Nearly 200 area beef producers gathered for the 2013 Beef Forage Tour. The event was a concerted effort by the University of Missouri’s Extension and its Southwest Research Center with the added support of the Southwest Missouri Cattlemen’s Association created a banquet of relevant forums.
“We realized the University was not going to have a regular field day like they do in September,” noted Eldon Cole from the Lawrence County extension office, “It just so happened that we typically have a Southwest Cattlemen’s Association Tour of some farms this time of the year so it seemed like a natural fit to pull together some activity at the Southwest Research Center here with the Cattlemen’s Association.”
Dr. Rob Kallenbach, a State Forage Extension Specialist for the University of Missouri, kicked off the tour with an information intensive presentation on the three-R’s for quality baleage. “I tried to come up with a simple way to say what is important with the right moisture, the right wrap and right now,” he said.
When hitting the fields to cut forage it is important to have the right moisture content to start. Kallenbach explained, “Ideally it would be somewhere between 50 and 55 percent moisture. A product having between 40 and 60 percent moisture can ensile or ferment well and give equally good products, so there’s a lot of flexibility with the moisture content.”
Second of the R’s is protecting the fodder with the correct wrap to ensure proper ensiling. “Typically a 4-mil thickness of plastic is ideal for farm use,” he noted, “Less plastic than that and the forage doesn’t keep as well and more plastic than that is just a waste.”
The final step of Kallenbach’s three-R’s is promptly wrapping the baleage to maintain that moisture content and the quality of the forage. “The bales need to be wrapped within a 24-hour period,” he added, “So if you get them baled at 2 p.m. you’d like to have them wrapped by 2 p.m. the next day.”
After the bales are wrapped you want to keep an eye on the bales checking for holes. He encouraged the visitors to take a walk around their stacks of bales to check and if there are holes in the wrapping they will require a patch.
“We demonstrated what works and what doesn’t work. There were some questions as to why is baleage better when you do this or that. Certainly the demonstration where we poked a hole in the bale to see what happens when it’s not sealed showing it begins to rot,” said Kallenbach.
It was a good demonstration for folks and as noted by Cole, “Instead of show and tell, it was show and smell. It was an excellent teaching tool. There’s nothing like getting farmers on the grounds, smelling, seeing and tasting it.”
Money matters concerning baleage production was a big topic with tour-takers with the restrictive economy. Kallenbach noted those costs, “The wrapping machines sell around $15,000 and the wrap costs about $5 to $6 per bale. In-line wrappers are more expensive to start with coming in around $22,000 to $30,000, but the costs come down to $3 per bale so it’s more economical in the long run. Naturally, it depends on the amount of bales you do and the size of your operation too. Either can make fine quality feeds.”
Cole added, “Farming is a year-round business. Start planning now for the purchases you’ll make in 2014.”
Part 2 will discuss feeding, breeding and fall weed control.


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