by Lisa Davis, Dairy Product Manager
Across most of the U.S., 2019 was a unique growing season. The timing of forage planting and harvest was variable, resulting in quality and feeding values that will impact milk production in the coming months. Here are 5 ways to help maximize productivity from 2019 forages:
- Analyze, Analyze, Analyze! 2019 forages may have altered nutrient values and need to be analyzed more frequently to help maintain milk and component production. Dry matter, starch, and fiber levels may be variable, which will impact rumen fermentability and DMI. Also, altered growing conditions can influence the mineral content of forages. Dry mineral premixes may need more frequent adjustment, to ensure that cows are receiving target supplementation levels. Analyze forages for molds and mycotoxins, and follow feeding safety guidelines if levels of concern are found.
- Consistency, Consistency, Consistency! Cows like consistency and the rumen does too! Providing a diet of equivalent fermentability and digestibility day-in and day-out helps maximize microbial protein, milk, and component production. This year feeds which normally lend consistency to the diet, such as corn silage and dry corn, have reduced availability, digestibility, and feeding value in many areas due to growing and harvest conditions. QLF molasses-based liquid supplements provide rapidly available sugars and degradable protein to stimulate rumen microbial growth and forage digestion. Feeding 3-5 lbs/cow of QLF provides a constant daily amount of rumen-fermentable nutrients while improving TMR palatability to encourage DMI.
- Take Forage Inventory…..Often! Assessing forage inventories more frequently this year will improve the consistency of production. Closely monitoring silage moisture and weighing refusals helps fine-tune adjustments needed for daily feed deliveries. Pairing silage moisture analyses with frequent actual inventory measurement helps plan diet transitions to extend silage inventories into the 2020 growing season. Making small diet adjustments (rather than drastic changes) to incorporate alternative forages helps maintain rumen efficiency and milk production. Don’t forget to count inventory of baled forages, too – especially if some are “dual-purpose” – fed to dry cows and heifers, or used for both bedding and feed. Wet winter conditions in some areas have increased bedding use, which will impact inventories of straw and crop residues available for feed. For more information on measuring inventories of forages in various storage systems please see the guide below from North Dakota State University: https://library.ndsu.edu/ir/bitstream/handle/10365/5380/as1282.pdf?sequence=1
- Timing is everything! If alternative forages are needed, late winter and early spring are a great time to try new feeds. At this time of year, cool weather helps maintain quality of fermented forages, and cows aren’t experiencing intake and productivity challenges due to heat stress. Availability, selection, economics, and quality of purchased forages early in the year is usually better than “left-overs” later on. Make sure that the farm has the necessary storage, handling and processing equipment to handle physical characteristics and moisture level of alternative forages.
- Minimize waste. Make sure that knives are sharp, and process forages to proper length. Monitor measurement into the TMR to ensure that forages are not over- or under-fed. Check silage bags, bunker covers, and wrapped bales for damage to plastic. Repair holes to minimize water infiltration, and preserve fermentation & nutritive quality. When silages are variable, a few pounds of good quality dry hay helps provide consistency and palatability to the diet. Reduce ration sorting and encourage long particle intake by including a QLF liquid supplement at 3-5 lb/day. Sugars and degradable protein in QLF also enhance forage digestibility, to help provide valuable nutrition and energy from 2019 forages!