Grass is the most common crop ensiled in the world, followed by corn and alfalfa. Much of the cropland in the Northeast is better suited to perennial grass production than to legumes or row crop production (Cherney and Kallenbach, 2006). Grasses also have advantages when it comes to nutrient management. Compared to alfalfa, grasses have a greater response to manure, which can be applied multiple times during the season. Grasses use large quantities of nutrients, minimizing the risk of nutrient leaching or runoff. They can remove over twice the nitrogen per acre compared to corn.
Although it is possible to make hay in the Northeast in the spring, the odds are against it. Overall grass silage quality is considerably higher than for grass hay, based on forage lab analyses, but the average quality of grass silage is not yet where it should be. High yields are possible, but the majority of dairy farmers consider forage quality the Achilles’ heel of grasses. Significant advances have been made in recent years in recognizing the potential of well-managed grasses for silage, but on average the level of management is still not as high as with alfalfa.