Common Alfalfa Dilemmas and How to Solve Them

Spring is rapidly approaching and with spring brings a new set of tasks to be accomplished and decisions that must be made on your farm. Checking alfalfa fields for winter damage is one of those tasks that is really easy to overlook, but always time well spent. Maybe it gets passed over because we feel guilty spending time on a nice day just walking around the fields, and it does not feel like work. Determining Yield Potential One of the first things you can do in the spring once the plants start to green up is do a plant count to determine if there is good yield potential. According to Dan Undersander at the University of Wisconsin, it is more accurate to count stems per square foot than plants per square foot to evaluate yield potential. Anything greater than 40 stems per square foot represents a healthy stand that has potential to yield well. If your field has less than 39 stems per square foot you should do something to increase yield on that field. Here is one of those alfalfa dilemmas. What is the best thing to do with a poor stand? There are many options depending on your forage inventory situation. The most common solution to this problem is to rotate the hayfield out and plant corn on that field. If you are in need of the alfalfa and not ready to rotate, there are several other options to consider to increase yield. For example, if you seeded grass with your alfalfa and there is still a good amount of grass present, all you need to do...

Evaluating the 2015 Corn Silage Crop

With the 2015 corn silage harvest winding down and samples coming through the labs it has given us the opportunity to evaluate this year’s crop.  The table below lists the samples submitted to Cumberland Valley Analytical Services in September of the respective year by ANC consultants that were labeled as either 2014 or 2015 corn silage. 2014 2015 Moisture 65.4 65.3 CP% 7.6 7.26 NDF 37.6 40.7 NDFd30 (%NDF) 56.2 55.3 uNDF240 9.96 11.12 Starch 36.3 32.7 7hr Starch (%Starch) 68.2 73.2 Ferm. Starch (%DM) 24.76 23.94 pH 3.96 3.94 There are several key numbers to pull away from this data.  The first is the NDF digestibility at 30 hours is similar to last year.  The ideal NDFd30 for conventional corn silage is closer to 60%.  Lower NDFd can negatively influence dry matter intake and milk production.  This issue is compounded by the higher NDF concentration of the silage and fully expressed as uNDF240.  uNDF240 is a relatively new measure.  uNDF240 is the amount of NDF that remains after 240 hours of fermentation. It’s currently thought that high levels of uNDF in the diet may limit dry matter intake.  Overall this means that this year’s corn silage, on average, is more likely to limit dry matter intake than last year’s crop. Logically, as NDF concentration increases, starch concentration decreases (and vice versa).  Starch values in this year’s crop are running  ~3.5 points lower than last year, down to 32.7%.  However the starch appears to be more fermentable than last year at this time as the 7hr starch is 5 percentage points higher.  Using these values we can calculate fermentable...

Are you really ready to harvest this fall?

Looking out over the fields you planted this spring is a satisfying experience to see that with great weather and timely rainfall the corn and beans look fantastic. Hay crops were also excellent. It’s time to go through the harvesting equipment, and make sure everything is tuned up and ready to go. Repairs and maintenance will ensure a great harvest season ahead. But wait a second….  Did you take some time to do some planning before the chopper is in the field this year? The harvest equipment is ready, but what about your storage capacity and facilities? Is everything cleaned out well with no piles of spoiled feed laying around to infect the clean new crop? How about the pad or the bunker floor and walls? Are they in good repair so there are no blowouts after filling and packing? Is the pad in good condition and repair so you do not tear it up during feedout? If there are no issues, you’re ready to go! Hold on again…. Did you order your Pro-Store Forage Inoculants from ANC?  You can’t skip out on adding inoculants and suffer dry matter loss. Did the covering plastic and oxygen barrier arrive yet? What is the plan to get that placed on the pile or bunker this year? Being short of help to cover the pile is a nightmare. Do you have a plan drawn up for placing the bags this year? Look the area over before getting started to make the best use of the existing area. Do you need to expand the pad area for the bags, so next spring’s wet, muddy ground will not...

