Selecting Forages for Your New Seeding

Christine Gelley, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Noble County

The spring seeding window for the most popular forages in our region is quickly approaching. Producers looking for guidance on how to choose the best forage for their system should always start with a soil test rather than a seed catalog. Whether you have farmed your site for decades or days, soil testing is essential for success.

Once you know the characteristics of your soil, you can formulate a timeline to adjust fertility if needed, sow your selected seed, and set realistic expectations for production. Soil testing should be conducted when site history is unknown, when converting from a different cropping system (row crops, woodlands, turfgrass, etc.), or on a three-year schedule for maintenance.

Additional factors worthy of consideration prior to purchasing seed include Continue reading

Forage Planting – How to Do It Well

Dr. Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist, The Ohio State University
Jason Hartschuh, OSU Extension ANR Educator, Crawford County
(Previously published in the C.O.R.N. Newsletter 2021-06)

Early spring provides one of the two preferred times to seed perennial cool-season forages, the other being late summer. The outlook for this spring is for probabilities of above average precipitation in April and May. Planting opportunities will likely be few and short. An accompanying article on preparing now for planting along with the following 10 steps to follow on the day you plant will help improve chances for successful forage establishment.

Step 1:
Check now to make sure soil pH and fertility are in the recommended ranges. Follow the Tri-state Soil Fertility Recommendations. Forages are more productive where soil pH is above 6.0, but for Continue reading

Still Time to Frost Seed Red Clover

Chris Penrose, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Morgan County
(previously published in the C.O.R.N. Newsletter 2021-05)

We are at the point of the winter that daily average temperatures are rising and the days are getting noticeably longer. This freezing and thawing over the next few weeks is what gives frost seeding a great chance to work.

Frost seeding is a very low cost, higher risk way to establish new forages in existing fields by spreading seed over the field and let the freezing and thawing action of the soil allow the seed to make “seed to soil” contact allowing it to successfully germinate. When you see soils “honeycombed” in the morning from a hard frost, or heaved up from a frost, seed that was spread on that soil has a great chance to make a seed to soil contact when the soil thaws. I think the two biggest reasons why frost seeding fails is Continue reading

All Hay is Not Created Equal

William ‘Terry’ Halleran, Agronomy Specialist: Hickory County, University of Missouri
(Previously published in Progressive Forage: August 31, 2017)

As producers continue making preparations for winter hay usage, many are looking at possibly purchasing or selling hay crops.

Many times over my past years as an agriculture educator and so-called “expert” in the field, I have been asked, “What do you think my hay is worth?” or “How much should I give for hay this year?” Oftentimes, sight unseen or with very limited information to base my response on, they expect a precise answer. Can’t do it.

Hay is often priced by what your neighbor is selling it for down the road. After all, if their price is cheaper than yours, they will probably make the sale before you. But are the consumers really getting what they paid for?

Let’s begin by asking a few questions and try to guide you down the road to consider Continue reading

It’s Time to Start Thinking about Frost-Seeding Legumes

Victor Shelton, Victor Shelton, NRCS State Agronomist/Grazing Specialist
(Previously published in On Pasture: January 18, 20120)

Frost seeding is one of the least expensive ways to enhance the stand of legumes in your pastures. It is basically the process of broadcasting the legume seed onto the soil surface during the winter dormant months and letting nature do the rest of the work.

Frost seeding relies on the freezing-thawing action of the soil, which is honeycombing the soil surface with ice crystals. The soil surface expands and contracts, allowing the small seed to find a route into the ground. During warmer winters, you might not always get enough action, leaving the seed uncovered. The seed lying on the soil surface can be warmed enough by the sun to initiate germination, only to be killed by the next freeze. When the seed is protected by the soil it is not as likely to be impacted by the sun and is more likely to wait until the proper time to germinate. Continue reading

Baleage Mistakes can Lead to Major Health Consequences

Dr. Michelle Arnold, DVM (Ruminant Extension Veterinarian, UKVDL), University of Kentucky
Dr. Ray Smith, Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Kentucky
Krista Lea, Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Kentucky
(Previously published online with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service)

Baleage or “wet wrapped hay” is simply forage of a relatively high moisture content that is baled and then sealed in a plastic bag or wrapped in plastic, to keep oxygen out. Anaerobic bacteria (those that live without air) convert sugars in the forage to lactic acid which in turn lowers the pH and preserves the forage as silage, with full fermentation completed within 6-8 weeks. Round bale silage (“baleage”) is an alternative to baling dry hay that allows shorter curing time and saves valuable nutrients by avoiding rain damage, harvest delays, spontaneous heating and weathering if stored outdoors. Grasses, legumes and small grains can be effectively preserved by this method but only if proper techniques are followed. Forages should be cut at early maturity with high sugar content, allowed to wilt to a 40-60% moisture range, then tightly baled and quickly wrapped in 4 to 6 layers of UV stable, 6-8 mm plastic to undergo fermentation (“ensiling” or “pickling”), a process that should drop the pH of the feed below 4.5 where spoilage organisms will not grow. Problems arise when Continue reading

Nothing Good Happens During Hay Storage

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower managing editor
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: December 29, 2020)

(Image Source: Hay & Forage Grower)

Millions of tons of hay now rest in storage. The quality of this hay will range from the near equivalent of cordwood to leafy rocket fuel.

What we know for sure is that forage quality during storage never improves and can decline substantially, depending on the initial baling moisture and storage conditions.

Although it’s always a good idea to test forage as it goes into storage, it’s perhaps an even better strategy to test hay as it comes out of storage as well. The former offers an indication of what is available in inventory, and the latter allows you to know precisely what is being fed or sold. Don’t expect the

Continue reading

How to Screw up a Forage Sample

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower managing editor
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: November 24, 2020)

Let’s face it — cutting and baling hay is an enjoyable undertaking for most people in the hay business. The same is true for seeing a new stand of alfalfa (or whatever) successfully establish. Then there’s the smell of wilting forage in the early evening as you drive by — a reason alone to be in the hay business.

What isn’t always fun is getting a representative forage sample, although this exercise is foundational to our industry for being able to accurately formulate livestock rations and determine economic value. I know of few people who Continue reading