2014 New Hay Seeding

April 12, 2014

The snow all melted and ran off and we found out we are in a drought!  We’re dry.  The ditches which always run with water in the spring are empty.  Still, there is no cure for a drought like a good rain, and they are calling for rain this weekend.

I’m happy because I planted my oats/hay seeding the last two days.  I saw John and his Dad  in town on Tuesday pulling their purchased oat seed on a flat rack trailer.  I told my Dad we’d better get our oat seed picked up.

So we picked up the oat seed Wednesday morning, and started discing Wednesday afternoon.  We were worried about it being too wet, but it worked up nice, didn’t ball or stick to the disc blades.  I let the soil dry for a day, then hit it with the disc again, then planted.

I thought it would be good to report on my planting this year, as I’ve tried many different recipes in the past, but have kind of settled on a favorite.  All of the following figures are per acre.

2.5 bushels Jerry oats as cover crop.  Plan to cut and bale sometime in boot/dough stage in June.

13 lbs FSG 408DP alfalfa.  I paid a little more for this variety because they say it’s for hay or grazing, with lowerset crowns than the typical alfalfa.  The crowns are where new growth comes from and they can be damaged by wheel or hoof traffic.

4 lbs Extend Orchardgrass.

2.5 lbs Gain Festulolium.


New Hay Seeding With Oat Companion Crop

August 15, 2010

Oats and new hay seeding, early July.

I planted this field in early April.  I plant 2.5 bushels of oats, 10 lbs. of alfalfa, and assorted grasses.  Check out “2009 New Hay Seeding,” if you would like more detail.

We plant this mixture as soon as the ground is fit in early spring.  Oats are a fast starter and suppress any weeds that germinate.  The alfalfa and grasses are slow to start, but come on strong after the oats are harvested.

Many farmers are going away from planting a companion crop to their new hay seeding.  If the oats are not managed well, they may kill the new seeding.

Here are some tips we have found to prevent this.

1.  Spread no manure on the field during the preceding year.  My opinion is the nitrogen in the manure causes the oats to grow too tall and will lodge, (go down), as it matures.

2.  Plant an oat variety with strong standability.

3.  Plant an early-maturing oat variety.  The earlier the oats can be harvested, the better it is for the new seeding.

4.  If a field has had manure, or you feel the oats may lodge for any other reason, cut the oats as a forage crop in June.  This crop can be dried and baled, or ensiled.  It makes excellent feed for cattle.

We harvested our oats in late July and they will be mixed into the hog rations at an inclusion rate of 20-25%.  Gestation rations can include a higher amount of oats.

The straw will be dried and baled and used as bedding for hogs in the hoop buildings.

Oats can be an excellent companion crop for new hay seeding.  If everything goes well, look at the beautiful alfalfa, clover, and grasses, green and growing after the oats are harvested.

2009 New Hay Seeding

February 1, 2009

In Brief

New grasses we are trying:

Fleet Meadow Brome

Enhance Tall Fescue

Pradel Meadow Fescue

Gain Festolium

            Two salesmen talked me into trying Festolium.  I asked them what they would recommend on a field where I will be taking a first cutting of hay and then grazing 3 more times throughout the summer and fall.  My concern is that Festolium does not dry well for hay.  This particular Festolium is a hybrid of Meadow Fescue and Italian Ryegrass.  If you have experience with this grass, please email me. 

In Detail

Our farm is in the driftless region of southwest Wisconsin.  Contour strips on rolling hills.  Our crop rotation is one year of oats/new seeding, two to four years of hay, and one to three years of corn.  Fertility varies from high on fields we can spread manure, to low on fields we can’t.  To combat the removal of fertility on the fields that don’t get manure and also to help with the summer pasture slump, we graze some of these low fertility fields after taking a 1st cutting.  We buy our oats, barley, alfalfa, and some of our grass seed from Kieler Feed and Seed at Kieler, WI.  Phone: 608 568 7707

This year we plan to seed down 50 acres.  We plant two bushels of oats and one bushel of barley per acre.  This combination seems to stand and yield better than straight oats.  We plant Robust barley which is the common variety offered.  For the last two years we have planted Kame oats.  Kame is an early oat with excellent standability.  This is very important to us because we use most of our oats for grain and straw.  We need the oats to stand until harvest so harvest is easier and  it doesn’t smother out the new seeding under it.  We booked the Kame oats at $7.30 per bushel and the Robust barley at $8.40 per bushel. So our small grain seeding will cost $23 per acre.

The forage company that Kieler Feed works with is LaCrosse forage.  We plant 10 lbs. of alfalfa per acre.  We use an economical blend called K500.  It has good winter hardiness, disease resistance, and regrowth.  It costs $128.95 per 50 lb. bag with a volume discount.  So cost per acre is $25.79.  We have used this alfalfa for the last four years and are happy with it.

