Pasture Management – by Dwayne Colvin

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Good pasture management can add years of life to your pasture. Protect your investment by following these pasture management tips:

  • Start with varieties that suit your soil, moisture, and grazing requirements. Byron Seeds personnel are available to help with the proper selection of varieties.
  • Orchardgrass will stay stronger if allowed to grow taller and make hay once a year
  • Grass tillers are the future of the stand, ryegrass, festulolium, and bluegrass tiller more when the stand is kept short, tall pastures can shade emerging tillers, decreasing pasture life
  • A pasture that is kept short will allow white clover to flourish, a longer pasture favors grasses
  • Good grazing management in the spring will help reduce seed heads

Bluegrass

  • A rhizomatous, sod forming grass that tolerates heavy hoof traffic, heals damaged pastures
  • Is short, very dense with very palatable, fine leaves; can take over if other varieties thin out
  • Is very persistent and can be close grazed, best for rotational grazing with rest periods

Orchardgrass

  • Performs best in rotational grazing with adequate recovery period, don’t overgraze
  • Adapts to the better, well drained soils, light- to medium-textured
  • Works well in mixes because of its shade tolerant qualities
  • Don’t graze too short or overgraze in droughty conditions

Perennial Ryegrass & Festulolium

  • Best for intensive grazing, will fade with lax grazing methods, start at the 3 leaf stage
  • Best forage variety for both yield and animal nutrition, palatability and digestion
  • Keep short, 8 to 10 inches or less for optimum
  • Requires close management and fertility for persistence, expect 3 to 4 years of good production

Tall Fescue

  • Good fall production, can be stockpiled in the fall for winter grazing
  • Does not persist well if overgrazed in drought and high heat conditions
  • Adopted to wetter and heavier soil types than orchardgrass
  • Can be inter-seeded in the fall to boost pasture production
  • Takes lax management better than orchardgrass and ryegrass

Timothy

  • Excellent for hay or pasture, use a late heading variety for grazing
  • Does not do well under heavy grazing pressure
  • Slow to establish, does well on low, wet and heavy textured soils
  • Good for dry cows as it has low potassium uptake

Meadow Fescue

  • Very winter hardy
  • Best pasture grass for the Upper Midwest
  • Very persistent and very palatable
  • Good for wetter areas

Forage Management Traits

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Listed below are some key traits to consider in the pursuit of managing our forages.

  1. Use the best forage genetics available. Low quality forages do not have a place in rations for today’s prolific livestock. Forage quality starts with the genetics in the seed that many take for granted.
  2. Maintain good soil fertility and balance. Soil fertility does affect forage yields and quality.
  3. Plan a crop rotation to fit your ration goals. Use a variety of forages to increase soil organic matter and reduce weed pressure, disease problems, crop failures, and enhance nutrient management plans, etc.
  4. Use good management to grow, harvest, and store top quality forages. Forages can lose 20% or more of their nutrient value during a poor fermentation.
  5. Feed a high forage ration. Forage DM should make up 60% or more of the ration. Well-eared corn silage should be figured at approximately 50% grain and 50% forage on a DM basis. An accurate way to calculate this is divide the starch percent of the corn silage by .70 (the amount of starch in corn. Eg 37% (starch in your corn silage) divided by 0.7 = approximately 53% corn and 47% fodder.
  6. Feed sources of starch that are highly available, such as the starch found in Masters Choice corn hybrids. The % of starch when using MC corn hybrids should not exceed 25% of ration dry matter.
  7. Target sugar concentrations of 6-10% of the ration DM. Take advantage of the high sugars in the NDF of grasses
  8. Feed a combination of warm season and cool season grasses to maximize rumen function.

Management of a grass stand will dictate which grasses survive. How tall should grasses be to start grazing depends on: grass species, weather and the time of year.

