Forage Production 101

February 28, 2023

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This session has held as part of the field crops track during the 2023 MI Ag Ideas to Grow With virtual conference. This virtual conference held February 27-March 10, 2023, is a two-week program encompassing many aspects of the agricultural industry and offering a full array of educational sessions for farmers and homeowners interested in food production and other agricultural endeavors. Sessions were recorded and can be found online at

Video Transcript

Good morning everyone. My name is Phil Kaatz as Jenna said, I'm an extension educator based in Lapeer County, which is just south of Jenna. And I have a forage background and I also have a forage assignment for the State of Michigan with extension, been working in forage I'm gonna say the majority of my career in agriculture. But let's go ahead and get started because I've got a lot of material, probably too much. But I want you to realize that every one of these segments could be a full day presentation, let alone 45 to 50 min. So with that, I'm gonna go ahead and get started and say that MSU has an equal opportunity employer, and we are open to all. And with that, I'm going to go in and say, We want you to really have some tools where you can be successful in forage production. It's as easy as 123, right? Everybody can do this. It's you prepare, you implement your plan, and then you maintain what you have. It's easier said than done because each step has many different types of applications and management skills that are required. But I'm going to say that the majority of my time today is really going to spend excuse me, be spent on the preparation and implementation. Not so much on the maintenance of your stands that are out there because really without a good start, It's tough to really have anything that's worthwhile. So what I want to start with is say that I want you to think about this. Don't worry about things that you can't manage. Concentrate on the things that you can control. Things like genetics with the maturity dates, the yields, the winter hardiness, the persistence. Those are things that can choose planning time and conditions, whether you're planning in the spring or fall. How do you prepare your seed bed? Do you have a weed free environment to give you a good start? Or think about this. What is your soil nutrients? Those are primary things that you think about, not after the fact, but before the fact. And all of these things are of course tied to your budget because I know that not everybody has unlimited funds, like some that I know. I know there are some out there, but many around a shoestring. Others are kind of middle of the roads. So whatever your budget is, to think about this, how do I stay within a budget that is reasonable? And many times that comes by good planning. And of course, I'm going to say the last thing that you can control is the weather. So don't even worry about the weather. Whether it's going to come and go in Michigan. And I'm going to say that having good quality hay in Michigan is a challenge. We are a cool season grass state where also state that has a lot of rainfall averaging anywhere 31-33 " of rainfall per year. So that's a lot of water to deal with. We're not out in Kansas anymore where they have lots of opportunities to get dry hay. So I want you to think about this. The last thing you want is what's in this picture which is a failed stand. And so you need to prepare to make sure that you have opportunities to get a good Stan and a good start. I visited this field now that's a few years ago now, but they had buried the seed in that field and they just got a very poor start, very poor stand establishment. And they had to start from scratch again. So think about this. No, your goals. Know your soils. Remember your variety selection. Make sure that your machinery is maintained and adjusted properly. That is so important for good quality forage. And we'll talk about some of the reasons why that's important later on. But I'm going to talk about some of these establishment methods that are available and of course, some of the harvest timing that you should be thinking about. When I think about the goals many times, I remind people that forages are livestock, feed and fiber. Whether it's a cash crop or for silage or pasture, whatever your expectations are. Thinking about the animals that you're going to feed this, hey, two. And all of these have different types of needs. If you are looking at high-quality, hey, for a dairy operation that's very different than you have for a cow calf operation. And so think about it from the standpoint that it's a matter of quality of forage. I'm not going to spend as much time on quality this morning as I normally do. Because really when you think about quality, it is tied to not only the animals that are being fed, but it's also tied to price. The highest quality alfalfa. The chi is quality hay, whether it's dry hay or haylage, whatever. That is, the highest priced product. And there is usually, I'm going to say 95% of the time. You're going to have very high-quality, hey, that's in short supply. And then you have the rest of the haze that are less than high-quality and you will have a good supply of those. In fact, I had a call yesterday from someone that had Jorge and they were having a hard time