FOND DU LAC
The schedule for the first cutting of alfalfa is running a week or more later than average, but many growers of the crop in Wisconsin will soon be harvesting the greenest and fullest stands they have had in a few years.
Accordingly, the maturity of the crop and its feed quality ratings are being taken in counties around the state as the end of May approaches. In an advisory about the upcoming testing of samples in his county Tuesday, May 27, Sheboygan County agricultural agent Mike Ballweg commented that, given the slow start to the growing season this year, the alfalfa "is not as far behind as one might think."
With above-normal temperatures prevailing for most of the past week, Fond du Lac County Extension Service crops and soils agent Mike Rankin pointed out that the growing crop can easily add 100 pounds or more of dry matter per acre per day during good growing conditions. A five-day difference in a cutting schedule would add 0.25 or more ton of dry matter per acre while the relative feed value (RFV) drops by about 20 points.
In a report current as of May 23, alfalfa samples taken from fields in Wisconsin's southern tier of counties came in with RFV scores of 190 and 193. Results obtained in all areas of the state are posted on the www.uwex.edu/ces/ag/scissorsclip website. Depending on the intended use of the forage, farmers often strive to put the alfalfa into storage with an RFV of 150-170.
Scissors clippings on May 21 from alfalfa standing at 19 or 20 inches near Malone, Byron and Ripon in Fond du Lac County were scored for RFV at 223, 229 and 255 respectively. Their crude protein percentages in laboratory tests were 25.7, 27.4 and 28.3. Two fields near Campbellsport were both at 18 inches and were scored at 224 on the Predictive Equivalent of Alfalfa Quality (PEAQ) chart.
In Outagamie County, fields near Black Creek, Freedom, Seymour and Wrightstown had plant heights of 17.4 to 18.5 inches when the survey was taken May 22. The RFV numbers were calculated at between 248 and 220.
Nine fields in Calumet County are being sampled by Kristin Birschbach, who works for Kapral Agonomy Consulting, which sponsors the project in cooperation with the county's forage council. The latest report showed a plant height range of 14-21 inches, crude protein of 20.7-26.3 percent in all but one of the fields and vegetative stage growth in all cases. Six of the nine fields had been treated with a fungicide.
The formula-driven PEAQ analysis gave the Calumet County fields scores in a range of 208-253. The laboratory analyses of the scissor-cut samples gave them RFV numbers of 182-214.
Growers who want to perform their own PEAQ can obtain the formula at fyi.uwex.edu/forage/files/2014/01PEAQ. Prepared by the Extension Service's Team Forage, the table combines plant height with three stages of growth maturity to calculate a PEAQ score.
Several counties in east-central Wisconsin were planning to have scissor cuttings taken May 27 analyzed for components. In addition to the statewide website, the latest results can be obtained by checking the county Extension Service website or by calling the office.