Forage Road Trip - June 28, 2016
|By Hay and Forage Grower|
Visits to Texas, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania
Soil moisture indexes around the state are beginning to drop as higher temperatures and sunny days mark summer’s arrival. Areas that were saturated or flooded have had an opportunity to dry out and allow crops to recover and grow. Other areas have been passed over by rainfall and are now showing signs of stress from lack of moisture.
In general, hay production is about a month behind due to the wet spring and cooler temperatures early on. For the most part, livestock pastures throughout the state are green and growing. Grasshopper populations are beginning to emerge as most of the state continues to stay dry. In the Coastal Bend, corn is being harvested, while in parts of the Panhandle some late corn and sorghum fields have yet to be planted.
As we move into summer, insect pests will become a concern for most producers (sugarcane aphid in sorghum, bermudagrass stem maggot, and so forth). Weather has definitely made for an interesting year and season in Texas.
Most of the state experienced above-average rainfall this spring with many cloudy, drizzly days. The first good haymaking window was the first two weeks of June. Even top alfalfa and alfalfa/grass producers had to delay first cutting on some fields until early June. In short, hay yields are for the most part excellent, but quality is down. Buyers looking for high-quality hay from the region should be patient and wait for the completion of second and later harvests.
Wheat straw is used extensively for horse bedding in central Kentucky and was in short supply coming out of last year. In some cases rye straw is being used, but we are cautioning buyers to inspect it closely because most rye straw is actually fully mature plants that have been cut and baled. With the wet weather, ergot could be an issue; in addition, fully mature rye seedheads can irritate mouthparts.
Pasture growth has been excellent in 2016 for most of the state. The main question coming to extension agents and specialists is how to stay ahead of the rapid growth. This year there is increased interest in the use of high-quality summer annuals like brown midrib sorghum-sudangrass and crabgrass.
On a sad note, Kentucky and the nation have lost a forage champion in Russell Hackley, who passed away recently. Russell left a huge legacy for the future. He inspired us all to continue to improve grazing management, pay close addition to detail, and always push the envelope toward excellence in every area of life.
Similar to other areas of the country, spring alfalfa seedings have resulted in poor, uneven stands, likely due to the unseasonabley cold spring Pennsylvania experienced after the alfalfa was planted. Much of Pennsylvania is now slightly dry, providing ideal conditions for completing the first cutting of dry hay, but causing the regrowth of hay and the growth of corn and other summer crops to be slow. However, pop-up thunderstorms have provided some needed rainfall over the past two weeks across most of the state.
Much of Pennsylvania is in the middle of or finishing up the second cutting of alfalfa and the first cutting of hay is coming to an end, with reports of yields in both crops being very high and good quality. Central Pennsylvania continues to have adequate rainfall for forage growth, with not much of a summer slump showing up in pastures yet. Summer annuals for grazing and silage, such as millet, sorghums, and sudangrasses, have been planted.
Wheat is drying down and the harvest is about to get underway.