Ag Connection

Your link to the Universities for ag extension and research information

Volume 4, Number 5
May 1998
This Month in Ag Connection
Forage Quiz

1) Nitrogen fertilization not only increases yield per acre, it also:

a) encourages growth earlier in the spring
b) sustains production later in the fall
c) increases carrying capacity
d) all the above.

2) Pasture swards having more than 50% legumes will still usually respond to N fertilization. True or False?

3) Maturity is the most important single factor determining feeding value of hay, regardless of species. True or False?

4) Maturity at harvest affects digestibility, but does not influence the quantity of hay consumption by animals. True or False?

5) One acre equals 2.471 hectares. True or False?

Answers Here

Why Do We Make Hay?
Weevil Alert
Dale's Hay Harvesting Tips
When to Harvest  Hay or Silage for Optimim Quality, Yield, and Persistence?
Coming Events -
Pasture Day at Linneus
Field Days Set for MU Research Centers
More on Forages -
Forage Guides - Available on the Internet or from Your Local Universtiy of Missouri Extension Center

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Why Do We Make Hay

Generally we start by identifying where we are going to make hay, based on the expectation of harvesting X number of bales so that we can feed hay for X number of days. We tend to delay harvest until we have favorable weather, which results in lower quality hay as cool season grasses mature. Frequently, harvest comes so late that the regrowth following hay harvest is poor, offering limited opportunities for fall grazing. The result is that the grazing season is shortened and we are left facing a long hay feeding season with marginal quality hay.

I would suggest another approach — from a fundamentally different point of view. Rather than generating X number of bales as the basic reason for making hay, consider hay making as a tool to manage pasture quality and supply. With this approach, we will generally start making hay earlier in the season, accepting greater risk of unfavorable weather, but most likely producing higher quality hay, though lower yield. Regrowth is likely to be significantly greater than following later harvests due to more favorable soil moisture and temperature. Because of better regrowth on hayed pastures, the main body of pasture will not need to be grazed as severely, allowing for a rest period going into the fall and allowing more pasture to be stockpiled, thus shortening the hay feeding season.

Plant maturity has the greatest effect on pasture and hay quality. Digestibility typically decreases at a rate of about percent per day following boot stage in cool season grasses. Delaying harvest for three weeks after boot would result in a digestibility loss of 10%. To put this in context, if digestibility is 60% at boot and declines to 50% three weeks later, the hay has gone from being adequate for a lactating beef cow to being inadequate for even maintenance of a cow.

Several researchers have reported the quality loss due to increased grass maturity to be significantly greater than loss incurred if the hay had been harvested at boot stage and rained on. While this trend is certainly true for grass and grass-dominant hay, alfalfa and other legumes are much more susceptible to serious weather damage.

If we are harvesting hay from paddocks in a rotational grazing system, there are again two different approaches to determining where hay is harvested. One approach is to designate certain paddocks at the beginning of the season to be harvested for winter feed. An advantage of this approach is that paddocks may be selected on the basis of ease of harvest or managing a particular weed problem. An alternative approach is to graze all the pastures initially and then identify the paddocks where grazing management has been least effective and use hay harvest as a tool to clean up grazing management mistakes.

Before you fire up the equipment this spring or even before you turn the stock out, think about why you are making hay. What would you really like to accomplish in the context of your total forage-livestock system? Good pasture management extends the grazing season, reducing the need for hay. Poor hay crop management shortens the grazing season, increasing the need for hay.

Author: Jim Gerrish, Research Assistant Professor

Answers to Forage Quiz

1) d) all the above.
2) False
3) True
4) False
5) False

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Weevil Alert

Now is the time to look for alfalfa weevil in Central Missouri fields. Weevil larvae are small and hard to see. They do their first feeding hidden in the youngest, folded leaves at the top of infested plants. Do not confuse clover and alfalfa weevils. Clover weevils occur earlier, are larger, have brown spots on their back and a tan colored head. Alfalfa weevils have a white strip down the center of their back and black heads. The head color is the most important separating characteristic.

Mild winter temperatures are a big contributing factor to high spring numbers. When the temperature is above 50 F, alfalfa weevil adults are active enough to lay eggs. There were 26 days when daily temperatures were above 50 F during December, January and February. This relatively high number of winter days favorable to egg laying certainly suggests a great potential for alfalfa weevil damage.

There may be some good news to go along with this season’s weather. The frequent rains and cool spring temperatures can cause a fungal disease (Entomophthora phytonomi) in alfalfa weevil populations.

Typically, this disease comes too late to help with weevil control, past the time of most serious weevil damage. However, with the cool, wet conditions early this year, this disease may actually lower weevil populations below treatment thresholds.

Before treating for alfalfa weevils, consider the time to harvest, how much additional damage may occur, and the weevils’ health. If the larvae appear sluggish and possibly discolored, pesticide application may be unnecessary. Treatment threshold is when one or more larvae per stem are present and 30% or more of the plant terminals show feeding damage.

