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title image for chapter 12; Forages

CRAIG SHEAFFER



To continue reading Chapter 12, please click the link to the PDF below. The PDF version is the preferred way to read this manual; it is beautifully laid out with color images and graphics that help explain concepts.

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image from front page of chapter 12 PDF; mixed sward of clover, grasses, birdsfoot trefoil in bloom

Chapter 12: Forages
(PDF, 1.34 Mb)



Chapter 12 - Forages

By Craig Sheaffer

There are several legumes and grasses that are used in organic cropping systems in the Midwest. The emphasis in this chapter is on small-seeded legume and grass use for hay or silage.

Choosing forages

Overall, grasses are longer-lived and more tolerant of adverse management and environmental conditions compared to legumes, but grasses require nitrogen fertilization to promote yield. Grasses and legumes also differ in composition that affects forage quality. For livestock feeding, legumes are valued for their protein content and digestibility.

Legume Selection

Selection of legumes for cropping systems is based on several factors. These include use as well as adaptability to climatic conditions and soil. The table below shows characteristics of various legumes for the Upper Midwest.


 

Tolerance to:

Legume

Heat/ drought

Wet

Winter injury

Frequent cutting/ grazing

Soil acidity

Low fertility

Alfalfa

E

P

G

F

P

P

Alsike clover

P

E

P

P

G

F

Birdsfoot trefoil

F

E

F

G

G

F

Cicer milkvetch

G

F

E

F

F

F

Crownvetch

G

P

F

P

G

F

Kura clover

F

G

E

E

F

G

Red clover

F

F

F

F

G

G

Sweetclover

E

P

E

P

P

F

White clover

P

G

F

E

G

G

Berseem clover

P

E

P

G

P

G

 

E = excellent, G = good, F = fair, P = poor



Legume

Seedling vigor

Bloat inducing

Alfalfa

G

Yes

Alsike clover

G

Yes

Birdsfoot trefoil

P

No

Cicer milkvetch

P

No

Crownvetch

P

No

Kura clover

P

Yes

Red clover

E

Yes

Sweetclover

G

Yes

White clover

G

Yes

Berseem clover

E

No

E = excellent, G = good, F = fair, P = poor



Legume Species

The following legumes are among the best suited for Upper Midwest. See Table 12-1 for a summary of traits for other legumes.

Alfalfa is the leading perennial forage legume in the Midwest. Stands typically last from three to five years with maximum yields in the first two years after seeding. Alfalfa can be harvested for hay, silage, or more frequently by grazing. Its herbage is high in protein and a good source of fiber for livestock rations. It has an extensive tap-root system that can extend to a depth of 20 feet. Alfalfa conducts biological nitrogen fixation and incorporation of herbage and roots can contribute nitrogen for following crops. Alfalfa is affected by several diseases and is damaged by the potato leafhopper. Disease resistant and potato leafhopper resistant varieties with appropriate levels of winter hardiness should be grown.

Red clover is a short-lived perennial that usually persists only two years. It is often used as a hay and pasture crop alternative to alfalfa especially on heavy soils with a low pH. Red clover herbage is succulent and harder to dry than alfalfa. There are two general types of red clover. “Medium” or multiple cut types are most widely grown in the north central region while “Mammoth” red clover produces only one crop of hay per season.

White clover is a short-lived perennial legume most often used for pastures because it grows close to the ground. It spreads by horizontal aboveground stems called stolons. White clover is poorly rooted and grows best with adequate soil moisture. There are several types of white clover: tall, large-leafed types are more productive than smaller types (called white Dutch or wild white clovers). White clover is prone to winter injury but will persist in pastures through natural reseeding.

Birdsfoot trefoil is a perennial legume that is noted for its tolerance of waterlogged soils and low soil pH. Its long-term stand persistence is related to its natural reseeding. Birdsfoot trefoil is a good pasture legume and will not cause bloat.

Sweet clover is a tall-growing biennial or annual legume. It is a traditional green manure crop and when unharvested it will contribute more N and biomass for incorporation than any other clover or alfalfa. However, sweet clover possesses several undesirable traits: 1) plants tend to be succulent and stemmy and are slow to dry if the forage is cut for hay; 2) plants contain coumarin, a chemical responsible for bleeding disease in cattle and horses that consumed spoiled hay; and 3) sweet clover is a prolific seed producer that can become a weed in cropping systems.

Producer tips

Alfalfa can provide great benefits to organic farmers. One producer from Lac Qui Parle County has found that his operation truly began to turn around once he incorporated alfalfa into his rotation. He finds better soil, better yields, and greater weed control.

A producer from Faribault County prefers red clover over alfalfa for its consistency under his conditions. He plants at 8-10 pounds/acre and uses a medium red clover type.

A producer from McLeod County uses a medium red clover type, which does better in his high magnesium and low calcium soils, but prefers alfalfa for feeding his livestock.

Legume adaptation

Several adaptive traits, including tolerance to soil pH, soil fertility, soil moisture, and winter hardiness will influence the success in growing forage legumes. Soil pH affects soil microbial activity and nutrient availability. Most legumes grow best at a soil pH of 6 to 7, but will tolerate soils below that range. While some like alfalfa grow poorly at a pH of less than 6; others like red clover and birdsfoot trefoil tolerate a lower soil pH.

For good yields and persistence of all legumes, potassium, phosphorus, and sulfur need to be applied at recommended levels, based on soil testing, using approved organic fertilizers or manures.

Saturated or poorly drained soils inhibit root growth and nitrogen fixation of legumes and promote diseases. Alfalfa is not tolerant of wet soils; red clover has greater tolerance, while birdsfoot trefoil has very good tolerance. No legume will tolerate flooding for more than a few days especially when air temperatures exceed 50° F. Poorly drained soils can also develop ice sheeting during winter. Legumes have poor tolerance to ice sheeting that continues for greater than a week.

All plants and sometimes varieties vary in winter hardiness. In the North Central Region, winter injury occurs due to a combination of low temperatures and lack of snow cover. Winter injury is also greater in poorly-drained soils than well-drained soils.

Reducing risk: legume adaptation. If soil pH is too low for alfalfa, grow red clover or birdsfoot trefoil instead. Test soil nutrients and apply amendments accordingly. Plant red clover or birdsfoot trefoil, instead of alfalfa, if soil lacks good drainage. Choose legume varieties with proper winter hardiness for your area.

Legume use

An essential component in choosing a forage legume will relate to the ultimate use. Factors to consider include frequency of cutting, hay quality, persistence, nitrogen contribution, and ease of establishment.

Frequent cutting stimulates regrowth and can deplete energy reserves. Producers should plant alfalfa if planning more than two cuts. Market is another important consideration.

When growing as a hay crop, forage quality will be vital. All legumes can produce hay of high nutritional value if harvested at immature stages. However, some legumes contain anti-quality components.

If planning to grow the crop for more than one year, long-term persistence will be important. Because of variability in winter hardiness and disease resistance, legumes vary in persistence. For example, red clover can provide good short term yields, but most varieties do not typically persist beyond the second year after seeding.

Contribution of nitrogen to subsequent crops in rotation will vary by species and the amount of herbage incorporated. Alfalfa and red clover are best for most organic rotations. Sweet clover is a traditional green manure crop for non-harvested systems.

