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hayandforage.com

August/September 2020

Born to chop pg 6 Sold on H-2A workers pg 14 It’s time to stockpile pg 22 Published by W.D. Hoard & Sons Co.

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Valuing hay with advanced feed analysis pg 30 7/22/20 12:55 PM


Superior forage quality starts with a superior corn head

Brian Nunes runs Krone EasyCollect corn heads on his John Deere choppers because he says they are “the best on the market.” Here’s why: • “The Krone head feeds the corn in butt first so your length of cut stays consistent.” • “Servicing is a lot faster and costs less than other heads.” • “This head requires less horsepower so we get more ground speed.” • “It’s reliable…I’m confident this head will run every day, all day.” In addition, the Krone EasyCollect corn head’s exclusive design can deliver superior performance in down corn.

Brian Nunes

MID VALLEY HARVESTING | TULARE, CA

That Krone corn head performs so much better. It’s the #1 head.

Aaron Schipper

SCHIPPER CUSTOM OPERATIONS | BELGIUM, WI

Good news for ALL chopper owners: Krone offers corn head conversion kits for many models of John Deere, Claas and New Holland forage harvesters.


August/September 2020 · VOL. 35 · No. 5 MANAGING EDITOR Michael C. Rankin ART DIRECTOR Todd Garrett EDITORIAL COORDINATOR Jennifer L. Yurs ONLINE MANAGER Patti J. Hurtgen DIRECTOR OF MARKETING John R. Mansavage ADVERTISING SALES Kim E. Zilverberg kzilverberg@hayandforage.com Jenna Zilverberg jzilverberg@hayandforage.com ADVERTISING COORDINATOR Patti J. Kressin pkressin@hayandforage.com

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

This father-son duo was born to chop

Don and Mike Witt chop corn and alfalfa for several large dairies in southern Wisconsin. Last fall, Don bought the first track-driven forage harvester available in the U.S.

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

DEPARTMENTS 4 First Cut 9 Guest Opinion 13 Dairy Feedbunk 16 Alfalfa Checkoff 22 The Pasture Walk

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Like a Ferrari, peak silage performance requires protection

23 Forage Gearhead 26 Beef Feedbunk

Save the land, make a profit

Limiting shrink and maintaining silage quality can be achieved with preplanning and not taking shortcuts.

This 81-year-old beef producer doesn’t think sound environmental stewardship and profitability have to be mutually exclusive.

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EARLAGE GAINS POPULARITY

DOES DROUGHT STRESS IMPROVE FIBER DIGESTIBILITY?

HE WANTED A BETTER WAY TO FEED HAY

HE’S SOLD ON SOUTH AFRICAN H-2A WORKERS

DO YOUR FORAGES MEET TRACE MINERAL NEEDS?

32 Machine Shed 38 Hay Market Update ON THE COVER

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DON’T DISCOUNT THE ACCURACY OF NIRS

30 Feed Analysis

REDUCING POTASSIUM DEFICIENCY

IMPROVE FORAGE QUALITY WITH GRAZING DECISIONS

IT’S TIME TO STOCKPILE FOR WINTER GRAZING

VALUING HAY WITH TODAY’S FEED ANALYSIS

In addition to 2,000 sheep, Davenport Ranch in Wapanucka, Okla., is home to over 1,000 brood cows and nearly 500 goats. Jason and Misty Davenport, along with their sons Luke and Lane, own and operate the ranch that utilizes a variety of native warm-season grasses, bermudagrass, bahiagrass, ryegrass, tall fescue, and clovers. A cover crop mix that includes brassicas, vetch, and cereal grains is also planted in late summer for fall and winter grazing. Photo by Mike Rankin

HAY & FORAGE GROWER (ISSN 0891-5946) copyright © 2020 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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FIRST CUT

AM or PM?

O

Mike Rankin Managing Editor

KAY, it’s not exactly of the magnitude of the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, but the argument to cut hay exclusively in the late afternoon versus another time of day has always intrigued me. There are some strong feelings on both sides of this issue. In a recent eHay Weekly, I wrote about this topic and then included an online poll to see where forage producers now landed on this issue after many years of debate. The results: Most just seem to cut without considering the time of day. With over 100 forage producers responding, 62% indicated that they “cut when I can without regard to time of day.” About 23% “prefer to cut only in the late afternoon,” and 15% “prefer to cut only in the morning.” There was no way to differentiate responses by U.S. region, but that might have been interesting to discern . . . and here’s why. The preference for late afternoon cutting is actually pretty compelling. Several studies that were done in the western United States showed a clear advantage to cutting hay in the late afternoon or early evening. The PM-cut forage (both alfalfa and grasses) was higher quality when harvested, and the researchers also had convincing evidence that animals preferred it to AM-cut hay. The result was improved animal production. Some basic plant physiology concepts drive the preference for PM-cut hay. Plants accumulate carbohydrates in the form of sugars and starches through photosynthesis during the daylight hours. These carbohydrates are produced faster than the plant can get them translocated to the root and crown or use them for growth and maintenance. Concentrations of these nonstructural carbohydrates, which are nearly 100% digestible, reach a maximum toward late afternoon. In alfalfa, leaf-to-stem ratio also peaks at this time. The arid and semi-arid Western states’ research showed that they were able to hold this quality advantage of PM-cut hay through wilting, harvest, storage, and feeding. Photosynthesis ceases during hours of darkness, and respiration becomes the dominant plant process. The nonstructural carbohydrates are used during respiration for normal plant maintenance and growth. This leads to a declining concentration in plant tissues until the sun

rises again and the cycle repeats itself. Plants are like people in that they fight to stay alive, even after a traumatic experience like having their legs cut off. Respiration continues until plant moisture reaches about 50%. In fact, photosynthesis continues for those cut plants that are on top of the windrow or swath and exposed to sunshine. Given the importance of moisture concentration, dry-down rate becomes an essential factor in preserving cut forage quality. Long drying times translate to extended plant respiration following cutting, negating any effect of nonstructural carbohydrate content at the time of cutting. In the West, low humidity, cool nights, and plenty of sunshine make for fast dry-down rates, especially for the initial dry-down phase to 60% moisture. Hence, cut forage quality is preserved more easily than in the more humid East. In the latter case, cutting earlier in the day is often preferred to ensure forage moisture reaches 50% before the overnight hours, or at least without going more than one overnight. In regions where rainfall is more frequent than in the arid West, beating the weather trumps any strategy for time-of-day cutting. Morning cutting is almost always going to offer a wider window of confirmed favorable weather, at least in the short run. There are two ways to optimize cut forage quality at a given plant maturity. One is to mow when it’s at its highest quality, and the other is with rapid dry down. The latter factor is the more important of the two. Though late afternoon cutting may be advantageous in arid Western regions, growers in humid areas will benefit from an earlier cutting that is followed by several dry, sunny days. Finally, let’s not forget that plant maturity is still king when it comes to forage quality. Overly mature plants, cut at noon or midnight, still make for low-quality forage. •

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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THIS

FATHER-SON DUO WAS

BORN TO CHOP by Mike Rankin

D

ON Witt remembers his dad mowing hay with a 5-foot sickle bar mower and having a one-row, pull-type forage chopper that he used to do custom chopping for the neighbors. “After milking, he’d make us kids go to the shop and sharpen the blades,” recalled the now 80-year-old patriarch of Witt Farms LLC near Monticello, Wis. Times have changed. These days, Don finds himself chopping corn with a new Claas Jaguar 990 Terra Trac. It was the first such tracked model sold in the U.S., and it was delivered just in time for the 2019 corn silage harvest season. Don farms with his son, Mike, and together they own and operate a custom harvesting business responsible for

chopping between 4,500 and 5,000 acres of corn each fall and harvesting multiple cuttings from over 2,000 alfalfa acres. They are helped by two full-time and many part-time employees. “The business model has changed through the years,” Mike said. “We used to have a lot of smaller dairy farm clients, but now most of the business is comprised of servicing just a few really large farms. We may be two weeks at the same place,” he added. In addition to custom harvesting, the Witts own 1,000 acres of land that is planted mostly to alfalfa. Corn is used as a rotation crop between alfalfa stands. Much of their own crop is chopped and goes into the farm’s bunker silo. It then gets hauled out daily to several neighboring dairies for inclusion in their total mixed rations (TMR). The remaining acres are harvested and used for Don’s

100 beef cows and feeders, both of which are raised in confinement barns. The Witts also purchase additional standing hay and corn from neighbors. After corn silage harvest in the fall, the Witts do custom solid manure hauling for a large dairy that separates its manure into liquids and solids.

No more dairy cows Around the time Don was entering high school, his dad bought the farm that is home base for the current operation. Don moved on the farm right out of high school. “I had two brothers, so Dad kept buying more land to keep us working and out of trouble,” he said with a chuckle. It was also around that time when Don told his dad that if he had to milk cows, he wasn’t going to farm. “That was the end of our dairy enterprise, but we kept the beef cows and continued row cropping

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and custom harvesting.” Mike, who is now 40 years old, went to college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and majored in horticulture. “My plan was to become a college professor,” he explained. “During a teaching assistant stint in graduate school, I realized that teaching wasn’t my thing. I hated it. After shifting to research, it wasn’t long before I figured out that what I really wanted to do was farm . . . so I eventually came back home and started the business of selling stored silage to farms and helping with the custom harvesting.”

Custom business expanded Since Don’s childhood, the custom business at Witt Farms has gradually expanded. In addition to Don’s Jaguar 990 Terra Trac chopper, the Witts also have two Claas Jaguar 970 models.

How did Don end up with the first U.S. track-driven chopper? He explained it this way: “Several years ago, I went on a Claas-sponsored trip to Germany and attended the Agritechnica farm show. I first saw the machine there in the company’s exhibit. When we got back, I told them that I wanted it to be my next chopper and became the first name on their waiting list. They delivered it last August (2019),” he added. When asked why he was so adamant about getting a track-driven machine, Don emphatically stated that he was after a smoother, more comfortable ride. “I talked to different grain farmers who had combines with tracks, and they just swore by them.” The new addition to the chopper fleet couldn’t have come at a better time as the fall of 2019 brought constant rain and difficult corn silage harvesting conditions. “Last year was just horrible, and there were a lot of days we wondered why we were doing this,” Mike said. “Of course, when the weather cooperates, it’s just a lot of fun.” All of the Witts’ equipment is set up with GPS tracking. “In my opinion, you’re foolish not to have it,” Don exclaimed. “It takes so much stress off the operator, reduces truck traffic on alfalfa, and you’re always taking a full cut with the chopper or mower. It’s amazing how much more productive you can be with GPS tracking.” The Witts’ line of harvesting equipment also includes two Kuhn 36-foot mergers and two 36-foot Pottinger triple mowers without conditioners. This pairing enables them to get seven full swaths into one windrow. For hauling, 10 Meyer forage semitrailers and three forage wagons are owned. Most of these units are equipped with floatation tires.

the hard-surfaced road. This eliminates getting mud on the roads and allows for corn chopping where fields are too wet for the semitrucks. The original request for the reloader was made by the Witts for use in their solid manure hauling business. For manure, the semitrailers unload in the field onto the reloader and the manure is conveyed into the spreader. The Witts have one packing tractor of their own and subcontract for others, usually putting on two tractors per chopper. They also hire other people with semitractors and tractors to pull the forage boxes and trailers. All of their dairy farm clients do their own bunker and silage pile covering.