  • When a pasture gets “out of control”, up to 70% will produce seed heads.
  • In a well managed pasture, 20 % will produce seed heads.
  • When Perennial Ryegrass has 2 ½ – 3 new leaves, grazing can be started.
  • For Tall Fescue, 3 – 3 ½ leaves.
  • After the 4th leaf comes on, the 1st leaf dies.
  • Do not cut or graze below the growing point.
  • Orchardgrasses have bigger tillers, but not as many.

Keep plants on the rapid growth curve.

Original Source:Byron Seeds 2010 Resource Guide.

Preparing Grass Stands for Winter – by Chad Hale

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If you have been to a Byron Seed meeting lately, you know that we put a lot of emphasis on fall management of grasses. Although the title of this article is about winter, preparation for winter really begins in the late summer with grasses.

Many times when we think our grass stand ‘winter killed’ the damage was really done in the summer.

The typical grasses we grow in the Midwest are Cool Season grasses, which grow best below about 80 degrees. As the temperature climbs above 80, the plants spend all their energy on respiration and very little energy is left for growth. As I write this, the forecast looks to be hot and dry for an extended period this summer. That will be very hard on our grasses. So what can you do to help ensure good grass stands for the future?

Jerome Magnusen of DLF International Seeds offers these suggestions:

  1. Keep an eye on fertility as you progress through the summer. By late August or early September, the plant will shift considerable resources to growing roots and P and K must be available for root growth. Enough Nitrogen needs to be available to fuel the process
  2. Leave more residue in the summer. Raising cutter bars or changing stocking rates or rotation lengths may be necessary to leave enough residue to fuel regrowth once temperatures cool and soil moisture returns. With most grasses at least 3.5 inches of residual height is needed for maximum growth.
  3. Remember that the health status of the plant in early fall determines next year’s growth potential. The number of tillers for next spring is set by the end of September. A weakened plant then will give you open stands and reduced yield the following year.

As we think about how to implement the things Jerome talks about, it becomes clear that the right decisions may not be easy to make. If the summer drought doesn’t ease up soon, forage yields are going to suffer this fall and the temptation to scalp stands down to the dirt will be very hard to resist as hay/silage stocks decline and cows are short of pasture heading into fall. As much as it goes against the grain, feeding hay to animals on pasture in late August can pay huge benefits in forage production later in the fall and into the next spring. Raising the cutter bars an inch or even forgoing one forage harvest can mean the difference in stand survival.

Evaluate stands in late August to estimate the production later into the fall and next spring. There should be an abundance of leaves at the base of the plants that are starting to grow. Some buds should have broken dormancy at or near ground level and white roots should be starting to appear in the top 6 inches of soil. Stands that are not bouncing back from the drought may need to be over-seeded in the fall to maintain good yields next spring. For grazing or silage, Italian ryegrass or festulolium is a great choice for over-seeding thin stands. Tall fescue or orchardgrass can be no-tilled into thin hay fields, but be aware than these two species need lots of open ground to get established. Each fescue or orchardgrass seedling needs a few square inches of bare dirt in order to get established. A solid stand of dormant grass is not a good candidate for fescue or orchardgrass over-seeding because when those stands break dormancy the new seedlings will probably not survive. If you have good ground cover, your best bet is to concentrate on fertility and adequate residual height and wait for fall rains.

Options For Emergency Forages – By Rick Tamm & Larry Hawkins

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With the unpredictability of the weather and other factors, this year seems to be bringing many questions about emergency forages.

As I write this article, we, in the Upper Midwest, are seeing both long drought periods and not far away with a 10 inches of rain in a day and flooding. Couple this with a mild winter, which has allowed a preponderance of insects, grubs, worms and slugs to nibble on our corn. This is not to mention an 80° March and a cold April which gave false alarms to hay growth and seeding timing. When will have an normal, average weather pattern again?!?

