By: Joe Lawrence, Cornell CALS PRO-DAIRY and Ron Kuck, Cornell Cooperative Extension North Country Regional Ag Team
While spring tasks vary by farm, there are many “rites of spring,” and they are often completed in a fairly rigid sequence. Depending on the farm, these often include fixing fence, spreading manure, planting new seedings, planting corn and harvesting first cutting, and are often performed in this order.
We are optimistic that the upcoming turn in weather will allow these tasks to be accomplished in a timely manner, but at this point it is time to ask yourself: Are you willing to change your spring routine?
In addition to adverse weather it is no secret that everyone is facing extremely tight economic times, and dealing with forage inventories of poor digestibility forages from 2017. This combination of factors makes it more critical than ever to be ready to tackle the task that will have the most impact on your business at the proper time.
Recent reference articles on dealing with tough times:
- Key Opportunities to Optimize 2018 Crop Production Efficiency
- Resources for Dealing with Spring Weather Delays
The number one focus should be on timely harvest of first cutting.
- Park the corn planter when a field of first cutting is ready for harvest.
- Approach harvest by the acre, not by the field. Be ready to skip over a field that has passed its optimum harvest stage.
- Strategically plan feed storage to best utilize forage inventories for the right group of animals.
The window for planting for silage is generally wider than for grain, which is why first cutting can and should take priority over corn planting. However, in the event of extreme delays in planting corn, performance will diminish with late plantings. If corn planting progresses into late May or early June, begin to consider alternative options for those acres. Previous research from Cornell and Penn State suggest a 0.5 to 1 ton/acre per week decline in silage yield for planting after mid to late May.
First and foremost during a time of year that can be very busy and stressful, taking every precaution to keep your team safe is critical.
The idea of fitting all of this work into a condensed time period, and still getting key tasks completed before critical deadlines can seem impossible, but year after year many find unique ways to get it all done. Consider working with neighbors, custom operators or renting equipment to accomplish these key tasks on time.
If you currently utilize custom operators, now is a good time to set up a time to meet with them and make sure you are on the same page to get tasks accomplished in the time-frame needed. Make sure that your expectations and goals are clearly defined. They will also be under stress to fit their work into a condensed period and meet their customers’ expectations, so defining expectations and pre-planning how to most efficiently get the work accomplished when the custom operator arrives can go a long way to increase the chances for success.