Why Masters Choice? – By Daniel Olson

Sometimes you just get lucky. As you probably know, Byron Seeds is an independent research and marketing company in the area of forages and how they affect your livestock. We have become the largest “high-energy” forage seed company in the Midwest by being “cutting edge” and futuristic when it comes to trends in agriculture.

We would like to think that this is because we are farmers too and that gives us an inside track on determining the needs of farmers, but… sometimes we just get lucky. Masters Choice is a perfect example of this!

The Masters Choice story starts in the late 70’s when a plant breeder named John Rucker had this unique idea of what he wanted a corn plant to look like. This was before corn silage was as popular as it is today and insect traits were not even an option. John wanted a grain corn plant that was naturally insect tolerant and one that had enough plant health to withstand drought and disease. John succeeded and the “Master Farmer” corn lineup was built. [This soon became “Masters Choice” when th owners of RBA Seeds tragically died in a plane crash and the father and widows choose to allow John to buyMaster Farmr division]. Back to the corn story, there was a catch though, (isn’t there always!) John’s secret to getting these benefits was that he bred higher sugar levels into these corn plants. These plants retained that sugar later into their maturity than other corn hybrids. This sugar did great things for plant health but kept the kernels soft and lowered bushel weight. Unfortunately for John, the industry at that time was heading the opposite way –toward higher bushel weights and flintier corn due to the amount of corn that was being exported to China and Russia at the time. Advanced starch availability testing was not even thought of and no one knew about the advantages of floury starch. John’s corn didn’t sell very well.

Well, John believed in his product and continued to work on it for the next 20 some years. That was when Lyn Crabtree, a Dairy Nutritionist and a Byron Seed dealer who was working with Byron’s tested some Masters Choice corn silage on one of his dairies. This silage fed better than anything he had ever seen. He contacted John to find out what made his corn unique … and Byron Seed got acquainted with Masters Choice Hybrids.

What we found was an incredible silage corn that both yielded and had amazing quality. We found corn that produced more sugar than was needed to make the corn grain and retained its plant sugar longer than other hybrids and because of this and the extra stalk density that the sugar enabled, we found silage that fermented quicker. We have found that John was right about natural insect resistance and drought tolerance and we have found that the need for fungicides and corn processors decrease with Master’s Choice hybrids.

We found other unintended consequences with Masters Choice Hybrids including the softer corn kernels which are recognized as being more available to the cow and is especially important as the price of a bushel of corn has skyrocketed. We also found Masters Choice retains an old-fashion trait of “flex.” This allows a lower population planting but still retains the yield to compete with (and beat) today’s “big corn company” hybrids as both the stalks and the ears flex. We found that it takes fewer bags of corn purchased to plant the same acres. Many farmers have found long ears exceeding 20 rows! We have found many of our MC corn silage and HM corn hybrids will produce a white or pink cob with higher digestibility of the cob, also.

We have seen Masters Choice win silage plots from Pennsylvania to Minnesota. We have seen it yield than Pioneer, stand better than DeKalb and have more “milk per ton ” than Mycogen’s BMR.

We have heard from farmers telling us that they can now feed less corn if that grain is a Masters Choice floury hybrid. We have heard from farmers telling about increased milk production and components and how Masters Choice has helped them become more profitable. And we hear back from more of those farmers every year wanting to order more Master’s Choice corn seed for their farms.

Behind every success are some people with talent, inspiration and perseverance. But sometimes it doesn’t hurt to get lucky, too!

Old Things Become New! Why Clover Should be in your Hayfield – by Larry Hawkins

As we become older, a useful skill to develop is to make old things become new again. I, have been forced (kicking and screaming) into this predicament, myself. One huge advantage with using “old technologies” is that us old geezers can be at least partially familiar with the process and not have to start completely from scratch.

In the forage business, I have been in the (winning) battle for the acceptance of grasses back into alfalfa stands. Even though the grasses are new not old, i.e., modern European genetics that add yield and quality to the resulting forage crop. Another example, is the resuscitating the use of cover crops into modern crop farming in the place of more chemicals. Modern crops, like deep rooted annual ryegrasses, vetches, annual clovers and tillage radishes are starting to be viewed as much better solutions to improving soil structure, increasing organic matter,  improving porosity and water-holding capacity and scavenging otherwise lost fertility.

A new idea (except for a few diehards, but still not with wide acceptance) is to reintroduce red clover in the mix with our alfalfa and tall fescue. The reason for my epiphany was that I got some new samples of forage to rebalance a ration and was jolted into awareness by the test results of a sample of red clover balage. It had a NDF-d of 65%! Remember NDF-d measures the digestibility of the most indigestible fraction of a forage, the NDF. Typical NDF-d’s of alfalfa haylage center around 45%. Twenty points of increased digestibility is a big deal. Please bear in
mind, I am not saying that we should eliminate alfalfa where we can grow it successfully; just that maybe we should reconsider clover as part of the mix, especially when we are looking at keeping alfalfa for only three rotations anyway. Clover will add to the quality.

The benefits of alfalfa are many and well known. However, let’s look at what modern improved varieties of red clover bring to the table:

  • More winter hardiness

  • Clover better tolerates “wet feet”

  • Not as dependant on high soil pH

  • Has higher RUP or bypass protein than alfalfa by almost double.

Work at the USDA Forage Research Center in Wisconsin with red clover replacing alfalfa showed:

  • Dairy cows had reduced feed intakes with red clover-based diets, but had similar milk yield and produced less manure. This is the result of increased digestility.

  • Less crude protein was converted to NPN, which improved dietary protein efficiency and reduced manure nitrogen

To be sure, when I searched all my data bases and threw in all the samples of clover I could get from Dairyland Labs, the samples of clover haylage did not average 65%, but rather 53.4% at 30 hours. In work at Cal-West, a major breeder of alfalfas and clovers I found with pure clover and alfalfa harvested in research plots on exactly the same day, Clover averaged 7.8% higher than alfalfa in NDF-d. When clover was harvested 3 to 4 days after the alfalfa, the clover still maintained a 3.6% advantage.

With the new improved varieties of red clover, with greater yields and persistence, maybe it is time to take another look. Even if you have to dry bale, Freedom Red Clover, with its lack of pubescence (or hairless stems) dries much like alfalfa. If dry baling is not an issue, Cyclone II has been a winner in both yield and persistence. Last, and not least, a new red clover, Emerald (limited supply), has a very impressive late season production.

