Forage replacements for alfalfa

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Alfalfa forage complements corn silage in dairy cow lactation rations better than most any other forage available.

Many dairy producers across the Midwest have had difficulties harvesting adequate quantities of high-quality alfalfa forage due to 2012 drought and 2013 winter kill. Consequently, dairy producers are looking for alternative forages to ensure adequate forage yields to feed cattle through the next year.

During the spring of 2013, some dairy farmers were harvesting winter wheat to feed to dairy cattle. Wheat silage is best used in dry cow and heifer rations, especially if it has matured into the milk or dough stages. Wheat silage contains more fiber and less protein than alfalfa. Some producers have been including boot stag wheat silage into high-producing lactation rations without sacrificing milk production in replacement of alfalfa while eliminating fiber sources such as straw from the ration, says Frank Wardynski with Michigan State University Extension.

There are also opportunities to double- crop forage plantings behind winter wheat grain harvest this summer. Michigan State University Extension recommends planting single species crops for high-producing lactating cows. Several options are available to plant after wheat. Oats can be planted and harvested as silage with similar feeding results and recommendations as wheat silage.

Peas and oats can be an excellent feed for dry cows and heifers, allowing producers to save alfalfa for lactating cows.



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