A Forage Resolution

Dec 02, 2018

Some of you may have started 2018 with a New Year’s resolution to start working out on a regular basis or to spend more time doing a beneficial task. I’d like to propose a higher priority resolution, focused on improving forage quality by examining your bottlenecks at harvest and when storing your feed.
We often discuss improving forage quality after there are one thousand tons of poor-quality hay crop silage packed into a bunk or we were not able to chop corn silage on time and are now pondering how to make milk with this dry feed. I’d like to start the conversation before that happens. The first step should be to determine the bottlenecks. 
What’s holding your dairy back from harvesting higher quality forages? Is it a piece of equipment that’s lacking, is your harvesting team understaffed, would adding another seasonal employee allow you or another individual to work on a task that’s being overlooked, do you always wait for the custom chopper to show up? Consider planting silage corn later to maintain stalk moisture and digestibility. 
Is the farm in need of more storage for the harvested crop? Would adding an extra bunk or bag allow you to strategically harvest and store feedstuffs that may be more suitable for a certain pen of cows? The low production cow group may not need the rocket fuel haylage required by the high production group. Is it currently possible to divide up the forage sources to better meet the needs of the cows? 
Each dairy will have its own bottleneck and in turn their own solution. After determining which to address, formulate a game plan on how to eliminate the obstacle. Keep in mind that farm business data shows that farms with forage systems that allow high quality forage to be harvested regardless of the growing season weather are often times the most profitable dairies. After determining what actions to take, work with your team to see that the change occurs. It will take time and patience, but it can be done. Don’t let this resolution collect dust like that gym membership from January.

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