How much clover should I sow? One of our larger Wisconsin dealers, Dave Storms is also very successful commercial balage producer, and delivers his product to dairies all over the Midwest. He has 2 to 3 pounds of clover and 10#’s of grass (mostly tall fescue) in every one of his hayfields. Yields of 7 to 8 tons of dry matter of dairy quality balage are standard for Dave. Embracing old things that have become new again at least makes the transitions less devastating for us old timers. Even old dogs can learn new tricks when the new tricks aren’t completely off the wall. And, I guess, Solomon was right about there’s nothing new under the sun.

Setting a Drill – by Ernest Weaver

Calibrating a drill, the only way to know for sure how much of a particular drill will deliver of a particular seed, must seem like too much work. The evidence is that everyone wants a magic chart that will be right for every seed and every drill. Wee, we want one, too! Here are some tips that can speed up the process of accurately putting the right amount of seed in the ground.

Seeds with commonly known bushel weights, like small grains Bushel weights being heavy or light compared to the accepted weights are the biggest chance for error in seeding small grains using the charts on the drill. Tim Huffman and Kurvin Zimmerman use a bushel weight scale (pictured on the right) to ascertain the actual bushel weight Tim Huffman says, “I’ve tried the old way as described In the 2010 Forage Resource Guide, but this works way better.

You first must obtain a bushel weight scale as pictured here. They are available from $40 to $65 on the internet or from the Nasco catalog. Measure the weight of the seed per bushel, say it is wheat, if it is different from the expected (for wheat 60Ibs). So let’s say the actual bushel weight is 57Ibs. Always divide the expected by the actual. So 60/57=1.05. So for every 100 pounds you want to seed, set the drill at 105. If your seed is not listed on the drill’s chart, pick a seed close to the same expected weight (triticale would use the wheat scale).

Grass Seeds not listed on the drill’s seed chart Tall fescues and festuloliums are exactly the same size and rygrasses and meadow fescues are only slightly different and should go in the large seedbox. If the seed chart lists “crested wheatgrass,” and many drills do, use that setting since this grass is exactly the same size and shape as tall fescue. If your chart doesn’t list crested wheatgrass you will be using the wheat setting chart. The setting for wheat at 20Ibs will be approximately the setting for 10Ibs of tall fescue and Festulolium and probably also the starting point for the other larger seeded grass (timothy, bluegrass and orchardgrass are the smaller seeded grasses and probably will be seeded thru the alfalfa box. Remember we said a “starting point” as every drill is different, but try it with a small amount of seed to get started in the right direction. The grass seeds are fluffier and less dense than wheat so this is the reason that the setting is higher for fescue than wheat.

Annuals Help Dairyman Feed His Cows – by Larry Hawkins

Brown Star Dairy sits at the eastern edge of the village limits of Gillette, Wisconsin. Shawano County is home to many recreational activities such as snowmobiling, fishing (a 6000 acre fishing and camping ake, Shawano Lake is nearby, (as I write this article in January 2013, the lake is well populated with ice-fishing huts!) Also, there is a county-sized Indian Reservation and it’s prerequisite casino. Besides all that, the area has many expanded dairies and there just isn’t much room to expand farming acres. Matt Bjelland, co-owner and manager has expanded his Brown Star Dairy operation from 180 cows ten years ago to its current size of 420 milk cows and 400 youngstock, but at this time, farms practically the same acreage that he did before the expansion! The total crop acreage has only increased 20 acres to 420 from the 400 he was farming in 2003.

In 2003, all the cows and heifers could be fed all their corn and forage from the farm. Now some corn and a few loads of heifer hay are purchased to complete the herd’s diets. What has changed is the addition of annuals especially spring and fall triticales plus Master Graze ( full bmr corn that is chopped for haylage at tasseling about 60 days after planting) into his otherwise traditional corn and alfalfa rotations. One other yield and quality increasing change was to add European sourced cool season grasses into the alfalfa seedings. These changes were all made at the recommendation of forage expert Daniel Olson, a Byron Seed Dealer.

About half of Bjelland’s corn acreage in any given fall is seeded down with Trical® Fall Triticale (Varieties 815 or 336). Basically the only fertilization for these acres is liquid manure which is applied just before or just after planting. In the late spring, the triticale is harvested at flag leaf stage for the milk cows. Some of this acreage is replanted into corn, but the acres that are headed for alfalfa/ grass seedings are planted with Master Graze® from Masters Choice. Master Graze, so named because it was originally thought to be able to regrow after grazing (no it can’t!), can be planted somewhat earlier than sorghum products (55°F instead of 60°F soil temperatures). This gives another even larger crop than the triticale (2-3 tons dairy quality triticale) compared to the 4 to 5 tons for the Master Graze and the Master Graze is harvested in only 60 days after planting leaving plenty of time for an August alfalfa/grass seeding. This strategy gives Matt approximately an additional 6 tons of dairy feed/acre over his traditional spring alfalfa seeding strategy.

Another part of the cropping strategy is the addition of cool season grass to Bjelland’s alfalfa stands. This improves both yield and quality  digestibility) of the haylage crop. The seeding rates are 12Ibs of alfalfa along with 8Ibs Byron’s Premium Hay Blend, a fifty/fifty mixture of the top two Tall Fescues in the world, Kora from DLF (Denmark) and BarElite from Barenbrug (Holland). These are both late-heading high- sugar grasses which are very digestible. Obviously, having higher digestibility in the total forage program, increases the amount of fed forage that actually becomes milk and decreases the amount of fed forage that becomes manure! A third key is the use of the long and short corn hybrids depending on whether the corn is following triticale or the land has been fallow since last fall. The interesting fact is that Matt has been using MC 590 from Masters Choice (116 days) and MC573 (111 days) as his longer varieties and MC530 (105 days) as his short one. After all, Brown Star Dairy sits about 30 miles northwest of Green Bay, Wisconsin! As many of you know in the north MC590 is ready to be chopped 4-5 days before its relative maturity would indicate. Also his short day corn is MC530, in the 105 day relative maturity range.

