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 In Today's eHay Weekly
 September 22, 2009

Monitor Processing During Silage Harvest
Forage Disaster Program Launches
Should You Cut Fall Alfalfa?
CSP Signup Deadline Approaches
Simply Stated
State Reports: Michigan, Texas
Alfalfa Training Coming To Indianapolis
Calendar Of Events
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Top Of The News

Monitor Processing During Silage Harvest
By Neil Tietz, Editor, Hay & Forage Grower

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 Mahanna.

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 silage processing.

“Why process dry or high-moisture grain so aggressively while at the same time accepting lots of big kernel pieces in the silage?” he asked.

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 the silage.

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.


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Forage Disaster Program Launches
USDA has announced details of a new program that will reimburse livestock producers for forage losses resulting from drought and other natural disasters.

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 Register ( Additional details are available on the USDA-Farm Service Agency Web site at

Should You Cut Fall Alfalfa?
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:
  • 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.
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.”

Use our site to search for forage production tips! Plus, read what other growers are doing to stay profitable.

CSP Signup Deadline Approaches
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 checklist (Click here). NRCS will verify and approve first round applications by Nov. 30. The cutoff for a second round of signups will be in mid-January.

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

Simply Stated
“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 City.

State Reports: Michigan, Texas
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

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 drought.

“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 suppliers.”

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


Alfalfa Training Coming To Indianapolis
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

Calendar Of Events
Sept. 29-Oct. 3 -- World Dairy Expo, Alliant Energy Center, Madison, WI. Visit

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

Oct. 29 -- Kentucky Grazing Conference, University of Kentucky Research and Education Center, Princeton. Visit

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

Nov. 4-6 -- DHI-Provo 55th-Annual Herd Management Training Conference, Provo, UT. Details at

Nov. 18-19 -- McCook Farm And Ranch Expo, Red Willow County Fairgrounds, McCook, NE. Visit or call 866-685-0989.

Dec. 1-2 -- Manitoba Grazing School, Victoria Inn, Brandon. Call 204-622-2006.

Dec. 2-4 -- Western Alfalfa And Forage Conference, Grand Sierra Resort & Casino, Reno, NV. Go to

Dec. 13-16 -- Fourth National Conference On Grazing Lands, Reno, NV. Presented by the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative. Visit

Feb. 16-17, 2010 -- Idaho Hay And Forage Conference, Best Western Burley Inn, Burley. Contact Glenn Shewmaker at 208-736-3608 or

April 8-9, 2010 -- Hay Production School, Spence Field, Moultrie, GA. Details to come at

June 20-22, 2010 -- American Forage And Grassland Council Annual Conference, University Plaza Hotel, Springfield, MO. Details to come at


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