seven years, weaning weights have improved from 500 to 600 pounds and sale weights have jumped from 650 to over 750 pounds per animal. How do the sheep and goats fit into the picture? “We breed them in October to lamb and kid in March,” Kelley said. “We pretty much graze them year-round.

Tim and Jamie Kelley implemented their rotational grazing system in the 1990s. “We’re still learning,” Tim said.

Though we may have to wean calves earlier in extremely dry years, we no longer have to sell cows,” he added.

Just getting started Over and down a few hills from Kelley’s farm is another 57-acre beef operation owned by Josh and Tracey Sorrells. The husband-wife team purchased the acreage near Canton, N.C., in 2016 after previously leasing it for six years. Josh’s father, Steve, is also actively involved with the operation. Both Steve and Josh have horticultural degrees from North Carolina State University. Along with Tracey and Steve’s wife, Phyllis, they own and operate a successful nursery and landscape business, which is located near the family’s continued on following page >>> February 2019 | hayandforage.com | 7

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Strip grazing is one of the many ways that the Kelleys accomplish a high level of forage utilization.

long-time home farm a few miles away from Josh’s new grazing operation. “We always had cows, but they would run in the mountains,” Steve said. “We never really needed a fitness center since we got more than enough exercise walking those fences on the mountains,” he chuckled. The recently purchased farm is far better suited for rotational grazing than a wooded mountain. Like the Kelleys, the Sorrellses have been working with North Carolina State Extension and Livestock Agent Henderson to develop a successful grazing plan. “It’s been a big learning curve,” Josh noted. Although there is still much to absorb and accomplish, it is evident that this clan pays attention to details and is set on maximizing production on their limited acres. For example, their dry round bales of hay are stored outside on wood pallets, butted end to end, to minimize storage losses. Another stack of bales were covered with a tarp. Sorrellses have fenced the farm to create multiple 5- to 7-acre paddocks; they move their cattle every five to seven days, depending on the weather. Polywire is used to strip graze and high-tensile wire comprises their perimeter fence. Thirty-four mother cows currently graze the pastures and are bred to calve in December. When calves reach 1,200 to 1,400 pounds, they are processed and direct marketed as grass-fed beef. It takes about 24 months to finish their calves. Presently, they are trying to build herd numbers, so all heifers are being kept for breeding.

Toxic fescue Like most farms in the region, toxic tall fescue dominates much of the

pastureland. It’s no different on the Sorrells’ farm, though orchardgrass is also present. To mitigate the effects of toxic fescue, Sorrellses clip off the highly toxic seedheads and try to have other forage alternatives during the heat of summer. They also broadcast red and white clover seed on their paddocks and then use a pasture drag to enhance seed-to-soil contact. “We strive for a diverse mix of grass and legumes,” Josh said. “We want the cattle to eat everything.” As for summer forage alternatives to tall fescue, Sorrellses were involved in a grazing trial with Henderson this past summer that looked at the potential advantage of using brown midrib (BMR) pearl millet. A mixture of sunn hemp, cow peas, and non-BMR pearl millet is being compared to the same mixture with BMR pearl millet. Sorrellses also plant some sorghum-sudangrass, which is made into baleage. The summer annuals are planted with a Haybuster no-till drill. The farm’s elevation of 2,200 feet keeps temperatures somewhat moderate. This is advantageous for forage quality, especially in the summer. Sorrellses like to feed first-cut grass hay along with their pasture forage. This lowers the risk of bloat and adds effective fiber to the ration. “The manure isn’t quite so loose,” Josh added. Some paddocks get stockpiled for winter feeding. In addition, a bale unroller is used to feed hay during the winter. “We like it better than ring feeding,” Steve said. “We can move the location and spread manure nutrients a little better. There also seems to be less waste,” he added. Sorrellses own a modest line of hay

Sorrellses routinely frost seed red and white clover into their pastures. The results are evident.

equipment. They rent an in-line bale wrapper from a neighboring farmer that they use to make baleage from their sorghum-sudangrass and wheat.

Looking to the future Sorrellses will continue to learn and make improvements. This year, they plan to use available cost-share dollars to dig a well and install seven permanent ball waterers to service their paddocks. Cattle have already been fenced away from surface water sources. The cattle operations in the Blue Ridge Mountains aren’t large, but there are significant portions of land that are well suited for growing forage and livestock. Collectively, this acreage can and does contribute to economic growth for the region. The limiting factor is land availability, making animal and forage production per acre an important metric to maximize. How many of the region’s cattle producers will buy into the concept of intensive grazing is difficult to predict. One thing is for certain: Few livestock producers in the U.S. can glance up from their written grazing plans and witness the level of eye-catching scenery offered in the Blue Ridge Mountains. •

“We want the cattle to eat everything,” said Josh Sorrells. From the left is Steve Sorrells, Josh, and his wife, Tracey.

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Taylor Hendricks

Alfalfa-bermudagrass baleage: a Southeast game changer by Taylor Hendricks, Jennifer Tucker, and Dennis Hancock

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RODUCERS in the Midwestern, Western, and Northern states are no strangers to the benefits of alfalfa. They know alfalfa is an excellent source of protein and digestible energy for livestock. Yet, producers in the Southeast are skeptical about alfalfa’s ability to successfully grow in their hot and humid environment. Over the last 20 years, though, several alfalfa varieties have been released that are much more suited to the region. These varieties have been bred for greater pest and disease resistance, heat tolerance, the dual use of hay/silage and grazing, and semi- or non-dormancy, allowing for a longer growing season. Depending on location, producers in the South can expect from five to 10 cuttings within a single growing season, thus making the “Queen of Forages” much more practical. Even with these newer varieties, Southern producers are slow to adopt alfalfa on a widespread basis. This is in large part due to the success of bermudagrass as a warm-season perennial. When nitrogen fertilizer was cheap, bermudagrass was king because of its extremely high yields — Tifton-85 can produce 7 to 11 tons annually — and moderate quality. This combination of yield and quality makes it a popular choice for growers.

It is important to remember, however, that high yields require high soil fertility. Additionally, bermudagrass quality usually isn’t enough to maintain body condition in lactating cows. Forage quality can drop rapidly if bermudagrass is not harvested on a timely interval, leading to extra costs for feed supplementation. Research from the University of Georgia shows that interseeding alfalfa into bermudagrass may boost protein by more than 50 percent and push total digestible nutrient (TDN) concentrations above 62 percent, thus reducing the need for supplementation. Plus, it can do it without sacrificing the high yields of bermudagrass and virtually eliminate the need for added nitrogen.

A weather beater Though producers have some control of forage quality through variety selection and harvest timing, no one is immune to the impacts of weather. As much as we would like to control the weather, it is often the biggest challenge to producing high-quality hay. This is especially true in the Southeast, which is known for its high humidity and frequent summer storms. In this environment, it can be nearly impossible to find three or four rain-free days to dry hay during the

peak growing season. Since baleage is harvested at a higher moisture, it reduces the number of rain-free days producers need between cutting and baling. This drying window can help producers maintain a desirable harvest interval, thereby optimizing their forage quality. Combining the reliability of baleage and quality of an alfalfa-bermudagrass mixture, without sacrificing yield, would be a gamechanger for producers in the Southeast. Research into the viability of alfalfabermudagrass baleage is ongoing at University of Georgia’s Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton, Ga. At this location, Bulldog 805 alfalfa that is interseeded into Tifton 85 bermudagrass is being compared with a Tifton 85 bermudagrass monoculture receiving nitrogen fertilization. Bulldog 805 alfalfa was interseeded in February 2016 and both treatments were TAYLOR HENDRICKS Hendricks (pictured) is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences at the University of Georgia (UGA). Tucker is an assistant professor and Hancock is the extension forage agronomist, both at UGA.

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There’s a yield advantage Producers often wonder about how alfalfa will perform, especially considering its first-year yield drag. Researchers were surprised to find the opposite. While the bermudagrass monoculture did produce an additional 2 tons of dry matter per acre than the mixture in 2016, the mixture began to thrive that fall. An additional harvest of the alfalfa-bermudagrass mixture in November 2016 helped to close the yield gap and set the tone for the second and third years of production. Alfalfa-bermudagrass mixtures were harvested three times in 2017 (March, April, and May) and twice in 2018 (March and May) before the bermudagrass monoculture was cut for the first time each year in June. Additionally, the mixture produced an extra harvest each fall after the bermudagrass had gone dormant for the season. On average, the alfalfa-bermudagrass mixture produced seven harvests each season while bermudagrass averaged only four (see graph). These additional harvests ultimately led to the alfalfabermudagrass mixture out-producing the bermudagrass monoculture by almost 5 tons over the three-year period.

Improved forage quality Though we may not have expected the additional yield in the alfalfa-bermudagrass mixture, the quality advantages came as no surprise. Bermudagrass quality is moderate and highly variable with forage maturity. Good quality bermudagrass is typically high enough in quality to easily support a dry cow with crude protein ranging from 10 to 14 percent and TDN from 50 to 55 percent. Animal classes with higher nutrient requirements, such as a beef cow at peak lactation, would likely need some additional supplementation to meet her needs. Adding alfalfa to the mixture can lead to crude protein levels of 14 to 18 percent and TDN values of 60 percent or greater, which meets the nutrient requirements of most animal classes. Using alfalfa rather than other supplementation can help enhance the profitability of a livestock operation. Even with weather challenges and weed pressure, the alfalfa-bermudagrass mixture showed a marked advantage in quality. Because the alfalfa

was established in the spring of 2016, rather than the previous fall, there was a consistently larger percentage of bermudagrass throughout all harvests in the first year. Additionally, extreme drought across much of the South added extra weed pressure, especially during the mid-summer harvests. Although the amount of alfalfa in the mixture was lower than expected in 2016, crude protein was greater in five of the six harvests and TDN was 3 percent greater than in the bermudagrass monoculture. On the other end of the weather spectrum, the 2018 season was so wet that even baleage producers struggled to make timely harvests of their forage. Even with wet conditions and delayed harvests, the mixture had a 7 percent higher crude protein and 6 percent higher TDN compared with the monoculture.

When to feed? Researchers are also hoping to evaluate recommendations for feeding baleage once it is stored. Current recommendations are for producers to feed baleage within nine months; however, this may not match producers’ needs or allow enough feeding time in high-yielding years. Bales from this study were wrapped, stored, and sampled to monitor baleage for possible changes in forage quality throughout storage. Bales are sampled at six weeks and then nine- and 12-months postharvest to evaluate specific time points. After six weeks postharvest, baleage fermentation is considered complete and bales are ready for feedout. The nine-month time represents the current feeding recommendation, while a 12-month storage time would likely provide extra flexibility for producers to effectively

utilize stored forages. Preliminary data indicate that there were minimal changes in nutritive value in the 12 months postharvest storage. Total digestible nutrient concentrations and in vitro dry matter digestibility both declined between the harvest and postfermentation (six weeks) sampling. While the bermudagrass bales were not affected by the additional storage time, TDN of alfalfa-bermudagrass bales did decrease between nine and 12 months. This decline in TDN was less than 3 percentage units, signifying that bales stored for up to a year would likely still meet the requirements of a dry beef cow. Minimal changes in nutritive value over a longer storage period could mean that updated baleage feeding recommendations are in the works. While the longer storage period provides producers with additional feeding flexibility, it would not be without challenges. Producers considering a longer baleage storage period would need to implement strategies to maintain plastic-wrap integrity and prevent spoilage. Changes could range from using additional layers of plastic during wrapping to frequently scouting bales and repairing any tears or punctures that could allow air or water into the bales. Incorporating an alfalfa-bermudagrass mixture can add another tool to the arsenal of producers who hope to improve forage quality without sacrificing yields from their bermudagrass stands. Pairing this mixture with a baleage operation can add harvest flexibility and alleviate weather challenges of traditional dry-hay systems. This winning combination of alfalfa-bermudagrass baleage could be a game changer for producers who say “yes” to alfalfa in the South. •

Number of harvests of bermudagrass and alfalfa-bermudagrass mixtures

Harvests

harvested on a 28 to 35 day cutting interval during the 2016, 2017, and 2018 growing seasons.

