Tag: Forage Quality

Short on Feed Inventory? Increase Grass Yield This Spring!

The Yield and Economic Response is Solid (Virtually Guaranteed, Nearly a Sure-Bet etc.)
Wet weather last summer has left many farms with tight forage inventories this spring. Budgets are probably even tighter. Year in and year out, one of the most reliable crop production investments is nitrogen fertilization of grass crops in the spring. Applying 75 to 100 lbs nitrogen per acre at green up increases yields (about 50% more in first cut) and quality (about 4 points higher CP and 3 points lower NDF). The graph below shows Forage Income over the Cost of N fertilizer from a N response trial in Delaware County a few years ago. N application, at recommended rates, gave a significant return even if fertilizer prices are well above what we expect to see this spring.


Cutting Management Critical
Cutting management goes with N fertilization. Early cut grass is highly digestible, and most of you know from experience that cows perform when you feed it. When N is not applied, many are reluctant to cut when grass is at peak quality, deferring to wait for more yield. Fertilized fields have good growth at peak quality, and fields cut early regrow quickly and usually will have a nearly equal second cut 30 days later. N fertilization and aggressive cutting management.

When is the Right Time?
So, when is the right time to begin grass harvest? The chart below shows fiber content (NDF%) and fiber digestibility (NDFD) by the day in May taken from the past 11 years of scissors cut samples in Delaware County. The long term average is for grass to reach the optimum NDF level (50%NDF) for starting grass harvest on May 16,. You will also notice that as the month progresses, fiber digestibility trends down as fiber content goes up. More mature grass has more fiber and that fiber is less digestible, meaning a cow can eat less (fewer pounds) and gets less energy from each pound she eats. Watch the scissor cut reports to see how this year’ crop develops and be ready to begin harvest when the first weather opportunity hits.


Fertilization Strategies
Grass needs Sulphur too, so it’s becoming more common to see a little ammonium sulfate (AMS) mixed with urea for grass topdress, especially where there is little or no manure history (manure is an excellent source of Sulphur). Consider a 75% uea-25% AMS blend. Our recommendations are to apply N at green up in the spring (early-mid April, depending on the year) If you’re applying urea this early, you should consider a nitrogen stabilizer to protect your fertilizer investment from wafting off with the breeze, if the application cannot be timed close to a rain fall. Later application also will likely benefit, but the chances of good conditions, rainfall and rapid N uptake, are better then.
When grass has good fertility, first cutting yields are high yielding and of excellent quality. Highly digestible forages have always been a key factor in low cost rations. So in a year with tight margins and tight forage inventories, fertilizing those core grass fields, where aggressive harvest is going to happen, is a sound investment.

Scissors Cut Report 5/24/2018

Mow, Mow as Fast as You Can

Hay has continued to grow rapidly this week and grass fields are at target NDF.  Legume/grass stands have also reached their target NDF as of this sampling.  Harvest of grass and mixed stands should progress as rapidly as possible.  Legume fields are 5 to 7 days away from target NDF.

Grasses and legumes grew an average of 7 inches this week and increased by an average of 1 point of NDF per day this past week.  NDF digestibility is still above 70%, but as grasses mature digestibility decreases rapidly as stem elongation advances.  We recommend pausing corn planting and completing harvest of core acres as soon as possible.

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 harvest of grasses 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), is correlated with how much of a forage a cow can eat, determining dry matter intake potential. Lower uNDF240 is better.

Haylage in a Day

As is often the case, we had a one day weather window this week, and several farms were able to take advantage and get a field or two done.  The key is mowing in a wide swath (80% + of mower width if possible), even tedding after a couple hours of drying.  Rapid dry down preserves more sugar in the forage aiding in better fermentation and more digestible nutrients.  More days available for harvest and more nutrients per pound of forage are a winning combination.  Click here for a web page with a good description of the concept.

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.

Click Delaware County Scissor Cut 5_24_18 for a printable pdf of this report.

Scissor Cut Results 5/17/18

Grass Is a Go, Time to Mow

Hay has grown rapidly during the past week and many grass fields have reached target NDF. A few grass fields are slightlybelow target but we would expect most to reach the target within the week. Several mixed stands with less than 50% legume are also near target NDF as of this sampling. We recommend starting grass harvest as soon as is practical. Mixed stands with less than 50% legume content should be considered for harvest soon. Mixed stand with more than 50% Legume content look to be at least a week away from target NDF.
The most advanced grass fields tested around 50% NDF this week, right at the recommend harvesting stage. Grass fields increased about 1.5 point of NDF per day this past week, which is greater than average, but not unprecedented. The first early orchardgrass heads appeared this week and grasses will continue to mature rapidly.
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.
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’s time for the 2018 harvest season to begin.
We will sample again on the May 22 and send results on or about May 24.

