Delaware County Scissor Cut Report – 5/25/2017

Dale Dewing – CCE Delaware County

Hay harvest has been in full swing this week and crops have continued to advance in maturity.  Orchardgrass and bluegrass were in early heading stage and both grass and legumes grew rapidly.  Grass fields have past the target NDF and we recommend harvest of grass core acres as quickly as possible.  We predict alfalfa fields will be at target NDF by early next week. Alfalfa/grass mixtures at target NDF and we would recommend harvest of these fields as quickly as possible.

The return to more seasonable temperatures contributed to rapid growth of both grasses and legumes, both putting on 6 or 7 inches of growth this week.  Fiber accumulation made up for slow changes the past couple weeks, advancing on average 2 percentage points per day last week.  Once grasses reach 60 NDF the NDF goes up more slowly, but digestibility continues to decline rapidly.

NDF digestibility decreased by 4 points and alfalfa decreased by 7 points, on average.  This is typical as legumes are generally lower in digestibility than grasses.  In general, NDF digestibility results this week are still in a good range, but will continue a steep decline as plants continue to mature.

Second cutting was growing fast on several of the fields harvested last week.  For fields harvested this week, plan for a high quality a second harvest of equal quantity in about 30 days.   Remember for grasses leave a 4 inch stubble height to preserve plant energy reserves and promote a rapid regrowth.  This also helps reduce the potential for bringing soil into the forage, raising ash content and predisposing for improper fertilization.

Pest Alert:  We are hearing reports from other parts of the state of armyworm feeding.  No disasters at this point, but a warning to keep an eagle eye and try and catch any infestations before large losses happen.

Bottom Line:   All hay crops are at or past optimum quality, Harvest as quickly as practical.

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Capital Area Weekly Ag Report – May 18, 2017

Here is this week’s Ag Report: The Ag Report

Spring has sprung – haylage is being harvested and the first corn has emerged.

In this issue:
Observations in corn, hay, small grains,  alfalfa.

Aaron Gabriel,
Sr. Extension Resource Educator, Agronomy

Cornell Cooperative Extension                                     518-380-1496 cell
415 Lower Main St.                                                      518-746-2560 ofc
Hudson Falls, NY 12839                                    

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NNY Winter Survival of Alfalfa Under Evaluation by Farmer-Driven Research Program

Before the snow: 2016 Winter Survival Alfalfa Trial after transplanting and watering alfalfa seedlings at Chazy, NY, in Clinton County, Northern New York, May 2016. Photo: J. Hansen

Winter weather in recent years has created a variety of conditions for Cornell University researchers evaluating the cold weather hardiness of alfalfa crops. At the request of the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program, Dr. Julie L. Hansen and Dr. Donald R. Viands of the Cornell University School of Integrative Plant Science are evaluating carefully-selected alfalfa varieties in trials at the W.H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute in Chazy, NY. The preliminary results of this research have been recently posted at

‘The harsh winter conditions typical in Northern New York make winter survival an essential trait in alfalfa variety selection for regional growers,’ says Hansen.

‘The ultimate goal of this research is to lesson winterkill losses of alfalfa, thereby reducing the money and time farmers lose to forage loss and reestablishment costs for this valuable perennial crop that feeds the dairy and livestock industries,’ notes Viands.

Growers have traditionally planted alfalfa varieties that produce less forage after the final harvesting of the growing season and prior to the onset of winter as those varieties have a typically shown better winter survival. Forage breeders, however, are working to develop alfalfa varieties that will produce both more forage into the fall season and have improved winter survival.

Data on the fall dormancy and winter survivability of six alfalfa varieties planted in 2015 and 2016 at Chazy is being correlated to the National Alfalfa and Miscellaneous Legume Variety Review Board standards that require winter survival ratings collected over either two years or two locations to be averaged.

The combined two-year evaluation of the 2015 and 2016 alfalfa trials in Northern New York creates a baseline index to help growers make a more well-informed decision about which alfalfa varieties might work best for their growing conditions and micro-climate areas.