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0

2016

n T85-Alfalfa mixture

2017

2018

n T85-Monoculture February 2019 | hayandforage.com | 11

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approximately 60 pounds of nitrogen per acre was removed from the system.

What is the economic return?

Nitrogen considerations for winter pasture by James Locke

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EFORE deciding whether to topdress additional fertilizer for a spring grazing turn, you should consider several factors. Below are a few questions that will help you decide whether and how much to topdress.

What is forage demand going to be? We typically base nitrogen (N) rates on yield goals, in this case dry matter (DM) production. However, we also have to ensure that our yield goals are reasonable according to crop conditions, weather forecasts, and historical production. We can estimate total dry matter demand (DMD), DMD per acre, and N recommendation with the formulas listed in the text box below. Winter pasture, which for our purposes is going to be a small grain such as wheat, rye, or triticale, will generally produce between 1,000 and 2,000 pounds of dry matter per acre without added nitrogen. This is why we subtract 1,500 pounds from the dry matter demand per acre to estimate the additional production from fertilizer. If the field history has shown the site to be highly productive without added nitrogen, increase the amount subtracted to as much as 2,000 pounds. Likewise, if the field history has shown it to be a low-production site, reduce the amount subtracted to as little as 1,000 pounds. Divide the result by 18 because about 16 to 20 pounds of additional dry matter is produced per pound of actual nitrogen applied. An example calculation is shown in the text box. This is for an operation planning to turn out 160 steers weighing an average of 500 pounds on 120 acres of good wheat pasture for a 120-day spring grazing turn (February through May). The steers are projected to gain an average of 2.25 pounds per head per day and

come off weighing 770 pounds. Their average weight will be 635 pounds (500 pounds in plus 770 pounds out) divided by two equals 635 pounds.

How much fall-applied N remains? There are a couple of ways to estimate how much N is still available to credit to spring production. The most accurate way is to collect soil samples in late January or early February. To account for all available N, collect samples as deep as the winter pasture roots will likely penetrate. When collecting subsoil samples, make sure to collect in the depth increments recommended by the laboratory. In situations where substantial rainfall or irrigation occurred, N could have leached from the root zone or been lost to denitrification. If such events did not occur and the pasture was not grazed in the fall, we can credit all the fall applied N to the topdress recommendation. If the crop was grazed with a fall turn and soil sampling is not feasible, we can still estimate how much nitrogen the cattle removed. As a general rule of thumb, approximately 30 pounds of N is removed per acre for every 100 pounds of beef produced. For example, if the total gain was 200 pounds per acre during the fall turn, we can estimate that

For graze-out systems, compare the value of the potential additional gain with the cost of the N fertilizer needed to produce the additional forage. A general rule of thumb, as stated above, is that 1 pound of N will produce an additional 16 to 20 pounds of high-quality dry matter forage, which with 85 percent grazing efficiency, provides 14 to 17 pounds of dry matter forage consumed. It requires about 8 pounds of consumed forage to produce 1 pound of gain. Therefore, for each pound of N, we expect to produce enough usable forage to result in approximately 2 pounds of gain. At the time of this writing, nitrogen costs approximately 43 cents per pound ($400 per ton for urea) and the estimated value of gain for the spring turn is 76.44 cents per pound (BeefBasis.com). If N costs 43 cents per pound and the anticipated value of 2 pounds of gain is $1.53, the marginal return would be $1.10 per pound of N fertilizer applied. Evaluating potential economic return, anticipating forage demand, and taking credit for residual nitrogen are some of the most important considerations for deciding whether and how much nitrogen to topdress on winter pasture. Still, when making fertility management decisions, make sure to also consider other factors such as weather, winter pasture species, variety, soil type, soil pH, other nutrient levels, and pest pressure. • JAMES LOCKE The author is a soils and crops consultant at the Noble Research Institute, Ardmore, Okla. He can be reached at jmlocke@noble.org.

Determining nitrogen application rates for winter pastures (Cattle number) x (average cattle weight in pounds) x (0.026 [percent DM intake]) x (number of expected grazing days) = total forage demand in pounds of dry matter (total DMD) (Total DMD divided by 0.85 grazing efficiency) divided by number of acres = DMD in pounds per acre (DMD per acre) (DMD per acre minus 1,500 pounds) divided by 18 = recommended pounds actual N per acre

Example: 160 head x 635 pounds x 0.026 intake x 120 days = 316,992 pounds total DMD (316,992 pounds total DMD divided by 0.85 grazing efficiency) divided by 120 acres = 3,108 pounds DMD per acre (3,108 pounds DMD per acre minus 1,500 pounds) divided by 18 = 89 pounds actual N per acre recommended

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DAIRY FARMER.

ADVANCED ALFALFA SEED VARIETIES plantnexgrow.com 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. 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. NEXGROW is a registered trademark of Forage Genetics International, LLC. © 2018 Forage Genetics International, LLC

T:10.875”

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BULL MENTALITY


FORAGE GEARHEAD

by Adam Verner

Preventive cutterbar maintenance can save money in the long run.

Tearing into the disc cutterbar

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HE mower is one of the most overlooked pieces of equipment when it comes to yearly maintenance. It’s not that most hay cutters are abused, but few people can say that they have taken apart their disc cutterbar on a regular basis. Many disc mowers have a cutterbar that is “lubed for life,” according to the manufacturer. This means that the oil or grease in the cutterbar never has to be changed for its entire useful life. Manufacturers of these maintenance-free cutterbars have found effective ways to clean and seal this important component. I’m not saying that they are incorrect or suggesting that after six years of use you will have problems if you don’t change the oil or grease, but I feel the smart play is to at some point think about doing some serious cutterbar maintenance. If the oil in your car was supposed to last 100,000 miles, wouldn’t you still change it before it reached threshold? I know that I would not go that long. The cutterbar, whether it is gear or shaft driven, has many fast-moving parts that are the backbone of your mower. The cutterbar is an intimidating machine component, as timing is everything. One tooth off when reassembled can be detrimental to the disc mower’s operation. I recommend my customers tear their cutterbar down if they don’t bring the mower into our shop for a winter inspection. Maybe not all the way down by

removing the internal gears or shaft, but to at least remove all of the discs. After all, it’s probably time to rotate them anyway, which means rotating the clockwise discs with the counter-clockwise discs. This is also a great time to inspect the hub that drives these discs. I’m almost certain most of you will find either net wrap or twine wrapped around the drive hub. Finally, check the drive hubs for wear and any “slop” in the bearings. Replacing the bearings and seals in the drive hubs is much less expensive than replacing the gears in the cutterbar.

Speaking from experience If you’re competent in shop skills, I think it’s a good idea to tear the cutterbar down even further and remove the hubs to inspect the “guts” of the cutterbar. Before you get to this point, however, you should read your operator’s manual to find out what the specifications are for the oil or grease needed to refill the cutterbar. I say this because my dad and I were tearing down a shaft-driven mower one winter and we looked up the type of grease needed in each pod. We went to every parts store in town and none of them could get that particular type of grease. So, we went to our dealer at the time and they also did not have this grease in stock, which tells me that they never had problems or not many people perform yearly maintenance on their cutterbar.

We ordered the grease, and the dealer actually asked me why we were tearing into our cutterbar and said that there was no need to. We opened up the first disc and the grease looked almost new, as did the grease under the second disc. When we go to the third disc and pulled up the hub, the grease in this pod was jet black. So, we started to investigate why this hub got hot. We could not find much wrong but went ahead and rebuilt that hub. The next winter, when we tore down the cutterbar again, that hub’s grease looked clean. Essentially we stopped a problem before it even showed signs of starting. Maybe it would have never been a problem, but I know I did not want to take the chance on tearing up that mower to save the $100 for a bearing and a little inspection time. The same can be done on gear-driven mowers, although it’s harder to isolate a single hub. If you use a paint stick to mark the timing on the hubs once removed, you can inspect the teeth on the gears. Maybe you’ll find a tooth missing, and maybe you don’t replace it this time, but you will know where it is and can reevaluate in the future. Flushing out the cutterbar is one way to get rid of the broken tooth. After the flush, refill the cutterbar and replace the seals or O-rings as needed, then start to reassemble your “like-new” mower. This big job doesn’t need to happen every year if you are only mowing 500 acres annually, but removing the discs to check for twine and net wrap around the hub is essential for extending the life of your mower. Check with your local dealer; I’m sure they would be glad to offer you some suggestions when tackling this project. I look at cutterbar maintenance like changing the oil in your car. Sure, you can run it a long time without changing the oil, but is that really the way you want to treat the second most expensive piece of equipment in your hay arsenal? Be safe turning wrenches this winter. • ADAM VERNER The author is a managing partner in Elite Ag LLC, Leesburg, Ga. He also is active in the family farm in Rutledge.

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The pasture reader unit, mounted on Thibaudier’s front-mounted mower, uses sonar to assess average pasture height.

Sonar helps him be a better grazier by Paul Queck

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IELD mapping can identify the best and poorest producing areas of your corn and soybean fields. But what’s available for pastures? That’s the question Dutch dairyman Piet Jan Thibaudier, 32, asked as he contemplated converting his 180-cow dairy herd to a grazing feeding system. Agriculture experts at nearby Wageningen University in the Netherlands told him about satellite monitoring being pioneered in Australia and New Zealand. Thibaudier didn’t think that was practical for his 250-acre farm located near Lemmer, Netherlands. “We’re awfully cloudy here in the Netherlands,” he noted. “And I wanted a system that could give me real-time results.” The system he liked best was one he found in Australia. Called Pasture Reader, it uses sonar to assess average pasture height — an indication of pasture density. The system then engages an algorithm to convert this information to dry matter per acre. The small reader unit can be mounted on almost any vehicle, including all-terrain vehicles or ATVs. Thibaudier puts his on the front-mounted mower for his tractor. The system includes a monitor for his tractor cab for real-time monitoring. “I can now see where my poorer areas of pasture are,” said Thibaudier. “So we can go back and find out why they aren’t doing well. Maybe they need reseeding, or maybe better drainage, or perhaps it’s a pH problem.” He noted that data from the unit also can help apply fertilizer in 40-foot squares across a pasture at a variable speed.

