Cutting Height in Forages: How Low Can You Go?

Dwane Miller, Penn State Extension Educator, Agronomy

Previously posted in the Ohio BEEF Cattle letter.

Whether you’re taking the crop as haylage or dry hay, it’s important to pay attention to forage cutting height. One of our goals as farmers is to maximize our yield; however, cutting a crop too low can lead to several negative issues. The introduction of the disk-type mowers (discbines) allows for cutting very close to the ground. I’ve seen many fields that have been “scalped” right to ground level. This differs considerably from the older sickle bar mowers (haybines), whose technology required that some level of stubble height remain. Stand longevity can be compromised when the crop is cut too low. As a general rule, alfalfa can be cut closer to the ground than our grass crops. We need to think about where energy reserves are stored in the crop. For alfalfa, carbohydrates are stored below the ground in the taproot. Grasses store their energy above ground in the stem base or tillers. Frequent mowing at a close height will continue to deplete these energy reserves, resulting in stand longevity issues.

The second consequence for mowing too close to the ground is increased ash content of the forage. All forage has a natural ash content of approximately 6%. However, mowing too closely with disk mowers can add soil to the crop, and increase the ash content by as much as 10-12% (18% ash content in total analysis). If we all had table-top smooth fields, it would also be much easier to make a closer cut across all fields. However, things such as groundhog holes and the unevenness of fields can add to increased ash content of our harvested forage.

So, the million-dollar question is how low can you go? The best answer is…it depends! The first question I always ask is — is it a solid stand or a mixed stand? If you have grasses involved, you must keep cutting height higher than a pure stand of legume, if you want to keep the grass in the stand. Keep in mind these are minimum recommendations; it’s OK to mow higher than the numbers below.

Here are my Minimum cutting height recommendations:

Alfalfa or Clover

  • 2” minimum. Some literature shows a cutting height of 1” will not reduce stand longevity but remember the increased ash content issue. Also, keep in mind that frequent cutting at early maturity will continue to deplete carbohydrate reserves. One cutting of alfalfa should be allowed to reach the bloom stage each year.

Cool Season Grasses (Orchardgrass, Timothy)

  • 4” during the establishment year
  • 3” minimum during production years. This is where we see most of our stand longevity issues. Frequent cutting of cool season grasses at a low height will continue to deplete energy reserves.

Mixed stands

  • You must manage for the predominant species. Do you have a grass stand with some alfalfa, or an alfalfa stand with some grass?
  • Alfalfa with some grass: 2.5” minimum
  • Grass with some alfalfa: 3” minimum (if you want to keep the grass stand!)

Beef Quality Assurance, Forages, and Climate Change Programming Scheduled for April

Brooke Beam, PhD

Ohio State University Extension, Highland County

Agriculture and Natural Resources/Community Development Extension Educator

April 8, 2019

 

Before everyone gets into full swing with spring preparation and planting, there are a few upcoming programs to add to your schedule to help make your farm and garden better prepared for the future.

On April 23, 2019, the ninth Beef Quality Assurance training will be held in Hillsboro, Ohio. The training workshop will be held at Union Stock Yards. Dinner will be served at 5:30 P.M. and the program will be held at 6:30 P.M. Please RSVP to Union Stock Yards to reserve your seat. So far, the Highland County Extension Office has helped certify 680 beef producers. If you do not want to take the Beef Quality Assurance training online, make sure to attend this upcoming training session at Union Stock Yards.

On Thursday, April 25th, Dr. Thomas Blaine will be presenting on Global Climate Change and its impacts predicted through 2050. Dr. Blaine is an Associate Professor at The Ohio State University. Dr. Blaine will discuss the history of climate change, current trends, and outlook. He will discuss how climate change is and will apply to everything from our lawns, to our farms, and our everyday life through 2050. This program is free to attend, however, RSVP to reserve your seat by calling 937-393-1918.

