Submitted to: Journal of Dairy Science
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/26/2008
Publication Date: 6/24/2008
Citation: Coblentz, W.K. 2008. Forage-based systems for the Upper Midwest. Journal of Dairy Science. 91:309.
Technical Abstract: Recently, the dynamics of agricultural production have changed, particularly as prices for cash-grain crops, such as corn (Zea Mays L.) increase with demand for ethanol production. Other changes likely will be needed to meet increasing public demands for environmentally responsible nutrient management, as well as expanding markets for grazing-based and/or organically produced milk and meat products. Our objectives are to discuss how these external pressures may affect forage systems throughout the region, and identify potential focus areas for future forage research. Excepting corn silage, potential focus areas for research can be divided into five areas: i) improving alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) and other legumes; ii) improving grazing systems; iii) unique forage needs of specific livestock classes; iv) harvest and storage of forage crops; and v) strategies for improved nutrient management. Within each of these broad areas, it is possible to identify specific needs that are both traditional, as well as new and unique. For alfalfa, new research may evaluate alfalfa varieties or management schemes that permit less-frequent harvests, harvest by plant part for multiple end uses (livestock and energy), improved grazing tolerance, and reduced proteolysis during silage fermentation. Grazing initiatives may include assessment of long-term health benefits of grazing, supplementation strategies for grazing dairy cows, strategies to supply adequate forage during the summer slump or gap, and forage options that extend the grazing season. Continued research will be required to assess proper agronomic management of low-cation grass forages for nonlactating dry cows, as well as viable low-energy forages to dilute replacement-heifer diets comprised primarily of corn silage or by-products of ethanol production. Finally, improving nutrient management will require increased opportunities for summer spreading, as well as evaluation of new application methods engineered to reduce volatilization and runoff. Addressing changing forage research needs will require creativity and diligence by scientists, but such efforts are essential for the long-term stability of the dairy and beef industries.