To sum up Matt’s forage maximization program:

  • Winter triticale is used on as many acres as the time allows. This adds between 2 and three tons dry matter highly digestible forage per acre.
  • Some other corn acres are seeded into winter rye (triticale can be planted as late as September and rye can be planted even in November. These acres produce heifer September and rye can be planted even in November. These acres produce heifer haylage.
  • When triticale comes off in the spring, Master Graze is planted on the acres that will be fall seeded into alfalfa/ grass (usually about 60 acres). The total of the triticale and Master Graze yields about 6 tons DM over doing a spring alfalfa seeding and the fall planted grass/alfalfa produces a full crop of haylage the next year with fewer problems with weed pressure. These crops are high energy dairy cow feeds!
  • The rest of the triticale acres are planted in shorter day corn silage hybrids. These
  • triticale acres added to the corn silage yields more than the corn silage alone.
  • The fallow acres were already planted into longer day corn silage hybrids.
  • Adding cool season grasses, especially when using tall fescue typically adds between ½ to 1½ tons DM per acre over straight alfalfa. Matt seeds 10Ibs Byron’s Premium Hay Blend with 12-15Ibs of alfalfa with the goal being 40% grass and 60% alfalfa (seed sizes for the grass are larger than alfalfa. These percentages have been shown to produce the most yield. Besides yield, the digestibility of the haylage is increased, possibly raising Relative Feed Quality (not Relative Feed Value) 25 to 50 points.

Matt’s herd seems to appreciate the changes in cropping as the 360 milking cows are averaging 85Ibs per day on a 60% forage diet. The herd is milked in a Dairy Master Double 16 Swing Parlor 3X which gets them back in the eating/resting mode quickly –all important with high forage diets. High forage diets only work when 1. There is enough forage! 2. When the forage quality is high. And 3. Forage quality is defined by its energy levels and digestible fiber, not by the crude protein. Without the use of these aforementioned crops Matt would be forced to buy a lot more feed and that isn’t a pretty thought in the present day economy!

Efficiencies, Nutritionally Speaking – by Larry Hawkins

The buzz word that is going around when talking about solutions for livestock feeding after the summer Midwest drought is “efficiency.” This is obviously due to crop crises across all types of feed for dairy and beef cows, from protein to corn, to corn silage and hay(lage). Livestock owners are faced with being as efficient as possible with their feedstuffs all the way from eliminating waste in feed storage and in TMR prep, to feeding to a clean bunk, to feeding a ration that produces more milk or meat and less manure (feed efficiency). This article will touch on a wide range of topics involving the forage side of your ration.


One of the biggest advantages for those of you who either planted a sorghum bmr Gene 6 product (Forage Sorghum, Sorghum-Sudan or a Sudan hybrid, hereinafter referred to as sorghum) for either an emergency forage or as a regular part of your forage program, is the efficiency of the bmr Gene 6 products. We know of no other feed that provides the energy in as efficient manner as the sorghums. Bear in mind, we are only talking about bmr Gene 6, not other higher lignin sorghum products. There is, however a recognition factor among nutritionists who look at a forage test result of our sorghums and only see the high NDF. This high NDF is very digestible and probably even higher in digestibility than the NIR (Near Infrared) test indicates. The energy value printed on the feed test report will appear to be mediocre.

Here is the rub: there is no test for energy whether for corn silage, haylage or sorghum. All energy values (NEL for lactating dairy cows or NEG for steers or growing heifers) are calculations. Whereas energy values for corn silage and haylage are constantly being reevaluated and researched, the energy values for sorghums have hardly been researched at all. Feed test results for sorghums are just run through the corn silage equations. Compared to corn silage, bmr Gene 6 sorghums are higher in sugar, considerably lower in starch and lower in lignin (as a percent of the NDF). And as a wag might say, “other than that there is hardly any difference!”

The big problem with feeding bmr Gene 6 sorghum silage will occur when the diet is formulated with too much starch. Researchers (Grant, et al) at the Miner Institute in Chazy, New York have found that the addition of between 0.10 and 0.15 to the calculated NEL from the feed test report will get the ration started on the right foot. That is, if the test report shows 0.60 NEL, you would enter 0.75NEL in the ration balancing program. To further define which number to use, 0.10 or 0.15, if the ADF is from 28 to 34%, formulate with the 0.15 addition and above 35% ADF, use 0.1 or 0.12. According to Tom Kilcer at Advanced Ag Systems (personal communications) the energy from starch is a huge burst (resulting in undesirable rumen pH fluctuations) and the energy from the high levels of 6-carbon and especially the 5-carbon sugars in the NDF of sorghums provide a steady-state delivery of energy to the rumen. This will bring the level of grain feeding into the correct realm. We are learning much about starch or rather how little we can feed of it as the price of corn spirals out of sight.

A feeding trial at Miner Agricultural Research Institute (Grant, et al) showed at remarkable 28% (1.62 compared to 1.26) increase in milk efficiency (SCM/DMI) in a ration with 45% bmr Gene 6 Sorghum-Sudan (SS) fed to mid-lactation cows compared to 45% corn silage (CS). Other treatments were 35% of the ration dry matter in either CS or bmr Gene 6 SS. With similar trending results The only other forage in the diet was 10% of the DM in alfalfa haylage. Even with the addition of 6#’s soy hulls to the corn silage diet, (none was fed to the SS cows) body weight gained (1$/day on the SS diet and stayed the same with the CS diet. Other findings included higher butterfat, higher rumen pH, lower excretion of phosphorus, higher acetate to propionate ratios and overall better utilization of nutrients in the total diet and most significantly, lower DMI for the same milk production!

This energy delivery advantage for sorghums over corn silage is coupled with a higher crude protein level which provides additional benefit as the prices of protein sources are spiraling upward also.

Here are some other considerations about the storage and preservation of sorghums. Chop length should be longer than corn silage or haylage and be in the range of ¾” to 1” cut. The crop will be wetter than corn silage (and not for a Harvestore storage!) and close to 70% moisture. Preservation should be with a homo-fermentative inoculant, (i.e. one that produces only one fermentation acid – Lactic) not a buchneri type. These homo-fermentation preservatives are the most plentiful in the marketplace and definitely will work faster and better for the large amount of 5-Carbon sugar contained in the sorghum silages. Fermentation will be very rapid (even as short as I day) due to the high sugar levels and better packing due to the dense (wet) forage. For highest quality, forage sorghum should be harvested as the lowest grain start to reach soft-dough stage. Dwarf sorghum-Sudan (AS6402) should be harvest at 32” and the other sorghum-sudans and sudan hybrids at 40” for optimum quality. If frost is involved when harvesting, be sure to let the silage ferment for 5-10 days before feeding to allow for the dissipation of any prussic acid.

Forage Triticales

Forage Triticales (as opposed to those bred entirely for grain production), although not suffering the same energy evaluation problems as sorghum, does have the same advantages when replacing corn silage in a dairy diet which includes the higher protein (than corn silage) and the steady-state delivery of energy from the 5-carbon sugars in the NDF compared to the rumen pH altering bursts from the corn silage starch. Feeders of high quality triticale will also find some of the efficiency (milk per Ib DMI) that we see in sorghum.

