Hay & Forage Grower - August 2019

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August/September 2019

Salt-tolerant alfalfa pg 6 Get paid for custom work pg 10 A different kind of champion pg 26 Why not bag it? pg 29

Published by W.D. Hoard & Sons Co.

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A TON OF THOUGHT. A TON OF TONNAGE. Thanks to our elite genetics and technology, Roundup Ready® and conventional alfalfa varieties provide superior tonnage that growers demand. Ask your local Pioneer sales representative about our varieties that flourish in multiple environments. Pioneer.com/alfalfa

Do not export Pioneer® brand alfalfa seed or crops containing Roundup Ready® alfalfa technology including hay or hay products, to China pending import approval. In addition, due to the unique cropping practices, do not plant this product in Imperial County, California. Always Read and Follow Pesticide Label Directions. Alfalfa with the Roundup Ready® alfalfa technology provides crop safety for over-the-top applications of labeled glyphosate herbicides when applied according to label directions. Glyphosate agricultural herbicides will kill crops that are not tolerant to glyphosate. ACCIDENTAL APPLICATION OF INCOMPATIBLE HERBICIDES TO THIS VARIETY COULD RESULT IN TOTAL CROP LOSS. Roundup Ready® is a registered trademark used under license from Monsanto Company. PIONEER® brand products are provided subject to the terms and conditions of purchase which are part of the labeling and purchase documents. TM ,®, SM Pioneer is a trademark of Dow AgroSciences, DuPont or Pioneer, and their affiliated companies or their respective owners. © 2019 CORTEVA. PION9FORG057_TP

August/September 2019 · VOL. 34 · No. 5

MANAGING EDITOR Michael C. Rankin ART DIRECTOR Todd Garrett ONLINE MANAGER Patti J. Hurtgen DIRECTOR OF MARKETING John R. Mansavage ADVERTISING SALES Kim E. Zilverberg kzilverberg@hayandforage.com Jenna Dietel-Zilverberg jdietel@hayandforage.com Jan C. Ford jford@hoards.com


ADVERTISING COORDINATOR Patti J. Kressin pkressin@hayandforage.com

An intensive research effort in California is evaluating alfalfa’s ability to perform on saline soils. Variety differences exist, but the results are surprising.

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


Alfalfa may be more salt tolerant than we thought


DEPARTMENTS 4 First Cut 12 Alfalfa Checkoff 17 Forage Gearhead 23 Pasture Ponderings



Past, present, and future — all in one

28 Feed Analysis

A passion for farming and ryegrass baleage

A Hoosier dairy farm family has found their sweet spot in grazing high-quality forages.

This National Outstanding Young Farmer Finalist from Georgia can’t say enough good things about ryegrass baleage.

29 Beef Feedbunk 32 Machine Shed 42 Forage IQ 42 Hay Market Update






















Corn silage on a dairy farm near Tulare, Calif., is harvested by Vieira Custom Chopping, which has been in business since 1976. The custom chopping outfit runs 15 choppers and serves about 30 dairy customers, harvesting nearly 700,000 tons of forage per year. You can read more about their operation in the January 2019 issue of Hay & Forage Grower or on the web at bit.ly/HFG-Vieira. 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.

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ANY years ago, I was told, “Any idiot can make good corn silage.” Perhaps that’s the case or perhaps not; however, it’s most certainly not true if you have your sights set on something north of “good.” Without question, most of today’s nutritionists and dairy producers run with this latter crowd. As we look back, the road to excellent corn silage has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. When I started my career as an extension agronomist in the late 1980s, the recipe for corn silage was obscenely simple: Pick a good grain hybrid and have at it. As corn silage gained popularity, seed companies began evaluating hybrid lines for silage performance. It soon became clear that there were both yield and quality differences among hybrids. Some universities added silage performance testing to their traditional grain hybrid trials. There was also a noticeable spike in silage feeding trials. During the ensuing years, corn breeders developed “silage specific” hybrids, some of these had designer traits such as more leaves; others were conventional but excelled in silage yield and/or quality. Cargill introduced its first brown midrib (BMR) hybrid during the mid-1990s. In addition to advancements in plant breeding, it was soon discovered that kernel processing could drastically improve animal utilization of corn silage. This innovation took hold in the late 1990s and early 2000s. At first, the processors had to be retrofitted onto existing forage harvesters (mostly pull type), but it wasn’t long before machinery companies offered this option on new machines. At first, kernel processors were deemed effective if they simply cracked or “nicked” the kernel, allowing rumen bugs a “door” to digestion. In 2005, Dave Mertens of the USDA Dairy Forage Research Center developed an approach to estimate how well corn grain was processed within corn silage.

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Mike Rankin Managing Editor

The measure, termed kernel processing score or KPS, has since grown in popularity and is held as the standard to evaluate silage processing performance with an ultimate goal of 70 percent or above. Both silage hybrids and kernel processors have continued to improve over the years. Design features and larger roll-speed differentials have made exceptional kernel processing possible on all new choppers and result in less starch going out on the manure spreader. A third game changer in the corn silage world has come from the discovery that feed quality improves with time in storage. This core finding, which has been confirmed in multiple research trials, has led to the recommendation that enough additional storage is needed to prevent recently harvested silage from being fed. Often, the suggestion is for three to four months of carry-over inventory. The improvement in corn silage quality during a period of up to at least eight months in storage comes primarily in the form of enhanced starched digestibility and also a higher KPS, often 5 to 10 percentage units higher. To be clear, there is no improvement in fiber digestibility. The magnitude of improved starch digestibility over time is often associated with the moisture content at harvest. The corn silage story is far from over. High-cut corn silage is becoming popular as a means to improve fiber digestibility and raise the starch content. There will no doubt be better hybrids in the future and improved machinery for which to get it harvested. “Good” corn silage is no longer a reasonable benchmark for high-producing dairy herds. These days, technology allows us to easily do much better. •

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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For contest rules and entry forms: foragesuperbowl.org or call Dairyland Laboratories at 920-336-4521. Hay and Haylage divisions DEADLINE: August 29. Award-winning samples will be displayed in the Arena Building during World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis., October 1–5, and winners will be announced during the Mycogen Seeds Forage Superbowl Luncheon on October 2 at WDE. Forage experts from the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center, University of Wisconsin, and other research centers are also on-hand to present cutting-edge information and to answer individual forage research questions during Dairy Forage Seminars.

World Forage Analysis Superbowl organizing partners: Dairyland Laboratories, Inc., Hay & Forage Grower, University of Wisconsin–Extension, U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center, World Dairy Expo.

Alfalfa may be more salt tolerant than we thought by Sharon Benes and Dan Putnam


LONG with reduced irrigation water supplies, soil salinity is a major problem facing irrigated agriculture in the western United States, particularly as we confront a warming climate. As water supplies become scarcer, there is a greater need to utilize alternative waters for irrigation and many of these are saline. Forages are a good choice for irrigation with saline water because there are high levels of salt tolerance in some grass forages and cutting removes foliage, preventing continual accumulation of toxic ions such as sodium. Although often considered less tolerant than tall wheatgrass and bermudagrass, alfalfa is now being recognized as a more salt tolerant forage than previously perceived. Alfalfa has historically been classified as moderately sensitive to salinity with yield declines predicted at greater than 2 dS per m ECe (deciSiemens per meter, electrical conductivity of the saturated soil paste extract). However, greenhouse and field studies over the past five years have confirmed that alfalfa can be grown with limited negative effects at much greater salinity levels. Studies in sand

tanks at the USDA Salinity Lab in Riverside, Calif., led the authors to believe that irrigation with saline waters resulting in soil salinities of less than 6 dS per m ECe would result in relatively little yield loss for the varieties tested. In a greenhouse study, we compared the response of established plants of 20 alfalfa cultivars, under irrigation with waters of 5, 10, and 15 dS per m ECw (electrical conductivity of water). To simulate field conditions, temperatures were kept relatively warm, the potting medium consisted of 50 percent clay loam soil, and the irrigation schedule of once per day allowed for some drying of the soil between irrigations. All cultivars maintained a 95 percent yield level or higher (compared to nonsaline conditions) under irrigation with the 5 dS per m water (Figure 1). This resulted in a final soil salinity of 8.5 dS per m ECe, well above the established threshold for yield reduction of 2 dS per m ECe.

Going to the field Results from our field trials also indicated a higher degree of salt tolerance for alfalfa than current guidelines suggest. In one study, a three-year variety trial on clay loam soil near Five Points, Calif., using irrigation water of 5 to 7

dS per m ECw and final soil salinities near 9 dS per m ECe, indicated normal yields and excellent stand survivability. For a second trial, 21 varieties of alfalfa (experimental and commercial) were planted into a presalinized, clay loam soil (about 4 dS per m ECe) and challenged with higher salinity water (7 to 10 dS per m ECw) that resulted in soil salinities of 10 to 16.5 dS per m ECe (0 to 3 foot depth) in the high-salinity basin at the end of the first year and throughout the second and third year. The low-salinity basin received water averaging 1.24 dS per m and soil salinities were 3.2 to 4.6 dS per m ECe. Averaging across varieties, yield reductions were only 9 to 13 percent, although three of the 21 varieties lost more than 20 percent yield under these highly saline-sodic soil conditions (Table 1). CUF101, a variety planted in the San Joaquin Valley for SHARON BENES AND DAN PUTNAM Benes (pictured) is a professor and soil scientist at California State University-Fresno. Putnam is an extension forage agronomist with the University of California-Davis.

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Saline irrigation concerns How saline will the soil become? This is what growers would typically ask if faced with using saline irrigation water; unfortunately, there is not a simple answer. It is important to know because the established crop yield loss thresholds are based on soil salinity (ECe). Under most field conditions, the soil will become more saline than the irri-

gation water and the extent of salinization depends on the salinity of the irrigation water, soil texture, leaching fraction, and the type of leaching. A higher salinity water will lead to more soil salinity, but soil texture has a large influence. Fine-textured soils with a higher clay fraction will have greater capillary rise of water to the soil surface and surface salinization as fresh water evaporates and salts remain behind. Coarse-textured (sandy) soils may show little change in soil salinity and, if water application is heavy, they could even show a decline if native salts are leached deeper in the profile by the irrigation. How much water do I have to apply for leaching? Leaching is the application of extra water to take the soil beyond field capacity and physically move salts downward in the profile. Leaching is necessary to minimize the rise in soil salinity. Applying a small amount of extra water (perhaps 5 to 10 percent beyond the crop water requirement) at each irrigation is called maintenance leaching. It is based on a steady state equation used to calculate the leaching requirement (LR) as follows: LR = ECw divided by (5ECe x ECw) The leaching requirement is aimed at maintaining the soil salinity below the threshold value for yield loss. This is inherently a conservative approach for two reasons: (1) The yield loss threshold

In Trial 3, using subsurface irrigation, drones were used for multispectral imaging of stand health.

value used in the LR calculation (for the value of ECe) may itself be conservative, especially if newer, more salt-tolerant varieties of a crop are available, and (2) If salinity reduces a crop’s biomass production and therefore its evapotranspiration (ET), then just applying the crop water requirement should result in some leaching of the profile. The problem is that in the absence of direct measurements, it is difficult to know if the salt stress is great enough to reduce the crop ET and thereby provide some leaching without additional water application. New decision support tools, including computer models, are being developed that utilize site-specific data (soil texture, irrigation water salinity continued on following page >>>

Figure 1. Relative alfalfa shoot biomass* for eight varieties 100 90 80 70

Relative yield (%)

many years but not bred for salt tolerance, also showed only a 12.6 percent yield loss over the three-year trial. More importantly, all varieties exhibited economically-viable yields averaging 8.2 tons/acre under these intense saline conditions (Table 1), providing a viable alfalfa option for farming with saline water. Soil boron concentrations under the high saline irrigation reached 10 ppm total boron in the trial, suggesting a very high level of boron tolerance in the varieties tested. Trial 2 provided valuable information on the overall salt tolerance of alfalfa, but we were unable to rank the varieties for salt tolerance due to the lack of uniform salinity and soil moisture within the basins. In spite of the four replicated plots for each variety and the use of 1-meter borders, a significant border effect was observed. Adjustments were made to improve the distribution uniformity of the basin irrigation and to deepen water penetration. But care had to be taken to avoid waterlogging due to the sensitivity of alfalfa to poorly aerated soils and irrigation had to cease 10 to 12 days before harvesting. It was expected that the saline-sodic water used for irrigation in the high-salinity basin would lead to clay dispersion and reduced infiltration, but at times infiltration was poor in the low-salinity basin as well, due in part to the expanding clay loam soil that swells upon wetting and small differences in elevation that created spatial variability in water infiltration and salt distribution. A third field trial was established in spring 2017, utilizing subsurface drip irrigation to apply saline water more frequently and at a lower volume. As a result, there was less wetting of the soil surface to minimize the dry-down period and water stress prior to cutting. Sprinkler irrigation is being used once or twice per year for leaching. This trial is underway, and results are not currently available.