finding a home for it. So think about this. Every type of hay has a home because you're not going to have all number one, hey, you may have a combination of number one, number two, and maybe even some number three that is less than perfect out there. So you need to find a home for it. And this display has a nice working objective that you can use as you think about what type of animal and the quality of the Hey that's needed for each of these. Of course, dairy has the highest requirements for any of the livestock, especially a high, high, high production, first trimester dairy cow or calf. And then it goes all the way down to dry cows and heifers. And you look at the differences 160-100, relative forage quality. And that's the big difference. Normally, today's pricing for high-quality, hey, you can look at for dry hay upwards of $250 per ton. And when you look at 100 relative feed quality, You're looking at probably 100 to $110 per ton. So there's a wide difference between those. And so think about that as you choose the forage quality needs of all your animals. So as you plan, I want you to think about your forage establishment. Really, this is to me the primary place where you should spend a lot of time planning and thinking about what are you going to plant, the type of fertility, what kind of seeding depth, the seeding rate, and then also the seating method that you want and we try and use for your farm operation. I'm going to start with seeding dates. And when I was putting this together, the final touches yesterday morning reminded me of a song by Bob Dylan. I know most of you are less than my age. So let's say this may be a song that you've not heard about, but the times they are a changing, okay. Bob Dylan said so, but that was back in the '60s. And I'm going to say that there is a change in the weather. So we're looking at springs that are longer, but they're wetter with fewer planting days. In addition to that, we have an extension into the fall. And with that, we have a longer period that we can plant. But we also are seeing extra moisture. But we're also seeing that first frost being delayed and it's changing as time is going on. The management guide, the alfalfa management guide, published in 2011, has a nice rendition of where we fall as far as a preference between spring and late seeding. When I say late summer seeding, I'm talking about normally the time between August and September. When I look at those spring seeding dates, those are relatively stable. Those have not changed. But when I look at the late summer seeding dates, that's all changed. And a lot of it has to do with the next slide that gives you an idea how we've seen a transition even since 1981 to today. And you can see there are subtle changes between the picture on the left. In the picture on the right. Look at the state of Wisconsin. It went from a dark green, which is October 1st for the first frost to more of October 11th to the 20th, you're seeing about a ten day delay. And I'm going to say for Michigan, much of Michigan now has been changed, to have a two-week delay from previous recommendations. And so for the UP, we had a recommendation of planting from April 1st to April 15th, and I think you can extend that and start even at April 10th to the 20th. But I caution you a summary seeding for me is something that you have to be careful on because some years we will have dry weather and it might be hot. And if you don't have moisture to establish those seedlings, they can lay in the ground for upwards to two to three weeks. I've seen it in the past. Same for the Lower Peninsula. Many times. I said it was best to start, say around the 10th of August. In fact, many times I would say be ready to go by the first week of August, get it planted because you never know what the weather's like. But now I'm going to say that we could start the 15th of August and go to the first of September for an Alpha alfalfa fall seeding date and still be good. And the grass seeding dates would coincide with alfalfa. So this is the change that I think it's a good change. But it's one of those things where if you can't get things seeded in the spring, fall is a good option. And are advantages and disadvantages to each method, whether it's spring or fall, spring, you've got plenty of moisture, things get going, but it might be too wet. And with fewer days to plan, you may be delayed to the point where if it's June, I'm hesitant to have people plant it because again, we can have hot dry weather, which can cause those wimpy alfalfa seedlings to die. And that's then a failed stand. Now, why is it so important to talk about alfalfa prior to that first fall freeze. This is a great rendition by my friend Doohung Min at Kansas State. His research has shown that alfalfa plants need to get to this stage where they actually pull those crowns below the surface of the soil in order to have that winter hardiness. And you want that to happen before the frost. Now a killing frost is 28 degrees, but we can have a 32 degree frost and it will hinder, hurt those plants and may not kill them. But when you get to 28 degrees, that's a killing frost. So thinking about all of that, and that's really the timing of when you plant. But now let's get a little bit even more practical and talk about your soil conditions and your soil. And I'm going to talk about soil sampling. Soil sampling. It