Converting to pasture High cost of inputs combined with dropping milk prices has been driving Thibaudier to convert to pasture dairying. With just his parents and a part-time employee, the work-

load of cutting and hauling in grass silage, hauling out manure, milking cows, and tending to the herd’s needs was becoming taxing. Then he got to thinking, “Why not let the cows graze rather than having me mow and haul in grass? And with the cows in the pasture, there would be less manure to haul.” Thibaudier is running mostly crossbred cows and taking some ribbing for it from neighbors, Dutch dairyman Piet as Holsteins are the dominant Jan Thibaudier has been breed in his area. crossing his Holstein cows “In a grass system, you need with Brown Swiss, Danish cows with condition,” explained Red, and Viking Red. the Dutch dairyman who farms in the northern portion of the country. “Holstein cows are too thin. You have to feed them a lot of corn silage. We don’t grow corn here.” He has been crossing his Holsteins with Brown Swiss and has also introduced Danish Red and Viking Red breeding in his herd. Another incentive for converting to grazing is that Thibaudier’s milk buyer pays a large premium for milk from grassbased farms. • PAUL QUECK The author is a freelance writer living in Indianapolis, Ind. He recently traveled to The Netherlands to interview dairy farmers and processors.

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FEED ANALYSIS

by John Goeser

moisture) and dairy performance, the nutrition analyses made sense. The 2017 season had more heat units and moisture relative to 2016 early in the growing season, and this contributed to a BMR silage that only fed as well as the prior year’s conventional silage. Field and harvest management are equally important relative to the environmental factors described above. Good seed genetics can yield poor silage if production and harvest decisions aren’t on point.

Test plots have value

Mike Rankin

Step up and evaluate seed genetics in 2019

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URING the Major League Baseball off-season, the phrase “hot stove league” denotes the period of time when a flurry of team transactions set the stage for the next season. For the seed corn (silage) industry, the winter months are similar as growers evaluate different seed options to strengthen their farm for the next growing season. Like that of a baseball player’s agent, my phone also becomes more active this time of year with calls inquiring about hybrid performance and evaluation. The topic at hand is typically comparing a few hybrids, but the conversation often shifts to also chatting about how to better evaluate seed genetics in the future. Farm profitability can swing from the red to the black (or vice versa) with a given year’s silage yield and quality. There are a few common threads to these conversations that every grower should consider folding into their hybrid evaluation process.

Understand Mother Nature’s impact Seed genetics contribute strongly to resulting plant quality. Yet, growing conditions and environment are incred-

ibly influential in dictating how the crop will ultimately feed. The thumb rule I’ve worked with in the past is that yield and nutritive quality are about equally influenced by two factors: genetics and growing environment. This is rooted in both experience and discussions with Joe Lauer, University of Wisconsin extension corn agronomist and hybrid trial evaluation leader. To put this in perspective, consider the following outcome recognized recently by a northeastern U.S. dairy producer. The farm planted conventional and brown midrib (BMR) corn hybrids for silage in both 2016 and 2017, and thus, had the ability to compare nutritional quality using the total tract neutral detergent fiber digestibility (TTNDFD) tool and other advanced nutrition measures. The farmer called for support when recognizing that the 2017 BMR corn silage was about equivalent to the 2016 conventional corn silage in TTNDFD and fiber quality. This didn’t seem logical to the farm’s nutritionist and seed-advising team, yet when discussing the 2017 growing conditions (exceptional heat and

Do not compare different hybrids (silages) grown on your farm in different years or in different fields. Comparing hybrids grown in one year versus different hybrids grown in the next is equivalent to one player at the poker table playing with a stacked deck in their favor. The conditions are not equal. The better approach to evaluate hybrids (grown under your management and on your farm) is to set up a test plot. Plant the hybrids that you’ll consider for the following year. This needs to be a component of your farm’s business model in the future, recognizing that silage quality is vital to farm profitability. The plot can be planned in a variety of ways, but get started by putting five to 10 hybrids into a field. If there’s space, replicate the hybrids two or three times. Then work with your agronomy and nutrition advisers to compare performance. Often, in well-designed and managed plots, seed companies will contribute seed and labor, taking part in the project as more of a community evaluation effort.

Estimate nutrient yield per acre Until MILK2006 is updated, transition your hybrid evaluation measure to ranking based upon total digestible nutrient (TDN) yield per acre. Milk per ton and milk per acre (from Milk2006) were valuable evaluation numbers for seed genetics, however, dairy nutrition has 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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Check out the newest Hi-Gest® variety!

Multiply your resources Combine hybrid evaluation resources to make the most sound decision. Compare the performance of hybrids on your farm with that of independent sources such as universities and private research entities. Some seed companies also have their own replicated, accurate performance data and can provide valuable insight regarding their specific hybrids grown across many different environments. Cross reference the top performing hybrids in your plot with that of other performance resources. Lastly, work as a team. Often nutritionists are asked to help make decisions, yet many times nutritionists are not equipped with the expertise around how different hybrids perform in different soil or management schemes (I speak from experience). Bring your nutritionist, seed consultant, and/or agronomy consultants together to share goals, bounce ideas off one another, and make decisions as an advisory team to benefit your farm, similar to the way a professional baseball team will seek advice from scouts and managers to help make the best decision for their team. •

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advanced leaps and bounds in the past 10-plus years. As a result, the Milk2006 measures are now as outdated as a 10-year-old pickup truck on your farm. Assess TDN value from plot forage analyses and then multiply by dry matter yield per acre to derive TDN per acre. Use this as the measuring stick to rank and pick seed in your plot. Ask your nutritionist to help put the best TDN measure together for your farm and nutrition program. This typically takes form in a spreadsheet. Make sure both fiber and starch digestibility measures are represented in the TDN measure. More accurate fiber (for example, TTNDFD that accounts for both fiber digestible pool size and speed) and starch digestion measures are now routinely available through forage testing labs. Also, ask your advisory team to consider plant disease resistance. Harvesting clean silage is of growing importance as we better understand plant disease ramifications for dairy and feedlot performance. Further, many are recognizing that silage characteristics that maximize rumen fiber digestion might not optimize plant health.

Push your alfalfa to a whole new level with At AlforexT, we think you should expect more— and get more—from your alfalfa and dairy herd. With a higher leaf-to-stem ratio*, Hi-Gest® alfalfa delivers a 5-10% increase in fiber digestibility and extent of digestion, 3-5% higher crude protein** and more milk per cow per day, all with high yield potential and solid agronomics. Hi-Gest is changing what producers can expect from their alfalfa. Just ask your neighbors to share their Hi-Gest story.

Talk to your dealer today about raising—and meeting—your expectations for higher quality alfalfa with Hi-Gest technology.

(877) 560-5181 | alforexseeds.com * Improved Hi-Gest® alfalfa leafiness, as documented by Alforex Seeds replicated trials at West Salem, WI and Woodland, CA, versus the following commercial alfalfa varieties: America’s Alfalfa Brand AmeriStand 427TQ, Croplan Brands LegenDairy XHD and Artesia Sunrise, Fertizona Brand Fertilac, S&W Brands SW6330, SW7410 and SW10 and W-L Brands WL 319HQ and WL 354HQ. ** The increased rate of fiber digestion, extent of digestion, and crude protein data was developed from replicated research and on-farm testing. During the 2015 growing season at West Salem, WI and Woodland, CA, the following commercial dormant, semi-dormant and non-dormant alfalfa varieties were compared head-to-head with Hi-Gest® alfalfa for rate of digestion, extent of digestion and percent crude protein: America’s Alfalfa Brand AmeriStand 427TQ, Croplan Brands LegenDairy XHD and Artesia Sunrise, Fertizona Brand Fertilac, S&W Seed Brands SW6330, SW7410 and SW10 and W-L Brands WL 319HQ and WL 354HQ. Also during the 2015 growing season, 32 on-farm Hi-Gest hay and silage samples were submitted to Rock River Laboratory, Inc., for forage analysis. The results for rate of digestion, extent of digestion and percent crude protein were averaged and compared to the 60-day and four-year running averages for alfalfa in the Rock River database which included approximately 1,700 alfalfa hay and 3,800 silage 60-day test results and 23,000 hay and 62,000 silage tests results in the four-year average.

Visit us at Corteva.com T,E Trademarks of DuPont, Dow AgroSciences, Pioneer and affiliated companies or their respective owners. © 2018 Alforex Seeds

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BEEF FEEDBUNK

A good winter-feeding strategy not only conserves forage supplies but also improves soil fertility, which saves on input costs.

Forage to feed to fertilizer

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HE beef industry has been an extensively managed production system for decades. Small profit margins have supported the necessity to minimize input costs. Economists in Texas reported the net income per cow over the years from 1991 to 2009, which included 462 herds, was a loss of $58. The Standardized Performance Analysis data improved for the years 2012 to 2016 with an average net income near $160 per cow. This demonstrates the drastic year-to-year variation in financial returns for beef enterprises. Management decisions tend to be dictated by previous years’ financial outcomes. Often, pasture inputs are the first to get the axe when we begin to chop away at expenses. This is because lime and fertilizer are an immediate out-of-pocket cost. Additionally, pasture yields are not routinely measured and the impact of low fertility is not readily observed. Reduced soil nutrient levels may not be recognized until undesirable plant

or weed populations begin to establish. Competition from undesirable plants poses a problem, as desirable forage availability is key to maximizing dry matter intake and, in turn, animal performance. Reduced economic returns can have a downward spiraling effect on the operation.

A possible solution Is there a simple way to offset this economic impact on pasture fertility? Possibly. Managing how conserved forages are fed through the winter period may help. Hay is a source of nutrients. For instance, grass hay may contain 0.25 percent phosphorus and 2.25 percent potassium on a dry matter basis. A ton of this forage would contain the equivalent of 10 pounds of phosphorus as P2O5 and 48 pounds of potash (K 2O). In many instances, the potassium and phosphorus levels exceed the recommended dietary needs of beef cows, especially dry, gestating cows during the winter. Excess nutrients are excreted via

Jeff Lehmkuhler

by Jeff Lehmkuhler

feces and urine. On-farm demonstrations in Arkansas revealed improvements in soil nutrient levels from hay feeding, ranging from 206 to 928 pounds and 854 to 2,793 pounds per acre for phosphorus and potassium, respectively. North Dakota researchers observed higher crude protein in forages collected near bale-feeding zones compared to areas that did not have hay fed. Soil data revealed soil nitrate-nitrogen levels were three to four times greater in hay-feeding areas while potassium levels were 400 to 600 pounds per acre greater at distances 2.5 feet to 12.5 feet from the bale center. Feeding decisions that distribute animals more evenly across the landscape can improve the utilization of these nutrients and potentially boost soil nutrient levels.

Several options Moving hay-feeding stations across fields is one method to achieve a more JEFF LEHMKUHLER The author is an extension beef cattle specialist with the University of Kentucky.

