Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Forage Variety Trial Results

Field performance data collected from forage variety trials in Ohio during 2007 is available online at The report was published in Ohio’s Country Journal in December, and is also available at county extension offices in Ohio.

The report includes performance of commercial varieties of alfalfa, red clover, orchardgrass, tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, and annual ryegrass in tests at South Charleston, North Baltimore, Wooster, and Jackson, Ohio.

Forage yields varied widely from north to south in 2007. The effect of a late spring freeze and dry summer were more severe in the southern half of Ohio. First harvest yields in the performance trials ranged from 14 to 62% below normal, and total season yields ranged from 18 to 80% below normal.

The lowest yields were at Jackson in southeast Ohio, where alfalfa yielded only 1.1 tons of dry matter per acre and tall fescue yielded 2.4 dry tons/acre. In contrast, alfalfa yields at Wooster in northeastern Ohio were near normal with first harvest yields of 2.8 dry tons/acre and total season yields averaging 7.4 dry tons/acre.

Orchardgrass yields at South Charleston in west central Ohio in 2007 were 24% below the 2006 yields. Perennial ryegrass at South Charleston suffered winter injury, and yields were further reduced by the drought, averaging 68% below 2006 yield levels.

The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service reported alfalfa yields in 2007 were 23% below 2006 yields in Ohio. Other hay in 2007 yielded 25% below 2006 levels in Ohio. The lower yields and a 6.6% drop in acreage resulted in a 30% drop in total Ohio hay production.

Friday, December 21, 2007

December Issue of Amazing Graze Newsletter

The December issue of the Amazing Graze Newsletter is now posted on the Ohio Forage Network website. Follow the newsletter link. In this issue you will find articles entitled: a) Feeding Corn to Stretch Pasture and Hay Supplies, b) Evaluate Hay Storage Losses on Large Round Bales, and c)Feeding Hay - Receiving More Value for the Cost! Be sure to check out the Events Page for grazing/forage related events in the comming months.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Evaluate Hay Storage Losses On Large Round Bales

by Rory Lewandowski
Storage losses in any hay production system are unavoidable, but what level or degree of loss is acceptable with a large round bale? Like the answer to many questions, it depends. It may depend upon the price/availability of hay, how storage losses affect animal performance, alternative storage options, and may even boil down to the goals/objectives of the producer.

A drive around the roads that surround the fields and farms of Ohio will reveal a common sight; large round bales stored out in the open in fields and farmyards. Bales stored in this manner and exposed to the elements develop a weathered layer. The depth of the weathered layer and yield loss associated with outdoor storage of bales depends upon both weather and site conditions. Yield loss is highest on bales in direct contact with the ground and in situations of high rainfall and/or where water can collect in the bale storage site. This weathered layer can represent a significant loss in terms of yield if animals refuse to eat it. The loss can be 10 to 16% for a 2-inch weathered layer, and 31 to 44% for a 6-inch weathered layer. For more details on percentage losses due to weathering see the University of Kentucky Extension publication entitled “Round Bale Hay Storage in Kentucky”.

Even if cattle will eat the weathered layer, it still represents a loss in forage quality with digestibility decreasing and fiber concentration increasing as compared to the unweathered interior portion of the bale. Weathering can cause a 16 to 22 unit drop in percent digestibility.

In years like this, with forage in short supply, it is hard to see these kind of losses due simply to weathering from storing bales outside. In years when hay is abundant and/or can be purchased cheaply, more hay can be fed to make up for the losses and the hay that is not eaten might even be thought of as a cheap source of nutrients. However, it is much harder to justify these losses when hay is expensive or extra hay is not available to feed. Producers may want to think about other storage methods to reduce dry matter and forage quality losses.

As might be expected when comparing storage options, bales stored outside on the ground have the highest dry matter losses. Up to 35% of the bale dry matter can be lost. By selecting a well drained site and getting bales out of direct contact with the ground by using pallets, tires, crushed rock or other materials, losses may be reduced to 25%. Using net wrap on outdoor stored bales instead of twine can reduce losses by another 10%, bringing the total dry matter loss into the 15 to 25% range. In terms of storage options that have been found to result in the lowest dry matter losses, plastic wrapped bales, bale sleeves, bales stored on a pad with a tarp, or a roofed structure have all been found to keep dry matter losses in the 4 to 7% range.

When deciding what storage option to use, factors that should be considered are: cost of the storage option, price of hay, environmental impact, and your goals/objectives as a producer. According to the University of Kentucky publication mentioned previously, a storage structure can be built for anywhere from $37 to $80 per ton depending upon the design and materials used. I know producers in Athens County who have used lumber cut and sawed on the farm combined with some re-used roofing materials to build some in-expensive hay storage. If this structure has a useful life of 20 years, then (using the University of Kentucky numbers) this figures out to $1.85 to $4.00 per ton per year in storage cost. Plastic wrap and net wrap are listed at a cost of $3.00 per ton. This would also be the yearly cost per ton since these materials are not re-usable. Twine tied bales stored on the ground outside are listed at a yearly cost of $1.50 per ton.