is the lowest input costs that you can possibly have for your farm. I know that sounds funny because that's not really what you would consider an input. But for $20, that's a bargain based on the price of fertilizer today. Based on the fact that you may have an excess of one nutrient or a deficiency in another nutrient. So you need to know where you start. So you can get started and start the right way. So think about this. Give yourself all the information so that you can make a plan and plan ahead because many times, if you need to have your field sampled, it takes about seven to ten days to get those results back. If you need lime that should be applied six months prior to your seeding. It can still be applied if you get caught in a crunch. However, I always recommend six months prior to your seeding for any pH adjustment. When you do a sample, I always say use a random sampling method across the field. And I also say, for me personally, I believe that a zone management works best, you may have different areas of a field that have different types of fertility. They may have different soil textures. I would certainly say in this picture, the sandy knoll more than likely will have a different soil soil fertility results than the rest of the field. So I might sample that separately. And then the rest of the field, upwards to 20 acres per sample, can be sampled with relatively good results. I'm not going to spend a lot of time right now talking about soil fertility. I'll get to some of those things a little bit later on after we've established what's needed. But on your soil test, one of the key critical things is pH. And that is to me, the number one nutrient besides water, that will affect your overall yield. And also a lot of other things that we'll get into in a few minutes. So I want to see pH between 6.5 and 6.8 depending on the crop. We also want to have phosphorus and potassium, sulfur and boron. I concentrate on these primary nutrients because if you major onto major you can minor onto minor and still have excellent results. Why is it so important for the pH for alfalfa as an example, when you drop below 6.8 and I'm gonna say below 6.5 to 6.0, you can see a tremendous reduction in yield. In that stand, I've seen a pH of 6.2 have half the yield of a field with a 6.8 and that was side-by-side. So there are big distinctions and so it is important to make sure that you have your pH in place and up to snuff prior to planting clovers, clover grass, or even wheat or birdsfoot trefoil, which can be another good forage. Those can be a little bit less with the ideal being at 6.5. Why is that so important? Nutrients become more available as you get closer to the pH of 7.0, which is neutral. So it's one of the reasons why, as you look at this chart along this axis, where a 7.0 is your pH. You can see that many of the nutrients that we need are in full availability. And its availability. Availability is where you really want to concentrate on these nutrients. It's also one of the reasons why in Australia as an example, they can grow alfalfa with a pH of 3.5. And your going, that's crazy Phil there's no way. Well, one of the reasons why is because they don't have aluminum, which is a toxic mineral to us. In Australia, it's not toxic and so the pH isn't affected, doesn't affect the plants as much, but they still lose some of these other nutrients that are important. I'm going to switch gears again. Talked about selecting a field and select it carefully. Many times. If you have a field with good water-holding capacity and it has a good soil texture. What I mean, is a good soil texture. That means it's something where you're not going to see a lot of challenges in soil. Things like a hard pan or where it is too wet. You will have problems with these plants getting established. I can I've seen them drown. I've seen them get waterlogged to the point where you'll have disease challenges. But all of these things when you look at a field, make sure that it's really prepared and ready to go prior to planting. Alfalfa as an example, wants dry feet. They want to see tiled soils or well-drained soils. And if you have soils that retain too much moisture, you can have challenges with hardiness and persistence on these alfalfas. So think about all the things. If you have a lot of erosion, you can lose a stand. If you have a lot of water standing in pockets on fields, you can lose big areas due to ice damage or even because of standing water. So selecting field carefully is important. So when it comes to soil drainage, like I said, tiled fields, I'm going to say are the best. However, if you do not have tile, there are some tolerances, better tolerant, there are, let me backup. There are certain species that will tolerate poorly drained soils better than others. And this chart does a nice job of showing that alfalfa not nearly as forgiving as things like red clover or birdsfoot trefoil or some of your clovers that are really better suited if you have soils that are less drained or poorly drained. So I like to say, think about those things prior to planting. When you think about establishment, seed bed preparation is critical. Now I like to think that there is three ways, and I'll talk about this in a minute. But if you are preparing your field, you can think about it as conventional, no till or even as something where you use a nurse crop. But