I have been trying new grasses for the last four years and have yet to solidify a protocol.  The reason I am trying new grasses is because my Dad planted the same old recipe for the last thirty years:  10 lbs. alfalfa, 4 lbs. brome, and 2 lbs. timothy.  This recipe makes for a good quality, high volume, first cutting hay.  However, the grasses are non-existent for second and third cutting.  Grass makes a great beef hay.  And having some grass in there also makes the cattle less susceptible to bloat when we graze the fields.  So I want a grass that is good quality and will show up for every cutting.

To educate myself I read everything I can.  One of the best resources I have found of late is the 2009 Forage Resource Guide from Byron Seeds, phone: 800 801 3596.

Here is what we have tried in the past: 9 – 10 lbs. alfalfa per acre unless noted otherwise.

2005:  4 lbs. Extend Orchardgrass.  Beautiful, thick, grassy field.  Even seems to crowd out the alfalfa.  These are the strips we looked at during my pasture walk, May, 2007.  I love the way this grass comes back for 2nd and 3rd cutting.  The only problem with it is it gets so mature for 1st cutting when we cut it in June.  I would like to get it cut in May this year if it isn’t too upsetting to the old guard who has never made hay before June 1st. 

            4 lbs. Reed Canarygrass and 4 lbs. Perennial Ryegrass.  These grasses never showed up in any quantity so I rotated quickly back into corn.  We had good luck with Reed Canarygrass establishing on a bottom about 10 years ago.  It grew as tall as the tractor fenders for first cutting.  Came back well for subsequent cuttings as well. 

            9 lbs. Birdsfoot Trefoil, no alfalfa, 4 lbs Climax Timothy, and 1 lb. Perennial Ryegrass on a bottom.  I envisioned a sea of yellow flowers prime for grazing on this creek bottom prone to flooding.   Instead, we had high weed pressure seeding year and the Birdsfoot never amounted to anything besides a plant here and there.  The good news is we had thick, tall Timothy the first couple of years and the Ryegrass just seems to keep getting thicker.  The cattle love grazing this field now.

2006:  Some of these grasses are from Barenbrug.

2 lbs. Climax Timothy everything.  Spotty, but nice when its there for first cutting. 

            4 lbs. Barolex Tall Fescue.  This is a nice grass for grazing with good regrowth.  I may use more of it in the future.  Its only problem for us is it doesn’t make a high volume 1st cutting.

            4 lbs. Hakari Brome.  Big disappointment.  Light stand first couple of years and non-existent after that.

            4 lbs. Peak Brome.  Big disappointment.  Light stand and little regrowth.

2007:   2.5 lbs. Barliza Timothy everything.  Disappointing.  Doesn’t seem to show up as much as the Climax.  And I paid double for the Barliza.

            4.5 lbs. Barolex Tall Fescue.  Same as above.

            4.5 lbs. Hakari Brome.  Same as above.

            4 lbs. Barliza Timothy.  I thought I would have a thick stand of Timothy and alfalfa.  Disappointing, never showed up so I had an alfalfa field.

2008:    4 lbs. Baraula Orchardgrass.  Looked good last fall.  Looking forward to checking the yield this year.

This is what we are going to try in 2009:

2 lbs. Timothy per acre for everything.  When it shows up it makes beautiful first cutting hay. Also we’re not spending a lot of money.  We are using the old standard, Climax, which we booked at $56.95 per 50 lbs.  So our cost is only $2.28 per acre.

4 lbs. per acre Pradel Meadow Fescue on our 12 acres of back bottoms.  The back bottoms are prone to flooding.  Meadow Fescue is supposed to tolerate wet soils.  Our cost will be $10 per acre.

4.5 lbs. per acre Fleet Meadow Brome on our 11 acres at our other farm.  This is mostly a nod to my Dad who loves Brome.  However, this Brome is supposed to show up in the summer and yield more than Smooth Brome.  Its expensive, $185 per 50 lbs.  So this will cost us $16.65 per acre.

5 lbs. per acre Enhance Tall Fescue on 19 acres at my place and at the home farm.  These fields have good fertility as they get a fair amount of manure.  They also get some abuse from traffic and cows so I wanted something that would be tough.  Our cost will be $11.50 per acre.

5 lb.s per acre Gain Festolium on 10 acres East hills.  This field is isolated and hard to farm.  We make first cutting hay and then graze every cutting after that.    It will cost us $11 per acre.  We are also grazing the back bottoms so I am thinking of hedging my bets by mixing the Festolium and the Meadow Fescue and planting the mixture in both fields.  What do you think of that idea?  Look for yield updates this summer.





