Forage crop growth is delayed about 7 – 10 days behind normal. First-cut yield expectations are quite variable, with some winter injured, older, and fall harvested stands showing reduced yield potential. There is concern beginning to develop in some areas about producing adequate forage to meet livestock requirements. Grass stands have responded very well to early applied nitrogen with significantly more growth.
Timing 1st Cut Dairy Haylage
Dairy producers are monitoring alfalfa maturity and haylage harvest will be in full swing in many parts of the province the week of May 26th. Dairy producers generally target harvesting first-cut alfalfa haylage at an optimum 40% NDF to balance digestible energy with adequate fibre. “Scissors-cut” field sampling and rapid laboratory analysis can help predict optimal alfalfa harvest dates. “PEAQ stick” estimates of NDF are also useful. If practical, delaying harvest of stressed fields will improve plant health and increase yield. With a cool spring, growth (percentage yield of stand) and maturity of grasses are usually more advanced than the alfalfa. In mixed stands, be sure to watch the maturity of the grasses when making cutting decisions. (Using Scissors Cutting & PEAQ Sticks To Optimize Forage Quality http://fieldcropnews.com/?p=2610)
Fall Rye & Triticale
The most advanced fall rye is at the flag-leaf to boot stage on May 21st, with triticale slightly behind. Many dairy farmers target harvest at the flag-leaf stage for high nutrient quality. Delaying harvest to early-head will reduce digestible energy, but increase yield. (Double Cropping Fall Rye For Extra Forage” http://fieldcropnews.com/?p=5241)
Planting Corn Silage After 1st Cut?
Some alfalfa fields severely damage by winterkill are being harvested early to be planted into corn for silage. Planting as soon as possible and adequate moisture are essential to successful corn silage yields. (Corn Planting Following Early Hay Harvests www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/field/forages/corn_earlyhay.htm)
Frost & Hail
Some light frost the weekend of May 17th did very little damage. (“Frost Damaged Alfalfa” http://fieldcropnews.com/?p=6812 ) There have been a few isolated reports of hail damage to alfalfa. To help make the decision whether to cut or not, refer to http://ipcm.wisc.edu/blog/2012/05/managing-hail-damaged-alfalfa-and-red-clover/ by Dan Undersander, University of Wisconsin.