On Tuesday, April 30, 2019, a live-broadcast forage webinar with Christine Gelley, ANR Extension Educator from Noble County, will be held at 5 P.M. in the Large Meeting Room in the basement of 119 Governor Foraker Place, Hillsboro, OH. Gelley will discuss a variety of forage-related topics to help you prepare for the 2019 growing season and upcoming winter. This program will be useful for livestock owners and hay producers alike. This program is also free to attend, but RSVPs are encouraged to reserve your seat by calling 937-393-1918.

For more information about these upcoming programs, contact the Highland County Extension Office at 937-393-1918.

 

Upcoming Programs:

A Hands-on filmmaking workshop will be held on Tuesday, May 21, 2019, at 3 P.M. at the Lynchburg Library. Bring your own camera and tripod for this walking filmmaking workshop. RSVP to the Highland County Extension Office at 937-393-1918.

A Video Editing Workshop will be held on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, at 3 P.M. at the Lynchburg Library. This workshop will teach basic editing principles on both laptops and mobile devices. Bring your own computer or mobile device to participate. RSVP to the Highland County Extension Office at 937-393-1918.

The Germinate International Film Fest will be accepting submissions through June 30, 2019. The festival will be held on August 16 & 17, 2019, in Hillsboro, Ohio. For more information or to apply visit https://filmfreeway.com/GerminateInternationalFilmFest. Contact Brooke Beam at the OSU Extension Office of Highland County at 937-393-1918.

Leadership Highland Education Day

Leadership Highland participants at Laurel Oaks aviation hangar.

Members of Leadership Highland toured Laurel Oaks Vocational School in Wilmington, Ohio. Pictured from left to right are: Michelle Unsworth, Liz Brennfleck, Mike Hart, Brooke Beam, Mat Greene, Melissa Elmore, and Destiny Bryson.

Article by Michelle Unsworth, Leadership Highland participant

Photographs contributed by Brooke Beam, OSU Extension, Highland County

Leadership Highland spent their March meeting exploring local education by touring four schools and interacting in panel discussions. The panels discussed serving on a school board, The Southern Ohio Education Service Center, and challenges facing our local superintendents. The participants of Leadership Highland joined the participants of Leadership Clinton for part of the day to discuss the joint educational services offered to both counties.

Dr. Kevin Boys, President of Southern State Community College, hosted participants of Leadership Highland and Leadership Clinton at the SSCC Wilmington Campus for the panel discussions.

Dr. Kevin Boys, President of Southern State Community College, hosted participants of Leadership Highland and Leadership Clinton at the SSCC Wilmington Campus for the panel discussions.

Southern State Community College (SSCC) was the first stop of the day. Dr. Kevin Boys, President of SSCC, discussed enrollment and trends. Boys discussed the trend of lower community college enrollment rates when the job market is booming. When the economy shifts, people become more interested in learning a new skill to remain an employable candidate. Since unemployment is low, SSCC’s enrollment is 2,455 students, of which sixty-seven percent attend part-time. Boys also discussed the College Credit Plus program in which High School students take college classes.

Mike Hart led the participants of Leadership Highland on a tour of Laurel Oak's campus to see the variety of programs offered.

Mike Hart led the participants of Leadership Highland on a tour of Laurel Oak’s campus to see the variety of prorgams offered.

Laurel Oaks Vocational campus was the second tour of the day. Mike Hart, Assistant Principal, explained that many of the programs offered at Laurel Oaks maintain enrollment around 25 students per program and acceptance is competitive. Criteria such as GPA and attendance determine acceptance decisions. Laurel Oaks school provides students with a way to earn certificates and experience so they are prepared to enter the workforce directly after high school graduation.

Participants of Leadership Highland and Leadership Clinton, along with Dr. Kevin Boys and the tour guides from Wilmington College, prior to the walking tour of the Wilmington College campus.

Participants of Leadership Highland and Leadership Clinton, along with Dr. Kevin Boys and the tour guides from Wilmington College, prior to the walking tour of the Wilmington College campus.