I'm going to say, if I am choosing the best method, I would say that if you have conventional tillage, that is the way that I would suggest if you are serious about having great stand, that you establish that forage. And so preparing that seed bed is important. You want to have it firm. And when I say firm, the depth of your heel sinking into the ground should be about a half-inch. For legumes, you want to plant these seeds shallow, a quarter to a half inch. If you get below that, you can run into challenges in sandier soils so you can go a half inch to 1 " depth. So really, I prefer to see seed on the top of the soil even after it's been planted. And of course, if you have very loose soils, you can tend to bury those seeds more than an inch deep. And then you can have a failed seeding, which is the kiss of death. The goal is to have a thick, healthy stand of alfalfa like the picture we have. And if you think about how many seeds per pound of alfalfa, 15 pounds gives you about 76 plants per square foot. I'm going to say that we always over seed our forages. As far as when I say overseed, we could really have, if you had every seed germinate and every seed establish four to six pounds would be enough. However, we don't end up with that nearly ever. And so we want to end up with about 12 plants per square foot in the second tier of production. And to do that, we start approximately 15 pounds per acre. And the reason why we settle at 15 pounds per acre, in my opinion, is a nice spot. At 12 to 16 pounds, you can see a slight reduction, 16 to 20 pounds. You don't see a tremendous increase. In fact, anything above 15 pounds gives you the same yield based on research that's been done at the University of Wisconsin. And so these seeding rates, and I've had people tell me that you have to be at 20 or 25 or 30 pounds of seed per acre. That is just not true. And many times you have to think about some of the seeds that are available today. They are coated with a coating and that will reduce the amount of pure live seed that you are actually planting. So you want it to end up, make sure that you have enough seeds per acre to give you 12 plants per square foot in a second tier. There are some excellent resources on variety selection. There are some excellent resources. In fact, Dr. Kim Cassida and I put together a bulletin recommended hey and pasture forages for Michigan that has information on the types of forages where they are better suited, what the seeding rates are, what kind of drainage is required, and the type of hay or the use. You could use different types of grasses and legumes. And it's a really well done resource. I will have that information at the end of my talk today, so no need to try and have that just now. I'll get that for you in just a couple of minutes. So here's, one of the things that I talk about, the seeding methods and I already alluded to this. There's conventional, no till and then broadcast. And of course companion crop can be used with any of these. But I'm going to say conventional is the most preferred, followed by no till and broadcast as the least preferred. The reason I say that is because conventional, you have the best opportunity to put the seed in the right place at the right depth.  With no till. I do like no-till planters many times. One of the reasons why is because they usually have good depth control. And controlling the depth of your planting is a good idea. If you use a companion crop, make sure that you account for that in your planting so that you can get it at the right depth as well. And if you aren't going to broadcast your seed, make sure that you have good soil to seed contact and try and have some coverage of soil over that seed even if it's pulling a chain link fence or a chain or some other tool just to try and coat that seed with some soil. There's an excellent bulletin that was published in 2003. I can remember when that came out. And it's still excellent information on no-till establishment for the forages that is available online as well. And the picture that's on the left here in the middle, That's actually a combination of what I'm going to call it conventional. And no till this was what I call a stale seedbed. It was worked in the fall and allowed to stand during the wintertime. There may have been some soil erosion, but it's a fairly flat level field. And then he went in and seeded directly into that stale seedbed in the spring and had a tremendous stand as a result of that. The different types of equipment can vary so much. This is really what I would call antiquated. It's really the research planter for small plots that we have used. And you can see there's a disc in the front and the seed will drop behind that disc followed by a chain. And that's the seeding method. Well, we don't have too many of these available today, so I'm going to say more than likely people are going to use a drill which I call controlled spillage. And in nose, there are certainly better ones than others. This particular drill has press wheels behind. It dropped this drops the seed behind the disc openers and puts it at a very good depth, does a nice job of putting that seed right where you want it. And it also has seed firmers to make sure that there's excellent soil to seed contact, ensuring that you have a good stand. That gets a good start. And again, those press wheels behind, do a nice job