Forage Analysis: Even More Important This Season

As we all know, this is a challenging year for successfully planting and harvesting crops in the Champlain Valley and beyond. As a group of agronomists, we often talk about the timeliness of planting and harvesting crops as they relate to crop yield, quality, and protecting soil health. That said, at the end of the day, the real challenge will be how to feed those crops to your animals successfully. This year, more than most, forage analysis will be very important. You will need to take a close look at your forage quality and make adjustments to your other feed stocks accordingly.

Dr. Leonard Bull shared some great advice and information for us about how forage quality this year may impact how those forages are fed out and how you make up the differences:

Delayed first cutting of grass and legume forages in the Northeast results in a steady decline in digestibility of the forage. And while yields may go up, the extra tons of dry matter are not much advantage if digestibility is lower and inert gut fill greater. The average decline is about 0.5-0.7 percentage units per day in total digestible nutrients (TDN). In addition, protein content declines by about 0.1 percent per day of delay. Combined, if these are the only forages fed to dairy cows the total diet will need about 1 percent more concentrate of higher protein content for every day of delayed harvest.

In addition to perennial forages, the delayed planting we experienced this year in Vermont can affect the quality of annual forages like corn silage. A lot of corn is going to have lower energy values unless we see a major turnaround soon. Again, concentrates will need to be adjusted accordingly.

Dr. Leonard S. Bull, Ph.D., PAS * Emeritus Professor of Animal Science North Carolina State University * New Haven, Vermont

Forage Sampling & Analysis

Proper forage sampling is important. As the saying goes, garbage in equals garbage out. Your goal is to collect a representative sample of the total volume being sampled. Penn State Extension has a great fact sheet on the subject: Forage Quality Testing: Why, How, and Where (Agronomy Facts 44). Some highlights are listed below.

  1. Collect a representative sample. This includes collecting multiple sub-samples, mixing them together thoroughly, and then taking your sample for analysis from this larger sample. For instructions on how to sample by type of forage and whether you are sampling at harvest or after it has been stored, visit this helpful resource from Penn State University Extension.
  2. Store and ship samples appropriately. Be sure and use the recommendations provided by the lab, but as a general rule of thumb, you should keep dry hay samples in a cool place and haylage and silage samples frozen in an airtight container. Mail the sample in an insulated bag—preferably early in the week—to prevent bacterial decay that might alter the results.
  3. Select a laboratory with proper analysis and protocol. Use a certified lab that participates in a proficiency testing program like the National Forage Testing Association and uses duplicate/quality control check samples. If you are using near infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS), make sure they are calibrating appropriately with chemical analysis periodically.  While we do not endorse any particular lab, some local labs that meet these criteria are Dairy One and Cumberland Valley Analytical Services.
  4. Fill out the lab forms completely and accurately. This is especially important when using NIRS analysis so that the proper calibration is selected for your forage (i.e., corn silage versus haylage).
  5. Know how to read your forage analysis report. Once you receive your results, be sure and take a close look and review your results with your animal nutritionist, veterinarian, consultant or extension advisor. There is a great document from Cornell Extension, that helps decipher a forage analysis report here.

As always, if you need more information or would like assistance please don’t hesitate to contact us:

UVM Extension * Champlain Valley Crop, Soil & Pasture Team

(802) 388-4969

champlain.crops@uvm.edu

 

 

Wet Weather Updates

Champlain Valley Farmers,

As you well know, 2017 is turning out to be WET year.

Our office is fielding many questions about how to report crop losses, options for late planted annual forages, and new seedings.  We thought it might be useful to compile some resources for all of you.

How to report crop losses and prevented planting.

If you were unable to plant due to wet conditions and/or suffered crop loss because of flooding or rainfall, you should report that to your Farm Service Agency (FSA) office.  The deadline for crop reporting for 2017 is as follows:

Friday, July 14th for producers with crop insurance policies

Monday, July 17th for producers who do not have crop insurance

For more information about crop insurance and details about eligibility and provisions, please find a factsheet here.