60 50 40 30 20









10 0





• Shoot biomass is based on the cumulative yield for seven cuts over the seven-month experiment.

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and volume, crop planting, and harvest dates) to calculate in-season leaching requirements, rather than utilizing the equation above with a static value for soil salinity (ECe), which does not change throughout the season. This is not the situation in saline-irrigated soils. Reclamation leaching (periodic heavy irrigation to move salts below the root zone) is another approach, but is less conservative because it does allow salinity to build in the profile. If irrigation water is in short supply and/or there is a concern for leaching nitrate while in the process of leaching salts, then reclamation leaching can be timed to periods of low nitrogen in the soil profile. In the case of extended irrigation with saline-sodic waters and impaired infiltration, it can be difficult to achieve deep percolation and move salts below the root zone.

Think ahead Always consider the long-term impact of saline irrigation on soil quality, including the volume of irrigation water required to return the soil salinity to levels suitable

for most other crops — ideally, below 5 dS per m ECe. Therefore, utilize less saline irrigation when future rotations include more salt-sensitive crops. Soil texture and infiltration characteristics largely determine the extent to which salts can be leached from saline-irrigated fields, and some soils are not easily leached due to their saline-sodic condition or subsurface impediments. When waters are affected by sodicity (high sodium with respect to calcium), the tendency for sodium to disperse clay particles and break down the soil structure poses significant challenges. Careful water management during stand establishment, prevention of crusting, and agronomic practices to promote water infiltration and prevent ponding will be particularly important to the successful production of alfalfa under these conditions. Typically, soil amendments such as gypsum are needed to supply calcium and reduce exchangeable sodium. Should free lime be present in the soil, soil sulfur can be used instead, both to reduce soil pH and solubilize

native calcium in the soil. Use of these amendments is essential, but it also boosts production costs. Likewise, when saline waters are also high in boron, be attentive to boron accumulation in the soil given that it is not easily leached. Lastly, most of this discussion has been for situations where the saline irrigation began with a nonsaline profile. If starting with a saline soil, a greater impact on the crop might occur than if using the same saline water source on a nonsaline soil. Soil and irrigation water testing on a regular basis is recommended to monitor salt build up in the soil profile and to determine whether the saline water source is saline-sodic, in which case degradation of soil structure is a concern, and/ or if the saline source is high in boron, in which case leaching would require larger water volumes. Nevertheless, given the high level of salt tolerance suggested by our field and greenhouse studies, irrigation with moderately saline waters (4 to 8 dS per m) appears to be feasible for alfalfa if appropriate practices are used. •

Table 1. Alfalfa yields in Trial 2 (approximately 8 cuts/year, HS plots were treated with 7-1 ds m ECw water via basin flood irrigation) 2015 Variety SW9812 SW 9813 FG R914W2595 AmeriStand 915TS RR SW 8421-RRS Saltana AmeriStand 901TS FG R814W2575 CUF101 9F100 SW9215 Sun Quest AZ-90NDS-ST CW050085 FG R814W2585 AZ-88NDC SW 9215-RRS CW058071 Desert Sun 8.10RR SW 9106 SW 8421-S Average CV (%) LSD (P=0.05) Yield loss due to salinity

LS 6.5 7.9 8.3 7.6 7.8 7.4 7.3 7.7 7.8 7.8 6.9 7.4 7.9 7.8 7.0 7.4 7.6 8.0 7.5 8.3 7.7 7.6 10.9 1.2

HS 7.4 7.2 7.6 7.0 7.3 6.8 6.3 6.4 7.0 7.0 6.9 6.6 6.1 6.3 6.5 6.3 6.2 6.2 6.4 5.9 6.1 6.7 23.5 2.2 13%

LS 8.4 9.3 10.0 8.7 10.4 9.7 9.7 8.8 9.9 9.7 8.0 9.8 9.9 9.9 9.3 9.3 10.3 9.0 8.6 11.2 9.1 9.5 19.6 2.6

Yield (t/A) 2016 HS 10.9 10.2 9.4 9.3 8.5 8.7 8.7 9.6 9.0 8.2 8.1 7.6 8.4 8.0 8.3 7.8 7.4 7.4 7.4 7.4 6.4 8.4 28.2 3.4 11%

2017 LS 9.4 9.3 10.5 9.0 12.1 11.5 11.5 9.3 10.6 10.4 10.9 12.4 10.6 10.4 11.1 9.5 10.6 9.5 9.8 12.6 9.3 10.5 31.0 4.6

HS 12.0 12.8 10.6 10.7 10.2 10.4 10.4 9.1 8.8 9.4 9.4 9.9 9.4 9.3 8.5 8.5 8.4 8.3 8.0 7.9 8.1 9.5 30.3 4.1 9%

3-year avg. LS HS 8.1 10.1 8.8 10.1 9.6 9.2 8.4 9.0 10.1 8.7 9.5 8.7 9.5 8.5 8.6 8.4 9.5 8.3 9.3 8.2 8.6 8.1 9.9 8.0 9.5 8.0 9.4 7.9 9.1 7.8 8.7 7.5 9.5 7.3 8.8 7.3 8.6 7.3 10.7 7.1 8.7 6.8 9.2 8.2 21.8 25.8 0.3 0.3 11%

Cum. yield LS HS 24.3 30.3 26.5 30.2 28.8 27.6 25.3 27.0 30.3 26.0 28.5 26.0 28.6 25.4 25.8 25.1 28.4 24.8 27.9 24.6 25.8 24.4 29.6 24.1 28.4 24.0 28.1 23.6 27.4 23.3 26.2 22.5 28.4 22.0 26.5 21.9 25.9 21.8 32.1 21.2 26.0 20.5 27.6 24.6 27.1 30.7 2.0 2.0 11%

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utilize a credit application with potential customers. An application is an easy way to gather the essential information described above. It can also set forth the terms for the account such as interest or late charges. It should also include a personal guaranty if the customer is an LLC (limited liability company) or corporation. If you would like a copy of a credit application we use in our practice, simply email me (my email address is listed at the end of this article). Obtaining a copy of the farmer-client’s personal or business financial statement is also helpful. This should be easy to do; most banks require yearly statements, even when no new loan is being made or when an existing loan is current. Tax returns are another segment of information that should be readily available. Everyone must do their tax returns.

Document the agreement

Get paid for custom work: a lawyer’s tips by David Krekeler


OST businesses experience difficulties collecting accounts receivable. Each industry has its own particular problems. In this article, we will explore both common and unique problems facing those farm businesses that do field operations for others, including custom harvesters, custom planters, and manure haulers, when they collect their accounts receivable. There are basically three types of customers when it comes to collecting agricultural accounts: Those who pay on time, those who pay late or sporadically, and those who are bad news — the ones who don’t pay or are difficult because that is who they are and how they do business. Providing services without being paid in advance is a problem that lawyers can understand. There is nothing as valueless as a service already rendered. So custom operators must be prepared, vigilant, and proactive.

Gather information The first step in getting paid is gathering information about your clients. Learn as much material information as possible. Doing so can help you decide

whether to take the job. It can avoid conflicts and future problems and can better ensure payment. The more you know, the greater your profits. Information that can be essential when it comes to evaluating customers and collecting accounts includes: • Names • Social Security numbers • Addresses • Bank accounts • Personal financial statements • Assets and liens Some of this is public information and readily available, and many states have online access. In Wisconsin, we call this the Circuit Court Access Program (CCAP), and it will help you to see if there are active legal proceedings or prior judgments against prospective farmer customers. You might also check your state’s Department of Financial Institutions (or similar entity) to review unified commercial code (UCC) financing statements. Knowing what liens are out there can be valuable. And, of course, the internet now provides a wealth of information. Consider reviewing prospective customers on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media sites. For large operators or large accounts,

If the information is obtained and you are willing to take on the work, the next step is documentation of the arrangement. This includes contracts, personal guaranties, and liens. Contracts: These should be in writing. Some of the items to document in contracts are: • Identify the customer (for example, person, LLC, corporation) • Payment schedule (bonus or incentive for payments) • Methods of payment (for example, acre versus hour) • Guarantor • Identification of collateral/granting of security interest • Responsibility for providing fuel, supplies, labor, and equipment • Anticipated schedule of work • How delays will be handled • Interest charges • Attorney’s fees and costs of collection Interest: If you wish to charge interest, be sure to check any prohibitions or restrictions that may apply in your state. For example, here in Wisconsin, interest may properly be charged only if specific requirements are met. Agricultural credit transactions are not subject to finance charges or fees unless the charge or fee is clearly disclosed in DAVID KREKELER The author is an attorney and the founding principal and shareholder at Krekeler Strother, S.C. in Madison, Wis. He devotes his practice to debtor-creditor and bankruptcy matters.

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writing to the customer and is agreed to by the creditor and customer. Collateral: Security interests are often the key to getting paid. You probably should not try to handle getting a lien without the help of your attorney. Security interests must be granted in writing. The lien must attach to the underlying asset, and it must be perfected to make it effective against third parties. Depending upon the type of service being provided, you might be entitled to a priority lien as a production-money security interest. For example, under Wisconsin law, the provider can have a first and paramount lien on the crop (ahead of the farmer’s principal lender). To qualify, new value must be given to enable the farmer to produce crops. Your state may have other liens that are available to protect you. In Wisconsin, custom harvesters may be entitled to a lien for threshing, husking, or baling. This lien is available for those who thresh grain; cut, shred, husk, or shell corn; and bale hay or straw. Check with your lawyer about the liens that may be available in your state. Guaranties: If collateral is not available to secure the debt, perhaps the next best choice is a guaranty. These

are often critical if the debtor is a limited liability company or a corporation. When accepting a guaranty, go back to the information step. Try to ensure that the guarantor has sufficient income or assets to pay in the event of a default by the farmer. A shell company or an uncollectible individual is not particularly useful as a guarantor.

Take action The likelihood for a successful collection often hinges on taking action early. There are many studies that show the odds for collection drops to 50 percent or less if the account becomes a year delinquent. The actions custom operators should take fall into four categories: 1. Communication is critical. Much of this was already dealt with in the information and documentation phase, but always maintain ongoing communication about problems and changes. 2. Bill early and often. Timely billing and in a way that is understandable to the customer is just as important for custom operators as it is in any business. 3. Manage accounts receivable. Follow up invoices promptly if they are not paid in a timely manner. A personal communication is probably best. Find

out why the bill is not paid. Be specific if promises are made. Include a date of receipt and the amount to be paid regarding any payment promises. 4. Consider collections. Discuss with your lawyer when to commence the suit. Always consider the costs and benefits when proceeding with litigation. The information and documentation may have a major bearing on how you proceed with collection. Whether the farmer is collectible can influence and ultimately decide whether to proceed with the suit. You must understand that simply winning a lawsuit is not enough. The next steps will be to proceed with garnishment or attachment. Also keep in mind that continued collection pressure could end up resulting in a bankruptcy filing by the farmer. That possibility should be discussed before a suit is even filed. Custom operators often deal with large accounts. Not being paid by one or two of those customers could result in financial ruin for the entire year. • Do you have ideas about the options available to custom operators? If so, please let me know at jdkrek@ks-lawfirm.com.

