So many people in the hunting industry make wild claims about how much protein their forages contain but they leave out, “for 2 days and at early growth stages.” Here are the factors that affect palatability and nutrition on ANYTHING you grow.
- Proper soil PH. To get effective growth and uptake of nutrients, you need to have a soil PH in the 6.0-7.0 range.
- High amounts of soil organic matter. We want to leave plant residues on the soil surface and do what we can each year to incorporate organic matter into the soil. We need soil organic matter to help hold nutrients. We need it to help reduce water runoff and to help hold moisture. We need organic matter to help reduce leaching of the fertilizers we put down as well as the nutrients currently in the soil. Without soil organic matter, we can’t capture and hold what is essential to effective forage growth.
- A properly balanced fertilizer program. We only get out of what we put into our fields. If you need 200 units of nitrogen to grow corn and you only put down 100, you can’t expect good growth. If your hay field needs 200-300 units of potassium and you only put down 50, you’re going to have stunted fields and perhaps those that don’t last more than a couple years. You also can create deficiencies by excess. It is harmful to continually put high amounts of phosphorous on your soil if it’s already excess in that nutrient. Everything in life is about balance. Keep your soil nutrients balanced to get proper growth. Improper growth will be lower in nutrition and less palatable to animals.
- Use of micro nutrients through a dry fertilizer program or using liquid foliar plant foods. Most progressive farmers now realize the benefits to adding zinc, manganese, copper, boron and cobalt to their soybean and corn fields. Most farmers have been using boron on their hay fields for many years and for good reasons. Micro nutrients are essential for reducing in plant stresses. Any forage that is stressed, will be less palatable and lower producing.