Farming tasks and complications from Mother Nature make spring a hectic season. If trying to make first cutting and get crops seeded on a timely basis isn’t enough, Mother Nature’s spring rains complicate matters by delaying field work.
Doing some advance planning and changing field work priorities will help you get through this stressful period. The question then becomes where to start.
Now is the ideal time to repair and perform routine maintenance on equipment so you will be ready when the weather cooperates.
Remember that the quality of the first hay cutting will greatly impact the profitability of your cattle operation this next year. The first cutting of legumes and grasses can represent 35 to 40 percent of the season’s total yield.
Since forage plants mature more quickly in the spring than later in the summer, your highest springtime priority should be to get these crops harvested early and at the proper stage of maturity. Harvest alfalfa just as you see the first purple flowers. Reap grasses just before or when they start heading out.
Farmers need to closely watch fields because the optimum time for first cutting can greatly vary from year to year. Some years, the best date can be two weeks earlier than expected.
Harvesting the first cutting as balage, silage or haylage can decrease drying time by at least one day. This allows farmers to get the first cutting put up earlier, which can improve feed quality.
Letting cattle graze small grains such as wheat and rye is an excellent way to harvest these feeds in a timely manner.
By using temporary electric fencing, you can give cattle a small area of the field to graze. This increases the amount of forage cattle use and improves feed quality.
It is critical to set priorities that should be completed in the spring. However, the key is to adjust these to weather changes. Sometimes it is necessary to simultaneously perform three different field operations to accomplish your priorities on the timeliest basis.
The Boyle County Extension Service has more information on making farm management decisions.
Jerry Little is Boyle County extension agent for agriculture/natural resources.