by Jeremy Sweeten
Forage seed selection is based on several different factors:
- Need, use, and/or market, i.e. horse hay, beef hay, or dairy haylage
- Soils: drainage, pH, fertility, topography
- Harvesting methods and frequency
- Seeding methods, costs, and return on investment
Dealing With a Specific Situation
This week a CISCO dealer asked about a customer seeding timothy on sandy soils. The producer wanted the timothy for dry hay for beef cattle.
Let’s walk through this.
The need is for cattle feed retained on the farm. The soils are sandy, which tells me that plants are probably easily stressed in dry weather.
Timothy makes great dry hay and is very marketable for horses. Timothy is a great yielding crop on the first harvest but lacks good regrowth and yield on subsequent cuttings. Timothy is easy to seed with a Brillion seeder, is an inexpensive seed, and only needs 10-12 lb/A.
In my opinion, for cattle hay, there are better choices for a great return on investment.
I recommended that the producer plant a mix that includes potato leafhopper resistant alfalfa. The Enduro 427LHR or WL358LH alfalfa seeded at 18 lb/A will be very tolerant to the drouthy soils, yield well all season long, provide nitrogen for the grass forages in the mixture, and maximize the yield component.
A good grass/legume mix in northern Indiana can yield up to 5 t/A of dry matter. Alfalfa/grass mixes are also relatively easy to dry bale if the weather cooperates. A stand with 30 percent or greater legumes does not need supplemental nitrogen, so the added cost of the alfalfa (versus pure timothy) will quickly pay for itself because of the nitrogen it produces.
For the grass component, I chose to use the Milkway blend of meadow fescue and soft leaf tall fescue seeded at 5 lb/A. The meadow fescue and STF-43 blend will be relatively drought tolerant, very palatable and digestible for beef animals, and stockpiles well if there is an opportunity to graze the field.
I also recommended that the dealer include 2 lb/A of early maturing timothy (Tukka or Kootenai) to match with the maturity of the alfalfa and to increase the yield of the first harvest. Incorporating the timothy into the mix also included what the producer wanted to seed in the first place.
A grass/legume mix generally dries faster than a pure legume hay. The grass dries faster and helps keep the windrow fluffed up to allow air movement.
It is very important to take all of the factors listed above into consideration when planning to reseed a field. A few little tweaks can save a producer money or can provide a better return on investment.