Serious alfalfa growers The Witts aren’t just custom harvesting gearheads. Because they grow and manage 800 acres or more of their own alfalfa each year, Don and Mike must also be agronomists. They grow their alfalfa using a largely conventional approach. Up to this point, the Witts have chosen not to use any traited alfalfa varieties, although they did put in a field of HarvXtra alfalfa last year “just to try.” Their alfalfa is direct seeded in the spring and sprayed with con-

They had a need In addition to the tracked forage harvester, the Witts also own another unique piece of equipment — what they call a reloader; in fact, they have two of them. It’s a machine that they requested to be built. After approaching several companies, Meyer Manufacturing (Dorchester, Wis.) finally built the large conveyer that extends from the field to the road. In wet conditions such as 2019, they chop corn into their forage wagons, which then are dumped onto the conveyer in the field. The conveyer loads the semitrailers that remain on

Mike Rankin

Mike Rankin

Don Witt begins another round with the first trackdriven forage harvester sold by Claas in the U.S.

Don and Mike Witt operate a custom harvest and manure hauling business in addition to farming 1,000 acres of their own.

continued on following page >>>

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The Witts utilize a reloader for their dry manure hauling business and when fields are wet during corn silage harvest.

Mike Rankin

ventional herbicides for broadleaf and grassy weed control. They shoot for four or five cuts during the full production years. “On average, we get 5.5 tons of dry matter per acre,” Mike said. “Some years are better, some worse.” It’s not often that the Witts take a late fall cut. “It always looks like there’s more there than what actually is,” Don commented. “They always say that what you gain with the late fall cut you lose in the first cutting the next year.” The Witts usually get three years of production after the seeding year before alfalfa stands are terminated. Mike noted that they typically don’t terminate alfalfa stands with herbicide until spring. “We used to do it in the fall, then sometimes wished we hadn’t if it happened to be a bad winterkill year,” he said. Once sprayed in the spring, they generally have a custom operator come in and no-till corn into the field, then spray one more time after the corn has emerged. With a lot of highly erodible land, the Witts usually plant wheat as a cover crop after the corn is chopped off. Mike typically sprays the wheat out the following spring before alfalfa is seeded. Interestingly, the Witts recently noticed more vigor from a new alfalfa seeding following two years of corn compared to where stands followed only one year of corn (their normal practice). This is something Mike wants to investigate further. He is planning to try berseem clover and Italian ryegrass the year following first-year corn in an effort to get two years between alfalfa stands without planting back-to-back corn crops on erosion-prone land. Similar to alfalfa, the berseem and ryegrass will be cut and chopped, although he realizes

there will be less yield. With 80 years in the rearview mirror, Don Witt gives no indication that he is in a retirement state-of-mind. This fall, he will climb onto his track-driven chopper and smoothly and accurately navigate thousands of corn rows. Along with him will be his once professor-bound son who couldn’t shake the grip and allure of the home farm. They’re both wishing

Mike Witt checks alfalfa on one of his own fields. The fields average 5.5 tons per acre and are usually terminated after three production years.

for a less stressful harvest this year and hoping the reloaders can stay parked until manure season. If that’s not the case, they’ll be more ready than most for the challenge. •

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GUEST OPINION

by Rebecca Kern and Uttam Kumar Saha

Don’t discount the accuracy of NIRS

REBECCA KERN AND UTTAM KUMAR SAHA Kern is an animal scientist with Ward Laboratories Inc. in Kearney, Neb. Saha is a program coordinator with the University of Georgia Agricultural and Environmental Services Laboratories. Both authors are board members for the NIRS Forage and Feed Testing Consortium.

sample preparation it is a rapid turnaround analysis. Third, the method is nondestructive. This allows researchers to preserve their sample and producers to request more wet chemistry analysis, such as minerals or nitrates. Fourth, because no chemicals are required for analysis, there is no hazardous waste produced, making NIRS an environmentally friendly solution. Finally, because the technician simply loads the cup to be scanned on the instrument, there are fewer sources of potential human error. A report produced with equations from the NIRSC, which has 15 constituents, would require 179 technician handling events for wet chemistry. That’s 179 points where human error could occur versus one for NIRS!

Almost all of the crude protein results reported by the NIRS labs are within the acceptance windows assigned by NFTA based on the wet chemistry method. Therefore, this is a robust demonstration that NIRS is as accurate as wet chemistry. We would like to point out that the NIRS calibrations must be based on precise, accurate, and robust wet chemistry for this outcome. The Horwitz ratio is an index used to measure the precision of a method across laboratories (reproducibility). Lower ratios indicate better reproducibility. When applied to lab testing results, the NIRS Horwitz Ratios are overall lower than with wet chemistry. We conclude that NIRS calibration models developed using good science and applied properly, maintain better interlaboratory precision than wet chemistry methods.

Proven repeatability The NIRSC has complied data to show that NIRS methods improve repeatability and reproducibility over wet chemistry methods. Seven NIRSC member labs shared their data from 33 alfalfa hay samples that were analyzed from 2013 through 2019 as participation in the proficiency testing conducted by the National Forage Testing Association (NFTA). The graph shows crude protein results in comparison to the reference method average (RMA). The reference method for protein is wet chemistry analysis of nitrogen by the Kjeldahl method. The RMA is the average result reported from all labs using the specified method. Upper and lower limits of acceptance are assigned by NFTA for each round of proficiency testing.

Better hardware Instrumentation for NIRS analysis has improved through the years. New technology has led to better prediction. Currently, there is less variation from instrument to instrument than there previously had been, according to David McIntosh of the NIRSC Instrument Hub located at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. In conclusion, NIRS analysis of forages is an acceptable way to determine nutritional values and forage quality. It is affordable, rapid, non-destructive, repeatable, and environmentally friendly. The instrumentation for NIRS analysis has improved through the years and is reflected by accurate results. •

Crude protein NIRS accuracy compared to wet chemistry Reported crude protein by NIRS (%)

I

T HAS been well accepted and established that forage producers should analyze forages to determine nutrient levels and ultimately the quality of the feed. However, there has been a lot of confusion about whether forages should be analyzed by wet chemistry methods or near infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS). Many nutritionists are quick to brush off NIRS, citing poor accuracy of the method. However, NIRS has come a long way from its introduction to forage analysis. The instrumentation has improved, and the NIRS Forage & Feed Testing Consortium (NIRSC) has made great strides to standardize and optimize the use of NIRS across the industry. NIRS is a method of analysis using the same principles as many wet chemistry methods. Wet chemistry methods of analysis use a standard curve to compare an unknown sample to known concentrations to determine nutritional values. NIRS uses spectra generated by a detector measuring the reflectance of near infrared light on a sample. A library of sample spectra with known constituents (for example, percent protein and percent acid detergent fiber (ADF)) determined by industry standard wet chemistry methods is compared with the spectra of an unknown sample. Based on how the unknown sample’s spectra compares with those in the known library, nutritional values can be determined. There are several benefits of using NIRS. First, with no chemical inputs, technician time is the only true cost to a NIRS analysis. In just one NIRS scan, multiple constituents can be measured from one larger test portion versus setting up multiple wet chemistry analysis using multiple test portions. Therefore, NIRS is a low-cost analysis. Second, the samples just need to be dried and ground. There are no extractions necessary, so with little

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■ Reference method average (RMA)

■ Upper limit of acceptance

■ Lower limit of acceptance

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Mike Rankin

Like a Ferrari, peak silage performance requires protection by Chris Wacek-Driver

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OCUS. Sitting down to look at a Google map of a dairy’s feed pad, hoping to optimize the layout of projected forage crop yields and inventories, my mind wandered. The cost of the forage required to feed today’s dairy herds is staggering. A single cutting of haylage can exceed half a million dollars in value, while larger piles and an entire year’s forage can reach into the millions. More astonishing, unlike my grandfather’s farm, we no longer protect this tremendous inventory with concrete and steel. Instead, our modern methods hope to maintain that investment under what is often a single layer of plastic and mounds of tires. Really? Do we really think about this risk or just accept it as normal? Jon Orr, a custom harvester out of Ohio, equated the monetary value of multiple silage piles sitting on a large, open feed pad to having several Ferraris sitting out on an open lot. The average Ferrari owner likely takes great pains to care for and maintain their investment, including a garage to protect it. That thought process should be similar when protecting our forage. Just as a Ferrari loses value if not properly maintained, inadequate forage

protection or management can cause invisible losses, slowly eroding away valuable equity. It doesn’t matter if your forage pile value equates to that of a Ferrari or a well-loved farm truck. Significant effort, time, labor, and money is necessary to get a crop to storage. Ultimately that investment needs to be maintained for several months and, occasionally, years. When ordering a new car or truck, time is spent on details like accessories. Preparing for the new year’s crop involves details such as selecting the correct seed, figuring the labor required, deciding on the correct machinery needed to prepare the ground, and planting and harvesting the crop. We pray Mother Nature gives us ample opportunity to harvest at the optimal maturity and nutrient availability. We agonize over the proper chop length and moisture and spend significant time working around the weather to get the crop in. Calculations are done on the right amount of pack weight and training is provided on proper packing technique. Harvest season, with its minutia of detail and uncertainty, can be tremendously fulfilling, hopeful, stressful, and chaotic all within the same day. It is tempting to look at that final pile, maybe breathe a final sigh of relief or satisfaction, and feel the biggest part of the work is done. Yet,

covering decisions and techniques are just as important. The materials used and covering methods will have a significant impact on the initial fermentation and resulting forage parameters of your crop. Longterm storage dictates careful choices to maintain and reduce the risk of your multi-figure forage investment, just as a garage is for an expensive Ferrari.

It takes planning Covering piles requires careful planning. Serious thought is put into the process and detail: Who is in charge? What type of shoe is suitable for walking on plastic? Is the covering material strategically placed to minimize manual labor? A brief training session, prior to the day of covering, helps reinforce the value of the forage, each worker’s role, and the risk of a job improperly done. Most personnel, once they understand the value and importance of the job ahead of them, exercise more care CHRIS WACEK-DRIVER The author owns and operates a forage consulting business, Forage Innovations LLC, in Bay City, Wis.

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When filling a bunker or pile silo, paying attention to details and preplanning can pay huge dividends.

around the pile. Covering piles is hard work and being efficient helps speed the process along. Having team leaders strategically placed on or around the pile can help the process. Paying attention to little details can pay huge dividends. Have several extra pairs of work gloves readily available along with extra tape to patch holes (that will occur). Also, having plenty of fluids accessible can help make the covering process more tolerable. Communication of subtle details like keeping the plastic low to the ground to prevent it from parachuting can help alleviate frustrations. These meetings are also the place to remind staff of the dangers of working with slippery plastic, to wear visible clothing around machinery and moving tires, and the danger of falling.

