Alfalfa Winterkill

Alfalfa Winterkill

In Wisconsin, alfalfa stands have been damaged by winterkill. Wisconsin dairy and livestock farmers may find they are short of feed both this summer and into the coming winter months. Extension Responds with information about alternate forages and management tips.

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Assessing alfalfa stand and damage

As alfalfa comes out of dormancy in the spring, stands should be evaluated for condition and yield potential, according to Dan Undersander, UW-Extension forage agronomist. In this paper, Undersander explains the three parts of an alfalfa stand assessment.

With reports of significant alfalfa stand damage across Wisconsin and southern Minnesota in 2013, Undersander provides recommendations according to various situations to maximize forage in winter injured and killed stands.

While removal of old stands is recommended with fall applications, many fields are now slated for removal due to winter-kill. This can be challenging, but options exist depending on the situation.  In this article, Mark Renz, UW-Extension weed scientist, discusses management options for common scenarios this spring. He notes, “If using herbicides, remember to read the label of the products used, as plant-back restrictions can vary between products.”

Forage inventory

Doing a feed inventory establishes your current stock of various feed ingredients on hand. The process involves determining the volume of each feed stored and then multiplying by the stored density to yield a weight of feed in storage. Brian Holmes, UW-Extension agricultural engineering specialist explains how to do a feed inventory in this article.

Information about tools for performing a feed inventory can be found here.

Growing emergency forages

With reports of significant alfalfa stand damage due to winterkill after a year of drought and tight forage inventories, farmers may need to consider alternative crops to provide much needed forage earlier in the season. Alfalfa, oat, and pea seeds may already be in short supply. Dan Undersander, University of Wisconsin-Extension forage agronomist provides information here on alternative crops that may offer options for dairy farmers in need of forages. Paul Mitchell, UW-Madison Agriculture and Applied Economics professor and UW-Extension crop insurance specialist reminds farmers that these options may also have crop insurance implications. “Those who bought crop insurance by the March 15 deadline should note that crop acres planted after an early forage harvest will likely not be insurable, though your other corn and soybean acres will still be insured,” Mitchell said. Farmers are urged to check with their crop insurance agents to clarify which acres will be insured if they are considering any of these options or considering an alternative forage plan they have not combined with crop insurance in the past.

Undersander provides additional forage options following alfalfa winterkill here and here. He explains how to determine the optimum crop to plant for emergency forage in this paper.

Planting cereal crops in the spring for forage is a common practice in Wisconsin when forage supplies are short, hay prices are high, or there has been a high degree of alfalfa winterkill. This article by Mike Rankin, UW-Extension Fond du Lac County crops and soils agent, discusses management considerations for spring planted cereal crops, primarily oats, barley and triticale (wheat x rye cross.)

Feeding strategies when forage is short

Randy Shaver, UW-Extension dairy nutrionist, provides feeding strategies for coping with short forage supplies for dairy cattle. He provides information about alternative feeds in dairy rations here.

The Farmer to Farmer Hay, Forage and Corn List puts Wisconsin farmers in touch with one another for the purpose of buying and/or selling corn and forage. Information about hay market demand and price report for the Upper Midwest can be found here.

Animal options

Knowing the cow value is crucial for optimal dairy farm decision making. It has important economic implications because it determines replacement decisions and, therefore, a herd’s profitability. Victor Cabrera, UW-Extension dairy systems management specialist, has developed online tools to help determine the economic value of a dairy cow, heifer replacement and herd structure simulation. To find these tools, click here and scroll down to “Replacement”



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