transition into a new era of extension specialists, new economic struggles, and
the same practical problems we’ve been facing for years, it’s time to get back
to basics. The goals of sustainability,
persistence, and profitability are always on the minds of producers, and one
way to achieve these goals is to focus on our forages.
many factors that influence successful forage production and many changes we
can make in our own forage programs towards improvement. Below are five key steps that, if we as
producers keep as the focus of our forage programs, will get us on the right
path to improved forage programs.
member of Extension will tell you the first step to assessing a problem is
looking at test results. Conducting and
maintaining regular soil tests will help you in assessing and determining your
soil nutrient needs and deficiencies.
Making good “guesses” at fertility needs over extended periods of time
can have detrimental effects on the stand life of your forage. Regular testing of our soils, as well as our
forage, can result in improved knowledge of our forage needs, quality, and
deficiencies. Unless you test, it’s just
Step 2: Plan
forage program doesn’t happen instantly, it takes time, management, and
planning. Determine what your overall
goal for your forage program is and then take the time to study and research
the steps to achieve it BEFORE you make that first change. Often I am asked “where do I start?” The question shouldn’t be where to start –
you start with what you have, the question is how do I reach my overall
goal? First and foremost remember there
are no instance fixes, snake oils, or miracles.
As I am reminded often: it didn’t take it a day to get where it is, and
it will take longer than a day to fix it.
So let’s start fixing our forage programs.
Start with Quality Forage
our pitfalls in forage production occur before we ever try to utilize the
forage as a growing crop. It is very
important, especially in these economic times, that we choose good, high
quality seed. Choosing certified seed
gives us and assurance of higher quality seed than ‘mixed guess’ commercial
bags. It is imperative that we know what
we are planting and have the added assurance that is provided when choosing
certified seed. You’d hate to buy the
cheap bag of fescue and end up with a field full of perennial ryegrass! Use proper planting methods. Follow guidelines
as provided on the seed bag and in extension publications. Plant at the proper depth, seed rate, in the
properly prepared environment, at the right time and with the proper equipment
to achieve success. Check and recheck
that your seeders are calibrated every time you start to plant! (Refer to the ANR 149 and ANR 150 for planting
recommendations). Don’t waste your time trying to save a dime, buy the quality
of seed to represent the quality of forage you want!
is the key in quality forage production.
Remember, as with anything in life, you reap what you sow and to have
quality forage you need quality management.
Manage for pests, weeds, diseases, anticipated weather, and most
importantly high quality yields. You
want to give your forage the best advantage at being competitive to provide you
with high quality, persistent stands.
Remember that high quality does not mean high tonnage! Harvesting your forage at the proper time to
achieve high quality is key to any successful forage system. Forage quality can be the difference in
profit and additional costs due to poor quality and supplementation
requirements. Quality is greater than
Step 5: Utilize
successful forage producers are very good at utilizing their forage to it’s
full potential. Utilizing various
grazing methods within a system, and utilizing the forage at peak quality
performance can lead to a lower reliance on stored feed and extended grazing
potential. Successful forage producers
also utilize their resources. Some of
the best lessons are ones learned from mistakes! Good forage producers utilize the lessons they
have learned, that others have taught them, and don’t give up after one bad
experience. They also utilize the
education provided from industry professionals and fellow farmers. It is easier to ask perceived dumb questions
than to correct dumb mistakes!
these five steps in mind as you focus on your forage will help anyone become a
better forage producer.
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