Create a seal The most critical step of covering and sealing is establishing the outer seal. Envision when your nutritionist takes a forage sample, puts it in a bag, pushes out as much air as possible, and zips it up. A similar process needs to occur around the outer perimeter of a pile or bunker. To create a tight outer seal, there needs to be plenty of plastic to reach to the edges and beyond. During this process, we want to push out as much air as possible and put heavy weights around the edges. The place to skimp on plastic is not at the bottom of a pile or edge of a bunker. If using two layers of plastic, both layers need to stretch fully to the bottom and beyond. On piles, a minimum of 2 feet of plastic, flat on the ground and covered by a solid line of heavy weight, is desirable. Limestone screenings work better than sand, which can wash away, and can quickly be moved into place by a skid steer. Gravel-filled bags, larger whole tires, cow mats, or multiple tires stacked on top of each other have been used successfully as well. For bunkers, wrapping silage walls with plastic is advised to keep water from infiltrating down the inside of the wall. If this is done, keep the rough edge of the bunker wall protected with drain tile, boards, rubber matting, or something similar to prevent pinholes from forming on the draped plastic. Again, heavy weights placed along the bunker wall are critical to hold and maintain

the seal. Seams should be overlapped by 4 to 6 feet with heavy weights so water does not infiltrate (Figure 1). Numerous studies point to the benefits of quickly sealing the forage pile to initiate fermentation immediately after packing is complete. Follow the same rules of packing as with the rest of the pile. Spread in thin layers and spend a little extra time to finish packing and smooth the pile so plastic and tires have a place to rest evenly. Then, get that first layer of plastic down. Given that harvest doesn’t always coincide nicely with other people’s Figure 1. Overlap seams by 4 to 6 feet and be mindful of water flow

Wa ter

4 to 6 feet overlap

schedules or daylight hours, the full number of tires or the final cover can be placed later if timing of covering is not convenient. If the plastic is securely sealed on the edges, final weights can be placed later. By later, we mean hours or a couple days — not weeks. If the farm wishes to cover in nighttime hours, make sure there is adequate lighting. Some farms have installed overhead lighting for this purpose and/or rented additional portable lights as needed. One last point about sealing: Once the pile is opened for feeding, keep the cut edge of plastic sealed down with heavy weights. Air infiltration under the plastic at the feeding face is a leading cause of spoilage seen on farms.

Don’t skimp on plastic When choosing covering materials, it is tempting to choose the less expensive plastic or an easier covering method. Carefully consider the economic

investment under your covering choice. The last thing you want is for invisible thieves to help themselves to your valuable nutrients and dry matter. True oxygen barriers have proven themselves in multiple trials to reduce top layer nutrient loss, shrink, and mitigate inedible waste silage. Trials have also shown oxygen barriers enhance aerobic stability and hygienic quality by reducing yeast, mold, and butyric spore formation. In one meta-analysis (41 trials) with a true oxygen barrier plastic, dry matter loss was reduced in the top layer by 8.1% (see Table 1). In the same meta-analysis (11 trials), average aerobic stability (time to heating) was lengthened by nearly 2.5 days. Don’t be fooled by imposters. Oxygen barrier plastics are not just thin polyethylene sheets of plastic. They have specific polymers to limit oxygen infiltration and are composed of several microscopic layers. Think of a sub sandwich. The oxygen barrier compound would be the “meat” of the sandwich. Since the polymers that make up the oxygen barrier do not bind to polyethylene, more polymers are needed to stick them to the outer polyethylene layers. These polymers could be thought of as the mayo and mustard components (glue) of the sandwich. The “bread,” or outer layer of the plastic, is polyethylene. Very few companies have the complex equipment to make 7- to 9-layer plastics. Unfortunately, some of these companies have marketed thin polyethylene “painter’s” plastic under the term vapor barrier claiming the same benefits of oxygen barriers. One well-designed study clearly showed the difference between two layers of polyethylene plastic and a layer of polyethylene and oxygen barrier. Commercial agriculture plastic composed of primarily polyethylene is not a great barrier to oxygen. continued on following page >>>

Table 1. Meta-analysis of losses during storage and aerobic stability Number of trials

Conventional film

Oxygen barrier film

Bunkers and piles

Average loss of dry matter in top layer (% of crop ensiled)

41

19.5

11.4

Average inedible DM in top layer (% of total DM ensiled)

5

10.7

3

Average aerobic stability of top layer silage (hours1)

11

75.3

134.5

1 Hours to 2°C rise in temperature above ambient. All trials were with corn silage. Source: Wilkinson JM and Fenlon JS 2014. Grass and Forage Science, 69, 385-392.

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The wise purchaser will do their homework, given the huge cost of the forage investment, and will ask for research on a specific product and verify it is a true oxygen barrier. We certainly don’t want to skimp on the building materials covering our Ferrari!

Mike Rankin

Oxygen-barrier plastics contain specific polymers that inhibit oxygen penetration through the surface.

Another approach There are many reasons to want to move away from plastic and tires, and environmental concerns top the list. While a myriad of methods have been pursued, one method that has gained traction has been the use of reusable mesh covers. These tough, UV-protected woven covers have proven useful in preventing bird and hail damage to plastic and discourage critters from climbing on the pile due to their claws catching in the mesh. If manufactured, handled, and stored properly, reusable woven covers can be long-lasting and economical. From a sustainability standpoint, woven covers have the potential to cut plastic usage by two-thirds. Having been proven for many years in the European market, these mesh covers are gaining traction in the U.S.

Admittedly, those in Northern climates dealing with snow and ice will have to deal with covers freezing in the winter. Those who have persevered have utilized methods such as removing the mesh cover prior to a winter storm and not bringing the mesh covers to the sides of the bunker or bottom of the pile to facilitate removal. Lastly, like the Ferrari, ongoing main-

tenance of the pile is necessary. Having a regular schedule to inspect and repair damage to the plastic is critical over the life of the pile. Small holes or breaks in the outer seal can cause extensive spoilage and loss. Keeping tools close by, such as repair tape in machinery or buildings at the storage site, can encourage quick repair by employees and maintain that forage investment. •

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DAIRY FEEDBUNK

by Gonzalo Ferriera

Does drought stress improve fiber digestibility?

I

GET more milk from my silage.” This is a frequent response from farmers when I ask about the effects of drought stress on corn silage quality. Further, some of the more prestigious ruminant nutrition textbooks state that drought stress improves digestibility. The issue is that increased digestibility is a vague concept that does not specify if greater digestibility refers to higher dry matter digestibility, improved fiber digestibility, or both. Throughout the last few years, I have been interested in learning whether improved corn fiber digestibility due to drought stress is a myth or a fact. First, it is fair to say that most, if not all, published studies evaluating the effect of drought stress on forage quality used grass or legume pastures, and none of them evaluated corn harvested for silage. In 2018, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Idaho, our research team performed a study in which five corn hybrids were subjected to abundant or restricted water supply while growing in the dry conditions of Idaho. Opposite to the thought that drought stress makes fiber more digestible, we observed that fiber digestibility of stem internodes was slightly lower for water-restricted than for water-abundant corn (39.1% and 42.2% 30-hour in vitro neutral detergent fiber digestibility [IVNDFD], respectively). In the case of leaf blades, water supply had no effect on fiber digestibility as both treatments averaged 53.6% 30-hour IVNDFD. To follow up, in 2019, we performed a greenhouse study evaluating the effect of water stress on fiber digestibility and observed that drought stress had minimal effects. Conversely, fiber digestibility was sensitive to genotype (for example, brown midrib versus conventional hybrids). These studies provided no evidence to confirm the concept that drought stress improves fiber digestibility.

Confounding factors Given these results, it is fair to ask what facts support the claim from

farmers that drought stress increases the quality of the silage and, hence, improves milk production. As a professional, I have learned to be humble enough to respond, “I don’t know.” However, I do have a few hypotheses that may explain this myth. My first hypothesis centers on the forage-to-concentrate ratio of the diet. From my field experience as a dairy nutrition consultant, reducing the forage-to-concentrate ratio of the diet is a means to stretch corn silage inventories when going through a dry growing season. In this regard, a reduction of the forage-to-concentrate ratio of the diet is confounded with higher concentrate levels being fed. If this is the case, then is the greater milk production attributed to the improved digestibility of the drought-stressed silage or to the greater inclusion of concentrates in the diet? Hopefully, you can perceive by now how easily these two factors can be confounded and, hence, lead us to erroneous conclusions. My second hypothesis relies on the harvest “panic effect” caused by drought. Without judging, I have often seen farmers anxious to harvest their cornfields earlier than expected when going through a drought-stressed growing season. This is true especially when drought is accompanied by hot days of very low relative humidity. Under these conditions, the leaves of the corn plants start to dry and become brownish and brittle. This is a scenario that motivates farmers to harvest too early, thinking that forage quality is declining. Harvesting at an earlier phenological stage results in the crop accumulating fewer growing degree units than the same crop harvested later and under normal conditions. This generally results in corn silage with higher fiber digestibility. As such, it’s fair to ask if the increased fiber digestibility is due to the drought conditions or the early harvesting time. Similar to my first hypothesis,

these two factors are confounding and, hence, can easily lead to an erroneous conclusion.

More to learn A follow-up thought to this discussion is why we know so little about the effects of drought stress on corn silage fiber digestibility. My best answer is that it is very difficult to perform controlled studies that induce drought stress. This has been the aim of our research work at Virginia Tech for the last few years, and we will still work on this in the near future. It is our conviction that the dairy industry needs this information, even if we go “against the current” and challenge the myth. When going through a drought season, I want to leave some thoughts to consider. Overall, monitor the crop and evaluate alternatives when the drought occurs. A drought at vegetative stages, but with abundant precipitation around silking, may result in corn silage that’s still very good quality if grain development occurs. A different scenario is when drought occurs around silking, which may result in poor kernel development. In this case, I recommend waiting 14 days after silking before any harvesting decision is made. Rainfall within two weeks after silking can make a huge difference in grain development. Finally, if drought stress extends throughout the reproductive stages of the crop (before tasseling to three weeks after silking), then an earlier harvest might be the most appropriate decision, especially if drought is accompanied by hot days and low relative humidity. • GONZALO FERRIERA The author is an assistant professor in the department of dairy science at Virginia Tech.

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He’s sold on South African H-2A workers by Loretta Sorensen

I

T’S been about 20 years since southeast South Dakota alfalfa producer Mike Brosnan recognized the need to look outside the United States for seasonal workers who could help with hay harvest throughout the summer. Brosnan’s son-in-law, one of his daughters, and his wife work with him on the farm to grow about 2,500 acres of alfalfa and 5,500 acres of corn, soybeans, and occasionally winter wheat. Each growing season requires extra workers to get the job done. Over the years, the American workers who responded to Brosnan’s annual “Help Wanted” ads repeatedly moved on to new opportunities, leaving him continually searching for help. “When I delivered hay to a South Dakota farm one summer, the employee working there had a bit of an accent,” Brosnan said. “When I asked him where he was from, he said South Africa.” Brosnan visited with the farmer about his satisfaction with bringing workers from South Africa. After learning more about the process to secure workers from that country, Brosnan decided to try securing two hired hands the following year.

A 20-hour trip “That first year, one of the men who came worked out really well. The other one didn’t,” Brosnan said. “The one who did well, returned each season for another four or five years. During that time, he recommended other men from his area that he knew were looking for work.” The second year Brosnan brought South Africans to the farm, he hired three men. Typically, the men who come board a flight that begins in Johannesburg, and after some 20 hours of travel, they arrive in Sioux Falls. Generally, Brosnan brings hired help in about April 1. They work on the farm until November. Once the growing season ends, the men return, often to family farms in South Africa, where that country’s grow-

ing season is just beginning. The first few years that he brought in help, Brosnan rented an apartment in his hometown. After a few years, he rented a house in the country for the men who came. Several years ago, Brosnan built a new shop on his farm that included a four-bedroom apartment so the men he brings over can stay right on the farm. Each bedroom in the apartment has a

English, which greatly reduces language barriers when hired workers come to America. “Some workers who come here speak English as well as you or I do,” Brosnan said. “Others find it more difficult to communicate.” Farms in South Africa have fairly modern implements, which helps them quickly learn to operate Brosnan’s haying equipment. That’s not to say that equipment is never damaged due to lack of experience. “These guys are usually really good at fixing any breakdowns,” Brosnan said. “In South Africa, it’s difficult to find repair materials and really hard to get repair parts in a timely manner. It’s not like here, where we’re 15 minutes from the nearest John Deere shop.”

