Forage Report – May 9, 2012

Anticipated yields and maturity of the forage crop is extremely variable across the province. Many alfalfa fields are yellow with dandelions, indicating weak stands and reduced yields. On closer examination by digging plants, many of these fields are experiencing crown and root rots, including brown root rot ( Risk factors that contributed to weak alfalfa stands include older stand age, poorly drained soils that were saturated last fall, and fields that were harvested during the Critical Fall Harvest Period.  Plant health in disease infected stands will continue to decline. Both diseased and frost damaged stands will suffer reduced yields. Forage inventories are expected to be tight in many areas. Assess fields and make forage inventory, crop rotation and alternate forage plans accordingly.


Maturity of alfalfa is extremely variable, so cutting according to a calendar date may not result in optimum forage quality. Although alfalfa broke dormancy extremely early in March, this has been followed by some cool dry weather. Frost damaged alfalfa will be delayed, as growing points were damaged and plants had to form new crown and axillary buds. Weak, diseased stands have also been slow to green-up and develop, and will have a greater proportion of grass. Growing Degree Day models are unlikely to be very accurate. Dairy producers should consider doing some “scissors-cut” sampling and rapid laboratory analysis to predict optimal harvest dates.