Fussy About Forages

May 15, 2009 07:00 PM

*Extended comments highlighted in blue.

Mark Rodgers
West Glover, Vt.
Here at the 45th parallel and 1,700 ft. of elevation, we have snow on some fields into late April, and I have personally seen frost or snow in May, June, July (July 4, 1981) and August of different years. We also have heavy wet soils that require more than 60,000' of tile and ditch drainage. This creates a challenge to grow and harvest quality forage crops. Grass is the only forage grown on the farm, with a mixture of timothy, orchardgrass and some clover.

We spread liquid manure in mid to late April if weather and conditions permit, and spread urea on fields that need it. We try to start the first of 500 acres (47 different fields) by May 27 to June 1 and try to get done ASAP with everything put into haylage in the bunker silos except 1,000 bales of dry hay. Some years we are done by June 6; sometimes it is July 1.

Manure is spread immediately after each cutting. Every field gets at least one good application and usually two. Urea is applied as necessary. Second cutting starts 35 days after the first and is completed ASAP, with everything going into the bunker silos except 2,000-3,000 bales of top-quality hay for weaned calves.

Third cutting will start again at 35 days on fields that we hope to get a fourth cut off. On fields that started late and will only be cut three times, we wait six weeks for the final cut, which usually coincides with the early fourth cut.

We mow with a Krone Big M II, lay it flat, use a double rake when it is 32% to 33% dry matter (triple on light cuttings) and chop ourselves with a 3970 John Deere pull-type chopper. A liquid bacterial silage innoculant from Nutra-Fix is applied to all chopped forages at the chopper. With the Krone mowing 25 acres per hour, the Nutra-Fix inoculant and an effort to pack properly and cover quickly, our grass forages average 18% to 19% protein and 56 to 62 NEL, with little or no spoilage.

Our attention to detail at ensiling and feed-out ensures few if any refusals and top production from a ration that is more than 60% forage.

We contract 2,000 tons of corn silage from a grower 35 miles away who has much better growing conditions and yields 20 tons per acre of corn silage at 8% protein and 77 to 80 NEL. We hire custom operators to chop and haul while I pack the bunk.

Rodger's March Prices  
Milk (3.98% bf, 3.2% prt): $12.49/cwt.
Cull cows: $80-$88/cwt. dressed
Springing heifers: $1,350/head
Alfalfa hay: $320+/ton
Ground corn: $160/ton
Whole cottonseed: $298/ton

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