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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Forage Production

Last year, the drought cut into hay production seriously.  I expect lots of cows out there are looking forward to spring.  Grazing your forages may be less labor intensive than haying.  I agree that efficient grazing in an intensive system may be the best way to feed grazing animals, but there are plenty of reasons to make hay instead.  First and foremost is, the grazing animals may have a hard time keeping up with growth in the spring.

Timing of harvest is critical to having high quality digestible feed.  Legumes should be harvested in mid-bud to early bloom (10%) stage.  Last year we had haying going on in March because of the early start to spring.  It is also best if grass is cut as soon as it reaches the boot stage.  Keeping forages in the vegetative state rather than the reproductive state makes for the most nutritious product.  Fertility is also and issue.  Forages tend to be big potassium feeders.  IT is almost impossible to apply too much potassium, but as with any crop, soil test first to see if you really need fertilizer.

The other big question is weather.  Can you find a dry 2 or three days to get the crop dried out.  It is easier now than in the past because most harvesters crimp the hay.  Breaking the stems dries them out faster.  Hay can also be treated with preservatives to allow for higher moisture in harvest.  Crimping and treatments also serve to keep the leaves better attached.  Leaves are the most nutritious part of the plant. 

Good luck getting the weather to cooperate. 

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