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Picking The Right Forage Seed For Hay

November 22nd 2011

In the last couple of years, we have seen a lot of forage land taken out of production. We are now seeing interest in reseeding this ground to hay. To select the right variety for the site that you are going to plant, you need to put some thought into this. Higher yields should be the result for the long term. Start is with certified seed. This seed will cost more money but its adds value in two main ways. First, certified forage seeds have been tested for germination and for weed content. Certified seed must meet minimal standards to insure it makes grade. Secondly, purchase a named variety. Named varieties tells you what you bought and lets you know how it will perform. With hay production, the standard blend of alfalfa, brome grass and timothy is still generally the best yielder on most of the forage ground around here. The more alfalfa in the mix, the better the yield of the hay crop. Alfalfa fixes nitrogen and as the roots of the existing alfalfa plants die, there is between 50 and 100 pounds of nitrogen released per acre by a healthy alfalfa stand. When it comes to variety, I generally look at the more winter hardy varieties of alfalfa like Beaver and Algonquin. Most other varieties of alfalfa have reduced winter hardiness and the longevity of the stand will be impacted if they are selected. If I want to see a yield increase, I will add a product like Jump Start. This product will increase phosphate uptake and yield improvements of up to 10 % are possible. Other legumes like sanfoin or cicer milk-vetch are worth looking at but expect that the total yield to go down. With smooth bromegrass, the use of the variety Carlton is still a good bet. It yields well and has a good track record for staying in the stand for a long time. Some of the new hybrid bromes are worth looking at but we don’t have a lot of local experience. If smooth brome grass is to be replaced in a forage mix for hay, it should be done with special soils considerations being the reason. If a salinity issue exists or flooding, then it might be worthwhile to look at other varieties of grasses. In a hay blend, timothy is used to fill in the holes. It grows well in areas that have excess water. It is quick to establish so it provides early ground cover. Pick a leafy type timothy. Also, select your timothy variety to match when you cut your alfalfa. If you cut your hay late, select a late maturing timothy variety. Other options exist for seeding hay. Look at your field and make the choice that fits for your situation. Beaver River Agri-Environmental Group Plan Meeting On November 29, from 1:30 to 5:00 pm, there will be meeting held at the Seniors Centre in Meadow Lake talking about making pastures grow, remote watering systems and feeding vitamins and minerals.