Oct. 25, 2016 08:00 AM

Visits to Northern California, South Dakota, and Michigan

Steve Orloff
Farm Advisor/Siskiyou County
University of California-Extension

The hay season has ended for most alfalfa growers in the intermountain area of Northern California and southern Oregon. However, because of the relatively long growing season this year, many growers opted for an extra cutting.

This late-season cutting should have very high forage quality. However, a series of powerful storms were predicted to hit about a week ago so growers scrambled to put up that last cutting before the rain arrived. Some succeeded, others put up high-moisture hay and rushed to sell to dairies for early feeding. Others weren't as lucky and didn't beat the storms.

The storms dropped over an inch to several inches, making it a challenge to put up the hay that was in windrows when the storms hit or wasn't yet cut. Hopefully, a window will open up to successfully harvest the remaining acreage. Hay inventories appear relatively high with the sluggish market this year and most barns look full. Pastures are growing well with the overall moderate temperatures this fall coupled with the recent rainfall.

Karla Hernandez
Extension forage specialist
South Dakota State University

This year’s drought conditions across South Dakota created forage shortages for some areas in western South Dakota. This is very important to consider as we go into the fall/winter months. Producers are trying to find better ways to manage and evaluate their feeding program. Low-quality forages might be an option to feed cattle this year. When evaluating low-quality forages as cheaper alternative feeds, it is important to determine the value of the feed, if there is equipment available to deliver, and if additional supplemental nutrients are needed.

Alfalfa production was considered to be average with a maximum of five cuttings in some areas of eastern South Dakota and an average of two in areas to the west. At this point, no harvest should be considered as we are experiencing low temperatures at night and there will not be enough time for carbohydrates to be stored into the root system for winter.

Phil Kaatz
Forage and Field Crop Educator
Michigan State University-Extension

Michigan is wrapping up its forage season on a very positive note considering the variable weather we experienced this year. The hot, dry conditions in early summer were followed by above-average temperatures and favorable rains into the fall. For those who needed more tons of forage in the form of haylage or corn silage, the rains were welcomed. For those who needed to have good hay drying weather, the harvest was completed, but with plenty of angst to go around. Inventories will remain in very good shape going into the winter months.

Corn silage harvest was completed near the first part of October and overall yields are in normal ranges. Most sandy textured soils burned up in July and had little forage value; fortunately, these acres were a very small percentage of the overall silage crop. Silage moistures were a challenge due to the rapid dry down of the corn, so getting a dense pack was an issue for some producers if they waited too long to harvest.

While most dairy producers will be waiting several months to start feeding the new corn silage, there are scattered reports of producers opening up silos and feeding the new crop. The early feeders are saying this year’s crop is more digestible compared to last year, and so far they’ve seen little to no drop in milk production. If the early reports of good digestibility hold, milk production should hold steady when the new crop starts to be fed. Of course, the final verdict on digestibility is always verified by the cows and their milk production.

Most of the state has not received a killing frost, and the above-average temperatures have allowed for some terrific grazing stockpiles.