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Your Checkoff Dollars At Work

Alfalfa’s forage quality progress Hay & Forage Grower is featuring 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). The checkoff program facilitates farmer-funded research. Implemented voluntarily by seed brands, the Checkoff is assessed at $1 per bag of alfalfa seed sold with 100 percent of funds supporting public alfalfa research. The first project results are just being completed; detailed reports can be viewed on NAFA’s searchable research database at alfalfa.org.


(late vegetative, early bud, late bud, and early flower), the reduced-lignin types have greater digestibility, too.” That improved digestibility means genetically modified reduced-lignin alfalfas can potentially boost milk production, as University of Wisconsin research has shown, Sheaffer added.

EDUCED-LIGNIN alfalfas were lower in lignin and higher in neutral detergent fiber digestibility (NDFD) when compared with conventional varieties as well as those marketed by alfalfa seed companies as high quality. This was a conclusion of University of Minnesota and Cornell University joint research that analyzed alfalfa forage quality and yield over a 2017 seeding year and a 2018 full-production year. “We looked at eight reduced-lignin alfalfas, 12 varieties marketed for high quality, and five conventional, good-yielding varieties,” said Craig Sheaffer, the University of Minnesota forage agronomist who worked with Jerry Cherney, Cornell University forage agronomist. “The reduced-lignin types definitely have reduced lignin. And, on average, over all of the maturity stages

tons per acre in Minnesota. They also had similar forage crude protein concentrations. Yet, some alfalfa varieties marketed as high quality did, at some stages of maturity, appear CRAIG SHEAFFER to exhibit traits Minnesota $28,576 other than reduced lignin contributing to higher forage quality. The high-quality category of varieties may have been leafier or had less leaf loss than the other two categories, Sheaffer pointed out. “We are in the process of carefully reviewing our data to identify those varieties providing exceptional forage quality within each group and trying to

Differences exist Seed marketers and breeders voluntarily entered varieties in the trial and indicated whether their entries were reduced lignin, conventional, or conventional and marketed as high quality. The conventional varieties, as well as those marketed as high quality, did not consistently differ in lignin concentration or NDF digestibility. All three groups produced similar yields, averaging 4.4 tons per acre in New York and 6.6

Average alfalfa NDFD and lignin concentration for the three alfalfa types for two harvests at two locations  Conventional  High quality

 Reduced lignin

 Conventional  High quality




7 6

35 Lignin (%)

NDFD (%)

40 30 25 20 15

Project objectives:

4 3 1


Craig Sheaffer



10 0

 Reduced lignin

Spring Summer 2018 2018 New York

Spring Summer 2018 2018 Minnesota


Spring Summer 2018 2018 New York

Spring Summer 2018 2018 Minnesota

Project results:

valuate forage quality of new alfalfa •E varieties sampled in two environments over a range of maturities.

• T he three groups of alfalfa evaluated all had higher lignin and lower NDF digestibility as they matured, but reduced-lignin varieties were lower in lignin and were always among the highest in NDF digestibility averaged over all maturity stages.

•M easure forage yield of new alfalfa varieties marketed for improved forage quality.

• High-quality and conventional alfalfas did not differ in lignin concentration and NDF digestibility. •A lfalfa yields of all three groups were similar, averaging 4.4 tons per acre in New York and 6.6 tons per acre in Minnesota.

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identify other traits (besides reduced lignin) that may affect our results,” he said. What farmers can take from this research, he said, is that they should read alfalfa seed labels carefully, ask questions, and buy for forage yield, stand persistence — and forage quality. “As it looks to me, if you get a variety with reduced lignin, you can be assured of having higher digestibility. If you’re

buying any of the other ones being marketed as high quality, you need to ask your salesperson: ‘What evidence exists that it is high quality?’ What data is available showing it is high quality versus a conventional variety? If a company is going to say it is high quality, a farmer should be able to see the data. If you look at the average numbers within our data, there is no difference between

the control and high quality. “Plant more than one variety from more than one company so you can do your own comparison,” Sheaffer suggested. “You’re going to be the best judge of what will yield and persist well, and you can determine if there’s a quality difference. As you feed alfalfa as part of your ration, you can find out how your cows milk.” •

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PAST, PRESENT, and FUTURE — all in one by Michaela King


VERY farm or ranch has a list of traditions or specific ways of doing things. For most family farms, that list is long. As the farm is passed on to a new generation, the traditions move forward as well. But with each advancing year, some things get left behind or changed to fit new technology or to compensate for hard times.

Changes are often subtle, but sometimes they become a new way of life on the farm. The latter was the case for Bob and Debbie Eash. Their family is currently the fifth and sixth generations at the helm of Country Meadows Dairy in Hudson, Ind., with sons Bryan and Kevin and daughters Lauren and Katelyn, also involved in the operation. The farm was a traditionally run Holstein operation for over 100 years, but when the newly married couple was put in a tight economic situation, all of that began to change.

Bryan Eash (left) stands next to his parents, Debbie and Bob, in one of their mixed-species pastures. They currently milk 230 cows.

Todd Garrett


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Forced to change The Eashes started their own consignment herd of Jerseys after they finished college, but only a few months into their endeavor, they found stray voltage in their parlor. With no other options, they moved their small herd of cows a few miles down the road to the home farm owned by Debbie’s parents. The addition of the Jerseys made the herd two times the size their facilities could handle. Because there was so little space, they started grazing their lower production cows and, with time, the transition to be an all-grazing farm began. “We liked how those cows were performing, so we began thinking about moving all the cows to grazing,” Bryan, the eldest son in the Eash family, said. “We were grazing because we had to, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions we ever made,” added the 2019 winner of the American Forage and Grassland Council’s Forage Spokesperson Contest. Now, 23 years later, the farm is a fully grazing operation with 200 acres of pasture at the home farm where the milk cows graze and 240 additional acres are down the road for heifers and dry cows.

Embracing a mixed herd The farm is currently milking 230 cows with the herd being a mixture of Jerseys, Holsteins, Milking Shorthorns, and even some New Zealand breeds. When I arrived, the cows were slowly starting to trudge down the dirt path to the pasture after their morning milking. Watching them walk down the hill, it was easy to distinguish the menagerie of breeds, forming a colorful quilt-like pattern against the green landscape. When the families combined the two herds, the biggest issue faced other than the lack of space was the size difference. “We were trying to feed two differ-

grazing because we had to, “butWeitwere turned out to be one of the best decisions we ever made. ” ent-sized herds,” Bryan noted. Instead of selling off the different breeds, they began breeding to even out the size of their cows. All the cows are artificially inseminated (A.I.) for the first two breeding cycles, then a bull is used to breed any that are still not pregnant. Bryan, Bob, and Kevin do all of the A.I. breeding. “Usually it’s a competition to see who has the best conception rate,” Bryan joked. “But honestly, we have all gotten pretty good at it.” The farm utilizes a biseasonal calving system. A majority of their cows calve in the spring with 150 to 180 calves arriving as pastures begin growing. These cows will dry up in the fall and will stay on a sod pasture with wind protection over the cold winter months. The year-round milk check was a big reason they chose biseasonal calving over single season calving. “There was also some resistance to get rid of good cows just because they weren’t fitting the calving season,” Bryan explained. “If they don’t fit the two cycles, then they can go be a good cow for someone else.”

Understand their pastures Eash explained that they work constantly to find and understand the trends between their pastures and the cows’ milk production, using monthly milk tests and daily milk weight records to help guide decisions. Their pastures have a variety of grasses and legumes, including ryegrass, meadow fescue, white clover, and forage chicory. They will plant corn for

silage and after it’s chopped, they plant cover crops to protect the soil. These cover crops include triticale, ryegrass, winter peas, and radishes. At the end of the season, the cover crops are either harvested or used for grazing. The Eashes strive to use all their corn silage during the winter and graze on grasses over the summer. When feeding corn silage, they use soybean grain to balance out the lower quality forage. In the summer, they balance any nutritional issues using a little grain, but they try to rely mostly on high-quality grasses. The family takes advantage of their pastures and work to get the most from each grazing period. They avoid overgrazing to control excessive legume growth and will apply nitrogen fertilizer when necessary. In the spring, they keep the pasture areas small and move cows to leave about 4 inches of residual growth. When a pasture isn’t producing to potential, it’s reseeded. Bryan explained, “Typically, pastures are turned over and reseeded every six years, but we often use a plate meter to judge whether reseeding is actually necessary.” It’s a well thought-out system and the Eashes have a clear understanding of what works for them. Even with the less than ideal conditions this spring, their pastures were thick and green. Rain isn’t always so abundant as it was this spring and the Eash farm is continued on following page >>>

Todd Garrett

The Eash milking herd is bred using artificial insemination and calves biseasonally. “If they don’t fit the two cycles, then they can go be a good cow for someone else,” Bryan explained.

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located on sandy soils, which are not known for their water-holding capacity. During a year with especially dry conditions, the Eashes used a small irrigation system to spur growth in a section of their pasture. “It was crazy. The only green spot in the entire pasture was what was irrigated,” Bryan explained. After that year, they began to expand their system and now a pivot irrigator covers 150 acres on the home farm. They also use a towable pivot for other pastures. When Bryan began college, he had every intention of leaving behind the dairy industry. “I always told myself there was no way I was going back to dairy farming,” he joked. But while studying to get his two degrees in business at Purdue University Fort Wayne, he began to see the connection between business and the dairy farm. “Assets are what produce money and biological assets reproduce themselves. It just made sense,” Bryan explained. After college, he worked for a large grazing dairy in Georgia, and it’s there that the idea to begin processing milk on the farm began. “I want to start expanding what we have and eventually start processing and selling our own products.” Bryan, however, is not the only businessman in the family. In addition to running the farm, Bob owns and runs his own seed distribution company. Lauren does bookwork for the company as well as helps with the bookkeeping for the farm. Bob’s business, Best Forage, supplies forage seed and other crop seeds to customers in several states. He often uses his experiences from his own farm to guide and inform his customers.

The pastures at Country Meadows Dairy are lush with a variety of grasses and legumes, including ryegrass, meadow fescue, white clover, and forage chicory.

somehow still have it in them,” he said chuckling. They are always there when you need them and they help as much as they can, he noted. Bob and Debbie began purchasing the farm from her parents in 1996, and are still working hard on the farm. They continue to wake up early and run not only the farm but also their seed distri-

Sarah Thomas

Dairy farmers and businessmen

bution company. They have a passion for the industry and those in it. When the time comes, Bryan and his brother plan to take over with goals of expansion and processing. In the meantime, three generations are working on the farm to raise content, healthy cows on a variety of forages and produce high-quality milk. •

Bringing it together Country Meadows Dairy is a perfect example of the past, present, and future coming together. The barn that was built in 1882, three years after the farm was established, is still standing with a fresh coat of paint. Although Bryan’s grandfather, 79, and uncle, 76, are retired, he said they can’t keep them off the farm. “They MICHAELA KING The author is the 2019 Hay and Forage Grower summer editorial intern. She currently attends the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and is majoring in professional journalism and photography.

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Mike Rankin

by Adam Verner

Small bundles of joy


ITH Mother Nature being as crazy as she’s been the past few years, it makes efficient hay production even more critical. Although many have converted to wrapping large hay packages as a means to make the best of the short baling windows, there’s still the matter of those pesky little dry square bales. Small square bales can cost more dollars in time and labor than anything else you do on the farm, but they can also bring home a big reward if harvested and stored efficiently. My family knows the heartaches and returns from the small square bale market; we’ve been at it for the last 45 years. These days, there are many excellent options for handling small, twotie bales. Let’s break them down and hopefully shed some light as to which might be best suited for your operation. When my family’s commercial haying operation started back in the 70s, there were not many options. Manual labor was the popular choice and that’s how I “cut my teeth” in the hay business. There is nothing in the world wrong with this method, and you can figure out how tough you really are in the top of a barn during the middle of July on a hot Georgia afternoon. We rarely got much hay wet, but at the same time we were limited to 800 bales or so per day.

