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Fertilizing

Nutrient management is essential to soil health and we’ve contacted the experts to guide you – read their tips for raising a successful forage crop.

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What are the reasons, or goals, for applying fertilizer? Why fertilize alfalfa? Some reasons would likely include increasing or maintaining yield or avoiding “mining” the soil. There is another reason that AgroLiquid customers are discovering, and it ties in with the industry’s understanding that the digestibility of a ration’s forage component has a large impact on a cow’s milk production. That is why cut timing is carefully managed, weather conditions are closely monitored, weeds and insects are controlled, and the bunks are filled and packed quickly. Recently the dairy industry is also paying more attention to alfalfa fiber digestibility.

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When the acres of pasture, grass hay, alfalfa, corn and sorgum silages, and grazing wheat in the plains are all added up, forages account for by far the most acreage of any US crop. In fact, land used for grazing is over 780 million acres – equal to 40% of the entire land area of the US and nearly double the land used for other crops of all types. Add to that the 61 million acres of alfalfa, 15 million for corn and sorghum silages, then add in the grass hays and others, and you can see that forages comprise the vast majority of US cropland. And yet, it could be said that forages continue to be neglected when it comes to fertilization.

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The subject of forage quality and its relationship to cow health and milk yield is a fascinating, yet highly complex subject. In the Midwest, Northeast, and West, dairy forages are primarily alfalfa and corn silage; Other crops, such as pea and oat mixtures, also play a role. Grass forages, including the various sorghums, play a larger role in more southern areas where it is difficult to grow alfalfa. What are the factors involved in producing high quality forage? One factor that should not be overlooked is fertilizer and soil fertility.

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As growers become progressively more in tune with soil test results and new mapping technologies, they are seeking ever more information from their partners in agronomy – because spending money on the front end can often lead to saving money or getting better harvests, or both.

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Producers can find value in evaluating fertilizer input costs and comparing traditional nitrogen sources like urea and ammonium nitrate with popular nontraditional sources such as poultry litter, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.

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Soil makes up the essence of your farm. You are investing your time and money – you own it, you rent it, you operate it – so how do you best manage it for returned profit?

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