So what are we to do? At least for the feed shortage part, We have some answers. There crops that can qualify for emergency forages which can solve our need for high quality replacement feed. Solutions come from forages which favorably answer the following questions:

  1. Will the crop establish quickly?
  2. Will the crop produce harvestable forage in 45 to 60 days?
  3. Will the crop grow in the weather conditions predictable (?) for the area?
  4. Will the crop fit into your operation’s feeding and harvesting system? Grazing only? Mechanical harvesting only? Kemper head only, etc.?
  5. Does the crop unfavorably limit options for the next seeding?
  6. Does the crop produce high quality forage?

This article cannot answer all of these questions for you on your farm and in your area, however your Byron Seed dealer can help. What will be covered are many options that may be appropriate for your farm and your locality. Some will be well known and other options may be more adventurous! The list is ordered roughly in the order that they can be sown or planted. Some options are actually triple crops that can be accomplished in the Upper Midwest! The end of the list will have options that fall-planted, and bring about the earliest forage in the spring.

  1. Plant AS9301 or AS6402, etc. into any field that either comes open early (wheat, or other small grain) or has had a disappointing harvest this summer (poor hay stand, drought-stressed or poor corn emergence).
  2. Do the above and add 5Ibs of common red clover to add to the protein of the main crop and then provide a cover crop for the winter and either a green manure or harvestable legume for the spring.
  3. Plant AF7101, 7201 or 7303 (depending on potential hot weather remaining. Although usually harvested at soft dough stage like corn silage. Taking the crop before maximum yield either forced by frost or just mowing and wide swathing, allowing it to dry to less than 70% moisture is also possible. Using the above mentioned forage sorghums (Concep® treated) allows for the option of herbicide control which isn’t available with option 1.
  4. Plant Master Graze (MG). MG can finish 45 to 60 days without the need for as much hot weather as any of the sorghum products. Its expected tonnage (4 to 5 tons of DM) is also very high for the its relative maturity.
  5. Sow Forage Plus® Oats, Everleaf Oats or Trical®2700 forage triticale in August to get a quick crop of high quality forage. Oats and spring triticale are less likely to head out when fall planted thereby maintaining their high quality longer. Due to this fact: Jerry Oats can be fall-sown and approach the quality of the forage oats.
  6. Plant 75Ibs of the above oats and 75Ibs Trical®336/815 in August to get both a fall harvest and a spring harvest. When harvesting in the fall, be sure to leave a 4” residue to allow for overwintering of the Trical®. Fertility needs will be greater during the early spring green-up (100+ units N) with only 40-50 units of N for establishment.
  7. Another similar option would be to combine spring and fall Triticale as in Option 5 or add a winter-hardy annual ryegrass (ARG) to further add to yield. This option is called Triticale Plus.Fertility requirements go up with the addition of the ARG. The ARG could be continually harvested throughout the summer, but more likely you would want to move to another crop due to the expected headiness of the ARG. The ARG must then be either Round-Up®-ed or plowed. No short cuts here!
  8. Late summer (August) seedings of Trical® 815/336 can provide both a small fall harvest then a large spring harvest after vernalization.
  9. Plant an annual ryegrass in August for a fall cutting. You can decide if you also want a spring cutting and plant a more winter-hardy variety. Just know that as you move to the next crop, the ARG must be moldboard plowed or burnt off.
  10. An option used in the more Southern parts of the Byron Seed area (Southern Indiana and Illinois, Kentucky Tennessee and Missouri) is the sowing of Timothy (Kootenai) as a winter annual. Take a first cutting of great Timothy hay and move on to the next spring seeding.

These solutions can all provide dairy quality forage in a short time. The key to dairy quality is the timing of harvesting. However, the timing will not get away from us as quickly as it might in the spring. Small grains including triticale are not expected to head out in the fall when planted in August in the Upper Midwest if adequate fertility is provided and enough rain occurs. Maximum yield and quality intersect at the flag leaf stage (pre-boot). For the sorghums, harvest time is at 32” tall for AS6402, 38” for AS9301 and at soft dough stage for the forage sorghums. For the Master Graze, harvest is best at tasseling. If these rules are followed each of these crops will be very high in NDF-d and approach or beat corn silage energy. For the Timothy, you will have some of the best dry
cow forage you ever fed. And lastly, for the Annual Ryegrass, at the pre-boot stage, ARG will make some of the sweetest grass that can be found. NDF-d’s of these grasses can approach or beat 70%.