If seedbed conditions tend to be poor at the time of forage establishment, seedling vigor will be something to consider. Seedling vigor affects the success of establishment especially during periods of less than ideal seedbed conditions. Red clover has greater seedling vigor than alfalfa and other legumes and is therefore more useful for frost seeding.

Reducing risk: legume use. Use only alfalfa if planning to cut forage more than three times or if planning to grow for more than two years. White clover and sweet clover are not good choices for hay. Red clover, berseem, and sweet clover are excellent green manures.

Grass Selection

Timothy, smooth bromegrass, reed canarygrass, and orchard-grass are most frequently grown in mixture with legumes or alone for hay or pasture. Kentucky bluegrass is a low-growing species that is used mostly in pastures.

Grass species

The following grasses are among the best suited for Upper Midwest. The table below shows the characteristics of various grasses for the Upper Midwest.


 

Tolerance to:

Grass

Heat/ drought

Wet

Winter injury

Frequent
cutting/
grazing

Soil acidity

Kentucky bluegrass

P

G

E

E

F

Orchardgrass

G

F

G

E

G

Perennial ryegrass

P

F

P

E

G

Reed canarygrass

E

E

E

E

E

Smooth bromegrass

E

F

E

P

F

Tall fescue

G

G

F

E

E

Timothy

P

P

E

P

G

 

E = excellent, G = good, F = fair, P = poor



Grass

Seedling
vigor

Maturity‡

Kentucky bluegrass

F

Early

Orchardgrass

E

Early-medium

Perennial ryegrass

E

Early-medium

Reed canarygrass

P

Medium-late

Smooth bromegrass

E

Medium-late

Tall fescue

E

Medium-late

Timothy

G

Late

‡ Relative time of seed head appearance in spring. Will also depend on variety.

E = excellent, G = good, F = fair, P = poor


Smooth bromegrass is a long-lived, cool-season, tall-growing, sod forming perennial. It is frequently grown in mixture with alfalfa although in some regions pure stands exist. For haymaking, stands of smooth bromegrass are typically harvested three times per season with stems produced at all harvests. It has excellent winter hardiness and drought tolerance. Timothy is a tall, long-lived, cool-season bunch grass. Timothy is used in mixture with alfalfa and other legumes. It grows best under cool and moist conditions and does not yield well in regions with hot, dry summers.

Orchardgrass is a cool-season, perennial bunch grass. Its growth habit results in an open sod. It is used in pastures or as a hay crop and often in mixture with alfalfa. Spring regrowth is stemmy but summer and fall growth is mostly leaves. Orchardgrass can suffer winter injury during years without snowcover. Some producers dislike orchardgrass because it matures early and its first growth is stemmy with low palatibility. Also, it can be clumpy on the field.

Reed canarygrass is a tall, cool-season, sod-forming perennial. It can be used in pastures or harvested for hay. It is known for its productivity in wetlands but also has good heat and drought tolerance. It has excellent forage yield potential. Reed canarygrass is slow to establish. The forage is very stemmy if allowed to mature and the spring regrowth must be harvested before flowering. It can become an invasive species if allowed to go to seed. Wild types of reed canarygrass can contain alkaloids that are undesirable chemicals that affect livestock performance. Growers should purchase only low-alkaloid varieties.

Perennial ryegrass is a short-lived, cool-season grass used for pasture and haymaking. It has excellent nutrition for livestock and is highly palatable. Its value is limited because of lack of winter hardiness and limited heat and drought tolerance. Perennial ryegrass is used alone and in mixtures with legumes.

Kentucky bluegrass is a low-growing species used for continuous or rotational grazing. However, its yields are lower than the tall growing grasses. It has poor heat and drought tolerance and undergoes a pronounced summer slump. Kentucky bluegrass is frequently found in mixture with white clover in perennial pastures.

Tall fescue is a perennial bunch grass that is best adapted to grazing. For the North Central Region, its use is limited by lack of winter hardiness except where reliable snow cover occurs.

Grass adaptation

As with forage legumes, soil pH, soil fertility, soil moisture, and winter hardiness will influence the success in growing forage grasses. For best establishment and production of grasses, a pH of 6.0 – 7.0 is recommended; however, grasses are much more tolerant of lower and higher pH than legumes and will grow well with the pH of most agricultural soils.

For good yields and persistence, N, K, P, and S need to be applied at recommended levels. Nitrogen is essential for grass growth and can be supplied by legumes growing in mixture or by fertilizers.

Grasses have a range of moisture tolerances. Only reed canarygrass can tolerate periods of prolonged flooding. Smooth bromegrass is the most drought-tolerant grass. Timothy lacks drought tolerance.

As described for legumes, winter hardiness is an important trait. Orchardgrass, perennial ryegrass, and tall fescue are among those grasses with lower levels of winter hardiness and may suffer winter injury.

Reducing risk: grass adaptation. Test soil nutrients and apply amendments accordingly. Choose grasses with proper drought tolerance, maturity, and winter hardiness for your area. Long-term yield and persistence of tall-growing grasses can be increased by cutting at three to four inches instead of one inch. Of course, Kentucky bluegrass can tolerate a one-inch cutting height.

Grass use

Factors to consider when growing forage grasses include frequency of cutting or grazing, as well as persistence. Frequent mechanical cutting can deplete the energy storage reserve of grasses, but grasses differ in the amount of energy storage. Reed canarygrass is most tolerant of frequent (three to four times per season) cutting, while timothy is less tolerant.

As with frequent cutting, continuous grazing by livestock can deplete grass energy reserves. Low-growing Kentucky bluegrass has greater tolerance of continuous grazing than tall growing grasses.

Because of variation in storage reserves and growth habit, grasses differ in persistence. Winter hardiness can also be a factor. Reed canarygrass and smooth bromegrass have greater long-term persistence (four+ years) than other grasses.

Reducing risk: grass use. Use reed canarygrass, orchardgrass or smooth bromegrass if planning to cut forage for hay more than three times. Choose Kentucky bluegrass under continuous grazing conditions. If planning to grow a grass for more than two years, reed canarygrass and smooth bromegrass are better choices.

Grass and Legume Variety Selection

For most grass and legume species, organically produced varieties are available. Varieties differ in traits and should be selected using the same criteria as discussed previously.

Reducing risk: variety selection. It is less risky to purchase a variety with known traits than a blend or a product with no variety identified. It is best to select varieties that reach your target maturity when you normally harvest.

Grass-Legume Mixtures

Mixtures of legumes and grasses are frequently used for forage. Growing a diversity of plants provides several risk reduction advantages compared to pure stands. Advantages are more pronounced when plants can be selected with diverse growth habits, competitiveness, and adaptation to environmental conditions.

Benefits of Mixtures

Mixtures enhance resource utilization. Grasses have fibrous root systems that remove nutrients and water mostly in the top foot of soil, while legumes typically have a tap root system that can penetrate deep in the soil profile and extract nutrients and water. Alfalfa with its deep tap root has greater drought tolerance than most grasses.

Legumes conduct biological nitrogen fixation; whereas grasses require nitrogen. Legumes can transfer nitrogen to grasses in mixture. However, legumes are generally more sensitive to low fertility compared to grasses. Mixtures of legumes with grasses are often more productive than either plant grown alone. This especially occurs as stands age and the stands of some species decline. Mixtures promote survivability. Should winter injury or disease eliminate one species in the mixture, another will likely survive insuring stand persistence. Seeding grasses in mixture with alfalfa has been shown to reduce alfalfa winter injury by protecting the alfalfa crowns.