of making sure that you have that for each in the right spot to get a good start. Again, here's a close-up picture of that stale seedbed. You can see that even though it was a little bit crusted on the top, the planter was able to place that seed at the right depth and gave a real nice option. One of the things that I have seen many people do is use a roller. Now this particular farmer, he rolls the field prior to planting, and he does that to make sure that he is a nice, firm seed bed. There is a seeder by the name of brilliant. They have a packer in the front, followed by the seat tubes and then another Packer right behind it. So essentially they are packing the soil just like this tool would. Follow it by the seeding and then packed again. And that's a nice way to think about forage establishment. You want to give those tiny seedlings every opportunity that they can to get off to a good start. One of the things that is always on my mind is variety selection. Now variety selection is one of the things where people cringe many times when they look at the price of some of the seeds that are out there, all seeds tend to be higher than what they used to be. But that's okay. We need those seed companies. We need our agribusiness partners to make sure that we all have things in place. But I'm going to say variety selection is one of the few things that you have the most control over. Companies that are producing seed do a terrific job. Providing seed that has gone through lots of testing. They have improved varieties that I would always recommend over what I would call. an example with alfalfa. Vernal is the old standby that we have used for our testing standards for years. Dr. Cassida told me this winter that they have not been able to find any certified Vernal seed anywhere in the United States. So that tells me that if people are buying Vernal, it may be just another variety that is a variety not stated VNS. And if you use VNS seed, It's could be anything or everything. Now, many times, when we look at the results from our variety trials, Vernal will have anywhere 4-20% reduction in yield. That's a tremendous loss when you think about the price of the seed. And then that doesn't take into account the persistence or the winter hardiness or the disease resistance that you have or forage quality associated with those varieties. All of them have advantages and disadvantages. But I'm going to say use the best variety available for your area. And I think you will be far ahead. The inexpensive seed, you may think you're getting, may cost you a lot more than you actually are getting in the bag. This is available online through MSU. Actually And there is all of the research and information from extension from our forage researcher, Dr. Kim Cassida. When I think about different varieties of alfalfa that are out there, there are different types of alfalfa, some that are structured more so for what I would call clay soils or soils that have better water-holding capacity. that may stay wetter in the spring and wetter through the winter. And those would have the lateral branch roots, which actually help to stabilize that plant in the soil and resist or tolerate, I should say maybe it's a better word. More of a challenge that comes a little bit later and I'll talk about it in a second versus what I would call a straight tap root. I'm gonna go back here for a second and talk a little bit about grass varieties in this publication. There are also cool season grass varieties that are available as well as clovers for you to look at. And again, all of the companies that are out there, we recommend improved varieties. Try to time the maturity of the grass with the cutting of your alfalfa. Have the grass, iIf it's an example, orchard grass, you would  want that later maturing to cut with the alfalfa. If you have a grass like  like Timothy, you would want that earlier maturing to cut with your alfalfa to better coincide with quality and stands giving you the best combination. Hey, Phil, We have a question. Yes. What about winter hardiness with climate increase and  more weather extremes? Winter hardiness is one of those things where Michigan has a winter hardiness level of, I'm gonna say four. And with that, there is enough opportunities for that alfalfa variety to withstand the winters that we have. We still have cold winter weather that's not going away. All we have done is elongate our planting season. It has nothing to do as far as the ability of that variety to withstand winter weather. Does that make sense? I think it does. Alright, so here's just a good example of a variety that has that branch routing system coming off the side of that plant. One thing that I talk about with producers across the state, and it's something that is real, it's important to consider, and that's alfalfa auto toxicity. Alfalfa is something that I want every alfalfa producer to consider when they think about planting into a field that's had alfalfa in the past. Alfalfa is one of those plants. It has certain compounds found in the stems and the leaves that will actually be water-soluble and fall into the soil. And those compounds will prevent new seedlings from either germinating or developing what I would say a functional rooting system. And this is an example on the right. It's just a good example of some plants that have done well and some that have done poorly. It's