New grasses we are trying:
Fleet Meadow Brome
Enhance Tall Fescue
Pradel Meadow Fescue
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.
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.