High quality triticale is harvested at the flag leaf stage. This is when the last leaf appears in a spike-like form and then opens and lays over. The next stage is the boot stage and slightly lower quality forage is produced from that time on until full head out when it eventually becomes straw. It is better to cut ahead of optimum rather than too late.

These forages which in many instances are being tried for the first time due to the need for emergency forage may become staples in Upper Midwest dairy forage programs. Double-cropping can be viable here as well as more temperate regions.

Cool Season Grasses

Everything just said about triticale can be can be attributed to high quality European grasses such as Tall Fescue, Meadow Fescue, Perennial Ryegrass Italian Ryegrass, a few Festuloliums and some Orchardgrasses due to their high levels of 5-carbon sugar compared to alfalfa and their lack of phenolic bonding compared to corn silage (kind of like bmr haylage!). There are two things to remember: first, the spread between the best and the worst of any of these species of grasses is very profound-much wider than the difference between the best and the worst alfalfas on the market. This is due to the lack of domestic grass-breeding programs in the US compared to Europe. Europe needed grasses because of their climate and their difficulty in growing alfalfa whereas the US became convinced that pure alfalfa was the answer 30 to 40 years ago as the existing early-heading grasses seemed to not hold the promise of the higher protein alfalfa. As more was learned about NDF digestibility, modern European lateheading grasses began to make more sense.

The second thing is that if a farm has both a mixed stand of alfalfa/grass and a stand of pure alfalfa, the highest upside is in making the mixed stand first. This will yield a haylage with only marginally less protein, but a much higher digestibility (energy). These grasses are late-heading, but will not wait forever when cuttings get delayed. The total package with mixed alfalfa/grass is you get a highly palatable haylage with more yield, better quality (as judged by Relative Forage Quality) and higher energy. It’s an efficiency triple play!

70 Ibs of Milk on No Grain – by Larry Hawkins

Wilmer Martin grew up on a dairy farm in Lancaster County, PA, but didn’t dairy on his own until he relocated to Colby, WI about seven years ago. Possibly this respite from active dairying spurred his “thinking outside the box.” Three outside-the-box things that Wilmer did, at about the same time, were adding cool season European grasses to his alfalfa and using wide-swathing as a ways to reach a goal of better quality haylage. A third thing was to raise a warm-season grass (BMR Gene Six Sorghum-Sudan).

Each strategy promotes quality in somewhat related ways. The cool season grasses, in this case, Lofa Festulolium, provide higher sugar levels including both 5-carbon and 6-carbon sugars and a more digestible neutral detergent fiber (NDF). The wide-swathing allows a greater retention of that high sugar level since the 6-carbon sugars respire away overnight when left in the field. The sorghum-sudan silage is also very high in both 5- and 6-carbon sugar and digestible NDF. One other addition to his forage choices was using Masters Choice (MC) as his corn silage cho

After realizing the quality level of his haylage and sorghum, Wilmer with the supervision of his nutritionist John Feiten of Midwest Nutrition in Spencer, WI, corn grain was removed from his TMR mix. When he got down to zero pounds added corn, obviously, that was as far as he could go. What he noticed after doing this for a while was that he was able to maintain 70 pounds of milk, a higher butterfat test and have healthier cows that bred back with fewer services!

It is not that Wilmer is feeding no corn, but only the amount contained in the corn silage. How much corn is in his TMR? By calculation and assuming that corn is 70% starch and the corn silage (by test) is 34.34% starch, the corn in the 19.5 Ibs of DM corn silage is only 9.57Ibs. The dietary starch is 16.3%.

John has maintained these levels for several years now and a one proof of the highly digestible starch of the MC corn silage came when he ran out of his own corn silage and fed some of his neighbor’s. When the dust cleared, Wilmer had to add 3Ibs of corn to his TMR per cow per day to maintain 70Ibs of milk even though the other corn silage was 7% higher in starch than the Masters Choice (41% to 34%). Along with the added corn to maintain 70Ibs of milk, the dietary starch levels far exceeded the recommended less than 25% when feeding MC corn silage.

One other important note about this diet is the efficiency of it. There are 1.2Ibs of mineral and buffer, 0.9 Ibs of protein, 19.5Ibs of corn silage, 16.1Ibs of grass/alfalfa haylage and 4.6Ibs of sorghum-sudan silage. This totals about 42.5Ibs dry matter intake (DMI) and 1.65 milk efficiency. Obviously, when more of the feed is turned into milk, less becomes manure or carbon emission. The total purchased ingredients in this diet are 2.1Ibs!

Wilmer tried the wide-swathing haylage harvesting technique without all the proper equipment. Last year his 65% (of the mower width) swathing dried very fast just due to the extremely hot and dry weather. In 2011, this width made it difficult to get all the haylage harvested in one day. This past winter (2012), Wilmer got to hear Tom Kilcer at the Byron Seed Winter Seminars. Tom is the lead researcher on wide-swathing. Wilmer is now looking into either building or buying a wider mower without conditioning rolls. In wide-swathing, conditioning rolls are left as wide apart as possible since the initial rapid drying phase (down to 35 to 30% DM) goes faster on unconditioned hay. Obviously, hay crop that is designated for dry baled hay must be conditioned. Advantages of wide swathing include less dry matter loss (more haylage when sugars don’t respire away) higher energy haylage, less proteolysis (less breakdown of complex protein into NPN) and lower clostridium production (meaning better fermentation and almost never energy-robbing butyric acid formation) and better lactic to acetic fermentation profiles. More info can be obtained about wide-swathing by contacting your Byron Dealer and we will connect you with this information.

The biggest factor though is the width of the swath. The swaths must be laid out to at least 85% (95% is better) of the width mowed. Even though you will drive on some of the hay (hard to get adjusted to!!) it will have no detrimental effect and the sugar level of the haylage will be much higher when chopped in the same day. The routine is mow in the early am and be chopping at least by 2:00pm. One thing that Wilmer learned is that you don’t rake the hay until right in front of the chopper. This is because the rapid drying phase will stop when the hay is rolled up. Another warning is that when grass and alfalfa are grown together, 3” residue heights become necessary to maintain grass regrowth. This higher cutting height actually improves total yearly haylage yield.

Wilmer obviously could further supplement his cows with purchased corn and protein to push production up to 80 or 90Ibs. This ration is 95% forage and 5% concentrate and with his cow’s performance and herd health, he does not see any reason to go further. How did the 2012 drought affect the ration? Haylage production was off last year and about 8Ibs less is being fed. The ration this fall is a bit more protein and corn silage. It now weighs in at 85% forage, 19.5% starch and 14% protein, but still the same milk production.

