Indiana Forage Field Day offers multi-faceted use of forages
As the summer months approach so does the task of making hay. At the Indiana Forage Field Day, held June 21st in Roann, Ind., experts explained the importance of smart forage practices and how they incorporate those practices into their own operations.
Participants from several areas of Indiana traveled to increase their knowledge on forages.
Rex Perlich from Dekalb County said he decided to attend because he recently started to manage his father’s farm.
The Indiana Forage Field Day was held June 21st in Roann, Ind.
Above, a participipant is checking the moisture level in a windrow.
“My father passed away and I am going to start managing 100 acres of hay and about 20 head of beef cattle,” Perlich said. “I thought the forage field day would give me insight about the forage industry.”
There were four different locations participants could learn about forages.
Flack Farms, owned by Steve and Lisa Flack, is a cash crop hay business. Steve shared how incorporating a Steffen big bale conversion system into the family’s operation will increase production and marketing efforts.
“We bought this machine from a sale in South Dakota and it is the only one in Indiana,” said Steve Flack. “The machine takes large square bales and breaks them down into small, 50 to 60 pound square bales. It is more efficient for us to get higher quality hay in large square bales versus baling small square bales. We want to provide our customers with the best quality hay and this machine allows us to do that.”
Flack also wants to open the Steffen big bale conversion system to other hay producers.
“Our goal is for this machine to be a standalone manufacturing facility. If we run eight hours a day, we should be able to ship three semi loads daily. Not only has this machine helped our family business, but it has opened up another market for us to explore, which is the small square bale market. Right now we charge $50 to $60 per ton which averages out to $1.40 to $1.60 per square bale to have the bales resized. It is definitely worth the investment.”
Ed Farris, Purdue University Extension Educator-Huntington County, said he saw a machine similar to the Steffen big bale conversion system in Oregon.
“The machine I saw was very similar and they were putting the finished hay right into shipping containers,” He said. “I think this machine is helping the Flacks reach out to different markets and help meet their needs.”
The field day continued at Sweeten Farms, LLC where Jeremy Sweeten spoke about balage. He explained how wrapping large round bales in plastic is a popular alternative to harvesting dry hay.
Sweeten, a Purdue Agronomy M. S. graduate, said balage is a great way to harvest excess pastures for rotational graziers.
“Many spring pastures are abundant with hard-to-dry red and white clovers,” Sweeten said. “If the clovers do get dry, there is a potential for a large amount of leaf loss due to tedding and raking. As a general rule each time hay is handled there is a 2-5 percent dry matter loss. Balage allows the producer to mow the forage one day and bale the next. Dry hay is baled at 20 percent moisture, while balage is baled at 45 percent. By making hay into balage, it saves time which allows us to cover more acreage.”
Keith Johnson, Purdue Extension Forage Specialist, is explaining
parts of a plant, from the bioenergy plot, to participants.
One of the four areas covered at the field day was a field demonstration about bioenergy. At this stop participants learned how to calibrate a drill and determine plant stand. Purdue University is part of a CenUSA multistate project that is investigating the production of native warm- season grasses as a potential energy source.
In a release by Ag Answers, Chad Martin, Purdue Extension Bioenergy Specialist, said the goals of the project are to identify grasses most suitable for bioenergy production on various soil types, and to eventually have the infrastructure in place to convert grasses to cellulosic bioenergy
Keith Johnson, Purdue Extension Forage Specialist, said it is important to evaluate the potential of switchgrass, big bluestem and indiangrass grown on soils not conducive to excellent grain production. “The forages were established in a sandy soil in 2012 in the Roann area. Despite the drought last year, the grasses will likely be near full potential yield next year,” Johnson said.
In addition to the field day, a dry lot to pasture dairy was highlighted. Daryl, Debbie and Jake Stoltzfus, moved their operation to Indiana from Ohio to expand their 130 head pasture dairy. Jake spoke about the importance of pasture management.
“Each week I will walk eight paddocks in a zigzag pattern, so about four miles, to measure the pounds of dry matter,” Jake said. “I use a rising platemeter and it estimates the amount of dry matter in the pasture. I keep track of the data and can see the overall progress.
Daryl added that hoof health has improved and overall management is much easier.
Jake said grazing is most of the diet.
“The cows go to a new paddock every day. We don’t have to feed a protein supplement because good grasses have a high amount of protein. We don’t move the cow either, they see the gate open and know to go. The same goes for the milking parlor.”
Conservation Practices were also a highlight of the program.
Mary Lou Mussleman, Program Director of the Miami County Soil and Water Conservation District, said most of the practices participants learned about at the field day promote conservation practices with forages.
Rick Duff, Natural Resources Conservation Service District Conservationist, added that Miami and Wabash Counties are unique locations to hold the field day.
“The proximity the field day locations are to the creeks and rivers is very unique,” Duff said. “The area also has a strong relationship with Manchester University which is very supportive in funding environmental quality incentive programs.”
The Indiana Forage Field Day was sponsored by the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, the Miami County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Indiana Forage Council, CenUSA, The CISCO Companies and Anderson Group.