Wilmington College was the third stop of the day. The history of the college and the facilities were showcased through a tour of the private school’s campus. Wilmington College offers financial assistance programs to entice local students to stay local during college. The goal after college is for graduates to accept jobs and remain local residents.

Mr. Jason Potts, principal of McClain High School, provided a tour of the historic high school.

Participants of Leadership Highland also traveled to Greenfield Exempted Village School District to tour the McClain High School with Mr. Jason Potts, the High School Principal. In addition to being one of Highland County’s high schools, the school is unique in the sense that it is historic and is home to an extensive art collection.

The superintendent panel addressed educational challenges in modern society. The panel explained how our educational system is vastly different than it was ten years ago. A huge concern is that today’s children are not prepared to be successful. There has been an increase in social and emotional issues that children are experiencing in life, which hinders the learning process. Issues such as poverty, drug abuse, neglect, and social media can leave students emotionally traumatized. Schools are no longer teaching kids solely academics, as schools must adjust their way of thinking and prepare kids to be successful in school and life. Mindy McCarty Stewart, Wilmington City Schools Superintendent, explained how Wilmington’s schools train all teachers (K-12) in trauma training so they know how to interact with children of drug abuse or other emotional issues. They are also using restorative practice training to reintegrate students and involve the parents regarding issues. For example, simply suspending a student does not help anyone, having them take ownership of their actions and learn from it is a better approach.

The big lesson of the day was learning that schools K-12 are evolving to keep up with the social and environmental trends many students face when they are home. Schools have adapted to meet societal needs. Our educational systems are working hard to teach children things they may not have learned at home or to find ways to relate to traumatized children so they open up to learning. This is essential so our young children have opportunities later in life to participate in College Credit Plus programs, attend vocational schools and eventually be ready to attend college if that is their best choice.

The next meeting of Leadership Highland will be a tour of the Ohio Statehouse in April. For more information about Leadership Highland, contact the OSU Extension Office of Highland County at 937-393-1918.

 

Upcoming Programs:

Join the Highland County Extension Support Committee for the annual Extension/4-H Fundraiser on Saturday, April 6, 2019, in the Rabbit & Poultry Barn at the Highland County Fairgrounds. The dinner will begin at 6 PM. Dinner costs: ages 11 and up are $10.00, ages 4 – 10 are $7.00, and ages 3 and under are $3.00. For more information, contact Kathy Bruynis at 937-393-1918. Donations are appreciated.

Global Climate Change Update with Dr. Thomas Blaine will be held on April 25, 2019, at 6 PM in the Large Meeting Room in the basement of 119 Governor Foraker Place, Hillsboro, OH. Come and learn about the history of climate change, its currents trends, and outlook. Hear how it applies to your backyard, farm, and everyday life. RSVP to reserve your seat by calling 937-393-1918.

Forage Webinar with Christine Gelley will be held on April 30, 2019, at 5 PM in the Large Meeting Room in the basement of 119 Governor Foraker Place, Hillsboro, OH. Gelley will discuss a variety of forage-related topics to help you prepare for the 2019 growing season and upcoming winter. This webinar will provide information for both hay and livestock producers. RSVP to reserve your seat by calling 937-393-1918.

The Germinate International Film Fest will be accepting submissions through June 30, 2019. The festival will be held on August 16 & 17, 2019, in Hillsboro, Ohio. For more information or to apply visit https://filmfreeway.com/GerminateInternationalFilmFest. Contact Brooke Beam at the OSU Extension Office of Highland County at 937-393-1918.

2018 Southeast Ohio Sheep & Goat School

The fourth session of the Southeast Ohio Sheep and Goat School will be held on Friday, July 13, 2018, at the Eastern Agricultural Research Station in Caldwell, Ohio. This session will focus on FAMACHA and Forages. The session begins at 8:00 A.M. and concludes with an afternoon tour of the Eastern Agricultural Research Station Farm. Contact Christine Gelley at 740-732-5681 or gelley.2@osu.edu for more information.