Bale wagons The next step for us was a pull-type bale wagon, soon followed by a second. These

much less. The best thing about this system is you should rarely have to manually handle bales. They can be loaded out of the field to a trailer and then unloaded into the barn by loaders. When the bales are ready to be sold, they can be picked up again by the grapples and loaded onto trailers. This usually works great and there are a number of different systems on the market to choose from, so you can pick the one that best suits your farm. The downside of this system is the number of pieces of extra equipment needed. To be efficient, you need two loaders, one in the field and one at the barn, with multiple trucks and trailers to haul the bales. It takes multiple people to really run these accumulator crews efficiently, but this approach can get you started at a lower cost and can be adapted to any size operation.

Bale bundlers

pull-type wagons hauled and stacked 105 bales per load and raised our production to over 1,500 bales per day. A few years later we made the big jump to a self-propelled stack wagon, which is still our preferred choice today. These wagons made it possible for one person to pick up and stack in the barn upwards of 2,500 bales per day. Stack wagons are still one of the most effective ways to get hay out of a field and into a stack. However, the barn or stack needs to be relatively close; too much road travel can eat into productivity. Other than price (they are expensive, even for a used unit), one of the only weak spots for bale wagons is during load out. If you sell mostly retail hay, it usually means the only way to load a truck is manually. I know there are squeezers that you can grab a section of the stack and load a trailer, but not every trailer is the same size, and this can still lead to some manual labor. However, if getting the bales out of the field with minimal labor is a high priority, then bale wagons are a great choice.

Accumulators Another option that has been around for decades are bale accumulators and grapples. In today’s small square bale market, the bale accumulator and grapple are probably the most cost-efficient way to get started in the business. New accumulators cost about $10,000 and grapples are around $4,000. There are numerous used models out there for

A relative newcomer to the market are bale bundling machines. There are a few different models on the market. These machines can either be pulled behind the baler, pulled by a separate tractor, and are also available as a self-propelled unit. Bundling machines wrap a strap or twine around different-sized bale bundles ranging from nine to the most popular 21-bale units. The 21 bale stacks are seven bales wide and three high stacked on edge. If you put one stack on top of another, they fit perfectly into a van trailer. For loading dry vans, this system would be at the top of my list. Bundlers have quite a few moving parts and some have an onboard computer, but all have proven to hold up for hundreds of thousands of bales. A bit on the expensive side, a new pulltype bundling machine can range from $80,000 to $110,000. A pull-type unit can keep up with two balers. You still need loaders in the field and at the barn, along with extra trailers for hauling. All in all, a very expensive option, but in terms of efficiency of both getting bales hauled to the barn and reloaded for delivery, bundlers can pay for themselves in short order. • 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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by Joe Lauer


F CORN is king, then alfalfa is the queen of forages. Corn silage and alfalfa complement one another well in forage cropping systems for dairy/ livestock systems. Growing alfalfa in rotation with corn improves yields, lowers the risk of crop loss, reduces or eliminates the need for commercial fertilizer nitrogen and pest control inputs, spreads cropping and labor activities throughout the growing season, improves soil quality, and reduces cropland vulnerability to nitrate leaching, soil erosion, and nutrient runoff. Alfalfa and corn silage have complementary nutritional characteristics that benefit livestock when both are included in diets. Thus, growing and feeding alfalfa in conjunction with corn will improve the economic and environmental sustainability of crop and livestock production. It’s sometimes beneficial to look back and see where we’ve been in terms of yield progress for these foundational livestock feed sources. What we find is that corn silage and alfalfa have very different stories.

National trends Alfalfa hay yields have grown slower than corn silage. From 1930 to 1995,

U.S. alfalfa hay yields grew 0.02 tons per acre per year (Figure 1), according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). From 1996 to 2018, alfalfa hay yield declined 0.01 tons per acre annually. Average alfalfa hay and corn silage yields between 1996 and 2018 vary dramatically around the U.S. (Figures 2 and 3). Alfalfa yields are higher in the western U.S. than the Midwest largely due to irrigation. A similar trend is observed for corn silage. The story for U.S. corn grain yields is well documented. Corn grain yields have been trending upward at the rate of 2 bushels per acre per year. The trend for U.S. corn silage and alfalfa yields are not as well known. The first USDA-NASS statistics for corn silage yield took place in 1919. For many years, corn silage was made from fields that had other production stresses. Only recently has corn silage become more of a priority due to larger dairy/ livestock operations. During 2014 to 2017, U.S. corn silage yield ranged from 19.9 to 20.4 tons per acre. During the hybrid era (1930 to 1995) corn silage yields improved at the rate of 0.13 tons per acre per year (Figure 1). Many reasons are given for this dramatic increase, including development of improved, adapted hybrids; greater use of fertilizers and pesticides;

machinery improvements for planting and harvesting; and improved management skills of corn silage growers. Corn silage yield has continued to climb during the “Biotech Era” (1996 to present) at the rate of 0.23 tons per acre annually. Biotech hybrids have insect and herbicide resistance traits that do well at “protecting” yield. In addition, end-users of corn silage have become much more diligent about management and silage yield and quality.

County trends Between 1996 and 2018, statistics for alfalfa hay production were kept for 1,558 U.S counties (Figure 2 and 4). Of those 1,447 counties, 93 percent showed no significant yield progress. The most significant yield gains have occurred in Idaho, Montana, and Nebraska. Not all U.S. counties that grow corn silage have a positive yield trend (Figure 2). A total of 1,001 of 3,142 (32 percent) U.S. counties grow corn silage. JOE LAUER The author is an extension corn agronomist with University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Of the counties that grow corn for silage, 786 (79 percent) have a nonsignificant trend, indicating that corn silage yield has not changed between 1996 and 2017. Of the 215 (21 percent) U.S. counties that have increased corn silage yield, 59 (6 percent) have improved corn silage yield by more than 0.4 tons per acre per year, 129 (13 percent) have increased yield 0.2 to 0.4 tons per acre per year, and 27 (2 percent) have improved yields by zero to 0.2 tons per acre per year. Most yield increases have occurred in North Dakota, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Corn silage yields will likely continue to rise as new adapted hybrids are developed and as managers prioritize and acquire skills for producing high-yielding, quality corn silage. Alfalfa hay, on the other hand, will need much breeding work done to improve yields in the future. •

Figure 1. Alfalfa hay and corn silage yields from 1919 to 2018 Mg ha -1

T/A 22

Corn silage


1930 to 1995 = 0.14 T/A yr (0.31 Mg ha yr ) 1996 to 2011 = 0.22 T/A yr (0.49 Mg ha -1 yr1)




Alfalfa hay 1930 to 1995 = 0.02 T/A yr 1996 to 2018 = 0.22 T/A yr

16 14



Open pollinated era

10 8

Bio-engineered era



Hybrid era


4 2 0


Figure 2. County alfalfa yields from 1996 to 2018

Alfalfa hay average yield Mg ha-1 (tons A-1) 0 to 4.5 (0 to 2) 4.5 to 6.7 (2 to 3) 6.7 to 9.0 (3 to 4) 9.0 to 11.2 (4 to 5) 11.2 to 13.5 (5 to 6) > 13.5 (> 6)

Figure 4. Alfalfa rate of yield change over time from 1996 to 2018

Alfalfa hay yield slope kg ha-1 yr-1 (tons A-1 yr-1) NS No slope 0 to 56 (0 to 0.025) 56 to 112 (0.025 to 0.050) 112 to 168 (0.050 to 0.075) 168 to 224 (0.075 to 0.100) > 224 (> 0.100)

50 -1










0 2020

Figure 3. County corn silage yields from 1996 to 2018

Corn silage average yield Mg ha-1 (tons A-1) 0 to 22 (0 to 10) 22 to 34 (10 to 15) 34 to 45 (15 to 20) 45 to 56 (20 to 25) 56 to 67 (25 to 30) > 67 (> 30)

Figure 5. Corn silage rate of yield change over time from 1996 to 2018

Corn silage yield slope kg ha-1 yr-1 (tons A-1 yr-1) NS No slope 0 to 224 (0 to 0.1) 224 to 448 (0.1 to 0.2) 448 to 673 (0.2 to 0.3) 673 to 897 (0.3 to 0.4) > 897 (> 0.4)

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by Mike Rankin


BOUT 70 miles due south of Atlanta, Ga., and just east of Thomaston, lives one of the 2019 Top 10 finalists for the National Outstanding Young Farmers Program. He’s not a fourth-generation farmer. Third? Nope. Second? Wrong again. “I like to say we’re two generations working on the first generation,” said Marcus South about the current operation that didn’t really exist before 2001. It was then that Marcus and father, Anthony, became cattlemen. “I grew up on five acres until I married my wife, Neely. We had a few cows and I just started falling in love with farm life. My dad and I started with 35 brood cows and 175 acres; it just became a passion to raise cattle.” That passion for cattle would even-

tually parlay into an equal intensity to produce high-quality forage — a rare trait among beef producers who put up hay. These days, SSS Farms consists of 600 acres, about 250 mother cows, and 14 chicken houses. The expansion took place over a period of years. “Once we got done building and buying, that’s when baleage came into the picture,” said South, who oversees the forage program and poultry houses while his father heads up the cattle enterprise. In 2017, the duo was named Georgia Cattle Producer of the Year with a herd of mostly Angus-Hereford crosses.

Baleage renaissance The Souths had done some in-line wrapping of bales one year and noted how well the cows ate the baleage. The SSS herd begins calving in November and finishes in February. This means

high-quality forage is needed through the winter when cows are in early lactation and preparing for the next breeding season. Several years ago, when it came time to replace their old baler, Marcus decided on the purchase of a Krone Comprima baler, which features on-the-go bale wrapping. “We like to do things ourselves,” South explained. “I didn’t have the manpower for tube wrapping. The current baler allows us to get the bales wrapped immediately and I don’t have to hire more labor.” Given a choice, South wouldn’t make hay any other way, and labor savings is just one of the many advantages that he cites for his baleage system. “Both our weaning weights and conception rates immediately jumped when we started feeding baleage because we just got better quality forage. The cows hold their weight and we have very little

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Baleage forces you to “concentrate on forage quality. Mike Rankin

If you wrap bad feed, you’re going to have bad feed when it’s unwrapped.

Marcus South with his two constant companions – ryegrass and Bella, a Blue Heeler.

feed waste, 5 percent or less from what I can tell,” he surmised. Another important advantage that South has experienced is that he can often get an extra cutting with baleage compared to those in the area who are making dry hay. “I understand that the upfront expense is more, but long term it’s going to pay you back,” South said. “I’m trying to get more production on a fixed amount of land. That extra cutting means a lot,” he added. Bales are moved off the field using a flatbed trailer and bale squeeze. This generally occurs the day after baling, before the bales “settle.” It’s not that South doesn’t feed dry hay. He still makes about 400 bermudagrass bales for dry cows to complement the 900 to 1,200 bales of ryegrass baleage that is harvested each year.

Strives for quality “Dairy guys have to focus on quality forage, but I think too many beef producers tend to overlook that aspect,” South commented. “Baleage forces you to concentrate on forage quality. If you wrap bad feed, you’re going to have bad feed when it’s unwrapped.” South backs up his philosophy with results. He recently placed first in the Mid-Georgia Baleage Contest. Most of the baleage is made from Marshall ryegrass that has been testing 17 to 18 percent crude protein and 185 to 205 relative forage quality (RFQ). “I was doing ryegrass and clover, but I’m trying to get some weeds under control, so now it’s just straight ryegrass, South said. “It seems to provide more

than enough quality on its own.” To up his quality game during the hot, summer months, South recently sprigged some Tifton 85 bermudagrass that he plans to harvest as baleage. The Marshall ryegrass is seeded in the fall into existing bermudagrass stands. It stays productive through early summer. South will sometimes put in sorghum-sudangrass or millet after the ryegrass plays out. He will then make baleage out of that, but he noted that the RFQ is not nearly as high as the ryegrass. He’s still searching for the perfect summer grass to make baleage from and hopes that Tifton 85 might be a solution. South, who is always seeking to fix the weak link, may begin looking for a ryegrass variety that will end its growth earlier in the year. He’s concerned that Marshall is starting to thin some of his permanent bermudagrass pastures. Forage fertilization and adequate water also play a large role in South’s forage quality program. “With the poultry, we have a ready source of fertilizer, and we have a centrally located lake that provides our irrigation water,” he noted. “Two years ago, we put in a couple of irrigation pivots that constitute a great insurance policy for both our pastures and hayfields.” The majority of the chicken litter that is generated is used on the home farm.

