* Group cows within the dairy herd and feed the best-quality forages to the money makers: the early lactation or high-producing cows. Later-lactation cows have lower nutritional requirements and can consume more forage, including greater amounts of lower-quality forages.
* Incorporate more grain or fat supplements into the diet to supply more energy.
Fats include whole cottonseed, whole soybeans or other ruminally inert fat sources. Dried distillers grains most often contain 8 to 12 percent crude fat, so make sure to work with your nutritionist to provide adequate but not excessive amounts of different types of fat.
* Replace some of the lower-quality forage with commercially available forage extenders or forage/grain replacements to increase the energy density of the diet.
"Producers also need to remember that wet years often mean increased incidents of plant diseases, which can result in increased concentrations of mycotoxins in hay, silage, baleage or grain," Schroeder cautions. "Specifically, you might see increased concentrations of the mycotoxins DON (deoxynivalenol or vomitoxin) and zearalenone."
DON can decrease daily feed intake in dairy cows and depress the immune system.
Zearalenone can cause poor reproductive performance and mammary gland enlargement in virgin heifers.
Producers who suspect problems should have their crop tested for the presence of mycotoxins. If mycotoxins are present, producers will need to reduce the amount of the forage or grain they feed their dairy cattle to decrease the amount of mycotoxins the animals consume.
"Work with your veterinarian and nutritionist to calculate the best way to utilize this crop," Schroeder advises.