Happy Harvesting

(Click Delaware County Scissor Cut 5 17 18  for a pdf of this report)

Table 1: Forage Height and Fiber Content 5/15/2018

Farm Town Elevation Species Ht (in) aNDFom NDFD uNDF240
Darling Andes 2080 Clover(40%)/T Fesc 8/13 34.1 82 6.3
Evans Andes 2240 Orchardgrass 9 48.6 78 10.3
Weber Bovina 2060 Orchardgrass 16 49.2 77 8.5
Mattson Colchester 1070 Alfalfa(70%)/T Fesc 18/17 29.9 64 8.9
Keator Davenport 1770 Tall Fescue 14 46.5 74 10.5
Board Delhi 2120 Orchardgrass 18 43.6 83 8
Maxwell Delhi 1480 Alfalfa(40%)/grass 13/18 33.4 73 9.6
Mushkoday Delhi 1340 Alfalfa 17 27.7 60 10.6
Sherwood Delhi 1610 Mixed Grass 15 45.9 75 8.5
Schaefer Deposit 1320 Alfalfa 17 23.4 75 8.8
Grant Franklin 1660 Alfalfa(50%)/TFesc 12/18 42.7 68 9.9
Taggart Franklin 1750 Orchardgrass 12 51.4 68 9.3
Baldauf Hamden 1650 Clover(30%)/grass 10 38.8 83 9.8
Merrill Hamden 2050 Alfalfa(30%)/orch 12/14 36.5 74 9.9
Moody Hamden 2100 Meadow Fescue 15 47.5 79 9.4
Hillriegel Hardenburgh 1670 Mixed Grass 17 46.8 83 7
Bedford Harpersfield 1820 Alfalfa(50%)/orch 12/18 35.8 77 7.5
Bedford Harpersfield 1820 Tall Fescue 16 50.4 70 8.3
Hager Kortright 2000 Tall Fescue 12 47.2 73 8.6
Schmid Kortright 2270 Orchardgrass 12 47.9 76 8.1
Sebastian Kortright 1620 Orchardgrass 16 53.9 71 7.5
Bell Masonville 1170 Orchardgrass 15 52.2 75 8.1
DiBenedetto Middletown 1720 Clover(25%)/Orch 10/18 50.8 78 7.3
Gray Middletown 1910 Orchardgrass 15 48.5 74 10.6
Gockel Roxbury 1680 Clover(20%)/grass 7/14 44.2 77 10.3
Kuhn Roxbury 1980 Mixed Grass 18 45.4 81 9.4
Sanford Roxbury 1890 Orchardgrass 18 42.7 82 7.2
Johnson Sidney 1020 Alfalfa 18 29.4 77 12.8
Dai-Lil Farm Stamford 1820 Clover(25%)/TFesc 11/18 36.9 88 9.6
Deysenroth Stamford 1610 Orchardgrass 20 52.4 76 7.2
Hanselman Stamford 1500 Alfalfa*(75%)/MFesc 16/16 30 73 11.4
Hanselman Stamford 1500 Alfalfa(75%)/MFesc 13/15 29.2 83 10.1
Martin Stamford 1520 Alfalfa(60%)/orch 16/21 30 65 9.7
McClure Stamford 2010 Alfalfa(50%)/orch 12/15 39.2 74 8
Palmatier Stamford 2020 Orchardgrass 15 48.7 84 8.3
Reinshagen Stamford 1820 Mixed Grass 16 45.3 82 11.6
LaTourette Tompkins 1210 Alfalfa(25%)/grass 12/14 46.5 71 9
Shelton Tompkins 1340 Mixed Grass 14 48.9 77 7.3
Pieper Walton 1390 Orchardgrass 18 49.8 82 11.5
Pieper Walton 1230 Clover(50%)/TFesc 11/15 46.5 75 8.2
Wickham Walton 1280 Alfalfa(70%)/orch 15/21 37.7 68 9.5

 

Scissor Cut Results 5/10/18

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 Chart of grass height measurements 2006-2018this 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.