Forages are maturing two to three weeks ahead of schedule in Kentucky, and many will need to be harvested soon for optimum feed quality, says Ray Smith, University of Kentucky Extension forage specialist.
Small grains lose nutrient value much faster than alfalfa, reminds Smith. They should be harvested at the late-boot stage to get the highest-quality silage. Much of the wheat could reach that stage by mid-April.
Alfalfa should be cut at bud stage. First, though, Smith suggests that growers scout their fields for alfalfa weevil damage. If damage is significant on stands ready for harvesting, cut the crop to control the insect. Then check fields about five days later to see regrowth is normal. High numbers of surviving weevil larvae and adults can damage regrowth.
If the alfalfa isn’t ready for harvest and there is a significant amount of weevil damage, it should be sprayed. Lee Townsend, University of Kentucky entomologist, says to check the “days to harvest” section of the label when selecting an insecticide to see how long to wait between application and harvest.
Cool-season grasses, such as tall fescue and orchardgrass, will also be ready for cutting earlier than normal, says Smith.
“Ideally, producers make a first cutting by mid-May to get a good-quality feed, but this year, harvesting in late April may be too late to get high-quality grass hay. Because a first cutting is needed earlier than normal, there’s a very good chance for producers to get a high-quality second cutting before the hot temperatures of summer set in.”