Family-owned and -operated Soaring Eagle Dairy milks 1,100 cows and grows the majority of the herd’s feed on 1,800 acres.
With 25% of expenses related to feed, it makes sense to take great care to ensure high quality and minimize waste. At Soaring Eagle Dairy, we grow 100% of our forage needs.
In a good-yielding year, we may build as much as a 50% carryover, so in years like last year when we lost half of our alfalfa acres to winter kill, we will feed through that cushion. We strive to put up haylage in the 160–175 relative feed value range.
We plant dual-purpose varieties of corn and, Mother Nature willing, we will put up about 75% of our grain needs in a good year. We will combine those acres to make high-moisture corn, then process through a tub grinder and pack in a bunker. Having grain in inventory provides some price protection as we are not open to the market all year for our grain needs.
With the exception of a chopper, we own equipment for tillage, planting, spraying, cutting, merging and combining. We have been very pleased with the switch we made about five years ago to a wide swath mower. There have been a few times in the past where weather conditions were just right that we were able to cut hay in the morning and chop it at the end of the day.
Forages are stored in bunkers and, a couple years ago, we built a drive-over pile for corn silage. We’ve been very pleased with the drive-over pile as there is almost no spoilage, whereas the bunkers will have some spoiled feed up along the tops of the walls. We always keep two to three packing tractors on the piles to ensure maximum density. We’ve watched over time the impact that heavier equipment has on improved densities. Our latest density tests have ranged from 18–22 dry matter pounds per cubic foot.
We use a face grinder to manage the feed-out of our bunkers. Our high forage rations are currently set at 60/40 corn silage to haylage. This rate will vary over time based on inventories. The fine details of balancing the ration on paper is left to an independent nutritionist, with whom we frequently communicate on cow performance as well as price and availability of by-products.
Maurer’s recent prices
$25.60 (3.51 bf, 3.10 prt)
Alfalfa hay (milk cow)