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By Neil Tietz, Editor, Hay & Forage
Chopped corn should be processed aggressively, and dairy producers
should monitor it throughout the harvest to make sure that’s
happening, recommends Bill Mahanna, Pioneer Hi-Bred’s nutritional
sciences manager. Speaking at Pioneer’s Forage Media Day in Johnston,
IA, last week, Mahanna pointed out that adequate kernel processing
improves starch availability, minimizing the number of kernels that pass
through the rumen undigested.
“It doesn’t do our producers any good to buy high-end (corn)
genetics if the cows can’t get access to all the starch,” said
Simply nicking the kernels may have been sufficient 10 years ago, but
not anymore, he said. Today’s cows produce more milk and have higher
dry matter intakes, so feeds pass through the rumen more quickly. The
crop processor on the chopper should break kernels into small pieces,
said Mahanna, citing the small grain particles in the concentrate
portion of dairy rations as evidence of the need for more-thorough
“Why process dry or high-moisture grain so aggressively while at the
same time accepting lots of big kernel pieces in the silage?” he
A lab test can measure how well silage has been processed after it’s
in the bunker. Developed by Pioneer; the U.S. Dairy Forage Research
Center, Madison, WI; and Dairyland Laboratories, Arcadia, WI, the test
involves shaking dried silage over a series of sieves. When 70% or more
of the starch passes through a 4.75-mm sieve, equal to about a quarter
of a kernel, the silage is processed optimally. If 50-70% pass through,
the processing is considered average, and a kernel processing score
below 50% is inadequate.
The test is available from Dairyland Labs and Cumberland Valley
Analytical Services, Hagerstown, MD. But Pioneer developed a simpler
field test. It somewhat mimics the lab test and can be used during
harvest, when adjustments can still be made. The company’s Kernel
Processing Cup is available from Pioneer sales reps, or any 32-oz
beverage cup from a convenience store will work. Fill the cup with
chopped corn, empty it on a flat surface, and count the number of half
and whole kernels.
“We don’t want to see more than two or three of those in this
volume of silage. If you do see more than that, when you send it in for
a lab test afterwards, you’re not going to be happy.”
He suggested having someone check two loads per hour as they arrive at
the bunker. If necessary, examine your processor and make adjustments,
or ask your custom harvester to do the same. Check for excessive roller
mill wear, the gap between rollers and the roller differential. A 1- to
3-mm roller clearance and 20-30% differential are recommended starting
points that can be modified based on periodic physical observation of
All choppers do a better job of processing at shorter chop lengths, so
keep the theoretical length of chop at ¾” (19 mm) or less.
“If you aren’t in desperate need of effective fiber from the corn
silage, dropping back from 19-mm to 17-mm length of cut will make a
world of difference in how well that roller mill works,” said Mahanna.
Whether you’re looking for proven
performance in a package that offers exceptional value or a tractor that
gives you the latest electronic conveniences and push button simplicity,
the new T6000 Series tractors from New Holland are built for you. T6000
tractors are a natural choice for haying operations and heavy loader
work. To learn more, see your local New Holland dealer or call
USDA has announced details of a new program that will reimburse
livestock producers for forage losses resulting from drought and other
Authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, the Livestock Forage Disaster Program
(LFP) is designed to provide financial assistance to producers who
suffered livestock grazing losses due to drought or fire on or after
Jan. 1, 2008, and before Oct. 1, 2011. For drought, the losses must have
occurred on native or improved pastureland with permanent vegetative
cover or a crop planted specifically for grazing. The drought must have
occurred during a normal grazing period. Fire losses must have occurred
on federally managed lands.
Unlike previous disaster programs where the agriculture secretary or
president had to make a disaster declaration before producers could
receive payments, the 2008 Farm Bill specified the U.S. Drought Monitor
as one of the eligibility triggers for LFP.
Specifics on the program were published last week in the Federal
Additional details are available on the USDA-Farm Service Agency Web
site at www.fsa.usda.gov.