Authors: Jim Jarman, Agronomy Specialist

Forage Guides —

Available on the Internet, or from Your Local University of Missouri Extension Center

G04551 Alfalfa Diseases in Missouri

G04560 Alfalfa Weevil Control

G04564 Spittle Beetle

G04569 Blister Beetle Management in Alfalfa

G04575 Making and Storing Quality Hay

G04590 Corn Silage

G04652 Seeding Rates, Dates and Depths for Common Missouri Forages

G04671 Eastern Gama Grass

G04673 Big Bluestem, Indiangrass and Switchgrass

G04695 Horse Pastures

M00157 Missouri Grazing Manual ($12)

MP0581 Weed and Brush Control Guide for Forages, Pastures and Non- Cropland in Missouri ($5)

PS0008 Common Forage Legume Insects

NCR547 Alfalfa Management Guide ($5)

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Dale's Hay Harvesting Tips

diamond_.gif (84 bytes)The ground has an effect on the curing process of hay. If the ground is dry, keep the windrow narrow to reduce the discoloration due to sun exposure. If the ground is damp, spread windrow the full width of the conditioner to intensify the drying process.

diamond_.gif (84 bytes)Idaho, Utah and North Carolina research data indicates that livestock prefer hay mowed in the evening over hay cut in the morning. This may be due to the fact that hay cut in the evening contains more carbohydrates.

diamond_.gif (84 bytes)Raking hay is one of the most boring of the hay harvesting jobs, but one of the most important. Leaf losses may run as high as 21% when raking or tedding occurs at the 20% moisture level. Rake hay at or above 33% moisture for less leaf loss.

diamond_.gif (84 bytes)The design of bale netting channels rain off the bales instead of letting the moisture penetrate the bales.

diamond_.gif (84 bytes)Twine spacing of 2 to 4 inches reduces spoilage of large bales considerably. Some data indicates that 2 inch twine spacing is very comparable to the net wrap procedure.

diamond_.gif (84 bytes)The outer 6" portion of large round bales contains 1/3 of the hay and the outer 12" contains of the hay in the bale. Bale density influences the amount of spoilage. Bales that are extremely tight are generally not preferred. Bales with a density of 12 to 14 pounds per cubic foot permit bales to breath, have a minimum of spoilage when stored outside and allow easy consumption.

diamond_.gif (84 bytes)A storage location that is unshaded and well drained is preferred. Place bales in rows running north and south, exposing both sides of the rows to the sun. This provides opportunity for drying throughout the entire storage period.

Author: Dale Watson, Livestock Specialist

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Summary of when to harvest various forage species and mixtures for hay or silage to optimize quality, yield, and persistence

Species First Harvest Regrowth
Alfalfa Bud or first flower Bud or first flower of alfalfa
Alfalfa-orchardgrass When orchardgrass heads Bud or first flower
Alfalfa-smooth brome or other grasses Alfalfa bud or first flower First flower of alfalfa
Red clover First flower to 25% bloom First flower of red clover
Red clover-grasses When grass is at early head First flower of red clover
Ladino clover alone or with grasses 10 to 50% bloom of ladino Every 30 to 35 days
Birdsfoot trefoil alone or with grasses 10 to 50% bloom of birdsfoot trefoil 10 to 50% bloom of birdsfoot trefoil
Smooth brome, orchardgrass or timothy When heads emerge Vegetative
Reed canarygrass or tall fescue Flag-leaf to early heading Every 30 to 40 days
Bermudagrass or bahiagrass When 40 cm. tall Every 4 to 5 weeks
(Source: Miller, D.A., 1984. Forage Crops. New York: McGraw-Hill)

Field Days Set for MU Research Centers

Field days have been set at seven University of Missouri research farms and centers. The locations and dates are:

Forage Systems Research Center, Pasture Day, Linneus, MO — June 23

Graves Memorial Experiment Center, Corning MO — August 25

Greenley Research Center, Novelty, MO — August 27

Delta Center, Portageville, MO — September 2

Hundley-Whaley Farm, Albany, MO — September 10

Southwest Research Center, Mount Vernon, MO — September 11-12

Wurdack Farm, Cook Station, MO — September 18

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Pasture Day at Linneus

Kura Clover — one of the forages you can check out at the June 23rd Pasture Day at FSRC.

Kura clover is a rhizome-spreading legume that is under evaluation at the Forage Research Center. Research will continue until it is clear that this clover will provide persistent, high quality pastures. Over the last three years the stands in test plots have thickened, along with increasing yields.

Minnesota and Wisconsin tests have shown that Kura persists under continuous grazing. Other advantages include winter hardiness, ability to withstand poor fertility and waterlogged soils, and it’s resistant to most viruses that affect white clover. Some factors still need to be looked at:

  1. Kura clover may be more productive in northern Missouri;
  2. Kura is slow to establish and has poor seedling vigor so weed and grass competition could be a problem early;
  3. Kura is not a good seed producer. Adaption and seed production, however, may not hinder Kura from becoming a popular forage.

Jim Jarman, Agronomy Specialist, James Rogers, Livestock Specialist

The annual Forage Systems Research Center (FSRC) Pasture Day will be held from 4 to 9 PM on Tuesday, June 23. This event showcases current FSRC research as well as the practical application of that research. Pasture walks this year will feature stockpiling for winter grazing and pasture weaning, measuring water quality coming off pastures, effects of grazing management on animal performance and pasture condition, along with several other timely topics.

Pasture Day is free and open to the public. A sponsored supper is provided by local businesses and FSRC.

The center is located at: 21262 Genoa Road, Linneus, MO.

For More Information: Phone: 660-895-5121 or by e-mail:  Jim Gerrish, Research Assistant Professor

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University of Missouri ExtensionAg Connection - May 1998 -- Revised: April 20, 2004