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Extension > Agriculture > Dairy Extension > Forages > Emergency forage decisions to be made

Emergency forage decisions to be made

Contributing Authors: Jim Salfer, Dan Martens, Jim Paulson, Phyllis Bongard, Chuck Schwartau

May 25, 2013

Recent weeks have included evaluation and discussion over winter-killed alfalfa fields. Many fields have already been plowed or interseeded for this year's immediate forage needs, but there may be more decisions to be made after first crop hay harvest. Here are some additional options for your consideration.

1. Re-evaluate alfalfa strands

Does the stand warrant leaving the rest of the season or does it need to be replaced? Work with crop consultants to evaluate the potential in each field. Remember, in a three cut system, first cutting will typically be about 40% of the annual yield. Does your first cutting at that rate look adequate? If not, consider alternative forages.

2. Evaluate forage inventory

Current forage inventory along with anticipated summer and fall yields are important in determining the feeding and cropping options. Work with your nutritionist to determine the following:

3. Evaluate feeding options

Here are some feeding options to consider if forage inventories are anticipated to be short.

4. Evaluate animal options

Consider reducing your animal inventory. These decisions should be made with input from your management team because reducing animal numbers may compromise future profitability. Take into account milk futures prices and feed futures prices.

5. Evaluate cropping options

Do not compromise your long term cropping or feeding strategy. The first goal should be to set up for a normal cropping strategy in 2014 while trying to meet this year's feed needs. Use available acres to plan for adequate forage inventory. It is easier to purchase grains than forages.

Summary

Careful planning will help reduce the economic impact of significant alfalfa winter injury. Work with your management team to assess the damage and develop a plan to meet this year's feed needs. Develop the goal of returning to a normal cropping strategy for 2014 and do not compromise long term farm profitability.

For further details and updates, check the University of Minnesota Crop News updates and the University of Minnesota Dairy Extension webpage. Both sites will continue to add updates to their forage and feeding sections. Another excellent source is the University of Wisconsin Extension.

If you have more questions, please call one of the dairy extension team members listed at the side of the article or a local extension educator.

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