Tools for the Modern Forage Manager to Maximise Yield and Quality

During this session Christian Duchesneau looked at new tools being made available to agronomists and primary producers to support their forage management decisions. It was a joint presentation with Philippe Seguin.

 Christian Duchesneau is a forage and turf expert and farm succession program coordinator with Synagri. Christian Duchesneau is an agronomist with a bachelor’s degree in bio-agronomy from Laval University. He is heavily involved in the national and provincial agricultural sectors. He acted in the past as chair of the Forage and Turf Committee of the Canadian Seed Trade Association and vice-president of the conseil Québécois des plantes fourragères.

Christian spoke about the Forage-U-Pick mapping interface, with soil zones, which narrows down field characteristics. The outcome suggests forage crops best suited to producers based on their conditions. This tool also contains information about management, seeding instructions and more. Once a forage species, or mixture, is selected, producers can use the Seed Rate calculator to learn about the seeding rate, cost by species and total costs. This Seed Rate calculator is helpful because the seed rate is different by species even if their desired stand percentage is the same.

Next, Philippe Seguin spoke about NUTRI-Fourrager, a decision aid tool to estimate the pre-harvest nutritive values of grass based on simple measures done in the field.

Philippe Seguin conducts research on the management, physiology and ecology of forage crops and on the evaluation of new crop species and new crop uses (e.g, as a source of health-beneficial compounds and biofuels) for eastern Canada. Philippe Seguin joined McGill University as Assistant Professor in the Department of Plant Science and became Associate Professor in the same department in 2006. He has been a full professor since 2018. He served as chair of the Department of Plant Science between 2009 and 2014 and as Acting Associate Dean (Research) between August 2016 and January 2017.

Forage quality is a key component of dairy farm profitability and neutral detergent fibre (NDF) concentration is a key variable that changes rapidly over time. NDF is linked to intake and rumination. When NDF changed from 53 per cent to 48 per cent, there was a drop in milk cost of three dollars per litre, illustrating harvesting time of NDF is very important for profitability. Farmers need quick measurement in the field. For example, waiting 10 days for harvesting an alfalfa-timothy mixture can see a five per cent increase in value.

In New York, there were predictive equations for alfalfa quality (PEAQ) developed for pure alfalfa, based on its height and stage of development. It has since been adapted for alfalfa-grass mixtures. Phillipe’s team researched and adapted PEAQ to be used under Quebec conditions called NUTRI-Fourrager. It is a web application to estimate NDF concentration and relative feed value (RFV) based on simple measurements made by a farmer. This tool is used in order to identify the most appropriate time to harvest alfalfa-grass mixes for first and second harvests to maximise nutrition.

In order to use NUTRI-Fourrager, producers need a 50-by-50 centimetre quadrant, a ruler, scissors, plastic bags, a small kitchen scale, internet and five sample areas of a field. In each quadrant measure the tallest alfalfa stem, the tallest grass stem, the alfalfa proportion in mixture by weight and the development stage of mature alfalfa stem for RFV only. Producers enter all of these measurements into the web application which will generate a report once complete. The report indicates the optimal timing of forage harvest.

These tools provide useful information to farmers, personalised to their farms. 

Hyperlinks:

https://www.canadianfga.ca/staff/christian-duchesneau-11/

https://www.canadianfga.ca/staff/philippe-seguin-18/

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