Currently, forage shortages are a major challenge. Polar vortices and inconsistent snow cover have resulted in several years of alfalfa winterkill. Furthermore, frequent and heavy rains have delayed corn silage planting and harvest, creating forage quality and quantity issues. To restore lost feed inventory, there has been an increase in planting of winter rye and winter triticale after corn silage and sorghum or other crop species to replace damaged alfalfa fields. For the purposes of this grant, they will be called “alternative forages”. There is a unique window of opportunity to study best feeding practices, while also supporting continuous soil cover throughout the year. We will also study the economic implications to help farmers make financially sustainable decisions. Compared to the limited window for grazing, mechanical harvesting and storage allows farms to feed many more acres. This project builds on two years of pilot research. Funding will allow us to greatly expand our numbers and get more statistically valid data. Our previous focus group research found that dairy nutrition consultants and farms need research-based feeding recommendations. Changing the mentality that alternative forages are inferior forages is an innovative way to increase acres covered and adoption of year-round soil cover.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Collect and analyze alternative forage samples from 30 farms across Wisconsin
- Collect farm data including planting date, harvest date, yield (if available), estimated expenses to calculate cost of production, and forage inclusion in rations
- Compare yields and forage quality from these on-farm data samples to studies under controlled conditions
- Develop feeding guidelines for dairy and beef animals based on forage quality data and computer modeling software program
- Develop presentation(s), fact sheet(s), article(s), videos, and/or online learning module
- Organize field days (planting, harvesting, and feeding), that may include online options (webinar, videos)