Forage Road Trip – September 27, 2016
|By Hay and Forage Grower|
Visits to Idaho, New York, and Wisconsin
Extension workers in eastern Idaho reported getting an unprecedented three cuttings of alfalfa at the Tetonia Research Center. This site, just west of the Teton Mountains, is 6,200 feet in elevation and has a short growing season. Most varieties averaged about 2 tons for each of the three cuttings, with the best varieties beating 7 tons per acre.
South central Idaho received about 1 inch of precipitation this week, which will substantially delay some fourth-cutting baling. The rain will also delay corn silage harvest for a few days.
Due to an unusually hot summer, the corn crop matured slightly ahead of normal, so silage harvest has been progressing rapidly. Unfortunately, too fast in many cases since the short corn crop is taking more rows to fill a truck or dump wagon. As they have all season, conditions differ greatly across northern New York, with the eastern portions in much better shape than the western part. Much of the state has been designated as in slight or moderate drought, with some areas in far western New York particularly hard hit.
Grass hay and haylage production has been simply terrible in most of the state. One way to tell just how bad is watching a farmer greenchop a grass hayfield that’s not much more than a foot high. One good thing about greenchop versus windrowing for harvest as haylage: You don’t know for sure how pitifully small the windrows would be!
I expect more than a normal acreage of fall-harvested alfalfa, especially on farms that had a short corn silage crop and are, therefore, badly in need of forage. Many areas had just enough rain to make for a decent fall crop. Of course, harvesting alfalfa in the fall is often a case of “robbing Peter to pay Paul” since this so often results in more winter damage and, therefore, lower first-cut yields the following May. Fall-harvested alfalfa is far from my favorite forage, but as the old-timers say, it’s better than snowballs.
The last-cutting alfalfa has largely been harvested. Some grassy fields will continue to be harvested throughout the month.
Corn silage has been harvested in southern Wisconsin with some remaining in central regions. With more than adequate forage supplies, many have cut the corn silage higher than normal, sacrificing yield for quality.
The heavy rains have caused flooding in some regions of the western part of the state. Flooding has the potential to thin alfalfa stands. If the water stands for five to seven days or longer, the phytophthora oocytes can multiply and cause root damage, which may not show up as plant death until next year. Check fields later this fall to determine if roots have been rotted off and make stand decisions accordingly.
Also consider that forage from flooded fields may have additional ash. Sample forage and have a wet chemistry analysis done to determine if ash content is elevated.