NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — Memorial Day is a good time to examine the status of hay and forage programs for the year.
Many hay and forage jobs should be completed, or at least started, by Memorial Day. For example, all perennial grasses or legumes should be planted by now. If you still have planting to do, it would be better to wait until mid-August.
Spraying for musk thistle needs to occur before Memorial Day. Plants that have started to bolt and grow tall usually are not completely killed by spraying. Also the waxy cuticles or layers on the leaves gets thicker as summer progresses, making herbicide absorption less likely. Digging may be your best option now.
For high quality hay, your alfalfa should have been cut already. Later cutting might give hay that’s good enough for many livestock, but there is little chance of getting dairy quality hay any more this cutting.
The end of May also marks the general time for the start of planting season for summer annual grasses. Soil temperatures of 60 degrees or warmer are best for Sudangrass, forage sorghums, and sorghum-sudangrass hybrids. Millets, though, prefer even warmer soil temperatures.
Memorial Day is a good time to estimate if your pastures will have enough moisture to produce the growth needed by your livestock this year. If drought has caused reduced growth, adjust animal numbers now before it’s too late. Summer rains are not likely to allow you to catch up completely. And if growth is abundant, maybe you can cut some for hay instead or stockpile it for winter grazing.
Follow through with this Memorial Day evaluation and many hay and forage problems will be solved, or at least foreseen.
— Jerry Volesky, Nebraska Extension
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