Kentucky Alfalfa and Stored Forages Conference in Elizabethtown, Feb. 20, 2020

The new Hardin county Extension Office will be hosting the 39th Kentucky Alfalfa and Stored Forage Conference.  Topics include:

  • Managing Alfalfa Nutrient Uptake
  • Don’t Let Insects Eat Your Alfalfa Profit
  • Fertilizing Profitable High Yield Alfalfa
  • Getting the Upper Hand on Diseases of Alfalfa and Grasses
  • Updates on an Online Alfalfa Management Tool
  • What’s New in Alfalfa Weed Control
  • Advances in Hay Mechanization
  • Making a Profit with a cash hay Alfalfa Operation

Early registration is just $30. Find the full agenda or register here. PS - alfalfaDS7_0290


Methods to Reduce Hay Alkaloid Levels

Fescue toxicosis is caused by ergot alkaloids produced by the naturally occurring fungal endophyte. Many scientists think that ergovaline is the primary alkaloid causing the issues, but there may be others involved. Research has shown that KY-31 infected tall fescue contains alkaloids all year, but the level is particularly high in the spring when seedheads are produced.

The question has come up recently about the toxicity of KY-31 infected tall fescue hay. Research from the University of Missouri indicates that ergovaline and total ergot alkaloid levels decline significantly when tall fescue is cut, dried, and baled for hay. In their study, alkaloid levels dropped between approximately 30 to 60 percent when tall fecue was made for hay. It is important to realize that alkaloids were still present in the hay, sometimes to levels that produce symptoms of fescue toxicosis. There were some situations where levels were reduced enough that any fescue toxicosis sysptoms should be minimal. Below are methods to reduce alkaloid levels in hay:

1) Raise the cutting height to 3 inches

2) Delay feeding for at least one month after harvest

3) Seed clovers in tall fescue hayfields

4) Cut before seedheads are present

~ Excerpt from November Hay and Forage Grower, by Gary Bates.

To learn more about managing toxic tall fescue in pastures and hayfields or to replace with new novel tall fescues, consider attending the Novel Tall Fescue Renovation Workshop in Lexington on March 19th. Early registration is only $65. Find more info or reserve your spot here or contact Krista Lea at


Quote of the Month: “Pretty is as Pretty Does”

The new grass species pictures in all the forage magazines looked wonderful! Advertised animal gains, stocking rates and crude protein content were incredible. However, forage persistence was poor and by the third year, most plants had died. Beautiful to being with, it didn’t do the job. Practically speaking, “pretty”: is the thing that works! Sometimes, something that looks good to begin with doesn’t stand the test of time or fails in other ways. It pays to look beyond first impressions and check available research, other information and local experts before moving ahead. Order your copy of Forage-Livestock Quote and Concepts, vol. 2 herebook2.


Forage Timely Tips: January

  • Continue strip-grazing of stockpiled tall fescue for maximum utilization.
  • Remove animals from very wet pastures to limit pugging and soil compaction.
  • Feed best hay to animals with highest nutritional needs.
  • Supplement poor quality hay as indicated by forage testing.
  • Feed hay in poor pastures to increase soil fertility and enhance organic matter.
  • Consider “bale grazing” – set out hay when the ground is dry or frozen. Use temporary fencing to allocate bales as needed.
  • Prepare for pasture renovation by purchasing improved varieties, inoculant, etc. and getting equipment ready.


Publication of the Month: 2019 Long-Term Summary of Kentucky Forage Variety Trials

Results are out for the 2019 Forage Variety Trials. Side by side comparisons of yield and persistence can be found for many forage species including tall fescue, annual grasses, clovers, alfalfa, ryegrass, timothy, KY bluegrass, orchardgrass and many summer annual grasses. Select species are also evaluated for persistence and preference under cattle and horse grazing. The 2019 Long-Term Summary of Kentucky Forage Variety Trials contains a summary of all species for many years. This report and individual species reports can be found on the UK Forage Variety Trials page here.

