July 8, 2023 at 8:00 a.m.
Shea Dairy Inc. | Viola, Minnesota | Olmstead County | 920 cows
Describe your farm and facilities. We have sand-bedded free stalls and one pen with water beds. We milk three times a day in a double-12 parallel parlor.
What forages do you harvest? Haylage, corn silage, high-moisture corn and winter rye.
How many acres of crops do you raise? We raise 1,250 acres.
What quality and quantity do you harvest of each crop? We have 500 acres of hay and 700 acres of corn. We get our corn silage first from the corn acres and whatever corn is left goes for high-moisture corn. We aim for 160-180 relative feed value on alfalfa at 55% to 63% moisture for haylage. We look to harvest about 28 tons per acre on corn silage at 64% to 69% moisture.
Describe the rations for your livestock. All of our animals are on a total mixed ration. Heifers: grass hay, corn silage, mineral mix and haylage. Fresh cows: corn silage, haylage, soybean meal and dry corn. Dry cows: corn silage, dry hay and winter rye. Our rations are balanced by Chad Kieffer of Ag Partners.
Describe your harvesting techniques for alfalfa and corn silage. For alfalfa, we cut it, merge it and chop it with a Krone chopper. We harvest all of our own feed. Our cutting interval is 24 to 28 days on alfalfa.
What techniques do you use to store, manage and feed your forages? We have drive-over piles. We used to make a lot of bags, and then we converted to drive-over piles. We were making a lot more feed, and piles took less space.
Throughout your career, have you changed the forages you plant, and how has that decision helped your operation? We haven’t changed how we harvest our crops too much over my career. We started planting rye a few years ago. Planting rye means we can get manure down in the summer, and we have feed for heifers and dry cows.
Describe a challenge you overcame in reaching your forage quality goals. Harvesting crops in a timely manner and facing delays due to rain.
How do quality forages play a part in the production goals for your herd? It plays a big part. We adjust our nutrition plan if needed to obtain our production goals. If we start having issues, we recheck our samples and do a walk through on our cows to see if anything has changed. We don’t focus on our milk as much as we used to. We focus on our components. The cows produce in the 4% to 5% range for protein and 4.2% to 4.5% for butterfat.
What are management or harvesting techniques you have changed that have made a notable difference in forage quality? We make sure our hay is cut when it is optimal for best quality feed. We make sure our corn silage is processed properly.