2019 Forages A Year for The Record Books

The 2019 cropping season has been one that will be remembered, even though it is one that many of us would prefer to forget. With a year of excessive rainfall and cool temperatures, raising and harvesting forages was a challenge. However, the growing season is now past us and producers are turning their focus to making the most of the forages they did get harvested.

In years where weather challenges are greater than usual, variability in nutrient composition of forages is even greater than in normal years. Testing forages is important to get a better understanding of the nutrient value of each crop of forage harvested as moisture levels and nutrients can vary greatly. In general, we have seen some trends for this year’s forages.

 Alfalfa Haylage & Hay

The growing season started out to be a difficult one for many producers as winter-kill took its toll on many alfalfa fields, especially in northern Wisconsin. First cutting started much later on the calendar than is typical and resulted in lower crude protein values. When looking over the average results for 1st cutting alfalfa samples sent in to Dairyland Laboratory, crude protein (CP) averaged 18.2% (DM basis) which was about 2.5 percentage units lower than the average CP level of later cuttings of alfalfa. On a positive note, the later cuttings of alfalfa had normal CP concentrations that more closely matched the maturity of the forage.

 Corn Silage & High Moisture Corn

Variability in corn silage and high moisture corn is greater this year due to the challenges many farmers had planting and harvesting corn while dealing with very wet fields. The corn crop dried down very slowly this year. The slow maturity of the corn silage led some producers to harvest on the early side, resulting in some wetter corn silage. In other cases, saturated field conditions resulted in some corn silage being very dry before it was harvested. High moisture corn was also often harvested at higher moisture levels than normal due to the slow dry down. Despite the harvesting challenges, starch levels in corn silage appear to be good and CP levels are increased compared to previous years. The digestibility of the neutral detergent fiber (NDF) is also above last year’s average, indicating that this year’s corn silage may actually feed fairly well.

Another concern the challenging weather often brings in is increased mycotoxin levels. As the 2019 corn silage crop starts to be fed, mycotoxins may be a concern for some farms. If farmers would like their corn silage or other feeds tested for mycotoxins, visit with your Famo Feeds representative to discuss sampling options to determine if mycotoxins are present. In addition, Famo Feed’s MC Plus can be used as a supplement to help support the health of cows consuming feeds with mycotoxins.

Even though the 2019 forage year was a tough one, it isn’t too soon to start planning ahead for next year. Inoculants are a tool to help improve the fermentation and quality of silage. The Famo Feeds inoculant booking period is in November and December. This is a great time to get inoculants booked to take a first step to make great forages in 2020.

Take Home Messages:

  • Testing forages need to be a priority to keep track of dry matter concentrations and nutrient values of the various forage crops
  • Check CP levels of alfalfa and reformulate diets to maintain dietary CP levels
  • Monitor forage supplies as winterkill and difficult field conditions decreased forage supplies. Encourage farmers to make plans to meet supplies before prices increase.
  • Watch for mold and mycotoxins. Test forages and feed MC Plus to help keep animals healthy.

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