Making the Most of It

May 6, 2012 08:40 PM


DanSiemersDan Siemers

Newton, Wisc.

Dairying with 2,700 cows, Siemers Holsteins has been operating at the same site for more than 120 years.




*Extended comments highlighted in blue.

Our team works incredibly hard to put the right feed in front of all of our cattle 365 days a year. We produce almost all of our forages (we buy some dry hay for the show herd) as well as make a sizeable portion of our grain. We do all of this in-house on rented and owned ground.


While it is no secret that the basis of top cow performance is great forages, making the rubber hit the road is vital. My brother Paul coordinates a small army of people, machinery and other variables to consistently put up big quantities of 180 to 210 RFQ haylage and good digestible silage.

We put up four cuttings of haylage a year and try to seal it using a vapor barrier and a layer of regular plastic. We pack all forages well enough to reduce shrink and not have spoilage. By doing this, we do not find it necessary to pitch spoilage or use a facer for feed-out.

We take packing quite seriously and set up three large articulated tractors with triples, weights and fluid in the tires so that during feed-out we never have to question the job done packing.

We plant brown midrib with a complementary conventional corn hybrid so that at harvest we chop both varieties in each pass. While our fields look strange to some, we love the end product, as it combines digestibility, starch and tonnage, and we get a good mix in every mouthful our cows consume.

Moisture of stored feed is another variable we try to control. We like haylage moisture between 50% and 58%, silage 68% to 69% and high-moisture shelled corn (HMSC) 34% to 38%. We feel using a good inoculant is just good insurance, and with today’s high feed prices we don’t need to reduce shrinkage by much to make it pay. We currently use a good proven inoculant on forages, and L. buchneri bacteria inoculant on HMSC, which is also stored in a bunker silo.

When it comes to getting the most from our forages and purchased feed, we feel fortunate to work with a team of trusted advisers as well as a great infrastructure in place here in eastern Wisconsin. Our head feeder, Steve, has been with us for 17 years. Our nutritionist team has not changed for nine years, and the feed company we do most of our work with still employs the same person we have been working with for 20 years to lock in feed.

Our strategy is to feed complete feeds as a way of cutting down on shrink and errors versus buying commodities. We are very cautious on changing our diet. We know what works, and we usually only make changes that we feel can help performance.

Buying a different ingredient that is supposed to price in better usually ends up hurting us more than helping. Many dairymen are quick to talk about how much it costs to feed a cow, but we feel that number is largely irrelevant. Performance almost always beats cutting corners.

We feed different mixes based on intake, as well as pre- and postmixes. We also utilize amino acid balancing to continue to drive production and have fewer nutrients in the lagoon.

Feeding cows has changed much in the past few years, and we will continue to lean on our advisers and the industry in general to keep things moving forward.



Siemers' Most Recent Prices  
Milk (3.69% bf, 3.18% prt) $18.23/cwt.
Cull cows $62-$87/cwt.
Springing heifers $1,300-$1,800/head
Alfalfa hay (milk cow) $250/ton
Cottonseed $333/ton
Ground corn $232/ton
Soybean meal 48% $386/ton


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