Things You Never Knew A Forage Test Could Tell You

Forage testing is the scorecard of a hay program and is necessary to meet feeding goals for livestock. However surveys show that most do not test hay. In the defense of farmers, good hay weather has been so infrequent that people really don’t want to see the results. You can almost hear them say, ‘I already know my hay is bad – why should I pay somebody to tell me something I already know!’ I sympathize.

Forage tests measure forage quality, but I will bet there are some things that you did not know it can tell you. So consider these even more reasons to test hay. What follows are some of the interesting things that you may not know a forage test will tell you.

First of all, the most important number is not the crude protein (CP) number. Protein requirements for most classes of cattle are pretty easily met by forages, especially mature cattle. Seldom do we need to supplement just for protein. Fiber values tell the story on forage quality. Yet we do not have an intuitive understanding of fiber as we do with CP. So let’s look a little closer at the fiber values on a hay test.

Acid detergent fiber (ADF) and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) are the most important and least understood parts of the report. The names themselves do not help understanding because they refer to the lab processes not to animal performance. These values are the most important because they are used to predict energy (from ADF) and intake (from NDF). And energy and intake are where forages limit animal performance.

Fiber values help to indicate legume content. These two values on a hay test are named for the proportion of forage left after boiling in either neutral or acidified detergent solutions. NDF is the total fiber in the forage (NDF) and ADF the total fiber minus hemicellulose. Since legumes have less hemicellulose than grasses, the NDF-ADF difference will be less for legumes that grasses. An NDF-ADF difference of 10 would indicate almost pure legume, while NDF-ADF differences for grasses will be 20 or higher.

High NDF values are a red flag. How much a cow will consume can predicted from NDF. An NDF of 40% (excellent legume hay) will have an estimated intake of 3% of body weight per day. An NDF of 60% (a typical grass hay) allows intake of 2% body weight. Ultimately, feeding a cow comes down to intake – how much she can eat per day. High NDF forages take a long time to pass out of the rumen.

Calcium-phosphorus ratio can also reveal legume content. Legumes grown in our region will have a Ca:P ratio of 2:1 or even higher, while our cool season grasses will be more like 1:1. So a wide Ca:P ratio means more legume. This little known fact really came in handy when a horse farm client wanted to know if a lot of hay they had purchased was in fact going to be a 50:50 mix of alfalfa and grass as they wanted. The forage test showed a very wide Ca:P ratio (>3:1). I predicted the hay was going to be mostly alfalfa. And it was.

Digestibility Terms. Total digestible nutrients (TDN) is the most frequently used energy term for beef cattle, and it is nearly always calculated solely from ADF. Labs differ in the equations used to predict TDN, sometimes markedly, so it is more important to compare ADF values if you are comparing hay quality values between labs. Getting your forage tested needs to be on your list of must-do’s this fall (after it warms up a little). This information will help you feed more efficiently, and it may even tell you some things you did not think possible.

Happy foraging. ~ Dr. Jimmy Henning, from Farmers Pride

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It’s One Thing All Haymakers Have To Do

In the wonderful world of forages, one topic is written and talked about more than all others. It really encompasses a simple message: If you make and/or feed hay, get it tested.

“Every year I get calls for help with balancing rations, and most don’t have a hay analysis,” writes Mary Drewnoski in a recent BeefWatch newsletter.

Drewnoski, a University of Nebraska Extension beef specialist, wants growers to know that not all forages, even those of the same species, are created equal.

She notes that smooth bromegrass, for example, can range from 48 to 58 percent total digestible nutrients (TDN) with crude protein (CP) ranging from 6 to 11 percent.

“This can be the difference between a growing heifer losing 0.25 pounds per day or gaining 0.37 pounds per day,” Drewnoski says. “If you were targeting the heifer gaining 1 pound per day, you would need to supplement between 1.5 to 3 pounds per day of dried distillers to reach this goal. At $150 per ton for dried distillers, this is a range in cost of $10 to $20 per heifer for a 90-day period,” she explains.PS - hay 800 by 400 JCH_6418_1

Without knowing the forage analysis, the producer is faced with a decision by guess. Feed the lower rate and potentially have heifers that don’t reach breeding weight when they should; feed the higher rate and potentially spend money needlessly. Contact your county agent for help with hay testing

~ Hay and Forage Grower, December 2019