Graze your way to success

Did you know there is more than one way to feed market livestock? The majority of people overlook some of the easiest ways to feed their meat animals. All they have to do is step outside and look. I am talking about grazing rotations with the land they already possess. There are numerous benefits of managing your pastures such as lowering feed costs, maintaining lush vegetation, reducing acidosis in the rumen, longer grazing durations, and limited soil erosion. Grazing rotation management for pastures and/or ranges is the control of the frequency and the intensity of animals that are consuming the forages. Basically, for the farmer to optimize herd performance and maintain forages, he or she has to keep a balance of where the livestock are grazing and how long they need to be in the area to consume enough nutrients without overgrazing the land. Overgrazing causes the farmer’s natural renewable feed source to be depleted. It costs more to regenerate the forages through the extra labor, re-seeding, fertilizers, etc. If herdsmen maintain their pastures at an appropriate level it will take little to no effort for upkeep. Having too high of a grazing intensity in a specific area will not only affect the health of the vegetation, but the performance of the animals. As the grazing pressure increases, the animal’s intake of nutrients is reduced due to lesser amounts of available nutrients. (Helpful tip: animal performance determines the amount of feed consumed per day. If you have high performance goals, then the animal will need to consume more to maintain the energy and nutrient requirements.) Livestock will consume the...

Protecting your Shredlage investment

One of the issues that have increasingly concerned producers in recent years has been how to cost-effectively supply their cows with adequate amounts of effective fiber. Mechanically disrupted corn silage, such as Shredlage® Brand Silage, is one option that has attracted considerable interest. Shredlage LLC based in Tea, S.D., developed the Shredlage processor, which allows a longer chop length to be set and tears, or shreds, the  stalks and leaves, while efficiently crushing kernels. “Corn silage produced using a Shredlage processor has a greater proportion of longer stalk and leaf material,” says Bob Charley, Ph.D., Forage Products Manager, Lallemand Animal Nutrition. “When used in rations for lactating dairy cows, this can increase the physically effective neutral detergent fiber (peNDF) content of the ration, which is important for proper rumen function, and can be used to reduce the demand for bought-in hay or straw.” In addition, a feeding trial at the University of Wisconsin — Madison showed that dairy cows fed Shredlage tended to produce 3.5% more fat-corrected milk compared to cows fed conventionally processed corn silage. However, the added benefits in higher peNDF and milk production must be protected with careful ensiling. No large scale studies to date have specifically addressed preservation and feedout stability, but some producers have asked if there might be specific ensiling challenges resulting from the more open structure of the material ensiled, Charley says. “One question being asked is how well this type of material is going to preserve,” he says. “The more open structure may trap more air, resulting in a slower upfront fermentation. This open structure could also allow air to come back...

Monitoring Moisture in Forages Can Put More Money in Your Pocket

In my last post I discussed the outlook for milk prices in 2015.  The projected milk price and income over feed cost for 2015 are respectable but less than the record highs we experienced in 2014.   Even with lower milk prices and tighter feed costs there are opportunities to increase income over feed cost on your farm.   Monitoring the moisture content of forages and adjusting feeding rates with changes in moisture can have a positive impact on income over feed cost. Dr. John Goeser, Director of Nutritional Research and Innovation at Rock River Laboratory, indicates monitoring moisture in forages is an often overlooked strategy for maintaining a consistent income over feed cost.   Forage moisture changes can have a significant impact on profits. A 2 to 3 unit error can increase feed cost $0.25/cow/day. The table below shows the impact of a change in corn silage moisture in feed costs per cow/day.   In this example actual cow dry matter intake is 53 lbs.  When the moisture of the corn silage moves from 65% to 67.7%, but the TMR is not adjusted, then the total cost of the feed consumed increases by $0.25/cow/day.   The cows will eat until they are full, and in this situation they end up eating more of the higher cost supplements.   Not only do feed costs increase, but the cow’s risk of subclinical acidosis also increases which could lead to lower fat test, erratic dry matter intakes, and lower milk production. Moisture Dry Matter Intake Cost Per Cow Ingredient Cost/ton “on paper” Actual “on paper” Actual “on paper” Actual Corn Silage   $44 65% 67.7% 22.0 20.97...