As for yield, the crops that are in the 45 to 60 day harvesting category will all produce between 1½ to two tons of dry matter. If these same crops are harvested for heifer feed, many especially Trical® can double these yields. The longer crops such as forage sorghum (5 to 9 tons DM) and Master Graze (4 to 5 tons DM) are very productive, if you have enough time and sunshine.

Repairing Winter-Damaged Pastures – by Dennis Brown

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My Pasture is winter injured. Now what? This fall and winter has been very hard on pastures due to the longer than average grazing along with the wet weather and no frozen ground:

  • 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 within 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.
  • 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.

Evaluating Winter Damaged Alfalfa – by Dennis Brown

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How do I diagnose winter injured Alfalfa?

  • Slow Green Up. One of the most evident results of winter injury is that stands are slow to green up. If other fields in the area are starting to grow and yours are still brown, it is time to check those stands for injury or death.
  • Asymmetrical Growth. Buds for spring growth are formed during the previous fall. If parts of an alfalfa root are killed and others are not, only the living portion of the crown will give rise to new shoots resulting in a crown with shoots on only one side or asymmetrical growth.
  • Uneven Growth. During winter, some buds on a plant crown may be killed and others may not. The uninjured buds will start growth early while the killed buds must be replaced by new buds formed in spring. This will result in shoots of different height on the same plant, with the shoots from buds formed in spring several inches shorter than the shoots arising from fall buds.
  • Root Damage. The best way to diagnose winter injury is by digging up plants (4 to 6 inches deep) and examining the roots. Healthy roots should be firm and white in color with little evidence of root rot. Winter killed roots will have a gray, water-soaked appearance early, just after soils thaw. Once water leaves the root, the tissue will become brown, dehydrated and stringy. If the root is soft and water can be easily squeezed from it, or is brown, dry and stringy, it is most likely winter-killed. Also, if 50% or more of the root is blackened from root rot, the plant will most likely die during spring green up or later in the year.
     

My alfalfa stand is winter injured. Now what?

Winter injured stands require different management than healthy stands if they are to stay in production. If winter injury is evident consider the following:

  • Determine yield potential. Potential yield of an alfalfa stand may be estimated by determining the number of stems in a square foot area. Once stem number is determined use the following formula to calculate yield potential of that stand:  Yield (tons/acre) = (Stems/ft2 x 0.1) + 0.38

For example, an alfalfa stand with 50 stems/ft2 would have a yield potential of 5.38. Remember, this is potential yield. Soil factors, nutrient deficiency, insects, diseases and many other things may affect the actual yield.

Stem Density to Evaluate Alfalfa Stands
Density (stems/ft^2) Action
Over 55 Stem density not limiting yield
40-55 Stem density limiting yield potential
Under 40 Stem density severly limiting yield, consider replacing
  • If stands are have over 55 stems/ft2 you have goods stands, no yield loss
  • If stands are between 40 to 55 stems/ft2 and under 4 years old consider adding Freedom Red Clover, Lofa or Perun Festolium, or Green Spirit Italian Ryegrass if the stand will be kept 2-3 years
  • If stands are less than 40 stems/ft2 rotate into a corn, spring annual or summer annual crop.

Managing Alfalfa in the Fall – by Chad Hale

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Fall Cutting Management

Every fall we get asked with the same question – when should I cut my alfalfa? We are probably all familiar with the idea of a ‘no-cut period’, usually sometime in or around September for most of us, when we have been told not to cut alfalfa.

Of course the exact timing varies by location, but a little explanation might help you lead your customers through this question by being that local expert we keep talking about.