not necessarily auto toxicity in this picture, but the concept is what I want you to get. What happens is the plants that are left in the field. will have those compounds preventing a new seeding. So I want you to think about always rotating between Alfalfa crops, go to another crop because the toxicity does not affect anything other than alfalfa. So you could go to a grass, you could go to a sorghum or a sudan grass, a hybrid or some other type of crop, corn, soybeans, whatever, whatever you can as a rotational crop, and then come back and plant alfalfa following that rotation, it is that important. Dr. Cassida has done research and she's finding that there are certain varieties that are better as far as being able to stand the toxicity. But I'm still going to say if you have alfalfa plants in that field, there is a high degree of toxicity that you'll see. And it's a challenge. Hey Phil, We had a point clarification on the question. And how you addressed it. Summer hardiness, not winter hardiness. Plants need better, need to better survive winter or weather extremes or swings in summer as well. Is this property being monitored for stand  longevity and quality? Chris, I'm going to get to that in a second and I'll I'll answer your question. I promise. When we get to fertility and cutting schedule, alright. So let me go on here. Use a legume inoculation, use high-quality seed. And many of the seed companies already have it included in the bag. So make sure that you have high-quality Rhizobium that's used. It's a live bacteria and it comes into contact with the seed as the legume, it produces its own nitrogen. and as a  nitrogen producer, a grass legume combination will have what I call a symbiotic relationship. Using the nitrogen for high yield for the grass and then the grass also will help stabilize that alfalfa plant in the soil in the event that you have problems with something called heaving. Which I'll get to in a second. I'm gonna say this. This is going to address Chris's question about maintaining forage production. Fertility and cutting schedule have a lot to do with maintaining the plants in the field. Fertility is one of those things that if you have poor plant, poor soil fertility, the plants will not have the necessary nutrients in order to be able to have good persistence and winter hardiness. It reduces your stands, thereby reducing your yields at the same time. So there's a lot that goes into maintaining a healthy alfalfa or plant, grass plant in that stand. Besides just the degree of winter hardiness or the persistence that's bred into that with genetics. And again, I will, there's more to come on that in just a couple of minutes here. So from a management to keep a stand, high producing, weed management is critical. Start clean, maintain weed free stands, especially when seeding in the first 60 days. And I always say at 60 days after you've planted, that's when you should harvest your first cutting. Weeds that are emerging after 60 days have limited effect on on the stand, but they do affect quality. So start clean for good weed management goals. Many people say, well, the weeds came and it thinned my stand. Others say the stand thinned and then came my weeds. What is it? Well, I think it depends. And if you think about establishing forages, forages and weeds, it's competition, competing for light, nutrients and water. And there are very few options compared to other crops when it comes to forages And so when you have weeds, you're reducing your stand, reducing yield, and reducing forage quality. All of those none are good when it comes to weeds in a forage field, I'm going to say weeds are opportunistic. If you have a place in a field where you have a hole where plants have died and these alfalfa plants will die over time. That will lead to weeds coming into the field. So it's a combination of opportunistic and actually getting established and then proliferating. So I have a complete list of alfalfa grass mixtures weed control options and you can see it's a pretty small list. Actually, there are none. Unless you want to take out the entire stand. Because if you control the broad leaves, you will take the alfalfa out. If you control grasses, you take your grasses out so there are no good options. And Dr. Erin Burns will talk about this at the the Great Lakes Forage and Grazing Conference coming up in March. She'll talk about some different things with forages and weeds. But I'm going to say there's very there's very little that can be done if you have a tremendous weed problem and an alfalfa grass mixture, just because there's no options herbicide wise. Now I'm going to talk about winter kill and fine textured soils. Normally are where you see most of the problems and it results in a real challenge with stands. In fact, I've seen a lot of stands in clay ground  be eliminated after two years because they had water that stood or the soil was saturated and it caused those plants to pop out of the ground just like a popsicle. And in fact, water in the soil killed this field. And it was not during the wintertime. This is actually a stand from 2022. I took this picture last spring. Those plants were actually killed in the spring because of too much water in July and August. This was in St. Clair County. They had upwards of 13 inches of rain during the month of July and August, and it killed those plants. And