Lots of paperwork

Mike Brosnan (far right) has found success hiring South African H-2A workers. Pictured here from left to right are employees Andrew Murray, Paul Duminy, and Flip Fryer.

set of bunk beds, which allows Brosnan to provide housing for as many as six workers. His need for workers fluctuates each year, depending on how many acres of alfalfa are under cultivation and what kind of yields he anticipates. “That apartment has worked really well for these guys,” Brosnan said. “We also provide them with a vehicle, and they come and go as they need to.”

Opposite growing seasons One reason South African workers are a good match for American farms such as Brosnan’s is that the growing seasons are opposite. Young men who have or want experience working on a farm can spend South Africa’s winter months earning income in the United States. That nation also teaches all students

Brosnan’s workers come to the U.S. through the nation’s H-2A program, which was implemented in 1986 to provide temporary, seasonal farm labor from foreign workers. Typically, the process for securing workers is lengthy, complex, and expensive. “There are people across the U.S. who help farmers like us complete the paperwork process,” Brosnan said. “We’ve used at least three different companies to do that. Currently, we work with a woman in North Dakota who knows how to complete the process. Her husband brings South African workers to his farm, and she has a contact in South Africa. You have to have a contact there in order to LORETTA SORENSEN The author is a freelance writer based in Yankton, S.D.

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complete the visa process.” Generally, it’s February when Brosnan determines how many helpers he’ll need for the season. He must submit applications for workers about eight weeks in advance of when he expects to need them. Most workers who apply to fill the visa requests are 24 or 25 years old. The oldest worker Brosnan brought over was in his early 50s. In addition to traveling costs, Brosnan and other farmers bringing in temporary workers from South Africa pay U.S. fees and fees in South Africa as part of the visa process. The farmer bringing workers to his operation must provide housing but isn’t required to provide daily meals. While workers with an H-2A visa are in America, they aren’t allowed to work for anyone except the farmer who completed the visa application. When the season ends, they are required to return to their own country. “One of our South African workers

came back every year for about eight years,” Brosnan said. “Most come back for an average of five years.” For the most part, workers coming to Brosnan’s farm have not experienced any kind of discrimination or abuse from the outside community. One factor affecting that may be that North and South Dakota are two states where South Africans seeking work want to come, and their presence in the community has become more commonplace. “I think they like to come here because it isn’t as hot and humid as it is in our Southern states,” Brosnan said. “The climate in South Africa is generally pretty dry. Snow and ice there are very rare, and the guys who come here hate cold weather.”

Dependable workers Brosnan is not at all opposed to hiring American workers. He still runs “Help Wanted” ads every year. Legally, if an American worker applied for a job

on his farm, Brosnan would have to hire them. “Generally, I don’t receive any applications from American workers,” Brosnan said. “The South African workers we’ve brought over differ from some of employees we’ve had in the past in that they are dependable. They always show up on time and hardly complain about anything. They’re here to earn money, and they know how to hustle. There’s always an exception out there, but most of them have a very good work ethic.” Brosnan doesn’t have any real issues with America’s H-2A visa process, although he believes streamlining it would make the entire process easier. In the beginning, Brosnan and a handful of other farmers in southeast South Dakota were the only ones bringing in South African workers. Currently, the practice is much more widespread because farmers have had more difficulty securing seasonal workers from the region. •

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Your Checkoff Dollars At Work

Reducing potassium deficiency 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.

P

OTASSIUM deficiency is largely to blame for nearly 90% of the stand losses in an alfalfa stand’s fourth year after establishment in North Dakota, said Marisol Berti. The North Dakota State University (NDSU) forage and biomass crop production researcher is working to reduce those losses. Her efforts on two research projects — funded by National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance’s Alfalfa Checkoff and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) — show farmers it pays to apply potassium fertilizer to alfalfa. That research may also allow them to use less fertilizer, save costs, improve winter survival, and boost alfalfa yields. Checkoff research is looking at potassium fertilizer’s effect on alfalfa yield, quality, and persistence, comparing three fall dormancies, varied rates of application, and harvest stress on soils with different smectite-to-illite ratios. North Dakota mapped its smectite and illite clays in 2017 after Dave MARISOL BERTI Franzen, NDSU NDSU $37,270 soil scientist, found potassium (K) responded differently in crops depending on the amount of those clays in soils. Soils with greater than 3.5 smectite-to-illite ratios pull some K back into thin clay layers when soils are dry; that traps and makes K unusable until soils moisten. Soils with lower smectite-to-illite ratios provide K to crops no matter the soil moisture. For alfalfa to be persistent and high yielding, supplemental K is needed, particularly on higher clay-ratio soils. But many farmers aren’t applying K — even though harvested alfalfa removes about 50 pounds of it per ton of dry matter, Berti said. Early spring release of K from soils will supply first-cutting alfalfa, but

Amy Greenberg

Smectite and illite clay soils were tested for potassium fertilizer’s effect on alfalfa yield, quality, and persistence.

more K is needed in later cuttings. For alfalfa, the critical soil test K level of 200 parts per million (ppm) is needed in soils with the greater-than-3.5-smectite/ illite ratio, and 150 ppm in soils with the lower ratio. Two farmers, one with high-smectite fields and one with a low-smectite area, let Berti plant alfalfa experiments on their land. Both soils were also very low in potassium, averaging about 100 parts per million (ppm). “With only seeding-year results, I wasn’t expecting much of a forage yield difference,” Berti said. “But we anticipate next year we will find differences in forage yield among treatments. We didn’t expect that potassium changed the quality of alfalfa, but it increased ash content and lowered total digestible nutrients (TDN). I think, when you fertilize with high rates of K, you have higher deposi-

tion of K in stems and possibly a higher stem-to-leaf ratio,” she added. Currently, one of Berti’s students is analyzing roots collected for carbohydrate and protein levels, because K plays an important role on translocation of photosynthates from the tops of plants to roots for winter. Berti is seeing more soils with K deficiency and greater alfalfa winterkill and hopes her research will convince farmers that fertilizing alfalfa with potassium in K-deficient soils is profitable. The spring 2020 soil sampling showed that even where 300 pounds per acre of potassium oxide (K 2O) treatments were applied in 2019, soil test levels remained at about the same level as plots without K application — approximately 100 to 120 ppm of available K. “The removal of K by alfalfa biomass in two cuts last year only explains less

PROJECT RESULTS Seeding-year findings show potassium fertilization increased ash content and lowered TDN. Potassium may increase alfalfa’s stem-to-leaf ratio and increase yield, forage quality, and persistence.

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than half of the rate of K applied. We will analyze nonextractable potassium in soils to determine if high-smectite clay soils are immobilizing K in the clay layers,” Berti explained.

Microbiome impact The NIFA research, funded through the Alfalfa Seed and Alfalfa Forage Systems Research Program, was built on the Checkoff research. It looks at how fer-

SUPPORT THE ALFALFA CHECKOFF!

tility treatments and varieties affect the soil microbiome, a general term describing all microorganisms found in soil. Berti and Heike Bücking, South Dakota State University biologist and microbiologist, are investigating arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities within the microbiome that can help move K toward plants. “Arbuscular mycorrhizae (AM) provides an extra radical network

that allows alfalfa plants to scavenge nutrients further than their root systems allow and go into those layers within the clays to take potassium out,” Berti explained. “It’s a really interesting and new concept. We’re excited because the interaction of alfalfa with AM is not well-known, and we do not really know which AM fungal communities are colonizing alfalfa in the Upper Midwest.” •

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by C.J. Weddle

H

E WASN’T always a farmer. In fact, most of the first half of Jim Munsch’s adult life was pretty far removed from the farm scene, but he has always had a connection with the land and a passion for agriculture. Helping his mother’s family raise hogs and a few crops on a 220-acre farm near Wabash, Ind., led him to study agricultural engineering at Purdue University. When his family lost the farm to a government flood control project, he decided to stay and pursue a master’s in business. This was followed by a career in the Army where he was stationed in Europe. When Munsch returned stateside, his travels continued as he worked with an air conditioning company headquartered near La Crosse, Wis. In 1978, Munsch and his wife, Phylis, moved onto a 100-acre farm, near Coon Valley, Wis., and proceeded to build a home. Today, Munsch farms the original 100 acres along with nearly 100 more acres rented from a couple of neighbors. “The two goals I had in mind when I started this farm are still the two that drive it today,” Munsch vowed. “One: Save the land. Two: Make a profit.” The entirety of Munsch’s farm, like

much of Coon Valley and western Wisconsin, rests on land that the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) qualifies as highly erodible with steep slopes, and it is often farmed in 50- to 60-foot wide contour strips to help farmers manage erosion. “At first, I rented the land out to a neighbor, and after seeing the erosion that happened, it just made me sick,” Munsch said. His bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering focused on soil and water conservation. The loss of his land to erosion pushed him to try his own hand at farming. So, he bought a Farmall H, a two-bottom plow, and an old disk, then put the crops in himself. Following an older conservation plan, Munsch rotated the 40 tillable acres he had at the time with hay, corn, oats as a cover crop, and then back into hay. He was still seeing erosion, was not getting great yields, and couldn’t catch a break with market prices. It made him sick and frustrated.

Something had to change “In the early 1990s, the managed grazing trend kicked up a notch,” Munsch said. “I knew a couple of strong

proponents for managed grazing. I read the books, and I went to as many pasture walks as I could.” The result of this bootstrap effort is the perennial managed pasture, hayfield, and swing field system Munsch uses today. The swing fields are used for either hay or grazing depending on the time of year and forage availability. He joked, “Like the old pasture guys would say, the first thing we planted was fence posts.” After he finished the fencing infrastructure, Munsch decided not to plow his fields anymore. All of the hilly pasture and tillable land is now managed pasture. Since 1992, his land has been undisturbed. It does, however, receive an annual frost seeding of several clover species, some of which were established during a demonstration project sponsored by the University of Wisconsin C.J. WEDDLE The author is the 2020 Hay & Forage Grower summer editorial intern. She currently attends Mississippi State University and is majoring in agricultural education, leadership, and communications.

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All photos C.J. Weddle

Kura clover in some of Jim Munsch’s paddocks was introduced to his farm during a University of Wisconsin demonstration project.


All photos C.J. Weddle

(UW) that Munsch participated in several years ago. Munsch was introduced to kura clover as part of the demonstration. While he doesn’t recommend the legume to farmers who need immediate forage, he says that once established, it is very persistent. He confirmed that it does exactly what the UW-Extension agents said it would. “It sleeps; it creeps; and then it leaps,” Munsch said as he pointed out a patch of clover that was en route to the leaping phase. Munsch also noted that he has planted almost no grass seed on his property; what’s there is from plants reseeding themselves and natural seedbanks of grasses seeded by past owners. Most of his pastures are comprised of cool-season grasses such as orchardgrass, smooth bromegrass, timothy, and native meadow fescue that flourish in this management system. His journey into managed grazing helped meet his goals. Erosion has all but stopped with good ground cover. Profitability is helped by achieving yields significantly higher than setstock grazing with virtually no additional input costs. Over time, organic matter has doubled, making the pastures more drought tolerant.

