Should I Just Cut Back on Fertilizer Purchases?

Absolutely NOT. That is equivalent to reducing feed purchases by cutting back on feeding grain, regardless of how they are milking. It is distressing to see farms fertilizing by best guess, and then shorting their profitability some where else because “enough” money was spent on fertilizer. If you cannot get your whole farm sampled, concentrate on corn fields and fields that are going to be seeded. These have the earliest fertilizer additions. Hay fields can be sampled after first cutting and the top dressing applied after second cutting.

The biggest regulator of the return on your fertilizer investment is to raise the pH to 6.2 for corn or 7.0 for legumes. This is where expensive fertilizer is most available and the plant growth can make the most use of it. As the pH drops, fertilizer efficiency drops 30 – 50% in producing crop yield.

Correct pH soil is a BASIC MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLE for any manager who has any desire to run a profitable farm. A few years back I worked with a top managed farm that started a complete farm soil testing program. He discovered to his surprise, he had alfalfa fields that were at a pH too low to ever grow corn well! Ironically, he was putting too much fertilizer on high testing manured corn fields, to the point of hurting plant growth by tying up minor elements. What he saved on fertilizer more than paid for the needed Time IN ONE YEAR! Since then, several more farms have gone on to whole farm soil testing and have had the same results: decreased fertilizer bills and an increased need for corrective liming, and less expensive forage cost for the yield achieved. As the price of fertilizer continues to go up, the investment in this critical part of your crop production demands the highest return on each dollar invested. Unfortunately as more farms are finding the benefit of comprehensive soil testing and recommendations, we were learning that they were severely handicapped in forage profit for several years for having low pH. Fields of 5.4 – 5.8 are common, especially on rented ground. They tried to save on fertilizer by no liming. At these pH levels, as the chart below shows, you are throwing away a third of your fertilizer impact. Even at pH 6.0, nearly 20% (one bag in five) is lost due to the acid soil’s effect on availability. In this era of high prices, correcting the pH FIRST and then adding what fertilizer the checkbook will allow you, is the way to maximize the return in your crop.Picture1

~ Excerpted from Thomas Kilcer’s “Crop Soil news, Nov. 2019


CAIP Forage Seed List

Several county agents and producers have recently asked me how forage varieties are added to the CAIP Approved Seed List and are therefore eligible for county cost share. The normal procedure is for the company selling the seed to send me ( the Variety Description and results of two or more yield trials in KY or surrounding states. If this variety is adapted to Kentucky and has yield and persistence ratings that are average to above average compared to other varieties we have tested, then I recommend to GOAP to add this it to the approved seed list.

If the variety you would like to plant is not on the approved CAIP Seed List then ask your company to follow the above procedure. This should be done at least several weeks before you purchase the seed to make sure the variety can be added to this list. ~ Ray Smith, UK Forage Specialist


Upcoming Events

January 5-8 – AFGC Annual Conference, Greenville, NC |

January 17 – Forages at KCA, Owensboro, KY |

February 20 – Alfalfa and Stored Forages Conference, Elizabethtown, KY |

March 19 – Novel Tall Fescue Workshop, Lexington, KY |

April 14 – Fencing School, Glasgow, KY |

April 16 – Fencing School, Grand Rivers, KY |

April 21-22 – Kentucky Grazing School, Princeton, KY |

April 28-30 – Southern Pasture and Forage Crop Improvement Conference, Montgomery, AL |

May 19 – Small Ruminant Fencing School, Frankfort, KY |

May 21 – Fencing School, Campton, KY |

Higher than Avg. Summer Temperatures Last 2 Years


Carefully evaluate your forage management and species choices. Warm season grasses for summer production should be considered. Capture.PNG

In 2018 in Lexington, growing season temperatures were above the 30 year average for every month from May to October. In 2019, growing season temperatures were above the 30 year average for every month from April to October. Tall Fescue is the best adapted cool season grass for Kentucky, proven from 20 years of forage variety trials. New novel tall fescue varieties are now commercially available and do quite well. Learn more about novel tall fescues at the Novel Tall Fescue Renovation Workshop in Lexington on March 19th 2020. Find more details on our website.


Kentucky Alfalfa and Stored Forages Conference In Elizabethtown, February 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 Under Development
  • 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. Visit the UK Forage Extension Events page for more info or to register.



Baled Cornstalks Offer Another Feed Option


As winter approaches, some producers are questioning if their hay inventories will last until spring. Cornstalks can extend hay inventories, but their use comes with some important considerations, according to Jeff Lehmkuhler, University of Kentucky extension beef specialist.

The best forage quality from the corn crop residues is in the leaves and husks, he says. The cobs and stalks are lower in digestibility with protein concentration ranging from only 3 to 6 percent, which is too low to meet the needs of cattle. The highest quality forage portions of corn crop residues are the leaves and husks.

The best way to utilize corn crop residues for feed is having the bales processed or by flail chopping the residue in the field to improve drying. Processed bales can be fed in a total mixed ration or along a feedbunk.

The extension specialist recommends feeding baled corn residues to dry, mid-gestation cows, remembering to supplement nutrients to meet diet requirements. Cattle fed cornstalks should be in good body condition and not be experiencing any environmental stresses, such as cold and mud. Environmental stresses on cattle will require additional supplementation.

Lehmkuhler offers an example diet for a mid-gestation cow of 15 pounds of cornstalks, 1.5 gallons of condensed distillers solubles (distillers syrup), and 2 pounds of soybean hulls plus minerals to meet requirements.

Lehmkuhler recommends hay for lactating cows, but he notes that cornstalks may be worked into the diet to stretch hay supplies with proper supplementation.

To extend hay inventories, feeding cornstalk bales is a reasonable option. Remember to work with a nutritionist to meet all nutritional requirements and supplement as needed. Lehmkuhler advises to not overpay for cornstalks since supplements, along with additional feed costs, will often be needed. ~ excerpt from Michaela King, Hay and Forage Grower, November 2019


Forage Timely Tips: December

  • Begin utilizing stockpiled pastures.  Graze pastures with orchardgrass and clovers first.  Save tall fescue pastures for late winter grazing.
  • Using polywire, strip graze stockpiled pastures to improve Utilization.  Start at the water source and allocate enough forage to for 2-3 days.   Back fencing is not necessary.
  • Make plans to frost seed red and white clover onto closely grazed tall fescue pastures in February.
  • Some hay can be fed as stockpiled grass is grazed to stretch grasss.
  • Begin hay feeding as stockpiled forage is used up.
  • Supplement hay as needed.
  • Minimizing waste by utilizing ring feeders.