Producers from as far away as Texas and Mississippi learned about the newest hay equipment and improved summer forages at the May 31 forage field day at the LSU AgCenter Southeast Research Station.

Animal operations are becoming larger and requiring more, higher quality forage, according to Mike McCormick, resident coordinator at the station.“This year we’re focusing on some of the newer equipment that allows the guys to cut and bale hay faster and at a more nutritious state.” 

The morning portion of the program featured speakers covering topics of interest to commercial hay producers as well as those producing for their personal farm.

LSU AgCenter soil specialist J Stevens warned producers of several products he’s encountered in the past year making claims that can’t be supported.“I ran across a product a few months ago that was nothing but ground up limestone in a 2-gallon jug that claimed to do the same as one ton of lime per acre. These types of products are designed to make your wallet thinner and their wallets much thicker.”

Growers are beginning to experience some drought conditions since temperatures have increased over the past four weeks, said LSU AgCenter forage specialist Ed Twidwell.“A lot of producers don’t believe it is possible to get good quality hay from bahia grass. But in the early season – May and June – the quality is not really that bad. It’s really when you start getting into July and August when your quality starts decreasing.”

The indoor program ended with a panel discussion made up of individuals producing forage for beef, dairy and horses.Each discussed their operations – what works and doesn’twork and what they would like to do better. 

Mack Brown, owner of Brown Dairy Farm at Mt. Hermon, La., said silage works for him year in and year out and he doesn’t see any reason to change as long as it fulfills his need.

Bruce Roberts, owner of Coastal Farms in Whitesand, Miss., has found that baleage is the way to go in his beef operation. “There are two main benefits that we’ve found. One, baleage will insulate you during drought conditions, and two, there is less waste.”

Roberts said his cows eat baleage like “eating watermelon” and he’s not losing the 30 percent that he lost with regular hay.“When we lose 30 percent of the 1,200 bales that we put up, it’s like driving down the road with $15,000 in $100 bills and letting the wind blow. We just can’t afford not to go with baleage.”

Sharon Londono, from Oak Hill Ranch in Folsom, La., said concentration on sampling is very important in the horse business. “When I started at the ranch back in 1992, we began an intense forage program that requires us to take forage, soil and water samples every year. We do this because horses have a very sensitive digestive system.”

Paying close attention to the forage program avoids many of the hoof and digestive problems that affect profits, she said.

Following the indoor program, field day participants had an opportunity to see some of the latest hay cutters, balers and wrappers demonstrated.

Freddy Geiselbreth, owner of Geiselbreth Farms LLC in Terry, Miss., has been in the custom hay business for 12 years and believes in Sumrall 007 Hybrid Bermuda grass.“I have to cut 10,000 bales of premium hay off of 25 acres. We’ve had some problems with 007, but it’s not a grass problem, it’s a farm problem.”

Geiselbreth believes it has to do with soil conditions and weather more than anything else.

McCormick said one of the main goals of the field day was to allow producers to see what’s available in new equipment. “There’s a whole range of equipment that will fill the needs of the small or large producer. There is one piece of equipment that’s out now that will bale the hay and actually wrap the plastic without ever stopping.”

That’s the kind of innovation needed to keep producers more efficient and making money on the farm, he said. “When you can save the labor of one man, you are actually saving a lot of money on the farm.”

After a sponsored lunch, participants viewed research plots, milking facilities, the forage testing lab and experimental dairy waste lagoons at the station.