Deciding whether or not to take one more cutting of alfalfa this
fall can be a tough call for many hay growers. Iowa State University
extension agronomist Steve Barnhart offers the following guidelines:
Barnhart notes that some producers may be reluctant to wait until the
killing freeze to take the last cutting because it’s more difficult to
dry hay in October. “If you cut in mid-September, the plants will
begin to regrow and begin to use what stored carbohydrates they have.
The risk comes if this late growth leaves the plants with a relatively
low level of available root stores when the killing freeze comes. Low
levels of winter root stores may lead to a greater susceptibility to
winter cold injury and to a delayed spring recovery.”
- Start by considering whether the field will be hay next year.
“If not, cut the alfalfa anytime,” he advises.
- If you’re going to keep the stand for another year, consider
whether or not you need hay now. If you don’t need hay, leave the last
growth in the field.
- If you conclude that you need the hay, wait until the first killing
freeze (23-24 degrees F) to cut and leave a 5-6” stubble.
our site to search for forage production tips! Plus, read what other
growers are doing to stay profitable.
Sept. 30 is the cutoff date for signup in the first round of the
new Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), administered by the Natural
Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
Applicants’ first step is to fill out a three-page self-screening
here). NRCS will verify and approve first round applications by
Nov. 30. The cutoff for a second round of signups will be in
A National Alfalfa & Forage
Alliance Webinar last week offered a detailed account of program
specifics. For a summary and link to a complete repeat broadcast of the
Webinar, go to Hay & Forage Grower’s Web site at hayandforage.com.
“We signed the papers, and it was done. We were going behind
every month. We really had no choice.” – Vermont dairy farmer
explaining his decision to sell his 150-cow herd at an auction in
mid-summer. According to an official at Vermont’s Agency of
Agriculture, 32 dairy farms in the state went out of business in the
first seven months of 2009. As of Aug. 1, there were 1,046 dairies left
in the state. Source: Addison County Independent.
“We're not going to have a single solution to our energy deficit.
It's going to take all the players. Some will be more successful than
others, but everybody's got a place at the table right now.” –
Billy Cook, senior vice president of the Oklahoma-based Noble
Foundation, discussing how a 1,000-acre switchgrass planting near
Guymon, OK, will eventually provide feedstock for a planned $300-million
biofuel refinery in nearby Hugoton, KS. The refinery is expected to
begin production in 2012. Source: Washington Examiner.
“Whoever set this fire needs to be caught.” – Calhoun, MO,
beef producer who lost his winter supply of hay in a fire last week.
Local law enforcement officials suspect arson as the cause of this blaze
and another area hay fire earlier in the month. Source: KMBC-TV, Kansas
With the haymaking season winding down, supplies in many parts of the
state are abundant, says Jerry Lindquist, Osceola County extension
director. “There are a few dry areas (southwestern Lower Peninsula and
western Upper Peninsula) where they might be a little short on
production this year,” he says. “But statewide we’re probably
10-20% above normal.”
Favorable weather early in September played a big role in the production
spurt. “We had a lot of rainfall in late July and August, and people
weren’t able to get in the field to put up the crop. It was
depressing. But the weather broke at just the right time and allowed a
lot of hay that was just sitting out there in the fields to be made.”
On prices, Lindquist reports that high-quality alfalfa is currently
bringing $115-130/ton at the farm. “A year ago, just about everything
was selling for over $150/ton,” he says. Prices for alfalfa-grass hay
used in the horse industry have also dropped $20-35/ton from year-ago
levels and may fall lower once all forage crops are harvested.
Along with this year’s plentiful supply, a drop in demand explains the
price slump, says Lindquist. “Dairy farmers are now getting about half
of what they were a year ago for their milk, so they don’t have as
much money to spend on hay. Also, a lot of horse owners are cutting back
on the number of horses they’re keeping. Some are cutting back on how
much hay they’re buying. Others are buying week to week rather than
buying ahead. The situation in the general economy has greatly impacted
the hay industry on a lot of different levels.”
