Forage Report – June 11, 2015

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With recent storms and heavy rains this week, haying has been placed on hold. Yields are quite variable, with some very disappointing yields being reported in western and central Ontario (60 – 100% of normal). Yields are closer to normal (85- 100%) in eastern Ontario. Dry weather in late-April and May limited forage growth and yield (particularly grassier fields), but other factors have contributed as well, including winter injury, fall cutting, poor fertility, and frost damage. However, some high quality 1st-cut haylage, baleage and dry hay has been made.

With lots of moisture now, applying nitrogen to second-cut regrowth of grassy fields will provide extra yield. (Apply Nitrogen To Grass Stands To Increase Yield http://fieldcropnews.com/?p=6830) There have been a few isolated reports of hail damage to alfalfa. To help make decisions, refer to http://ipcm.wisc.edu/blog/2012/05/managing-hail-damaged-alfalfa-and-red-clover/ by Dr Dan Undersander, University of Wisconsin.

Reduce Harvest & Storage Losses

With some concern about adequate forage inventories, it is important to minimize hay harvest and storage losses. Remove hay bales from the field as soon as possible to prevent spoilage and minimize traffic damage of regrowth. Store dry hay under cover and off the ground to prevent spoilage. Proper hay sheds are easier to justify with the currently higher hay prices.

If making silage, reduce fermentation dry matter losses (shrink) and improve bunklife and forage quality by using a proven haylage inoculant. (Silage Inoculants http://fieldcropnews.com/?p=7159) Making “baleage” can provide excellent quality forage, but must be managed properly to minimize potential spoilage losses. It is critical to use enough layers of plastic so that no oxygen can enter the bale! (“Baleage Tips” http://fieldcropnews.com/?p=3531)

Hay Perservatives

Commercial propionate hay preservatives can be used to inhibit mould growth and heating while bales “sweat” and cure over time as moisture dissipates from the bales in storage. Use the correct application rate according to the percent moisture of the hay. Because large square bales are more dense, they require more acid than other bale types of similar moisture. Probe-type hand-held electronic moisture testers can be subject to variability and error. They should be calibrated to factors that can influence readings, such as forage species, bale type, acid and bale density. It is essential that hay storages have adequate ventilation to enable moisture to dissipate from bales. Tightly stacking bales should be avoided. Don’t store preservative treated and untreated dry hay in direct contact with each other as the moisture will migrate to the dry hay. (Preventing Mouldy Hay Using Propionate Preservatives http://fieldcropnews.com/?p=3655)

Soil Fertility

Low soil fertility reduces forage yield and persistence. Forages have high P and K removal rates. A tonne of mixed hay removes about 14 lbs P2O5 and 58 lbs of K2O, currently equivalent to about 1.5¢ per lb of hay. Without replacement with manure or commercial fertilizer, soil tests will drop quickly. If a soil test is below 120 ppm K, you can expect a yield response from top-dressing potassium. (http://fieldcropnews.com/?p=3760 )

Nitrogen applied to grassy fields with adequate moisture will increase yields. (http://fieldcropnews.com/?p=6830 ) Fertilizer and liquid manure should be applied immediately after harvest to minimize wheel traffic damage. (“Manure Applied To Forage Has Value” http://fieldcropnews.com/2013/05/7189/)

Some alfalfa is showing symptons of sulphur deficiency. Tissue testing of alfalfa (at bud to first-flower, top 6 inches, 35 stems) can be used to determine sulphur deficiencies. The critical level below which there may be an economic benefit from applying sulphur is 0.25% S. (Sulphur On Alfalfa http://fieldcropnews.com/?p=9092)

Ontario Forage Expos – July 7 & 9

On the 10th Anniversary of Ontario Forage Expo, the Ontario Forage Council is introducing a second location in eastern Ontario. On Tuesday, July 7th, Forage Expo will take place in Waterloo, near the town of Elmira at Ontowa Farm, farmed by Ralph, Judy, Ryan and Phil Martin. On Thursday, July 9th Forage Expo will move to Dundas County where the Westervelt Family will host the event on Westergreen Farm near Brinston. Farmers and agribusiness will have the opportunity to see displays and demonstrations of the latest innovations in forage harvest technologies. http://www.ontarioforagecouncil.com/images/2015_Brochure2.pdf