To add to their data set, Hansen and Viands are separately analyzing the winter hardiness of alfalfa populations planted at Chazy for a brown root rot-resistance trial funded by the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program. That trial experienced a major winterkill in 2012, providing a small sampling of surviving plants for evaluation.

The farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is a research and technical assistance grants program serving all agricultural sectors in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties. Funding for the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is supported by the New York State Senate and administered by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.


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Late Summer-Planted Forage Option for NNY: Farmer-Driven Program Posts Early Evaluation Results

This photo shows the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program-funded oat forage trial at Canton, NY, on September 16, 2015, 43 days after planting. The forage variety plots were heavily impact by crown rust while the grain variety oat plots are less visibly diseased. Photo: K. O’Neil.

Northern New York. Hot, dry summer conditions can lead to insufficient hay and pasture forage for dairy farms. Could late summer planted oats be an option to fill that forage gap? A farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program has posted results of recent field trials as field crop specialists prepare to plant a new trial at three NNY farm sites.

Drought conditions early in the 2015 growing season and a fungus impacted the summer oat trials planted in 2015 at the St. Lawrence County Extension Learning Farm in Canton, W.H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute in Chazy, and at a farm near Alexandria Bay, NY.

Research plots planted in 2013 and 2014 at the privately-owned farm near Alexandria Bay served as a preliminary indicator suggesting that late summer-planted oats are capable of producing high quality, high yielding forage.

Lack of soil moisture caused the plots at Alexandria Bay to fail completely in 2015. Forage quality of the crop harvested at the other locations was very good, but the lack of rain caused very poor yields. Crown rust, a common fungal disease of wild and cultivated oats, damaged plantings at all three farms in the study last year.

The research project funded by the farmer-led Northern New York Agricultural Development Program continues in 2016 with crown rust-resistant varieties. The research team led by Kitty O’Neil and Mike Hunter, field crops specialists with the Cornell University Cooperative Extension NNY Regional Ag Team, expects results form the 2016 to give a clearer indication of the potential of summer oats to provide Northern New York farmers with an emergency annual forage crop option.

Data including a summary of weather conditions during the 2015 growing season, trial plot forage yields, the incidence of crown rust infections, and a summary of nutritional quality is posted in the 2015 project report in the Field Crops Research: Oats section of the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website at

The farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program provides grants for on-farm research and technical assistance projects in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. Funding for the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is supported by the New York State Senate and administered through the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.


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PRO-DAIRY Forage Management: Perennial Forage Cutting Height

From Joe Lawrence, Cornell PRO-DAIRY

In a recent farm visit, the farmer had just purchased a nice new discbine. On the day I was there, he and the equipment dealer were replacing the shoes on the cutter bar with thicker ones. This farm has predominately grass forages and the farmer recognized that this new machine was cutting much shorter than his former haybine, and he knew this was not good for the grass.

This topic has been written about several times over the last decade, but warrants a refresher. Recommended cutting height is not a “one size fits all” scenario. Consider the crop species, field conditions, ash content of the harvested forage, time of year and age of the stand. As this scenario demonstrates, new machines may not be set up appropriately for your forage stands.

The prevalence of discbines over the last few decades allows a closer cut to the ground (if you choose) without as much risk of costly damage that often occurred with traditional sicklebar mowers. This makes it very tempting to lower the cutting height a few inches to get extra yield. Research from Miner Institute indicates that up to ½ ton DM/season (three cuttings) can be gained by lower cutting height from 4 inches down to 2 inches, without a sacrifice of quality.

So if increased yield is the benefit, what are the issues? From a mowing standpoint, there is a risk of scalping an uneven field and increasing the ash content (amount of dirt and debris) in the forage. Tom Kilcer, Advanced Ag Systems refers to this as “minimum-till haylage.”

Nutritionists indicate that the presence of ash in forages is becoming a chronic problem on many dairies. It has been reported that a 2 percent increase in ash (from 9 to 11 percent) can reduce milk by 1.9 lbs/cow/day (Sniffen, Fencrest, LLC.). That is certainly significant.

In addition to the connection between cutting height and ash content, improperly set up rakes can add to this issues as well. While rakes need to be able to pick up all the hay, they are often set closer to the ground than needed.