Legume forage tends to be more succulent than grass forage. Mixing grasses with legumes will increase the rate of drying of the total forage.

Legumes like alfalfa and red clover can cause bloat in ruminants like cows and sheep. Inclusion of a grass with the legume will reduce the incidence of bloat.

Mixtures can provide better weed control. Grasses have fibrous root systems and a spreading growth habit that covers the soil surface by filling in around crown-forming legumes like alfalfa and red clover. The combination of grasses and legumes can resist encroachment of weeds.

Producer tip

A producer from Lac Qui Parle County grows alfalfa in a mixture. He has problems with weeds when he grows alfalfa by itself.

Mixture guidelines

One way to benefit from forage mixtures is to include species with diverse growth habits. Two types of growth habits are crown-forming versus spreading plants. The table below shows the growth habits of legumes and grasses.


Crown-formers

Spreaders

Alfalfa

White clover

Red clover

Smooth bromegrass

Birdsfoot trefoil

Kentucky bluegrass

Orchardgrass

Reed canarygrass

Timothy

 

Tall fescue

 

Perennial ryegrass

 


Keep mixtures simple. Start with a legume and a grass that are most productive in your region. Shotgun mixtures that contain five or more species are typically not the most productive or persistent.

Components of mixtures need to be selected for compatibility with mechanical harvesting versus pasture usage. Select species and varieties with similar maturity and palatability. This will provide mixed forage of uniform quality and insure that all portions will be consumed.

Forage mixture seeding rates

Here are some example forage mixtures with seeding rates for different uses.

Mixtures for plow down only (seeding year only):

Alfalfa (15 lb/acre) or Red clover (10 lb/acre) with Annual ryegrass (2 lb/acre)

Mixtures for hay or silage production:

Alfalfa (8 lb/acre) or Red clover (8 lb/acre) with Smooth bromegrass (8 lb/acre) or Timothy (4 lb/acre) or Orchardgrass (10 lb/acre)

Alfalfa (10 lb/acre) with Perennial ryegrass (6 lb/acre)

Mixtures for pasture:

Red clover (7 lb/acre) and Alsike clover (3 lb/acre) and White clover (1 lb/acre) with Orchardgrass (4 lb/acre) or Smooth bromegrass (6 lb/acre) or Perennial ryegrass (2 lb/acre)

Kura clover (6 lb/acre) and Birdsfoot trefoil (2 lb/acre) with Orchardgrass (4 lb/acre) or Reed canarygrass (4 lb/acre)

Reducing risk: forage mixtures. Choose mixtures with two or three species with diverse growth habits and adaptation to soil types. Species and varieties of grasses and legumes should have similar maturities to make harvest scheduling easier. For example, orchardgrass matures in mid-May, while alfalfa reaches target maturity at the beginning of June.

Forage establishment

Seedbed Preparation

Small seeded grasses and legumes need fine yet firm seed-beds to insure good soil-seed contact. Ideally, the seedbed should be firm with some residue remaining as occurs with conservation tillage (>30 percent residue). This is usually achieved by disking or field cultivation followed by harrowing.

Rough uneven seedbeds reduce soil-seed contact and do not allow uniform planting depths. Excess crop residue can reduce seed contact with the soil and the seed will not germinate in a timely way. If rainfall occurs and the seed germinates on the residue, it will die if the root cannot reach the soil. Overworked seedbeds with no crop residue can result in soil crusting that prevents seedling emergence. This is particularly a problem on fine-textured (clay and silty) soils.

Reducing risk: seedbed. Prepare a firm seedbed with some residue. Ideally, your shoes should not sink greater than one inch into the seedbed.

Planting depth

Small-seeded grasses and legumes are typically seeded 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep on most fine textured soils but somewhat deeper on drier, sandy soils. The table below shows the alfalfa and red clover stands produced by planting 100 seeds at four planting depths (adapted from Sund et al., 1966). Shallow seeding of alfalfa and red clover provides the greatest stands for sand and clay soils. At depths beyond 1/2 inch, seedling numbers decrease dramatically for the clay because of compaction.


 

Alfalfa seeding depth (inches)

Soil type

½

1

1 ½

2

Sand

71.4

72.6

54.8

40.1

Clay

51.9

48.4

28.1

13.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red clover seeding depth (inches)

Soil type

½

1

1 ½

2

Sand

67.3

65.9

53.1

27.1

Clay

40.1

35.1

14.2

7.2


This provides moisture for germination of the seed and the seedling can reach the soil surface upon germination. Seed placed on the soil surface can absorb water following rainfall and begin to germinate but may die before the root can enter the soil. Seed planted too deep depletes its energy reserves before reaching the soil surface.

Reducing risk: planting depth. Seed needs to be planted 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep on most soils and up to one inch deep on sands. Calibrate your seeding equipment. Seed on the soil surface will be a greater risk.

Alfalfa Autotoxicity

Autotoxicity is a risk when trying to establish alfalfa after alfalfa. The result of autotoxicity is poor establishment of new seedlings. Autotoxicity is likely related to the presence of chemicals that are produced by decaying herbage. Growers should plant corn or other crops requiring N fertilization to utilize nitrogen, but sometimes alfalfa is planted after alfalfa. Take the Alfalfa Autotoxicity Quiz at the end of the chapter to assess your autotoxicity risk.

Planting Rates

Planting rate recommendations are focused on establishing a target grass or legume population in the seeding year when all risks to establishment are considered. Target seeding year populations are from 25-50 plants/square foot. With a typical survival of about 60 percent, this provides adequate plant populations for the first production year. Seeding rates for forage legumes and grasses alone and in mixtures are shown in the table below.


 

Seeding rate (bu/ac)

Legumes

Pure stands

In mixtures

Alfalfa

13

5

Birdsfoot trefoil

8

6

White clover

4

2

Red clover

9

5

Sweet clover

10

3

 

 

 

Grasses

 

 

Bromegrass

16

5

Orchardgrass

10

3

Reed canarygrass

7

5

Tall fescue

15

5

Timothy

6

3

Perennial ryegrass

15

6

Kentucky bluegrass

10

5


Legume and grass emergence

Legumes and grasses have different types of emergence. Legumes have epigeal emergence that results in the seed cotyledons being pulled from below the soil surface. Exposure of all the leaves and growing point can lead to defoliation and frost damage. Grasses have hypogeal emergence and the seed stays below ground protecting the growing point from damage. Reducing risk: planting rates. Exceeding the recommended seeding rates creates an economic risk because farmers bear the cost of applying more pounds of expensive seed. Inadequate seeding rates due to lack of seeder calibration results in seeding year populations that reduce yields and lower stand life.

Establishment: Companion Crops vs. Solo Seeding

Small-seeded legumes and grasses are established by two approaches: companion crops and solo seeding. Of these approaches, companion crops are most commonly used for spring seedings, whereas solo seeding is used for late summer plantings after small grain harvest.

Companion crops

Companion crops (also called nurse crops) are planted with small-seeded legumes and grasses and can be harvested for forage, straw, and grain. They are either small grains like spring oats, spring wheat, and spring barley or flax.

