Forage Report – June 5, 2013


First-cut yields are quite variable, depending on location and management. Rains have delayed harvest for many, increasing yields but decreasing quality. In wetter areas, some haylage was rain-damaged and fields have been “rutted”.  Grasses are more advanced in maturity than alfalfa. With tight forage supplies, and high land and forage costs, reducing fermentation dry matter losses (shrink) and improving bunklife and forage quality by using a proven haylage inoculant easily pays for itself. (Silage Inoculants )

Alfalfa weevil is still feeding in some areas. Where populations are high, scout to determine if larvae feeding of 2nd cut regrowth warrants spraying. (Alfalfa Weevil Armyworm is also beginning to be reported in some hayfields. Control is warranted when 5 or more larvae (smaller than 1 inch) per square foot are found, or 2 – 3 larvae (< 1 inch) per square foot in new seedings.

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. Be sure to use enough plastic! Although a minimum of 6 mils of plastic film has typically been recommended, 8 mils or more is preferable, particularly with drier baleage. Make firm, dense, uniform bales. Large squares are usually denser than rounds. Bale at 40 – 55 % moisture. Lower moistures can also work and make nice 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. Avoid incorporating soil when raking to minimize contamination by clostridia bacteria. Do not incorporate soil into the windrow with the rake. Avoid fields contaminated by manure. Avoid mature hay with low sugar content. Be sure to repair all tears and holes in the plastic.

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.