Now we need to figure the storage costs in terms of dry matter (DM) saved with relation to the price of hay. For the purposes of this example, lets assume dry matter (DM) losses of 25% for twine tied hay stored outside, 15% for net wrapped hay, and 5% for plastic wrapped hay and hay stored inside a structure. Let’s look at the economics if hay price is $40 or $60 per ton. The results are shown below:
After subtracting the cost of net wrap, plastic wrap and structure from the savings/ton column, all of the alternative storage options pay for themselves by reducing storage dry matter losses, even at a hay price of $40/ton. The greatest savings are made by the plastic wrap and structure storage options. Choosing which of these to use might come down to an environmental consideration or cash flow situation.

Plastic is dependent upon petroleum resources, and can only be used for one year, so disposal must be thought about. A structure is probably more environmentally friendly, but it might be easier for some producers to come up with the dollars needed each year for plastic wrapping as compared to coming up with a large one-time dollar expense for a structure.

Finally, the decision on what type of round bale storage is used may come down to individual goals/objectives. If the cattle operation is more of a hobby than a business, the losses may not matter as much, or, if hay costs get excessive, it may be easier to sell off animals rather than think about putting dollars into alternative storage options. Possibly the producer is approaching the end of his/her cattle production life and does not want to invest in any long-term costs. On the other hand, the producer may be in the cattle business for the long haul and willing to make long-term investments to improve the economics of the enterprise.
Regardless of the decision that is made, cattle producers need to be aware of potential storage losses when using large round bales and the options and economics of various storage systems.

Reference: Round Bale Hay Storage in Kentucky, Publication AGR-171

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Stretching Your Horses Hay

Kimberly Cole, the new Equine Extension specialist in the Department of Animal Sciences at OSU has provided a link to an article on stretching hay. It is a very good article put together by Colorado State Univ. extension.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

North Central Ohio Dairy Grazing Conference January 24 and 25, 2008

The North Central Ohio Dairy Grazing Conference will be January 24 and 25, 2008 at Fisher Auditorium on the Ohio Agriculture Research and Development Center campus in Wooster, Ohio. The focus is “The Key to Making Money is Growing Good Pastures”.
Larry Tranel, dairy field specialist from Iowa State University and Bob Hendershot NRCS grazing specialist will join producers Dick Bossard from Steuben County, New York, Samuel Fisher from Marshall Indiana, Kyle Forni from Woodsfield, Ohio, Alan Kozak from Millersburg, Ohio, and Tim Pauli from Belleville, Wisconsin as presenters. There is a vendor show. Both days offer beginner and advance sessions for dairy graziers. The cost for the conference is $45 for the two days. Registrations are due by January 18, 2008. For a brochure or more information, contact Leah Miller at Small Farm Institute, 28850 SR 621, Fresno, Ohio 43812; or 740.545.6349.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

OFGC Bus Trip to Heart of America Grazing Conference

Join Ohio Forage and Grasslands Council for a bus trip to the Heart of America and Mid-Missouri Grazing Conference in Columbia, Missouri on January 7 and 8, 2008. Featured speakers are Greg Judy, Missouri grazier and author talking about “Opportunities in Grazing”; Kit Pharo, discussing “ From Production to Profit in Ranching”. Breakout sessions include Charles Fletcher, dairyman, Greg Judy, multi-species and Allen and Tauna Powell, beef farmers as well as topics about Grazing Economics, Legumes and Alternative Nitrogen Fertilizers, Fence and Water Demonstrations and Managing Mud in a Grazing System.

We will be traveling by Pioneer Trail Bus leaving Holmes County, Ohio at 5:00 a.m. on Monday January 7 and returning the evening of January 8, 2008 after the last session. The price includes bus transportation, registration for conference and hotel registration. If you are a member of Ohio Forage & Grasslands Council, the cost is $200 with double occupancy in hotel room. Single occupancy is $240 for OFGC members. Non-member costs are $230 for double occupancy and $275 for single occupancy.

There will be two pick up points (Pioneer Trail Bus Company north of Millersburg and at London, Ohio at the Farm Science Review site).

Deadline for this trip is December 7, 2007. For more information, call Gary Wilson at 419.422.3851. Send your registrations to OFGC, P.O. Box 488, Coshocton, OH 43812 as soon as possible. There is limited space.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


The Ohio Integrated Forage Management Team welcomes you to our Ohio Forages blog. We plan to use this blog to share events, ideas, and information related to forage and grazing management for Ohio and the surrounding region.

Our team consists of researchers, Extension specialists, and educators of The Ohio State University and grassland specialist of the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). The team was formed in 1994 to develop educational programs on improving profitability of Ohio farmers while enhancing the environment through efficient utilization of forages.