Double-crop forage systems for dairy farms

2003 Annual Report for ONE03-015

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2003: $9,970.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2005
Region: Northeast
State: Maryland
Project Leader:
Don Schwartz
Maryland Cooperative Extension

Double-crop forage systems for dairy farms


(Note to the reader: This project was discontinued after the first year of work because the project manager died. Below is the only data and information available on this grant award.)

The traditional corn and alfalfa forage system is input-intensive and requires purchased feed—one analysis indicates that crop production and purchased feed average $5.97 per cwt. of milk, while a forage-based demonstration farm using a winter annual corn silage double crop averaged $3.29. In cooperation with three local dairy farms, the project leader will compare eight double-crop forage production systems using winter and summer annuals that use few inputs, extend the production season, and recycle more nutrients. Outreach will be through pasture walks, extension, trade publications, and a fact sheet.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The objectives in testing each of these eight DC systems is to measure crop yields of all harvests in each system whether mechanical or by grazing. Forage analyses will be done on all samples to measure nutrient (N&P) removal by each system. Soil tests done annually and manure analyses of all application coupled with any fertilizer appplications will determine total nutrient applications and soil nutrient accumulation. Costs analysis of each DC system will determine costs of DM production. The use of Wisconsin's Milk 2000 program will allow the calculation of potential milk yield for each system, then costs per cwt of milk can also be determined for each system.


The weather patterns in 2003 have provided some challenges. Over 15" of rain in May and June delayed several plantings and over 10" of rain in September delayed harvests of summer annuals and the reseeding of winter annuals.

In System I we were able to harvest the summer corn silage crop for all treatments. The lateness of the harvest prevented a fall seed of oats in Treatment 5. We will try that again in 2004. The other fall seeded cereals in Treatments 2, 3 and 4 were seeded a bit late.

In System II rains prevented additional N applications to the summer sorghum crop in Treatment 1. We made one major harvest and a small harvest after the frost. An Italian ryegrass was seeded into the stubble after the first cutting and yielded a fall grazing harvest. In Treatment 2 we harvested a late cutting of silage. Hurricane damage made that harvest a challenge. Due to the lateness of that harvest we seeded spelts and wheat as the winter annual. Although we did seed a small strip in annual ryegrass simply to see if it would survive such a late seeding date.

In System III we harvested the summer corn silage crop and reseeded the field in annual ryegrass in late September. A late fall grazing harvest yielded about 1000 lbs of forage DM/ acre.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The extremely wet field conditions in 2003 demonstrate the importance of the timliness of harvests and seedings required in order to make a DC system perform at its optimum.

A Pasture Walk at the Leggett Farm in early October allowed 24 producers to examine the two sorhgum and ryegrass systems and compare their experiences with each other. Seeding dates, rates, fertility, harvest timing and frequency, forage quality and yields, sotage issues and cow performance were all discussed. The seeding of the ryegrass into the sorghum stubble after a late August or early September harvest is becoming an acceted practice particularly for those producers who can graze the late fall ryegrass growth.

A Pasture Walk at the Martin Farm in November allowed 26 producers to see how a late September seeding of annual ryegrass can still be grazed by lactating dairy cows 5 weeks after seeding. Seeding notill at a 40 lb rate per acre allows the ryegrass roots to withstand grazing by the time the grass is 6" tall. Producers also examined the bunker full of ryegrass harvested in April and May that effectively replaces alfalfa on this dairy farm.

Winter annual crops on all systems will be harvested in the spring, then the summer annual crops will be seeded to begin the second year of this 2 year study.