Are Your Forages the Best They Can Be?

Now that your 2014 forages are harvested it is a good time for you and your consultant to evaluate them and your ration.

What are we seeing this fall?  There are some reports of this year’s Corn Silage feeding better (more digestible) than the 2013 crop with a 2-3 lb. bump in milk production with higher yields in general. This is causing some farms to feed leftover 2013 silage to low group cows and the 2014 crop to higher production cows. Hay crop quality seems to be all over the board mostly reflective of timing and the amount of rainfall that interfered with harvest.

Therefore take some time to evaluate what you have for forages and to what groups of animals it would best be fed. Some producers have had the experience of feeding more alternative annual forage varieties due to the move to improve crop rotation and soil health and have been pleasantly surprised by the digestibility of these crops if harvested in a timely manner.

Did you get the yield and quality needed to provide enough consistent high quality forage to optimize production and profitability? Along with yield data your forage sample test results are your report card. If you do have quality feed, that is great! If not, what was the limiting factor? Of course there can be many factors influencing forage quality besides the weather. How good was the alfalfa stand, what was the corn stand population, the soil fertility? When did you harvest and how, what storage did you use and how did you feed out?

Success really comes down to understanding what is being managed for on your operation. We all want high quality, highly digestible feed, but it can take a process to get there. We have to plan for it and work toward it—that’s animal nutrition from the soil up.

Our goal at Midwestern BioAg is to help your operation be more profitable. Our consultants are trained to look at the foundation (the soil) of your operation to make it a strong sturdy platform for raising quality feeds. Remember that the minerals in a healthy plant are more available than feeding rock mineral supplements. When you change the quality of feed, you also change the digestibility and availability of the nutrients that feed contains. The higher the quality of your forage (more pectins, sugars, and digestible fibers) the less grain or off farm supplements you’ll need to buy, resulting in healthy animals and improved return on investment.

Midwestern BioAg consultants can look at both your soil test and forage test (report card) to help you make informed fertility decisions for your crops.  If your soils are low in soluble calcium (partially determined by forage test), fall is a great time to apply Bio-Cal® or OrganiCal if you are organic), to your fields products that balance soluble to slow release.

We know calcium is important in the dairy ration for milk, bone, heartbeat regulation, nerve impulses and activation of enzymes, but what about its role in the plant? Calcium works to improve plant health by supporting membrane structure, stability and function leading to better yields and higher quality forage. We see improved soil structure. And let’s not forget protein and the nitrogen to sulfur link to creating more complete protein as sulfur contains the essential amino acids cysteine and methionine, which again benefit both plant and animal.