First Cutting Updates Week of May 25, 2015

Betsy Hicks, Area Dairy Specialist
South Central New York Dairy & Field Crops

May 27, 2015

This past week, many farms have gotten into the thick of harvesting first cutting and several have actually completed harvest and covered bunk. Conditions in Chemung and Tioga Counties have been a little drier than in Cortland and Tompkins and have allowed a lot of fields to be harvested. Across the region, orchard grass has been seen to be fully headed and most all alfalfa is in at least early bud stage to budded, and some are at 30+ inches in height. For peak quality for dairy rations, remember first cutting alfalfa should be mowed at 28” in a pure stand to achieve 40% NDF! It goes without being said, but the better quality hay crop you put in now affects your production and feed bill YEAR ROUND. We anticipate that most all the fields we are measuring will be mowed by this time next week. If you would like to share your 2015 hay crop samples’ NDF and protein back to Janice and Betsy, please feel free to email them to us or give us a call!
The SCNY Dairy & Field Crops Team of Cornell University Cooperative Extension is monitoring alfalfa heights this spring to help predict quality and %NDF. Alfalfa height has been proven to be a reliable indicator of NDF values in the field for alfalfa, alfalfa/grass mixed and all grass stands. Results will be compiled and emailed on a weekly basis until first cutting has been completed.

The table lists the locations around the region where we have measured the alfalfa height, as well as the elevation. The table gives predicted harvest dates for a 100% grass stand, a mixed grass/alfalfa stand and a 100% alfalfa stand. Even if your fields aren’t measured, you can use the location and elevation as a guide to conditions that may be similar to your own. If the table reads “too early”, the height of the alfalfa in that field was too short to give a reliable prediction on harvest date.

The numbers that are indicators for using alfalfa heights for NDF content are as follows:
• 100% grass stands should be cut when nearby alfalfa is 14 inches tall, to achieve 50% NDF
• Begin cutting 50/50 mixed alfalfa/grass stands when nearby alfalfa is 22 inches tall, to achieve 44% NDF
• Begin cutting 100% alfalfa stands when alfalfa is 28 inches tall, to achieve 40% NDF

Predicted days to cut are based on daily NDF increases for grasses of 1.0% point, 50/50 mixed alfalfa/grass stands of 0.8% points, and alfalfa of 0.5% points. Predictions are adjusted for the coming week’s weather.

Typically NDF increases about 0.8 to 1.2 per day for grasses, with cooler weather being the lower end of the range and warmer weather being the higher end.
For alfalfa, NDF increases about 0.4 to 0.7 per day, also dependent upon warm/cool weather.

For questions, you can reach Janice at 753.5215 or or Betsy at 753.5213 or

Look for our email weekly for the newest updates!

Alfalfa Heights - May 25, 2015 (pdf; 134KB)
  • spreadsheet showing heights and corresponding predicted harvest dates











Upcoming Events

Winter Crop Meeting 2024 - Dryden Event

Event Offers DEC Credits

January 19, 2024 : Winter Crop Meeting 2023 - Dryden Event
Dryden, NY

Attend this year's Winter Crop Meeting 2024 at the Dryden VFW
Speakers will be covering the following topics:

  • Agriculture and Weather Extremes: How Can We Adapt? How do we work with Public Policy?
  • TBD
  • Weed Management Updates: Herbicide Resistant Weeds and Programs to Control Them.
  • Dairy Sustainability Updates: How & Why Should We Assess a Dairy Carbon Footprint? On Farm Research to Support Sustainability. 
  • View Winter Crop Meeting 2024 - Dryden Event Details


    NYS Climate Action Council Draft Scoping Plan

    The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) was signed into law in 2019 as one of the most ambitious climate laws in the world. The law created the Climate Action Council (the Council), which is tasked with developing a draft scoping plan that serves as an initial framework for how the State will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve net-zero emissions, increase renewable energy usage, and ensure climate justice. On December 20, the Council voted to release the draft scoping plan for public comment. January 1, 2022 marks the beginning of a 120-day public comment period to receive feedback from the public as the Council works to develop and release a final scoping plan by the end of 2022. Read the Draft Scoping Plan [PDF] including the  entire document with appendices.

    From Our Team to Yours: COVID-19 Resources for Dairy Farmers

    The South Central NY Dairy and Field Crops Team has compiled a list of articles that we think may be useful to dairy producers and their service providers as we all navigate the COVID-19 situation. Please stay safe and reach out to our team if you have questions or need help finding information. We are here to help with tools and resources to support all of the normal day-to-day dairy and field crop management considerations, in addition to emerging topics related to COVID-19.

    For the full list, click here: COVID-19 Resources for Dairy Farmers

    Regional Team Operations During COVID-19

    Click here for an operations update.