A bright future South feels it’s important to be involved in the agricultural community and communicate with those

outside of agriculture. He currently serves as president of his county’s Farm Bureau, which affords him the opportunity to speak to service and other community groups. The relatively young South didn’t attend an agricultural college following high school but does have an insatiable thirst for knowledge and information. “I try to talk to a lot people before making a decision,” he said. The first-generation farmer also routinely attends programs that are

Mike Rankin

Marshall ryegrass is seeded in the fall into existing bermudagrass pasture.

offered by the University of Georgia Extension Service where, South said, “You can always pick something up that is useful.” Though he learns from others, South is also quick to point out: “I’ve always tried not to have a ‘This is the way it’s always been done’ mentality.” Aware that there are always components of his production system that can be improved, South shows no signs of losing his passion for farming . . . and succeeding with high-quality baleage. •

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there are people who want or need a wide variety of qualities.

A few weather-beating tips

Don’t let weather rain on your parade by Andrew Eddie


F YOU drive through any agriculture-based town and stop into the local coffee shop, I can almost guarantee that there will be at least four or five conversations about the weather. It is inevitable that weather is a common topic within the farming community as it affects almost everything that a grower does. This year has been especially hard on many growers throughout the nation, bringing weather that included drastic temperature swings, record-high temperatures, crop-damaging hail and wind, flash flooding, and rain that just wouldn’t stop. Weather is perhaps the number one matter that forage growers pay attention to. We will refresh our weather apps 18 times within five minutes to decide if we are going to lay some hay down or wait for a day. In some manner, weather affects every single crop and the need to be aware of potential bad weather moving in is critical information because a simple rain event that moves over fields can result in a $10 to $20 per ton loss in value or more.

A tough year To be sure, it’s been challenging this year to put up green hay throughout much of the Pacific Northwest. With a wet spring and unsettled weather con-

stantly pressing into the region, growers tried to time the weather windows just right to be able to get their hay up without any rain, but it has been difficult to say the least. When rain moves through and hay is down, it not only begins to degrade the visual appearance of the hay, but it also starts to leach the nutrients out of the hay. A sprinkle is usually inconsequential with little impact on color and nutrient content; however, every grower dreads the moment that the rain changes from just a skiff on the windshield of the swather into a persistent downpour. Unfortunately, it does happen and there is nothing that can be done from a prevention standpoint. You can sit and wonder what would have happened if the hay didn’t get cut that day, but it doesn’t change the situation at hand. Sometimes the crop just needs to be laid down because there is a schedule to keep to get other crops harvested in time or you are needing to rotate that field into something different. It is part of farming and it is inevitable that someone who grows hay will get at least one crop rained on during a season. Rain may seem like a bad thing when the hay is down, but it’s rarely a total loss. We’ve found that there is usually a market for every single type of hay and

Everyone has their own approach to “beating” the weather, but here are a few things we find helpful to avoid or alleviate the sting of rain’s impact on our cash hay crop: 1. Get a good crimp. This ensures that your hay crop dries as quickly as possible. When your crop is conditioned well, the stems move moisture out and allow the plant to dry out. This could be the difference in getting your hay up right before a rain or not. 2. Lay the windrow as wide as possible. This potentially sacrifices some color because more surface area is exposed to the elements, but it will also allow for faster dry down both before and after a rain event. 3. Make sure the ground is as dry as it can be before cutting. There is nothing worse than competing against moisture coming from both above and below the windrow. 4. Let it dry. If a significant rain event occurs, let the hay dry completely before further manipulation. You don’t want to go out and flip the rows over that are still wet on top. They’ll never dry if flipped to the bottom. 5. Breathe. Yes, farming is stressful and full of twists and turns and rained-on hay may be worth less money, but it can also still be sold and moved. Dairies are often more than willing to take a lower grade hay for the right price.

Sometimes rain happens The weatherman isn’t always right, and that’s just a fact of life. Farmers always make jokes about how the weatherman is one person who can be wrong 90 percent of their career and still have a job. If weather was predictable, then every single person would be able to miss the rain in the first place. While farmers can control most everything in their operation, weather definitely isn’t one of them. In the hay business, you grow by how you weather the storm. • ANDREW EDDIE The author is a commercial hay grower in Moses Lake, Wash., and has his own advertising business.

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Mike Rankin

by Jesse Bussard

Early grazing strategies pay later dividends


HEN it comes to prepping for winter survival and spring regrowth of forages, fall is the most important among the four seasons. During this period, plants store energy reserves in the form of carbohydrates and proteins in their crowns and roots. This is also the time shoots and growing points form on plants. Subsequently, as temperatures become cooler and daylight hours lessen, nutrient uptake also slows. Canadian rancher and grazing consultant, Steven Kenyon, pointed out what happens early on in the grazing season is the key to getting the most out of pastures during these critical fall changes. “What happens in May and June will determine the rest of the season,” said Kenyon. “The most economical winter grazing option is intensive rotational grazing of your summer pastures.”

Extend the grazing season Since 2000, Kenyon has run a custom grazing business in Alberta, Canada. He also teaches sustainable grazing management to producers at conferences, seminars, and courses across Canada and the United States. He currently runs just over 1,200 head of livestock on 3,500 acres of leased land. By using extended grazing techniques, such as stockpiling, swath grazing, crop residue grazing, and bale grazing, he is able to pasture his cattle year around. Kenyon explained good grazing man-

agement using a well-managed rotational grazing system not only lends itself to better margins during the growing season but also reduces fall and winter feeding costs by allowing producers to graze later into the dormant season. Despite having a short growing season in northern regions like Alberta, with good management, Kenyon said, it is possible to extend the grazing period quite a bit. “If we have managed our grass well during the summer and we have good quality ‘stage two’ grasses when the killing frost hits in September, we end up with good-quality standing hay in our pastures,” said Kenyon. “This can be grazed well into the winter and in most cases is high-quality feed.” Even if winter comes early, Kenyon said, snow will just help to provide protection and preserve forage quality. “In a sense, the killing frost is my mower and the snow is my hay shed,” said Kenyon. “I’ve had green grass under the snow in January with 13 percent protein — a great ration for almost any type of livestock.”

Don’t overgraze

Kenyon. “Simply put, it is a matter of timing. We need to manage both the grazing period and the rest period together so that we don’t graze a plant when it doesn’t have enough stored energy to grow.” According to Kenyon, overgrazing can also be caused by a killing frost. As he stated earlier, for his ranch in Busby, Alberta, this usually happens sometime in mid-September. “If we consider the killing frost in the fall as a grazing (or hay cut) and it hits when plants have an empty fuel tank, they are overgrazed,” said Kenyon. “They are going into winter with low energy reserves.” To prevent overgrazing, Kenyon suggests changing the time of year a paddock is grazed in each growing season. For example, this might be by rotating animals in the opposite direction one year or starting at a different paddock another year. “By changing up the timing, we can reduce the overgrazing on individual paddocks,” said Kenyon. In addition, providing adequate rest periods and leaving enough stubble post-grazing (at least 6 inches) during the fall will help to catch snow, providing protection and leaving enough vegetative matter on plants to regrow come spring. Some specific fall grazing strategies Kenyon recommends include: • Stockpiling grass in lowlands — Most riparian area plants are not very nutritious in summer due to high water content. Save them for fall or winter grazing instead. They will dry out and be easier to get at on frozen ground. • Residue grazing — Seek out area crop producers to utilize chaff, straw, or crop residue as a grazing source. • Swath grazing — In regions where it’s a good fit, cutting hay and raking it into swaths to be strip grazed later in the year can be a great alternative. • Bale grazing — Similar to swath grazing, this grazing method involves utilizing harvested forages in the field. Bales are rationed off with electric fencing. If done right, this can lower labor and equipment costs for the fall and winter grazing periods. • JESSE BUSSARD

Along with good management, Kenyon noted, pasture managers should do their best not to overgraze during the grazing season. “Overgrazing occurs when a plant is defoliated at a time when the energy stores in the plant are depleted,” said

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

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by Gonzalo Ferreira Farmer Ellen (right) showing her corn silage that is gently packed into a 55-gallon trash bag.

niques. From all the farms we visited, for example, Ellen and John obtained the most milk from their cows. Even though 25 pounds per day is not much here in the U.S., for this Kenyan couple it was quite an accomplishment.

A different kind of silage bag

A front row view of dairying in Kenya


AST June, I had the opportunity to travel to Kenya, Africa. This was my first time in Africa. I traveled mainly from Nairobi to Nakuru. Nakuru is located within the Rift Valley and is characterized as a humid area. To offer some perspective, rainfall was approximately 38 inches per year. The Kenyan dairy industry includes some “progressive” dairy farms with mechanization and intensive grazing management. However, it also includes many household “dairy farmers,” who own one to three cows and sell their product locally. In this situation, raw milk is sold at approximately $23 per hundredweight (cwt.), and processed whole milk is sold at the retail store for about $6 per gallon. It is worthy to mention that Kenya is a country where the milk supply does not meet the demand. Being a dairy scientist interested in forage quality and management, one of the highlights of the trip was learning about their forage systems. For intensive grazing systems, I saw mostly Rhodes grass (Chloris gayana) pastures growing on deep clay soils. Corn and sorghum are also grown and harvested for silage in both intensive and household systems. Other forage species utilized for feeding cattle are alfalfa, locally referred to as lucerne, and Napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum), also known as elephant

grass given its fast growth rate. At the household level, most of the corn and sorghum is grown for grain consumption and the stover is then chopped for feeding cattle. These crops are planted in rows, and beans are typically grown in between the rows of corn and sorghum. Most of the tilling and weed control is performed manually, usually by the women.

Low milk production Depending on the system, dairy cattle can be grazing beside the roads, either free or tied from one leg, or housed indoors in primitive stalls within the property. Milk production is quite low and ranges from 15 to 25 pounds per day. Many reasons can explain this low production, but the poor body condition scores of the cows clearly reflect a limitation of dry matter intake. It is fair to mention, too, that calves are kept close to their dams and therefore suckle for quite a few months. Obviously, cows are milked by hand at the household level. One highlight of our trip was visiting Ellen and John, a couple of household dairy farmers. While Ellen works permanently on the farm, John works four days a week as a peddler in Nakuru. One thing that was fascinating about them was their high level of management skills and their willingness to learn new tech-

Ellen explained they rely heavily on their extension service personnel, who recommend nutritional strategies (for example, feeding urea and molasses). John and Ellen also produce very good quality corn silage. When I asked to see the silage, Ellen opened a 55-gallon trash bag full of a well-fermented corn silage that was manually, but gently, packed into the trash bag. Another example of their management skill was their homemade irrigation system. Through this system, the rainfall water from the roof was directed and collected into a first tank. Then, using a “stepper system,” they transfer the water to a second tank positioned at a higher level. The water is then distributed by gravity using a network of pipes into the field. As with everywhere around the world, there are bad farmers, good farmers, and those that go beyond boundaries. Even though at a level different to what we are accustomed in the U.S., Ellen and John are outstanding farmers who do not get stuck in problems; rather, they seek solutions. Their constant motivation to improve themselves as farmers was evident and reflected in positive results. Kenya is a country with a dairy industry that seems to have a lot of growth potential. This growth would likely be tied to more progressive forage management. In my opinion, more mechanization, more utilization of high-quality forages such as alfalfa, and a greater implementation of rotational grazing systems are some changes that may have a great impact for ensuring food security in Kenya. • GONZALO FERREIRA The author is assistant professor, department of dairy science, Virginia Tech.

