Quality Feed and Milk

May 6, 2012 08:40 PM


TravisLarsonTravis Larson

Okeechobee, Fla.

Larson is a third-generation dairy producer in southern Florida, milking 4,200 cows.




**Extended comments in blue

Weather is the primary determinant of feeds grown and utilized at our dairies. In south Florida, our warm and wet tropical climate is favorable for growing grasses about 10 months out of the year.

We also benefit from the earliest corn crop in the country. Our corn silage is planted between Feb. 1 and April 1 and harvested from May 20 until July 15. We strive to grow high-quality grasses. They are just not comparable, however, to alfalfa or other cool-season annuals.

Since our primary focus is on effectively producing high-quality milk from healthy, comfortable cows, we employ a custom harvester to harvest our corn silage and grasses. We work closely with our custom harvester and growers to ensure our goals are met. Our corn silage is grown by vegetable farmers about 45 miles south of our farm, then trucked to our bunker silos via live floor trucks.

Our custom harvester applies inoculant at the chopper on both corn and grass silage. Our corn silage is kernel-processed and pushed and packed with several tractors to ensure a proper pack density. Dry matter samples are taken on several truckloads throughout the day to ensure we begin with optimal ensiling conditions. On completion of filling, the corn silage pit is covered immediately with plastic and tires. We usually account for a 7% to 10% shrink on our corn silage.

Our haylage is mostly grown on farm. All grass is grown under irrigation and is fertilized and cut every 30 to 35 days at about 32% dry matter. This haylage is quality tested before being fed to lactating cows and close-up dry cows. Any grasses grown without irrigation are harvested at 45 to 60 days and fed to dry cows and heifers in a total mixed ration (TMR). This haylage is still fertilized and analyzed for quality to find the best fit in the ration. All haylage is bagged on the farm.

We work closely with our nutritionist, Rick Lundquist, on ration formulation and commodity selection, depending on price, quality and availability. We have been able to utilize high-quality seasonal byproducts by gradually substituting for traditional feedstuffs throughout the year.

We use the Feed Supervisor software to make sure feeders are able to provide the most accurate TMR possible. We feed for a 2% to 3% refusal on our lactating pens and 0% refusal on drys and heifers. We monitor intakes daily and make adjustments based on refusals, intakes and dry matters. At the lactating facilities, all cows are fed with truck-mounted mixers for efficiency. Drys and heifers are fed with tractor and wagon.

We know that we must provide a high-quality, consistent food supply to our cows to receive a high-quality, consistent product from our cows.



Larson's Most Recent Prices  
Milk (3.7% bf, 4.0% prt) $21.36/cwt.
Cull cows $85/head
Springing heifers $1,600/head (delivered)
Cottonseed $291/ton
Corn $304/ton
Citrus pulp $174.37/ton
Distillers' grain $250/ton


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