Mike Ballweg, Regional Crops and Soils Agent
An on-farm project to monitor the quality of alfalfa growth and development, in planning for first crop harvest, which makes up 30 – 40% of the total production for the year. Because there are yearly weather variations impacting plant growth, results from this study help farmers in deciding the optional time to harvest alfalfa for high quality dairy forage. Harvesting at the optimal time helps farmers avoid higher costs of purchased livestock feed, increases their milk yields and improves the profitability of dairy farms.
The alfalfa quality project included: Washington, Ozaukee, Fond du Lac and Sheboygan Counties within the region. Based on the most recent ag census information there are approximately 135,000 acres of alfalfa grown in the region which support the regionâ€™s nearly 400 dairy herds. If only half of the regionâ€™s alfalfa acres were harvested one week earlier because of this Extension alfalfa quality educational program, an additional $7.3 million of annual milk sales would be generated for dairy farmers within the region. An economic impact breakdown by county shows: (Sheboygan 2.19 million), (Ozaukee 0.73 million), Washington 1.38 million) and Fond du Lac 2.99 million). Bi-weekly (twice a week) emails were sent to 1000 farmers and ag-industry professionals across the region (Regional Ag Email list) throughout the month of May.