September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Kerfeld Dairy wins "Superbowl" forage competition

Doug Kerfeld holds a mock check presented to him after his haylage entry won Grand Champion honors in a World Dairy Expo competition on Oct. 1.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO Y RANDY OLSON
Doug Kerfeld holds a mock check presented to him after his haylage entry won Grand Champion honors in a World Dairy Expo competition on Oct. 1.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO Y RANDY OLSON

By By Randy Olson- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

MELROSE, Minn. - While farming and Superbowl are not usually words paired together in a typical conversation, Doug Kerfeld can put them together while describing his family's 110-cow dairy farm in rural Albany.
Kerfeld's haylage entry in the World Forage Analysis Superbowl brought home the title of Grand Champion Forage Producer due to its high milk per ton rating of 3,957 pounds. This Superbowl competition took place during the 2013 World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis., on Oct. 2 and was sponsored by Mycogen Seeds.
Forage samples were judged on lab analysis (60 percent), visual judging (30 percent), and calculated milk per ton (10 percent). Visual judging consists of analyzing the color, texture, maturity and leafiness, depending on the category. Dairyland Laboratories, located in DePere, Wis., tested the samples.
Doug and his wife, Sandy, were presented a $2,500 check for the win as recognition for being part of the top-quality forage entries in the annual contest. Producers submitted 321 entries in seven forage categories from 17 states.
The alfalfa variety grown by Kerfeld for the competition was N Dairyland 2420. The resulting haylage had a stellar relative forage quality (RFQ) rating of 298.
The RFQ is a new industry measurement to measure alfalfa quality, replacing Relative Feed Value (RFV), which was a good tool in ranking forages for sale, inventorying or assigning forage to animal groups according to their quality needs, as stated in Hoard's Dairyman.
RFQ is calculated from neutral detergent fiber (NDF) and fiber digestibility known specifically as neutral detergent fiber digestibility (NDFD). The RFQ value estimates energy content for grass-legume mixes using the summative equations for total digestible nutrients recommended by the National Research Council.
The next-highest scored alfalfa in the forage Superbowl had an RFQ of 275.
Kerfeld also entered the competition in 2011 and finished in sixth place.
While his seed supplier and nutritionist both begged him to attend World Dairy Expo this year, Kerfeld said that the timing was difficult.
"We were right in the middle of getting our soybeans out, and the late growing season pushed back corn silage harvest as well," he said.
"After the competition was over, my seed dealer called and told me I won as Grand Champion. I thought he was pulling a prank."
When a woman representing World Dairy Expo called to talk to him, it sunk in that the win was for real.
"It's a nice honor. Just as any farmer would, I know our cows and the milk they produce is only as good as what we feed them," he said.
In a typical year, the Kerfelds raise 65 acres of alfalfa, but instead of seeding 25 acres of new alfalfa this spring, they planted 46 acres.
"We'll be up to 115 acres of alfalfa next year. The high hay price is too good to ignore. Right now it is worth more than double what corn brings."
Kerfeld admits that having alfalfa as a cash crop is a big gamble, because the threat of rain and cool weather during hay harvest time can dramatically cut into quality, and consequently profits. Crop farmers are seeing the value of corn varying widely throughout a year, as its most recent price hovers around $4 a bushel compared to around $7 just a year ago.
No two dairy farmers raise or harvest alfalfa in exactly the same fashion, but Kerfeld places a high emphasis on how he seeds, raises and harvests new alfalfa. It starts with the nurse crop of oats or barley along with the alfalfa to prevent erosion and provide a cover as the young alfalfa plants grow.
Kerfeld seeds between three-quarters to one bushel of barley per acre.
"I generally plant a nurse crop with my alfalfa that has only one-third the population as what most do. I figure, why rob the alfalfa?" he said.
Once the barley is heading out at maturity, Kerfeld cuts it off for heifer feed. A second crop is harvested off the new seeding, by then mostly alfalfa, by mid-August as the third crop of alfalfa is put up.
The alfalfa fields stand for four years in Kerfeld's crop rotation, including the first year of new seeding. This rotation has worked best with his dairy herd's need for corn and corn silage.
"By plowing the alfalfa after three full years of haying it, I get the most bang nitrogen-wise for my corn."
Beyond that, much of the corn's need for nutrients is satisfied by the manure. His corn ground gets an application of 15,000 gallons per acre from the pit.
The great amount of work done every day on the Kerfeld farm is split up between Doug, Sandy, their five children and hired man of 12 years, Loren Sabrowsky.
The Kerfeld's oldest, Tiffiny, is now in college, but her two younger brothers and two younger sisters have plenty to keep busy with on the farm.
Leo is a junior, Cody is a sophomore, Brittany is 12 years old and Haley is nine.
"Half the work on this farm wouldn't get done without our kids' help," he said.
The success of the Kerfeld farm relies on both their hard work as well as the know-how to produce high-quality feed for their cattle.
"For a farmer to get a thick, rich stand of alfalfa, it's an art. This system has worked best for us through the years," he said.[[In-content Ad]]


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