1st Cutting Forage Quality Update ~ May 28, 2019

Kevin Ganoe, Area Field Crop Specialist
Central New York Dairy and Field Crops

May 29, 2019

Warmer weather continued this week as alfalfa on average was 5 inches taller than the previous week.  Fiber levels have risen such that most all grass or mostly grass fields are below dairy quality and should be left so you can pursue fields that are all alfalfa or alfalfa grass mixes.

Credit to David Balbian, Ashley McFarland, Nicole Tommell, Mark Schmidt, Sarah Ficken and Tess Southern for gathering the info in the field.

We hope the information provided over the past month has served as a guide to know when to harvest. This will be our last report until May 2020.

Here are numbers that are helpful when using alfalfa and grass height as an indicator of NDF content. In general:

Begin cutting 100% grass stands should be cut when nearby alfalfa is 14 inches tall to achieve the desired 50% NDF.
Begin cutting 50/50 mixed alfalfa and grass stands when nearby alfalfa is 22 inches tall for the desired 44% NDF.
Begin cutting 100% alfalfa stands when alfalfa is 28 inches tall for the desired 40% NDF.

The desired NDF for all grass fields is 50%, 50/50 mixed alfalfa and grass fields is 44%, and pure alfalfa stands is 40%. Predicted days to cut are based on daily NDF increases for grasses of 1% point, 50/50 mixed stands of .8% points and alfalfa of .5% point. Typically, NDF increases about 0.8 to 1.2/day for grasses expecting the lower end of that range in cooler weather and the higher end in warm. Alfalfa NDF increases about 0.4 to 0.7/day again figuring the lower end of that range with cool temperatures and the higher in warm. Predictions are adjusted for the coming week's weather and right now we are assuming normal growth.

In the tables in the pdf, locations around the region are listed where we have measured alfalfa height. You can use the location and elevation as a guide to conditions that may be similar to your own. Always check your fields to verify your heights and conditions!

On average the alfalfa height increase this week was 5 inches with an average location height of 26 inches. Normal to above average Growing Degree Days (GDDs) over the past week kept alfalfa maturing quickly.

As of this date, sixteen (25%) of the sixty-three locations have been cut. Predictions indicate that, with the exception of two locations, all pure alfalfa fields should be cut in the next week. As was indicted in our last summary note how high the %NDF is at some locations for pure or mostly grass stands. For making dairy quality feed 55% NDF should be given consideration as a cutoff point for fields that are all grass. With two exceptions the grass is below dairy quality now at all locations.

We hope that these summaries have continued to provide guidance for when to cut even if the weather hasn't been cooperating much this year.

5-28-19 1st Cutting Forage Quality Summary (pdf; 706KB)









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