For those wondering about what it is like to put up hay on our ranch, I have tried to put together some short videos to give a sense of what takes place.
Swathing / Cutting
We wait until the dew has burned off the hay before cutting. It is important that the water has been turned off and that the ground moisture has dropped to a point so moisture does not transfer from the ground to the hay, preventing proper drying.
We rake in the early morning, while there is still dew on the windrow with alfalfa, so the leaves stay on the stem and the stems do not break. Grass hay is raked in the afternoon, with out dew, so it does not get trapped and cause mildew.
We bale grass and grass-alfalfa hay in the early evening and early afternoon, so it is soft, but not damp. Dew is not our friend when baling grass as it will cause the hay to mildew and mold. With alfalfa, it makes the best hay when baled in the morning as the dew is coming off, but we also bale in the late night/early morning as the dew is coming on when our windows for morning baling are short. We want the dew with the alfalfa, so we do not lose leaves off the stem and the stems do not shatter.
During my check on the alfalfa today, to my dismay, I spotted several plants that show signs of the dreaded alfalfa weevil. The first picture is of healthy alfalfa.
This second picture, shows what an alfalfa plant looks like that is being consumed by the alfalfa weevil.
Right now, there is approximately 2 ton of alfalfa per acre. With the current weather conditions, days not reaching 70 degrees and nights in the 20’s and 30’s, growing has stopped and the forecast for the next 8-10 days shows the same. These temperatures do not equate to growing days, so the alfalfa is essentially stalled.
Additionally, this weather will not allow for me to cut the hay as it is not warm enough to cure. If we were to have 8-10 days of day time temperatures over 74 and no rain, I could cut now and be fine. However, this is not case and the weevils will continue to eat the plants, causing them to stop growing and reduce the tonnage per acre by as much as a half ton over the next two weeks, which is the soonest I might be able to cut.
On 130 acres, that half ton per acre equals 65 ton, which at current prices would mean a loss of over $12,000, not to mention a reduction in quality that would likely result in a loss of more than $15,000. With that potential loss, I will be spraying tomorrow or Wednesday, providing the wind is not blowing, to save what I have and hopefully allow for an additional increase of a quarter to a half ton more growth. This will be the first time in three years that I have had to spray for weevils. Got caught in a cycle.
Due to nice spring rains, we were able to hold off turning on the water until May 3 this year. Long range forecasts had shown another front coming in, but was adjusted on Monday to show upper 60’s and low 70’s without chance for rain.
While the alfalfa could have made it another five to six days without irrigation, I made the decision to stay ahead of the draw down and lay down an inch of water now to make sure that I was ahead of the water level for second cutting, so the plants do not get stressed. The master plan calls for starting 1st cutting in 12 days. We’ll see if the weather cooperates. 🙂
It was a pleasant morning flushing the mainline and discovering that for the first time in years, no risers were cracked or broken due to winter wear, livestock and wildlife. Not so pleasant is knowing that the power bills are going to start coming again…
Over the years, there have been hundreds of different products utilized as feed for livestock. Alternative feed supplies vary by region. I am only going to address some of the more “important” feeds, as based on annual usage within the United States.
Corn is the most widely used energy feed and excels in pounds of TDN produced per acre. It is very low in calcium, fair in phosphorus, deficient in vitamin B12 and must be supplemented with protein for most classes of livestock.
Sorghum is grown in semi-arid regions where corn does not grow well. It is similar to corn in its nutrient load, but is slightly higher in protein. It can be used to replace corn in rations, however, feed efficiency and gains may be decreased by as much as 10 percent. To overcome this loss, rolling or feeding as a high moisture grain is recommended. Read more…
Arguments against Roundup Ready alfalfa are flying around the internet like “flies on stink.” Ironically, that is pretty much what the arguments against GMO alfalfa are…”stink.”
We have been growing alfalfa for more than 30 years on our ranch, for personal use and for sale, averaging roughly 6.5 tons per acre on 130 acres. I am very familiar with the attributes of alfalfa, its growing patterns, nutritive needs, life span and harvesting.
For some of those throwing out arguments against GMO alfalfa, it is very apparent that they have no understanding of the production of the forage. Here are two major points about alfalfa that need to be understood. Read more…