First-cut dairy haylage is in full swing as the weather permits. Some farms are finished. The dry spring weather limited forage growth in some areas, particularly grassier fields, forage winter cereals, ryegrass, and alfalfa fields that were older, winter injured or fall harvested. Where severe frost occured on May 23rd, some alfalfa growth and development was delayed. (Frost Damaged Alfalfa http://fieldcropnews.com/?p=6812) Yield potential is quite variable, depending on location and management. Forage crops in eastern Ontario generally look good, but some in western and central Ontario are reported as having below normal yield potential. Some poorer fields will be harvested soon and replanted into soybeans or sorghum-sudangrass. New seedings loook much better with recent rains. The window of opportunity for spraying is closing or closed, so monitor these fields for timing of herbicide application. (Successful Forage Establishment http://fieldcropnews.com/?p=9535) Some alfalfa weevil damage is being reported. At this time, the preferred option is to cut. (http://fieldcropnews.com/2015/06/cereal-leaf-beetle-and-alfalfa-weevil/ )
Making “baleage” can provide quality forage by reducing the risk of rain damage in shorter harvest windows. However, it must be managed to reduce the risk of spoilage. The risk of spoilage can be frustrating to novices. There is little room to cut corners. It is critical to use enough layers of plastic so that no oxygen can enter the bale! Although a minimum of 6 mils of plastic film has typically been recommended, at least 8 mils or more is preferable, particularly with drier baleage and square bales. Make firm, dense, uniform bales. Large squares are usually denser than rounds. Bale at 40 – 55 % moisture. Lower moistures can also work and make excellent baleage, particularly with large square bales wrapped with adequate plastic, but can be at a greater risk of spoilage if done incorrectly. Wrap round bales within 2 hours of baling on hot days and within 4-12 hours at cooler temperatures. Large square bales are more forgiving of later wrapping. Avoid using hay that was rained on. If raking, minimize contamination by clostridia bacteria by ensuring the rake tines do not touch the ground and incorporating soil. Avoid fields contaminated by manure. Avoid stemmy, mature hay with low sugar content. Be sure to repair all tears and holes in the plastic. (“Baleage Tips” http://fieldcropnews.com/?p=3531)
Sulphur On Alfalfa
We are seeing more situations where there is a yield response when applying sulphur (S) to alfalfa. Sometimes in field trials the response is quite dramatic, while in others there is no response. S deficient alfalfa plants are short, spindly, and light-green. S deficiencies are more likely to occur on low organic matter soils, and soils that have not had a recent manure application. Tissue testing of alfalfa (at mid-bud to early-flower stage) is a suitable diagnostic tool to determine S deficiencies. Sample the top 6 inches of 30 – 40 stems, air dry them and send them to a laboratory. The critical level below which alfalfa is considered S deficient is 0.25%.
A general thumb rule for S application on alfalfa is 5 lbs/acre per ton of dry matter yield. Sulphur must be in the sulphate form to be taken up by the plant. Sulphate fertilizers include ammonium sulphate (34 – 0 – 0 – 24), potassium sulphate (0 – 0 – 50 – 18), sulphate of potash magnesia (Sul-Po-Mag or K-Mag) (0 – 0 – 22 – 20) and calcium sulphate (gypsum) (0 – 0 – 0 – 17). Elemental sulphur (0-0-0-90) consists of finely ground sulphur that has been pelletized. It is much cheaper than sulphate, but must be slowly converted by oxidation to sulphate by soil bacteria before plants can utilize it. A single application of elemental sulphur rather than sulphate, provides a cheaper, longer term S source and reduces the need for annual applications. An application of 50 lbs/ac of elemental-S should last the life of a productive 3 year alfalfa stand. Applying elemental-S bulk blended with other fertilizer is the most cost effective method of providing S, but an application of sulphate provides a more immediate yield response. (Sulphur On Alfalfa http://fieldcropnews.com/?p=9092)
Liquid Manure After 1st Cut Haylage
Applying liquid manure immediately after alfalfa haylage harvest improves both yield and forage quality. A rule of thumb is to apply no more than 50 lbs/ac as ammonium-N. That is typically about 4,000 gal/ac of dairy manure, but there is a wide range in dry matters. A manure analysis will provide a more accurate number. Just as important is how quickly it is applied after the haylage is taken off, before regrowth. (“Manure Applied To Forage Has Value” http://fieldcropnews.com/2013/05/7189/ “ Johnes Disease – Should Manure Be Applied To Forage?” http://fieldcropnews.com/2012/05/johne%e2%80%99s-disease-should-manure-be-applied-to-forages/