July 22, 2023 at 8:00 a.m.
Forage Profile

Green chop fulfills summer forage needs at Hageman Farms

Clayton and Daryl Hageman | Fitchburg, Wisconsin | Dane County | 120 cows

Stacey Smart/Dairy Star

Daryl (left) and Clayton Hageman take a break in the shade July 13 on their farm near Fitchburg, Wisconsin. The brothers, along with their dad, Clifford, milk 120 cows and farm about 800 acres.


Describe your farm and facilities. We farm with our dad, Clifford, at Hageman Farms, which has been in our family since 1962. We milk 120 cows twice a day in a stanchion barn. Cows go outside daily and spend time on pasture during the summer. We raise all of our youngstock in bedded pack barns and on pasture. 

What forages do you harvest? We harvest haylage and corn silage. We also green chop daily during the growing season and feed this fresh forage to our milk cows. 

How many acres of crops do you raise? We raise about 800 acres of crops. This includes 350 acres of corn, 300 acres of soybeans and 150 acres of an alfalfa grass mix.

What quality and quantity do you harvest of each crop? We fill a 20-by-70 Harvestore silo with first-crop haylage and also do 300 big square bales of first-crop hay. We harvest 150 to 200 bales of second-crop hay and about 100 bales of third-crop hay. We mix fourth-crop hay with corn silage in one of our silos, and we feed that to cows when they are in the barn in the winter. We run two choppers and do every other load corn silage and haylage. We try to do the best we can with our forages every time. We usually hit a protein level of 22%. Our nutritionist describes our corn silage as about as good as you can get it.

Describe the rations for your livestock. We do not feed a total mixed ration to our milking herd. Instead, we green feed during the summer months or when we can – it could be spring, summer and fall. We bypass the silos and go out and cut it and feed it green. We’ve been doing this since about 1983, and we bypass a lot of expense this way. There is labor involved in that one guy has to go out and chop it every day. The cows really like this feed. Milk production goes up, but butterfat and protein go down. In the barn, we run two Harvestores at once – one with corn silage and one with haylage – and mix feed that way for our milk cows. We also feed them shelled corn by hand with protein mix. Dry cows run with the milking herd and eat pretty much the same diet. Our breeding-age heifers clean up after the cows and also receive minerals. Younger heifers are fed our lower-quality hay – perhaps something that got rained on – as well as a grain mix. 

Describe your harvesting techniques for alfalfa and corn silage. Daryl does most of the harvesting with help from Clayton. We mow our hay, putting two windrows together. We run it through a v-rake 12-foot Haybine, doing 24 feet together, and then run it through a John Deere 5830 chopper. Big squares are made with a Case IH LBX332 baler with inoculant on it. We’ve been using inoculant because we have better results and it’s cheaper to throw away. Acid is more expensive, but it keeps better. Inoculant has to be thrown out after two days, but it’s machine friendly and doesn’t cause rusting like acid would. We’ve been pretty impressed with what you can do with inoculant. There are no burnt bales. We cut hay every 28 to 30 days. We try to get four cuttings or whatever Mother Nature will allow. We like to get alfalfa in the early bud stage. This year, we were unhappy with the amount from our first cutting, so for second crop, we decided to let it grow for an extra week, and we ended up getting an extra half bale per acre. We’re letting it get more mature. With drought conditions, we have to find a way to feed these animals, or we’ll have to buy expensive hay. We cut corn when it is as close to perfect as we can get it. We run it through a kernel processor on the chopper and throw it in the silo. We like to have 45% moisture for chopping corn.

Stacey Smart/Dairy Star

Cows eat freshly cut green chop feed July 13 at Hageman Farms near Fitchburg, Wisconsin. The Hagemans green chop daily during the growing season – a practice they have been doing since 1983. 


What techniques do you use to store, manage and feed your forages? We have six Harvestore silos we use for storing haylage, silage and shell corn. Silos are an excellent feed keeper. You are not going to find feed any better than that. It’s like a big refrigerator, but it’s not refrigerated. The biggest gripe people have about silos is the expense. Daryl does most of the work on the Harvestores, which saves a lot of money. We only use our best-working unloader in the wintertime to avoid issues. We feed big square bales in the barn using a two-wheeled cart instead of carrying them. This way, cows can’t get to it as much while we’re moving it, which allows us to feed twice as fast. We started with big bales in 2013. For shelled corn, we make sure to stay above 22% moisture or else starch ends up in the air, and you’re breathing that in all the time. Corn is cleaner at 22% and softer for cows’ mouths. The drier it gets, the sharper it gets. This helps with ease of feeding. 

Throughout your career, have you changed the forages you plant, and how has that decision helped your operation? Around 1995, we started planting soybeans to loosen the soil and put nitrogen back in the ground. It helps improve the soil itself as well as soil workability. We use soybeans for crop rotation and also as a cash crop. We also changed our corn silage variety for the silos. Cows can do better on different varieties. We might do something more resistant to tar, and we mix it up depending on what’s going on. 

Describe a challenge you overcame in reaching your forage quality goals. We found out we really have to watch our corn silage. You have to be aware of what can happen and stay on top of what’s new with things like blight, mold and bugs. We have also learned to hit the alfalfa as soon as we see it blooming to get the most out of it. Our dad was always looking for growth to get volume, but if it’s dry, it can get woody. You have to find that perfect balance. 

How do quality forages play a part in the production goals for your herd? It’s everything. We try to get as much out of the herd as we can. To do that, we have to get the best feed into them. That helps cut the costs of buying proteins. 

What are management or harvesting techniques you have changed that have made a notable difference in forage quality? Kernel processing. This cracks the kernels and breaks them down so they are ready for cows to eat in the corn silage. As a result, cows digest the corn better. Also, when we rake hay, we rake early when it’s dewy, which helps keep the leaves on – that’s where the protein is. We have gotten better at that over time, but Mother Nature plays a part in our success every day. 


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