Wet Year Blamed For Lower Alfalfa Cuttings And Lower Quality Forage

(WNAX) — The number of alfalfa cuttings along with the forage quality is down this year in many parts of South Dakota due to the continuing and excessive rain. SDSU Extension Range Management Specialist Sean Kelly says that constant rainfall has made getting quality forage a major challenge for producers…

“They’ve definitely been having enough trouble getting enough cuttings down and even when they do get some cuttings of alfalfa down, you know, fighting the rain soon as they get it knocked down. Seems like we get these two and three inch rains and storms and it gets rained on and it’s just…it’s been a struggle this year to get quality forage put up.”
He advises producers to be very cautious about the hay they’re purchasing…

“On the feed side is just be real diligent, you know especially if you’re purchasing hay; be real diligent on the quality you know, try to…you know, find out as much history as you can on it. How it was put up, where it was put up, you know, probe some samples of it if you can and send those in to see what kind of quality you have and kind of go from there.
Kelly says his office along with some other West river extension offices have been getting reports of the fungus ergot showing up…

“Ergot seems to be another issue that’s been going on this summer and I think it’s may even spread into this fall. Ergot in the, especially in our native pastures where you got western wheatgrass and stuff like that, seems like Ergot’s just been really bad, at least out here in our part of the state and then further out west the Extension office’s has been getting calls about that.”
He says ergot is a difficult problem for producers to get a handle on…

“There’s no practical ways to get rid of it in your pasture. The best way is to obviously graze the pasture before you know, like your western wheatgrass; grasses like that before the ergot gets into the seedhead so you…ideally you try to graze it before you know, the grass shoots that seedhead, but you know out here and further west Mellette and Todd County, those guys; they stockpile winter…or stockpile western wheatgrass for winter grazing.”
Kelly says producers need to keep an eye on their cattle if they suspect they’ve gotten ergot as the toxic alkaloid in it doesn’t go away even when temperatures drop below freezing.