How to successfully no-till seed alfalfa is just one of many tips offered in the newest edition of the Haymaker’s Handbook, available at New Holland dealerships.

The 1975 and 1987 editions of the handbook are discussed on ag forums and found for sale on eBay and other Internet shopping sites. Growers who find the older publications helpful will probably want the 2011 version, edited in cooperation with Penn State Extension experts.

“The biggest change is the shift to no-till,” says co-author Paul Craig of the newest information in the latest edition, just published by New Holland. “A lot of that comes by the fact that more and more farmers now have no-till drills and they’re confident that they can get stands established,” adds Craig, Dauphin County Extension educator. He, along with Ken Griswold, former dairy Extension educator at Lancaster County, and John Baylor, emeritus Penn State Extension forage specialist, updated its contents.

Successful no-till establishment requires eliminating plant competition, removing thatch or plant growth that could shade the soil surface and protecting seedlings from insects, according to the handbook. Planting no-till stands also requires soil fertility at medium with a pH at about 6.5, seeding at the proper time and using the right well-maintained equipment.

Other changes to the new publication include more of an emphasis on producing quality hay using self-propelled harvesters, haybines, round and big square balers, he says.

“We’re seeing more haylage, not only in wrapped bales, but also in storage structures such as upright silos, ag bags and bunkers, as another thing that is increasing.” So is interest in managing that storage better, he says.

“By paying attention to packing silage better and then managing the covers, we’ve seen bunks that we could easily guesstimate 20%, 25% or 30% dry-matter shrink … get down to single-digit dry-matter losses.”

Growers are also trying to better utilize grass hays and increase quality by cutting earlier. “Thirty years ago in Pennsylvania, they always talked about “patriot hay,” which was hay that was first cut on the 4th of July. We’ve come a long way from that aspect. I don’t know if the graziers have helped to bring attention to that regard or if it’s the fact that we’ve made that shift to a wet hay – the baleage or haylage kind of a package that has allowed us to do more timely harvest during May when we don’t have drying weather. Twenty years ago, the concern or focus was always to get our corn planted and then make hay. Now we’re seeing, as these newer varieties of alfalfas are being introduced, they’re becoming more productive earlier in the growing season. When it’s time to cut that first cutting, that’s what they’re doing,” Craig says.

To order or read an excerpt from the handbook, go to www.haymakershandbook.com.