Dollars and Sense: Taking Care of the Rumen

May 6, 2015 02:47 AM
Dollars and Sense: Taking Care of the Rumen


Katrina Curti Rainey
Tulare, Calif.

The Raineys milk 550 Jerseys at Rainimade Dairy. Katrina helps her dad at his 2,800-cows at nearby Curtimade Dairy.


This topic of nutrition and forages is where my husband, Brian, takes the lead as he is a full-time dairy nutrition consultant, and a good one at that. He’s conservative yet very detail-oriented and doesn’t miss a beat.

Brian is a big believer in simple and effective: “If you take care of the rumen, the rumen will take care of the cow.” Brian monitors traditional nutrient analysis for animals of all ages and, for milk cows, is very cognizant of effective fiber levels. He makes all feed purchases. While ingredients stay fairly consistent, he will shift if a great buy comes along.

He likes to feed high-quality alfalfa. It’s the one thing he will spend a little extra money on. He has, however, held us to 4-5.5 lb. per cow over the last two years simply due to the higher cost. Our inventory of silage is relative to our size as well as available byproducts such as almond hulls.

We grow and feed corn and wheat silage and blend the two throughout parts of the year. We put up our ensiled feeds in both drive-over piles and bags because we are limited on concrete space. All bags go on dirt and are fed during the dry months.

rainey_priceCorn is chopped between 3/8” and 5/8”, and length depends on how evenly the variety is chopping and processing kernels through the choppers, which are from a custom chopping service. It also depends on the level of anticipated feed rate for forage hay in the ration throughout the upcoming year.

We have not inoculated silage in the last two years. We are believers first in chopping at the right moisture, putting up the feed rapidly and packing it tight and covering immediately. We never uncover and recover a pile, and we make sure we can get across the entire face each day of feeding. Piled corn target chop moisture is 68% and bagged is 65%. Piles are all double-covered.

We utilize a feed management program on farm, and it allows us to optimize our feeders by optimizing loads, rations and costs. All input costs are entered in the feed program and DMI is tracked by pen. Moistures are checked and adjusted weekly.

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