Fiber and its affect on rumen health and production
by Dr. David O. Jensen, Head of nutrition services for IFA
originally published in the Summer 2012 Cooperator magazine
The winter months are past, the weather is warm, and forages are growing again. This is always an exciting time of year and one that affects animal production for the next year. What happens during the next few months will determine the price of forages and their ability to support production. Sometimes we lose sight of the importance of forages in the diets of ruminants. We talk about proteins, amino acids, fats, starch levels, minerals and digestibility of nutrients. Yet forages comprise more than 50 percent of the diets of dairy cattle and greatly affect the health of ruminant animals.
At a recent seminar in California, Dr. Mike Allen from Michigan State University talked about the role of forages in dairy rations. He mentioned that grasses differ from alfalfa in that they have higher neutral detergent fiber (NDF) levels and higher NDF digestibility levels compared to alfalfa. Because of the slower rate at which grass is digested, it is an excellent feed for close-up cows and for late lactation cows. In these cows, gut fill is not a limiting factor in dry matter intake and therefore grass fits quite nicely into rations for these groups.
In high producing cows, however, gut fill is the limiting factor for milk production and in this situation alfalfa, because of its more rapid digestion, will support a higher level of production. High quality, highly digestible fiber from alfalfa will result in higher peak production in most herds. That higher level of production at peak will result in more milk being produced over the entire lactation. As cows become pregnant and milk production begins to decrease, grass hay can be fed if available.
Several agronomic practices aid in the production of quality alfalfa for dairy cattle. One of these is growing a variety of alfalfa that contains sufficient fiber (NDF) to support a healthy rumen. Very low fiber hays with a thin stem and many leaves may produce a high relative feed value (RFV) hay, but they are not going to support healthy rumens. When these high RFV hays are grown or purchased, some source of coarse hay must be fed with it or rumen health and butterfat will suffer. Dr. Allen recommends a 40 percent NDF level with a good NDFD value of 45 percent or higher for a 30-hour test.
Another important practice is to cut the alfalfa at the appropriate time. Younger hay, all else being equal, will result in higher digestibility of NDF. The older the hay gets, the lower the NDFD will be and the less milk it will support. Of course keeping the field weed-free is important and adds to the final quality of the hay.
If you keep these things in mind when you are growing or purchasing hay, they will help you to be satisfied with the animal performance that results.
IFA works to stay in tune with market fluctuations
by Brett Harman, IFA Agronomy Purchasing Dept.
originally published in the Winter 2015 issue of the Cooperator magazine
We are coming to the time of year when growers are planning budgets and deciding which crops to plant in the 2016 growing season. Fertilizer market knowledge is one tool you can use to help set your nutrient input budgets for the coming year. I thought I would offer some current thoughts and trends for these fertilizer markets.Fertilizer prices continue to show little strength as the fall application season advances.
Ammonia prices for November remain unclear at the wholesale level, but retail costs are still drifting slightly lower. Price sheets on the southern plains generally remain flat in many areas. While above normal temperatures limit applications in some areas, other growers are waiting until spring – either for ammonia or other types of nitrogen. Current fundamentals suggest spring prices will be slightly higher than today’s levels.
Urea prices have been flat throughout the autumn season in the United States though there were reports of some increases elsewhere as Chinese suppliers attempted to hold the line on lowering prices. With product no longer moving to the northern stretches of the river system, flat prices are being seen in the upper Midwest, though terminals further south have seen softer prices. Many market-watch newsletters show prices picking up slightly through winter, though many think the upside on pricing is not going to be as high as in previous years as we enter the spring growing season.
Phosphates appeared firm this week, but their recent downtrend could start up again moving into winter. Demand continues to be fair to good in much of the Midwest and eastern corn belts, where fall application continues. Prices continue to be mostly flat, with adequate supplies. Some market indicators suggest that pricing will be weaker through winter, which could knock another few dollars off current prices. Farmers, so far, appear to have been patient with purchases, so waiting may not be difficult. These statements reflect that there is really no clear cut direction to the phosphate market yet.
Potash prices have been steady for the last several weeks. The lower prices we currently have could be encouraging some demand, but manufacturers continue to cut production, showing once again they are trying to manage supplies. Prices are currently at their lowest price level in the last six months – from all indications potash pricing should be a fair value for the next several weeks, even months ahead.
At Intermountain Farmers, the first item on our Mission Statement is:
“First, manufacture and distribute products and deliver services to the agricultural community that are reasonably priced and professionally provided, and identify and develop markets based on customer need and opportunity.”
We try and keep abreast of the ever-changing fertilizer markets every day. Our IFA Certified Crop Advisors are an excellent resource for growers. Please visit with them so they can help you make good, educated decisions for your business.
At IFA, we value your business very much. We try and instill in our patrons a feeling of ownership and partnership in our cooperative. With our knowledge and expertise, we will work hard to earn your business.
Thank you for your support of this member-owned cooperative. We look forward to a positive new growing season on the horizon. Best wishes to each of you this holiday season.
Today is International Day of Rural Women! The first International Day of Rural Women was observed on October 15, 2008, to recognize rural women’s importance in enhancing agricultural and rural development worldwide.
