Alfalfa and Stored Forage Conference

Plan to attend the annual Alfalfa and Stored Forage Conference at the Cave City Convention Center February 21 next year. As in past years, we have an excellent lineup of speakers and topics. They include:

· National Producer and Consumer Survey: Increasing Alfalfa Hay Sales to Horse Owners-Krista Lea

· Hay Production in the Deep South: Bermudagrass and Alfalfa-A Perfect Combination–Jennifer Tucker

· Options for Hay Mechanization: Producer Perspective-Dennis Wright

· Hay Mechanization: Industry Overview–Noah Pendry

· One Big Idea that has Helped Improve My Haying Operation-Winners of the SE Kentucky Hay Contest

· Update on Options for managing thinning alfalfa stands-Jimmy Henning

More details can be found here

International Grassland Congress-May 14-19, 2023

Make plans to attend the IGC Congress that is being held in the US for only the third time since the meeting started in 1927. It is May 14-19, 2023 and will be held in northern KY. This international congress is only held every four years and gathers together forage leaders from over 60 countries to present the latest developments in forage and grassland production. Go to the website for more information and to register. Also review the outstanding Pre-Congress tours that are being offered.

More details here.

Seed Harvest Update from the Pacific Northwest

Much of the US forage seed production acreage is in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. Therefore this recent report from DLF, a major international seed company,  provides important information for those us that are buying grass and legume seed.

The US forage seed harvest in 2022 was highly variable. It ended a bit below expectations, but still a very welcome recovery from the dismal 2021. A dry winter was followed by an extended wet spring that raised many expectations of high yields across the Pacific Northwest seed production regions. In the end, however, most yields were not much different than long-term averages.

Tall fescue: Of the major crops, tall fescue was the most disappointing. Poor yields are mostly thought to be the fault of cool, wet conditions that caused a very long pollination window. A long flowering period means a long ripening period resulting in no real “right-time” to harvest. Planting this fall was difficult, especially non-irrigated acres. Of concern to all is the lack of recovery and fall growth which will likely limit seed production next year.

Orchardgrass: Yields were well below normal. Orchardgrass is the first of our seed crops to ripen and the extended, late spring caused poor seed-set. Orchardgrass acres continue to decline.

Red clover: Not a lot of this crop has been cleaned yet, but yields seem to be average to just above. New fields have yet to germinate and will struggle to establish which may affect production in coming years. 

~ Read the full report here.

Time for an Alfalfa Gut Check

Since 2005, there has been about a 30% drop off in harvested alfalfa acres for states that report both hay and haylage acres. Some states, such as California, have experienced a much larger drop (48%). It’s ironic that this is occurring when alfalfa’s value has never been higher.

The cause for the steady decline in alfalfa popularity can’t be pinned on one thing or entity. Lack of water in the West, larger dairy farms with a heavier reliance on corn silage, more profitable commodity alternatives that are supported by government programs, and the recent interest to substitute annual forages for alfalfa have all been cited among the reasons for fewer alfalfa acres.

Although the trendline for alfalfa is undeniable, there are also reasons for optimism and may be even more justification why things could or should change. Perhaps part of alfalfa’s problem is simply familiarity and the fact we have taken it and its benefits for granted. Alfalfa still remains the dominant perennial forage crop in many regions of the United States and ranks as the third or fourth most valuable crop grown in the U.S., only behind corn, soybean, and sometimes wheat.

Corn silage as a prominent feature in dairy rations is not going away. Yield and energy rule the day; plus, marketers get to sell seed every year. Fortunately, alfalfa makes a perfect complement for the annual crop. This was recently confirmed in some Miner Institute research that found alfalfa included in the dairy ration at 30% to 50% of the forage fed optimized overall cow performance.

Alfalfa’s agronomic and environmental benefits have always been undervalued and underappreciated. Perhaps the recent run of high fertilizer prices might bring greater attention to the legume’s ability to supply nitrogen. Currently, the value of the nitrogen supplied per acre by a terminated alfalfa crop is, in most cases, equal to or greater than the cost originally invested in top-end alfalfa seed.

Most of the alfalfa grown in the U.S. is found in the Western states. There’s no question that water availability is limiting this production and will continue to do so in the future.

In the Southeast U.S., alfalfa is finding a role as the comeback player. After years as a no-show, both researchers and producers are finding that alfalfa offers a good complement when seeded into warm-season perennial grass fields. In the Southeast, it appears that alfalfa acres are on the rise.

