Forage Report – June 20, 2012

First-cut hay is still underway, while 2nd-cut is starting on early-cut fields. Armyworm is still being reported in hayfields at high levels in some hot spots in western Ontario. It is also reported in central and eastern Ontario, but not yet at severe levels.  Some is being sprayed, but most infested fields are being harvested.

Humid, wet weather in some areas has made dry hay making more challenging. Lots of hay preservative and plastic wrap are being used.

Hay storage is often a weak link. To minimize spoilage losses, bales stored outside should be properly covered to shed rain and snow. Wicking of moisture can be very significant, so use pallets or crushed stone to keep them off the ground. Six inches of spoilage around the outside of a round bale represents 20% of the volume of a 5 foot diameter bale, and 25% of the volume of a 4 foot bale. This is equivalent to leaving 10 acres of hay out of every 40 in the field to rot.  The cost of indoor storage is only a small proportion of the total cost of producing hay, and is easily recoverable by maintaining forage quality and minimizing spoilage losses. Proper hay storage ventilation is important so that moisture can continue to dissipate from bales. The use of pallets prevents spoilage of the bottom row of bales. Hay intended for the horse market should not be allowed to sun bleach.

Low soil fertility reduces forage yield and persistence. Forages have high P and K removal rates, about 14 lbs P2O5 and 54 lbs of K2O per tonne of mixed hay, equivalent to about 2.0¢ per lb. Without replacement with manure or commercial fertilizer, soil tests drop quickly. If a soil test is below 120 ppm K, you can expect a yield response from top-dressing potassium.  Nitrogen applied to grassy fields with adequate moisture will increase yields. A rule of thumb is 50 – 60 lbs/ac actual N per tonne of yield expected in the next cut. Apply fertilizer and liquid manure immediately after harvest to minimize wheel traffic damage.