Intermountain Farmers Association has been supporting farm families, and amazing, strong Rural women in Utah since 1923!
Rural women, the majority of whom depend on natural resources and agriculture for their livelihoods, make up over a quarter of the total world population and play a critical role in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty. ?
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Tom Sharp, CCA, Lewiston, UT
There has been a lot of interest in organic acids and their use in agriculture during recent years. These organic acids are derived from ancient deposits of organic matter that have had millions of years to decompose. The organic matter is decomposed much more than the humus that is so desirable in our soils. This dark brown to black product is often found near coal deposits in the earths crust and originated as peat, brown coal, soil, or leonardite. At the molecular level it is an extremely large and complex molecule with no specifically identifiable structure. Organic acids can be broken down into three different parts: humic, fulvic, and humin.
Humic acid is the most commonly available form of organic acid and contains humic, fulvic and humin fractions. This is usually the raw product that has been mined, crushed and screened for proper size. The name humic “acid” is actually a misnomer because it has pH of 11 or higher. Most lawn and garden professionals will refer to humic acid as “humate”. It comes in a dry granular form as well as liquid. Dry humic can be added to most dry fertilizer blends at a rate of 20 – 40 pounds per acre. When blended with dry phosphate fertilizer, humic attracts microbes to the prills and enhances degradation of the waxy protective coating. This speeds up the rate at which the nutrients become available for plant use. Humic also acts like a chelating agent to protect phosphate from being tied up in the soil. This happens because humic has an enormous number of binding sites where nutrients can attach themselves and are protected until needed by a plant.
Liquid humic is commonly added to liquid nitrogen (UAN 32) or to liquid phosphate (10-34-0). UAN 32 is a very popular fertilizer used to top-dress winter wheat in northern Utah and Southern Idaho. The addition of humic to the fertilizer will minimize burning of the leaves and reduce the amount of nitrogen that can volatilize. It is not uncommon to use over 80 available units of nitrogen with the addition of humic on irrigated winter wheat. This is normally done as early as possible in the spring and usually in conjunction with an herbicide application using a ground rig.
Fulvic acid is truly acidic, having a pH below 7 and is relatively easy to extract from the raw humic. It is usually a clear to amber colored liquid and the actual percent fulvic can vary between manufacturers. Several herbicides and foliar nutrients respond well to additions of fulvic to the spray tank. Fulvic is normally very active in the plant and the soil but is only a small percentage of the overall humic.
Humins are the most difficult to extract but are the most stable in the soil and provide more direct plant activity than fulvic. Since they are so difficult to extract, the best way to apply humin to the soil is by using the full humic acid in its raw form.
Organic acids benefit the soil by increasing the water holding capacity, adding stable organic matter to the soil, and increasing the nutrient holding capacity. When added directly to the nutrients being applied, organic acids increase efficiency and protect the environment. In extensive research done by the University of Idaho, organic acids were shown to provide an economic return to growers in almost every trial.
By Krea Mecham, CCA, IFA Crop Advisor, Cedar City, UT.
As you know fertilizer prices are very volatile, we at Intermountain Farmers Association are committed to providing our customers the most effective use of nutrient dollars possible. I would like to offer some suggestions on how to accomplish this goal in alfalfa production:
1. Soil test- know what the nutrient level is in each field. Our plants require balanced nutrition for optimum growth. If you have only been applying phosphorus on your fields, your fields could be adequate in phosphorus. The limiting nutrient for increased production might be potassium or sulfur.
2. Keep records of each field; know what you applied last year. Remember that soil test readings are a measure of how available each nutrient is to the plant. Each field has different characteristics that make the nutrients applied more or less available to the plant. Use this history to help decide the nutrients and rates to apply to each field. Remember the four “R’s”: the Right nutrients, the Right rate, at the Right time, in the Right place.
3. Find ways to increase the availability of the phosphorus. Phosphorus is the least efficient of all the major nutrients we apply to our fields. Provide adequate levels of phosphorus in the soil. Make sure your micronutrient levels are adequate. Low levels of certain micronutrients can cause a decrease in phosphorus uptake. IFA can add humic and fulvic acids to phosphorus, which help prevent lime from tying up the applied phosphorus. Make foliar applications of liquid phosphorus when applying weed sprays or insecticides. Apply liquid phosphorus in water run applications through center pivots.
IFA has introduced two new products to help with phosphorus efficiency:
“Avail” is a product developed by Specialty Fertilizer Company that we use to coat the phosphorus dry prill. “Avail” has a tremendous negative charge that attracts the free floating positively charged calcium and sodium particles in the soil, thus making the applied phosphorus more available to the plant, keeping them from binding with applied phosphorus. “Avail” has been on the market for about ten years, but until fertilizer prices increased to current levels, the economic return was not there.
“Alfa-Boost” is liquid phosphorus based fertilizer developed by IFA for foliar and water run applications. “Alfa-Boost” has ingredients that make phosphorus more available to the plant. “Alfa-Boost” was designed specifically for alfalfa production in the intermountain area.
4. Split applications of potassium. Alfalfa will consume more potassium at one time than it needs.
5. Work with the IFA crop consultant in your area to develop a plan for your farm or ranch.