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uniform distribution of nutrients. Bale grazing is a strategy that is gaining popularity in the Northern Plains region and Canada where the ground freezes during the winter. This feeding strategy involves setting out the hay in advance of when it is to be fed to limit the need for driving the tractor over the pasture area during winter. Bales are arranged in rows and temporary electric fence is used to control animal access to the hay. As the cows consume bales, the electric fence is moved to the next row of bales to give access while feces and urine is deposited more uniformly across the hay feeding area. Our experience with bale grazing in the upper Southeast is that it is more challenging due to higher precipitation, but it’s not impossible. If this seems a bit too far of a stretch for you, consider moving the hay rings every time you feed hay and keep a distance of 30 to 50 feet between feeding spots, spreading out nutrients over a larger area. Another method of feeding hay that

spreads animals and manure nutrients over the feeding area is unrolling hay. This is common in the Southeast due to the high winter precipitation received. Hay waste is greater when unrolling hay and will require additional stored forage. Feeding losses add nutrients, and in some cases, seed to the feeding areas. Unrolling hay is not too different than swath grazing practiced in the Northern Plains states and Canada. The difference is with swath grazing the forage is not removed from the field. Swath grazing is not common in the Southeast due to the higher precipitation received that leads to excessive losses from rotting. Grazing stockpiled fescue is a great alternative to swath grazing when timely rain in the fall supports forage growth.

alleviate mud problems is to feed on a hard-surfaced pad and collect manure nutrients. The collected manure and hay lost from feeding can be spread on fields as weather permits. Feeding pads can be constructed of geotextile fabric and dense-grade gravel or concrete. The feeding pad may be as simple as a large area to place hay rings on or engineered structures with concrete flooring that contain permanent feeding racks. Routine scraping and collection of manure and hay is needed. Access to a manure spreader is also needed to maximize nutrient utilization. Manage winter hay feeding to capture value from manure and hay losses. These nutrients can improve soil fertility and forage production the subsequent season. As net income weakens for beef operations, every penny counts. Consider that beef cow as a fertilizer buggy and keep her moving across your fields, or at least collect and spread the manure on fields later in the spring. Here’s hoping to an early green up. •

Mud can be an issue During winters with excessive precipitation in the Southeast, mud is the biggest challenge when feeding cows in the winter. One solution to T:7.5”

T:4.875”

STARVE THE COMPETITION. FEED THE COWS. When weeds compete with your stand, you lose. Lost quality. Lost yield. Lost dollars. Eliminate weed competition and improve your crop’s potential throughout the life of the stand with Roundup Ready® Alfalfa. © 2018 Forage Genetics International, LLC. Roundup Ready® is a registered trademark of Monsanto Technology LLC, used under license by Forage Genetics International, LLC. Roundup Ready® Alfalfa is subject to planting and use restrictions. Visit www.ForageGenetics.com/legal for the full legal, stewardship and trademark statements for these products. 

February 2019 | hayandforage.com | 19

Proof #:

JOB #: 61833-1

Print Scale: None

Bleed: None

Cyan

Date: 6-28-2018 11:26 AM

1/31/19 11:03 AM

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Your Checkoff Dollars At Work

Tedding’s impact on the production of alfalfa silage Hay & Forage Grower will feature the results of research projects funded through the Alfalfa Checkoff, officially named the U.S. Alfalfa Farmer Research Initiative, administered by National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance (NAFA). In January 2017, the NAFA board of directors began the checkoff program to facilitate farmer-funded research. Implemented voluntarily by seed brands, the checkoff is assessed at $1 per bag of alfalfa seed sold with 100 percent of the funds supporting public alfalfa research. It supports research into the improvement of yields and forage quality, agronomic management, feed value consistency, new uses and market development, fertility, soil management and health, and other research areas holding the potential to advance the alfalfa industry. The first project results are just being completed and detailed reports can be viewed on NAFA’s searchable research database at alfalfa.org.

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OME who harvest forage, like custom operator Daryll Manthe, DeForest, Wis., have been using tedders in front of their forage harvesters to dry down alfalfa silage faster — depending on the weather. “Tedding is like an insurance policy,” Manthe said. “If you don’t have to ted, then great. But when weather is against us, it speeds drying a substantial amount. We found we’re getting a lot more consistent feed. We can spread it out and don’t have the wet spots here and there.” Traditionally, tedders have been used after mowing to help speed drying rates prior to baling. The best mowers are at about 70 percent cutting width, so tedding makes use of an Matthew Digman extra 30 percent of UWRF $20,869 the sun’s energy, said Matthew Digman, an agricultural engineer at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls (UWRF). When forage harvesters told Digman they were tedding to speed the drying of alfalfa silage, he wondered if that practice would improve forage quality and if it was cost-effective. He applied for, and received, one of the first of nine projects funded by the Alfalfa Checkoff. That funding also allowed Digman to get a UWRF student involved in agricultural research. He selected Lindsey Murry to assist on his project. Murry coordinated the study comparing the quality of tedded and untedded alfalfa

on three cuttings in May, June, and July 2018, at the UWRF Mann Valley Farm. Samples were analyzed for quality using near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy. Levels of crude protein, neutral detergent fiber (NDF), water soluble carbohydrates (WSC), ash, and total digestible nutrients (TDN) were measured. “In the end, we saw pretty minor differences in all of quality parameters,” Digman said. “There were some advantages to tedding, but I would say the advantages we measured wouldn’t offset the cost of the (extra) field operation from a quality standpoint.” Averaged across the three cuttings, tedding did speed drying to a moisture content of 51 percent versus 62 percent for untedded alfalfa. But crude pro-

tein dropped, NDF rose slightly, and no difference in TDN was observed. Water soluble carbohydrates, which help improve fermentation and silage quality, were higher but the levels in both treatments were in an acceptable range for good forage based on previous research. A confusing lower amount of ash was measured for tedded silage versus untedded. “We can’t prove it, but we have a guess of why that’s happening,” Digman said. “The hay that wasn’t tedded became matted down to the ground, so maybe we picked up some ash that way.” “At this point, those under tight harvest windows can possibly justify the cost of tedding alfalfa for silage if you’re

Project objectives:

Project results:

•P  rovide a learning opportunity for undergraduate agricultural engineering students in forage systems.

• F ield trials showed tedding alfalfa before harvesting for silage, using tedders currently on the market, may be cost-effective for large, efficient harvesters with narrow harvest windows. The added field operation costs otherwise outweighed the small quality advantages.

• Study the impact of tedding on the economics of alfalfa silage production using the USDA’s Integrated Farming Systems Model (IFSYM) and compare the results of the model to field observation. • Determine field operating costs and efficiencies of modern tedders and summarize results into a decision tool allowing producers to determine if tedding fits into their operation. 

• A decision-tool spreadsheet for producers was developed to determine the costs of tedding as well as other field operations.

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running a real tight ship and you want to speed harvest time,” Digman added. “I worked to develop a decision tool for producers where they can model the cost of the different operations, and I think that’s the biggest takeaway from this research,” Murry said. Her spreadsheet, which can be used on Windows operating systems, allows farmers to

enter their own equipment and then calculates the costs of different field operations on a per-ton, per-hour, and per-acre basis. It can be found at bit.ly/ NAFACostTool. Kevin Shinners, University of Wisconsin-Madison agricultural engineer, said alfalfa tedder research is just beginning. “Based on his (Digman’s) work, higher

productivity of tedders is going to be beneficial and is spurring us to investigate different ways to ted material faster.” Shinners and his research design team are working on a tedder that will operate at higher speeds than traditional tedders but be gentler on alfalfa plants and produce a more uniform crop mat. •

Alfalfa U.S. Alfalfa Farmer Research Initiative U

SUPPORT THE ALFALFA CHECKOFF! Buy your seed from these facilitating marketers: Alforex Seeds America’s Alfalfa Channel CROPLAN DEKALB Dyna-Gro Fontanelle Hybrids Forage First FS Brand Alfalfa Gold Country Seed Hubner Seed Jung Seed Genetics Kruger Seeds Latham Hi-Tech Seeds Legacy Seeds Lewis Hybrids NEXGROW Pioneer Prairie Creek Seed ProHarvest Seeds Rea Hybrids S&W Seed Company Simplot Grower Solutions Specialty Stewart Stone Seed W-L Research

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Proper hay and silage management can be a little hit or miss, but you can do more to be better protected. BULLETPROOF® Forage Preservatives enhances fermentation through the addition of sulfur-containing antioxidants, enzymes and sugar sources. This unique combination of ingredients allows for a more rapid and efficient fermentation by the lactic acid producing bacteria that are naturally present on the forage.

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PASTURE PONDERINGS

by Jesse Bussard

The Nerbas brothers like to have bales placed before October 1. Their setup includes 12 paddocks with central water.

Bale grazing gets them through winter

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RAZING livestock in Northern regions where winters are long and harsh can prove challenging. For some producers, bale grazing has become a cost-effective, time-saving strategy to break past the pastoral barriers of these colder climates while also providing a way to improve pasture soil health in the process. For ranchers and brothers Shane and Aaron Nerbas of Nerbas Bros. Angus, this winter-grazing method has been rewarding. “Bale grazing for us has been a huge benefit for the land,” Shane Nerbas said. Waste from hay that cattle leave behind and manure are deposited back onto the soil. This has an additive effect on lower quality pastures and puts nutrients back into the soil where they are most needed. “There are also many other positives like reduced competition between cattle when grazing, reduced labor, and a better quality of life for both our families and the animals,” Nerbas noted. The Nerbas brothers run approx-

imately 600 head of cows and up to 300 yearlings on their cow-calf operation located in Canada’s historic Assiniboine River Valley near Shellmouth, Manitoba. Their bale-grazing season typically starts around December 1.

Hurdles to overcome

The brothers fixed their management issues by creating more paddocks and using cross-fencing. The setup includes 12 paddocks with a central watering system that connects all paddocks. Factors such as pasture health and productivity are important details Nerbas and his brother consider when deciding which paddocks will be used for bale grazing. Poorer pieces of ground, such as those with thinning forage, bare spots, or less productive yields, are given top priority and bales are placed early in the fall. “We like to have bales placed by October 1 before things freeze over,” said Nerbas.

The duo began bale grazing their cattle about 15 years ago. However, this long run of experience didn’t begin Not every situation will be the without some same for everyone, but it’s vital in challenges. today’s cattle industry to keep your costs “We were a bit naive when we down however you can. Bale grazing can started,” Nerbas help do that. I have never met anyone said. “We would who has tried it and went back to set out all the bales in one big conventional winter hay feeding. grid and limit feed, giving the cows three to four days Each year, six different paddocks are of feed (about two rows) at a time. But chosen to bale graze. A 21-day supply we weren’t successful and had lots of of bales is set up in each paddock. The troubles with cows going through the paddocks are constructed with wooden polywire even if we had the system posts and single-strand, high-tensile grounded well.” wire. Every 21 days, cattle are moved to

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the next paddock. “We have heard about other people doing shorter or longer durations, but 21 days has been a great fit for us,” said Nerbas. “Instead of moving a wire to feed the cows, they get it all at once. Once they’ve cleaned it up, it’s off to the next paddock.” Nerbas noted a plus of this method is it eliminates the stress of setting up and taking down fence. “Many people assume that this is very wasteful, but the math doesn’t lie,” Nerbas said. “There are enough bales in a 21-day paddock that all animals will get 3 percent of their body weight per day. More often than not, we reach or exceed the 21 days. Also, any feed leftover is considered biological capital to us,” he added. For the last seven years, Nerbas pointed out, they have been setting up their bale grazing in pastures that also have stockpiled forage. “A benefit of this is if we have a mild stretch of weather, the cattle will leave the bales for the day and head out to graze,” said Nerbas. “So usually the last paddock we graze for the season will not get used up and be carried over to the following winter.”

