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I have had several farmers ask if now is a good time to cut alfalfa for hay or to graze it. Alfalfa looks really good now and it is very tempting to do something with it. The answer in a word is NO! Any alfalfa in the field now should not be harvested until after we have a killing frost. I know it is difficult to look at such lush growth and not do anything, particularly if the alfalfa is blooming, but harvesting now will cause delayed growth next spring and will reduce yield on the first cutting. Harvesting now could also cause severe long term thinning of the alfalfa stand.
The reason for this potential damage is alfalfa begins to regrow after cutting or grazing by drawing on reserves in the crown. For the first few weeks after regrowth starts the plant does not have enough leaf area to receive enough sunlight to grow from the conversion of sunlight to energy. This time of year there is less sunlight available, which means it has to draw even more reserves from its roots to reach a point where the leaves are supporting the plant. The risk from cutting at this time of year is that the plant will begin regrowth and then a killing frost or freeze occurs that shuts down plant growth for the year. Depending on how much of the energy reserves have been depleted, the plant will get a slow start next year, or worst case may not have enough energy reserves left to survive the winter and die. This is one of the major causes of declining alfalfa stands. UK specialists recommend that alfalfa not be grazed or cut for hay during the period between September 15 and a killing frost.
It is a good idea to cut or graze the alfalfa once you are certain it is cold enough that it has gone dormant. Cutting or grazing off the older plant material will help reduce overwintering of insect pests and diseases and will help with healthy spring growth.
If you need something to do to avoid the temptation of making hay from that beautiful alfalfa stand, now is an ideal time to wean spring calves, pregnancy check spring calving cows and take your bulls to the vet for a breeding soundness exam prior to being turned out with cows for fall breeding. Weaning now allows you to keep your bred cows in good condition going into the winter, and a decision can be made on whether open cows will be sold or bred this fall to calve next fall, assuming you have both spring and fall calving cows. Good records will help make this decision. If you know a cow is consistently late breeding you should cull her from the herd. If you have a large number of cows going from your spring to fall or fall to spring herds you may have problems like poor nutrition, hereditary or bull soundness problems. If it is a nutrition problem you will likely have a large number of thin cows in the herd. If the cows are in good shape through the breeding season, poor genetics or bull problems may be the cause. Whatever the cause, switching cows from one herd to the other is not profitable because you miss out on a calf but still have to feed the cow.
It is time to start planting wheat. When preparing for planting wheat, Dr. James Martin, extension professor of wheat science at UK advises farmers to make certain that there is no volunteer corn growing in the field. This shouldn’t be much of a problem this year because of the late harvest, but he says it is important to control volunteer corn because it creates a “green bridge” effect for carrying insect pests between live corn plants and the wheat crop. Tillage may provide a solution but increases the risk of erosion and may stimulate more corn to germinate in the field. Dr. Martin suggests that Gramoxone applied at two pints per acre appears to be most efficient, resulting in 93 to 100 percent control of volunteer corn. Taking care of the volunteer corn prior to planting may reduce the need for pesticide control later.
The next “Master Marketer” class for cattle producers who enrolled will be Monday, Oct. 28 at 6 p.m. at Washington County Extension Office in Springfield.
The second session of the Kentucky Beef Network’s weed identification and control series entitled “Treating Your Weeds” will be held Saturday, Oct. 26, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Eden Shale Farm in Owen County. Topics will include sprayer technology, what type of herbicides to use for various weeds and when to use them. There is no charge for attending the session. Call the extension office for more information.
The Central Kentucky Premier Heifer Sale will be held Saturday Nov. 2, at the Marion County Fairgrounds. Approximately 185 heifers bred to calve in February 2014 will be available. All heifers are guaranteed to be bred for 30 days after the sale. They are bred to bulls with known EPD’s and meet standards for health, quality and disposition. All heifers qualify for the CAIP cost share program.
A reminder to all who qualified for the County Agriculture Improvement Program that all receipts are due by Nov.15, 2013. Participants must also complete their education requirement by that date and if they are doing a cattle project must have their Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) certification. Letters went out recently reminding those who needed either of these components of the need to complete them. If you need either component contact the office and we will make certain you get what you need to comply with the program rules established by the state.
Educational programs of Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.