Real-life economics The agricultural engineering degree is not the only one Munsch uses as a farmer and consultant. His master’s in business helps him utilize data to make economic decisions that drive success for him and his clients. Munsch decided to retire and settle from his corporate traveling lifestyle and farm his own land. He quickly gained financial consulting clients made up of farms and small businesses. While teaching them financial management techniques, the University of Wisconsin implemented a few of his teaching tools as well, leading to a working relationship between Munsch and the Center for Integrated Agriculture Systems (CIAS) that has been active for nearly 20 years.

Nutrients are added when he purchases hay, and his legumes provide nitrogen free of charge from the air. Munsch has not applied fertilizer in 30 years. Even with most of the nutrients staying on the farm, that doesn’t mean they will always be distributed properly. Manure is a great agent for reapplying nutrients to the land; however, cattle are creatures of habit, and his 35-cow herd will sometimes gather in a favorite spot for most of the day, Munsch noted. This is when farmers need to be clever and creative, he added. Paddock design can greatly affect the behaviors of cattle and the spread of nutrients.

Water, water everywhere “Having water tanks in every single paddock is not just something cool to do. It’s part of my nutrient management plan,” Munsch remarked. He went on to explain that cattle are herd animals, and having only one large water tank in or near the barn can lead to lots of problems while grazing. “First, when one goes, they all go,” noted the spry 81-year-old. “By the time the lead cow has had her drink and is returning to the pasture, the slow cows are just getting to the tank. While most get their fill, some don’t. “Also, if you have a cow that’s just delivered a calf in the pasture and is still tending to the newborn, she gets left behind when the rest of the herd goes to the distant water point. Then, you have a stressed momma cow that is probably expressing it in milk production, and that’s certainly not what you want,” Munsch asserted. Finally, the farmer-consultant related

Winter bedding packs are composted and used as fertilizer on hayfields.

that cows spend a large amount of time moving themselves and the nutrients. The activities Munsch wants to see from his cattle are grazing and resting. Hiking back and forth for water expends a lot of energy. The nutrients from the pasture are also being moved to the barn as opposed to being deposited on the paddock they were taken from. The small water tank in each of Munsch’s paddocks helps eliminate these problems. Another component to Munsch’s nutrient management plan is composting. Munsch dedicates some rented fields to provide dry hay and baleage for his cattle over winter. Because the cattle spend the worst of the winter months near the buildings and water, these nutrients are not being reapplied to the land they come from. To remedy this, Munsch creates bedded packs in hardened areas near his buildings and at strategic locations in the winter paddocks. Come springtime, the bedded packs are removed, comcontinued on following page >>>

Munsch has kept his land undisturbed since 1992 and annually frost seeds with several clover species.

Retaining nutrients Another facet of financial management for the farm is being a stickler for sound nutrient management. “The only nutrients I am shipping off the land are those in the animals sold, and, with no erosion, everything else stays right here,” he said as he motioned to the fields around him. August/September 2020 | hayandforage.com | 19

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FARM CREAMERY FO

Born during spring out in the paddocks, Munsch’s calves are ready for market within 20 to 23 months.

posted, and later applied to hayfields, returning nutrients to the soil in an available form.

Chasing markets During his early farming years, Munsch made a connection with a local organic vegetable farmer who also had a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. The CSA provided Munsch with a new market for his beef. To comply with this new market, he had his farm certified organic, and Munsch saw an immediate price jump. About 15 years into the partnership, the vegetable farmer started buying farms suited for finishing beef. Consequently, Munsch needed to either become a cow-calf operator and calf supplier, or move on to different opportunities. “Grass-fed beef became popular, and I decided we would chase that market around 2006 and let my organic certification expire,” said Munsch. Marketing his beef this way, Munsch sells a few early feeder calves to people finishing grass-fed beef, and the rest are finished on his farm and rented pastures.

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The final product Over the course of 20 to 23 months, Munsch’s cattle finish at a live weight of around 1,200 pounds and hang a 650-pound carcass, usually grading low choice. He sells a quarter of his cattle directly to consumers and recommends facilities to process grass-fed beef. The remaining finished cattle are sold to grass-fed beef co-ops in Wisconsin, which handle all processing and distribution decisions. “Animal science guys say there are about 20 different things that can make meat tough, and about half of them occur after the animal goes off the farm,” Munsch said. Because of this, he is very selective when recommending processing facilities to his direct-marketing customers. To earn his approval, processors must have functional handling facilities, well-designed kill floors, and proper aging rooms and storage space. Another important factor includes knowing how to treat animals on the hoof and as a carcass. If a processor meets all of his requirements, it earns a spot on his recommendation list. He explained that if people have tough meat and aren’t satisfied, it comes back on him as the farmer who raised it – not on the processor. Like many other agricultural markets, COVID-19 has caused some major changes to Munsch’s normal demand cycle for grass-fed beef; however, unlike some markets, his demand has skyrocketed. “Right now, people call wanting beef, and I tell them maybe in 10 months when we can find a processing slot,” he explained. •

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20 | Hay & Forage Grower | August/September 2020

F4 18-20 Aug-Sept 2020 Save the Land.indd 4

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PUT YOUR FORAGES TO THE TEST World Dairy Expo 2020 might be canceled, but the World Forage Analysis Superbowl is moving forward with the 2020 contest! Forage growers across the country are invited to participate in the 2020 World Forage Analysis Superbowl. Winners will be announced virtually during the BREVANT Seeds Forage Superbowl Luncheon on September 30.

Alfalfa Haylage Baleage Commercial Hay Dairy Hay Grass Hay Mixed/Grass Haylage

Contest rules and entry forms are available at foragesuperbowl.org, by calling Dairyland Laboratories at (920) 336-4521 or by contacting any of the sponsors listed below.

Photo Credit: Krista Ann Photo + Film Co.

ENTRIES DUE AUGUST 31

$26,000 in cash prizes made possible by the following sponsors:

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


THE PASTURE WALK

by Jim Gerrish

It’s time to stockpile for winter grazing

S

UCCESSFUL winter grazing starts with planning before the first blade of grass appears in the spring. While it may seem that summer has just arrived, it is already time to begin stockpiling pastures for winter grazing. How long you should let pastures stockpile depends on two primary factors: 1. Whether the pasture is predominantly cool-season (CSG) or warm-season grasses (WSG), and 2. The class of livestock to be overwintered. Generally speaking, cool-season species are a better choice for winter grazing in most of the U.S. because they continue active growth much later in the season compared to WSG; CSG are typically going to be fresher and higher in nutritive value. Many CSG will also weather quite a few frosts before they become fully dormant. In some parts of the U.S., CSG may not go fully dormant at all and maintain a low level of growth throughout the winter. A key piece of the stockpiling plan is knowing how long to allow the forage to accumulate through the latter part of the growing season. In areas receiving at least 25 to 30 inches of precipitation annually, or where irrigation is available, we generally recommend a stockpiling period of 60 to 75 days to optimize yield and quality for CSG. Allowing pastures to stockpile longer than 75 days generally does not give any greater forage yield but does result in lower quality forage going into winter. To decide when you should begin stockpiling CSG pastures, first determine when your active growing season ends. For example, if you choose November 1 as the end of your growing season, back up 60 to 75 days to identify the optimal dates for beginning to stockpile pastures. In this case, the optimal start dates would be about August 15 to 31. A nice by-product of stockpiling pastures for 60 to 75 days is that it also allows almost all legume species a long enough recov-

ery period to flower and set seed for natural reseeding.

Protein decline The optimal stockpiling period for WSG is much shorter. Protein content of most WSG declines rapidly with plant maturity. Allowing just 40 to 50 days to stockpile will result in higher protein levels in the forage and help reduce the need for and cost of protein supplementation. Some species such as bermudagrass are more notorious for rapid protein decline. Keep the stockpiling period closer to just 40 days if maintaining higher protein levels is a priority. Species known for maintaining higher quality can be stockpiled for longer periods. The end of the growing season for WSG tends to be more consistent and predictable than the end of the season for CSG. Growth and heading of WSG is driven by accumulated heat units. Once daily temperatures drop below the baseline for counting heat units, growth screeches to a halt. Very few perennial WSG will continue growing after a killing frost. Use the same process of backing up 40 to 50 days from the expected date of first killing frost and begin stockpiling WSG at that time.

Know what they’re eating Understanding the nutritional needs of your livestock is the other key component of winter grazing. Properly stockpiled CSG may meet all the needs of your livestock without additional supplementation. Tall fescue and meadow bromegrass are excellent choices for stockpiling because they maintain high protein content and digestibility well into the winter months. Dry, pregnant spring-calving cows are the easiest class of beef cattle to graze all winter on stockpiled forage, but we also ran fall-calving cows through the entire winter in Missouri on stockpiled cool-season grass-legume mixtures with excellent results. Dry, pregnant ewes can also be easily main-

tained on stockpiled pastures. Dry dairy cows from some breeds can be overwintered on stockpiled pastures. These tend to be lower producing lines of colored dairy breeds. Dry cows from some high output Holsteins typically have maintenance requirements too high for most stockpiled pastures to meet.

Supplement as needed Growing livestock may not do nearly as well as mature cows due to their requirement for a higher level of digestible energy. Often, we see growing stock on dormant forage being supplemented with protein, but not energy. Disappointing performance is more often related to energy deficiency rather than protein deficiency. If you plan to run growing animals on stockpiled pasture, that is when shortening the stockpiling period comes into play. A cool-season grass-legume mixture stockpiled for just 50 to 60 days will go into winter with a higher crude protein and digestible energy level. Recognize the tradeoff is lower total yield. This is where good cost analysis is essential. Sometimes it may make sense to push for higher stockpile yield and plan to supplement protein if needed. Other times, when supplement costs are higher than normal, changing your stockpiling strategy may be the better choice. Successful winter grazing really depends on forward planning. Know which fields you will be stockpiling for winter use, what class or classes of livestock will be grazing, and how many head will be on the winter pastures. • JIM GERRISH The author is a rancher, author, speaker, and consultant with over 40 years of experience in grazing management research, outreach, and practice. He has lived and grazed livestock in hot, humid Missouri and cold, dry Idaho.

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FORAGE GEARHEAD

by Adam Verner

Earlage gains popularity

F

OR the most part, this summer has been a hot one, and the corn plants are soaking up those heat units! It has made for a nice crop year in the Southeast. Although corn prices could be better from the grower’s perspective, cattle producers are glad to have a little breathing room on their feed bills. One thing I think both growers and feeders of corn can agree on is that the ethanol plant shutdowns and production declines have not been great news. Distillers grains, both wet and dry, have become a staple in many cattle rations across the country. With the lack of supply, it has forced some changes in feed rations and, for some farmers, the way they put up their silage. The nutritional value and digestibility of distillers grains are hard to replace, but there is one form of feed that has been around for some time, and it is gaining steam once again to help fill the feed ration hole left by the lack of distillers grains. The feedstuff I am referring to is earlage. In some parts of the U.S., it has been a staple feed for many years while, in others, distillers grains and grain corn were more viable options. Whatever the reasons, we are seeing more cattle and dairy producers offering to purchase standing corn for harvesting earlage. Earlage is a high-energy feed that can be harvested and stored similar to corn silage. It consists of the corn grain, cobs, and various levels of husks and shank. In many cases, additional equipment doesn’t need to be purchased to harvest earlage.