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*In 2017 – 2018 HybriForce-4400™ was grown in 108 Dairyland Seed on-farm HAY (Hybrid Alfalfa Yield) plot comparisons across ND, SD, MN, IA, WI, IL, IN, OH and MI with a yield advantage of 12.6% across all cuts at all locations against competitive alfalfas. Hybrid responses are variable and subject to any number of environmental, disease and pest pressures. **In over 4 years of research testing, our combined data from internal and 3rd party trials show HybriForce-4400™ with more than a 5% yield advantage when compared to HybriForce-3400.™ ®, TM, SM Trademarks and service marks of DuPont, Dow AgroSciences or Pioneer, and their affiliated companies or their respective owners. © 2019 Corteva. HA-07193457-1

Mike Rankin

The World Forage Analysis Superbowl contest always draws a lot of interest from World Dairy Expo attendees.

A different kind of champion by Kassidy Buse


HILE champion bovines are being named on the colored wood shavings at World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis., each October, the best of the best in forages are also competing for a title of their own. Just a stone’s throw away from the Coliseum showring lies the Arena Building, home of the World Forage Analysis Superbowl, which is closely watched over by Doug Harland, laboratory manager for Dairyland Laboratories in DePere, Wis. Harland’s involvement in the Superbowl goes all the way back to when he started at AgSource Laboratories in 1988. While he wasn’t directly involved with the Superbowl at the start, he did some work in the background, aside from his early job responsibilities of quality testing hay from around the state and driving his mobile forage-testing van to hay auctions during the winter. As the competition began to grow, so did Harland’s role. He started assisting with “crunching the numbers” and

was more hands-on in data analysis. “I just sort of shadowed in those days and learned the ropes,” Harland reflected. In 2012, AgSource’s feed and forage division was purchased by Dairyland. With that acquisition, Dairyland opened a lab facility in DePere, Wis., which Harland now manages. Harland not only took over the lab, but also the Forage Superbowl and has maintained that role since 2013.

A deep-rooted history The World Forage Analysis Superbowl started as a collaborative effort between Holstein World, World Dairy Expo, University of Wisconsin-Extension, and the Wisconsin Dairy Herd Improvement (DHI) Cooperative. AgSource joined the mix in 1986 with their involvement in the verification of DHI records, since the entries originally came from working dairy farms. Along with an entry submission, farms would report their herd size, rolling herd average, and DHI number to be verified. Many changes were made to the contest over the years. Hay & Forage Grower became a sponsor, and the con-

test was split into two divisions: Dairy and Commercial. The Dairy division consisted of hay, haylage, and corn silage while Commercial was divided into hay and baleage. One large sample was submitted for analysis and shipped directly to AgSource. The top 25 entries in each category were then judged and narrowed down to the top 20; these were then displayed at World Dairy Expo. Each category had a Grand Champion and a top First Time Entrant. An Overall Grand Champion was named for the entire contest. The top five in every category also received prizes, which were made possible by the strong corporate support. In 2002, the Superbowl became the first forage contest to implement a new 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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Exponential growth Starting out, the contest was primarily producer driven. “Mostly, producers would send in their samples and compare it to their neighbors,” Harland explained. He quickly added that the growth over the years has been astronomical, largely because of corporate influence and sponsorship. Harland emphasized that the focus is still on forages. “There’s a difference between growth and change. Growth would be adding the new categories and parameters like digestibility, while change would definitely be the corporate influence, which is very reflective of the dairy industry,” he said. “In some ways, I kind of miss the producer driven part of it,” Harland reminisced. “That being said, one of the best parts of my week is when a producer comes up to me and says, ‘Thank you for doing this; I can use this and get ideas from other producers.’” For Harland, the most rewarding part of the contest is watching producers network. Many commercial growers gain steady clients because people see their name and forages displayed. During the contest, producers are able to share what does and doesn’t work for them when it comes to growing their forages. “Being able to foster that opportunity for them to learn from each other is so fulfilling for me,” Harland said. He noted that many of the same producers come back year after year, knowing that they grow good, quality forages every single year and are able to share their knowledge. “That’s the part of the contest that has stayed pure through all the changes; that’s truly great,” he said with a satis-

factory smile. Doug Harland has been “We started out involved with the World fairly simple; it was Forage Analysis Superbowl mostly hay and hayfor over 30 years. lage with maybe 280 to 350 total entries,” Harland said. Finalists’ samples were once processed on-site in a tent, and the equipment needed to grind the samples was loud. In 2017, Harland received over 1,000 samples entered he has seen is how specialized forage in the eight categories of the contest. and feed testing has become. “Back Of those, 802 were corn silage. Such when I first started, nutritionists a large pool of entries led to a whole mostly wanted CP (crude protein), NDF new logistical challenge: Where do (neutral detergent fiber), ADF (acid you put everything? detergent fiber), and dry matter; now, “I only have four chest freezers in forage digestibility is a huge thing,” the basement, and 800 samples are Harland explained. He said that forage not going to fit in four chest freezers,” analysis reports have gone from a Harland chuckled. He recalled buying single page with a dozen parameters to large totes and taking the samples that a page and a half with various comdidn’t fit in the chest freezers to components that are essential in ration mercial cold storage. “You can’t get rid balancing programs. of any samples until you know who the “It’s become so pinpointed, and it’s up finalists are, so I had to keep all 1,066 to us to provide the data accurately and samples,” he recalled animatedly. efficiently,” Harland remarked. He also Many memories believes that in the future, digestion rates will be an even larger focus. Harland reflected on some of his best But above all, it’s the variety that his job memories of overseeing the Superbowl. entails that means the most to Harland. He spent several moments thinking With his math and numbers background, before responding, “So many amazing he thoroughly enjoys the analytical side things have happened that there really of his job. Perhaps on the opposite end of isn’t just one that sticks out in particthe spectrum, is his fondness for customer ular.” But he did share one story that interaction. He relishes the sensation of came to mind. knowing he helped somebody. “My wife A few years back while overseeing the likes to call me a math geek that can contest display samples, a man walked talk to people,” Harland chuckled. “That up to a haylage sample and picked up a pretty much sums me up.” small portion. “It’s pretty normal for people to pick up a sample to feel and smell A bright future it,” Harland explained. But what he did Harland made it explicitly clear that next threw Harland; the man stuck it in making the Superbowl run smoothly his mouth and began chewing. is a team effort. Planning for the next “I remember chewing on hay stems year’s contest begins soon after the as a kid, but never haylage,” he said current one concludes. through stifled laughter. He hopes the Superbowl will continue A math geek who likes to talk long into the future, but no matter what that future holds, it is certain this In his regular job as a forage testing event has had a large impact not only lab manager, Harland’s duty list is a on Harland and World Dairy Expo, but long one. He provides the best service also the many producers who submit and data he can to customers, along with entries and the sponsoring companies. managing daily lab operations. In May Whether it’s the cows, networking, or of 2017, Dairyland opened a new lab in vendors that bring attendees to Expo, Battle Creek, Mich., in which Harland the World Forage Analysis Superbowl has some supervisory responsibilities. exhibit is definitely worth a visit for any When reflecting back on his career, forage producer. • Harland noted that the largest change

Mike Rankin

ranking system based on RFQ (relative forage quality). These days, RFQ remains a key component in the hay and haylage categories while the corn silage categories focus more on milk per ton. There are now seven categories: Dairy hay, commercial hay, grass hay, baleage, haylage, standard corn silage, and BMR (brown midrib) corn silage. Contest entries are received from across the U.S. The final scores are determined using a weighted formula of 70 percent milk per ton or RFQ and 30 percent on a judge’s visual score. The prizes are still monetary, totaling over $25,000 per year, with the top four in each category receiving cash awards. An Overall Grand Champion is named along with a Grand Champion First Time Entrant. Another award that has been included in the past 10 years is the Quality Counts Award.

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by John Goeser be significant. The results should be interpreted with caution as this was not a controlled experiment. However, the survey results suggested a one-unit improvement in corn silage NDFD30 or TTNDFD (total tract NDF digestibility as a percent of aNDF) were related to a 0.45 and 0.62 pound boost in DMI (dry matter intake, P<0.01) and a 0.98 and 0.78 pound rise in ECM (P<0.05), respectively.


ORAGE quality is often discussed and written about. Often, through experience, we understand improved fiber and starch digestibility to mean more energy available per pound of silage fed. Although, translating forage analysis and quality results with actual dairy or feedlot performance is sometimes difficult. It’s like speaking a new language. I’ve now listened to and read hundreds of talks or articles citing the Oba and Allen NDF (neutral detergent fiber) digestibility relationships with dairy intake and production as reported in 1999. Oba and Allen observed that a 1-percentage unit improvement in NDF digestibility (NDFD) corresponded to about 0.38 and 0.50 pounds of intake and milk gains, respectively. This study is exceptionally well received, yet it’s now over 20 years old and the relationships may be different with today’s genetics and management.

Look to feed efficiency Beyond intake and milk production, dairy or feedlot performance can be defined by other key performance indicators such as feed conversion efficiency. Recently, I’ve shifted the focus in my presentations and articles to discussing the topic at hand relative to feed conversion indicators. In today’s economic climate, using key performance indicators that incorporating feed conversion efficiency are better associated with farm economic performance. For example, in a recent financial benchmarking exercise using feed cost and dairy performance data

summarized by Stacy Nichols with Vita Plus Corporation technical services, we observed two dairy farms with nearly equivalent energy corrected milk (ECM) per cow differed by nearly $1.50 per cow in total feed costs per hundredweight (cwt.) of milk shipped. These farms differed due to a difference in feed conversion efficiency (FCE) of 1.84 and 1.62, respectively. Feed conversion efficiency is determined by dividing the pounds of ECM produced by the pounds of dry matter intake. At about 98 pounds of ECM per cow, both dairies could have been considered high performing if strictly interpreting production per cow; however, with margins per cwt. cycling back and forth between the red and black, even 25 cents per cow in feed costs per cwt. can prove pivotal and mean the difference between profit or loss. Feed conversion efficiency better describes the vast difference between these two herds in economic performance. Connecting forage quality with dairy performance, recent dairy case study results I presented at the Midsouth Ruminant Nutrition Conference offer us a glimpse of how fiber digestibility can improve performance for today’s commercial dairy. In the case study, I related fiber digestibility measures for corn silages sampled to dry matter intake, milk production, and feed conversion efficiency for over 50 commercial dairies in Wisconsin. The observations were striking in that the corn silage NDFD and uNDF (undigestible NDF) relationships alone with animal performance appeared to

Mike Rankin

Connecting corn silage quality to performance

Digestibility makes a difference Forage uNDF240 (percent of DM) has recently gained attention as a new lignin measure. In the case study, a one unit increase in corn silage uNDF240 appeared related to a 0.60 pound decline in dry matter intake, and 1.29 pound drop in ECM. And last, but most importantly relative to farm economic performance, feed conversion efficiency trended toward a relationship with NDFD30, with a 1 percentage unit boost in NDFD30 trending toward a 0.005 unit improvement in feed conversion efficiency (FCE, P<0.09). If real, this relationship means that a 50 percent (below average) versus 60 percent (above average) NDFD30 in corn silage equates to a 0.05-unit improvement in ECM feed conversion efficiency. And at today’s feed costs, this translates to roughly 20 cents per cwt. in reduced feed costs. The case study observations for corn silage discussed here are directionally in line and numerically greater than those published nearly 20 years ago by Oba and Allen. This may mean that today’s dairy cattle respond even more to improved forage quality. If corn silage quality is a hot topic for your farm, take these observations to heart and discuss the potential impact for your farm with your consultants. Project performance gains against higher seed and crop production costs per acre. Finally, consider using the recently released University of Wisconsin Extension seed corn partial budget tool available for download at bit.ly/ HFG-calculator. • 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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by Mary Drewnoski face each day in the winter and 8 inches in the summer. Many producers have a silage face that is much too big for the rate at which they use the silage. For instance, if you have a small bunker that is 30 feet wide and the silage is 10 feet tall, you would need to feed 3 to 5 tons of silage each day to achieve 5 to 8 inches of removal. If removal rates are less, even with proper removal techniques (keeping the face tight), a loss of 10 percent or more, depending on outside temperature, can occur. So, low feedout rates can cost another $2.50 per ton or more. Additionally, the low feedout rate results in the cattle constantly being fed silage that is much lower in feed value, as it has already started to spoil.

