Good Establishment Is Key
Good Establishment is Key
To get the most out of a forage stand that may be an important feed source for livestock for several years, a strong establishment is key to success.
The cost of good quality seeds and other inputs can add up, so protect that investment with some important production practices as you prepare to put seed in the ground.
Wet or dry conditions may cause a challenge for getting a good forage establishment. Proper practices apply no matter what your growing conditions.
- Use good quality seed that tests high for germination.
- Seed into a clean, weed-free field. Especially under dry conditions, “exceptional weed control” is vital.
- Seed into a firm (ideally moist) seed bed to ensure proper seed-to-soil contact
- Seed shallow. Ideally the typically small forage seeds should be place no deeper than in the top quarter inch of soil.
- Apply proper fertility. Have soil samples from the field analyzed and apply proper fertility as recommended for forage crops.
Cost-effective forage production for beef cattle nutrition requires a two-step process: 1. providing the appropriate nutrients to feed the plant to optimize its growth, and 2. feeding that plant to the animal to optimize their growth.
Both soil and forage play an important role in your success, which is why both soil and forage testing are critical.
Soil Testing – soil testing and analysis provide an accurate picture of the nutrients available in the soil. Testing allows you to make the most of every acre by identifying nutrient deficiencies and the precise calculation of nutrient rates for increased yields and savings. Soil testing also helps ensure the efficient use of resources – water, fertilizer and input costs.
Soil testing is a process where Soil elements are measured for their “plant available” content. Based on your soil test, you should be prepared to add nutrients to enhance pastures and healthier forage.
WHY SOIL TESTING?
- to optimize forage and crop production
- to improve the soil’s nutritional balance
- to save money and conserve energy by applying only the the optimal amount of fertilizer
- to aid in the diagnosis of plant culture problems
- to ensure best practices in land stewardship and sustainability by avoiding contamination caused by runoff and leaching of excess fertilizers
Forage testing is an essential tool to evaluate feed quality. As feed is the major input cost in cattle production, taking a sample will give you an accurate assessment of your pasture and forage health, allowing you to make best management decisions based on what nutrients are available.
Forage testing allows us to:
- Balance rations
- Reduce costs
- Improve performance and profits
- Provide an accurate picture of what the current status of forage nutrient density
- Improve future crop management if present forage quality is unsatisfactory
- Help evaluate the value of the plant material as a nutrient source and help determine equitable prices for feedstuffs based on nutritive value
Why Should I Test my Forage Crop?
The most important information that a feed test provides is an accurate report card of the crop’s protein, energy and fibre.
A basic forage analysis will:
- List the moisture content of the forage crop
- Reveal energy as total digestible nutrients (TDN), net energy (NE) and/or digestible energy (DE)
- Provide insights into crude protein values, as well as calcium and phosphorus and magnesium and potassium
Testing forages puts savings in your pocket and leads to using fewer bales of hay mixed with lower quality forages.