Using companion crops when establishing forages has several advantages. Companion crops cover and stabilize the soil and minimize seedling loss due to wind and water erosion. They are essential for hilly sites or sandy, wind-blown soils. Companion crops suppress weeds and seedling loss due to competition with weeds can be lessened.

Companion crops provide a product (e.g., forage, grain, and straw) for farm use and economic return during the seeding year when forage crop yields are normally low.

Companion crops can have disadvantages, too. They compete for light and water with small seedlings and can reduce establishment and yields. In addition, forage or straw from mature small grains can smother the legumes if left in rows on the field. Volunteer small grain can result from shattering of mature grain during harvest. The shattered grain can germinate with favorable moisture conditions and compete with and smother the forage seedlings.

Alfalfa establishment with companion crops

Organic alfalfa establishment with companion crops was examined at three sites in Minnesota. The companion crops used were oats, wheat, bar¬ley, pea, and flax. It was found that small grains performed similarly with alfalfa, while peas were the most competitive with alfalfa. The table below shows alfalfa seeded with small grain and cover crop grain and alfalfa yield.


Cover crop

Grain (bu/ac)

Alfalfa (ton/ac)

 

2006

2006

2007

Spring oat

84

0.4

6.3

Spring wheat

48

0.5

6.5

Spring barley

78

0.4

5.9

Field pea

54

0.2

4.8

Annual flax

19

0.4

6.7

No companion crop

--

--

6.1


Reducing small grain seeding rates is sometimes recommended to reduce competition with legume seedlings, but this research found no effect of small grain seeding rate on legume populations or stands. The table below shows the effect of reducing seeding rates on companion crop grain and alfalfa yield.


Grain

Seeding rate (bu/ac)

Grain yield (bu/ac)

Alfalfa yield (tons/ac)

Oat

2.5

84

6.3

1.3

78

5.7

Wheat

2.0

48

6.9

1.0

33

6.7

Barley

1.8

78

5.9

0.9

71

6.6

Pea

3.0

54

4.8

1.5

38

5.1


In the same experiment, alfalfa was seeded by August 15 after small grain harvest. This also can result in good establishment of the legume if mois¬ture is adequate. The table below shows alfalfa seeded after small grain harvest and the cover crop grain and alfalfa yield.


Cover crop

Grain (bu/ac)

Alfalfa (ton/ac)

 

2006

2007

Spring oat

91

2.7

Spring wheat

42

4.7

Spring barley

66

3.4

Field pea

74

2.7

Annual flax

14

4.8

No companion crop

--

6.2


Reducing risk: companion crops. Do not leave rows of straw or cut forage on longer than three days. Allowing small grains to grow to maturity will prolong competition with forage, leading to greater risk. Choose earlier maturing companion crops. Choose oats or flax, which will be less competitive with forages, instead of semi-dwarf varieties of wheat or barley. Do not apply N fertilizers to small grains with companion crops, as this may cause lodging. Lodged small grains can smother the forage seedlings.

Small grains for spring forage establishment

Oat is the most traditional companion crop in the Midwest. It is frequently grown for production of grain and straw for bedding. The grain is the least energy dense of the small grains, thereby reducing the risk of overfeeding of energy to horses. Oat is also the least competitive small grain and will have less impact on small forage seedlings. Only spring oats are grown in the Midwest.

Barley is primarily grown for production of grain for live-stock feeding or, if high enough quality, for malting. Semi-dwarf varieties produce a high quality forage. Many barley varieties mature ahead of other small grains and that allows earlier harvest and reduces the period of competition. Semi-dwarf barley produces multiple tillers and can provide high levels of competition.

Wheat is valued for grain processed for food products. Spring varieties are used as companion crops. Semi-dwarf varieties can provide significant competition with small legume seedlings. Winter varieties of wheat are sown in the fall, but may winter-kill in northern latitudes. Frost seeding of legumes into winter wheat during winter is not recommended because of excess competition.

Winter rye is the only winter grain that reliably overwinters in the Midwest. It will not flower if planted in the spring. Therefore it is not useful as a spring-seeded small grain. Winter rye can be used as a spring-planted companion crop if a vegetative forage is desired. When planted in the spring, winter rye remains vegetative and can be harvested as forage. It will be killed by disease and summer temperatures. However, winter rye can compete with forages.

Annual (Italian) ryegrass is a forage-type rye that is spring seeded and used as a companion crop. It produces a very high quality forage and can enhance total forage yields. Annual rye can compete with alfalfa and red clover seedlings if seeding rates are greater than 10 pounds per acre.

Winter grains: Winter wheat and rye are seeded in the fall, overwinter, and vigorously grow in the spring. Frost seeding of legumes into winter grains is not recommended because of the excessive competition provided by these grains.

Solo seeding is the direct seeding of small-seeded legumes or grasses in the spring or late summer without companion crops. Solo seeding provides the greatest opportunity to maximize seeding year yields if seeding occurs in the spring. Late summer solo seeding provides no yields in the seeding year but can result in vigorous stands the following year.

Producer tip

A producer from McLeod County finds it difficult to start alfalfa with solo seeding. He establishes alfalfa with an oat companion crop, grows the alfalfa for three years, fall plows the alfalfa, then plants corn. This practice provides nitrogen and reduces weed pressure on the corn.

Reducing risk: solo seeding. Solo seeding is best in fields with low weed populations because weeds can provide significant competition with small-seeded legumes and grasses. Wind and water erosion can be greater when planting small-seeded grasses and legumes on sandy, windblown, or erodible soils.

Planting date

There are a number of options for time of establishing forages, including frost, spring, or summer seedings.

Frost seeding

Frost seeding takes advantage of the freezing and thawing action of the soil to bury small seeds. Typical times of frost seeding are late fall when average air temperatures are less than freezing, in midwinter, and in very early spring. Frost seeding is inexpensive and requires little equipment. Research in Minnesota has shown that frost seeding can be risky in Minnesota. The table below shows alfalfa and red clover mix yields in summer when frost seeded in early winter (December), late winter (March), and spring (April) at Rosemount and Lamberton. Frost seeding in winter often resulted in no plant establishment and no yield.


 

 

Rosemount

Lamberton

Date of seeding

Forage

2007

2008

2007

2008

 

 

tons/acre

Early winter

Alfalfa

0.2

0

0

1.9

 

Red clover mix

0

0

0

1.7

Late winter

Alfalfa

0.3

0

0

1.4

 

Red clover mix

0.2

0

0

1.4

Spring

Alfalfa

0.4

1.3

0.1

1.0

 

Red clover mix

0.5

0.8

0.2

1.2


Reducing risk: frost seeding. Before committing to frost seeding, realize that this will be a risky practice in many areas. Winter temperatures on bare soils may reach levels to promote germination of seeds that are later killed. Late spring frosts that occur after seedling germination also can kill seedlings. Risk can be minimized by buying inexpensive seed.

Spring Seeding

Spring seeding provides the opportunity for seedlings to grow and produce forage in the first year. Generally, crops are sown at a time to take advantage of the seasonal patterns of precipitation, favorable moisture, and to capture the maxi-mum amount of solar energy. For solo or companion crop seeding, the optimum times for seeding in Minnesota is May 1 to May 30 for northern Minnesota, April 15 to May 15 for central Minnesota, and April 1 to April 30 for far southern Minnesota. Recommended planting date shifts about one week later or earlier per 100 miles north or south.

