Facing unique forage challenges with dairy MAX.
Crystal Prom, a Cargill Dairy Focused Consultant in southern Wisconsin, shares how she helps her customers manage their forge inventories throughout the year. She shares best practices and industry technologies for finding solutions that fit her customer’s needs.
How do you help producers manage forage inventory?
This year’s forage will be unlike any other – in both quality and quantity. Summer 2023 brought drought conditions to many pockets in the Midwest and throughout the corn belt region [as well as unusually heavy rains in parts of the West], leaving many dairy producers concerned about their forage inventories and buying feed through next year’s harvest. The reality is that purchasing corn silage after the harvest season is challenging and expensive. So, my job is to work with my customers to find alternative solutions.
How do you evaluate forage inventory?
Once harvest is done, I’ll measure the forage piles using either a measuring wheel or with a drone. Based on dry matter and density, I can then predict how much feed is in the pile. Next step is to calculate how much feed is needed at the current or planned feeding rates until the next harvest.
What solutions are there for low forage inventory?
If forage inventory is too low, then comes the discussion of finding other feed options, reducing animal numbers, and so forth. In many situations where forage inventory is low, instead of buying high priced corn silage, the more likely scenario is to supplement with other corn commodities.
Finding a forage replacement varies from farm to farm. Our nutrition software, dairy MAX ™, allows me to evaluate ingredients that will maintain nutrient levels in the ration while preserving cow performance. Wet distillers, dry corn, brewers’ grain, or something along those lines may be acceptable substitutes, so often the farm location, commodity availability, and herd nutritional requirements guide our decision making.
What does monitoring forage inventory look like over time?
I track the feed inventory on a farm all year round by periodically measuring feed piles, either via drone or measuring wheel. This is necessary to track the farm’s pace. If available, I also use data from the farm’s feed software program to know daily feeding rates. I then plug the farm’s specific data into dairy MAX, to run “What If” scenarios. Dairy MAX provides insights and real-time feedback to help me strategize for profitability and nutrition precision in both the short and long-term.
For example, I can take the insights I receive from dairy MAX and use it to create diet changes to help conserve corn silage. I then communicate my inventory projections to the producer and discuss the diet changes. This strategy may change as weather, markets, and herd dynamics change and will be re-discussed regularly throughout the year. I appreciate that dairy MAX allows me to use data and my expertise on farm to find solutions for farmers facing unprecedented challenges like these.
For more information, get in touch with a Cargill Dairy Consultant today.