Limit losses Late in the bale grazing season when the weather gets milder, Nerbas explained cattle may be limit-fed bales. This is done mainly to allow for more efficient feed utilization. The freezing and thawing accompanied by warmer temperatures often leads to more waste and fouling of hay. Limiting the number of bales cattle graze at a time can reduce losses. In these situations, the brothers use a portable fencing cart known as the Power Grazer equipped with a mile of wire, a solar panel, and a Gallagher fence charger to fence off and limit the number of bales cattle can access. For those interested in giving bale grazing a try, Nerbas recommends first-time bale graziers start on a small scale. For example, set aside one to two fields for bale grazing the first year. Another detail experts suggest paying attention to is how the land reacts post-bale grazing. Declines in pasture

quality can mean animals or bales are stocked too heavy. Additionally, keep fences hot; winter weather can put a drain on electric fences. Having a high-quality fence charger capable of maintaining 10,000 volts will help to keep this from becoming a problem. •

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

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by Lynn E. Sollenberger

S

OLVING some present-day problems requires revisiting decadesold knowledge. This is the case for pasture decline observed in recent years in Florida beef cow-calf operations. Several years ago, numerous reports surfaced of bahiagrass pasture decline. Bahiagrass is a hardy perennial that is used on approximately 2.5 million acres in Florida. It is very popular in low-input systems because it tolerates low soil fertility, poorly or excessively drained soils, and less than optimal grazing management. It also has relatively few significant pests. Thus, when producers complain about bahiagrass stand loss, it gets our attention. Before we try to understand the current situation, let’s step back in time to the late 1980s and early 1990s. One of our extension colleagues at the time indicated that “existing recommendations for phosphorus (P2O5) and potassium (K 2O) fertilization for bahiagrass may be too high.” This statement might cause you to wonder whether the science behind the P2O5 and K 2O recommendations was correct. Actually, the underlying science turned out not to be the problem. Instead, producers were no longer applying the recommended amount of increasingly expensive nitrogen fertilizer, but they had not lowered the amounts of P2O5 and K 2O accordingly.

In Florida’s sandy soils, nitrogen is nearly always the most limiting nutrient for grass growth. If less nitrogen is applied, plant growth slows and less P2O5 and K 2O are needed by the plant. As it became clear that producers were not applying recommended nitrogen fertilizer levels, researchers and extension specialists put their heads together and developed a sliding scale for bahiagrass pasture fertilization. It included low, moderate, and high-nitrogen options for the producer to choose from, with recommendations for P2O5 and K 2O depending on the amount of nitrogen applied. If a producer chose to apply the low nitrogen option (about 50 pounds of nitrogen per acre per year), the new recommendation was to apply no P2O5 and K 2O in the first year. However, it was recommended that P2O5 and K 2O be applied according to soil tests every third or fourth year to avoid excessive depletion of those nutrients. Producers were enthusiastic about reducing fertilizer cost by not applying P2O5 and K 2O, and the practice was widely adopted.

New problem If we fast-forward about 20 years to 2013, producers were expressing concern about the decline of perennial grass pastures, especially bahiagrass. A task force was appointed. They found that all affected pastures were at least 10 years old and 77 percent were greater than 15 years old, 62 percent had a soil pH below the target of 5.5 for bahiagrass, 62

Laura Bennet

Finding a solution to declining bahiagrass pastures percent had soil potassium classified as low, and 77 percent had low soil levels of either phosphorus (P) or potassium (K). They also ruled out grazing management and a disease or an insect pest as the primary source of the problem. Based on the work of the task force, we felt that pasture decline was at least partially due to long-term, inadequate liming and the lack of P2O5 and K 2O fertilization. Before we could feel sufficiently confident with that conclusion, we needed more data. On-farm research was done at four ranches in different areas of the state. The four ranches were identified during the work of the task force as having problem pastures, which had been heavily grazed year-round. When we started the studies, the average soil pH was 4.94, and the average soil Mehlich-3 P and K levels were 13 and 21 parts per million, which were considered low by soil test. We evaluated eight treatments in replicated experiments at the ranches. The eight treatments were all combinations of two levels of liming (0 or according to the soil test recommenLYNN E. SOLLENBERGER The author is a professor and forage management specialist in the agronomy department at the University of Florida.

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dation) in March of the first year, two levels of potassium (0 or 50 pounds of K 2O per acre) in March of both years, and two levels of phosphorus (0 or 25 pounds of P2O5 per acre) in March of both years. At one of the ranches (Ranch 2 in the table), we were unable to test the phosphorus treatment. All of the treatment areas received 50 pounds of nitrogen per acre in March of each year because that is the typical producer practice. Each pasture was managed by the producer, with the exception of applying the lime and fertilizer.

Old answers The experimental ranch data corresponded well with the task force information. Liming and addition of K 2O had the greatest impact on bahiagrass performance. Forage yield improved with liming in four of eight of the siteyear combinations tested, and yield increased with K 2O application in six of the site years (see table). When the practice had a positive effect, the average yield improvement was 7 percent for liming and 18 percent for K 2O application. Phosphorus had an effect in only one site-year. Liming and P2O5 application did not enhance bahiagrass cover, but K 2O application improved the bahiagrass stand in two of the four locations. The one site-year when an observed yield response to P 2O5 occurred was the only one when bahiagrass plant tissue phosphorus concentration (0.13

percent) in the zero P 2O5 treatment was less than the minimum recommended level of 0.15 percent. This tells us at least two things. First, it gives us greater confidence in 0.15 percent as a minimum tissue-phosphorus level under these conditions. But it also provides strong evidence that a low soil-test phosphorus value, like those observed at these ranches, is often not a good predictor of a plant response to P 2O5 application. Why is this latter observation true? Below the soil layer sampled for testing (6-inch depth) there is a hard pan where phosphorus may accumulate. Bahiagrass roots penetrate well below the 6-inch surface and can access the deeper phosphorus. So, although soiltest phosphorus accurately describes the condition of the surface soil, it does not describe the entire rooting zone. This is why plant tissue testing for phosphorus is now recommended for bahiagrass in these types of soil. Based on our results, we conclude that failure to lime and provide key nutrients, particularly K 2O, reduced performance of low-input bahiagrass pastures. Over a long period of time this led to pasture decline. How could this happen? Producers know that they need to fertilize. Remember, our recommendation to producers choosing to apply less nitrogen was to apply no P2O5 or K 2O in the first year, but they were to apply P2O5 or K 2O according to soil

tests every third or fourth year to avoid excessive depletion. It seems likely that producers saw no immediate impact of eliminating P2O5 and K 2O applications from their fertilizer program. As a result, they tested their soils less frequently, if at all, and declining soil pH went unnoticed, as did lowering levels of potassium. Because bahiagrass is so tolerant of poor soil conditions, it did fine for a long time, more than two decades it seems. But eventually even bahiagrass plants became weakened to the point they could no longer survive, and pastures began to decline. As we circle back to where we started, pasture grass decline is a current problem in Florida. The solution, however, is decades-old technology. Soil and tissue testing needs to occur approximately every three years, with lime, P2O5 (based on plant tissue concentration), and K 2O (based on soil test) applied as needed to avoid low pH and excessive depletion of these nutrients. This is a simple, widely understood concept, but we all need reminders now and again, even about the most basic management practices. • The author wishes to acknowledge contributions to this article from Joe Vendramini and Maria Silveira, forage management specialist and soil scientist, respectively, at the Range Cattle Research and Education Center of the University of Florida.

Bahiagrass response to lime, phosphorus, and potassium applications on four Florida ranches Ranch

1 2 3 4

Application effect on bahiagrass yield (percent increase for treated vs. nontreated)

Year

Benefit to percent bahiagrass cover from applying K2O vs. no K2O after two years

Lime

P2O5 fertilizer

K2O fertilizer

1

+7

+7

+9

2

NSt

NS

+15

1

NS

---

+29

2

NS

---

+32

1

+11

NS

+8

2

NS

NS

+12

1

+7

NS

NS

2

+6

NS

NS

4 of 8

1 of 6

6 of 8

Site years with + response out of total site years tested

K2O fertilizer

+5 +22 NS NS

t NS = effect of the treatment was not significant

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Evers Dairy has had good success establishing alfalfa under corn on a limited number of acres.

They think out of the box by Kassidy Buse

I

F THE early morning drive to my next farm visit was any indication of how the day would go, it looked bright. Once I crossed the Mississippi River, the clouds told a different story. The closer I came to my destination, the more menacing those clouds looked. I had yet to see rain by the time I pulled into the driveway of Evers Dairy and was greeted by Wayne Evers. Wayne, whose role is general manager of the farm, owns and operates Evers Dairy along with his brothers Phil, Jerry, and Mark near Kellogg, Minn. They are located northeast of Rochester and not far from the Mississippi River. It’s pretty obvious that family is an emphasis on this farm with about 20 family members involved in the day-to-day operation. What’s also obvious is that this group

isn’t afraid to break some norms — especially when it comes to alfalfa and corn silage production.

Dairy roots “Ever since I was born, we’ve been milking cows,” Evers reminisced as we mocked the ominous clouds by sitting out on his patio. He explained that from his grandparents on, the family has been in the dairy industry. They also haven’t wandered too far from their family roots. “We’ve moved within a half mile of each other for the last four generations, and milked cows every day since,” he added. Starting out, the four brothers milked cows in stanchion barns, each on their own separate farms. In 2001, the brothers consolidated their four herds into one and began milking in a double-4 parlor. The current farm operation was built in 2005 and features a double-24 parallel parlor. Just like what had been done

over the past 50 years, the operation continued to grow and expand. “Pretty much every year, little by little, we’ve grown,” Evers commented. Today, the brothers have grown the Holstein herd to 2,000. This three-milkings-per-day herd has an average production of 80 pounds and an average fat and protein of 3.1 and 3.7, respectively. Aside from milking cows, the brothers also farm 3,500 acres of cropland. Of those acres, 2,500 are corn. There are 1,500 acres harvested as silage, 600 acres are shelled for high-moisture corn, and 400 acres are harvested as a cash grain crop. Eight hundred of the remaining acres are alfalfa, which is harvested for haylage four to five times per year. The remaining 200 acres are designated to whatever method is being used to establish alfalfa. That usually means seeding in late summer after peas, which are sold to a local canning factory. This year, only 150 acres were assigned to that practice. The other 50 acres are being used to try out a bit of a bolder approach . . . utilizing corn as the companion crop.

Holds the soil The spring of 2016 was the first attempt at this uncommon establishment method. “I wasn’t real happy with the peas for establishing alfalfa,” Evers explained as to why they decided to give corn a try. “You have to work the ground again before establishing alfalfa, so erosion was a factor,” he added. Direct seeding alfalfa was also a challenge due to using their large equipment on rather soft ground. The economics with corn was also an incentive that Evers couldn’t ignore. “With alfalfa varieties having the HarvXtra trait, we can use Roundup to spray both the alfalfa and corn without having to buy any extra chemicals,” he commented. Small grains never appealed to Evers with the challenge of needing a dry period to harvest them and the dislike of oatlage as a feedstuff.

