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Quality Feed and Milk

May 7, 2012


TravisLarsonTravis Larson

Okeechobee, Fla.

Larson is a third-generation dairy producer in southern Florida, milking 4,200 cows.




**Extended comments in blue

Weather is the primary determinant of feeds grown and utilized at our dairies. In south Florida, our warm and wet tropical climate is favorable for growing grasses about 10 months out of the year.

We also benefit from the earliest corn crop in the country. Our corn silage is planted between Feb. 1 and April 1 and harvested from May 20 until July 15. We strive to grow high-quality grasses. They are just not comparable, however, to alfalfa or other cool-season annuals.

Since our primary focus is on effectively producing high-quality milk from healthy, comfortable cows, we employ a custom harvester to harvest our corn silage and grasses. We work closely with our custom harvester and growers to ensure our goals are met. Our corn silage is grown by vegetable farmers about 45 miles south of our farm, then trucked to our bunker silos via live floor trucks.

Our custom harvester applies inoculant at the chopper on both corn and grass silage. Our corn silage is kernel-processed and pushed and packed with several tractors to ensure a proper pack density. Dry matter samples are taken on several truckloads throughout the day to ensure we begin with optimal ensiling conditions. On completion of filling, the corn silage pit is covered immediately with plastic and tires. We usually account for a 7% to 10% shrink on our corn silage.

Our haylage is mostly grown on farm. All grass is grown under irrigation and is fertilized and cut every 30 to 35 days at about 32% dry matter. This haylage is quality tested before being fed to lactating cows and close-up dry cows. Any grasses grown without irrigation are harvested at 45 to 60 days and fed to dry cows and heifers in a total mixed ration (TMR). This haylage is still fertilized and analyzed for quality to find the best fit in the ration. All haylage is bagged on the farm.

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