Fall is the time when our perennial forage plants are preparing for next spring’s growth. For alfalfa, that means stuffing the roots with as many carbohydrates as possible before winter sets in. When it comes to timing the last harvest, we have to do our best not to diminish those carbohydrate reserves. Those who cut in late August/Early September are banking on having enough warm weather to grow 6-8 inches of regrowth which will capture enough sunlight to fill the roots up for the winter. Poor fall growing conditions can occasionally stifle growth enough so that adequate growth doesn’t occur. At the other end of the spectrum are the growers who cut for the last time in October after the plants would typically be shutting down. An extended fall growing season can cause just enough regrowth to be harmful to stands given this treatment.

On average, either strategy can work. If alfalfa has adequate time and conditions to regrow, a late summer or early fall cutting is not harmful. Likewise, cutting off all the growth at the end of the season is not harmful either. The danger occurs when the plants expend energy putting out their initial regrowth, and then a killing frost comes. The plants actually had to deplete root reserves to put out those leaves and that energy was not replaced by photosynthesis. That leaves the plant vulnerable to winter energy and those plants won’t be able to jump out of dormancy as fast when spring comes, reducing the first-harvest yield. In one of those start and stop springs with several freeze-thaw cycles, the plant may try to initiate growth a couple of times and run out of energy completely.

The time for the early fall cutting has passed, but there may still be time for a late fall cut without much regrowth occurring. Recent research out of Canada points out that in more precise terms, early fall cut stands need to accumulate 500 growing ° days to refill root reserves. If late fall cut stands accumulate no more than 200 growing ° days, so little regrowth will occur that it will not draw down root reserves. It’s those fields that accumulate somewhere between 200-500 growing ° days that may need attention this spring. To calculate growing ° days, see the example at the end of this article. Your Byron Seed Territory Manager should be able to help you access local weather data.

Example of Growing ° Days (GDD) for alfalfa
The alfalfa calculation uses a base number of 41 °s F because very little growth occurs below that temperature. For our example, let’s assume the high temperature today was 62 and the low was 48.
62 + 48 = 110 110/2 = 55 ° average temperature for the day. 55 °s minus the 41 ° base = 14 growing ° days for that day.
Perform this calculation for every day from the last cutting until the first day a killing frost of 25 °s occurs

Fall Fertility

Another important factor for getting alfalfa prepared for winter is having adequate soil fertility, especially Potassium. Potassium actually acts as antifreeze inside the plant by lowering the freezing point of the fluid inside the plant. It’s the same principle as salt water not freezing as quickly as plain water. The attached graph shows the difference a fall application of Potassium can make over the life of the stand. You can see that the stand that received Potassium fertilizer every year stayed dense, while the one without fertility faded out. When you consider how much Potassium is removed in each ton of hay, it stands to reason that the soil can become depleted fairly quickly.

Spring Pasture Fertility Practices – by Dennis Brown

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Soil nutrients in a pasture cycle through soil organisms, pasture plants, and grazing livestock. Proper management can enhance the nutrient cycle, increase productivity, and reduce costs. Two practical indicators of soil health are the number of earthworms and the percentage of organic matter in the soil.

A diversity of pasture plants growing on healthy soils use sunlight and the nutrients in the soil to effectively produce quality forage. Paddock design and stocking density can also affect the efficiency of nutrient cycling in a pasture system. Adding fertilizer, based on soil tests, balances the soil’s mineral composition, resulting in better plant and animal growth and increased soil health. Correct pasture management can effectively increase soil fertility through understanding the effects of the plants and animals living in and on the soil. Not only can soil organisms generate mineral nutrients or make them available, but these same minerals can also be recycled several times in a growing season, if the soil ecosystem is healthy and plant cover is optimal. With good management, nutrients can recycle quickly with minimal losses to air and water. Less fertilizer will be required over time, and this means increased profitability for the entire farm.

Producers create a healthy soil through good soil management and smart grazing strategies. Good managers will soil test regularly and apply fertilizers, lime as needed. They monitor the results of these decisions and make note of their observations for future reference. Understanding forages and adjust stocking rates and paddock rest periods. Also making, harvesting and seeding decisions to maintain and improve their soil and pasture resources.