KASSIDY BUSE The author was the 2018 Hay and Forage Grower summer editorial intern. She is currently working toward a master’s degree in ruminant nutrition at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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Making it work The corn hybrid that is used is the same 109-day silage hybrid that is planted on all 2,500 acres of corn. The spacing between the rows was left at their normal 20 inches. The only adjust-

Kassidy Buse

“I just can’t come up with a system that works better,” he chuckled. At this point, Evers feels that both the corn and the alfalfa aren’t getting held back. “We get 95 to 99 percent of our corn crop, and we’ll come into alfalfa next year and get almost 100 percent right off the bat,” he explained. The best part of this establishment method, according to Evers, is the erosion control. “In 2016, we seeded down alfalfa following a crop of forage peas and got 7 inches of rain. There’s no residue on the field after peas, so we had erosion and definitely lost some alfalfa stand, too,” he explained. “Our ground really rolls with plenty of hills, so erosion is a big challenge,” Evers said as he motioned to the rolling field across the road from the farm.

Wayne Evers said that establishing alfalfa with corn really hasn’t posed any challenges yet, but he added that adequate soil moisture is needed.

ment made was to the planting rate, reducing it to 32,000 seeds per acre from the typical 35,000. “I don’t know if that’s necessary or not,” explained Evers. “It really doesn’t affect when the corn canopies over the middle of the row.” According to Evers, the canopy closes at least by July, which doesn’t matter since the alfalfa is well T:7.5 in

established by that time. Evers continued to explain that they had previously used a 95-day corn to try and get the corn off the field sooner but felt that it didn’t make a difference. “The alfalfa didn’t green up anyway, so I don’t think it really mattered,” Evers elaborated. He also noted that any crown damage from field traffic was not continued on following page >>>

T:4.875 in

UNITED STATES OF ALFALFA We are America’s Alfalfa®. And we pledge allegiance to your success. We believe in doing more than providing the only Traffic Tested ® alfalfa seed available. It’s our duty to help you overcome challenges and seize opportunities. To learn what we can do for you, talk to your local seed supplier or go to AmericasAlfalfa.com. 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. 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. America’s Alfalfa, America’s Alfalfa logo and Traffic Tested are registered trademarks of Forage Genetics, LLC. © 2019 Forage Genetics International, LLC.

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Bleed: None Trim: 7.5 in x 4.875 in

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Date: 1-9-2019 3:22 PM User Name: Wheeler, Jamie

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Risky business When asked what the biggest challenge with this practice was, Evers took a moment to ponder before responding, “At this point for us, really nothing.” The Evers haven’t seen any stand loss from having corn in the field, and the corn residue just “disappears” and never gives them any trouble. They also haven’t seen any compromise in relative forage quality (RFQ). If it seems too good to be true, you are right to be cautious as this practice can be risky. As the clouds rolled above us, threatening rain, Evers motioned to them and said, “Rain is key. Without rain, both crops would take a hit.” A key player in Evers’ success is their heavy soil, which does an excellent job holding moisture. “I feel you have to have heavy ground to keep your water potential up. It could be the detriment to it all,” Evers stated matter-of-factly. To date, they haven’t been able to see how bad it can be in a dry year. So far, the Evers are happy with this practice and plan to try it again in the

Kassidy Buse

noticeable in the following spring. Speaking of green, according to Evers, the alfalfa looks great until around mid-August when it wants to go dormant. “Just let it go dormant; you’re not going to harvest it anyway,” Evers advised. “It seems like the root mass is growing at the same time, and in the spring, it comes out growing with a vengeance,” he added. Planting is done within the first week of May to avoid some of the early-spring rains, which helps with erosion. Both the corn and alfalfa are planted on the same day with the corn going in first. The brothers then follow up with a Brillion seeder to pack the soil and seed the alfalfa. “You would maybe want to go out there with something else, but that’s what we have. It works for us,” Evers stated. The Evers’ chemical program saw little change with this new practice. In fact, it actually simplified their program. SureStart, a residual herbicide, is typically used on cornfields, but now only glyphosate is used when alfalfa is being established. Evers noted that the alfalfa seems to take care of the weeds, so they are able to get by with just one herbicide application. No chemical fertilizer is applied to any of the cornfields, and it’s been that way for the past eight years. Instead, manure out of the farm’s slurry store is injected in the fall.

coming years. “We’ll keep experimenting and maybe gradually do it all that way,” Evers elaborated. “But as of now, I think it’s a win-win.”

King of forage All of the corn that is chopped for silage for Evers Dairy is high chopped. The chopper heads are set so that about 30 inches of stubble is left. “The main reason we do that is for erosion purposes on our hills,” explained Evers. Getting high-quality corn silage with high-starch levels is another reason. This allows for less high-moisture corn to be included in their rations. By using a high-chop technique, Evers says that they have raised the digestibility of their corn silage. “Our high-chop silage is about half way between regular and brown midrib (BMR) silage in terms of digestibility,” he elaborated. “Our high-chop corn silage is our ‘king of forage,’” Evers stated. “It has everything we need.” Getting the longer stalk residue through the tillage equipment has been the biggest challenge of highchop silage. The solution for Evers was switching from a field cultivator to a soil finisher with a row of discs in the front. “Once we did that, there was no problem,” Evers assessed.

A full fleet As we made our way across the farm to the freestall barn on Evers’ all-terrain vehicle, he pointed out the taskforce needed to harvest all of their forages. Four Claas choppers equipped with shredlage processors, 10 trucks, and one pack tractor comprise their forage fleet.

The Evers’ 2,000-cow Holstein herd is oblivious as to how their alfalfa was established.

“I know we have a lot of machinery,” Evers explained, as we now waited out the rain in one of the freestall barns surrounded by an audience of curious Holsteins. “When part-time labor is available, I want machines ready for them to use,” he added. Evers explained that a typical day of chopping started with one chopper and a couple of trucks in the morning. By noon, there would be two choppers, and at three in the afternoon, because help keeps showing up, three choppers and six to eight trucks would be in the field. Both silage and haylage are stored in 30-foot tall drive-over piles on 5 acres of concrete. Evers chose drive-over piles rather than bunkers because of the restriction on the amount of silage that can be packed with bunkers and the safety hazard of packing tractors next to bunker walls. All of the runoff water from the silage pads is collected, which is required by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MNPCA). About 5 million gallons of runoff is collected each year at Evers Dairy. Since they reclaim all of their sand bedding, the collected water is used to wash the sand. By the time I left, the clouds had decided they weren’t quite ready to call it quits. As my windshield wipers did the best they could to clear the impeding rain from my line of vision, I passed by the alfalfa-corn field that had been the topic of our earlier conversation. An awfully big gamble had been taken on that field. Luckily, the current rain was bettering the odds. •

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DAIRY FEEDBUNK

by Peter Robinson and Yuki Okatsu

loss at 6 inches per day but 9 percent loss at 2 inches per day.

California piles evaluated

Reduce silage loss at the exposed face

O

F THE several types of silos used commercially, pile silos, which ensile forage under a plastic cover after packing, are popular in many areas, especially on large farms. Advantages of pile silos over other silo types include low facility costs, high flexibility of the amount of crop ensiled, and unloading ease. However, silage piles have a large surface area to mass ratio and potential exposure to air, making them prone to spoilage at the periphery of the exposed silo face during feedout. The degree of aerobic silage deterioration is affected by depth of penetration of ambient air into a silage mass, which is itself influenced by silage density, porosity, and dry matter (DM) content. Silages with higher density have less air penetration as more air is excluded from silage particles during packing. To maintain low air penetration in silage with higher DM, more packing is needed because there is more space between particles. However, this is successful to a limited degree in high DM crops as they generally do not remain fully compressed, even after repeated packing.

Density differs The DM loss of corn silage in bunker silos after 180 days of ensiling has been shown to decline from 20 to 10 percent when density improved from about 30 to 70 pounds of wet weight per cubic foot. Over 40 pounds per cubic foot of wet weight density is widely recommended to minimize air penetration

and minimize deterioration. However, there are a wide range in densities in different locations of a pile silo, with silage on the surface and edge having much lower density relative to that deep in the silage mass. In pile silage, spoilage often occurs in surface areas near the exposed face, likely because this area is exposed to air throughout feedout. The number of days after silo opening could affect surface silage spoilage. Although silage piles are covered by plastic covers and weights during storage and feedout, it is impossible to completely prevent air penetration between the cover and the silage. Our group has recorded high mold and yeast counts in silage as far as 23 feet behind the exposed face, which suggests spoilage in the exposed face peripheral area progresses into the pile. Faster feedout speed of silage in piles, or the speed that a silo face moves due to silage removal, has been suggested to be one of the most effective ways to minimize deterioration of silage during feedout. In British studies, the minimum recommended feedout speed was 4 to 12 inches per day, and faster during summer. In the Netherlands, 6 to 12 inches per day was recommended during winter, and twice as fast in summer. An Italian study, which used over 100 silage bunkers, showed that the proportion of visibly molded silage in the exposed surface area of bunker silage declined sharply when feedout speed reached 9 to 11 inches per day. Wisconsin researchers reported 3 percent DM

We initiated a study to assess the effects of feedout speed, days after opening, and surface density on degree of spoilage of silage at the periphery of the exposed silage face. Ten commercial corn silage piles in the San Joaquin Valley (California) were used. After storage periods of 30 to 120 days from pile building to opening, the plastic covers were cut open and silage was removed daily with a front-end loader. Silage samples were collected from six coring locations from the surface of the pile about 1 foot back of the exposed face (two on each side and two on top). Two samples were also collected from the center of the exposed face to characterize silage in the deep mass. Average silage temperature and pH in the deep mass silage was 97°F and 3.66, respectively, with low variation. Lactic acid was 4.5 percent of DM, and made up 76 percent of total bacteria in the silage. Average deep mass pack density was 50 pounds of wet weight per cubic foot, which is higher than the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District minimum of 40 pounds of wet weight per cubic foot for corn silage.

Feed fast Rapid feedout speed is considered key to preventing spoilage of silage in piles because it minimizes the time that silage particles are exposed to ambient air. It also prevents microbes from being activated by oxygen and initiate spoilage. The average feedout speed of our low- and high-speed piles was 11.5 and 23 inches per day. The higher temperature and pH, as well as lower lactic acid, in low- versus high-speed piles suggests that slower feedout speed allowed aerobic microbes to proliferate and create more spoilage in PETER ROBINSON AND YUKI OKATSU Robinson (pictured) is an extension dairy specialist with the University of California-Davis. Okatsu is his former graduate student researcher.

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the exposed face peripheral area. Fewer lactic acid bacteria (LAB) in low-speed piles also suggests that spoilage initiation was more progressed, especially since they had higher levels of propionic and butyric acids, which indicate activity of Clostridium and yeasts. The similar yeast and mold counts in low- and high-speed piles suggests that spoilage in low-speed piles was in transition from initiation to mid-stage as indicated by the rise in temperature and pH, and lower in lactic and acetic acids, as well as LAB. Overall, low-speed piles were judged to be in transition from initiation to mid-stage spoilage. Even though the surface lactic acid level of high-speed piles was low, the surface silage in high-speed piles was still in early spoilage initiation as indicated by low temperature, low pH, and high LAB. These results suggest that faster feedout speed had a generally positive impact on degree of spoilage.