To contact Lindquist, call 231-832-6139 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A non-profit agency is looking to line up hay supplies for livestock
producers in the Coastal Bend region of Texas hit hard by a prolonged
“A lot of pastures in our area are really in tough shape because of
the drought,” says Jerry Pearce, coordinator for De-Go-La Resource
Conservation and Development, Inc., in Victoria. Sponsored by USDA-NRCS,
De-Go-La is a non-profit organization serving 16 counties. “We’ve
had a little rain in the last few weeks. But we estimate we could get
two or three rains per week from now until the end of the year and it
will still be six months to a year before those pastures are fully
recovered. Getting enough hay for the winter feeding season is going to
be a challenge for many people.”
Pearce notes that some livestock producers have been able to secure
supplies on their own. “But a lot of the hay that’s out there is
unaffordable for ranchers who are facing very difficult economic
times,” he says. “It’s tough for an individual producer looking to
buy just one or two loads of hay to negotiate any kind of price. We’re
looking to see if we can negotiate some volume discounts with
Specifically, Pearce’s agency is trying to connect with suppliers in
Texas and neighboring states who can deliver several thousand round
bales of grass hay (Coastal bermudagrass or bermudagrass-fescue
mixtures). “We’d like it to be high-quality hay from this year’s
cuttings,” says Pearce. “But it doesn’t have to be 14% protein
bermudagrass. Ideally, the price, including transportation, would be
$50/bale or less.”
He emphasizes the project is still in the planning stages. “A story
about this ran in a local newspaper last week, and since then local
extension and NRCS offices have been flooded with calls from people
looking to buy hay. That tells us there’s definitely a need for
something like this. Our role would be to act as a clearinghouse.”
To contact Pearce, call 361-570-7138 or email email@example.com.
The National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance has scheduled an Alfalfa
Intensive Training Seminar for Nov. 17-19 at the University Place
Conference Center & Hotel in Indianapolis, IN. Taught by a team of four
nationally recognized alfalfa experts, the seminar will provide training
for seed dealers, sales staff, consultants, large-scale producers and
others who want to improve their alfalfa knowledge. Topics to be covered
include genetics, variety selection, seed production, diseases, insects,
sampling and testing, marketing and more.
Class size is limited. For more details, go to www.alfalfa.org.
Sept. 29-Oct. 3 -- World Dairy Expo, Alliant Energy Center,
Madison, WI. Visit www.worlddairyexpo.com.
Oct. 23-24 -- Virginia Tech University’s 2009 Mid-Atlantic
Grass-Finished Livestock Conference, Holiday Inn Conference Center,
Staunton, VA. Contact Margaret Kenny at 434-292-5331 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oct. 29 -- Kentucky Grazing Conference, University of Kentucky
Research and Education Center, Princeton. Visit www.uky.edu/Ag/Forage.
Oct. 29 -- LSU AgCenter Calhoun Research Station Field Day,
Calhoun, LA. Innovative uses for forest and forage biomass will be
featured. Contact Michael Blazier at 318-927-2578 or email@example.com.
Nov. 4-6 -- DHI-Provo 55th-Annual Herd Management Training
Conference, Provo, UT. Details at www.dhiprovo.com.
Nov. 18-19 -- McCook Farm And Ranch Expo, Red Willow County
Fairgrounds, McCook, NE. Visit mccookfarmandranchexpo.net
or call 866-685-0989.
Dec. 1-2 -- Manitoba Grazing School, Victoria Inn, Brandon. Call
Dec. 2-4 -- Western Alfalfa And Forage Conference, Grand Sierra
Resort & Casino, Reno, NV. Go to alfalfa.ucdavis.edu/+symposium/2009/.
Dec. 13-16 -- Fourth National Conference On Grazing Lands, Reno,
NV. Presented by the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative. Visit www.glci.org.
Feb. 16-17, 2010 -- Idaho Hay And Forage Conference, Best Western
Burley Inn, Burley. Contact Glenn Shewmaker at 208-736-3608 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
April 8-9, 2010 -- Hay Production School, Spence Field, Moultrie,
GA. Details to come at www.georgiaforages.com.
June 20-22, 2010 -- American Forage And Grassland Council Annual
Conference, University Plaza Hotel, Springfield, MO. Details to come
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