Crop species is a critical factor in determining an appropriate cutting height. Because alfalfa generates new shoots from the crown of the plant after each cutting, it can generally tolerate a very low cutting height. Conversely, a low cutting height on grass can be very detrimental. Grasses have to re-grow from the stubble left in the field. Therefore, if grasses are cut too short, the plant is robbed of the energy reserves it needs to re-grow.

In research conducted at Miner Institute, the effect of cutting height on orchardgrass and reeds canarygrass was measured in a greenhouse experiment. This work showed that first year reeds canarygrass was completely killed at a 2 inch cutting height. The orchardgrass did regrow, but at a much slower rate. The 2-inch orchardgrass required 38 days to reach a height of 16 inches. In contrast, at the 4 inch cutting height, both grasses responded quickly after cutting and measured 16 inches of regrowth in just 21 days.


  • Manage cutting height based on field conditions, time of year and considerations for ash content in forage.
  • Consider higher cutting height in fall to help capture and retain snow cover.


  • A minimum of 3 to 4 inches of stubble is critical.
  • Grass stands are even more sensitive in the seeding year.
  • The loss in grass stand productivity from cutting too low far outweighs any yield boost you might get from harvesting a few extra inches in that one cutting.

Mixed Stands

  • In mixed stands cutting height could actually be used as a management tool for stand composition by choosing a cutting height that either favors grass or alfalfa.
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NNYADP Dairy Forage Research Evaluating Alfalfa-Grass Combination Options

NNYADP-funded research by Cornell University is evaluating winter-hardy grass-alfalfa crop combinations in support of the dairy industry. In this photo, USDA researchers examine frost-stressed forage in West Virginia, 500 miles south of New York’s harsher northern winters. Photo: Peggy Greb, USDA
NNYADP-funded research by Cornell University is evaluating winter-hardy grass-alfalfa crop combinations in support of the dairy industry. In this photo, USDA researchers examine frost-stressed forage in West Virginia, 500 miles south of New York’s harsher northern winters. Photo: Peggy Greb, USDA

Northern NY.   The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program has posted the results of a 2013-2015 research project evaluating ways to improve dairy cattle forage options, specifically with alfalfa-grass combination crops. The results are posted on the NNYADP website at

Project leader and Cornell University Soil and Crop Sciences Professor Jerry H. Cherney says, ‘Research to identify the best combinations of alfalfa and grass for regional growing conditions will help dairy farmers maximize forage quality to support milk production.’

Alfalfa-grass mix crops are popular as forage for dairy cattle in the Northeastern U.S, especially so in northern New York where more than 95 percent of the alfalfa acreage is planted as an alfalfa-grass mix.

Cherney cites Cornell University and University of Wisconsin research trials that concluded alfalfa-grass forage fed to dairy cows can result in as much milk production as feeding pure alfalfa.

‘An alfalfa-grass survey we conducted in New York State in 2015 showed a range of grass species planted, and a very wide range in seeding rates for both alfalfa and grass, well outside recommended rates,’ Cherney notes.

NNYADP-funded trials planted in 2013-2015 at Miner Institute in Chazy, NY, and at the Willsboro Research Farm in Willsboro, NY, provided initial data on eight grass cultivars. Those trials showed the severe impact that northern New York winter weather can have on crops.

The grass plantings in the early trials in NNY, however, averaged 3.5 percentage units higher in neutral detergent fiber digestibility, NDFD, a measure of the feed value of forage crops. High NDFD forages encourage dairy cows to eat well to meet their daily energy needs.

‘With new higher quality grass options and several new types of high quality alfalfa available, we want to test various combinations on farms to develop the best planting and management strategies for the dairy industry,’ Cherney says.

In 2016, Cherney is overseeing trials on NNY dairy farms to continue the search for the best alfalfa-grass combinations and management practices for the northern New York state climate and growing conditions.

Cherney is particularly focused on meadow fescue, which is winter hardy, as an option for alfalfa-grass stands. He will plant two new meadow fescue cultivars recently developed in Wisconsin in the 2016 field trials funded by the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program.