Limit open days If spoilage in surface silage is caused by air ingress between plastic covers and silage, piles fed sooner after opening should have a lower degree of spoilage than piles that have been open longer. The average days open of our short- and long-open piles were 69 and 110. The reduction in lactic and acetic acid levels in long-open piles indicates that these acids were likely more extensively degraded by aerobic microbes due to longer exposure to air, which likely let molds proliferate. That these piles tended to have higher Clostridium levels suggests co-existence of an anaerobic and aerobic environment during spoilage. Overall, long-open piles were judged to be in transition from mid- to advanced stage of spoilage as indicated by higher mold counts and pH, and lower lactic and acetic acid levels. In contrast, short-open piles were between the initiation and mid-stage as indicated by lower mold counts and pH, and higher lactic and acetic acid levels. These results suggest that shorter days after opening had a generally positive impact on degree of spoilage.

Pack, but don’t get crazy Silage density is considered critical to preventing spoilage because lower density silage has more space between

particles, which lets air penetrate the silage mass to allow acid-tolerant aerobic microbes to outcompete LAB. The average surface wet-weight density of our lowand high-density piles were 19.5 and 22.5

slightly more progressed as they had a higher temperature and lower LAB levels. However, because there were few meaningful differences in characteristics of low- and high-density piles, it appears that surface density (in this range) impacted the spoilage to a limited extent.

Take-home messages

Spoilage is evidenced by gray mold and an underlayer of discolored silage.

pounds per cubic foot, respectively. The higher temperature in exposed face peripheral silage of low- versus high-density piles indicates that lower surface density allowed more air penetration thereby allowing more heat production from metabolic activity of acid-tolerant aerobic microbes during early stages of spoilage initiation. The slightly lower LAB levels in low-density piles also suggest that high surface density had a suppressive impact on spoilage progression. Overall, both low- and high-density piles were judged to be in transition from initiation to mid-stage spoilage. But low-density piles were judged to be

Contrary to expectations, surface density of the corn silage piles modestly impacted the progression of surface silage spoilage, suggesting that a surface density of 19.5 pounds per cubic foot wet weight was sufficient to prevent substantive spoilage in exposed face periphery silage. Feedout speed modestly impacted spoilage progression in exposed face peripheral silage, but an average feedout speed of 11.5 inches per day was sufficient to prevent substantive spoilage in exposed face periphery silage. Days after pile opening impacted the degree of spoilage, and it is clear that 110 days after silo opening was too long to prevent substantive spoilage in exposed face periphery silage. Higher surface density, faster feedout speed, and shorter days after opening were all associated with less spoilage in exposed face periphery silage, albeit to different extents. If piles are to be open for a period exceeding about three months, then it seems likely that spoilage will occur at the exposed periphery of the face unless higher feedout speeds are imposed. •

Analysis of California silage piles Feedout speed (inches/d)

Days after pile opening

Surface density (lb/ft3)

11.5 (Low)

23 (High)

110 (Long)

69 (Short)

104.9

88.8

98.9

96.3

104

92.7

pH

4.17

3.89

4.15

3.93

4.18

3.94

DM (%)

34.1

32

33.1

33.3

33.4

33

1.98

2.67

2.09

2.54

2.06

2.47

Temperature (°F)

19.5 (Low)

22.5 (High)

Acids (% DM) Lactic

1.59

1.69

1.39

1.94

1.56

1.7

Yeasts (1,000 cfu/g)

Acetic

1089

1060

1195

927

1506

732

Molds (1,000 cfu/g)

685

588

887

336

722

578

Lactic acid bacteria

19.7

70.3

41.9

42.6

26.3

54.9

Clostridium

0.7

0.5

0.9

0.3

0.4

0.8

Bacterial abundance (% in total population)

February 2019 | hayandforage.com | 31

F3 30-31 Feb 2019 Dairy Feedbunk.indd 2

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by Kassidy Buse

F

OUND in a variety of feedstuffs worldwide, mycotoxins are becoming a topic of more and more discussions. From economic impacts because of rejection of commodities at market to reduced production in animals that consumed contaminated feed, they have made their presence known. “There are a lot of questions about molds and mycotoxins out there and what impact they really have, especially on the cattle side,” stated Paige Gott, ruminant technical manager at Biomin America Inc., at the 2018 Iowa-Wisconsin Silage Conference held in Dubuque, Iowa. Biomin conducts annual surveys to assess the occurrence of mycotoxins in livestock feed. In 2017, Biomin tested 109 corn silage samples with up to 17 different mycotoxins. Sixty-two percent of the samples tested positive for at least one toxin with 32 percent testing positive for more than one mycotoxin. Trichothecenes, which include deoxynivalenol vomitoxin, were the most prevalent mycotoxins, while zearalenone was the second most frequently detected toxin.

Mold by-products Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites produced by molds that are commonly found in feedstuffs. “Secondary just means that they are not essential for the mold to survive,” explained Gott. “They are more of a by-product that molds produce,” she added. Mycotoxins are thought to give molds a competitive advantage when compared amongst other molds and bacteria. The advan-

tage also extends to the plant itself, giving the mold better penetration and access to nutrients. While there are many molds that can contaminate crops, only a few are known to be able to produce mycotoxins, which have a negative effect on animal health and performance. Molds producing mycotoxins can be divided into two categories based on where the mycotoxins are produced: in the field (preharvest) or during storage (postharvest). An example of a mold produced in the field is Fusarium, while Aspergillus and Penicillium are often associated with storage. There are over 400 different mycotoxins that have been identified to date. The most studied and best understood mycotoxins are often divided into six categories. Aflatoxins are the most well known and highly regulated since they have the potential to be carried over from feed into the animal’s milk. Trichothecenes, which include vomitoxin, are well known throughout the Midwest as they are a frequent challenge. Other types of mycotoxins include ochratoxin A, ergot alkaloids, fumonisins, and zearalenone. Many different mycotoxins can be produced by the same mold, so it’s not uncommon to see multiple toxins in contaminated feed. The type of mycotoxins found are also somewhat dependent upon the type of crop.

Stress leads to production Stressful conditions caused by drought, weed competition, and plant damage, whether it’s from weather or insects, can lead to the introduction of mold into the plant. Environmental, fac-

Mike Rankin

Mycotoxins remain a silage challenge tors such as temperature, humidity, and soil pH can influence the growth of mold and production of mycotoxins. “Anything that stresses the plant is going to make it more susceptible to being colonized by the mold,” Gott explained. “Anything that stresses the mold is going to make it put up its defenses and potentially produce mycotoxins.” Crop production practices also play a role in mycotoxin development. For example, the longer the corn crop is in the field past maturity, no matter what the reason may be, the higher the chance of contamination. Further, a crop that is slow to dry drown at harvest provides a favorable environment for mold growth, which can lead to mycotoxin production. Gott emphasized the importance of crop rotation. As previously stated, certain crops are more resistant to specific mycotoxins. By implementing a crop rotation of two or more crops, the cycle can be broken, and the probability of mycotoxin production is lessened. Postharvest factors such as storage conditions can also impact mold growth and mycotoxin production. Subpar silage management such as poor packing density and mediocre feedout practices elevate the risk of contamination. Aerobic instability caused by air KASSIDY BUSE The author was the 2018 Hay and Forage Grower summer editorial intern. She is currently working toward a master’s degree in ruminant nutrition at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

32 | Hay & Forage Grower | February 2019

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exposure from poor silo sealing or face management also produces an environment ideal for mold growth.

Detection isn’t easy “Visible contamination of mold does not guarantee that mycotoxins are present, but it does indicate that there is the potential for mycotoxin contamination,” Gott stated. Conversely, just because you don’t see a mold doesn’t mean there wasn’t a mold previously there. “Molds aren’t as resilient as mycotoxins so they may die off, but the toxins they produce will persist in the feed,” Gott explained. Having a pocket of silage infected but not visible is also a possibility. The best way to identify the presence of mycotoxins is to collect a sample and have it tested. While this may seem like a simple task, it is actually where mistakes are often made. “The largest amount of error seen in mycotoxin results can be traced back to sampling and collecting a representative sample,” Gott indicated. Since molds and mycotoxins are not evenly distributed throughout, you will often find hot spots or pockets of contaminated feed. Collecting a representative sample will get reliable results. It’s best to take a representative sample from across the bunk to get a better idea of what’s there,” she recommended.

weakness, cause infertility and abortions, and damage organs such as the liver and kidneys. Chronic, low-level exposure to toxins can even lessen vaccine effectiveness, making the immune response to vaccines weaker. Currently, there are no feed additive products marketed in the United States with the claim of “mycotoxin control.” Research suggests that aflatoxins can be controlled through binding by clay mineral products, while trichothecenes (for example, vomitoxin and T-2 toxin) show little to no response to binders.

Enzymatic degradation can be effective against toxins that are not easily bound such as trichothecenes and zearalenone. There is also data showing value in products that support immune function and liver health. A combination of binding, degradation, and supportive attributes can provide broad spectrum control during mycotoxin challenges. While knowledge about and testing for mycotoxins have come a long way, there is still plenty to learn. “There are still a lot of unknowns, but the knowledge base is expanding,” Gott reassured. •

Systemic effects Historically, it has been argued that ruminants are less susceptible to mycotoxins than nonruminants because the microbes in the rumen are able to breakdown some of these toxins naturally. “This is true to some extent,” Gott stated. “It varies toxin to toxin. Some toxins are controlled to some degree; some are not.” Gott continued by explaining that ruminants may become more affected by mycotoxins in the future. As we move to higher-producing animals with greater feed intakes, the passage rate of feedstuffs through the rumen will limit the amount of time microbes have the opportunity to detoxify some of these toxins. Even if microbes do help detoxify toxins, animals that are stressed are more susceptible to mycotoxin effects. Once ingested, mycotoxins can induce multiple symptoms. The ingestion of multiple types of toxins can have a synergetic response, meaning that the effects of the toxins are amplified. In general, many mycotoxins impair immune function, which elevates the risk for disease. Some toxins are also thought to hinder rumen function, induce muscle February 2019 | hayandforage.com | 33

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MACHINE SHED

Dew maker for dry hay introduced

Kuhn debuts triple mower-conditioner combo The new KUHN triple mower-conditioner combinations, FC 3525 RF front mount and FC 10030 R rear mount, give operators the ability to cut and condition up to 32.5 feet of crop in a single pass. The heavy-duty cutterbar is lubed-for-life, providing minimal maintenance and maximum cutting efficiency with integrated disc-shear protection. The Fast-Fit blade change system allows an operator to quickly replace knives. The Diamond Block rubber roller-conditioner performs well in delicate crops such as alfalfa, heavy sorghum crops, or cereal forages. A unique direct-drive design eliminates belts and provides maximum power regardless of crop volume. Both mower conditioners have superior ground adaptation as a result of the hydropneumatic suspension, which limits ash content and compensates for immovable field obstacles. For more information, visit KuhnNorthAmerica.com.

