Read the current Progressive Forage digital edition

Wealth of topics discussed at Midwest symposium

FG Editor Karen Lee Published on 03 February 2011

It was another record-breaking year for the Symposium and Annual Meeting of the Midwest Forage Association, Professional Nutrient Applicators Association of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Custom Operators, Inc.

More than 430 people were in attendance – the highest amount to date – at the event held Jan. 24-26 in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin.

The event kicked off as University of Wisconsin Economist Bruce Jones gave his own state of the state address, recapping Wisconsin’s agriculture status from the last few years and framing what it might look like for the year to come.

looking at snaplage

From there, each organization provided two full days of speakers, allowing attendees to move from room to room finding the topic that best suited their learning needs. Here is what Progressive Forage Grower picked up:

  • Brian Holmes with the University of Wisconsin – Madison defined shrink as a combination of dry matter lost and gained and moisture lost and gained.

An economic analysis depicted that even a 5 percent reduction of shrink can result in significant value added to the bottom line. He recommended various ways to minimize losses from shrink.

  • The advantages of snaplage were outlined by Bill Mahanna from Pioneer Hi-Bred International. While the economics are favorable, most nutritionists hate it, he said.

    Yet, he noted that today’s snaplage is different than the traditional earlage most remember. Good snaplage should be harvested quickly with kernel moisture of 34 to 36 percent. It also needs to be processed well.

  • Joe Lauer, University of Wisconsin – Madison, compared BMR (brown mid-rib) corn silage to conventional silage. He said there still remains the tradeoff of quality versus yield and because the value of BMR can only be perceived by the dairyman getting at the economics between the two is difficult.

  • Another University of Wisconsin – Madison researcher, Nate Dudenhoffer spoke about the field evaluations of forage harvest practices he was working on.

    He studied 3,500 loads of forage from 107 fields that were harvested with the use of semis, straight trucks and tractor wagons. While not much can be done about reducing headland time, he said there might be ways a field can be worked to reduce time, trips and fuel.

  • A four-person panel shared the innovations and industry trends they are witnessing in alfalfa. David Miller from Pioneer Hi-Bred International said improved standability is being worked into plant breedings.

    Mark McCaslin, Forage Genetics International, said new breeds with more fiber and protein could reduce the number of cuttings from four to three but still yield the same overall. Tannin alfalfa may become the next big feed ingredient for dairies replacing needed protein supplements.

    Breeding delayed flowering into plants has the potential for additional yields. Mike Velde, Dairyland Seed Co., said hybrid alfalfas with more uniformity and salt tolerance for the Northern Plains states is a developing trend.

    David Johnson, Cal/West Seeds, said lodging tolerance and shifting dormancy is what his company is working on. All breeders agreed that it would be about 10 to 12 years before these developing traits will be on the market.

  • Kevin Shinners, University of Wisconsin – Madison, discussed how swath width is the second most important factor a harvester can control. The first is conditioning. Studies from around the world revealed that in all cases conditioned alfalfa, no matter what the swath width, dried faster.

  • The basics of inoculants, enzymes and acids was reviewed by Richard Muck, U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center.

    These products can improve the crop in some cases, but in all cases problems in crop management should be addressed first. Additives should be chosen based on the type of crop and the end goals for it.

  • Greg Blonde, University of Wisconsin – Extension, and Paul Peterson and Jim Paulson, University of Minnesota – Extension, shared information on the studies they are working on in evaluating alfalfa/grass mixtures.

    Certain grasses – orchardgrass, tall fescue and meadow fescue – appear to be yielding and performing the best in the mixtures.

  • Marisol Berti, North Dakota State University, explained how she is evaluating BMR sorghums to determine forage and biomass potential. In her small test plots, she did recognize a lower yield among BMR varieties.

  • A plant analysis survey is being done in Wisconsin to study sulfur and potassium deficiencies that are appearing in alfalfa, reported Carrie Laboski, University of Wisconsin – Madison. In 2009, randomly submitted samples revealed that 85 percent of abnormal and 44 percent of normal looking plants were deficient in sulfur.

  • Mike Rankin, University of Wisconsin – Extension, shared what he’s learned from evaluating yield and persistence of alfalfa over the life of the stand.

    Dry matter yields were around 50 percent for all four years. Taking a fifth cutting in October rarely yields, so an economic analysis is recommended. The second production year tends to yield more than the first. Stands are reasonably productive for at least three years.  FG

TOP: A variety of exhibitors were on hand for attendees to visit with during breaks and mealtimes.

BOTTOM: Forage attendees picked through plates of snaplage to get a closer look at this harvest option.