The Central Minnesota Forage Council, Extension Staff and cooperating farmers and agribusiness people will be taking scissors cut alfalfa samples and PEAQ stick readings again in 2012.
Sites are being arranged in Stearns, Benton, Morrison, and Wright Counties, as well as in Carver, Scott, Meeker and McLeod counties. PEAQ is a Predictive Equation for Alfalfa Quality based on the height of tallest stems in a sample area and the stage of maturity.
Barring a setback by frost or other issues, alfalfa watchers anticipate first crop hay harvest starting earlier than normal this year. In 2006, a fair amount of hay was being cut by May 19 to 22. This was probably the earliest harvest start through 15 years of running this project. Some hay could be ahead of that this year.
The first samples are taken when the alfalfa is about 16 inches tall. Then samples will be taken on Mondays and Thursdays until the field is harvested.
Farmers with questions about this project in Stearns, Benton and Morrison Counties may contact Dan Martens, U-M Extension educator, 1-800-964-4929 (968-5077 if a local call to Foley).
For information in Carver and Scott counties, call Laura Kieser at 952-466-5300; for Meeker and McLeod counties, call Nathan Winter at 320-484-4334.
Three samples results were reported from Monday April 30. In Carver County at the Drier Farm near Norwood, tallest stems were 16.5 inches with PEAQ estimated at 235 and the lab test showed Relative Feed Value at 235; Relative Feed Quality at 242; Neutral Detergent Fiber at 27.9.
At the Hoen farm near Bongard, tallest stems were 14 inches, PEAQ greater than 240, RFV at the lab 264, RFQ 254, NDF 25.4.
At the Poppler farm near Waverly in Wright County, tallest stems measured 18 inches with PEAQ around 224, RFV at the lab 270, and NDF 25.
Harvested feed quality might be 15 to 25 points lower in RFV than a fresh cut sample. NDF might be 3 to 6 points lower for harvested feed compared to a fresh cut sample. For lab testing, three or four samples should be taken ahead of an estimated harvest date.
Growers can get alfalfa quality information via radio, website and a call-in phone message.
For radio, check KASM 1150 AM from Albany (about 7:30 a.m.); Little Falls, 960 AM and WYRQ 92.1.
Check the web site, Minnesota Crop News. Look for "Hay Information" on the left side of the Crop News Page.
Call for a phone message report at the Benton County Extension Office: 968-5077 local call to Foley; or 1-800-964-4929. When the phone is answered enter 5081.
For information about using alfalfa scissors cut sampling or PEAQ readings go to: http://www.extension.umn.edu/forages. There are articles for using these tools with alfalfa and with alfalfa grass mix crops and a link to the Minnesota Crop News site. You can request printed copies of articles that tell about using this in your fields.
PEAQ sticks are available for purchase through the Midwest Forage Association website: www.midwestforage.org or by calling 651-484-3888.
Daily National Weather Forecasts can be found by going to: http://www.weather.gov and enter the town closest to you. You can also look at a current radar screen here and other features.
Seasonal, 6 to 10 day, 8 to 14 days outlooks and other items can be found at: Climate Prediction Center. Intranet users can probably find this pretty easily by putting "National Weather Service Outlooks Index" in the Google search box.
It's important to consider feed quality needs, your own past experience, the weather and other work priorities in making hay harvest decisions.
Please plan for a safe and productive first crop hay harvest!-By Dan Martens, U-M Extension educator