Lost feed covers the cost

Why not bag it? S I travel around, I see a lot of silage in uncovered piles, many for use by cow-calf or backgrounding operations. Looking at the amount of surface spoilage and knowing about the other major sources of losses, I found myself wondering if many of these producers would be better off bagging their silage. Why might bagging be a better option? If everything is done “right,” the amount of silage loss or shrink will run about 10 percent when storing and feeding silage. Done “right” means that the silage was cut at the right moisture, packed well, covered immediately and during feedout, fed out at an adequate rate, and feedout methods were used to inhibit air penetration into the face. This is not the situation observed with most uncovered piles. Interestingly, typical losses in bagged silage are about 8 to 10 percent, as long as the silage was at proper moisture when put into the bag and care was taken to ensure the proper density was achieved during bagging. Basically, bagging can help with two major sources of loss when it comes to silage management: surface spoilage and low feedout rates. I often hear farmers talk about how much labor it takes to cover a bunker or a pile, and they say “it’s just not worth it,” or that they “just don’t have the labor.” However, I would argue these producers also underestimate the feed

loss and spoilage that occurs when not covering a pile or bunker. The loss in the top 3 feet in covered bunkers is about 18 percent, while uncovered is 30 percent.

Surface spoilage is expensive You may be wondering, “How much silage is in the top 3 feet of a bunker?” Let’s just assume the silage in the bunker is 10 feet tall. Then that 30 percent loss to surface spoilage represents 10 percent of all the silage in the bunker. If a ton of silage is worth $35, then that is $3.50 lost per ton of silage. In drive-over piles, the amount of silage on the surface 3 feet can be 20 percent or more, accounting for a loss of $7 per ton in the pile. These calculations don’t account for nutrient losses in the silage that are remaining. Remember, the best part of the silage is eaten by the microbes first, so what remains of the silage from the surface 3 feet has a lot less value than what was initially put into storage. Actually, it has been shown that feeding the black material at the top has a negative feeding value. Believe it or not, it actually reduces the digestion of the rest of the feed in the diet because it negatively affects the microbes in the rumen.

Low feedout rates are common

Using a custom operator or renting a bagger can make bagging a low investment option. After some calling around, I found that, on average, $9 per ton is the going rate for bagging silage in my area. That includes the cost of the bag. So, for arguments sake, let’s say it costs $9 more per ton to bag silage versus making a pile. If I don’t cover the pile, I can come close to paying for the cost of bagging with the lost feed inherent with an uncovered bunker or silage pile. If I take into account the lost feeding value of what is exposed to oxygen, then bagging looks pretty good. With that said, I should point out that bagging is not foolproof. It does take some skill to get a well-packed bag. Also, remember that with bagging, there is more surface covered in plastic per ton of silage. This means there is more opportunity for holes and air exposure. Thus, regular checks to ensure that holes are patched quickly is important to keeping spoilage to a minimum. One size does not fit all when it comes to silage storage. Bagging may not be the most economic option for everyone, but it’s a great fit for some. If you do not have the time or labor to cover your silage, or you have low feedout rates, then bagging is likely a more cost-effective option for storing silage. • MARY DREWNOSKI The author is a beef systems specialist, University of Nebraska.

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A case for no-till by James Rogers and Scott Robertson


O-TILL planting methods have been in existence for decades and while this method of establishing crops has grown in acceptance, there is still a lot of tillage being used. Often when contemplating the switch from till to no-till production practices, reasoning is focused on production and the positive or negative impact no-till may have on production. Production is important and should play a big role in considering the change, but there are other reasons that might be overlooked that make no-till appealing. Here are advantages to no-till production from the perspective of a Southern Plains forage producer.

Time savings Getting an annual forage crop into the ground in a timely manner impacts biomass production, grazing days, and workflow. We currently have a wheat pasture grazing study where we are comparing the treatment effect of till versus no-till. In half of our treatment area, we are double-cropping a summer cover crop while the other half is summer fallowed. This allows us to compare wheat pasture production using till or no-till following summer fallow and till or no-till following a summer cover crop. In general, our no-till soils are firmer, and we are able to come into these areas much sooner with equipment following

a rainfall event compared to the tilled paddocks. Our seedbed preparation is easier and requires less time as we apply a burndown herbicide. With no-till, we only need three pieces of equipment: a tractor, sprayer, and no-till drill. Compared to our till system, we typically make two passes with a tillage implement followed by a cultipacker and conventional drill. In the till system, we might be using two different types of tillage implements plus an extra tractor. Fall planting dates for wheat have varied very little between till and no-till due to less rainfall during our September planting window that can delay field operations. When we do see a difference in the fall, it favors no-till. In spring, we see a big difference for planting summer cover crops following wheat. No-till planting dates for summer cover crops have ranged from 15 to 37 days earlier than till during the three years of the study.

Conserves soil moisture Obviously you need to have soil moisture for crops to germinate and produce. In the wheat pasture study, we are measuring the treatment effects of till or no-till and summer cover crops on soil moisture. To do this, we have soil moisture sensors deployed at depths of 3 inches, 10 inches, and 24 inches in each treatment replication. Figure 1 is the three-year average soil moisture of till and no-till soils at the three depths at the end of summer prior to the establishment of wheat

winter pasture. These paddocks would have been summer fallowed either by tilling or chemically. In Figure 1, note that at each soil depth, no-till soils have a higher moisture content following the summer months. In the Southern Plains, this is an advantage and provides no-till soils with more resiliency compared to tilled soils. When we compare till and no-till following a summer cover crop (Figure 2), the soil moisture story appears to have changed, but has it really? From previously, recall that the planting date for no-till cover crops was almost one month earlier than tilled cover crops. By the end of the summer period, no-till soils had been producing cover crops that are using water, for a longer time period compared to tilled soils, but soil moisture between the two systems remains similar. Thus, the case can still be made that no-till soils still conserve soil moisture better than tilled soils, even with the addition of a summer cover crop and a longer period of cover crop growth.

Soils stay cooler In addition to soil moisture, we are also monitoring soil temperature. Soil temperature is important because the hotter soils become, the more soil moisture is lost through evaporation. Soil temperature also impacts microbial activity. Soil microbial activity slows at soil temperatures above 85°F. If we look at the average of our data from May to August over three years, tilled summer fallow soils average 2°F warmer than other treatments. No-till soils averaged 1.6°F cooler than tilled soils. It’s interesting to note that when a summer cover crop is added, even tilled cover crop soils are cooler by almost 1°F than tilled-only soils. No-till cover crop soils are the coolest through the summer averaging 3.6°F cooler than tilled soils. The reason no-till cover crop soils are cooler than other soils is almost 100 percent of the ground area is covered either by plant residue from the previous crop or by shade from the currently growing cover crop.

JAMES ROGERS Rogers (pictured) is a forage systems associate professor and Robertson is a senior research associate at the Noble Research Institute, Ardmore, Okla.

30 | Hay & Forage Grower | August/September 2019

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Recently, we have been using drones equipped with a camera that creates a 3D image using photo telemetry to help us quantify soil loss. In areas where we are experiencing soil movement, the drones are flown and the eroded areas are measured in three dimensions. Then, we calculate the volume of the eroded area to come up with the amount of soil it would take to fill the area back up level with the surrounding field. An example of this imagery is shown in Figure 3. In Figure 3, the purple-colored areas indicate where soil has moved. In one site, we calculated that a volume of 8 tons of soil had been displaced. In our no-till areas, we have very little soil movement. In tillage paddocks with a cover crop, our

Figure 1. Soil moisture of till and no-till soils at the end of summer fallow

Figure 2. Soil moisture of till and no-till soils following summer cover crops m3/m3 Volumetric soil water content 0.00 3 Sample depth inches

Less erosion

soil loss is very little due to ground cover the majority of the year by double cropping wheat and summer cover crops. There are downsides to no-till. We have to rely on herbicides for weed control, and weed resistance can be an issue without good herbicide management. Another issue is that good no-till equipment is expensive; in some crops, there may be a yield drag for a period of time. No-till benefits are mostly positive and of the reasons provided here for adopting no-till production practices, reducing soil erosion is the biggest. Soil losses can never be regained in a lifetime. •




10 17 24



Figure 3. Drone imagery of till-eroded areas

m3/m3 Volumetric soil water content 0.00 3 Sample depth inches

Tilled, bare soils are vulnerable to wind and water erosion. As a producer, this is a cost to you. When soil moves from your field to a neighbor’s field or anywhere else, that is a loss of production, fertilizer, herbicide, soil health, sustainability, and property value. A problem has been quantifying that loss. In our study, we see soil move, especially during big rainfall events, which seem to be becoming more common.




10 17 24



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S&W varieties are bred to perform, with high yields of high quality forage, plus impressive disease resistance, especially Phytophthora and Aphanomyces root rots that can harm alfalfa during wet springs. Establish your fields now with the right alfalfa variety choice for the years to come. Winterhardy varieties: SW4107, SW5210, and SW3407. For non-dormant Southwest varieties: SW8421S, SW9720, SW9215RRS Available through Wilbur-Ellis, Sorghum Partners® and S&W dealerships. For a dealer near you call 916.554.5480 x605 or 855.767.4486.

Alfalfa, Sorghum & More, Now Under One Roof | swseedco.com August/September 2019 | hayandforage.com | 31

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Claas adds to mower, baler, and tedder offerings Claas of America recently debuted significant additions and updates to their haymaking line up. Here’s a rundown:

Disco 4000 TRC mower-conditioner The newly engineered, heavy-duty Disco 4000 TRC pull-type mower-conditioner features a Max Cut cutterbar and Active Float suspension, resulting in a more evenly cut crop. New adjustable swath plates allow the operator to make a desired windrow or swath up to 73 percent of the 12.5-foot cutting width. In addition, adjustable windrow spreader plates have been added to help make a uniform windrow or swath. The intermeshing conditioning rolls are made of Chevron rubber and driven with a double belt drive, resulting in less maintenance. The Disco 4000 TRC also features a spring-loaded pivoting cutterbar to keep the knives out of the soil. This will reduce ash content in the forage. Rollant 520 round baler Claas is also extending its range of round balers with the Rollant 520. It is a 4x4, fixed-chamber round baler that features an updated design and upgrades for better fermentation in properly formed bales. The result for the operator is reduced spoilage. The updated design of the Rollant 520 includes eight newly

engineered, heavy-duty rollers, which have a 4-millimeter (mm) wall thickness and shafts bolted to 15 mm-thick flanges for improved strength and durability when baling tough crops. The Rollant 520 comes equipped with: • A n updated drive concept for longer heavy-duty use • A reinforced frame that’s 20 percent thicker than the 300 series • A 14-knife, Roto Cut chopping system for maximum throughput • A hydraulic drop floor for easier clearing of plugs • 15 mm-thick flanges for improved durability Voltvo 55 TH tedder The new Voltvo 55 TH tedder spreads hay even and fast for uniform dry down and optimum nutritional value. The tedder offers a faster ground speed and an even spread pattern with the Max Spread tine system. The very strong tubetine arms and Permalink drive system allow for high workloads for heavy windrow conditions. It’s equipped with equal length tines for less ground contact to reduce ash content in the crop. An adjustable tine angle allows for slower power takeoff (PTO) speed to save leaves in alfalfa or clover. The tine arms have been reinforced, which supports a longer machine life. The innovative hydraulic folding and tilt make it fast to move from field to field. For more information, visit www.claas.com.

Kuhn releases new Optidisc Elite cutterbar Kuhn North America announces the introduction of the new Kuhn Optidisc Elite cutterbar. It was developed in partnership with farmers through testing in fields around the world. The Optidisc Elite’s low profile cutterbar creates a smooth, clean cut with minimal ash incorporation due to a very flat cutterbar angle even at low cutting heights. Additionally, differential disc spacing utilizes narrower spacing at the diverging discs for extra knife overlap to create a clean cut even when the grass is short or light. Wider spacing of the converging discs provides more space for the crop to pass from the cutting area, improving the cut quality. Kuhn’s patented Protectadrive disc bearing stations are

designed to shear outside the gear case upon striking a major obstacle, protecting the gears inside the cutterbar. The equal-sized gears in the cutterbar allow maximum power transfer with even torque loads across the full cutting width. Maintenance and downtime are minimized with a lubed-for-life design requiring no routine oil changes. The Optidisc Elite cutterbar is available on select Kuhn GMD mowers and FC mower-conditioners. For more information, visit www.kuhnnorthamerica.com.