Thinking outside the box has helped Wilmer improve his forage quality. Part of the out of the box thinking is recognizing that the most important aspect of this “quality is high digestibility not high protein.

A Case for Annuals – by Daniel Olson (Originally in Graze Magazine)

For years I have been a proponent of perennial agriculture. I have spent many hours convincing conventional farmers to convert thousands of acres of annuals like corn into perennial fields of grass and legumes. I have talked about labor savings, fuel costs, soil erosion, reduced seed needs, wear on equipment and eliminating the need for chemicals. Those things have been true, and in fact, they still are.

Perennial cool-season grasses have historically been the most economical and labor efficient crop for us to grow, but a paradigm shift may be changing that and annuals such as sorghum, small-grains and brassicas are starting to make more sense. I have come to realize that if we graziers don’t recognize the changing economics of agriculture a lot more than my pride will get hurt. Most of the reasons to plant perennials were about cost savings, not performance. That being said, this is still a difficult article to write because it will require a large learning curve to be successful.

Land Values

15 years ago we could buy agriculture land in Wisconsin for $500-$700 an acre. Between interest and taxes you could expect the land to cost you $30-$50 a year in ownership costs. Land values have risen about 800% over this time and while interest has gone down it will still cost you between $150 and $300 per acre annually just in ownership costs. These increased fixed cost’s dramatically raise the cost per ton of perennial grass harvested. Annuals can double our production per acre. This can somewhat offset the ownership costs.

Feed Security

Animal agriculture is rapidly centralizing. In 1995 there were 10 CAFO’s [confined animal feeding operations] in Wisconsin with over 1000 animal units. Today there are over 200. This trend is mirrored over much of the country and puts added pressure for land in those neighborhoods. Most of us have already invested hundreds of thousands in Dairy infrastructures. Being able to guarantee your feed supply may be more important than it was before because that neighbor you used to buy the cheap round bales from likely went broke, sold out, or both. The shift from “manure being an asset” to, “manure being a liability” may catch many smaller farmers and price land out of their financial reach A farmer told me that his banker told him that Wisconsin land rent should be “The price of a ton of shell corn.” Or, in other words, over $300 an acre! I think I lost some sleep over that onethinking about how much we rely on rented land.


Whether you call it climate change, global warming, or just the “drought of the century” one thing we can all agree on is that this has been a difficult couple years for graziers. While there has been severe drought in the southwest for a number of years, we have now seen it spread to an unprecedented area of the country and it appears to could hang around for a while. Climatologists tell us that our weather is becoming more erratic and some computer models for the upper Midwest are downright scary. For our perennial pastures to be productive we need to have moderate temperatures and adequate moisture. The trends suggest we will be getting less of both of those in the foreseeable future. Combining a cool season annual with a drought tolerant warm season annual will allow us to utilize spring moisture while protecting us from the expanding “summer slump” period.

In many ways, the argument for annuals is much the same as the argument for irrigation. Better performance, added quality and lower risks – with increased costs. Annuals will be more financially palatable for many farmers because of the lower up-front costs. Instead of a $1000 or more dollars per acre a farmer can incorporate annuals for a fraction of the cost.

Organic Pasture Requirements

The new Organic Pasture rules from the USDA require that Organic dairy animals need to get at least 30% of their diet from “pasture.” This is not limited to perennials and creates a real opportunity for organic farmers who have built dairies in areas with limited “grazable” acres. For instance, if a farmer is able to increase his annual dry-matter yields from 3 to 5 tons per acre, he will be able to raise his stocking density from approximately two cows per acre, to three and a half.

Improved Seed Genetics

It isn’t a secret, but seed companies like to make money and there just isn’t that many dollars being spent on perennial pastures. There are a few companies [mainly European] doing research work on perennial grasses, but most of the research dollars in this country are being spent on annuals. This has accelerated the genetic potential of annuals while perennial genetics have stagnated. Notice that most “New and exciting” pasture “breakthroughs” are merely good marketing of old products – i.e. “high-sugar pasture mixes.” The truth is that almost all coolseason grasses [with the possible exception of orchard grass] are “high-sugar.”

In the past couple years, I have seen a huge influx of new annual products that give graziers far better options than they had in the past. This research is being driven by conventional farmers who are mechanically harvesting these crops but most of them can effectively be harvested by cows.

The Economics of Annuals

Like what was previously stated, perennials cost much less per acre to grow than annuals. But conversely, the cost per ton may not be much different. For the following comparison I assume that the perennial fields would be in a 4 year no-till program like we do on our farm. I spread the seed and planting costs over four years. I also reduced the fertilizer because of less production, but it could be argued that the higher stocking density would result in more manure, thus reducing fertilizer needs. I will let you decide the variables.

Annual vs Perennial Expenses
Expenses Annuals Perennials
Seed $100 $20
Fertilizer $150 $100
Land Value $250 $250
Tillage and Planting $60 $5
Yield 5 Tons Dry Matter 3 Tons Dry Matter
Cost Per Ton $112 $125

Another factor to consider is “replacement cost.” What does it cost to replace those two or three tons that you lose in yield? Also, is a “grazable” ton worth more to you than a ton of dry hay?

How Many Annuals?

Perennials still have a place on grazing farms. After spending the last thousand words promoting annuals, I feel like I should be clear about this. The question is, how many annuals should we plant? Depending on available land, conservation issues and soil fertility that answer will be different for every farmer.

Annuals certainly take different management than perennials to be successful and those changes may not be for everyone. In an under-stocked farm with heavy, fertile soils, annuals may only be used to renovate pastures and to fill in areas damaged by outwintered animals. But, if you are short on grazable acres or would like to increase stocking densities you could potentially plant up to 50% of your land in annuals and see your farm’s productivity and profitability increase.

[In article, A Case for Annuals Continued] I will talk about some of the specific strategies and species we can use to make annuals work for us.

A Case for Annuals Continued – by Daniel Olson (Originally in Graze Magazine)

Of all of the popular sayings in our English language, few are as true as “Money Talks.” This certainly is true when it comes to the improvement of forage genetics. The things a perennial grass farmer views as positives – longevity, fewer seed heads, and less seed needs are actually negatives for a seed company’s bottom line. This is why the majority of research dollars have gone toward developing and improving annual varieties. Farmers are beginning to benefit from those efforts. I know its cliché, but this could actually be a win-win for farmers and the companies that supply them.