If you suffered damage to fields, facilities or infrastructure on your farm (especially as a result of the most recent flash flood event), you should also report that to FSA so they can keep track of losses in order to determine if individual counties or the State of Vermont may qualify for emergency assistance from the federal government.

Contact your local FSA Office:

Addison County FSA Office

 68 Catamount Park * Middlebury, VT 05753 * (802) 388-6748

Chittenden County FSA Office 

300 Interstate Corporate Center * Williston, VT 05495 * (802) 288-8155

Rutland County FSA Office

170 S. Main Street, Suite 4 * Rutland, VT 05701 * (802) 775-8034

FSA State Office

356 Mountain View Drive * Colchester, VT 05446 * (802) 658-2803

Or click here for a directory of all county offices

Flooding or Ponding in Crop & Hay Fields

If you had hay and/or crop fields that experienced flooding or ponding, you should take special considerations on those fields to assess damage and mitigate appropriately in order to maintain yields and avoid issues at harvest.

Purdue University Extension has some great advice from their experiences earlier this year.

University of Minnesota Extension also has good information for  flooded corn and soybeans.

Penn State Extension also has good advice for northeastern growers on flood damaged crops, including hay.

 

Options for Late Season Forage Plantings

While wet weather has delayed and prevented harvesting hay and planting forages like corn, there is still time (and growing degree days) to produce some high quality forage.

Please check with your crop insurance agent before making any decisions that may affect your crop insurance claims or payment.

Warm season grasses like sorghum, sudangrass, and sorghum-sudangrass hybrids can still be planted through early July with potential for high quality feed and decent yields.  The links below have some great information about how to plant these crops and how to manage them at harvest time to maximize yield and quality coming out of the bunk (or bale).

Small grains planted for a fall harvest are a viable option, as are small grains mixed with legumes like peas.  You may also want to plant your small grain winter cover crops with a spring harvest in mind and up your seeding rates and choose varieties and seed based on a goal of harvesting it next spring.

New seedings that were planned for April or May can still be planted in early to mid-August.  It is not recommended to plant in June or July as the warm summer temperatures are not conducive to these cool season species being established well.  They also have to compete with summer annual weeds.  Waiting until August will provide better growing conditions and less weed pressure and should allow for adequate growth before winter, although you may want to avoid slow germinating species like birdsfoot trefoil or reed canarygrass.

For more ideas, seeding rates, etc., click on the links below:

UVM Extension Late Season Forage Planting Factsheet

Tom Kilcer’s Advaned Ag System Crop Soil News – July edition focuses on late planted forages

Plan for 2018

If you decide to forego any annual forage planting/harvest for this year on particular fields, you can set your sights on 2018.  Don’t just let it sit idle, prone to erosion, or let it go to weeds…set yourself up for success for next year.  We have seen farmers grow tremendous cover crops in prevented planting fields that you could otherwise not accomplish after a corn silage harvest.  You can add species like oats, annual ryegrass, radish, canola, peas, vetch, and clover if you plant by mid-August to early September with excellent results.  This could set you up for successful no-till planting next spring, reduce weed pressure in future years, provide good erosion control and even contribute some nitrogen next year.  If you have wanted to try a winter-kill cover crop but it hasn’t fit in your rotation, you could give it a try this year.

Check out our Multi-Species Cover Crop Decision Tool for more information

Or contact Kirsten Workman at our office.

Grazing in a Wet Year and Mending Pastures after Excessive Rains

Pastures can also suffer during a wet year like this one.  Animal traffic on wet soils can cause soil compaction; pugging (holes) from hooves, leading to rough surfaces; areas of bare soil; potential runoff issues; and reduced plant density and yield. If despite your best efforts, your pastures are showing signs of this kind of damage, there are some basic things you can do now that some sunny weather is on the horizon and soils dry out a bit.  Read Cheryl Cesario’s article from 2013 to learn more or contact her directly.

We know it is a challenging year, so please let us know if we can be of any assistance.