Here is how forages use minerals and nutrients.

Lime

  • Soil PH needs to be 6.6 to 6.8 and base saturation needs to be 70% plus
  • Helps with the movement and absorption of phosphorus, nitrogen, and magnesium.
  • Benefits bacteria, fungi, protozoa and other soil life so important for nutrient cycling.
  • Releases important trace and growth nutrients by its pH-altering effect.
  • Helps clover, which requires twice the calcium of grass. Abundant calcium is necessary for clover nodulation.
  • Creates soil tilth and structure so that air and water can move more freely through soil by causing clay particles to stick together. Soil must be able to breathe to grow great grass.
  • Allows pastures to be more droughts tolerant
  • Improves the palatability of grass and clover, makes the pasture softer for animals to graze, and lessens grass-pulling in new stands.
  • Helps prevent weeds

Nitrogen

  • Directly affect forage crude protein levels in grasses, with much less effect on crude protein levels in legumes.
  • Greatly increases forage dry matter yield
  • Within reason, the greater the nitrogen fertilizer applied the higher the forage grass crude protein; there is, of course, an upper limit to this affect.
  • Nitrogen fertility levels should be based on realistic yield expectations however, and forage crude protein levels should be managed by plant maturity at harvest, whether by haying or grazing management

Potassium

  • Soil level for adequate is 150 ppm
  • Deficient or low potassium fertility levels will most assuredly reduce forage growth, e.g., can become first limiting nutrient and decrease overall yields.
  • Potassium uptake can be in luxury amounts by most forage species, typically, plants will accumulate 2 to 20 times sufficient levels of potassium when it is available in the soil.

Phosphorus

  • Soil level for adequate is 30 ppm
  • Low soil phosphorus can be growth- limiting.
  • Phosphorus is typically not consumed in luxury amounts as is potassium and will generally show on forage analysis as 0.2 to 0.3% composition on a dry matter basis.
  • Phosphorus may be low enough in forage plant tissue that it becomes deficient in the grazing livestock diet.
  • When phosphorus is this low in the soil, plant growth will most definitely be reduced.
  • Soil phosphorus levels must be adjusted for adequate forage growth.

How Soon Can I Grow More Forage? – by Tom Kilcer, CCA, Advanced AG Systems

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This season has drastically reduced the forage supply. The shortage will rebound-impact the forage supplies of next year and the year after. Here are steps you can take to quickly get more forage on the acres you work, starting with the earliest return of forage:

Nitrogen on >50% grass fields. Applying 75 – 80 lbs of nitrogen (plus sulfur – 40-0-0-4S -if no manure the past year) can easily double the first cutting yield off of these tradi-tionally marginally managed fields. Harvested a week to 10 days earlier than alfalfa, they can give you forage to support the highest levels of milk production and protein to reduce soy cost.
 

Oats with new seedings. An old practice, oats planted with the legume seeding and harvested at flag leaf stage, will give several tons of very high quality forage by mid – late June. Allowed to go to early soft dough, it will produce excellent forage for heifers or, if no manure was used, for dry cows.

Winter grains as forage. An increasing number of farms last fall grew winter for-age, especially triticale. Applying nitrogen and harvesting at flag leaf stage, can give 8 si-lage tons/a of the highest quality forage possible in the Northeast at the same time as early grass. A short season, high energy forage crop can be grown immediately after it. A similar double crop option can be used for fields of run out haycrop. Apply nitrogen, take an early haycrop harvest, and then follow with shorter season energy forage.

Short season energy forages can be short season corn, the new short sea-son bmr sorghums, bmr sorghum-Sudans, bmr Sudangrass or teff. Both teff and the sor-ghums require warm soils and weather for successful stand establishment and growth. They are not a cool season crop.

Teff will produce a cutting 47 days after planting. Requiring only 50 lbs of nitrogen/cutting, it produces forages equal to high quality cool season grasses. A critical step is to move the cutter bar up to 3 – 4 inches as the next cutting has to be grown from the remain-ing leaf tissue. Using this system, 2.75 tons of dry matter has been produced in as short as 17 days after the first cutting.

