1st Cutting Forage Quality Update ~ May 8, 2023

Erik Smith, Area Field Crop Specialist
Central New York Dairy and Field Crops

May 9, 2023

Check your fields because peak quality may be now!

Alfalfa height is a reliable indicator of NDF values in the field, so we use alfalfa height to predict Neutral Detergent Fiber (NDF) for
alfalfa, mixed alfalfa/grass, and pure grass stands. When using alfalfa and grass height as an indicator of NDF content, in general:

Begin cutting 100% grass stands when nearby alfalfa is 14" tall to achieve the desired 50% NDF.
Begin cutting 50/50 alfalfa/grass stands when nearby alfalfa is 22" tall for the desired 44% NDF.
Begin cutting 100% alfalfa stands when alfalfa is 28" tall for the desired 40% NDF.

To achieve the desired NDF it is necessary to begin cutting at NDF values slightly lower than the desired value assuming some harvest and storage losses (which the above alfalfa height values reflect). For example 28 inch tall alfalfa is closer to 38% NDF but you will need to start then to end up at 40% NDF.

Predicted days to cut are based on daily NDF increases for grasses (1%), 50/50 mixed stands of (0.8%), and alfalfa (0.5%). Typically, NDF increases about 0.8 to  1.2/day for grasses and 0.4 to 0.7/day in alfalfa, expecting the lower end of that range in cooler weather and the higher end in warm. See the fact sheet down below for more details: Predicting Spring Fiber Content of Forages.

Always check your fields to verify your heights and conditions!

Alfalfa Heights

Alfalfa Heights

Alfalfa measured by Dave Balbian, Ashley McFarland, Erik Smith, and Nicole Tommell.

Even with the cool weather, you may be ready to harvest pure grass hay soon if you're cutting for top quality. So keep an eye on your grass development and harvest before it heads out (along with its feed value):

stages of alfalfa





Predicting Spring Fiber Content of Forages (pdf; 95KB)


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Cash Rent and Custom Harvest Survey

To date, there is limited information available about rental rates and fees for crop harvesting.  Farms can use this valuable information for their farm business planning to help improve decision making and profitability. 

The data that is collected, and the subsequent reports/findings/resources will be helpful for all of us to answer that call of "What's the average rental rate in my area?" and "How much do people charge to combine oats?"

Take the survey here.


Farmers Can Join MeatSuite For Free!

MeatSuite.com is a free resource provided by Cornell University where NY meat farmers can create a farm profile and list their bulk (wholes, halves, quarters) and bundled (i.e. Grilling Bundle) meat products.

Why should farmers join?

1. It's free and easy!
2. Connect with more local customers. In the past year the MeatSuite.com farm directory had 8,300 visits from New York consumers. Farm profiles get as many as 25 views per month from potential local customers. We also spotlight MeatSuite farms on social media and bring attention and purchases to farms through highlights and giveaways.

How do I join?

Farmers can visit https://www.meatsuite.com/farmers/ to create a free farm profile. You must list at least one product for your farm's profile to go live. You'll also have access to Cornell's free Meat Price Calculator, a helpful tool for pricing your meat to make a profit.

While you're on MeatSuite, check out the "Creating Consumer-Friendly Bulk Meats" publication on the log-in page. It has tips on how to create bulk meat products that are easier for first-time buyers to say "yes" to.

If you have any questions as you create your farm profile or products, we're here to help! Please email Matt LeRoux at mnl28@cornell.edu.


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Spotted Lanternfly

Lycorma delicatula, or Spotted Lanternfly (SLF), is an invasive plant hopper from Asia and is an agricultural pest. In the United States, it was first found in Pennsylvania in 2014. Spotted Lanternfly has been found in New York State on Staten Island, all New York City boroughs, Long Island, Port Jervis, Sloatsburg, Orangeburg, Ithaca, Binghamton, Middletown, Newburgh, Highland, and the Buffalo area. SLF threatens the agriculture and forestry industries, and is also a nuisance pest. The nymphs and adults feed on over 70 different plants, but is especially detrimental to grapes, a black walnut, hops, maple trees and apples. New York State Ag and Markets supported CCE efforts to help bring awareness to communities and we developed this Public Service Announcement and would appreciate you sharing it with your member lists. 



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See the Livestock Program Work Team website for news, upcoming programs, and NYS Slaughterhouse Map.

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