East Smithfield, Pa.
Gorrell Dairy LLC is home to 670 cows and 610 heifers.
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As I sit down to write this article, it’s past the middle of April. It’s raining and cold, and our clay soils are water-logged. Good forages will not be easily accomplished with this scenario.
We grow and harvest all our forages and, usually, our high-moisture corn. We feed a high corn silage diet to the milking herd and try to use more of our grass-hay crop for the young stock. We sell some also. We try to cut our grass early and often, at 28-day intervals. Even harvesting this way, our grass tests 18% to 20% crude protein, but the relative feed value is usually between 100 and 120. On most of the farms we visit, their dry cows eat better feed than that.
Corn hybrids are picked on digestibility and tonnage, both plant and milk. I use the corn silage trials from the Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania to help locate the best varieties. We started planting silage in 20" rows three years ago and have seen a 2-ton yield bump compared to my 30" corn.
Since we have raised our corn silage up to 70% of our forage diet, we have been able to maintain a higher production level, better body condition and higher income over feed costs.
Like other farms that have increased in size, we have found that getting the crop harvested at the proper time takes more equipment and people in the same window of opportunity. We have also found it very important to add tractors and more weight per tractor to get the density that we need in our bunks. Plastic for the sides of the bunk seems to help us cut down on spoilage along the walls. We still use whole tires to cover the plastic on top.
I am waiting for the day that the pizza party at the end is not enough, especially if they read my article.
Getting the right feed to the right group is a job shared with our feeder, Vincente; our nutritionist, Phil; and myself. I meet the feeder in the feed alley every morning to check bunks and find out how much weigh-backs there were from the day before. Then we decide if we need to make a change or not. We feed once a day, but feed is pushed up 8X/day.
The processor on our chopper is a valuable tool. Before we had our own chopper, the custom operator we had was always opening up the rolls and providing us with hockey pucks and whole kernels. Maybe that is one of the reasons we have our own now, but it is very important to us to have that corn processed as well as possible. Between the bulk tank and the sand lane, it is not hard to tell when the processor was not set properly.
Good forages are the key to every dairy, and let’s all hope that this year’s crops are the best. Happy harvesting.
Gorrell's March Prices
|Milk (3.23% bf, 3.14% prt)
|Alfalfa hay (milk cow)