To maximize the yield of forage soybeans, pick a variety three maturity groups later than is adapted for grain in your area, inoculate the seed and plant at least 140,000 seeds/acre, Norberg advises. Inoculation is especially important in the West, where soybeans are rarely grown, he says.

Plant the crop with a drill to minimize stem size and cut it with a mower-conditioner. Full-sized beans dry slowly and can cause molding in bales, so mow when the plants have small pods or before pods have developed.

“Make sure the herbicides you select have labels for haying; many don’t,” he warns.

In his economic analysis, conventionally established alfalfa and soybeans planted annually without tillage were compared. He amortized the alfalfa establishment cost over a four-year stand life. Income consisted of 8 tons/acre of alfalfa hay worth $200/ton or 7 tons/acre of soybean hay at $150/ton. The lower soybean hay price was due to buyers not being familiar with it.

“Basically, they penciled out even,” says Norberg. “This is preliminary, but to me it looks encouraging.”