Reducing risk: spring seeding. Plant at the recommended time for your region. Planting before the recommended date will lead to an increased risk of frost damage. Planting after will increase risk of moisture deficit, high temperatures and competition with annual weeds.

Summer Seeding

Late summer seedings are typically sown after harvesting a spring-seeded crop such as a small grain. Successful summer seeding depends on adequate soil moisture, as well as adequate heat units for plants to develop more than three leaves and a crown before the onset of freezing temperatures. This typically takes from six to eight weeks. Therefore, the decision is influenced by the climate in a region. For most of the North Central region, the optimum time to summer seed forages is July 20 to August 1 for northern Minnesota, August 1 to August 15 for central Minnesota, and August 15 to August 31 for far southern Minnesota.

Reducing risk: summer seeding. The least risky time to summer seed in Minnesota is at the beginning of August, unless significant weed pressure is anticipated. Planting at the end of August may leave plants an inadequate time to develop. After the beginning of September, there is a great risk of winter kill to seedlings and yield reduction the following year. For winter survival, legumes and grasses must develop a crown and have three to five leaves formed. Snow cover of six inches during the winter can protect summer seedings from winter injury.

Seeding equipment

Broadcast seeding and drill seeding are two approaches to seeding of small-seeded legumes and grasses. Each can result in successful seeding if proper seeding depth and soil seed contact occur.

Broadcast seeding

Broadcast seeding can be achieved by aerial, manual or mechanical sowing or by using a cultipacker seeder. With broadcasting of seed, distribution and coverage are risk factors. Excessive residue from the previous crop on the soil surface can prevent the seed from reaching the soil. Producers sometimes incorporate legume seed by light harrowing. Dragging can incorporate seed but carries a high risk of burying seed too deep.

Producer tip

A couple from Stevens County successfully establishes alfalfa by broadcast seeding and harrowing it after they have drilled wheat. They have livestock and usually have 100 acres of alfalfa.

Reducing risk: broadcast seeding. Consider drilling if there is excessive residue. Dragging can be risky, depending on conditions. Cultipacker seeders can compact clay soils if the soil is moist. Cultipacker seeders pack the soil and cover the seed ensuring shallow seed placement into a firm seedbed.

Drill Seeding

Seeding with a grain drill or specialized seeder places in rows that are typically six to seven inches apart. With drills, coulters open the soil and deposit the seed. This can occur with small grain drills equipped with legume seed attachments or with specialized drills designed to insert seed into untilled seedbeds.

Reducing risk: drill seeding. Reduce risk of improper planting depths by adjustment of drop tubes from legume seed boxes to insure shallow seed placement. Visually inspect the depth of seeding. Use drills with depth control bands. Use press wheels that follow the coulters to increase soil-to-seed contact.

Weed control in forages

Annual and perennial weeds can affect forage crop establishment, forage persistence, and forage quality. Forage production is an effective way to reduce weed populations. Many annual weeds can be controlled by routine harvesting or grazing that coincides with harvesting of the forage crop. Likewise, even weeds like Canada thistle can be controlled by forage harvest. Producers need to be aware that weeds may provide yield and have good levels of forage quality. Therefore, their control may be unnecessary unless weeds compete with the crops for resources and reduce their yield. The table below shows forage quality of alfalfa and annual weeds (adapted from Maten and Anderson, 1975).


Species

Digestibility

Acid detergent fiber

Crude protein

Alfalfa

72

24

27

Redroot pigweed

73

21

25

Lambsquarters

68

22

25

Common ragweed

73

25

25

Pennsylvania smartweed

51

22

24

Yellow foxtail

69

30

20

Giant foxtail

62

33

18

Barnyardgrass

70

33

18



The table below shows the palatability of oats and weeds for sheep (adapted from Maten and Anderson, 1975).


Category

Species

% of forage consumed

Crop

Oats

73

Palatable grasses

Yellow foxtail

90

 

Barnyardgrass

83

 

Green foxtail

60

Palatable forbs

Redroot pigweed

80

 

Pennsylvania smartweed

75

 

Lambsquarters

72

Unpalatable grass

Giant foxtail

35

Unpalatable forbs

Wild mustard

3

 

Giant ragweed

0

 

Cocklebur

0


Reducing risk: weed control. Poor weed control in annual crops will increase risk in forages because of buildup of weed seed banks and increasing perennial weeds. Increase diversity in crop rotation; rotating different crops will reduce weed populations.

Successful harvests of forages

Forage quality: what is it?

Forage quality describes the potential feeding value of a forage. Ultimately, livestock convert potential feeding value into products humans use such as meat, milk, wool, or work. Nutritive value, intake, and antiquality factors are the three components of forage quality.

Nutritive value describes the nutrient content of the forage. Nutrients include crude protein, energy, and minerals are important for growth and sustenance of animals. The table below shows the average composition of forages on a dry matter basis (adapted from Sheaffer, 1996). Legumes and grasses differ in their nutrient composition, which results in differences in forage quality. For livestock feeding, legumes are valued for their protein content, high intake potential, and digestibility. For both legumes and grasses, maturity affects forage quality.


Species / Growth Stage

Crude protein

Neutral detergent fiber*

Acid detergent fiber**

Digestibility

Alfalfa

 

   - pre-bloom

22

41

31

65

   - early bloom

18

48

38

58

   - mid-bloom

16

50

40

56

   - full bloom

15

52

42

54

Alfalfa-Grass mixture

17

52

36

55

Bromegrass (boot)

11

68

40

56

Red Clover (full bloom)

15

56

41

59

Orchardgrass (boot)

15

61

34

62

Timothy (boot)

9

61

32

59

* A predictor of forage intake potential; greater concentrations mean lower intake.

** A predictor of digestibility; higher concentrations mean lower digestibility.


Intake describes how much of a forage an animal will eat. Two forage factors affecting forage intake are its palatability and its fiber content.

Palatability describes the relative preference of an animal for one forage versus another. For example, grazing livestock will typically select immature ryegrass compared to thistle. Palatability is somewhat of an adaptive trait; i.e. animals can learn to eat a forage they initially reject.

Fiber in forages is made up of cell walls that are composed mostly of cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin. Compared to high energy feeds like corn, the bulky nature of forage fiber lowers the rate of digestion and passage of forage. Fiber is typically measured as neutral detergent fiber (NDF) that is a measure of the cell wall concentration.

Antiquality factors include chemical compounds that reduce intake or cause detrimental affects to animal health or performance. For example, the soluble protein in alfalfa can cause bloating. Nitrates in sudangrass, sorghum, and some weeds can damage the hemoglobin and kill livestock. Alkaloids in reed canarygrass are bitter and reduce palatability, and if ingested cause digestive system disorders.

Two terms that you may encounter when evaluating overall forage quality are Relative Feed Value (RFV) and Relative Forage Quality (RFQ). The Relative Feed Value index ranks forage quality based on potential digestible dry matter of forages and the intake potential. RFV is used to establish a grade for selling and buying hay. The table below shows the effect of hay grade on medium square bale prices per ton (adapted from Martens, 2009).


