A Year in Review -- Forages

Dec 30, 2019


Brett Jones, an agronomist for Tennessee Farmers Cooperative, shares his statewide take-aways from the 2019 hay season. 
 
  1. Early cutting has its benefits.
Middle Tennessee producers enjoyed an early cutting window this spring. On my farm in Maury County, we started cutting hay in late April – the earliest we’ve ever been able to cut grass hay and cure it without having a wrapper. (The photo with this blog was taken during that time.) Early cutting offers two big benefits. First, that initial cutting is much better quality, and the field is ready for a second cutting by the time many are finishing their first.

What date is best for early cutting? Before the second week of May. May target date for optimum quality is May 1.
 
  1. Many are cutting it too close.
Cutting height of hay is often overlooked but is crucial for several reasons. First, regrowth. If we leave good height and some green leaves, the plant can begin performing photosynthesis and growing again without having to go to its roots, which will weaken the root system. Second, most grasses store their energy and carbohydrates in the bottom few inches, so cutting the plant too short will weaken the root system and kill our stand.

What is the best cutting height for hay? Excluding Bermuda grass, I recommend at least 3 ½ inches, and 4 inches or more is even better! Measurements taken at the shop on concrete will always be lower in the field, so always measure the actual plants that have been cut and adjust accordingly.
 
  1. Nutrient deficiencies must be addressed.
Based on the soil samples I’ve seen for several years, our hay fields are simply starving to death. Cutting hay is much like cutting corn silage. We are pulling much more from our fields than we are replacing, and just like with a bank account, once a deficit bad things begin to happen. Our field’s production drops drastically, desirable grasses soon die out, and we are left with only deep root weeds. Then, we try to remedy the situation by reseeding in the fall. As one might expect, the young seedling won’t survive either.

What’s the best way to estimate your soil’s nutrient needs? Soil testing! Your local Co-op can assist you with planning a soil-testing program and can customize a fertilizer plan to ensure your pastures and hayfields have the nutrients needed to produce high-quality, high-yielding grass.
 
 
 
 

Read More News

Sep 06,2022
As the hot days of September begin, farmers across the Southeast are preparing for harvest. In cotton country, preparation often involves pulling the cotton pickers into the shop and performing general maintenance like replacing worn spindles and moisture pads, adjusting doffers, and generally making sure the machine is ready to operate as effectively as possible.
 
Aug 01,2022
The first seven months of 2022 have evaporated, and mid-South farmers now find themselves within a stone’s throw of harvest season. Gone are the days of relying on time-worn hunches, a can of WD-40, and the Farmer’s Almanac when preparing for the season. In today’s high-tech farming, a pre-harvest checklist for combine set-up and calibration is mandatory for producing the accurate data that will inform next year’s high yields.
 
Jul 05,2022
 In terms of agriculture, annual ryegrass has traditionally been viewed as a southern forage best suited to states that border the Gulf coast. But in recent years, new hybrids and improved field data have created inroads into areas with cooler climates, including Tennessee.