Achieving Excellence in Your Forage Program

On the heels of the Super Bowl, I’m reflecting on how that trophy became the most prestigious award in football.  “Excellence” is the one word comes to mind.  Many attributes combine to achieve excellence: discipline, continually learning, practice, planning, and flawless execution.

These attributes also apply to farming. For the most part, we get one chance each year to plant the best crop possible or to achieve our “career high.” Each of us has about 40 chances to accomplish our goals in our lifetime. That’s why it’s so important to reflect on limiting factors from previous seasons and plan to make next season the best one yet!

To help you with planning for the 2014 crop, I’d like to share information gleaned recently from the Midwest Forage Council’s annual symposium in Wisconsin Dells.  This meeting brings producers and industry experts together to address current topics and trends including:

  1. Establishing Alfalfa
    • Seeding rates was a very popular subject throughout a room full of top producers. More and more farmers are seeing positive tonnage results with increased rates. I encourage you to try your own on-farm experiment on a portion of your acres. Seed part of field at your current rate, and then increase the rate to 25-30 pounds on another part of field.
    • Stamina® is a new seed treatment fungicide for more disease protection against Aphanomyces Race 2.  This is a brand new treatment, which we will be testing it this spring.
  2. Increasing Silage Yields
    • It’s no secret that selecting the correct genetics for a specific growing environment has a huge impact. Up to 40% of yield and quality can be linked directly to corn hybrid selection. University studies suggest adding 2,000 more plants per acre for corn silage if soil and hybrid roots system permit; best performance was achieved with 38,000 plants per acre in 30-inch rows.
    • Be very diligent about plant nutrition. Corn silage hybrids are big plants with big appetites. They generally respond well to split applications of nitrogen, so design plant diets to apply food at the right time.
    • Foliar Fungicides have shown up to a 2 ton yield increase in corn silage tonnage.
  3. Corn Silage Shredlage
    • Larger kernel hybrids tend to kernel process better. Hybrids like our LH 5494 series have a larger kernel, making them great choice for corn silage producers.
    • Shredlage, which has longer corn silage particles, has added about 3 pounds of milk / head / day in some dairies. In addition, overall herd health has improved.
  4. Cover Crops
    • Cover crops can improve soil quality, save manure nitrogen or fix nitrogen for the following crop. This topic prompted much discussion in the room, and I was surprised by the large number of producers who are either using cover crops or are developing a plant to implement them into the farm field rotation.
  5. Variable Rate Plant Population / Computer-Assisted Farming
    • Dual hybrid corn planters are being developed to plant two different types of seed on the go, based on GPS and soil types.
    • Most new planters are variable rate capable from factory.   If not, they can be retrofitted to add more precision on the acre. Variable rate planting can pay off and the research proves it. Click here for quick tips to help ensure your variable rate planting recommendations are as accurate as possible.

Spring planting is just around the corner, so important to do our best at things we can control. Let’s get back to the basics… develop a winning plan, and then execute it as flawlessly as possible. The payoff for excellence in farming is good land stewardship and a great return on investment!