LEXINGTON, Ky. Forage producers know that fall is an important time for their enterprise. Jimmy Henning, University of Kentucky (UK) College of Agriculture forage specialist, says there are many ways to make this season successful.
To ensure quality forage there are a few things to remember. If producers want to no-till alfalfa into fescue sod, Henning said they will have more success if they start killing the tall fescue in the fall for two reasons. The first is that using a translocated herbicide will kill the sod but also work on the problem of perennial weeds, and secondly it allows the sod to fully decompose before spring seedings.
"If you are concerned with erosion, you can drill wheat into the field," he said. "This wheat will need to be killed prior to seeding next spring." Fall is an excellent time to test soil, especially for ground to be seeded to alfalfa or clover. Doing it now will give producers time to get the fertility applied and as well as allow any needed lime to start reacting.
Henning recommends talking to a local agriculture distributor about grass, clover and alfalfa seed for planting next spring. Most can find any variety you want if you give them enough time.
"Take time to look over the UK Variety Testing reports to find the best variety for you," he continued. "They are available at your local Extension office or on the UK College of Agriculture Web site."
Fall also is a good time to control some of the broadleaf weeds that infest pastures. Several broadcast herbicides can be used to damage existing clover, but this clover easily can be reseeded into the field next year.
"Nitrogen applied in late fall and I mean from Halloween to Thanksgiving will stimulate tillering and will help thicken grass stands," Henning said.
Another thing to consider is drilling wheat into alfalfa stands to increase the first cutting next year. This also helps to provide natural competition for chickweed and henbit, which basically are opportunistic weeds. Since this practice results in an early and heavy first crop, producers need to be prepared to make haylage or round bale silage to capture the best yield and quality of the crop.
"This year our pastures are probably going to last well into the fall," Henning said. "We still need to know the quality of the hay we are putting up. Perhaps we have some hay in square bales that might be good enough to sell."
Hay tests can be done through private labs or through the Ky. Dept. of Agriculture. The Dept. of Ag. test only costs $10 and they come to the farm to take the sample and they've added a service of helping producers market hay as cash hay.