With the increasing costs of crop inputs, disease issues, market limitations and more frequent weather events more producers are turning to forages as an alternative crop. That being said, you need to do your homework before deciding on an annual crop versus a perennial cropping option as you are choosing a perennial crop that will be in your field for a four year or longer duration.
Areas to consider when choosing a variety are;
Market – who will be your end user, and what price potential is there for your product. Do you own the equipment to put up the forage in a form to obtain maximum value or do you need to have it custom harvested?
· Disease and Insect resistance – use in a crop rotation as a means of dealing with clubroot issues or wireworms
· Feed quality – alfalfas are the Queen of Forages but require management to obtain maximum feed potential, which equates to dollars to the producer. New low lignin alfalfa varieties were developed to increase palatability and digestibility.
· Timing of Harvest – timothy has varieties for mid-season production as well as a long season variety which give a longer window to harvest your forage before it becomes over-ripe. Alfalfas require management as maximum nutritional value is prior to bud formation, and multiply cutting are taken over the season depending on availability of water.
· Stand Longevity – the more cuts taken of a crop over a growing season the higher the management requirements and the shorter the stand longevity
· Agronomics – soil PH has a bearing on the variety of alfalfa you may choose as new varieties have developed specifically for stand establishment and longevity in low PH regions. Saline areas may require a different forage blend specific for establishment, or are there topographic issues within the field resulting in drainage issues – alfalfa and timothy do not like wet feet.
According to Jerry Lindquist, grazing and crop management educator, Michigan State University Extension, “Talk to seed dealers to determine your need for disease and insect resistance, and pay particular attention to longevity if your system requires it. Dairy farms typically want alfalfa stands to last for three to five years, while livestock and hay cash crop farms want the stand to last as long as it is profitable.” Making good economic decisions and choosing the right variety will result in success both in tonnage yields and profit for the producer.
If you would like to discuss what varieties may work for you, or the varieties that we are establishing, contact us today. Your success is our success.