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Alfalfa Harvest Alert in Central MN - May 10, 2010

By Dan Martens, Extension Educator, Stearns-Benton-Morrison Counties

UPDATED May 13 Evening

THINGS HAVE NOT CHANGED MUCH SINCE LAST THURSDAY. This report shows information we have gotten so far from May 10 sampling and field observations. We expect lab reports from two sites yet. 

For more information about doing scissors cut sampling or using PEAQ sticks or charts look in the center of the U of M Extension forages web page at:
Click the link below to look at the data from May 10, 2010. See when some fields were at today's height in 2009. New May 10 information will be updated by edits to this entry.
Alfalfa Harvest Alert Data May 10, 2010.pdf

There was some concern about frost over the weekend. Overnight lows reported on Saturday and Sunday include St. Cloud 33/26; Collegeville 33/31; Melrose 33/29; Long Prairie 33/29; Santiago 33/29; Little Falls 33/31; Milaca 33/26; Buffalo 33/29; Litchfield 34/33; Hutchinson 34/30; Jordan 33/31.

I have not gotten any reports of permanent damage to alfalfa at this point. Scott Gathje, near Eden Valley said his alfalfa looked like the tops were drooped over Sunday morning, but everything looked OK when he clipped samples Monday morning. I saw a few leaves in the Winkelman field east of Duelm that look a little weathered, but the growth buds at the top of the plants looked fine. Low temps occurred in some place again on Monday and could as well on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Today's national weather service forecast (Foley Selection) indicate a high of 59 on Friday this week and 67 and mostly sunny on Saturday. If the week holds true to that, we probably won't see much change in the hay crop this week either.

The report shows the date in 2009 when the crop  in many of these fields was at about the same height as it measured on May 10 this year. This date in listed on the third page under the May 13 information column. RFQ numbers are listed in the May 10 notes on the second page for samples where we have that information. The Stocker and Dreier sites listed bud stage on their Monday report.

NDF TARGETS - Jim Linn posted a useful article in the April 24 Dairy Star suggesting that harvest should start when fresh cut samples or PEAQ readings indicate an NDF of 35 to 36 so we land in the feedbunk with NDF less than 40 for milk cows. An NDF of 40 is thought to be in the range of RFV 150. Jim writes that lactating dairy cows, hay or haylage should be at about 160 RFV or about 37 t0 38 NDF. He wrote that we can lose 3 to 6 NDF points through harvest and storage losses. Haylage dry matter at 40-45 is ideal (55-65% moisture).

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