To estimate the accumulated GDD’s for your area, visit the Michigan State University Enviro-weather website. This website, funded in part by Project GREEEN, lists weather-related data from over 80 computerized weather stations across the state of Michigan. The homepage of the website has a map of Michigan denoting these weather stations. By clicking on the weather station closest to your farm you can access a wealth of weather data such as the latest weather observations, overnight temperatures, rainfall, soil conditions, and growing degree days. To access GDD’s for alfalfa, click on the link labeled “Temperature, rainfall and degree-day summary.” On the next page you will be able to “add another column of degree day calculations” by entering “41” in the “Base Temperature” box and clicking on “Add GDD Column.” For alfalfa harvest be sure to look at the column labeled “Degree Days Base 41F.”
Forage prices are at historical highs as heat, drought, and reduced hay acreage played havoc with hay and corn silage production in 2012. The USDA reports U.S. average alfalfa hay price was $219/ton for March; while anecdotal reports indicate high quality alfalfa hay going for as much as $400/ton in some areas of the U.S. Also a recent USDA report showed nationwide alfalfa/alfalfa mixed hay production down 15 percent nationwide and down 17.5 percent in Michigan. Therefore, the production of high quality alfalfa is even more important than ever. Harvesting a high yield of high quality alfalfa will lower dairy producers feed costs as they will have to purchase less protein supplements and/or less substitute forages. Proper alfalfa management may even allow some of the forage to be sold on the open market at the current premium prices.