Achieving a high-forage diet (at least 60 percent forage on a dry matter basis) is easier said than done.

“… if you want to replace grain with forage you need an increased amount of high quality forage... so there’s little room for error,” says Ev Thomas with the W.H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute in Chazy, N.Y.

Thomas shares these keys for achieving high-forage rations:
• Harvest alfalfa at the bud stage and grass in the boot stage, even if it means sacrificing some yield.

• Plant corn hybrids adapted to your growing season and planting date, using management that will result in good yields of well-eared, high-energy corn silage.

• Harvest corn for silage at 33 percent dry matter or higher, processing the crop so that the grain is highly available to your cows. You might consider BMR corn, but at least as important as hybrid selection is proper harvest dry matter.

• Ensile properly, regardless of storage structure. An additional 10 percent spoilage loss is even worse than a 10 percent yield loss because you’ve already spent the money to harvest and ensile the forage.

• Work with a competent dairy nutrition consultant, one who will rely on regular forage analyses to continually fine-tune rations for changes in forage quality.

More from the June 2012 Miner Farm Report.

Source: June 2012 Miner Farm Report