Forage management practices yield huge dividends!


With today’s rising commodity costs, preserving silage quality and implementing the best forage storing practices are high priorities. Now is the time to start developing a plan with set goals for this year’s crop.

In a recent issue of Progressive Dairyman, Shawn P. Ryan considers several elements that should be taken into account when devising your plan: employee training and education, visual quality checks, dry matter testing, and proper face management.

1. Training and education
Ongoing training and education on techniques and forage management practices should be in place for all employees, new and seasoned. This continual training is particularly important for entry-level positions due to higher turnover rates. Explaining the importance of and science behind tasks encourages employees to follow procedure. The learning process should never stop – keep up with new storage technologies and practices by attending feeding conferences, reading industry publications, etc.

2. Visual quality check
During feedout of the bunker/pile, forage quality should be visually evaluated at least once daily. If any damage from rodents, birds, or other vermin is discovered, seal holes with repair tape. Also inspect weights for plastic displacement resulting from  silage settling over time. When necessary, reposition weights to secure proper sealing. These tasks will stop oxygen from catalyzing spoilage, thus preventing additional feed expenses.

3. Weekly dry matter testing
By testing silage/haylage dry matter content weekly, producers can regularly evaluate forage quality, uncover hot spots, and identify ineffective feedout practices. This allows them to balance rations more accurately and make adjustments as needed. The goal of every operation is a greater net profit, and weekly monitoring helps producers track the impact that feed composition and quality have on milk production.

4. Proper face management
To help preserve silage quality during feedout, Ryan recommends using a shaver daily to remove at least 6 inches in colder months and at least 12 inches in warmer months. Bringing in an outside consultant for a face management evaluation provides a checkpoint for future alterations. This evaluation could also bring safety hazards to light, prompting proper actions and/or precautions to be taken.

As most producers are already facing time constraints, implementing additional practices may seem overwhelming. However, making the effort now may pay off big in the long run. Ryan writes,        “Executing these management practices during the off-season may cost producers extra time up front, but in the end, pays huge dividends.”

Source: “Off-season: Evaluate your silage quality, bunker performance” article by Shawn P. Ryan.  Progressive Dairyman, February 8, 2011 issue.


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