Staggered Harvesting May Improve Profit

Alfalfa growers in hot climates should consider adopting staggered cutting schedules, when fields are harvested in a different order at each cutting, say University of California researchers.

This strategy might result in more dairy-quality hay and a greater overall return, they add.

Under fixed, or sequential, harvest schedules, it's difficult to get high-quality hay from every field at every cutting, given the length of time it typically takes to complete a cutting. And if the first field cut doesn't test dairy quality, it's unlikely that other fields will, either.

Under the staggered cutting strategy they're evaluating, a field cut in the middle of the sequence at the initial cutting may be cut first at the next cutting. This would ensure that alfalfa in the first fields cut would be dairy quality, even in midsummer.

Fields cut first at first cutting would have a longer interval between first and second cuttings. The hay wouldn't be dairy quality, but yield would be maximized. And the stand would have a longer period to recover from being cut when immature.

A grower might return to a fixed schedule after the second cutting, or continue with a staggered schedule, depending on growing conditions, the hay price situation, and other factors.

The end result, say researchers, would be a more predictable supply of both dairy and non-dairy hay.

High Fertility Doesn't Help Ryegrass

Fertilizing perennial ryegrass with high levels of potassium, phosphorus and micronutrients showed no benefit in a University of Missouri study.

The researchers wanted to find out if added fertility would improve ryegrass persistence, which has been less than satisfactory in the Midwest. They compared two perennial ryegrass varieties with an improved tall fescue variety at high and low fertility levels. All plots received the same amount of nitrogen.

After two years of rotational grazing, fertility treatment had no impact on pasture yield or stand persistence. The tall fescue variety was significantly higher yielding than either ryegrass variety, and its stand had improved while ryegrass stands had declined.

High Seeding Rates Don't Pay

Seeding alfalfa at 8 lbs/acre brought the same results as seeding at 20 lbs/acre in a University of Idaho study. Four varieties, each with a different fall dormancy rating, were seeded with a press wheel drill at 8, 12, 16 and 20 lbs of pure live seed per acre. Seeding rate didn't affect first-year stand density, forage quality or yield. While there appeared to be yield and quality differences among varieties, those differences weren't consistent with fall dormancy changes.

β€œIt appears that adequate stands were established with all seeding rates,” the researchers report.

They also evaluated the effects of a new seed coating on alfalfa stand establishment. The coating β€” Mico-Rizo β€” contains gypsum with molybdenum added. It was evaluated over a two-year period at two locations. In each case, coated seed of three varieties was compared with the same varieties uncoated but pre-inoculated. The seeding rate was 16 lbs/acre, so coated seed had one-third fewer seeds planted.

In most plots, coated seed produced higher forage yields than seed that was just preinoculated.

Graze Toxic Fescue Late

Livestock producers who stockpile toxic endophyte-infected tall fescue for winter grazing might minimize toxicosis by delaying its use until mid- to late winter.

University of Missouri researchers reached that conclusion after determining the yield, forage quality and ergovaline content of three varieties through two entire winters. One variety was infected with a native endophyte, another with a non-toxic endophyte and the third had no endophyte.

Forage yield didn't change from mid-December through mid-March for any of the varieties, and all had similar ADF levels on comparable dates. Only the native endophyte variety had ergovaline, and the level dropped six-fold from December to March each year.