32 | Hay & Forage Grower | August/September 2019

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Fendt unveils new 900 series tractors AGCO recently announced that five new fully redesigned Fendt 900 series tractors will be available to North American farmers and ranchers. The tractors range from 296 to 415 horsepower (HP). These new Fendt tractors offer many of the cutting-edge technologies of the Fendt 1000 series line. The tractors are powered by six-cylinder, 9.0L MAN engines with the low-rev engine concept working in unison with the Fendt tractor management system (TMS) and Fendt stepless VarioDrive continuously variable transmission (CVT). With this combination, the engine operates at a maximum engine speed of 1,700 rotations per minute (rpm), providing exceptional pulling power, using less fuel, and reducing wear on the engine components. The tractors come with a full warranty for 36 months or 3,000 hours, plus all scheduled maintenance, including the cost of oil, filters, belts, and maintenance items during this time. Designed to fit as a primary high horsepower tractor, the 900 series offers a light base weight with high ballasting capabilities, are compact, and maneuverable. The Fendt VarioGrip tire inflation system allows the operator to deflate tire pressure from the cab with the push of a button, providing up to 15 percent more tractive power and improved ground contact with reduced soil compaction in the field. This innovation also allows automatic tire inflation before traveling down the road, to improve handling and fuel efficiency at road speeds up to 31 miles per hour. VarioGrip is controlled through the Varioterminal, which takes the guesswork out of achieving the right tire pressure for the best results. The new 900 Series tractors have a wide range of

implement connections at the front and rear to operate a varied combination of front and rear implements. The Fendt dual-circuit hydraulic system provides two levels of hydraulic capacity, keeping full capacity on reserve until the tractor is paired with an implement with high hydraulic demands, such as a large planter. This reduces horsepower needed for less demanding work and ensures the tractors can power the most demanding implements. Finally, the 900 series provides operator comfort and ease of use. The quiet, roomy cab includes the Profi joystick, which is positioned on the armrest. The 900 series includes the latest 10.4-inch Varioterminal for control of all tractor settings and adjustments, implement control, guidance, cameras, documentation, and more. This system is set up and field ready from the factory for immediate on-farm use. For more information, visit www.fendt.com/us.

Case IH adds new premium round baler

The new Case IH RB565 Premium HD round baler provides producers with the flexibility to bale a full range of crops, including wet silage and stalks. Making a 5 by 6-foot bale, this new baler expands the RB5 series lineup. The RB565 Premium HD round baler helps to achieve higher bale density with the following enhancements: • Higher torque load on the cutout clutch

• Larger main gearbox with heavier output shaft • Larger main drive chain and sprockets • Larger roll drive chains • Dual chopping rolls in the tailgate and sledge areas to prevent crop buildup • Neoprene-covered backwrap roll • Factory-installed moisture sensor option • Endless belts with a three-year or 15,000-bale warranty The RB565 Premium HD round balers can be equipped with ISOBUS Class 3 Tractor and Baler Automation. Paired with a Puma or Maxxum tractor featuring a CVXDrive continuously variable PowerDrive powershift or ActiveDrive 8 dual-clutch transmission, this system controls the tractor stop, bale wrap, and bale-eject functions without operator input. Operators can take advantage of ISOBUS Class 3 controls to automatically stop the tractor when the target bale size is reached. When the wrap cycle is complete, the baler tailgate raises and lowers automatically to eject each wrapped bale. Once the completed bale is ejected, the operator can simply move the tractor shuttle lever to the forward position and go. For more information, visit your local Case IH dealer or www.caseih.com.

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

August/September 2019 | hayandforage.com | 33

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Over the past two decades, Persist orchardgrass has set the standard for high yielding, long-lasting forage. Persist has fed more cattle, packed more hay barns, and made more meat and milk. Per Persist has withstood severe droughts, survived frigid ice storms and outlasted intensive grazing. Persist has produced countless tons of toxic-free forage and has been a reliable alternative to harmful KY-31 tall fescue. yo want high yielding, long-lasting If you stands, spend your seed money wisely. Plant Persist.

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The new generation of TL Series inline bale wrappers from Tube-Line are built to provide producers and custom operators with high efficiency and proven reliability. To ensure that everyone can reap the benefits of the high moisture hay, Tube-Line BaleWrappers are available in multiple configurations to suit your needs and your budget. For more information please visit us online or contact your nearest dealer.

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38 | Hay & Forage Grower | August/September 2019


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TRITICALE SEED, locally adapted varieties bred specifically for forage-including awnless varieties. Visit tricalforage.com for a list of local seed houses in your area or call 406.952.1000. /27 TRSUFO


BALEWAGONS: New Holland self-propelled & pull-type models/ parts/tires/manuals. Can finance/ deliver. 208-880-2889, www.balewagon.com /15 JAWIBA

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Square Bale Hydraulic Feeders Crop Specific Inoculant

Two bale feeds 4 x 4, 3 x 4, and 3 x 3 bales $6,875.00. FOB Denver. Delivery available. Fully galvanized with built-in charging system. Operates by a 12 volt, 3,000 PSI hydraulic power pack to feed out one flake at a time. Bale pusher retracts in seconds ready to reload. A pick up truck, a 40 HP tractor with front loader forks and the Precision Hay Feeder is all that is needed to feed any size herd in multiple locations from the comfort of a warm truck.

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FORAGE IQ Farm Progress Show August 27 to 29, Decatur, Ill. Details: www.farmprogressshow.com

Kentucky Fall Grazing School September 10 and 11, Versailles, Ky. Details: forages.ca.uky.edu/Events

Husker Harvest Days September 10 to 12, Grand Island, Neb. Details: www.huskerharvestdays.com

Alfalfa & Forage Field Day September 19, Parlier, Calif. Details: http://bit.ly/HFG-AFFD

Kentucky Grazing School September 25 and 26, Versailles, Ky. Details: forages.ca.uky.edu/Events

National Hay Association Convention September 25 to 28, Acme, Mich. Details: www.nationalhay.org

World Dairy Expo World Forage Analysis Superbowl October 1 to 5, Madison, Wis. Hay crop entries due Aug. 29 Details: bit.ly/HFG-WFAS

Sunbelt Ag Expo Southeastern Hay Contest October 15 to 17, Moultrie, Ga. Hay contest entries due September 19 Details: http://bit.ly/HFG-SHC

Heart of America Grazing Conference October 29 and 30, Burlington, Ky. Details: forages.ca.uky.edu/Events

Western Kentucky Grazing Conference October 31, Hopkinsville, Ky. Details: forages.ca.uky.edu/Events

California Alfalfa & Forage Symposium November 19 to 21, Reno, Nev. Details: http://calhay.org/symposium

Alabama Forage Conference December 3 and 4, Rogersville, Ala. Details: alabamaforages.com


Hay prices remain strong It has not been a good growing season for many forage producers. Hay prices are currently as strong as they have been since 2014. An extremely wet, cool spring did very little in the form of replenishing stocks of high-quality hay, which will certainly remain at premium prices into next year’s harvest.

Total world alfalfa exports have remained on pace with last year, even with the ongoing tariffs imposed by China. The prices below are primarily from USDA hay market reports as of midJuly. 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 (intermountain) California (northern SJV) Colorado (San Luis Valley) Idaho Iowa-ssb Kansas (all regions) Missouri Montana New Mexico (eastern) Oklahoma (central) Oregon (Lake County) Pennsylvania (southeast) South Dakota (East River) Texas (north, central, east) Washington (Columbia Basin) Premium-quality hay California (intermountain) California (northern SJV) California (southern) Colorado (southeast) Colorado (southeast)-ssb Idaho Iowa-ssb Iowa (Rock Valley) Kansas (all regions) Missouri Nebraska (east/central) New Mexico (southeast) Oklahoma (central) Oregon (Crook-Wasco)-ssb Oregon (Harney) South Dakota (East River) Texas (Panhandle) Wisconsin (Lancaster) Washington (Columbia Basin) Good-quality hay California (Sacramento Valley) California (southeast) Colorado (southeast)-ssb Idaho Iowa (Rock Valley) Kansas (all regions) Minnesota (Pipestone)-lrb Missouri Nebraska (east/central) Nebraska (western)-lrb New Mexico (southeast) Oklahoma (central) Oregon (Lake County) Pennsylvania (southeast) South Dakota (Corsica)-lrb South Dakota (East River) Texas (Panhandle)

Washington (Columbia Basin) Price $/ton 195 Wisconsin (Lancaster)-lrb 250-265 Wyoming (central/western) 200-205 Fair-quality hay 180-208 California (northern SJV) 280-315 Colorado (northeast) 185-226 Idaho 185-225 Iowa (Rock Valley)-lrb 160-165 Kansas (all regions) 250-260 Minnesota (Pipestone)-lrb 257-263 (d) Missouri 210 Montana 400 Nebraska (east/central)-lrb 210-220 Nebraska (western) 255-260 New Mexico (southwest) 225 South Dakota (East River)-lrb Washington (Columbia Basin) Price $/ton 180 Wisconsin (Lancaster)-lrb 200-240 Wyoming (eastern) 280 Bermudagrass hay 220 Alabama-Premium lrb 325 California (southeast)-Good 170 Oklahoma (eastern)-Good lrb 265 Texas (Panhandle)-Good/Premium 175 Texas (south)-Good/Premium ssb 170-200 Bromegrass hay 170-200 Kansas (southeast)-Good 180-185 Missouri-Good 220 Nebraska (east/central)-Fair lrb 210 Orchardgrass hay 230-250 California (intermountain)-Premium 190 Colorado (southwest)-Premium ssb 210 Oregon (Klamath Basin)-Premium ssb 250 Pennsylvania (southeast)-Premium 250-260 Wyoming (central/western)-Premium 210 Timothy hay Idaho-Fair Price $/ton 180-200 Montana-Premium ssb 170-180 Montana-Good-ssb 290 Oregon (eastern)-Premium 140-155 Pennsylvania (southeast)-Good 103-145 Washington (Columbia Basin)-Premium 160-175 Oat hay 125 Colorado (northeast)-Good 120-160 Nebraska (east/central)-lrb 155-170 New Mexico (southwest) 125 (d) Pennsylvania (southeast) 200-215 (d) Straw 180 Alabama 180 Colorado (southeast)-lrb 210 Iowa (Rock Valley) 95 Kansas (north central/east)-lrb 160 Pennsylvania (southeast) 240 South Dakota (East River)-lrb

180-195 140-180 160 Price $/ton 140-165 120 155 140-155 90-130 115 100-125 75-90 110 130 130-150 125 165-195 53-80 100 Price $/ton 133 140 120-125 130-200 264-297


(d) (d) (d)


Price $/ton 125-150 100-140 130 (d) Price $/ton 225 310-340 240-260 320 190 Price $/ton 140 225-240 160-180 200 165-235 270 Price $/ton 90-110 (d) 70 150-180 120 Price $/ton 200 60-70 100-120 50-60 200-265 120

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

42 | Hay & Forage Grower | August/September 2019

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REAL EXPERTS TELL THE STORY: This Comprima is so simple to operate, just a couple of chains and NO BELTS. I can get over more acres quicker. With the wet bale, we can get a higher quality feed … mow it one day, bale the next. We went to Comprima for an upgrade and to do more round bales.

We can justify the Comprima because of the value of the feed we’re getting out of it. I take the silage bales from this baler out to the cows, and they instantly know what that white marshmallow is. They run to it and just clean it up. We’ve baled in 40- to 50-degree weather, this baler will bale it, wrap it and dump it.

Brian Schnettgoecke

Lance Stiles



Experts in their field turn to Krone Round Balers for a higher return on investment. Learn more at krone-na.com.

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7/15/19 11:04 AM


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Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.