VanderMade Dairy LLC is a family-owned and operated dairy milking 1,400 cows in northern Ohio.
For this issue, we were asked to write about how we harvest feed and get the right rations to the right cows, all at the right price. We used to think the first two were the most challenging, but then along came $7 corn.
Putting up feed has always been a high priority for us. We feed high-forage diets containing mostly corn silage and alfalfa haylage.
We are fortunate to have a custom harvester who does a great job at applying inoculant, kernel processing and keeping equipment in good shape to improve performance and reduce breakdowns.
Our corn silage gets chopped at a target of 35% dry matter (DM) and is put up in two bunker silos. During the past four years, we have really tried to focus on improving silage packing, and we do a density test each year to measure this. We have been able to increase our average density by 3 lb. DM per cubic foot.
We chop haylage a little dryer, at 40% to 50% DM. A few years ago we started working with a custom bagger to bag the haylage, which has proven to be a great decision. The bags have very little spoilage. Each field gets weighed separately and bags get marked when we change fields, which comes in handy to determine dry matter changes when feeding out.
We currently feed a far-off dry ration, a prefresh ration and four lactating rations (fresh, high, first lactation and low). The dry-cow rations are high fiber, low energy and don’t contain any haylage but lots of straw instead.
This past year, $7 corn and a drought sure changed things. We generally tend to look more at performance than cost savings, since the impact is much greater on the bottom line.
VanderMade’s most recent prices
$20.70 (3.8 bf, 3.18 prt)
Cull cows (dressed)
Alfalfa hay (milk cow)