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Volume 6, Number 5 - May 2000

This Month in Ag Connection

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Managing for Balage

Two critical factors for making any quality stored forage are crop maturity and moisture. In addition, an effective oxygen barrier is essential for quality balage.

Harvesting in the vegetative stage versus the reproductive stage will produce a much higher quality forage. Harvesting legumes in the vegetative stage provides the opportunity to harvest again in 28 days versus a minimum of 42 days when harvested in the reproductive stage. When the forage has reached full bloom or completely headed, the amount of sugars left in the plant is borderline to provide the energy for proper fermentation. Over-mature forage has a much higher tendency to develop molds.

For balage, the optimum moisture level for harvesting should be 40% to 60% for grasses and legumes at 40% to 55%. Forage that is baled and wrapped too wet has a tendency to develop excessive levels of butyric acid which can prevent the completion of fermentation. On the other side of the coin, balage that is too dry will not ferment properly and palatability will be adversely affected.

The balage film should provide the following: serve as an oxygen barrier, have enough tack to seal the bale, be a blown film to withstand contracting and expanding, and last at least one year. The film should be white in color. Any other color will absorb heat, cause excessive temperature inside the bale and bind the protein to the fiber, reducing the rate of digestion.

Additional Thoughts:



Farmer in the sun

(Author: Dale Watson, Livestock Specialist)

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Bermudagrass -- Cautious Optimism

Bermudagrass is a perennial, warm season grass that is fast growing and aggressive. Once established it crowds out competing weeds and grasses. Bermudagrass covers an area by spreading vegetatively via stolons (above ground stems capable of producing roots) and rhizomes (below ground stems capable of producing roots). It is thought to have originated in southeast Africa and has become the important pasture grass in the south. Reduced cold tolerance is a concern for Central Missouri.

World-wide, Bermudagrass has established its reputation due to a number of attributes:

Bermudagrass varieties can be lumped broadly into the categories of "grazing" and "haying". Grazing varieties such as Greenfield, Quickstand, and World Feeder have a prostrate growth habit and a very dense sod. Hay type varieties such as Hardie, Midland and Tifton 44 are more upright in their growth and have a more open sod.

It is established either by planting live sprigs (stolons and or rhizomes) or planting seed. Most of the improved hybrid varieties are poor seed producers making it necessary to establish them through sprigs.

If establishing Bermudagrass with sprigs, a sprigging rate of 15 to 30 bushels per acre is recommended. If seeded, a rate of 4-8 pounds of pure live seed per acre is suggested. Higher rates of either sprigs or seed will result in faster coverage. Sprigs can be planted into a prepared seedbed or no tilled with mechanical spriggers, which are not very common in Central Missouri. Sprigs may also be planted by hand, or spread by a manure spreader, disk in lightly and then cultipacked.

During establishment, weeds that form a canopy above the developing Bermudagrass will greatly slow its spread. Broadleaf weeds can be controlled chemically or by mowing or grazing during the establishment year. Annual grasses can be a real problem to the establishment of Bermudagrass as there are a limited number of herbicides that can be used to control weedy grass that will not also damage the Bermudagrass.

Over the past few months, Bermudagrass grass has been experiencing a surge of interest in Missouri mainly due to the publicity surrounding the variety World Feeder. Table 1 gives the results of variety trials conducted at Haskell, Oklahoma of six commercially available Bermudagrass varieties including World Feeder.

Table 1. Forage yields (tons dry matter/acre) of commercial Bermudagrass varieties at Eastern Research Station, Haskell, OK.

Variety1995 Total1996 Total1997 Harvest    3-Yr. Ave.
Tifton 4410.2a8.9b3.0b3.3b2.30.7a9.3b9.47b
World Feeder7.6a6.7a1.9a2.6a1.5.83a6.8a7.07a

Means with common subscripts are not significantly different at the 95% probability level.

It should be noted that these yields were taken in area of the country that has a longer growing season and an environment more suited to Bermudagrass growth. In Central Missouri, while it may be possible to obtain four hay harvests of Bermudagrass, three are much more likely.

Bermudagrass does have potential in Central Missouri. However, there are a number of considerations that must be taken into account prior to investing in Bermudagrass.

Cow on a hill

For Central Missouri, the biggest questions are: persistence and winter-hardiness. Common bermudagrasses are found across the Central Missouri region but forage production is low. Of the improved varieties, mild winters for the past several years have not really tested its winter survival ability. In Lincoln, Missouri, Greenfield, Hardie, Guymon, Tifton 44 and Midland varieties have persisted for five years in demonstration plots with no apparent effects of winter damage.

Given its growing season, Bermudagrass has excellent potential to fill in the forage gap created by cool season grasses during the summer. Learning the characteristics of Bermudagrass, its strengths and weaknesses prior to investing in it are advisable to avoid disappointment.

Table 2. Acid detergent fiber (ADF), neutral detergent fiber (NDF), crude protein (CP) and in vitro digestible dry matter (IVDMD) concentrations in commercial Bermudagrass varieties at the Eastern Research Station, Haskell, OK.

Variety ADF% NDF% CP% IDVMD%
Hardie 39.5 73.1 11.2 64.6
Midland 38.4 72.6 12.4 62.3
Midland 40.1 75.5 11.5 62.1
Tifton 44 40.1 75.5 11.5 62.1
Greenfield 38.0 73.4 12.1 62.5
World Feeder 37.5 73.4 12.1 62.5
Quickstand 39.7 74.0 11.3 60.6

Means are not statistically different at the 95% probability level.

(Author: James Rogers, Livestock Specialist)

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Small Farm Tour


Friday, June 2, 10:00 a.m.

Starts at Central Missouri Wholesale Auction, Versailles.

You will see vegetables sold at auction, a vegetable farm with trickle irrigation, confinement hog housing, intensive grazing on a dairy farm, and a greenhouse operation.

This tour is limited to 50 people. To register, contact:
Bill Buehler
Farm Management Specialist
Morgan Co. Univ. Ext. Center
100E Newton, 4th Floor
Versailles, MO 65084

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Taxation Tidbits

The tax reporting cloud has been removed from Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) payments. On March 3, 2000 the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the Wuebker v. Commissioner Tax Court case. The Sixth Court ruled CRP payments are subject to self-employment tax if the CRP land bears a "direct nexus" relationship (connection) to the taxpayer’s trade or business of farming or ranching.

Whether you agree with this ruling or not, the ruling does confirm the time tested axiom that "the substance of a transaction is more important than the form used".

This is an election year and several politicians are entering this CRP taxation arena. U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback has introduced the Conservation Reserve Program Taxation Fairness Act, which (if enacted) would provide that farmers were not, are not, and would not be liable for self-employment tax on CRP payments.

Be careful what you wish for – farm income vs. rental income has some advantages. Remember that tax management is a balancing activity – between income, gift, and estate taxes.

(Author: Parman Green, Farm Business Specialist)

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Publishing Information

Ag Connection is published monthly for Central Missouri Region producers and is supported by University of Missouri Extension, the Commercial Agriculture program, the Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station and the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Managing Editor: Kent Shannon.