DeGroot is a third-generation California dairy producer whose San Joaquin Valley operation milks 2,400 cows.
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Since feed is one of our largest expenses, I spend a lot of time managing feedbunks. But, as we all know, feed doesn’t start in the feedbunk. Feed quality starts in the field.
We have the opportunity to grow all of our forages and alfalfa hay on-site. The truth is that we must feed what we grow, which is why we put a tremendous amount of effort into growing top-quality feed.
My brother manages our farming operation, and we work closely together, along with our nutritionist, to make sure we are on the same page when it comes to feed quality. We grow corn silage, winter forage and alfalfa hay. The first cutting (March) and the last cutting (October) of alfalfa are bagged to make haylage. We do this to avoid rain-damaged hay at the beginning and end of our hay season. All other hay cuttings are baled.
We strive to improve our hay quality by leveling our fields for proper irrigation, selecting good varieties, keeping weeds and bugs down, and harvesting at the right time. Our relative feed value for alfalfa on our high cows is greater than 160, for our mid and low cows 140-160, and less than 140 for our dry cows and heifers. Every season, we are trying to improve our relative feed value to deliver a higher-quality feed to our cows.