Though it may not feel like it, the first day of spring is March 20. According to the poet Alfred Tennyson, “In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love”. A nice thought, but a farmer’s fancy might be better spent in looking at his current forage and soil analyses to see if they may suggest some needed changes. Here are several to consider:
• By now the starch digestibility of your corn silage undergone most of the changes that will occur and is a much different feed than it was a month after ensiling. The changes have mostly been positive and could result in your being able to feed less grain. Your dairy nutrition consultant is probably aware of this, but it doesn’t hurt to check.
• If the dry matter content of your corn silage less than 30% and it’s not due to unusual events, then you should plan on doing whatever changes are needed for your corn to be harvested at no less than 32% DM. (Albert Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.) These changes could include earlier planting, later harvest, or planting slightly shorter-season hybrids. Of these, guess which is easiest to do?
• The ideal NDF of hay silage varies depending on the relative amounts of alfalfa and grass in the field, but ADF should be in the 28-32% range. Less than 28% and you probably sacrificed some yield by cutting too early, over 32% and you harvested too late. You won’t always hit the ideal range, but the ADF of most hay silage should be close to 30%.
• Fertilizer prices will remain low this spring compared to recent years so there’s no reason to delay fertilizer applications. Potash prices have strengthened a bit but 0-0-60 is still a good buy. Use manure and fertilizer to maintain soil test K levels in the medium-high to high range — this is especially important for anyone seeding alfalfa-grass mixtures. Seeding alfalfa-grass into a low fertility field is a recipe for failure.