More dairy farmers are using alternative forages


More dairy farmers are using alternative forages

A crops and soils expert says many dairy farmers are relying less on alfalfa and more on alternative forages.

University of Wisconsin Extension agent Kevin Jarek tells Brownfield multiple years of alfalfa field damage led to trying different feed options. “We had a lot of alfalfa fields damaged in late 2018, very wet. 2019, (the) worst growing season in fifty years in the State of Wisconsin. By May 2020, we had the lowest hay stocks in recorded history.”

Jarek says it’s hard to compete with alfalfa for protein levels, but when looking at relative forage quality and digestibility and milk per ton of dry matter, the other grasses and legumes have value. “When managed correctly, they’re not only able to supplement our feed sources, but we have a lot of nutritionists using these things for lactating milking dairy herds.”

Jarek says many producers now plant mixtures including Italian ryegrass, sorghum-sudangrass, clovers, cowpeas, and others as summer forage crops, and he says the soil benefits from having them as an established cover crop over the winter.

University of Wisconsin Extension Agent Kevin Jarek discusses alternative forages and what prompted more farmers to try them. 6/13/22