    Dairy Acceleration Program Funds Available

    Funds available for the
    • organization of financial records/benchmarking up to $1,000
    • continued business planning (for farms awarded in a previous year) up to $2,500
    • business planning up to $5,000
    Guidelines remain the same DAP covers 80% of the cost up to the value of the award and the farm is responsible for 20%.  Visit


    CCE Hemp Exchange Board On-Line
    Dear Hemp Growers & Processors: Our exchange board has its first postings; plenty of interest in selling and purchasing. You can check it out at

     *The NY Hemp Exchange Board is posted for your information and research purposes. Cornell Cooperative Extension does not endorse or recommend any product, service, individual, business or other entity. All "Hemp Exchanges" are posted at the discretion of CCE. "Hemp Exchanges" requests may be denied or removed at any time for any reason Maire Ullrich, MBA Agriculture Program Leader Eastern New York Horticulture Team - Vegetables Cornell University Cooperative Extension Orange County

    2018 Drug Residue Prevention Manual

    For more than 30 years, the U.S. dairy industry has focused educational efforts on the judicious use of antibiotics through the annual publication of a Best Practices Manual. The 2018 edition of the National Dairy FARM Program: Farmers Assuring Responsible Management? Milk and Dairy Beef Drug Residue Prevention Manual is the primary educational tool for dairy farm managers throughout the country on the judicious and responsible use of antibiotics, including avoidance of drug residues in milk and meat.

    The manual is a quick resource to review those antibiotics approved for dairy animals and can also be used as an educational tool and resource for farm managers as they develop on-farm best management practices necessary to avoid milk and meat residues. Visit the Manual and Form Library to download copies of this important tool!

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    Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship

    Western New York Dairy Farmers Kim Shaklee and Janice Brown make the news with their successful Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship match. Kim and Janice are Master Graizers, and they are working hard with their Apprentice, Travis Belmore and preparing Lauren La Mar for an official Apprenticeship.

    ProDairy Forage Management

    Are you prepared to change your routine this spring?

    By: Joe Lawrence, Cornell CALS PRO-DAIRY and Ron Kuck, Cornell Cooperative Extension North Country Regional Ag Team

    While spring tasks vary by farm, there are many "rites of spring," and they are often completed in a fairly rigid sequence. Depending on the farm, these often include fixing fence, spreading manure, planting new seedings, planting corn and harvesting first cutting, and are often performed in this order.

    We are optimistic that the upcoming turn in weather will allow these task to be accomplished in a timely manner, but at this point it is time to ask yourself: Are you willing to change your spring routine?

    In addition to adverse weather it is no secret that everyone is facing extremely tight economic times, and dealing with forage inventories of poor digestibility forages from 2017. This combination of factors makes it more critical than ever to be ready to tackle the task that will have the most impact on your business at the proper time.

    Recent reference articles on dealing with tough times:
    • Key Opportunities to Optimize 2018 Crop Production Efficiency
    • Resources for Dealing with Spring Weather Delays
    First Cutting
    The number one focus should be on timely harvest of first cutting.
    • Park the corn planter when a field of first cutting is ready for harvest.
    o Monitoring 1st cut harvest timing
    • Approach harvest by the acre, not by the field. Be ready to skip over a field that has passed its optimum harvest stage.
    o Dynamic Harvest Schedules
    • Strategically plan feed storage to best utilize forage inventories for the right group of animals.
    o Strategic Forage Storage Planning
    o When More is Better
    Corn Planting
    The window for planting for silage is generally wider than for grain, which is why first cutting can and should take priority over corn planting. However, in the event of extreme delays in planting corn, performance will diminish with late plantings. If corn planting progresses into late May or early June, begin to consider alternative options for those acres. Previous research from Cornell and Penn State suggest a 0.5 to 1 ton/acre per week decline in silage yield for planting after mid to late May.

    First and foremost during a time of year that can be very busy and stressful, taking every precaution to keep your team safe is critical.

    The idea of fitting all of this work into a condensed time period, and still getting key tasks completed before critical deadlines can seem impossible, but year after year many find unique ways to get it all done. Consider working with neighbors, custom operators or renting equipment to accomplish these key tasks on time.

    If you currently utilize custom operators, now is a good time to set up a time to meet with them and make sure you are on the same page to get tasks accomplished in the time-frame needed. Make sure that your expectations and goals are clearly defined. They will also be under stress to fit their work into a condensed period and meet their customers' expectations, so defining expectations and pre-planning how to most efficiently get the work accomplished when the custom operator arrives can go a long way to increase the chances for success.

    NYSERDA Agriculture Energy Audit Program

    NYSERDA offers energy audits to help eligible farms and on-farm producers identify ways to save energy and money on utility bills. Reports include recommendations for energy efficiency measures.

    Eligible farms include but are not limited to dairies, orchards, greenhouses, vegetables, vineyards, grain dryers, and poultry/egg. The farms must also be customers of New York State investor-owned utilities and contribute to the System Benefits Charge (SBC). Please check your farm’s current utility bills to see if your farm pays the SBC.

    Energy Audit Options
    You can request the level of energy audit that best fits your farm’s needs. NYSERDA will assign a Flexible Technical Assistance Program Consultant to visit your farm and perform an energy audit at no cost to you.

    For more information and the NYSERDA Agriculture Energy Audit Program Application click here