Key to Success - Monitoring Feed Inventory

Haylage shrink of 22% keeps the Penn State Dairy on their toes but setting goals and making a plan of action keeps milk production going strong.
Key to Success - Monitoring Feed Inventory - Articles


Penn State Dairy Cows

I don't recall in the past 11 years as herd manager spending so much time monitoring inventory. Last year I spent every month monitoring corn silage. This New Year I am fixated on the haylage. The one bit of good news is that we have been successfully feeding the extremely wet material that should have never gone in the silo. It has been averaging 27% dry matter. The other events for January were starting a 30 cow trial and setting our goals for 2013.

In "typical" years we feed approximately twelve pounds of dry matter from the alfalfa haylage. Last year to save on corn silage that amount was raised substantially. Moving into 2013 we are feeding a lot less. Due to the issue of the extremely wet hay-crop silage and not knowing what fermentation issues there may be, the inclusion level has been at six pounds of dry matter. At this level cows have been milking well and we have not observed any indigestion problems or health issues that might be related to poor fermentation. After sitting down with the assistant manager and reviewing our usage, it was determined that we had a 22% loss of material. Considering we were short to start with and adding this to the equation, it is unlikely we will have enough haylage to get us to first cutting. At the end of the month, the inclusion level was reduced to three pounds of dry matter and all researchers were instructed that only corn silage and hay are available as forage sources. Based on my last calculations we might make it to the middle of May. Unfortunately we are in the same predicament with the grass silage. The dry cow and heifer rations have been adjusted to include more hay and cottonseed hulls to reduce the usage of grass silage.

At the beginning of the month the cows rebounded from 84 pounds to 88 pounds. This was after the feeder over the holidays was informed he needed to be mixing more feed and not going with zero refusals. Then towards the middle of the month there were major cow movement changes to accommodate the researcher starting a 30 cow trial. Many of our top producers were moved from the free-stall to the tie-stall barn. During that week cows dropped to 85 pounds. They did rebound the following week but that slight dip did hurt production for the month. It probably cost us about one pound of milk on average for January.

The management team met the beginning of January to review 2012 and set goals for 2013. It seems that this one simple action has made life so much easier for everyone. Having goals and plans in place for the various areas on the farm makes life easier for the workers and also makes for happier cows. Even with the challenge related to corn silage inventory last year the herd produced the best it ever has. Currently with the hay-crop challenges, cows are still performing well. The ration has been maintained at 65% forage. The change of moving fresh cows off the bedded pack to a segregated area of the free-stall with sand bedding has consistently shown reduced somatic cell counts. Last year we implemented a more aggressive hoof trimming protocol, which resulted in a 5% reduction in treatments. Our one nemesis is reproduction. We plan on meeting with the reproduction specialist to evaluate other protocols that might help increase pregnancy rate. For the most part, many of our current management practices are staying the same since we have seen positive results. However, the management team still meets every week to discuss the animals and people. When we start observing anything that appears to be a red flag, we stay tuned in to make sure it does not get out of control. For the month of January the herd averaged 87.0 pounds with a 3.86 % fat, 3.19 % protein, 132,000 SCC and 9.4 mg/dl MUN.

IOFC Results

Month and Year No Risk Mgt Gross Milk Price/cwtW/ Risk Mgt Gross Milk Price/cwtMilk income/cowFeed cost/cowIOFCAverage milk lbsLow BenchmarkHigh benchmark

IOFC Graph