The other break-through is the increased availability of imported annual genetics from New Zealand, Eastern Europe and South America. It is much easier to research which varieties translate to our climate and growing conditions than to develop totally new varieties. Annuals are split into two main categories:

  1. Cool Season – which grows early in the spring and late into the fall
  2. Warm Season – which require warmer temperatures and are often more drought tolerant

Warm Season
Corn has dominated the warm season annual scene for conventional farmers but in the last few years Forage Sorghum, Sudan Grass and Sorghum X sudan crosses have become exciting alternatives for graziers looking to create more feed per acre and fill in summer slump.

The improvements have come in three areas. Firstly, the insertion of the Brown Mid-Rib gene has been a huge improvement in the quality of the feed. Nearly all of the Warm season annuals have high amounts of fiber. Brown-Midrib is a mutation that reduces the amount of lignin [indigestible fiber.] This increases the amount of energy in the feed and also greatly increases palatability. The newest mutation is the “gene 6” which is the purest of the BMR’s. This has improved the sugar/fiber ratios in the Sorghum, Sorghum X Sudan and Sudan grasses. This also helps with the amount of energy in the forage, but perhaps more importantly; it helps with the fermentation of harvested balage. The second improvement for graziers is the Bracitic Dwarf Trait in Sorghum and Sorghum x Sudan. This trait compresses the growth nodes in the stalk which allows for a higher leaf-to-stem ratio. It also helps with regrowth. A Sorghum plant needs at least two nodes to regrow. In a normal plant, these nodes are 3-4 inches apart. In a dwarf those nodes are compressed to 1-2 inches. This makes grazing management much easier.

The third improvement, and possibly the most important, is that plant breeders are breeding Sorghums and Sorghum x Sudan grasses to thrive in Northern areas of the country. This break though has allowed them to succeed on many more Grazing dairies. This past summer I did side-byside trials with two forage Sorghums. The new variety yielded 20.8 tons of forage @ 70% moisture. The old variety only yielded 12.4 Tons. That yield difference is the difference between me being satisfied or disappointed.

Generally, the Sudan and the Sorghum X Sudan hybrids are the best for grazing. Although Sorghum will out-yield anything, the seeding rate for Sorghum is much lower than the others which results in lower plant palatability and larger stalk diameter. Plan on harvesting the Sorghum as balage or haylage for winter feed.

We have also experimented with grazing corn and “Grazing Corn.” The first corn I grazed was some bin-run deer corn from the neighbor. I drilled it at 1 bushel an acre and had really good results. We mob grazed heifers when it started tasseling and had pretty decent utilization. The next year we did it again and it totally flopped. Bin-run corn does not handle stress at all. Also, because of GMO traits, if it’s not organic it’s likely illegal to plant. A University of Wisconsin Professor recommended bin-run corn at a meeting this summer. An hour later he had to stand back up and tell the group he had been contacted by Monsanto and told it was illegal to do so.

We have also worked with the MasterGraze corn. The unique tillering really made for a dynamic grazing corn. The main stalk may get 6 ft tall but can have 6 or more tillers that are waist high. MasterGraze is also a BMR which really helped reduce residue. It takes about 60 days to get to grazing maturity and the yields were impressive. The main drawback is that it doesn’t handle weed pressure and really needs an herbicide application to make it work.

There are also a number of Warm-season legumes. My favorite is Crimson clover as a companion to Sorghum x Sudan which grows very quickly in the summer and can improve the protein content of the mix. Farmers have also used soybeans and cowpeas although it seems like they may do better farther south.

Cool Season
Small grains fall under two categories, winter grains [that needs to go through a winter before they mature] and spring grains that mature in the seeding year. Rye is still the most popular grain for spring grazing because it can be planted late and matures quickly in the spring. If managed right, it can make great quality feed but the harvest window is very small.

Triticale is a cross between Rye and Wheat. Most of the breeding has focused on forage yield and quality. Some of the new Triticale varieties have amazing yield potential [2-3 tons dry matter per acre] and energy similar to corn silage. The protein on any small grain is related to Nitrogen availability, but a properly fertilized Triticale pasture can have 16-20% protein. It needs to be planted earlier than rye [think wheat] and it needs better fertility to do well.

There are also spring triticale varieties. They offer more yield and quality upside than oats but need good soil to realize their potential.

Forage oats are a much more consistent yielder and the new varieties have increased their quality. The difference between the new forage oats and grain oats is the amount of tillering they do. This allows for lower seeding rates, [which is good because they’re expensive] and provides yields without getting too tall. I haven’t found a benefit with planting forage oats over Jerry oats in the fall, but in the Spring there are huge benefits.

The other big deal for graziers is the research that has been done on Brassicas. We had been pretty much limited to Purple Top turnips for the last 30 years but companies from Europe and New Zealand have made a whole new lineup of brassicas available to us. From brassicas that stay alive down to 5 degrees to Rape that will grow all summer, plant breeders have done amazing things with brassicas. My personal favorite is a Kale x Rape hybrid that comes from New Zealand. I won’t get a bulb, but it grows a tremendous amount of feed in a short period of time and seems to handle insect pressure. Even though these new seeds are expensive per pound, the seeding rate on brassicas is so low it doesn’t significantly increase the cost.

All these new options can seem overwhelming but also create opportunities. The most important research is what you do on your farm. Nothing someone at a seed company or university can duplicate something done in your climate with your own fertility program. Next month I will talk more about the “systems approach” and how we have combined cool and warm season annuals to maximize every growing day in the year.

How I Saved My Dairy Business From Drowning

VIDEO: Trantham’s Sustainable 12 Aprils Dairy Grazing Program

A top 10 South Carolina Dairy Farm almost went under, until he changed his perspective. This revolutionary thought was to “follow the cows instead of leading”. From this epiphany he developed the 12 Aprils Dairy Grazing Program. This farmer has not purchased chemicals for >20 years and continues to increase production. Keys in this video:

  • Have a a crop coming into grazing maturity continuously throughout the year (plants 4 – 5 times a year)
  • Top part of plant consists of 22% protein and the bottom half being lignin fiber is only 6 – 8%
  • 2.5 – 3.5 acres per padock, otherwise they pick the best from the entire field (resulting in best milk production the frirst few days)
  • Double Bushhog – Bushhog to 4″ and let sit then 5 days later bushhog to the ground to make stand go dormant, then no-till in your new stand
  • Geo Textile Cloth – to create mud free walkways 
  • Overseed by 10% because of overgrazing

