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Spring Harvest Target

We define a forage as a crop that can meet the effective fiber needs of a cow when fed as the primary forage source in the diet [GIS-18]. We need to harvest forage grasses and legumes to optimize the fiber content (NDF) for the class of livestock being fed, therefore NDF is the most useful harvest date target. There is a relatively small range in optimal NDF for lactating dairy cows, making correct harvest management decisions relative to quality critical. A reliable method to estimate the fiber content of grass and alfalfa-grass mixtures would help producers in timing harvesting operations to optimize the quality of the harvested forage [GIS-22]. Once the forage is harvested and stored, an accurate forage quality analysis is needed prior to ration balancing. Fiber content is primarily a function of maturity. This is also true for CP, although species differ in CP content.