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Creating a Forage inventory

As fall ends and winter begins, many farmers turn their attention to the stored forages they've made for their herd.  The last of the hard field work will soon be over giving way to holidays, weddings and other celebrations seasons.  This is also the best time to inventory all of your stored forages including Hays, Corn Silage, Haylage and grains.  This will allow you to accurately estimate how much additional feed you will need to buy or how much extra feed you will have to sell till next harvest season.

   You can make your calculations from either direction meaning you can determine how much feed you will need to feed the number of animals you have.  Or you can determine how many animals to feed based on the total amount of feed ingredients that you have.

  I use the following figures:  A 1400 lb average Holstein cow producing 65 lbs of milk will require 48 lbs of Dry matter per day.  The typical ration looks like this:

Feed:                          Lbs as fed   Moisture      Dry Matter      lbs dry matter

Corn Silage                    40                 65%                    35%                       14

Balage or haylage       20                50%                     50%                      10

Dry Hay                            12                15 %                     85%                      10

Grain Mix                        16                 12%                     88%                      14              

Total                                  88 lbs                                                                        48 lbs

  So you can make your calculations based on figures similar to these adjusting for your personal preference. Based on these numbers a 40 cow herd of cows will require:

Corn Silage            290 tons or 584,000 lbs for 365 days or year round.

Balage/Haylage      96 tons or 192,000 lbs for 240 days while not on pasture, add 1/3 more for year round feeding.

Dry Hay                 87 tons or 175,000 lbs for year round feeding – Cows need hay while grazing as much as they do in the winter.

Grain Mix              116.5 tons or 233,600 lb per year for year round feeding.

  Now you have calculated the Milking groups feed requirements, what about

dry cows and young animals?  You can do the calculations for them the same

way or I have found that if I add 1/3 more of the milk cow group totals it

will be very close to accurate depending on how many heifers you keep.

  Why should you bother to calculate all of this?  Well, hay, grain and forage prices are usually less expensive when bought directly from the fields or in season than they are in mid winter or early spring.  So know what you inventories are and what you need to make it through will allow you to buy sooner and smarter. 

  Most years hay can be bought out of the field for 25%-30% less than hay bought in December or January.  Summer or in season hay is 35%-40% less expensive than hay bought in February and March.  For sure Corn silage can be bought for less at harvest and will be a safer feed to feed if bought then vs. buying in during the summer causing a re-heat and lessened digestibility. 

  The other management tool that is very effective is sweeping the herd or strong culling.  At this time of year knowing what your feed inventory is would be the best time make herd number adjustment.  If you are buying more than 20% of you total feeds required to feed your animals, you should consider reducing the herd size to the farms feed making capacity.  Many wise old farmers would regularly cull 10%-20% of the herd to make room for new animals, remove problem makers and reduce health problems like SCC, poor breeders, and hoof related problems.  They actually found that this herd reduction did not significantly impact the herd’s profitability.  The healthy productive animal’s performance improved making up for the reduced animal numbers.  Remember to measure the profitability not just the cash flow.  And that a dollar made and a dollar spent doesn’t change what is in your pocket!

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The Fertrell Company blog is for farmers, backyard gardeners, and homesteaders alike. Learn from the experts on all things natural and organic for both soil and livestock.

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