Check the processor When making earlage, it is important to have the kernel processor (KP) properly set on the harvester. One thing that can make earlage challenging is the lack of material going through the machine and the density of the kernels. We discussed the importance of a properly set KP a few years ago and noted that even changing corn hybrids can drastically impact kernel processing on the same machine. Some of the new improvements that manufacturers have made to help in processing are adding more grooves to the KP belt and increasing the size of the roll itself. There are a few aftermarket companies that make KP rolls for every machine, and each does a great job in most scenarios. There are machines on the market now with eight- and nine-groove processer belts and up to 12-inch rolls. This drastically enhances the driving force of the processing rolls and helps to reduce belt slipping, which lowers the amount of heat being produced that can eventually stretch the belt. You don’t need to go out and purchase a new $800,000 machine to put up good earlage. However, you do need to look over your KP rolls and replace them with new rolls if they are worn. The rolls can be purchased from your harvester’s manufacturer or from a reputable aftermarket company. For our customers, keeping new rolls in their machine has paid off for them in terms of downtime and the quality of feed that is coming out of the spout. Finding the right corn head adapter may prove to be the biggest challenge this season, as more harvesters look to adapt their choppers to

row-crop corn and snapper heads. Before the corn gets too close to harvest maturity, pull out your processor and look it over from the springs to the rolls themselves. It may be time to readjust the stops on the gap or do a total upgrade. It is well worth the time and effort to process the corn properly.

Eliminate oxygen Earlage is stored similar to silage and all of the same best practices apply. It can be stored in upright silos, bags, or in bunker silos, but oxygen must be eliminated. Bunker silos need to be well-packed and covered quickly after harvest. If using silage bags, continually ADAM VERNER monitor the plastic The author is a for holes that might managing partner develop. Repair any in Elite Ag LLC, holes as quickly Leesburg, Ga. He also is active as possible with in the family farm approved tape. in Rutledge. Have a great fall harvest! •

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www.goeweil.com August/September 2020 | hayandforage.com | 23

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Bill Kurtz developed this horse feeder that is designed to reduce waste and control intake.

Horses put their muzzles, not their entire heads, between the rods to access hay. That helps keep dust out of their eyes and noses. They feed from the top of the bale, and when they lift their muzzles out, the rods wipe off the excess hay, which falls back into the feeder. If the horses pull any hay out of the feeder onto the ground, the panels don’t have to be lowered until they clean it up. In most cases, the panels are lowered once or twice a day depending on the number of horses being fed. Doors on the front of the feeder can be opened to easily accommodate the insertion of a big bale with a loader. It comes ready-to-use and features a steel roof to protect the forage from the elements.

Saving hay

He wanted a better way to feed hay by Ann Behling

B

ILL Kurtz claims the controlled-access bale feeder he built for horses reduces hay waste, and a university study verified it. A feeder with narrow, but flexible, openings, also prevents cattle from pulling out large amounts of hay and trampling it. The two feeders aren’t the only inventions created by this St. Croix Falls, Wis., award-winning owner of Kurtz Angus Farm. Over the past 50-plus years, along with his wife, Barb, Kurtz, now in his mid-80s, has invented a number of tools and implements aimed at improving his farm’s efficiency. To promote them, he named his company JSI Inventions. Necessity, a lack of funds, and a large pile of scrap iron have often been the inspiration for his creations. “If I see a need for something, I’ll design and build it,” Kurtz said, who has about 60 cowcalf pairs and several hundred acres of cropland and pasture. “I like a challenge, and it’s very satisfying to make something I can use around the farm and potentially share with others.” He has applied for and received

several patents on his inventions over the years. “I’ve been a cash cow for the patent office,” he chuckled. Among his favorite farm inventions are a big-reach system for skid steer loaders, back blades, a three-point hitch controlled from the tractor seat, posts for pole sheds and decks, and bale forks. But the bale feeders are the ones he’s currently hanging his hat on. In addition to an online presence and ads in newspapers, Kurtz has appeared on television programs, including “Twin Cities Live” and the “Million Dollar Idea Show,” to explain and promote them.

Controlling intake His Waste Less Horse Feeder allows owners to control hay consumption more accurately than other models, he said. In a University of Minnesota study, the horse hay feeder resulted in the least waste (5%) among the nine feeders evaluated. Its key components are two panels that are lowered onto the bale by turning a crank. The panels have vertical rods spaced a few inches apart. The space between rods can be changed to accommodate different animal sizes by simply removing two bolts and sliding them closer together or farther apart.

Cattle can insert their heads through larger openings than they can back out of, noted the inventor. That’s why he built the Waste Less Cattle Feeder, which lets cattle easily move their heads into and out of the feeder while keeping the hay inside. The feeder tapers in toward the top and has a 2-foot-high metal skirt at the bottom. Above the skirt is a series of 12-inch-wide rubber belts, each attached to a 1.5-inch-wide steel upright. There’s about 8 inches of space between the belts. As the animals put their heads into the feeder, the belts bend in alongside their necks. As they back out, the belts flip inward to keep excess hay in the feeder, he said. His Waste Less Horse Feeder can be used for horses and cattle. The Waste Less Cattle Feeder is designed only for cattle. Both are available in models for round or rectangular bales. Kurtz has sold them to buyers throughout the U.S. and Canada and fielded inquiries from as far away as Europe. • For more information, visit www.teamjsi.com. ANN BEHLING The author is a freelance agricultural writer based in Northfield, Minn.

24 | Hay & Forage Grower | August/September 2020

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by Mary Drewnoski Nebraska lab, the average manganese was very similar to the national book value at 34 ppm. However, only 30% of the corn silage samples would meet a cow’s manganese requirement. Of those that would meet the requirement, 50% of them had iron levels at 200 ppm or above, suggesting that iron would negatively impact manganese absorption. Bottom line: A high proportion of corn silage would need supplemental manganese to meet the cow’s needs. Of course, testing your own corn silage can help you know where your situation falls and decide how much manganese insurance you want to buy.

Test and seek local advice Mike Rankin

Do your forages meet trace mineral needs?

T

HINKING about mineral supplementation programs as being similar to insurance can help with determining what program is right for your operation. With a bit of information, one can get a good idea of “risk” and decide how much potential coverage you want to buy. In some cases, the risk might be fairly low and, in other cases, a program with more coverage may be needed.

Perennial grasses In general, copper and zinc are the two trace minerals that are likely to be deficient in most forages. Recently, I had the opportunity to work with a commercial forage testing lab in Nebraska to look at all the forage samples analyzed for minerals from 2012 through 2019. Of the perennial grass (hay and pasture) samples submitted to the lab, most would not have met a cow’s needs, with 80% having less than the required 30 parts per million (ppm) of zinc and 90% having less than the required 10 ppm of copper. For zinc, 50% of the samples had concentrations between 15 to 25 ppm. For copper, 50% of samples had only 5 ppm or less. Regardless of where you are located, there is a good chance you need to provide supplemental zinc and copper when grazing and feeding perennial grass hay, as proportions of samples from a nation-

wide survey look very similar to this Nebraska data. Manganese, however, can often be at or above the 40-ppm requirement for cows in perennial grasses, and thus, some operations choose not to provide it. Of the perennial grass and hay samples submitted for testing in Nebraska, 80% were at or above the manganese requirement of a cow.

Corn silage Corn silage was also commonly deficient in zinc and copper with 81% of the samples being deficient in zinc and 94% being deficient in copper. When corn silage makes up a large proportion of a cow’s diet, there is also a high risk for manganese deficiency. In fact, over the past few years, I have heard of several manganese deficiency cases in beef cows in the Upper Midwest, all of which had corn silage as a base of the cows’ winter diet. Normally, the minerals in soil that may be on the surface of a forage are not available for absorption by the animal. Thus, when it is consumed, it just passes through the animal into the manure. However, the ensiling process can make the iron that is from soil contamination available for absorption, and thus, able to interfere with absorption of manganese and, to some extent, zinc and copper. Additionally, corn silage can be naturally low in manganese. In the samples submitted to the

There are regional differences in mineral content of forages and local or regional “risks” that need to be considered. Data from forage samples taken across the nation has shown that copper, zinc, and manganese tended to be higher in the Southeast than in the north central, central, south central, and western U.S., while selenium tended to be lower. However, selenium is a mineral that seems to be quite variable. Some locations have extreme deficiencies and others have issues with potential toxicity. Some locations have high molybdenum in the soil, which can tie up copper in the diet. Water can also be a major source of potential issues, high sulfur in the water can reduce the absorption of copper and high iron in water can interfere with manganese, zinc, and copper. Testing your forage and water sources can always help you see where you stand. Also, someone from your extension office can likely provide guidance as to common issues and needs for the area and help with interpreting your test results.

Demystifying the mineral tag Have you looked at various mineral tags and struggled to figure out what concentration of the various minerals you need to target? The answer is usually a bit of science MARY DREWNOSKI The author is a beef systems specialist, University of Nebraska.

26 | Hay & Forage Grower | August/September 2020

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mixed with art. This is because even when you have a mineral analysis of the forage that is being used, determining what to supplement is not as simple as calculating the amount of a mineral you are deficient in and finding a mix that will provide that. First, not all the minerals in the forage will be available for absorption. Some, for instance, may be tied up in the matrix of the fiber and pass through the animal without being absorbed. Unfortunately, there is not enough information to truly predict how much is available. A general rule of thumb that a lot of nutritionists use is that only 50% of the trace mineral is available. However, we still have to account for antagonisms where minerals interact and interfere with each other. If, for instance, you have any of the antagonisms in your forage or water that were discussed earlier, you may actually have to supply more than 100% of the requirement. This will ensure that you get enough of the mineral that is being interfered with to be absorbed and meet the animal’s needs. Copper is one mineral that has many potential antagonists and often must be

supplemented at or above the requirement for the cow herd to maintain adequate status. Another issue in free-choice mineral intake is that some animals eat more than the targeted amount while others may eat less. However, understanding how much a mix is providing of a certain mineral can be useful when making decisions.

Organic mineral sources Inorganic minerals such as copper sulfate can often meet the animal’s

needs, if the right concentrations are included in the mineral mix. One advantage to organic minerals is that they tend to be less affected by antagonisms, such as high iron, molybdenum, or sulfate that can tie up minerals. So, if you have high levels of these potential antagonists, then using a mineral with a portion of the copper supplemented being from an organic source may be beneficial. However, given that they often cost more, they would be akin to a premium insurance program •

Trace mineral requirement and the relative concentration1 in a 4-ounce2 mineral mix Percent of requirement provided by mineral mix Requirement

125%

ppm in total diet

100%

75%

50%

ppm in mineral mix

Copper (Cu)

10

1,432

1,145

859

573

Zinc (Zn)

30

4,295

3,436

2,577

1,718

Manganese (Mn)

40

5,727

4,581

3,436

2,291

Selenium (Se)

0.1

14

11

9

6

Assumes a 1,300-pound cow. If the mineral is formulated for 2 ounces per day intake, then double the concentration is needed to supply the same amount of mineral.

