As the screwed-up season continues into a bigger mess, more farms have come to the realization that their first cutting is much less than expected due to extensive legume stand loss over the winter. The crop did not come back. Those with alfalfa and grass are much better off as the grass can be fed with nitrogen and sulfur. Fertilizer combined with the cool temperatures and copious rainfall, could give you almost the same yearly yield providing you are mowing at 4 inch cutter bar height.
Don’t panic. I wrote last year: “This season has seen much of the Northeast and Northcentral with one of the latest dates to start planting corn.” Well, this year will be as late as last year and we had some very good corn silage crops last year (if you were able to get them out of the field).
Not good news. The cool (cold in some areas) and wet is slated to continue. Europe is having some of the same conditions with winter snows still coming down in low elevations and southern areas. The concern is that the weather is due to the sunspot output going into a major naturally occurring decline. When this happens, the magnetic sphere (a magnetic envelope extending from the sun out covering the earth as it were) shrinks. This allows intergalactic rays to bombard the earth. These rays are at very high levels now. They produce clouds. Clouds do two things. First, they reflect heat from the sun away from the earth, cooling it. Second, clouds produce rainfall. We have had both. Neither have anything to do with political climate change. This has happened before during the “little ice ages” in Europe during the late middle ages (1500-1800,) and the dark ages (300-500). There was widespread crop failure and subsequent famines. Will it be that bad again? I don’t know but the real weather scientists are starting to say it is following the same weather pattern in this sun spot minimum.
The horrible weather last fall is having a lasting effect. A number of farms did not get their last cutting of haylage. Even worse, corn planted for silage was left in the field until the ground froze and then combined. Both of these factors are leaving farms this spring short of forage. Some are only partly short, while others are seriously short on forage and may have to cull animal to meet feed needs. What are the fastest crops to grow in 2019?
This fall was the toughest for establishing winter forage in the 20 years I have been researching the crop. Each year there is a crop that the weather takes particular delight in hammering—this year it was winter forage. Corn did not come off until mid October and the fields were a rutted mess that needed to be smoothed. Winter came at a normal time (instead of late as it had been doing) with most areas getting significant snow by Thanksgiving. Some stands I have seen have 1 plant/ft. square. A few farms though, have winter forage planted on time and doing very well.
This sounds like a dumb question, but it is very apropos. It happens on farms all across the northeast and Midwest. Real farmers grow corn and alfalfa, so they do. Multiple years of corn makes drainage worse as the soil structure collapses and machinery compaction squeezes out what little porosity the soil originally had. In Canada, on silt soils, they now tile on 25 ft space as 50 ft no longer works because of compaction and over worked soils. As I mentioned in the November issue, 15 years of alfalfa grass sod did not remove the yield and root limiting pan that restricted roots to only 7 inches of soil. It was like a paved road underneath. Nearly every, somewhat poorly drained or silty/clay, field I have dug in has a yield/ root/drainage limiting compaction when it was plowed while too wet sometime in the past .
The dairy farm recession is into its fourth year. Farms are struggling to find places to tighten or worse, cut corners. There is one place that dairy (and confinement livestock) have that is often overlooked – maximizing the use of the manure that is produced. Yes, it is a waste that must be disposed of – but it has more value than many realize or make use of.
The wide spread soggy conditions that started in mid-July have continued through harvest across most of the New England, Mid Atlantic, and upper Midwest dairy region. The corn silage was to dry to harvest and fields were too wet to drive. Dump wagons off loading at the edge of the field, tractors pulling trucks as the chopper fills them, broken chains and cables were common sights as they tried to get the harvest. The end result is tremendous amount of soil compaction across all soil types. It happened, now how can we correct it
For optimum results winter forage needs to be planted as soon as the corn is chopped off. Research in the August 2018 newsletter showed the advantage of fall manure before planting. Our research found (graph at right) incorporated pre-plant fall manure for winter forage may meet the spring nitrogen needs for yield, but NOT meet our forage crude protein goal of >18%. This is a problem as the field crew is busy chopping while you are trying to get the manure on, incorporated, and the winter forage planted. The other problem of trying to meet all the nitrogen needs by applying manure at planting, is the sheer amount of nitrogen this crop can remove.
With the fall harvest season, it is time to plant the high quality winter forage that builds soil health while making you money. As discussed in the March issue, crude protein of 18 – 20% is common with proper management and fertilizer (nitrogen & sulfur). Last year Relative Feed Quality was 180 at harvest. Our variety trial averaged 3.5 tons of dry matter (10 tons 35%DM silage) at harvest