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Dairy: Time to Look Into Forage Supplies, Options

Jordan Anderson 03/20/2014 @ 1:52pm Digital Content Editor for Successful Farming magazine and Agriculture.com

Spring is finally upon us, and it’s time to start working on spring checklists and those winter items that were put off until temps warmed up. 

Purdue Extension dairy specialist, Mike Schutz, says producers should begin checking off spring tasks including facility and pasture maintenance as well as taking inventory of their feed/forage supplies to make sure there’s enough high-quality forage to get them through until the first crop is ready to be harvested.

Although we hope for a good crop this year, it’s still too soon to tell what alfalfa conditions will be.

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If perennial forages are in bad shape from winterkill, farmers do have some options, says Purdue forage specialist, Keith Johnson. 

Early forage harvest. Farmers could plant spring oats on land typically used for other crops. You’ll need to look at plantback restrictions on last year’s crop and herbicides.

Purchase supplies. Depending on the severity of your supplies, it may be best to buckle down and buy forages from suppliers, says Johnson. Hay prices are much more reasonable, making this a viable option unlike last year. 

Agriculture.com Senior Contributor, k-289, shares, “Minus temps have accelerated hay use although the expense is half of 2013 . . . six weeks from now we'll have a clearer picture [of forage condition and costs] - so far so good.”

Rehabilitate forage crop. No matter which option you choose, if you have a struggling perennial forage, it’s most beneficial to work on rehabilitating the crop as soon as you can.

“The key is to get another perennial forage back into production as quickly as possible,” Johnson says.

Other items on the checklist

With high feed costs and unsteady milk prices, many dairy producers have put off routine facility and equipment maintenance the past few years.

It’s also a key time of year to work closely with custom harvesters if you plant and utilize silage in your operation.

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Pre-Harvest Checklist