Determining a Harvest Date for Corn Silage

Corn silage, high in energy and digestibility, is a popular feed for ruminant animals.  There are many factors that influence silage quality; however, one of the biggest is the timing of harvest.  Harvesting too late results in lower fiber digestibility, harder kernels, less sugar and lower milk per ton of corn silage.  It also is harder to achieve a packing density of >15 lbs. of dm/cu foot and is more vulnerable to yeast and molds.  These factors could result in 2 pounds less production per cow.  That translates into almost $10,000 loss annually on a 100 cow herd. With corn silage harvest beginning soon, it is time to start thinking about and planning for harvest.  It is not too early to think about moisture levels of the corn silage, which are essential for the ensiling process. We highly suggest using a moisture tester to determine the moisture level of your corn.  DO NOT guess! By using a moisture tester, you can determine when your corn is ready for harvest. The following are steps for using an on-farm moisture tester: When the kernel is dented and a kernel milk line begins to inch its way from the tip of the kernel toward the base, it’s time to start measuring the moisture of corn. 1. Collect a representative sample of about 10 plants at random from each field.  Keep in mind soil moisture, weather, planting date and hybrid maturity, which all can affect the dry-down rate of corn plants.  Fields planted on different dates can vary and different hybrids can vary.  Make sure to collect a representative sample preferably from each...

Comfort Factors Effect Laying Behavior

You probably have often heard that humans require about eight hours of sleep per night. If we don’t get enough rest, we have trouble performing to the best of our abilities. This statement also holds true for cows. Cows should lay down about 14 hours per day in order for them to rest and ruminate so that they can produce at their best level. There are several things that come to mind that affect my ability to sleep such as the temperature of the room or the amount of noise present. There are also factors that affect the comfort level of cows and their ability to rest. The Type of Management System: The type of management system affects a cows laying behavior. Below is a table adapted from a webinar on dairy cow behavior created by Janice Siegford of Michigan State University. The table shows time budgets and compares the types of management systems (Automatic Milking System (AMS), Pastured Cow, and Confined Cow) to how a top producing cow would spend their time. As you can see in the table, confined cows have a larger variability in time spent lying compared to the other types of management systems.  Because of the larger variability, it may be more important for managers in a confinement system to focus on the other comfort factors in this post. Comfort of stalls: The level of comfort in a stall has a major affect on the time spent laying. Some factors to think about when considering the comfort level of the stall include: the type of bedding used and the deepness of the bedding. Sand...

Feeding Behavior of Cows During Gestation: Indicator of Milk Production

Similar to humans, gestation can be a stressful time for a cow.  Likewise, they too can experience prepartum and postpartum depression, otherwise known as gestational depression, which can have an impact on eating behavior.  Right before calving, the behavior of cows can be a great indicator of milk production.  It is important to know this so that you can maintain or lessen the reduction in dry matter intake (DMI) during gestation to maximize milk production. In a study titled, “Eating Behavior and the Decline in Feed Intake of Holstein Cows During the Transition Period” completed by Oregon State University, the objective was to evaluate whether the eating behavior of transition cows differed due to the level of feed intake depression. Before the study, it was known that the DMI of prepartum Holstein cows during gestation typically declines 30-35% during the last 3 weeks of gestation with the most decline occurring during the last week.  Also, the risk of metabolic diseases, such as milk fever and ketosis, increases.  Plasma non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA), have been shown to be elevated in cows with moderate and severe DMI depression. Oregon State researchers compared the behavior of cows with low dry matter intake depression (5.3%) and high dry matter intake depression (31.6%) prepartum.  The decline in DMI was associated with time spent at the feed bunk and DMI per feed bunk visit, which, not surprisingly, decreased more for cows with high prepartum intake depression in comparison to low prepartum intake depression.  The number of visits to the feed bunks did not differ for either group, but the low prepartum intake depression group spent...

ElectroKnight: Dehydration Prevention for Calves

The History of Calf Electrolytes: Calves getting diarrhea (scours) in their first two weeks of life has been a problem for as long as any of us can remember. Traditionally, we have done two things for a calf with scours. These are: 1.   Pull away the milk feedings to starve the pathogens that are causing the calf to scour. 2.   Feed an electrolyte with a recommended use rate of 4-6 ounces per 2 quarts of water. The basis of these two recommendations is that up until the past 5 to 10 years, calves were often fed one pound of milk replacer powder per calf per day. This level of feeding was barely meeting the calf’s maintenance requirements let alone its immune system needs. By pulling away the low level of milk feeding, the calves were being starved. In response to this “starvation program,” electrolytes were developed to provide a rapid and quick energy source to calves so they would hopefully stay alive along with the electrolytes needed for hydration. Why Calf Electrolytes are formulated differently today: Calves are now often fed at least 1.5 pounds of powder per calf per day to help meet maintenance needs, and to get calves to grow and support the immune system. In addition to more milk being fed, we no longer pull milk away during periods of scours. This is a dramatic difference in nutrition for the calf before and during scours. Written & Submitted by: Dr. Steve Hayes from Day 1 Technology, LLC   A Unique Option for Feeding ANC Calf ElectroKnight In addition to using this electrolyte for a...

How Heat Stress can Lead to Acidosis

Heat stress is consistently linked to a decrease in production. The simple answer to why a cow is producing less is that her DMI has decreased. In order to compensate for this, we feed higher concentrate diets; however, there is an interesting physiological process that takes place in heat-stressed animals that can make feeding high concentrate diets a problem. Imagine a heat-stressed cow. What do you see? She is most likely panting in an attempt to cool herself. When a cow pants she is exhaling CO2 at a high rate. This can also be referred to as hyperventilating. As you may know, hyperventilating causes several imbalances in the body. One of these imbalances is the pH of blood. Blood has a pH of around 7.4, which is almost neutral. In order to keep the pH balanced, the body regulates carbonic acid and bicarbonate in the blood. The carbonic acid is obviously the acid in this system making the bicarbonate the base. When a cow pants at a high rate, she is removing carbonic acid from the blood through her respiratory system. The acid leaves the body in the form of CO2. With the removal of acid occurring, a cow’s blood will have a higher pH and become basic. A basic blood pH is indicative of respiratory alkalosis. It is important to note, an animal’s body will always try to correct for imbalances. In this case it is done by decreasing the amount of bicarbonate in the blood through urinary excretion. The problem of acidosis arises during the evening hours. During the cool evening hours, cows will no longer pant,...