The National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance (NAFA) has released the 2019 edition of its popular “Alfalfa Variety Ratings – Winter Survival, Fall Dormancy & Pest Resistant Ratings for Alfalfa Varieties” – a useful tool for hay and dairy farmers, extension specialists, or anyone involved in the production of alfalfa.
NAFA’s Alfalfa Variety Ratings is a publication unlike any other in providing an extensive listing of alfalfa varieties and their corresponding ratings for fall dormancy, winter survival, bacterial wilt, aphanomyces, leafhopper, and a host of other issues. This publication is available in the November issue of Hay & Forage Grower magazine or by visiting NAFA’s website. ~ NAFA e-newsletter (11/30/2018).
Much expense and many long hours go into harvesting and storing hay for winter feeding. So why waste it! Reducing hay feeding waste could be especially important in 2019 since quality hay supplies are limited.
Cattle can waste as much as 45 percent of their hay when it is fed in the open without restrictions. How can you reduce these losses to minimize costs and maintain an adequate hay supply?
Your first step should be to limit how much hay is available. Research shows that it takes 25% more hay when you feed cattle a four-day supply at once compared to feeding them every day. Daily feeding reduces the amount of hay refused, trampled, fouled, over-consumed, or used for bedding.
A second step is to restrict access to the hay by using hay racks, bale rings, electric fences, feed bunks, or anything else that will keep animals off the hay. Use racks or bale rings with solid barriers at the bottom to prevent livestock from pulling hay loose and then dragging it out to be stepped on.
If you do feed hay on the ground, either as loose hay, unrolled round bales, or as ground hay, it is especially important to follow these guidelines. Limit the hay fed to an amount animals will clean up in a single meal. Anything left over will be stepped on, fouled, or used for bedding instead of as feed. And if you can – use an electric wire or other barrier to restrict access to only one side.
With a little foresight and careful management, you can stretch your hay and your hay dollars further. ~ Tom Keene
The Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association annual conference will be held Jan. 17-18 at the Owensboro Convention Center. Friday includes the annual “Forages at KCA, 2:00-4:30 in the West Ballrooms A-C and will focus on the economics of grazing and grazing cover crops. Speakers include Dr. Ray Smith and Dr. Greg Halich from UK, Ed Ballard from Illinois, and John Genho from Virginia. You don’t have to register for the conference to attend our section, but we suggest you support KCA by registering for the event. Click here for more information and to register.
Moisture is the enemy of hay, so anything a producer can do to reduce the amount of moisture reaching hay will likely reduce losses. Protecting bales from rain that can penetrate hay is obviously desirable (bale wrappers help in this regard). What is less obvious is that with most types of forage crops, the greatest losses to round bales stored outside result from moisture moving into the hay from the ground. Avoiding hay-soil contact is a highly desirable first step in reducing hay storage losses. For example, simply placing bales on old tires, pallets or a layer of coarse gravel will reduce loss. Forage-Livestock Quotes and Concepts, vol. 2 is available here.
Here are a few suggestions to start the move to healthier pastures.
- Soil Test. Forages are crops, and they need nutrients. Knowing soil fertility levels helps you target your fertilizer dollar to the most needed fields. Thankfully pasture fertility levels don’t change as much as hay fields, since most are returned in the manure and urine.
- Find ways to remove dense canopies of dead grass such as close mowing or brief periods of mob grazing. This allows sunlight to reach the crowns of cool season grass and initiate new tillers (which emerge next spring).
- Nitrogen is an important tool to rejuvenate grass pasture. Consider applying nitrogen in the spring to a damaged pasture and harvest it as hay.
- Upgrade your fencing and water plan for better utilization in 2019. Having water points centrally located in a pasture so livestock are always within 600 to 800 feet of water will result in more uniform grazing. UK will be offering Fencing Schools and Grazing Schools this spring that focus on pasture layout.
- Address the production slump of mid and late summer that happens with cool season grasses. Consider summer annuals, a deep rooted legume like red clover or alfalfa and even native warm season grasses. All these options have payoffs that offset up front costs and management requirements.
- Target some fields for complete renovation. Reseed these fields to cool season grass in late summer. One or two burn down sprays with glyphosate will help insure successful re-establishment.
Happy Foraging. ~ Jimmy Henning, Farmer’s Pride, Dec.
All 12 Forage Variety Trial reports are now available here!