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Alfalfa Harvest Alert Info in Central MN - May 20, 2010

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

UPDATED Friday Evening May 21, 2010
We have more information back from May 20 sampling. Information is posted in this pdf document and will be updated here with a few more lab results on Monday if all goes well.
Alfalfa Harvest Alert Data May 20, 2010.pdf

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:

May 20 notes and observations:
We have seen in the past that a cool spring can result in a lot of variation from farm to farm and even from field to field. It's difficult to be confident the the results on cooperator fields represents a lot of what's in the neighborhood or a wider area. This maybe points to the importance of being a "good student" of your own farm and past experience as you think about what goes on around you.

I had several calls today from people asking, "So do you think the information you're getting means I should cut hay or wait?" I think part of the answer goes back to variability we are seeing. Old crop residue, weeds, grass in fields are factors. Some people like feeding hay and haylage in a 180+ range. Some people find that a little "hot" and would rather be in a 150-160 range. So with some fields we're kind of at a tipping point of deciding which way we prefer to lean. If you rely on a nutrition rep/advisor, it's probably good to consider their leaning also as someone you're counting on to help you do well with your herd.

It might be that if you think your fields are measuring and starting to show buds like some of these testing in a 180 to 200 range, and you like feeding something that might be on the hot side, you might consider cutting. If you don't like feeding something a little on the "hot" side and have confidence in the weather later, you might wait. When you make the decision and see what you have going to the bunk, it may be important to make ration adjustments to feed it as effectively as you can - whether a little "hotter" or "cooler" than you hoped.

It's also good to look at trend lines through some of these numbers as I noted at the bottom of the page 4 notes today. This means leveling out the peaks and valleys in the numbers. For example, based on a trend line, I think the O & S dairy RFV number today could be higher for the field than the 167 we came up with today, but still in a range where cutting anytime could meet feed targets.

Please work toward a SAFE hay harvest.  

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