The next earliest forage supply is BMR6 Sudan grasses at 45 days. BMR Sudan-grass is faster emerging, and higher quality than Sorghum Sudan and yields just as much. The smaller stem makes it easier to dry. Both Sudangrass and sorghum-Sudangrass work well in rotational grazing. The down side is the new BMR6 Sudangrass seed is in limited supply.

BMR6 sorghum-Sudan is taller and first harvest is the middle of July. Sorghum-Sudan is only for managers who pay attention to details. It needs to be harvested at about 3 feet in height. Taller crops maintain their quality, but there is a dramatic increase in dry matter yield and the amount of water to remove. This crop grows 3 inches a day, thus the necessity of watching it closely. Higher cutting height will speed re-growth of sorghum-Sudan. Intermeshing rollers are far superior to flails in drying this crop for silage. It will produce 2 – 3 cuts a year. Harvested correctly, Miner Institute research has found it to produce the same amount of milk as good quality corn silage in a high forage diet.

Short season corn (< 85 day in Albany, NY area) planted as the first corn in the spring; barring any prolonged dry spell or excessive cloudy weather that delay maturity; produces mature corn silage by the begin-ning of August. Short season corn produces a shorter plant and so less potential silage yield. We have found that much of the yield loss can be off-set by planting at much higher plant populations (40,000 plants/a pro-duced 19.6 tons/a in 2011). A major concern is many short season corns are bred from flint type endosperm. This produces very hard kernels that may forage test well, but a significant portion of the energy is undigested in the manure. This can be offset by planting short season varieties that have floury or soft endosperm. Thus, whether processed or not, the cows will get a greater portion of the energy the grain contains. Several compa-nies produce these silage varieties. If the harvest is early enough, a fall crop of spring oats could be sequen-tially grown (see below).

A potential new crop is 83 day BMR dwarf sorghum discussed in the last Crop Soil News. It only requires one cutting and harvested at soft dough, can be direct chopped without the necessity of drying like sorghum-Sudans. Note: This is not a crop for cool seasons. Sorghum likes heat. It is critical that your drill or corn planter be able to plant only 8 – 10 lbs of seed/acre. Higher populations, like excessive high populations in corn, will lodge. More research on this crop is being conducted at the Cornell Valatie Research farm. If you try some only do a small acreage until you get experience with this crop.

Double crop winter forage. All of the above high energy crops can be planted after harvesting winter forage such as triticale. They can then allow subsequent winter forage be planted again after the short season energy crop, continuing the high yield rotation. Most of the corn last season yielded 12 – 20 tons/acre. High population short season corn yielded 19.6 ton/acre and the sorghum 19.3 tons/acre. Adding 8 tons of silage/acre from the winter triticale, gave us 27 total tons from the same acreage in one lousy year. The double crop reduces the risk from one crop getting decimated; spreads the work load, and protects the soil on HEL land by profitable forage cover crop, and opens opportunities to spread manure.

August Oats: Planting grain type oats at 4-5 bu/a at the beginning of August will give 2 – 4 tons of dry matter at the end of September. This forage has tested at over 4,000 lbs of milk/ton – a very highly digestible energy and protein source. In our research, the yield and protein levels justified 12,000 gallons of manure/acre, immediately incorporated, to meet the nitrogen needs. (low P soil test). With short days, cool temperatures, and very high yields, it will need to be tedded in order to drop the moisture to ensiling levels.

August Oats Plus: In the above fall oat research, we simultane-ous planted 80 to 100 lbs of winter triticale with the oats. By harvesting the oats at greater than 3 inch cutting height, the winter triticale was able to re-grow before winter and thus give another early very high quality forage harvest the next spring.

Each of these crops can give you a forage boost. They take some planning and effort but the reward of increased profitability from high (>60%) forage diets is well known.