Tedding triticale
WHEEL OUT THE TEDDER: Harvesting 3 to 5 tons of dry matter triticale is a challenge to dry for haylage in a day. Tedding two hours after mowing is key to exposing lower layers to the sun.

Stop corn planting to harvest your forage crops

A lesson for 2018: Harvest of forages, especially triticale, must be keyed to the seasonal growth stage – even if it delays corn planting.

Editor’s note: This spring’s forage growing season arrived a week or two early in much of the Northeast, then stalled out with cold, wet weather. It provides a good winter grain forage lesson for next year. Study it now and read it again this winter.

The key to triticale quality is harvest timing, emphasizes Tom Kilcer, certified crop adviser for Advanced Ag Systems at Kinderhook, N.Y. “Stage 9 (flag leaf emergence) is when you have very high milk per ton feed value plus excellent yields (8 to 12 tons of silage per acre). If you miss it and get early boot (stage 10), it’s still very good — 20% to 30% higher yields, and good feed for lower producers.”

This spring’s predicted temperatures from Michigan to Maine may add a complicating factor. If temperatures drop below 40 degrees F, plant maturation slows, giving you more time to harvest. Quality continues down, but at a slower rate.

Unfortunately for Michigan, northern New York and New England, the outlook was for extensive cloudy days with only 15% to 20% normal sunlight. That means photosynthesis is lower than respiration, and the crop goes into a negative energy balance — respiration uses more than photosynthesis produces, adds Kilcer.

That’s not good for producing forage that makes milk. Hopefully, you’ll get a day or two of sunshine before harvest to produce enough substrate for fermentation and high energy for milk production.

Bring on wide-swathing and tedding
To dry for same-day triticale silage, you’ll need to wide-swath (a swath width greater than 80% of cutterbar) and use a tedder at least once. Increasing length of cut to 1 inch dramatically reduces the leachate from the silos. It also provides more effective rumen fiber and better digestion for this rapidly digestible product.

As with brown midrib sorghums, adding a good straight homolactic bacterial inoculant drops pH down fast and actually limits off-fermentation by wild bacteria, says Kilcer. Some inoculants are specifically designed for these wet, high-sugar forages and inhibit the tendency to produce clostridia and butyric acid. L. buchneri inoculants are for drier forages.

Why delaying corn planting pays
First-cutting forages wait for no one. “Every analysis made over the last 40 years has come to the same conclusion: Stop planting corn and harvest the hay crop,” he adds.

Cool-season forages lose quality to the tune of 0.55 pound of milk per cow per day from declining neutral detergent fiber digestibility. Later-planted corn does not. Corn silage quality and yields are only slightly reduced if planted at the end of May or early June.

The biggest mistake is to “mud it in.” Being slightly late is far less than the 14% to 27% yield loss from soil compaction. Even later-planted corn can compress the heat units to silage maturity. 

The long-term forecast is for a more normal to slightly warmer Northeast summer, notes this agronomist. Even if the El Niño re-appears, temperatures above 85 degrees F won’t help that much. Reason: Corn stops growing at that temperature. Corn of optimum maturity makes more milk than longer-season corn that “might” make more tons of wet silage.

Source: Advanced Ag Systems

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