 

Prime

Grade 1

Grade 2

Bale Type

(> 151 RFV/RFQ)

(125 - 150 RFV/RFQ)

(103 - 124 RFV/RFQ)

Small Square

145.97

145.97

72.25

Large Square

164.14

99.15

76.27

Large Round

116.60

72.25

53.43


Relative Forage Quality is an index like RFV except that it ranks forages by potential digestible dry matter intake calculated by NDF and NDF digestibility.

Harvest Decisions

For both legumes and grasses, crop development influences the forage yield and forage quality. For any given harvest, forage yield increases with crop maturity and forage quality declines. These changes are related to changes in the leaf/ stem proportion as the crop matures. Therefore, growers should harvest at a maturity to reach a specific forage yield or quality goal. Harvest of forages at vegetative stages will provide a high quality, leafy forage but will sacrifice yield and persistence. Harvest at flowering or later stages will prove high yield of stemmy, low quality forage. On a seasonal basis, producers typically harvest forage crops from two to four times. The table below shows the effect of cutting schedules on alfalfa, red clover and birdsfoot trefoil at Lamberton, MN, in 1987-1989.


 

2 cuts

3 cuts

4 cuts

Forage species

Tons/acre

Alfalfa

12.7

13.5

13.9

Red clover

8.3

9.3

8.5

Birdsfoot trefoil

11.1

9.9

8.1


A seasonal cutting schedule considers the forage yield and quality relationships at an individual harvest as well as the growing conditions within a region.

Reducing risk: harvest decisions. Seasonal schedules must be timed to allow the maximum number of harvests during the growing season to reach harvest and quality goals.

Fall Cutting of Legumes

Complicating harvest schedules for legumes are the risks associated with fall cutting. Generally this refers to harvest anytime after early September. Cutting after early September has the potential to lead to winter injury of legumes. Removing legume herbage stimulates regrowth from the crown. Such regrowth depletes carbohydrate reserves required for overwintering of the crop. Fall cutting removes herbage that catches snow and insulates the soil over winter.

Reducing risk: fall cutting. Take the Fall Cutting quiz at the end of the chapter to determine the risk of fall cutting.

Harvesting of Forages for Hay or Silage

Forages are harvested for storage as hay or silage. Hay is stored in the air (aerobically) at a moisture level of 20 percent or less. In silage making, the forage is stored at moisture levels greater than 40 percent in structures or packages that exclude air (anaerobically). Both hay and silage making can lead to losses in forage yield and quality. In haymaking, losses as high as 30 percent occur due to weather exposure and to mechanical handling. Field losses are less for silage making because of shorter field exposure and because silage is handled at higher moisture content than hay. However, storage losses are higher because of biochemical reactions during storage.

Standing forage contains about 80 percent moisture. For successful storage, moisture levels must be decreased by field drying. This process is dependent on solar energy to drive moisture from plant herbage. Other climatic factors such as air temperature, wind speed, and relative humidly influence the drying rate. In the Midwest, one to three days are typically required for drying to safe storage moistures.

Heavy dew and rainfall during curing can cause significant losses in forage yield and quality by shattering leaves and leaching of nutrients. The table below shows changes in alfalfa quality with rain damage (adapted from Pitt, 1990).


 

Crude protein

digestibility

NDF

DM yield

 

----------------------- % -----------------------

tons/acre

Standing crop

23

70

43

2

Hay

20

64

46

1.7

Rain-damaged hay

20

57

54

1.5


Legumes, especially the clovers, are wetter and dry slower than the grasses. Therefore, it takes longer to dry cut legume forage than grass forage. Planting grasses in mixtures with legumes will increase forage drying rate.

Reducing risk: harvesting of forages. Avoid exposure to rain during drying by timing harvest during dry weather. Grasses dry quicker and are less of a risk of losses due to moisture.

Hay

Heating and spontaneous combustion are major risks in hay making. When hay reaches temperatures over 170° F, there is a risk of fire. For safe long-term storage of all hays a target moisture content should be less than 20 percent for small square bales (about 50 pounds) and less than 17 percent for larger bales (greater than 500 pounds). While heating and “sweating” occurs to some extent in all forage baled at above 15 percent moisture, the extent of heating is highly correlated to the moisture content at baling. Heat generated by plant respiration, molds, and chemical reactions can lead to losses in dry matter and forage quality, and if high enough, spontaneous combustion and barn fires can occur. In addition to changes in feeding value, handling of dusty, moldy hay can affect human and animal respiratory systems and cause health problems such as farmers’ lung disease.

Reducing risk: hay. The table below shows recommended hay-making practices to reduce risk (adapted from Pitt, 1990).


Practice

Benefits

Monitor weather forecast

Avoid rain damage

Mow forage early in day

Allows full day's drying. Less likelihood of rain damage.

Form into wide swath

Increase drying rate. Faster drop in moisture. Less likelihood of rain damage.

Rake at 40 to 50 percent moisture content

Increased drying rate. Faster drop in moisture. Less likelihood of rain damage. Less leaf shatter.

Bale at 18 to 20 percent moisture

Optimum preservation. Less leaf shatter. Inhibition of molds. Low chance of fire.

Store under cover

Protection from rain, sun. Inhibition of molds. Less loss from rain damage.

Monitor new hay for heating

Indicates fire damage risk


Silage

Successful silage making involves two important steps. The first is excluding oxygen from the forage. Oxygen exclusion occurs by using air-tight containers that can be plastic bags or wrappings, structures, or piles. Each ensiling system has advantages and disadvantages based on economic, environmental, and logistic concerns. The second step is to rapidly develop a fermentation that reduces the pH and preserves the forage. During fermentation sugars in the forage are converted to lactic acid by bacteria normally present on the forage. Lactic acid reduces the pH to about 4.0-5.0 and pickles the forage inhibiting further microbial growth.

Reducing risk: silage. The table below shows recommended practices to reduce risk for hay crop grass-legume silage (adapted from Pitt, 1990).


Practice

Benefits

Minimize drying time

Reduced nutrient and energy losses. More sugar for fermentation

Chop at correct length (3/8 inch). Fill silo quickly. Compact. Seal silo carefully

Minimal exposure to oxygen. Reduced nutrient and energy losses. Reduced silo temperature and heat damage. Faster pH decline and lower pH.

Ensile at 30 to 50 percent dry matter content

Optimum fermentation. Reduced nutrient and energy losses. Less heat damage (browning). Prevents leaching of water from silage.

Leave silo sealed for at least 14 days

Allows complete fermentation. Lower silage pH

Unload 2 to 6 inches per day. Keep smooth surface

Minimal spoilage

Discard deteriorated silage

Avoids animal health problems


Measuring Forage Moisture Content

The ability to determine forage moisture will reduce risks in hay and silage production. There are three ways to measure moisture content—by hand, with a moisture tester, or using the microwave technique.

The hand method estimates forage moisture by compressing forage by hand to gauge its status. See Table 12-17. The table below shows the hand method for estimating forage moisture concentration. This method is very subjective and therefore most risky.


Characteristic of forage squeezed in hand

Moisture (%)

Water is easily squeezed out and forage holds shape

> 80

Water can just be squeezed out and forage holds shape

75 - 80

Little or no water can be squeezed out but forage holds shape

70 - 75

No water can be squeezed out and forage falls apart slowly

60 - 70

No water can be squeezed out and forage falls apart rapidly

< 60


The second method is to use a moisture tester. The two types of moisture testers are heat and electronic conductance. The electronic testers are faster, but less accurate when compared to the heat moisture tester. The last method is the microwave technique. See http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/442/442-106/442-106.html for more information on this method. This method will give a good approximation of moisture and will be more accurate than electronic testers.