1 2

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by Eddie Funderburg

I

T IS no secret that improving forage quality will improve animal performance and probably lower costs due to less need for supplemental feed. There are many components of forage quality, but the two this article will focus on are crude protein and energy, or total digestible nutrients. When many ranchers discuss improving crude protein in introduced forages, they often talk about using fertilizer, particularly nitrogen. This seems logical since crude protein is directly proportional to the percentage of nitrogen in the plant. However, like many other things that seem logical but are not, this is not the case. Proper fertilization of introduced forages results in more forage but not necessarily better forage. I conducted an experiment from 2008 to 2010 to look at how fertilization affected yield and quality of bermudagrass. The test consisted of nine varieties of bermudagrass fertilized with five rates of nitrogen. Plots were harvested every 30 days. As expected, yields increased with fertilizer. Crude protein also improved with the addition of nitrogen fertilizer but not as much as many people might think. In this test, applying 100 pounds actual nitrogen per acre boosted crude

protein by 1% to 2%, shown in Figures 1 and 2. Figures 3 and 4 show that total digestible nutrients increased even less than crude protein when fertilized with nitrogen (0.5% to 0.8%). It appears that fertilizing is an expensive way to boost forage quality. We had excellent forage quality in our test. During the three-year period, we did not experience crude protein levels less than 11% or total digestible nutrients less than 62.8%, even in the unfertilized check plots. This shows that something besides fertilizer is responsible for forage quality.

Plant maturity rules The most important factor in forage quality is the maturity of the plant when it is harvested. The younger the plant, the higher the quality for both crude protein and total digestible nutrients. As plants mature, lignin, which is mostly indigestible, is deposited into the cell walls. The higher the lignin content, the lower the digestibility of the plant. The decline in digestible nutrients is most pronounced in tissue of warm-season perennials, such as bermudagrass, that is older than 35 to 40 days. Research at Louisiana State University showed the decline in crude protein as bermudagrass plants matured (see

Mike Rankin

Improve forage quality with grazing decisions, not fertilizer

table below). Crude protein content declined rapidly until growth reached 56 days but stabilized after that point. How can ranchers use this information to improve the nutrition of their herds? Grazing management and hay harvest timing can make huge differences. Graze forages when plants are in a growth stage that is high quality. This is most easily done by implementing rotational grazing to ensure that cattle are eating forage that is less than 30 days old at all times during the growing season. In bermudagrass hay production, harvest every 25 to 30 days to achieve the best compromise of forage quantity and quality. There is often a forage quality slump in introduced warm-season perennial forages in late fall and early winter. One way to avoid this is to stockpile standing hay. In this system, graze or mow a field short in August, then defer grazing until the plants go dormant after a freeze. The forage that grew during the fall will be high quality since it is all new growth and can be grazed after dormancy, possibly reducing hay feeding by one to two months. Attaining higher forage quality can improve animal performance and reduce supplemental feeding. The best thing — it is simple and relatively inexpensive to achieve. •

Average crude protein content of bermudagrass

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

Days of growth

Crude protein content (%)

14

20.6

28

11.3

42

8.6

56

6.5

70

6.5

Average crude protein content of Jiggs, Common, and Russell varieties. From Dore, master’s of science thesis, Louisiana State University, 2006.

28 | Hay & Forage Grower | August/September 2020

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Figure 1. Crude protein content of seeded bermudagrass varieties 18

Crude protein (%)

17 16 15 14

— Common — Common/Giant — Cheyenne — Wrangler

13 12 11 10

0

50

100

150

200

250

300

N rate (lb./acre)

Figure 2. Crude protein content of hybrid bermudagrass varieties 18

Crude protein (%)

17 16 15 14

— Coastal — Midland99 — Tifton 85

13 12 11 10

0

50

100

150

200

250

300

N rate (lb./acre)

Figure 3. Total digestible nutrient content of seeded bermudagrass

We know poor-quality silage has long-term effects.

67 66

TDN (%)

65 64 63

— Common — Common/Giant — Cheyenne — Wrangler

62 61 60 59

0

50

100

150

200

250

300

N rate (lb./acre)

Figure 4. Total digestible nutrient content of hybrid bermudagrass 67 66

Our SILOSOLVE® bacterial inoculants rapidly establish an anaerobic environment, preventing spoilage and lowering production costs. Chr. Hansen is a natural part of the solution. Visit www.chr-hansen.com to find the product best suited to your needs.

TDN (%)

65 64 63

— Coastal — Midland99 — Tifton 85

62 61 60 59

0

50

100

150

200

250

300

N rate (lb./acre) August/September 2020 | hayandforage.com | 29

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FEED ANALYSIS

John Goeser and David R. Mertens

VALUING HAY WITH TODAY’S FEED ANALYSIS Mike Rankin

Editor’s note: This is the second of three columns by the authors who will attempt to address the many issues associated with putting a value on alfalfa hay and haylage.

I

N THE first article of this threepart series, we described the immense economic impact and importance that alfalfa hay and haylage has for growers and farms. With rising water costs in the West, and winterkill and growing season challenges in the Midwest and East, this value has only increased. As a result, appropriately valuing every ton of forage is critical. Total digestible nutrients (TDN, %) are at the root of every hay valuation in one way or another. For relative feed value (RFV) and relative forage quality (RFQ), TDN is an intermediate in the calculations. For many in California (CA), the CA TDN attempts to predict TDN based upon just one nutrient measure, acid detergent fiber (ADF). These regression equations have to assume that ADF negatively affects TDN by the same amount regardless of the source or composition of the ADF.

Here’s the problem In our last article, we indicated that the equation for CA TDN was roughly (82.4 – 0.75*ADF). The equation indicates that every percentage of ADF reduces TDN by 0.75 units. The problem is that the regression coefficient (- 0.75) is not a constant and varies with the set of data used to estimate it. The value varies considerably depending on the type of forage, the animal used to measure TDN, and the samples of forages included in the data set. Hence, ADF-based TDN predictions are not reasonable for today’s dairy or beef applications. When Cornell University’s Peter Van

Soest developed the neutral detergent fiber (NDF) method in the 1960s, he taught that digested dry matter (dDM; energy value) could be determined as the sum of digested NDF (dNDF) and digested neutral detergent solubles (dNDS). Thus, a simple summative equation could explain the dDM of forages: dDM = digested NDF + digested NDS. The digested NDF is the critical point to focus on. Digested NDF is the product of NDF and its NDF digestibility (NDFD), and Van Soest also observed that NDS (all the non-fiber fractions of a feed) had a uniform and high true digestibility (in hay): dNDS = 0.98*NDS – 12.9. The coefficient 0.98 is the true digestibility of NDS, at maintenance levels of feed intake. The coefficient -12.9 is the endogenous losses of microbial matter, intestinal secretions, and cell sloughing when no feed is eaten. Thus, the first simple summative equation from Van Soest can be written as: dDM = NDF*NDFD + 0.98*NDS – 12.9. Because NDS = 100 – NDF, the equation simplifies to: dDM = NDF*NDFD + 0.98*(100 – NDF) – 12.9. This equation suggests that only two factors have a major effect on dDM: NDF and its digestibility (NDFD).

Both NDF and NDFD are needed The simple summative equation works quite well for a wide variety of feeds (Table 1). Note that it shows that high-quality grass and alfalfa can have similar dDM, but they achieve their over-

all digestibility in different ways. Alfalfa is digestible because it is low in NDF, but its NDFD is actually lower than grasses. Although it is higher in NDF, grass can have comparable dDM to alfalfa because its NDFD is higher. This explains why it is difficult to compare forages of different types because both NDF content and NDFD must be considered. Neither should be used alone. Researchers at The Ohio State University modified the summative approach for the estimation of TDN. Because TDN is ash-free, this solved one of the inaccuracies in the simple approach. They also divided the NDS into its components (crude protein, fatty acids, and non-fiber carbohydrates) and used individual true digestibilities for each. They estimated NDFD from lignin and suggested that it could also be determined by in vitro methods. Their approach was adopted by the National Research Council in the “Nutrient Requirements of Dairy Cattle” (NRC, 2001). These different calculations of total digestible nutrients (TDN) and energy values, from simple to complex, have introduced confusion in determining the appropriate value of hay per ton. To avoid confusion, but to understand why CA TDN and RFV are shorting you in appropriately valuing your hay, consider analogizing to this situation in a card game: Imagine you are sitting down to play cards with your friends or family and recognize that you haven’t been dealt a full hand in your favorite card game. You would likely call for a misdeal and reset the game to be sure you’re playing with a full hand of cards. Evaluating hay quality using the most simplistic estimates of TDN based on ADF, such as CA TDN or RFV, can be equated to playing shorthanded.

Don’t play shorthanded Over the past 15 years, nutrition analysis has evolved such that many measurements can be considered when estimating TDN. Advanced nutrition models, such as the Cornell Net CarboJOHN GOESER AND DAVID R. MERTENS Goeser (pictured) is with Rock River Lab Inc., in Watertown, Wis. Mertens is the owner and president of Mertens Innovation & Research LLC in Belleville, Wis.

30 | Hay & Forage Grower | August/September 2020

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7/22/20 1:24 PM


your forage could undermine the value proposition if you use RFV to buy or sell hay. Ash is taken into account with RFQ and TDN approaches. Another very important forage quality aspect to account for is NDFD. The simple summative equation shows that NDF concentration and its NDFD are the predominant factors affecting dDM and TDN in hay and haylage. Not only is NDF fiber the least digestible fraction of a feed, but it also has the greatest range in digestibility. For example, two hay samples with around 45% fiber (aNDF) can range from 35% to 55% total tract NDF digestibility (TTNDFD). This range equates to a 9-unit difference in TDN. This range in TDN and the economic value it represents needs to be accounted for. In vitro NDFD at 30 hours (NDFD30, % aNDF) represents an estimate for fiber digestibility, which depends on the accuracy and consistency of the in vitro method. With good methods, experience has shown that in vitro digestibility is more accurate than using lignin to estimate NDFD. Ruminal

hydrate and Protein System (CNCPS), estimate TDN from numerous feed fractions and their rates of digestion. Most nutritionists no longer use forage analysis TDN values in ration formulation, but instead enter complex forage nutrition information into the programs and allow the models to calculate an accurate TDN for the diet. Table 2 details the nutrient measures accounted for with different TDN calculations reported by forage testing laboratories. Considering more nutrition information for TDN can improve hay evaluation and your purchasing decisions. Recognize that CA TDN and RFV account for considerably less nutrition information than other RFQ or NRC approaches, and they leave you with a short hand in making buying decisions. The shorthanded evaluation concept was partly discussed in the prior article, in regards to one such example with soil contamination and ash content. In Table 2, you can see that ash and soil contamination is not considered with RFV. Heavy soil contamination in

microorganisms can detect differences in NDFD that are not related to lignin. Given similar in vitro methods, it seems reasonable that adding more fermentation times to the calculation would compensate for variation in any single NDFD30. The TTNDFD approach uses times of 24, 30, and 48 hours to estimate digestion rate (kd) and undigested NDF240 (uNDF at 240 hours) to determine the undigested fraction. The kd, uNDF240, and passage rate (kp) can be combined in an equation to estimate TTNDFD. Work with your nutritionist to understand how uNDF240 and fiber digestion rate can be combined into TTNDFD and accounted for. Build more nutrition information into your hay or haylage valuation and decision-making process, avoid the simple TDN measures and making buying decisions that are shorthanded. •