Oats and Hay Seeding

May 11, 2011

This is our oat drill with roller behind. It has two compartments for seeds, shown below.  The smaller one holds alfalfa and timothy.  The larger one holds oats and perennial ryegrass.

The oats and perennial ryegrass is dropped into the small furrow made by the disc blade.  The alfalfa and timothy is dribbled onto the ground behind the planter via tubes, not shown.

The roller breaks up more soil clods, and ensures a firm seed bed and good soil to seed contact.

Below is the planted seedbed.  This is also the picture I’m using for the May 7th square-foot saturday.

I planted this field, M6, on May 3rd.  That’s the latest I’ve ever planted oats, and exactly one month later than I finished planting oats last year.  I planned on showing a square-foot in this field, so I’m sticking with the plan, even though I’m not happy with the planting date.  Oats grow well in cool weather.

It was a late spring, but the truth is we missed a small planting window in April because we were in the middle of building a new barb-wire fence and didn’t want to stop.  We thought we would be able to plant a few days later, but a couple weeks of wet weather ruined that plan.

Farming is about windows.  You want to do the right job at the right time.  Work the soil and plant too wet, and you face compaction and yield reduction.  Plant late, and you miss valuable heat units and yield is reduced.

Check back every weekend and we’ll see how this field progresses.

Baraula Orchardgrass Seeding for Hay and Pasture

January 6, 2010

Rejoice!  Baraula Orchardgrass seed is a steal this year compared to last year.

In my post, “2009 New Hay Seeding,” I detail how I planted a field to Baraula Orchardgrass and Alfalfa.  I didn’t plant any Baraula in 2009 because I was waiting to evaluate the quality and yield.  It was outstanding and I wrote about it in my post, “2009 Hay and Forage Summary.”

When I received the 2010 Welter seed catalog I immediately flipped to Baraula Orchardgrass and was happily surprised by the price of $122 for a 50 lb. bag.  Last year the price was $200.

I emailed Welter’s and asked why.  They said there is a much better supply this year.

The “law of supply and demand” works.  But it’s important to remember it may be supply and/or demand affecting the price.  I assumed the demand for Baraula must have been through the roof.  Looking back now I see all the Orchardgrasses were higher priced.  The seed companies must have had a poor yielding year.  So the price was affected more by supply than demand.

I realize I need to do what’s right for my farm.  I’m glad I tried some other species of grass last year as I look forward to evaluating them.

As for this year’s new seeding I’m going to plant all 59 acres to K500 Alfalfa, Climax Timothy, and Baraula Orchardgrass.

2009 Hay and Forage Summary

September 25, 2009


Cattle grazing my best hay field, September 24, 2009.

In my post, “2009 New Hay Seeding,” I promised summer yield statistics.  When the cattle finish grazing the hay field pictured, every hay field will have been harvested or grazed three times.  Here are the statistics.

All the hay was baled in 1500 lb. round bales.  Estimated moisture content is 15%.

1st cutting: 120.4 acres, 341 bales, 511,500 lbs., 4,248 lbs./acre.

2nd cutting: 82.1 acres, 127 bales, 190,500 lbs., 2,320 lbs./acre.

3rd cutting: 61.3 acres, 68 bales, 102,000 lbs., 1,664 lbs./acre.

Total: 88 average acres, 536 bales, 804,000 lbs., 9,136 lbs./acre.

The reason the number of acres declines from one cutting to the next is because I start grazing selected hay fields with the cattle instead of harvesting them by machine.  I do this to help mitigate the summer slump in pasture growth and keep my cattle gaining well.

I graze fields which are self-contained, (no corn strips as cattle are hard to keep out of corn fields).  And prefer fields which are difficult to access with manure.  Without manure, fields decline in fertility.  Grazing, instead of machine harvesting and feeding elsewhere, keeps more of the soil’s fertility in place.

Hay fields were grazed with the mob of 134 cows and 134 calves and 5 herd bulls.  Here are the grazing statistics:

1st grazing: 38.3 acres, 10 days, 3.83 acres/day.

2nd grazing: 59.1 acres, 15 days, 3.94 acres/day.

1st grazing corresponds to 2nd cutting and 2nd grazing corresponds to 3rd cutting.  So if I take the average yield for 2nd and 3rd cutting and multiply by the number of acres grazed/day, I find the equivalent amount of forage the mob was eating.

1st grazing: 3.83 acres x 2,320 lbs. = 8,885 lbs./day.

2nd grazing: 3.94 acres x 1,664 lbs. =6,556 lbs./day.

I’ll have to do more “cipherin” to figure if it’s more economical to hay or graze.  I do most of my heavy thinkin’ in the winter and will have an updated post for you then.  I’ll tell you one thing.  I prefer to graze 2nd and 3rd cutting and oftentimes that is how farmers make decisions.