last spring in April, you could go out and you could just pull those plants right out of the ground. You cannot do that to a healthy alfalfa plant. So that death happened because of too much moisture in the soil and that's why good drainage is critical. This was in a tiled field, needless to say, it was a real problem. And winter hardiness and losses of stands can happen even to very good fields. Just because alfalfa cannot take that wetness or problems with too much water during the wintertime. There's a lot in the slide. And I'm going to spend a few minutes to look at this. I'm looking at the time I got to get going in here. Forage quality versus forage quantity. Protein in forages will drop over time. The red line shows the reduction over time. The yield goes up as quality goes down. And so many times, if you're grazing, to have high-quality grazing, you want to graze grasses in the vegetative stage. If you are cutting for hay or haylage, what I recommend is cutting in that boot stage for alfalfa. And that can be elongated. If you want higher yields, you can make that to go out even longer, but realize that the quality also goes down at the same time. So it's a trade-off. There is always a trade-off between forage quality and quantity. When you're cutting any forages, whether it's grass or alfalfa. So it's one of those things that if you cut early for high-quality, you can also reduce the stand life of the field because you don't give that chance, that plant a chance to fully recover and build those carbohydrates into the plant rooting system for regenerating the next cutting It;s true on grass. It's true on alfalfa. So your management during summertime many times can affect the winter hardiness and the persistence of those fields long term. If you cut an alfalfa stand five times a year, you're going to reduce the length of that field being in production. For grasses, example, orchard grass. If you cut orchard grass at 2 inches versus 4 inches, you reduce the time. that that I'm sorry. You reduce the ability of that plant to regenerate because you're taking all the leaf material away for photosynthesis. And again, there's a trade-off between forage, quality, quantity, stand persistence. A lot of things go into this. I want to touch a little bit about birdsfoot trefoil. It looks just like a bird's foot when it goes to seed. This is one of the few legumes that does not lose quality, like Alfalfa does. According to this graph, it will stabilize and actually hold for a longer period of time and do a nice job of providing high-quality. The challenge with birdsfoot, birdsfoot trefoil is it doesn't yield as well as alfalfa. And it's a lot harder to establish. So it's more tolerant of low pH, poor fertility, poorly drained soils. But it doesn't mean that it wants to be in those types of soils. That just means that it will outperform on marginal sites. It's still does better on better soils. And again, like I said before, the cutting schedule affects  drawn, stand longevity and persistence. So it's one of those things where management of your stand and how you cut, when you cut will effect longevity of the field. Let's talk a little about, a little bit about the management. When you do go out there to bale for small square bales. Based on information from the University of Wisconsin, you should be at less than 20%. In fact, I like to be at 18% for small square bales. For medium-size, a three-by-three less than 16%. And if you have large square bales, less than 14% to prevent mold growth within those bales. For round bales, small, medium, or large, based on the actual size of the bale 18, 16 to 15. Pretty self-explanatory. I think it's a good rule of thumb. There's never any sure-fire thing. But I'm going to say that 95% of the time, if you are below those levels, you will have good-quality. hay. I want to talk a little bit about losses in fields based on management. Now, if you have poor management in a field, if you leave your, your hay out there too long, you can see upwards of 26% loss. If you don't harvest on time or you do a poor job with the maintenance of your machinery, you can lose up to 14 or 15%. During harvest. forage losses can be tremendous losses of dry matter up to 35% and then feeding and allowing that to be wasted. So you can have anywhere from upwards of over 70% loss before you have a return on that investment. Compare that to what I would call optimum management, where you have maybe a 10% loss in the field when it's cut and curing. Harvesting is eight per cent, storage is 5%, feeding is eight percent and you still have losses. Those are considered normal. But instead of a 70% loss, you've got a 25% loss. Automatically, you've got a 50% gain in dry matter. Just by doing that. Talking about maintaining fields. Soil fertility is one of those things I encourage you to have and maintain soil fertility. There are critical levels that you need in your fields. I'm going to say phosphorous and especially potassium are two that you want to consider. Potassium to me is the one that I see most often that is not addressed properly because you have upwards of 55 pounds of potassium per ton of forage removed. That's a lot of material coming out of a field. So if you have five to six tons of material leaving the field, that's maybe 250 to 300 pounds of the nutrient that's left. And if you're not replacing that, it's a