Dairy Herd Management asked its Editorial Advisory Board members to identify a recent challenge they faced in their herd nutrition management program, and how they addressed it.

Expensive protein

For Brad Scott, Scott Brothers Dairy Farms, San Jacinto, Calif., the challenge was adjusting rations and maintaining milk production while addressing the ever-increasing prices of protein.

“We have been maintaining great milk production for the last three months, mainly due to feeding homegrown Italian ryegrass,” Brad said. “It has helped stretch purchased proteins and alfalfa hay, which is climbing in price due to the drought here in California.”

Among steps to address high corn and corn byproduct cost, Lloyd Holterman Rosy-Lane Holsteins LLC, Watertown, Wis., said he took a chance on shredlage, even though it increased corn silage harvest costs almost $2/ton. Dry matter efficiency increased from 1.59 lbs. of milk per lb. of dry matter fed to 1.69 on an energy-corrected basis.

”Our internal calculations show that each ton of shredlage is worth $13 more than traditional silage, because we improved milk sold slightly (2.8 lbs. per cow per day) and also improved components to 4.1%F (+0.1%) and 3.2%P (+ 0.05%).

“Since we are not a research farm, we are not able to assess what value other factors had (such as improved genetics, better rations, etc.) vs. the shredlage, but we did see immediate response with shredlage once fed,” he said.

Overall changes

For Don Bennink, North Florida Holsteins, Bell, Fla., “changes in nutrition have resulted in massive production improvement for us. This is primarily because of a change in our nutritionist, emphasis on harvesting grasses at ideal stages, being alert to corn silage kernel processing and overall feed bunk management. We were being set back by too many ration changes. The reward is 4,000 lbs. of milk per cow annually.”

Forage quality, quantity

Buying most of their feed, the challenge is always finding enough quality forage, according to Deb Reinhart, New Holstein, Wis. “NDFD in the ration is a something we monitor carefully.

”We have been able to rent more land and therefore grow more hay,” Deb continued. ”Last summer and fall we included more grasses in the crop rotation. We were able to double-crop winter grains and summer annuals. We were pleased with the results of oats grown in late summer following wheat. This allowed us to get higher quality digestible fiber in the ration.”


Technology was part of the answer for Rod Hissong, Mercer Vu Farms, Mercersburg, Pa.

“We have always used TMR Tracker software to manage our rations and feeding,” Rod said. “We continue to evolve that, investing in user-friendly touchscreens for ease of changing dry matters and getting information real time. We have added a handheld NIR for measuring dry matter. It has taken a job that took hours to just minutes. It’s a little early to tell what we will see, but it’s one more piece to mixing and delivering the most consistent diet that we can.”

Kernel processing

“Last year we purchased a new forage harvester,” said Sandy Stauffer, Nicholville, N.Y. “While shredlage is the latest innovation in corn silage processing, we thought it over and stayed with conventional processing, but ran the rolls tighter than ever before. This is the first year we have been really satisfied with the kernel processing. By the time we are ready to trade harvesters again, we should have more information and our decision may be different.”