With the late start to the corn planting season, alfalfa growers may be forced to make a decision when first cutting approaches. Do they keep planting corn or harvest first-crop hay?
Delaying alfalfa harvest one day can cause an average drop of four relative feed value points. At 70 cents to $1.25 per point, a four-point drop results in a loss of $2.80 to $5 per ton.
If harvest weights average 4 tons per acre for the first cutting, then the loss is $11.20 to $20 per acre per day.
Delaying the first-crop harvest means all subsequent cuttings are delayed as well, which could be an issue when trying to get that last crop harvested in the fall.
Delaying corn planting past mid-May reduces yield potential but has little effect on quality. Corn yield loss is two to three bushels per day after May 15 in the Corn Belt, which means the loss is a minimum of $9 to $14 per day per acre, figuring $4.50 per bushel of corn.
It is generally easier to offset a reduction in corn silage or grain yield than it is to make up for the milk-production losses that result from feeding poor-quality haylage.
While late-planted corn could result in yield loss, late-harvested alfalfa has yield (lodging) and quality-loss consequences. Thus, attempting to get haylage harvested on time is probably the best option overall.
Source: DuPont Pioneer.