First Cutting Updates - Week of May 15th, 2017

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

May 17, 2017

First Cutting Updates - Utilizing Alfalfa Heights as a Predictor for Quality

The SCNY team is monitoring alfalfa heights again this spring to help predict quality and %NDF for first cutting hay crop. 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 - please feel free to forward on. To be included on the weekly email, or to be removed from the email, please contact Betsy Hicks,


Comments from Janice: Mowing has begun and it's right on for clear grass fields since orchard grass is heading and other grasses will be heading in the next week. Alfalfa is approaching or at 2 ft this week. Only occasional early buds found. With the adequate soil moisture and the predicted heat for the week ahead we have the potential to gain significant yield in the next week to alfalfa. The weather windows and percent alfalfa will drive when to target harvest of mixed stands. The time is near and the switch from corn planting to hay harvest may be necessary to capture high quality. Wet fields will be a factor to consider when planning harvest. In soils that have been saturated or even waterlogged over the last 3 weeks the alfalfa is obviously stressed. It's growing very slowing and in some fields actually going backwards. There are spots of significant winter damage, mainly crown heaving. These fields are going to have a disappointing yield and may be candidates for turning into corn after first cutting.

Comments for Southern Counties (Broome, Tioga, Chemung, S Cortland):
Most fields saw a good 3" of growth from last week and are above that 20" mark. Hill ground maybe a bit less, but valley ground a bit more. Several fields of triticale and fields of grass have been mowed already, as well as some fields of mixed alfalfa/grass. Fields continue to be drier here than the northern part of the region (I didn't have to use 4wd to access fields this week!), so I would expect more mixed fields to be knocked down in the coming week. Predicted dates to cut for a 50/50 mix in the southern counties is the end of this week to beginning of next week. Forecast looks like rain Thursday/Friday with a decent weekend, although cooler than the heat we're getting today and tomorrow. Pure alfalfa stands still have some time to gain yield while maintaining quality.

Comments for Northern Counties (Tompkins, N Cortland, Onondaga):
Fields saw similar growth to the southern counties in our region - a good 3" overall, hovering around that high teens to low 20's in height. The heat and sun in the next two days will hopefully help to dry out conditions. Predictions for peak quality for a 50/50 mix are looking like this weekend. Don't be fooled by the amount of alfalfa in the stand - often we overestimate the amount in the stand and harvest it later than what the grass's peak quality is. The weekend looks like decent weather, so getting on those mixed fields may be a good idea. We still have time to gain yield in higher percentage alfalfa fields without sacrificing quality. Pure alfalfa stands have time to gain for sure - predictions to cut are still out there to around Memorial Day. The 10-day forecast looks like a small percentage of rain every day, so waiting on the weatherman to figure out his forecast won't hurt quality and will gain tonnage on pure stands in the meanwhile.

Thoughts on pure grass fields that are past peak quality: If you are able to segregate your first cutting, you may want to leave your fields that are past peak quality and save them for dry cow or heifer feed and focus on getting your mixed fields in at peak quality. Certainly, field conditions will play a role, but yield can be a factor to take into account as well.

Please let us know conditions you observe while harvesting, and any comments back about the alfalfa height project are appreciated! We also welcome any sample results you would like to share, so forward them on me, You can also post harvest pictures on our team's Facebook page - and use the hashtag #harvest2017.

Additional Information:

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
• 50/50 mixed alfalfa/grass stands should be cut when nearby alfalfa is 22 inches tall, to achieve 44% NDF
• 100% alfalfa stands should be cut 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 and 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.

The weekly email for the month of May will have a table of the locations around the region where we have measured the alfalfa height, as well as the elevation. 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. We now cover six counties throughout South Central NY, including Tioga, Chemung, Broome, Tompkins, Cortland and Onondaga. Other teams and associations throughout the state are also measuring fields. For more information, contact that county's association to find out if fields are being measured there.

Alfalfa Heights - Week of May 15th, 2017 (pdf; 229KB)











Upcoming Events

Cornell Hemp Field Day

August 11, 2022
Geneva, NY

The Cornell Hemp Field Day will incorporate multiple workshop-style talks on several topics including hemp genetics and breeding, pest management, and grain and fiber production. It will also involve demonstrations of combine harvesting and baling. This hands-on field day will have interactive workshops offering DEC credits on the use of pesticides and disease management. Digital ag applications and an introduction of the USDA hemp germplasm repository will also be included.

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Pasture Walk: Multi-Species Grazing and Direct Marketing

August 13, 2022
Van Etten, NY

Join livestock farmers, Ike and Dave Mallula for a tour of their multi-species grazing operation. Learn how they manage beef, poultry, and hogs on pasture, and how they engage consumers to direct market pasture-raised meats

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2022 Aurora Farm Field Day

Event Offers DEC Credits

August 18, 2022
Aurora, NY

2 DEC Recertification Credits will be Available

for Commercial and Private Field Crop Licenses

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New York State Farm Directory launching in June 2022

From our friends at Cornell CALS

As part of Cornell Cooperative Extension's role in strengthening New York State agriculture, we are helping to spread word of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets' plans to launch a statewide online Farm Directory. The Farm Directory, which launches in mid-June, will connect consumers to producers of farm products and promote New York farms.

The Farm Directory will appear on the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets' website at It will show information for each listed farm, which can include the farm name, farm type, point of contact, addresses, telephone number, email address, website, social media, and a listing of all available products produced by the farm. Other categories of interest to the public, like the farm's inclusion in the New York State Grown & Certified Program and designations of organic, halal or kosher certified may also be noted. Website visitors will be able to sort or search the directory by any field.

Since not every farm offers products to the public at the farm site, each farm can indicate whether it is open to the public, or if there is another means that their farm product can be accessed. This might include listing a distributor, a brand name that your product is eventually marketed under, or a specific consumer-facing website where the public can determine where to purchase your product in a retail location. The information available on the directory for each farm can be tailored to meet the individual needs of each business and farmers will be able to update their information as desired.

The creation of the Farm Directory derives from Section 16(52) of the New York State Agriculture and Markets Law, requiring the Department to create a directory of every farm in New York State. Farms will be receiving a package in the mail shortly outlining the Farm Directory purpose, a survey to collect information on the farm to be included in the Directory, and a return envelope.

If you choose not to have your farm participate in the Directory, you are required by law to notify the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets of this decision by opting out. Farms may opt out by returning the provided survey or indicating it through the online survey linked at the website above.

Farms that initially opt out can later contact the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets if they wish to be included at any point. Also, farms can also contact the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets if they wish to opt out after initially choosing to participate in the Directory.

For questions or additional information on the Farm Directory, please contact the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets at (518) 485-1050 or

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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The team updates our facebook page frequently - follow us to be updated on our events, see some fun videos and get local area updates!

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 farmís 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 farmís 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