Regardless of the method used, it is important to obtain a sample that is representative of the forage to be tested.

Mechanical Operations

Mechanical operations of hay and silage making typically include baling or chopping. Leaves, which make up about half of forage mass, are fragile and are often the fraction that is lost. The table below shows mechanical operations and dry matter and leaves lost (adapted from Pitt, 1990). Unfortunately, because leaves contain more nutrients and less fiber than stems, their loss leads to a significant change in forage quality.


Operation

% dry matter lost

% of leaves lost

Mowing

1

2

Mowing/conditioning:

 

 

     - reciprocating mower, fluted rolls

2

3

     - disc mower, flail conditioner

4

5

Raking:

 

 

     - at 70% moisture

2

2

     - at 50% moisture

3

5

     - at 20% moisture

12

21

Baling, pickup + chamber:

 

 

     - at 20% moisture

4

6

     - at 12% moisture

6

8

Baling at 18% moisture:

 

 

     - conventional square baler/ejector

5

8

     - round, variable chamber

6

10


Reducing risk: mechanical operations. Minimize field operations and excessive handling of forages, especially when the forage is dry.

Conclusion

Take the following quizzes to determine your risk in forage production.

Alfalfa Autotoxicity Quiz

Answer each question below by selecting one of the answers and the number of points for that answers. At the end of the quiz, add the total points to gauge your risk level.


Question

Answer

points

1.  Amount of previous alfalfa topgrowth incorporated or left on soil surface

Fall cut or grazed

1

 

0 to 1 ton topgrowth

3

 

More than 1 ton topgrowth

5

2. Irrigation or rainfall potential prior to reseeding

High (greater than 2 inches)

1

 

Medium ( 1 to 2 inches)

2

 

Low (less than 1 inch)

3

3.  Soil type

Sandy

1

 

Loamy

2

 

Clayey

3

4.  Tillage prior to reseeding

Moldboard plow

1

 

Chisel plow

2

 

No-till

3

5.  Age of previous alfalfa stand

Less than 1 year

0

 

1 to 2 years

1

 

More than 2 years

2

6.  Reseeding delay after alfalfa kill/plowdown

12 months or more

0

 

6 months

1

 

2 to 4 weeks

2

 

Less than 2 weeks

3


Add your total points.

If you score 4 to 7 points, your risk is low.

If you score 8 to 11 points, your risk is moderate.

If you score 12 or more points, your risk is high.

Alfalfa Fall Cutting Quiz

Adapted from Undersander, et al, 2004.

Answer each question below by selecting one of the answers and the number of points for that answers. At the end of the quiz, add the total points to gauge your risk level.


Question

Answer

Points

1.  What is your stand age?

> 3 years

4

 

2-3 years

2

 

1 year or less

1

2. Describe your alfalfa variety:

 

 

a.  What is the winterhardiness?

Higher than recommended for region

3

 

Recommended for region

2

 

Lower than recommended for region

1

 

a. total

 

b.  What is the resistance to important diseases in your region?

No resistance

4

 

Moderate or low resistance

3

 

High level of resistance

1

 

b.  Total

 

 

Alfalfa variety total score (multiply a and b)

 

3.  What is your soil exchangeable K level?

Low (< or = 80 ppm)

4

 

Medium ( 81-120 ppm)

3

 

Optimum (121 - 160 ppm)

1

 

High (> or = 161 ppm)

0

4.  What is your soil drainage?

Poor (somewhat poorly drained)

3

 

Medium (well to moderately drained)

2

 

Excellent (sandy soils)

1

5.  Describe your harvest frequency:

Cut interval

Last cutting

 

 

< 30 days

Sept. 1-Oct. 15

5

 

 

After Oct. 15

4

 

 

Before Sept. 1

2

 

30-35 days

Sept. 1-Oct. 15

4

 

 

After Oct. 15

2

 

 

Before Sept. 1

0

6.  For a mid-September or late October cut, do you leave more than 6 inches of stubble?

No

1

 

Yes

0


Add your total points.

If you score 18 or more points, your risk is very high.

If you score 12 to 17 points, your risk is high.

If you score 8 to 11 points, your risk is moderate.

If you score 3 to 7 points, your risk is low.

Forage Establishment Management Quiz

Answer each question below by selecting one of the answers and the number of points for that answer. At the end of the quiz, add the total points to gauge your risk level.


Question

Answer

Points

1.  What is the status of your seedbed?

Firm

1

 

Soft

2

2.  How much crop residue is on your seedbed?

20-30% residue

1

 

>30%  crop reside

2

 

no crop residue

3

3.  At what depth do you plant forages?

1/4-1-/2 inch

1

 

1/2-1 inch

2

 

1 inch or more

3

4.  When do you plant forages?

Spring seeding

0

 

Summer seeding

1

 

Frost seeding

5

5.  If you plant in spring, at which date do you plant?

15 April-15 May

0

 

15 May-1 June

2

 

1 June-15 june

3

 

Not Applicable - go to next question

 

6.  If you plant in summer, at which date do you plant?

1-15 August

0

 

15 August-1 September

1

 

After 1 September

3

 

Not Applicable - go to next question

 

7.  If you frost seed, at which date do you plant?

December to January

3

 

February to March

3

 

March to April 15

1

 

Not Applicable - go to next question

 

8.  Do you use a companion crop?

Yes

0

 

No

7

9.  Which companion crop do you use?

Flax

0

 

Oat

0

 

Barley

1

 

Wheat

1

 

Not Applicable - go to next question

 

10.  Do you fertilize the small grain companion crop with nitrogen fertilizer

Yes

0

 

No

1

 

Not Applicable - go to next question

 

11.  When do you remove the companion crop?

Vegetative stage

0

 

Boot stage

0

 

Soft dough

1

 

Mature-seed

2

 

Not Applicable

 


Add your total points.

If you score 15 to 23 points, your risk is high.

If you score 9 to 14 points, your risk is moderate.

If you score 3 to 8 points, your risk is low.

Harvesting Forages Management Quiz

Answer each question below by selecting one of the answers and the number of points for that answer. At the end of the quiz, add the total points to gauge your risk level.


Question

Answer

Points

1.  At what stage do you harvest forage when your goal is to maximize forage quality?

bud stage

0

 

early bud

1

 

first flower

3

 

full flowering

4

2.  At what stage do you harvest forage when your goal is to maximize forage persistence?

bud stage

3

 

early bud

2

 

first flower

1

 

full flowering

0

3.  At what moisture do you rake forage?

50+ moisture

0

 

25-50% moisture

1

 

>20% moisture

3

4.  How many raking operations do you do?

swathing only

0

 

Raking once

1

 

Raking twice

2

 

Raking 3 times or more

3

5.  How do you gauge hay moisture content before baling?

Microwave a subsample

0

 

Portable moisture tester

1

 

Feel and visual

2

 

Do not gauge moisture

3

6.  What is the moisture content at hay baling?

<17%

0

 

<20%

1

 

20-25

3

 

>30%

4

7.  How is hay stored?

Inside, off the soil

0

 

Outside, plastic covered, off the ground

1

 

Outside, on the ground

2


Add your total points.

