Michigan is home to a diverse agriculture community and forage crops are integrated into many of these different types of operations. While the weather is one factor that producers cannot control, there are other factors where producers can make decisions that will have a high impact on profitability. The selection and use of improved forage varieties for better yield per acre is recommended by Michigan State University Extension. Many forage producers are faced with competition with other crops for limited agricultural acreage, so optimizing forage production yield and efficiency per acre is critical for long-term economic viability. To assist producers in selecting well-adapted and productive forage varieties, the “2014 Michigan Forage Variety Test Report” is now available. To download a copy of the report, go to the MSU Forage Connection website or the MSU Variety Trialswebsite.
The average Michigan forage field yields much less than the optimum yield capabilities for today’s improved forage varieties. In 2014, the average yield for Michigan alfalfa hay and haylage was 2.9 tons per acre, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistical Services (NASS) Michigan Field Office, operated in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. In contrast, across all variety test locations, the average alfalfa yield in the MSU test was 5.0 tons per acre, an improvement of 2.1 tons per acre over the statewide NASS estimate. While part of this difference is caused by test management that strives to meet all best management practices for alfalfa, the best cutting-edge varieties in the test typically yield an extra 0.5 to 1.0 tons per acre over the check variety.
The “2014 Michigan Forage Variety Test Report” includes 2014 yield trials for alfalfa, annual grasses and perennial forage grasses conducted at East Lansing, Chatham and Lake City, Michigan. The long-term yield averages for alfalfa, annual and perennial forage grasses and red clover varieties can also be found dating back to 2006. Fall dormancy ratings, winter survival index and disease resistance ratings for alfalfa cultivars and planting recommendations for perennial grasses are included to guide hay and livestock producers.
For equine owners, a trial located near Ithaca, Michigan, provides stand persistence and grazing preference data of pasture grasses under continuous grazing by horses. Results of this trial can be used to select pasture grasses that will hold up under horse grazing and hoof traffic following grazing.