IN FUTURE ISSUES: November: Avoid buying or selling hay based on noise

Table 1. Van Soest’s simple summative equation estimates the digested dry matter of a wide variety of feeds Component NDF, % of DM

Corn graina

Very high-quality grass

High-quality grass

Grass silage

Cereal silage

Corn silagea

High-quality alfalfa

Good-quality alfalfa

9.0

40

48

55

50

40

35

40

Fractional NDFD30hb

0.50

0.78

0.70

0.64

0.58

0.60

0.53

0.48

Digested NDF, % of DM

4.5

31.2

33.6

35.2

29.0

24.0

18.6

19.2

NDS, % of DM

91

60

52

45

50

60

65

60

Digested NDS, % of DM

89.2

58.8

51.0

44.1

49.0

58.8

63.7

58.8

True DMD

93.7

90.0

84.6

79.3

78.0

82.8

82.3

78.0

Endogenous DM losses

-12.9

-12.9

-12.9

-12.9

-12.9

-12.9

-12.9

-12.9

Apparent dMD3Xmnt

80.8

77.1

71.7

66.4

65.1

69.9

69.4

65.1

Corn starch must be fermented or finely ground to obtain 98% true digestibility. b In vitro NDF Digestibility at 30h approximates dairy cow digestibility at three times maintenance intakes. a

Table 2: Forage analysis measures included in different TDN calculations reported by forage testing laboratories for hay or haylage Parameter, % DM unless otherwise noted

CA TDN

RFV

Crude protein Acid detergent fiber Neutral detergent fiber

X

RFQ

NRC2001 TDN

Modified NRC2016 Beef TDN*

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Lignin

X

Ether extract or fatty acids

X

X

X

Ash

X

X

X

NDFD30, % aNDF

X

uNDF240

X

TTNDFD, % aNDF

X

*Modifications include accounting for starch digestibility and TTNDFD in the summative equation for beef cattle (Dahlke and Goeser, 2020).

August/September 2020 | hayandforage.com | 31

F3 30-31 Aug-Sept 2020 Feed Analysis.indd 2

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MACHINE SHED

Hesston by Massey Ferguson introduces Bale Link Hesston by Massey Ferguson is in the process of field testing their new Bale Link bale management app. The app allows hay producers to identify each bale via an attached radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip, then track the bale and its field production information on a tablet or smartphone. The app is available for Android and iOS. Bale Link will help hay producers more efficiently manage their hay production through the busy production season. Unique identification of each bale will make it possible to move, store, group, and sell hay based on bale size, bale weight, moisture, forage cut length, and other production factors. The app also provides a solution for hay growers and livestock producers who would like a record that accurately traces each bale from the field and farm where it was produced. During baling, an RFID chip is

attached to each bale, woven into one of the six strands of baling twine. BaleCreate baler software in the Hesston by Massey Ferguson large square baler captures the serial number of the RFID chip, along with bale weight and length, number of flakes, moisture, date and time baled, GPS location where the bale was created, and additive applied (if any). The bale information is transferred from the baler to secure AGCO servers using the AGCO Connectivity Module (ACM). After baling, the producer scans the

RFID chip with an RFID reader (handheld or mounted on the bale loader or stacker), which retrieves the bale’s unique serial number and communicates the bale ID to the Bale Link app through a Bluetooth low energy connection. The bale data is retrieved from the AGCO server via cellular service then displayed on a tablet or smartphone. Historical data also can be stored on the tablet or smartphone for offline viewing. The app allows the user to identify, group, and manage hay by field, stack, or truck load, and to generate a report showing the data for each bale within the respective group. The information can be emailed as a summarized PDF report, which is accompanied by a detailed CSV data file. The app is being field tested with select customers in 2020, with limited commercial availability in 2021. For more information, visit masseyferguson.us.

Tedder line expands for Pöttinger Pöttinger recently launched a new model at the top end of its range of tedders: the trailed HIT 16.18 T with 16 rotors and a working width of nearly 56 feet. The heart of the tedder series is the innovative Dynatech rotor. As a supporting element, the front guard rail also enhances strength. The rotor has a diameter of 4.7 feet. The six swept tine arms pick up forage cleanly and deliver a perfect spread pattern due to the ideal spreading angle. The sweeping arms “pull” the tine to ensure a crop conserving pick-up action. The offset tine lengths pick up the forage uniformly and improve tedding quality. The two large chassis wheels are close to the leading arc of the tines and as a result act as oversized jockey wheels for the

rotors. Each element in the frame adapts independently to every contour for perfect ground tracking. The HIT 16.18 T also features unique Liftmatic Plus technology that raises the rotors into the headland position; a double cylinder moves the rotors into a horizontal position before raising them. This intelligent control system prevents tines from scraping or penetrating the ground. Forage contamination is significantly reduced. Liftmatic Plus also reduces the weight acting on the tines. The headland lifting system provides excellent ground clearance, which makes the tedder much more maneuverable. For fenceline tedding, the two rotors on the outer right-hand side can be folded backwards hydraulically by 15 degrees. The two diagonal rotors distribute the forage over the mown area without forming a swath. The result is a strip of cleared field on the border. The rotors are adjusted from the tractor seat using a double-acting hydraulic cylinder. For more information, visit www.poettinger.at/en_us.

Strobel Manufacturing launches RamPack Strobel Manufacturing recently introduced a new plunger-based bagger, providing more productivity and efficiency when unloading and packing silage, haylage, grain, and dry hay. The RamPack bagger saves time and fuel with high silage density. It offers fast transport and quick setup. The patented flywheel and plunger system compresses material into the bag using significantly less horsepower

than the traditional auger or rotor systems available on the market. Mike Koelker, an Iowa farmer, is credited as the inventor of a plunger-driven multi-purpose bagger. The RamPack has dual plungers that gain inertia from a flywheel, just like a baler. A lower horsepower tractor will keep the flywheel turning and save fuel. For more information, visit www.strobelmfg.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.

32 | Hay & Forage Grower | August/September 2020

F3 32 Aug-Sept 2020 Machine Shed.indd 1

7/22/20 1:27 PM


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August/September 2020 | hayandforage.com | 33


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(320) 634-5115 • bdrollers.com August/September 2020 | hayandforage.com | 37


HAY MARKET UPDATE

eHay WEEKLY Our e-newsletter is

FREE to qualified subscribers!

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Sign-up is fast and easy at hayandforage.com

A good year for most The haymaking game is generally driven by production and demand. Both metrics appear to be better than in 2019. A recent eHay Weekly poll indicated that 65% of producers characterized 2020 as an average or above average forage-making year. Dairy economics are improving and

beef is starting to climb out of its rut. Exports look far better than last year. Overall, hay prices are below last year, but there appears to be more hay to sell. The prices below are primarily from USDA hay market reports as of the beginning of mid-July. Prices are FOB barn/stack unless otherwise noted. •

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

Price $/ton 180-205 280 220 175-185 165 185-226 180-200 210-230 200-210 200 170 225 220-260 275-300 Price $/ton 200 255 190-195 190 240-323 190 225-290 170-195 160-235 160-180 180 180 235 220-225 180 200-240 230-240 210 180 180-210 Price $/ton 185-190 180-185 185 150-160 150 135-160 180-190 130-150 150-178 120 140-200 120-160 150-155 90-100 180 260-290 135

(d)

(d) (d)

(d)

South Dakota (Corsica)-lrb Texas (Panhandle) Washington (Columbia Basin) Wisconsin (Lancaster)-lrb Wyoming (western) Fair-quality alfalfa California (intermountain) California (central SJV) Colorado (northeast) Colorado (San Luis Valley) Idaho Iowa (Rock Valley)-lrb Kansas (all regions) Minnesota (Pipestone)-lrb Missouri Montana South Dakota (Corsica)-lrb Washington (Columbia Basin) Wisconsin (Lancaster) Wyoming (western)-ssb

110 180-200 185-200 100 130-140 Price $/ton 145 150 135-140 (d) 160 135 90-113 95-125 90-115 100-125 115-125 93-98 170-180 95 110

Bermudagrass hay Alabama-Premium ssb Alabama-Good lrb California (southeast)-Premium Texas (north/central/east)-Good ssb Texas (south)-Good/Premium lrb Bromegrass hay California (intermountain)-Premium California (intermountain)-Good Kansas (southeast)-Good ssb Kansas (southeast)-Good lrb Missouri-Good Pennsylvania (southeast)-Good-ssb

Price $/ton 180-300 100 150-200 200-260 140-180 Price $/ton 210 155-210 125-150 75-85 80-120 110

Orchardgrass hay California (intermountain)-Premium Colorado (southwest)-ssb Oregon (Crook-Wasco)-Good Pennsylvania (southeast)-Premium Pennsylvania (southeast)-Good Timothy hay Idaho-Fair (d) Pennsylvania (southeast)-Good Washington (Columbia Basin)-Fair Washington (Col. Basin)-Premium ssb Wyoming (western)-Premium ssb Straw Alabama-ssb Iowa Iowa-ssb Iowa (Rock Valley) Kansas (southeast) Minnesota (Sauk Centre) Pennsylvania (southeast) South Dakota (Corsica)-lrb

Price $/ton 220-255 360 235 320 125-270 Price $/ton 155 205-250 220 330 200 Price $/ton 210 155 200 68-93 60-70 50-100 135-150 80

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

38 | Hay & Forage Grower | August/September 2020

F2 38 Aug/Sept 2020 Hay Market Update.indd 1

7/23/20 9:10 AM


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Triumph over weeds.

When you unleash the full profit potential of your hayfields, that’s a win. Rezilon™ herbicide provides hay producers a new mode of action to control unwanted grasses and broadleaf weeds for high-quality hay each and every cutting. Combined with its wider, more flexible application window that includes fall timing, Rezilon is an unbeatable preemergence herbicide. Take the first step toward victory, visit Rezilon.com.

Always read and follow label instructions. Bayer, the Bayer Cross, and Rezilon are trademarks of Bayer. Not all products are registered in all states. For additional product information, call toll-free 1-800-331-2867. www.environmentalscience.bayer.us. Bayer Environmental Science, a Division of Bayer CropScience LP, 5000 CentreGreen Way, Suite 400, Cary, NC 27513.


e d i u G g n i d e Fe 4th Edition

by Mike Hutjens

$24.95 plus tax and shipping

In this attractive, easy-to-ready layout, you will find updated nutrition guidelines to optimize your feeding systems while keeping economic principles top of mind. • Robotic feeding • High digestibility forages • Feeding strategies for increased herd production

Order online or by phone. www.hoards.com/bookstore • 920-563-5551


Start your subscription to

Journal of

Nutrient Management STORAGE

APPLICATION

BIOGAS PRODUCTION

ENVIRONMENT & COMPLIANCE

WASTE TRANSPORTATION

NEW TECHNOLOGY

Finally, beef, dairy, pork, and poultry producers have an all-new U.S. publication focused on animal waste handling and management. Journal of Nutrient Management is the voice of industry news, science, research, techniques, and tactics for efficient manure processing and compliance. Each issue of Journal of Nutrient Management carries advice, ideas, and guidance on manure storage, treatment, digestion, and composting for soil application and biogas production.

Subscribe today online at: www.jofnm.com/subscribe

Profile for Hay & Forage Grower

Hay & Forage Grower - Aug/Sept 2020  

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

Hay & Forage Grower - Aug/Sept 2020  

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

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