New 1600 Series II vertical mixer from Patz Patz Corporation announced the introduction of their new 1600 Series II Twin-Screw Trailer Vertical Mixer as the next evolution in Balanced Flow Technology. It includes an optional front door with multiple front door conveyor discharge options. The front discharge conveyor is trailer mounted only. A standard viewing platform for monitoring TMR (total mixed ration) mixing and recessed LED lights in the rear bumper are added safety features. Standard 1600 Series I and II Balanced Flow features include Patz’s patented contoured baffles and twin Tru Taper V-Screw with dual kicker (34- or 44-inch). Choice of screw top options includes cone or multi-angle depending on the ration being mixed. Four hitch types are avail-

Harvest Tec has introduced its new Dew Simulator. Alfalfa growers, particularly in the western U.S., are often forced to shut down during harvest time for lack of sufficient moisture to retain alfalfa leaves during baling. Harvest Tec’s new Model 720 applies hot mist to dry hay in the windrow prior to baling. Alfalfa producers in dry climates now have an affordable option to effectively moisten hay for the best possible leaf retention, making higher quality hay with more value. The Dew Simulator adds moisture to the windrow from the bottom up, much the same as natural dew. It is designed to boost hay moisture from 6 to 10 percent up to a more ideal 14 to 16 percent level. A 70 to 100 horsepower tractor operates the unit running ahead of the baler. The Model 720 uses diesel-fired heaters to bring water temps up to 240 degrees, then applies the heated mist at a pressure between 250 and 1,200 psi (pounds per square inch) to deliver 20 to 40 micron-sized moisture droplets. With no special water requirements, the operator has the ability to refill a water trailer from any water source. The new model is available directly from Harvest Tec, and also through select dealers. For more information, visit www.harvesttec.com.

able: clevis, single tang, articulating ball, and BullPull. Drive packages offered are a manual 2-speed or a 1,000-RPM (revolutions per minute) direct-drive package. As with all Patz mixer lines, the 1600 Series II vertical mixers are able to handle a wide variety of ingredients including wet or dry large round or square bales. For more information, visit www.patzcorp.com.

Worksaver unveils new bale handler Worksaver introduces the RBH-4500 series bale handlers. The new series offers models to fit skid steer loaders and most tractor front-end loaders with pin-on or quick attach systems. This unit handles and stacks either two 4- by 4- by 8-feet or three 3- by 3- by 8-feet large rectangular bales. The bale handler features five 26-inch long,

forged spears spaced along the bottom of the unit for bale support and six, 21-inch long, forged spears for the uprights to help secure bales in transport. Each side has four movable bale hooks that allow the operator to position the hooks in the most convenient location. For more information, visit www.worksaver.com.

34 | Hay & Forage Grower | February 2019

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FORAGE IQ

HAY MARKET UPDATE

Midwest Forage Symposium

Hay prices holding ground

Alfalfa & Stored Forage Conference

Hay prices are steady to slightly stronger as winter pushes forward. After a mild start, heavy snowfalls and bitter cold have made both feeding and selling hay more difficult. In some Western states such as Idaho, feeder hay is already in short supply. Government reports on hay stocks

February 19 and 20, Wisconsin Dells, Wis. Details: www.midwestforage.org

February 21, Lexington, Ky. Details: forages.ca.uky.edu/

Arkansas Winter Forage Conference February 21, Conway, Ark. Details: bit.ly/HFG-ArkFGC

Pennsylvania Forage Conference February 21, Grantville, Pa. Details: afgc.org/pennsylvania/

Idaho Hay & Forage Conference February 21 and 22, Burley, Idaho Details: www.idahohay.com

Small Ruminant Grazing Conference February 23, Morehead, Ky. Details: forages.ca.uky.edu/

SW Missouri Spring Forage Conference

February 26, Springfield, Mo. Details: springforageconference.com

UGA Baleage & Silage Short Course

February 26, Moultrie, Ga. March 21 and 22, Forsyth, Ga. Details: georgiaforages.com

Great Lakes Forage & Grazing Conference

March 5, St. Johns, Mich. Details: https://forage.msu.edu/events/

Southern Indiana Grazing Conference

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Appalacian Grazing Conference March 7 to 9, Morgantown, W.Va. Details: www.wvagc.com

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and production were delayed with the shutdown. Their impact on the hay market, if any, will be realized this month or next. The prices below are primarily from USDA hay market reports as of the beginning of November. 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 (northern SJV) Colorado (northeast) Colorado (San Luis Valley) Colorado (southeast) Idaho Kansas (all regions) Minnesota (Sauk Centre) Minnesota (Sauk Centre)-lrb Missouri Montana Montana-ssb Nebraska (western) Oregon (Lake County) Pennsylvania (southeast) South Dakota (East River) Texas (Panhandle) Utah (all regions) Washington (Columbia Basin) Wyoming (central/western) Premium-quality hay California (central SJV) California (southeast) California (southern) Iowa (Rock Valley)-lrb Kansas (all regions) Minnesota (Pipestone) Minnesota (Sauk Centre) Missouri Montana Nebraska (east/central) Nebraska (western) Oklahoma (central/western) Oregon (Crook-Wasco) Oregon (Klamath) Pennsylvania (southeast) South Dakota (East River)-lrb Texas (west) Utah (northern) Wisconsin (Lancaster) Wyoming (central/western)-ssb Good-quality hay California (northern SJV) Idaho Iowa (Rock Valley)-lrb Kansas (all regions) Minnesota (Pipestone)-lrb Minnesota (Sauk Centre) Missouri Montana Nebraska (east/central) Nebraska (Platte Valley)-lrb Oklahoma (central/western) Oregon (Lake County)

Pennsylvania (southeast)-ssb Price $/ton 240-250 (d) South Dakota (East River)-lrb 210 (d) Texas (Panhandle) 250 Utah (central) 260 Wisconsin (Lancaster) 170-190 Wyoming (eastern)-lrb 185-210 Fair-quality hay 190-240 California (Intermountain) 160-185 Colorado (San Luis Valley) 200-250 Iowa (Rock Valley)-lrb 150 Kansas (all regions) 200-250 Minnesota (Sauk Centre) 200-205 Minnesota (Sauk Centre)-lrb 200 Missouri 360 Montana 195-225 Montana-lrb 275-290 (d) Oklahoma (central) 170-200 Pennsylvania (southeast) 210-220 South Dakota (Corsica)-lrb 200-215 South Dakota (East River)-lrb Utah (northern) Price $/ton 275 Washington (Columbia Basin) 255 Wyoming (central/western) 275 Bermudagrass hay 145-150 Alabama-Premium lrb 170-195 California (southeast)-Good/Premium 160 Texas (Panhandle)-Good/Premium 185-190 Texas (south)-Good/Premium lrb 175-200 Bromegrass hay 150 California (northern SJV)-Premium 180 Kansas (southeast)-Good ssb 175-180 Missouri-Good 200-220 Orchardgrass hay 165 California (Sacramento Valley)-Premium 190 Oregon (Crook-Wasco)-Premium 300-330 Oregon (Klamath)-Premium ssb 170 Virginia (Rushville)-Good 275-280 Wyoming (central/western)-Premium ssb 150-175 Timothy hay 265 Montana-Premium ssb 200-215 Montana-Good-ssb Pennsylvania (southeast)-Good Price $/ton 230 Oat hay 150-160 California (Sacramento Valley)-Good 135-148 Iowa-Fair lrb 160-170 Oregon (Lake County)-Good 140-145 South Dakota (Corsica)-lrb 170-230 Straw 120-160 Iowa (Rock Valley) 115-130 Kansas (north central/east) 140-160 Minnesota (Sauk Centre)-lrb 100-110 Montana 180-200 Pennsylvania (southeast) 175 South Dakota (East River)

295-325 150-160 250 (d) 100-120 195-240 140-145 Price $/ton 165 230 (d) 113-130 140-170 160-220 140-160 100-120 90-120 85-115 140-160 195 98-103 130 60-90 160-170 130-150 Price $/ton 110-133 95 120-200 (d) 120-200 Price $/ton 200 145-155 120-150 Price $/ton 240 185 240 85 200-225 Price $/ton 225-240 160-180 190-260 Price $/ton 105 125-170 140 80 Price $/ton 110 100-110 100 35-40 230-270 125-130

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

42 | Hay & Forage Grower | February 2019

F2 42 Feb 2019 Forage IQ.indd 1

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Optional equipment may be shown.


the next paddock. “We have heard about other people doing shorter or longer durations, but 21 days has been a great fit for us,” said Nerbas. “Instead of moving a wire to feed the cows, they get it all at once. Once they’ve cleaned it up, it’s off to the next paddock.” Nerbas noted a plus of this method is it eliminates the stress of setting up and taking down fence. “Many people assume that this is very wasteful, but the math doesn’t lie,” Nerbas said. “There are enough bales in a 21-day paddock that all animals will get 3 percent of their body weight per day. More often than not, we reach or exceed the 21 days. Also, any feed leftover is considered biological capital to us,” he added. For the last seven years, Nerbas pointed out, they have been setting up their bale grazing in pastures that also have stockpiled forage. “A benefit of this is if we have a mild stretch of weather, the cattle will leave the bales for the day and head out to graze,” said Nerbas. “So usually the last paddock we graze for the season will not get used up and be carried over to the following winter.”

Limit losses Late in the bale grazing season when the weather gets milder, Nerbas explained cattle may be limit-fed bales. This is done mainly to allow for more efficient feed utilization. The freezing and thawing accompanied by warmer temperatures often leads to more waste and fouling of hay. Limiting the number of bales cattle graze at a time can reduce losses. In these situations, the brothers use a portable fencing cart known as the Power Grazer equipped with a mile of wire, a solar panel, and a Gallagher fence charger to fence off and limit the number of bales cattle can access. For those interested in giving bale grazing a try, Nerbas recommends first-time bale graziers start on a small scale. For example, set aside one to two fields for bale grazing the first year. Another detail experts suggest paying attention to is how the land reacts post-bale grazing. Declines in pasture

quality can mean animals or bales are stocked too heavy. Additionally, keep fences hot; winter weather can put a drain on electric fences. Having a high-quality fence charger capable of maintaining 10,000 volts will help to keep this from becoming a problem. •

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

SORGHUM SEED FOR YOUR FARM • GRAZING HYBRIDS • PEARL MILLET SEED • DUAL PURPOSE GRAZING AND FORAGE HYBRIDS • FORAGE HYBRIDS FOR SILAGE, BALAGE OR HAY Our extensive varietal testing program ensures that we are producing the best forage and grain hybrids to enhance your profitability. Gayland Ward Seed is a family-owned and operated seed production company with a focus on research, purity, performance and service.

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SORGHUM SEED FOR YOUR F

GRAZING HYBRIDS • DUAL PURPOSE GRAZING AND FORAGE HYBRIDS • FORAGE HYBRIDS FOR SILAG

Our extensive varietal testing program ensures that we are producing the best forage and enhance your profitability. Gayland Ward Seed is a family-owned and operated seed produ with a focus on research, purity, performance and service.

CONTACT CARSON WARD AT 800-299-9273 OR 806-258 CARSON@GAYLANDWARDSEED.COM

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Hay & Forage Grower - February 2019  

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

Hay & Forage Grower - February 2019  

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

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