Funding for the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is supported by the New York State Senate and administered by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. NNYADP economic impact reports, project reports, and resource links are posted on

More than 100 farmers provide input to the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program on dairy, crops, fruit, greenhouse, livestock, maple and vegetable production.

Media Contacts:
. NNYADP Co-Chairs: Jon Greenwood, 315.323.4814; Joe Giroux, 518.565.4739; Jon Rulfs, 518.572.1960;
. NNYADP Publicist Kara Lynn Dunn, 315.465.7578,

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Well Begun is Half Done – Delaware County Scissors Cut Results – May 19, 2016

Delaware County Scissors Cut Results Header

From Dale Dewing, Field Crop and Nutrient Management Specialist for farms in the New York City Watershed

ed2b5bbc-76ce-4f43-87dc-871b76c00610As I write this note, many farms have mown the first fields of the 2016 harvest season. Many fields sampled this week have NDF in the high 40’s. We expect these fields will be at target fiber content by the time you receive this message. Indeed, it is time for first cutting to begin.  There were a couple grass fields tested in the lower 40’s that may not reach 50% NDF before next week, and fields with high legume content appear to be more than one week from optimum harvest.  Grasses and legumes grew an average of 3½ – 4 inches over the week and NDF increased about 0.7 points per day.  We will sample again on May 24, and send results on Thursday May 26.

A few harvest tips to keep in mind

  • Mow with a 4in stubble height – less chance of soil in the forage, faster grass regrowth, and the little bit of yield you might gain is all low quality stems anyway.
  • Mow in a wide swath – rapid drying saves sugars, gets forage to proper dray matter faster and gets harvest in faster
  • Pay attention to forage moisture (aka Dry Matter) – For bunkers shoot for 35% to 40% DM (65%-60% moisture), for Bags a bit dryer, and for baleage between 50% and 60% DM is best.
  • Density matters – for bunkers, make sure you have adequate packing capacity, the faster the silage is coming in the more tins you need on the bunk, for balegae – dryer forage packs better, but however make bales as dense as possible.
  • Cover/Wrap quickly – Get bunkers filled and cover as quickly as possible, wrap bales within 3 or 4 hours.  Oxygen is the enemy of good silage, cover it quick and keep birds and rodents from spoiling the seal.
  • Park the corn planter? – Unless you have labor enough to do two things at once, getting first cut done at the optimum time will gain you more than you may lose by delaying corn planting.  Harvest your core hay fields at optimum stage and plant corn later.

The results are in the chart below.
Click here to download the PDF of the full report.

We have a Factsheet: How to Interpret Forage Analysis that will help you understand forage analysis terms.

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 10.42.42 AM

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Abnormal Alfalfa Growth

Jerry Cherney – E.V. Baker Professor of Agriculture, Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Alfalfa growth is generally stunted this spring, while grass is moving along, probably heading about normally, but probably shorter than normal.

We sampled alfalfa-fescue at the end of last week and tested our app. Alfalfa was 12” max height and had a rosette-type growth. Our alfalfa-grass computer/phone app ( over predicted grass% in the mixture by about 10% units, likely due to the compact alfalfa growth. The correlation between our predicted grass% and the actual separated DM grass % was very good at 0.95, but was biased upward on the app due to the alfalfa stunting. 12” alfalfa is marginal height for any equation estimations of either percent or NDF.

As far as spring harvest, it depends on the grass% in the mixture:
More than 50% grass in the stand: Harvest like a grass stand and ignore the alfalfa. Orchardgrass is in boot stage now in many locations.
Less than 25% grass in the stand: Wait for a little more alfalfa growth (more like a PEAQ chart), to minimize chances of damaging alfalfa stand. Grass will be more mature than normal.
25-50% grass: Something in between. Harvest a little earlier than normal for alfalfa.

Not clear if the alfalfa is going to bolt once temperatures rise or just start growing at a normal pace.
Most likely alfalfa height will not have a normal relationship with NDF as it typically does. Keep in mind that the alfalfa has continued to mature (increase in fiber, lignify) even if it is not growing upward much.

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