Farm Bill 2014 Target Price Increase Average 30%

Crop Insurance for 2015 is the major change in in the 2014 farm bill, forcing farmers to have more skin in the game. This 900 page bill still needs time to be deciphered, but here is some of what we know so far:

  • Totals $956.4 Billion – 75% assistance to the poor, 15% commodities, rest for conservation and education
  • Direct Payments were removed and base crop price levels were increased to the following levels:
Target Prices under the 2008 and 2014 Farm Bill
Crop 2010-12 Target Price 2014 Target Price % Increase
Wheat $4.17 bushel $5.50 bushel 24.2%
Corn $2.63 bushel $3.70 bushel 28.9%
Soybeans $6.00 bushel $8.40 bushel 28.6%
Grain Sorghum $2.63 bushel $3.95 bushel 33.4%
Barley $2.63 bushel $4.95 bushel 46.9%
Oats $1.79 bushel $2.40 bushel 25.4%
Long Grain Rice $10.50 cwt $14.00 bushel 25.0%
Lentils $12.81 cwt $19.97 cwt 35.9%
Other oilseeds $12.68 cwt $20.15 cwt 37.1%
Peanuts $495 ton $535 ton 7.5%
Dry Peas $8.32 cwt $11.00 cwt 24.4%
Small chickpeas $10.36 cwt $19.04 cwt 45.6%
Large chickpeas $12.81 cwt $21.54 cwt 40.5%
  • Supplemental coverage for local county yields will now be available.
  • Farmers must become conservation compliant in highly erodible and wetland acreas within the next 5 years for premium subsidy eligibility
  • Farmers in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota who plow native sod can only insure yield for 65% of the county yield for 4 years
  • Alfalfa importance was called out for livestock produces with a focus on a future crop insurance policy
  • Organic pricing standards are on the horizon based upon retail or wholesale prices
  • Irrigated and dry land can be insured at different levels
  • CRP enrollment has steadily declined with the increase in crop prices and the government reduction in program spending reflects this trend

CRP Enrollment 2013

We can see a shifting recognition in congress towards the importance cover crops and a farmer’s responsibility for land preservation. Reach out for how we can help!

2013 Forage Analysis Super Bowl Report

This 2103 Forage Analysis Super Bowl (FASB) marked another great FASB success for Byron Seeds, our customers and our dealers. Two entries were grand champions and a corn silage entry won the “Quality Counts” award tor the best Total Tract NDF Digestibility (TTNDFD).

This particular award included both the BMR and the conventional corn silage entries. A total of 25 Byron Seeds entries were made with a majority making it to the finals. In terms of both the number of finalists and of winners, our 2013 performance at the FASB topped our achievements in any of the previous six years in which we competed.

This year, we again had four of the corn silage finalists (four out of 10) and had our highest total of haylage finalists (seven out of 10). Our previous bests were 18 total finalists, six haylage finalists, and two category winners.

Mining the results further, the Masters Choice (MC) corn silages were about 4 percentage units higher in starch than the BMRs. However, one aberrant BRM sampled raised the average by 0.5%. MC had the highest starch of all finalists (both BMR and conventional) and the second-highest milk per ton. Interestingly, No. 1 and No.2 were conventional. Masters Choice also was awarded the “Quality Counts” award for the highest TTNDFD (Total Tract NDF Digestibility) over all entrants.

The following table shows some of the differences between grass and alfalfa. In categories where all the samples were all grass or all alfalfa (Commercial Hay and Grass Hay), the results are on one line. Where the forages were either Alfalfa or Alfalfa/Grass, the results are on one row.

The biggest differences were in comparing the Commercial Hay category to the Grass Hay category as you might expect. There is a little bit of grass in some of the commercial hay, but it didn’t change the averages. The real kicker was that there were two atypical grass samples that were way below the rest. Our differences were already very good, but if those riper, common (one was listed as “local grasses”) are eliminated the NDF-d goes up to an average of 70.57 from 67.26! From the best commercial hay makers, the alfalfa averaged 43.33 NDF-d. The quality differences are sharp. Milk/Ton differences are from 3121 for alfalfa to 3341 for grass.

The balges were all listed as pure alfalfa (even though some had some mystery grasses in the sample) – expect for Daniel Olson’s winner. If you compare Daniel Olson’s two balage entries to the rest there are again sharp differences to the 9 alfalfa entries. His second entry should have been in second place, but only one entry per farm was awarded. The NDF-d’s were 67.26 for Daniel’s and 53.76 for the rest. There was some grass in the other entries, since the NDF-d’s were higher than the pure alfalfa samples in other categories. The Milk/Ton was 3526 for Daniel’s entries compared to 3323 for lowest. Daniel’s entries were made of balage from Grass Works Grazing Mix and secondly 502H and AS6401 Sorghum-Sudan.

In the Dairy Haylage category, eight dairy farmers were able to get alfalfa entries with an amazing 55% to over 58% NDF-d. This drove the average of the pure alfalfa samples to 52.81% compared to the grass/alfalfa average of 55.14%. A would be entrant was kicked out for adding sugar to his sample! I just know that our dairy alfalfa haylage are unusually good even, very very good. However, our grass/alfalfa samples still had comfortable lead in NDF-d of over 2.5%.

A total $4,000 was awarded by the FASB and an additional $9,800 by Byron Seeds ($100 to each finalist and $100 to the submitting Byron dealer, plus $1,000 to each winner and $1,000 to the submitting dealer). Several dealers were also the farmer. Here is to another year of amazing results – and to all of our farmers – contact us on how to enter for next year!

What Are you Loosing By Not Using Forage Seed

What are forage seeds?

Before we dive into what you may be losing by not using forage seed, we must first discuss what forage seeds, (forage crops), are. Forage seed can be loosely defined as the seed of a pasture plant such as legumes and grass. There are many different types of forage seed, and all are used to achieve many different outcomes. Most people know the basics when it comes to the various types of forages such as alfalfa, ryegrass, clover, and small grains, but as you do more research into the world of forage seed, you will quickly recognize the overwhelming amount of options on the market.

Now that we have touched a little on the different types of forages lets discuss a little on the uses for forage seed. The most common use is plain and simple, forage seed is used to give livestock forage to eat. Don’t think it could get any simpler than that. Some other applications include land management and nutrient management. Forage crops are used to break down soil compaction and generate deep root systems to help erosion and water management. As for nutrient management, forages can provide an excellent way to get soil nutrients to the appropriate ratios to maximize yields of your cash crops.

Why learn all there is to offer with forage seeds.

