Dairy producers that employ custom harvesters entrust them to provide high quality forage for their herd. As milk production and herd health are largely influenced by the quality of feed cows consume, custom harvesters can have a substantial impact on their customers’ profitability.
Mike Hutjens, University of Illinois emeritus dairy nutritionist, addressed the importance of custom harvesters at the U.S. Custom Harvesters Inc. annual convention last March. He provided the harvesters with the means to meet the forage expectations of cows and producers.
1. Cut forage at its optimal maturity. If cut too late, the forage will contain too much chemical fiber and lower DMI. Nutrient content, digestibility and intakes will suffer. As a result, cows will produce less milk, meaning less profit for the producer.
2. Chop at the correct length/particle size to optimize physical fiber.
3. Chop at the right dry matter. This is of particular importance for corn silage as dry matter affects a harvester’s machine, the price he can charge, and feed fermentation. The ‘right’ dry matter varies according to how the feed will be stored.
4. Apply inoculants to enhance fermentation. Producers gain an average of $6.00 in milk production by investing $1-3 per treated ton of silage, according to Kansas State University research.
5. Process corn kernels. Test fecal starch. For every 1% of fecal starch over 5%, 2/3 of a pound of milk is lost.
Feeds to Watch…
Shredlage: Corn silage harvested using a chopper attachment to shred plant material. A recent study indicated that feeding Shredlage increases milk production.
Snaplage: A blend of kernels, cobs, husks and shanks harvested using a forage chopper with a snapper head and kernel processor. Hutjens anticipates that Snaplage will soon gain popularity as a feed ingredient.
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Source: Fae Holin. “What Cows Want From Custom Harvesters.” Hay & Forage Grower. April 2012: 4-5.