very tough road to hoe because that potassium is critical for winter hardiness and persistence. So pH is important, phosphorus is important. And I have some of the different ranges that you need for, for phosphorus. I'm not going to get into a lot of the potassium. I don't think we have enough time today, but it does depend on the CEC, the cation exchange capacity that comes with your soil test. And so base your level of potassium added to the soil on what is harvested for every ton. Remember, 50 to 55 pounds of actual potassium per acre, per ton, per acre. Let's talk a little bit about nitrogen. Especially on grass stands. This is an orchard grass field. This is research done at Michigan State University back Dr. Rich Leep over a two-year period. You can see it's just like feeding your lawn in a spring. If I fertilize my lawn, what am I gonna do? I'm going to have to cut it more often so I don't fertilize my lawn. But if you want high producing grassy, hay, you're going to need to have high nutrient availability. So you can see the difference in the color in the field. And let me show you the yields associated with that particular trial that was done. With no nitrogen added whatsoever, you averaged 1.5 tons per acre. That's barely breaking even. In fact, I think it's below breakeven. By adding 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre. and I remember it was still yellow in the previous picture. You nearly doubled. In fact, you did double your tons per acre of actual yield per year, going into 200, again, adding another ton per acre above 200 pounds. I don't believe that you need to do that. In fact, there is no return. In fact, there's no difference whatsoever between 200 pounds and 400 pounds of nitrogen added to that orchard grass. So I think using this guide of splitting those nitrogen rates will pay dividends for grass fields, grassy fields like orchard grass. I took this picture in Lapeer county, had a call and said, Phil, there's something wrong with my alfalfa field. I went out there. I had no idea what this was, what was going on. You can see it's yellow and stunted. There are areas that had green patches. We did what I call a foliar testing and we took the top 6 inches, sent that in for analysis and come to find out we had problems with a nutrient and it was not Boron. Boron is important especially in sandy soils, but it was the other nutrient that I recommended and that was sulfur. This is the same field after a sulfur application. And you can see based on research from the University of Wisconsin, again, Dr. Carrier Laboski, adding sulfur to deficient fields can increase yields, can, not necessarily will it can, by one ton per acre or more. So sulfur is one of those things we use to get it falling out of the air, but not so much anymore. And with that, I've gone through so many different things. I'm sorry that I had to go so fast. Jenna, I have these that all of these different links that I can add into the chat for you. I'm going to stop sharing my screen and say, thank you for letting me be part of Michigan Ag Ideas to Grow With. Perfect Phil. We have one question and between you and Brook, I think you can handle it. I know Brook and experience in this. And it is what research has been done in Michigan with biochar addition on sandy soils. This increases soil organic matter and retains more soil water? So the question is really on biochar and whether the availability of biochar is going to provide the necessary nutrients to enhance yields, quality, persistence, growth, that kind of thing. In my opinion, I don't believe biochar is a cure all. I think based on the fact that you're removing several cuttings per year and you're removing a lot of nutrients per cutting, that it's one of those things that it doesn't supply a lot of those materials that are necessary to maintain a healthy, vigorous, high-yielding stand. What do you have to add Brook. I know you've done some biochar stuff. I believe. I'm going to share a slide here because I have a picture of biochar actually close handy so people can see. Can you see this? Yep. Okay. So at the Kellogg biological station, we have a couple of experiments going on with biochar  and where we've added different rates to just over two tons per acre and over six tons per acre. And then we've done different incorporation depths. And our soils are sandy loam, so 2% organic matter. So just to see if biochar has an impact in our typical cropping systems. And if incorporation depth has an impact. And we've been through two years in this experiment with corn and soybeans, and we have not seen any yield differences in any of the plots. Now, in another experiment where we've added biochar and measuring soil properties a little bit more in depth. There are, I don't know all the details, but there are some changes that are occurring in the soil properties. But they're not necessarily translating to performance of the crop. So that's consistent with my interpretation of what I've read to  from other studies is that biochar, in order to actually have an effect on your crop performance, you need to add a lot of it. And it needs to be on really sandy degraded soil or in really low pH soil because it can add some buffering capacity. But in our productive or moderately productive soils, we haven't really seen a great impact to crop performance. Yes. Thank you. Alright everybody,