If you score 15 to 22 points, your risk is high.

If you score 9 to 14 points, your risk is moderate.

If you score 0 to 8 points, your risk is low.

Test Your Knowledge: Forage Grasses Quiz

Answer each question below by selecting one of the answers and the number of points for that answer. At the end of the quiz, add the total points to gauge your risk level.


Question

Answer

Points

1.  Which grass has the most winterhardiness and least risk of winterkill?

Smooth bromegrass

0

 

Kentucky bluegrass

1

 

Reed canarygrass

1

 

Timothy

2

 

Orchardgrass

3

 

Tall fescue

4

 

Perennial ryegrass

5

2.  Which grass has the greatest persistence and least risk when cut frequently for hay?

Reed canarygrass

0

 

Tall fescue

1

 

Orchardgrass

1

 

Perennial ryegrass

2

 

Smooth bromegrass

4

 

Timothy

5

3.  Which grass has the most drought tolerance and least risk of yield reduction and death?

Smooth bromegrass

0

 

Reed canarygrass

1

 

Tall fescue

2

 

Orchardgrass

3

 

Timothy

4

 

Kentucky bluegrass

4

 

Perennial ryegrass

5

4.  Which grass has the most tolerance to excess moisture and flooding and least risk of injury?

Reed canarygrass

0

 

Smooth bromegrass

1

 

Kentuckybluegrass

2

 

Timothy

2

 

Orchardgrass

2

 

Tall fescue

2

 

Perennial ryegrass

3

5.  Which grass has the greatest seedling vigor and least risk of establishment failure?

Perennial ryegrass

0

 

Tall fescue

1

 

Orchardgrass

1

 

Smooth bromegrass

1

 

Kentucky bluegrass

2

 

Timothy

2

 

Reed canarygrass

4


Add your total points.

If you score 0 to 7 points, your knowledge is high.

If you score 8 to 14 points, your knowledge is moderate.

If you score 15 to 22 points, your knowledge is low.

Test Your Knowledge: Forage Legumes Quiz

Answer each question below by selecting one of the answers and the number of points for that answer. At the end of the quiz, add the total points to gauge your risk level.


 Question

 Answer

Points

1.  For a low soil pH, 5.0-6.0, the best adapted legume for hay is:

Birdsfoot trefoil

0

 

Alsike clover

1

 

White clover

1

 

Red clover

1

 

Alfalfa

2

 

Sweet clover

3

2.  For long-term persistence for hay, which legume has the least risk?

Alfalfa

0

 

Birdsfoot trefoil

1

 

White clover

2

 

Alsike clover

3

 

Red clover

3

3.  For general ease of establishment, which legume has the least risk?

Red clover

0

 

Alfalfa

1

 

White clover

2

 

Alsike clover

2

 

Birdsfoot trefoil

3

4.  For tolerance of excess soil moisture, which legume has the least risk?

Birdsfoot trefoil

0

 

Alsike clover

1

 

White clover

1

 

Alfalfa

2

 

Red clover

2

5.  For tolerance to low fertility (K, P), which legume has the least risk?

Red clover

2

 

Alsike clover

2

 

Birdsfoot trefoil

2

 

White clover

2

 

Alfalfa

3

6.  For fast drying rate and least potential for hay molding, the legume with the least risk is:

Alfalfa

0

 

Birdsfoot trefoil

1

 

Alsike clover

2

 

White clover

2

 

Red clover

3


Add your total points.

If you score 0 to 7 points, your knowledge is high.

If you score 8 to 14 points, your knowledge is moderate.

If you score 15 to 22 points, your knowledge is low.

For more information

University of Minnesota Extension Forages. www.extension.umn.edu/forages/

University of Wisconsin - Extension Forage Resources. www.uwex.edu/ces/crops/uwforage/uwforage.htm

Midwest Forage Association. www.midwestforage.org/

References

Ball, D.M., M. Collins, G.D. Lacefield, N.P. Martin, D.A. Mertens, K.E. Olson, D.H. Putnam, D.J. Undersander, and M.W. Wolf. 2001. Understanding forage quality. Am. Farm Bureau Fed. Pub. 1-01. Park Ridge, IL.

Barnett, K. 2009. UWExtension. Weekly Hay Market Demand and Price Report for the Upper Midwest. www.uwex.edu/

Decker, A.M., G.A. Jung, J.B. Washko, D.D. Wolf, and M.J. Wright. 1967. Management and productivity of perennial grasses in the Northeast: Reed Canarygrass. Bulletin 550T, West Virginia University Agricultural Experiment Station.

Gay, S.W., R. Grisso, and R. Smith. 2003. Determining Moisture Concentration. 442-106. Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA.

Jeranyama, P. and A.D. Garcian. 2004. Understanding Relative Feed Value (RFV) and Relative Forage Quality (RFQ). SDSU Cooperative Extension Service. Extension Extra #8149.

Martens, D. 2009. History Selected Lots 2008 - 2009. Quality Tested Hay Auction. blog.lib.umn.edu/efans/cropnews/

Maten and Anderson, 1975. Forage nutritive value and palatability of 12 common annual weeds. Crop Science 15:821-827.

Pitt, R.E. 1997. Silage: Field to feedbunk. North east regional Agricultural Engineering service NRAES-99. Cooperative Extension, Ithaca, NY.

Pitt, R.E. 1990. Silage and Hay Preservation. Northeast Regional Agricultural Engineering Service, Publication NRAES-5, Ithaca, NY.

Sheaffer, C.C. 1996. Harvesting hay and silage. Minnesota Conservation Reserve Program Information Series. Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Sheaffer, C.C., D.K. Barnes, and G.H. Heichel. 1989. “Annual” Alfalfa in Crop Rotation. University of Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 588-1989 (Item No. AD-SB-3680).

Sheaffer, C.C., N.J. Ehlke, K.A. Albrecht, and P.R. Peterson. 2003. Forage Legumes: Clovers, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Cicer Milkvetch, Crownvetch and Alfalfa. 2nd edition. Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Minnesota. Station Bulletin 608-2003.

Sheaffer, C.C. and N.P. Martin. 1979. Hay Preservation. Agricultural Extension Service, University of Minnesota, Extension Folder 489-1979.

Sheaffer, C.C. and K.M. Moncada. 2009. Introduction to Agronomy: Food, Crops, and Environment. Delmar Cengage Learning: NY.

Smith, D., R. Bula, and R.P. Walgenbach. 1986. Forage Management, 5th edition. Kendall Hunt Publishing Company, Dubuque, IA.

Sund, J. M., G.P. Barrington, and J.M. Scholl. 1966. Depths of sowing forage grasses and legumes. Proceedings 10th International Grassland Congress, Helsinki, Finland. Sec1:319–322.

Undersander, D., R. Becker, D. Cosgrove, E. Cullen, J. Doll, C. Grau, K. Kelling, M.E. Rice, M. Schmitt, C. Sheaffer, G. Shewmaker, and M. Sulc. 2004. Alfalfa Management Guide. North Central Regional Extension Publication. NCR547.

Undersander, D. and J.E. Moore. 2002. Relative forage quality. UW Extention. Focus on Forage. Vol. 4., No. 5.

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