“The 2019 harvest season was hard on equipment and it was hard on people,” said Kevin Jarek, a University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension agent. The product that ultimately came out of the field was less-than-desirable corn silage, and it also grew a lot of mold. Many fields went unharvested altogether, and the problems continued into 2020.
“I’ve never seen tillage done on January 1 before. Farmers have had to be very resilient,” Jarek continued during “Farm Forage Inventories — Evaluating the Quality and Quantity of the Forages Harvested in 2020,” a webinar put on by University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension.
Even though 2020 experienced a better growing season than in 2019, some dairy farmers will be planting winter rye and triticale for the first time this fall for a spring harvest. With forage supplies still tight, this is an attractive option.
Jarek also shared his data on the initial 2020 corn harvest, concluding, “Despite the stress, the 2020 corn crop has been head-and-shoulders above last year’s crop.”
Milk per ton
Of course, comparing haylage results from year to year gives farmers a clearer idea of the impact on the milk per ton. Jarek analyzed 2019 versus 2020 data from a haylage harvest in Outagamie County, where he is based.
“We harvested an average of 3,184 pounds of milk per ton from the first three cuttings of alfalfa from this field in 2019. We harvested an average of 3,460 pounds of milk per ton in three cuttings during 2020. That’s an improvement of 276 pounds of milk per ton more in 2020 versus 2019,” said the crop and soils specialist.
He also reported that if a farmer harvested an average yield of 4.42 tons of dry matter in their alfalfa forage, that estimates to be 1,219.92 more pounds of milk or 12.2 hundredweights over an average growing season.
He stressed that, as always, testing is a key component, because every field and every area are different.
The author and her family own and operate a sixth-generation dairy near St Johns, Mich.