Welcome to the first Forage Quality Scissors Cut report for 2018. This year we are sampling 41 sites in Delaware County and the NYC Watershed. The late, cold and snowy spring has delayed hay growth, but height measurements this week are surprisingly similar to other recent years.
The most advanced grass fields tested around 40% NDF this week, we recommend harvesting at 50% NDF. A rule of thumb is for grass to increase about 1 point of NDF per day, so with the forecast for the next couple weeks near average we would not expect any fields to reach target NDF in the next week. Grass maturity is behind average and we predict it will be ready for harvest a few days later than normal. Table 1 has each sample location, listed by Town and elevation, and lists the species sampled, average height, and neutral detergent fiber (aNDFom). NDF is the best predictor for forage harvest timing, we recommend grasses be harvested starting about 50% NDF and Alfalfa about 40% NDF, with mixed stands between 40 and 50 based on the alfalfa content. We have included 24 hour Neutral Detergent Fiber Digestibility (NDFD), a measure of how quickly and completely forage can be digested in a cow’s rumen, larger numbers are better. Also is a column for un-digestible Fiber (uNDF240), this is a measure of the fiber that will never be digested, and is correlated with how much of a forage a cow can eat, determining dry matter intake potential. Lower uNDF240 is better. Click here for a printable version
Forage Quality Matters
A recent Hoard’s Dairyman article (Fight low milk prices with high-forage diets, April 25, 2018 page 278) highlights a feeding study at Virginia Tech comparing a 60% forage diet to a 40% forage diet. It concludes, “high-forage diets improved income over feed cost by $1.90 per hundredweight”. We know many Delaware County dairies currently achieve this level of forage feeding, and we know good yields of highly digestible forage is the key. A timely first cut is the essential first step to an adequate inventory of high quality feed. It’s our goal to provide this weekly crop progress report to support you in planning for a successful hay harvest season.
It looks like this week will be a good week to get corn planted, weather permitting, and to get harvest equipment shined up and ready. We will sample again on the May 15 and send results on or about May 17.