Managing manure and the cropping system

The Aug. 18, 2015, manure field day will teach participants about double cropping winter and summer annuals for better feed, soil and manure management.

Triticale feed/cover crop at Dutch Meadows Dairy on May 28, 2015.
Triticale feed/cover crop at Dutch Meadows Dairy on May 28, 2015.

At Dutch Meadows Dairy in Clinton County, Tony Jandernoa is integrating triticale, a winter annual forage, and sudangrass, a summer annual forage, in his cropping system to feed his 1,500 cow herd. Triticale is a wheat and rye hybrid that makes excellent chopped silage for high producing dairy cows when harvested at the flag leaf stage, or a highly palatable and high-yielding feed for dry cows and young stock when harvested later in the boot or soft dough stage of growth.

So far, the best fit for these forage crops at Dutch Meadows Dairy is to drill triticale as soon as the corn silage comes off. An ideal time to seed date triticale is 10 to 14 days earlier than the best time for wheat, typically the first part of September in much of mid-Michigan. When the crop is harvested in mid- to late May in the early boot stage, it yields about 6-8 tons per acre of 65 percent moisture silage, an ideal addition to the ration for close-up cows, dry cows and heifers. After the triticale is harvested, the goal is to seed sudangrass with a target silage harvest yield of about 5 tons per acre in early August so a new alfalfa seeding is in by Aug. 15.

Adding a winter annual in the cropping system provides many benefits beyond feed production: It keeps the ground covered and an active root system throughout the year, builds soil structure and health, reduces runoff and nutrient loss to the environment, improves manure nutrient cycling and use and can spread out the crop harvest and planting workload. However, new opportunities can present new challenges for managing manure and the cropping system.

You can find out more about managing manure and the cropping system at Dutch Meadows Dairy at the 2015 Tour: What's New with Poo on Aug. 18. The day-long tour will begin at Providence Agriculture, 9650 Roosevelt Rd, Carson City, MI 48811, and include bus stops featuring state-of-the-art manure separation technologies, treatment and handling, harvestable buffers and managing manure and cover crops for feed.

Registration is required by Aug. 11. The registration fee is $25 per person or $40 per farm or company for up to four people. The registration fee includes the tour, lunch and all materials. For more information, please contact the Clinton County Conservation District at 989-224-3720 or the Gratiot County Michigan State University Extension office at 989-875-5233.

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