There’s no question that the alfalfa industry’s infrastructure has been downsized. That trend will continue, at least in the short-run, but alfalfa still generates billions of dollars of net revenues for growers while keeping tons of soil from eroding every year. Alfalfa also helps to sequester carbon in the soil. ~ excerpted from Mike Rankin’s article in Hay and Forage Grower

KY Fall Grazing Conference videos available now

We had an outstanding KY Grazing Conference last week with close to 300 attending the two locations.  If you didn’t get a chance to attend or want to share the presentations, recordings of each speaker’s presentation is available at the KYForages YouTube  Channel. The proceedings of the conference is also available on the UK Forage Extension website. Simply google “KY Forages YouTube to reach the site or use the direct link below.

Here are the videos from the recent KY Grazing Conferences. Google “KY Forages YouTube.” Go to playlists to see recorded presentations from KY and VA Forage Conferences over the last 8 years.

KY Forage and Grassland Council Awards

We are pleased to announce the following Kentucky Forage and Grassland Council award winners for 2022.  Thank-you to each of these individuals who have provided tremendous support to the forage industry, forage producers and KFGC for many years.

State Public Service: Dr. Chris Teutsch

County Public Service: Nick Roy

Industry Award: Jody Watson

Producer “Grassroots” Award: Cody Rakes

KFGC Forage Spokesperson

We had excellent presentations by our two KY Forage Spokesperson contestants at Grazing Conference last week; Dwight Lesile of Robertson County and Bart Hamilton of Bracken County.  Recordings of their presentations are now available on the KY Forages YouTube channel. Congratulations to Bart Hamilton for being the 2022 Forage Spokesperson for Kentucky. Bart will represent KFGC at the national Forage Spokesperson contest January 8-10 at the AFGC Annual meeting in Winston-Salem, NC. Plan to attend this conference and support Bart. Plus you’ll learn from producers and researchers from around the country.

Forage Timely Tips: November

  • Apply 30-50 lb nitrogen per acre to strengthen cool-season grass pastures and grass hay fields.
  • If not already done, inventory hay supplies and assess hay quality. Hay prices are increasing.
  • Using a grazing stick or rising plate meter, estimate stockpile forage available for winter grazing. 
  • Adjust animal numbers or purchase additional hay to balance forage-feed supply to livestock needs. 
  • Graze crop residues and cover crops that are 6-8 inches tall and are well anchored.  Do NOT graze closer to 4 inches. 
  • Graze winter annuals that will not overwinter such as brassicas and spring oats. 
  • Alkaloid content in tall fescue can also be high in the fall some years, but will begin decline after a hard freeze (low 20’s).
  • Talk to local NRCS conservationists about a grazing plan and cost-share opportunities. 

International Grassland Congress in KY May 2023

The International Grassland Congress (IGC) meets every four years to highlight new research findings and discoveries in forage and grassland agriculture from around the world. May 14-19, 2023, the IGC will meet in Covington, Kentucky. This is only the third time in the past 100 years the conference will be held in the U.S. To decide if attending this congress may be helpful to you, we polled Kentucky producers and extension agents that attended the IGC in 2013 in Australia.

What was your motivation behind attending IGC?

A: My motivation for attending was an opportunity to understand grassland production methods and challenges existing around the world. —John Litkenhus, producer, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky

A: Excited to see a new part of the world, and more particularly the forage systems for that area. I love to learn and expand my base of knowledge, so I knew that the opportunity would exist to do just that with researchers and farmers from around the world. —Todd Clark, producer, Lexington, Kentucky

A: I wanted to see how the rest of the world farms. —Buddy Smith, producer, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky

How has what you learned at IGC impacted your operation?

LITKENHUS: My operation was probably not changed directly from what I learned at the conference, but indirectly, seeing the different approaches and operations in Australia and other countries motivated me to be significantly more attentive to overgrazing, rotational grazing and forage utilization.

JOHNSON: As an extension agent, it helped me get past the textbook knowledge and be more open to new ideas. An example, I had a farm manager client who mentioned using dung beetles to utilize manure in pasture to improve nutrient availability/cycling. I had no point of reference for that practice at the time. I was surprised to hear that farmers in other countries have used this technique as well. —Traci Johnson, extension agent, La Grange, Kentucky

CLARK: We grass-finish beef, and I got a lot of system-type  ideas from producers in Australia. Adapting a grazing system from a dry country to a higher rainfall region has its benefits, even in a small way.

SMITH: I tried planting radishes and other things as cover crops as grazing for late fall and part of the winter the year that I returned, like they were doing in Australia. The full article was printed in the October issue of  Progressive Forage~ Joy Hendrix

Read the full interview here.

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Pub of the Month: Commercially Available Novel-Endophyte Tall Fescue Varieties

This newly released publication compares available novel endophyte tall fescue varieties and describes the benefits of novel varieties in comparison to KY-31. Written by NC State researchers, it is the most comprehensive article on this subject ever published. Traits for comparison include time to maturity, leaf type and how each variety was developed. Find the full publication here.