Below is a close-up picture of the field pictured above.  It is 1st year hay with what I consider  the ideal mix of grass to hay.  My recipe was 10 lbs. alfalfa, 2lbs. Climax Timothy, and 4 lbs. Baraula Orchardgrass from Barenbrug Seeds.  Baraula is the latest maturing Orchardgrass I have ever used and I will be planting more of it next year.   This field yielded tremendously and makes me think about the potential for my farm.  Here are the statistics:

1st cutting: 12.1 acres, 61 bales, 91,500 lbs., 7,500 lbs./acre, 77% better than the average.

2nd cutting: 12.1 acres, 29 bales, 43,500 lbs., 3,595 lbs./acre, 55% better than the average.

As shown, it is being grazed now.  I was late getting the mob to this field so it will not be grazed anymore this year.  Most of the other hay fields will be grazed by the cattle in October/November after a killing frost but before the snow flies.


March 2012, Early Spring

March 19, 2012

A warm winter followed with record high temperatures in March, finds me in the fields earlier than ever.

I fed round bales of hay in a feeder to my fall-calving cows on a field which was corn last year and will be oats and new hay seeding this year.  I moved the feeder every time I fed a new bale so the manure would be spread across the field, pictured below.

The cows had to walk across a hay field to get to water.  Any time the ground wasn’t frozen resulted in damage from the cows’ hooves.

I dragged the damaged areas with a chain harrow pictured above.  I also spread some oats on the worst areas, using the silver seeder located on the back of the tractor, pictured above.  The oats will give some ground cover and forage.

I also fertilized last week.  I put 100 lbs of gypsum and 100 lbs of ammonium sulfate on every acre.  Gypsum supplies Calcium and Sulfur, while ammonium sulfate supplies Nitrogen and Sulfur.

I decided to not add any Phosphorous or Potassium.  My soil tests showed high levels of Phosphorous in the soil.  My forage tests showed high levels of Potassium in the hay.  These two elements, along with Nitrogen are considered the primary macro-nutrients.  Another reason I decided not to fertilize with Potassium is “luxury consumption.”  If potassium is readily available, plants will suck up more than they need.  This is one of the reasons I prefer to fertilize with Potassium in the fall.

Secondary macro-nutrients include Calcium, Magnesium, and Sulfur.  My forage tests were lower in Calcium than I liked.  So I decided to add gypsum which is 22% Calcium.  I could have added  lime, but that would raise the pH of the soil, which is already high at 7.4.

My soil is high in Magnesium because the rock underlying our soil is dolomitic limestone, which is high in Magnesium.

Needed Sulfur was supplied from the polluted atmosphere in acid rain for many years.  Now that the air is getting cleaner, there is less Sulfur available to plants, and plants deficient in Sulfur are being seen.  Gypsum is 17.5 % Sulfur, and Ammonium Sulfate is 24% Sulfur.

I didn’t add any of the micro-nutrients.  I plan on soil testing in late summer and fertilizing in the fall if my budget allows.

Square-Foot Saturday 26, November 19, 2011

November 19, 2011

I put gates at the end of the lane and an electric fence around the house and barnyard, and turned the cows into the fields for the fall grazing.  The cows ate the new hay seeding, (Square-Foot Saturday), as low as they could, pictured below.

Square-Foot Saturday 18, August 27, 2011

August 27, 2011

Another week of growth.

This is not what I envisioned when I started this series.  You can hardly see the alfalfa through the weeds.  I eat a huge slice of humble pie every time I post.

So I’m including a picture of last year’s new hay seeding for my wounded pride.  It’s ready to be cut for a third time this summer, and there isn’t a weed visible.

Leaves of Grass

February 7, 2011

Timothy, Phleum pratense

Timothy is one of my favorite grasses.  I mix its small seeds in with alfalfa, when I’m planting the new hay seeding in the spring.  Look at the broad, beautiful leaves.  Look at the seedheads, covered in pollen.

I’ll lay it down, sun-dry, rake, and roll up, into a big, round, bale.  Summer sun, tucked away, waiting to be fed on a cold, winter’s day.

I’ve often thought that I should like the poetry of Walt Whitman more.  He titled his epic book of poems, “Leaves of Grass.” This suggested a kinship with him that turned out to be  nonexistent. I recently learned that he titled his life’s work based on a pun, “Grass” was a term given by publishers to works of minor value and “leaves” is another name for the pages on which they were printed.

I do like his poem, “O Captain! My Captain!”, written about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  It’s more straightforward.

My favorite poet is Robert Frost. I plan on writing a post, inspired by one of his poems.  The first person to guess which poem, will win a $25 gift certificate to Kiva. One guess per person.  The poem is not “Mending Wall.” I’ll give you a hint, the post is about genetics.  Good luck!