If you are a first generation farmer or even been in the industry for awhile, I am sure you’ve heard about using forage seed in your yearly regiment, so let us discuss the reason you should give it a chance. When using different forages for your livestock, when done right,  can produce significantly healthier stock which turns into less loss from illness and death. If you are a dairy farmer, you know the healthier the diet of your cattle the more milk they will produce, which leads to higher profits. Also learning how to use high-energy forages you can produce enough hay to last through the winter months. In a recent article from Yahoo Finance, the forage seed market is expected to grow more than 8% by 2020. This means farms are catching on to the benefits of using forages in their operations.

The benefits do not just stop at livestock. If you are a cash crop farmer, you will find many uses of forages to cut costs and increase yields. One example is breaking down soil compaction. Over the years of running tractors and torrential rains, your soil can become very dense. Soil compaction can prevent you crops from being as healthy as they could be. With the use of forage seed during the off season, you can break down compaction and allow your plants to sprout faster and grow deeper roots to produce less loss and higher yields in the growing season.

What are you losing?

The first and most noticeable loss from not using forage seed is a loss in profits. The adage is true, in that you have to spend money to make money. By not using forage seeds, your losing profit in the form of low yields, animal loss, and small dairy production. In turn your spending your potential profits on more fertilizer, and pesticide treatments, antibiotics, supplements,  vet bills, and outsourced hay. Now I understand you cannot avoid all theses costs entirely, but you can dramatically reduce them. The second and greatest loss is the loss of time. You are losing time to spend with family, and time used to help your children learn the industry you’ve worked so hard to build. Here at Forage Seeds, we understand the importance the farming industry has in the world, and we want to help you pass your hard work down to future generations, and produce a product that you can be proud of. Thank you for all your sacrifice, and we wish you all the best in your operation.

Evaluating Hay and Pasture Stands – by Dennis Brown

The fluctuation of the wet spring; to the severe drought in the fall and now a long cold winter may result in poor hay and pasture stands in the spring. Plants may be killed or weakened, leaving barren areas in the fields or thinning of the stand from last fall, depending on the severity of the drought and harvest management last fall.

Accurate assessment of forage stands for winter injury is an important and economically sound management practice. The degree of injury will vary depending on a number of climatic and cultural factors.

Weather Factors

  • Exposure of plants to extreme low temperatures. Continued exposure of legumes to temperatures of 0ºF to 15ºF will result in plant loss. Under these conditions, plant survival depends upon the genetic cold tolerance of the variety, the insulating properties of the soil, vegetative cover and snow cover.
  • Heaving of plants from wet soils during alternate freeze and thaw. The heaved root and crown tissue is exposed to lethal air temperatures. The more branched rooted legumes are less susceptible to heaving compared to tap-rooted ones. Sod-forming grasses are the least susceptible to heaving and help hold legumes in place. Selecting or providing soils with good surface drainage can reduce the occurrence of heaving.
  • Smothering of plants by ice sheets. Smothering of alfalfa may cause injury within one to three weeks, and death within two to six weeks. Red clover and white clover have tolerance to smothering that is similar to alfalfa. Grasses are more tolerant than legumes to smothering and can withstand injury for up to 10 to 14 weeks. Leaving six to eight inches of vegetative stubble in the fall can help reduce the occurrence of ice sheet formation.
  • Mid-winter wake up Plants that have broken dormancy during warm periods use some of their carbohydrate and nitrogen reserves during this premature regrowth attempt, leaving the plants with a reduced level of cold hardiness and less reserves available for continued survival during the rest of the winter and for spring regrowth. This factor has killed more legume and grass stands than any other weather conditions mentioned above. This is also the most common winter injury in the midwest.

Cultural Factors

The forage grower has little control over the weather, but a number of cultural practices can be done to reduce the severity of winter injury.

  • Injury is more likely to occur on forages with low winter hardiness ratings.
  • Disease resistance is also very important in stand persistence and may partially contribute to winter hardiness. Plants weakened by disease are less resilient and more susceptible to winter injury.
  • Young stands are less susceptible to winter injury than old stands. Old plants are more likely to be infected with root and crown diseases, and stand loss is apt to be more serious because old stands generally have fewer plants per unit area than young stands.
  • Injury is less severe where a grass is present. Grass reduces heaving of legumes and helps catch snow and provide insulation to crowns.
  • Injury occurs more frequently where fall cutting or overgrazing is practiced. Fall cutting or grazing may not allow for accumulation of adequate carbohydrate reserves for the winter or leave stubble to catch snow.
  • Injury is generally less severe where a good annual soil fertility program is followed. The only exception would be fall-applied nitrogen on grasses that would encourage vegetative growth when the plant should be going dormant. Don’t leave over 8 inches of growth, as grasses with this much fall/winter growth will lodge and smother themselves out. .Grasses should have had 3 to 6 inches of leaf growth going into winter.

Stand Renovation

Hay Stands

  • Young stands of alfalfa (within 12 to 15 months of the original planting) probably have not developed a high enough level of autotoxicity in the soil to interfere with reseeding. So reseeding with alfalfa is a good option.
  • Older stands with less than 25 percent of the plants remaining may be interceded with red clover, and or short term grass such as Perun or Lofa Festulolium or Green Spirit Italian Ryegrass, if the stand will be maintained for hay harvest for only one to two more years. . It usually is recommended to destroy these stands and rotate to a different crop.
  • Older stands with 25 to 50 percent of the plants remaining in the stand, interceding red clover or a grass into a uniformly thin stand of alfalfa may be beneficial.
  • Alfalfa stands thinned mainly by disease should be rotated to an alternative crop for a year or more, or seeded to a grass-based forage mixture to decrease the level of disease organisms in the soil.


  • In a square foot area when grasses are 3 to 6 inches tall, you should not see more than 20% soil. Check this in multiple locations with in the same field.
  • If the injured stand is to be grazed in spring, graze conservatively to let the stand recover before turning livestock onto pastures unchecked.
  • Thin grass based pastures can be inter seeded at any time in the stands life with other grasses and clovers.
  • Fertilization and weed control of the existing injured stand may be sufficient in improving the pasture to meet grower needs.
  • A more productive grass and/or legume may be added to a thinned pasture or injured area. For more severely damaged pastures, consider no-till renovation on erodible land or complete renovation of the stand where erosion potential is minimal.

The photo above shows a comparison of a healthy (left) and diseased (right) alfalfa crown. Inspection of the crowns in the fall and again in early spring will give an indication of the health of the stand.

You will also notice a a white healthy root in the picture on the left.

Below you see a root with the Crown Rot Complex:
White Healthy Root Crown Rot Complex