The Decline of Forage Quality

Very few people are aware that today’s forages grown on our lands are not the same quality as those grown 20 or 30 years ago. When I first started in the seed and nutrition world, it was typical to have clovers and alfalfas testing around 1.50% calcium. Today many of our legumes are testing around 1.1-1.2%. That is a decline of 20-25%. During this same time forage magnesium and sulfur levels have also dropped in relatively the same percentages. There are 3 essential nutrients for animals. These nutrients affect water transportation, nervous system function, protein conversion and more. Why is this? We started seeing soil sulfur levels drop once we implemented tighter regulations on the power

Key to Growing Effective Forages

Weather. Mother nature can come into play. Do we know if it will be hot or cold? Are we going to have a wet season or dry? Weather always is the biggest unknown. Nitrogen. The right place, the right time, the right way on nitrogen. The demand for nitrogen is not at planting but typically 3-5 weeks post planting. You need to have available nitrogen in the root zone. Time released nitrogen can be of benefit. There is also benefits for nitrogen previously fixated. Genetics. Depending on the forage one plants there can be big advantages with genetics that have better disease or insect resistance. Some varieties have yield advantages because of those two factors as well as the genetic selection.

Integrated Weed Management

Food plotters rely on glyphosate and herbicides because it's easy. Very few think about how they affect the soil. Many weeds are becoming resistant to herbicides and yet most reading this won't worry about that aspect in their management program. Integrated weed management is not a term heard discussed. Here are some thoughts. If you need to use herbicides, read the label. If it is suggested to use crop oil or ammonium sulfate, do it. If your using glyphosate use it at the right place, right time and right way. Why spray to stunt growth versus complete kill. Stunting forages is what is setting yourself up for herbicide tolerant weeds. Spray the right time of day. Spray at the higher levels.

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