Harvesting Quality Forages

Bunker silos, silage bags key for storing Appels’ forages

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Don and Bill Appel
Mapleton, Minnesota
Blue Earth County
120 cows

Describe your farm and facilities. This is my grandparents’ farm. I grew up by Heron Lake. I’ve milked cows since I was 7 years old. We raise corn, soybean, winter rye and alfalfa. We have cattle on three farms and have about 400 cattle all together. My daughter, Theresa, helps milk when she’s not working in Mankato. My son, Daniel, helps milk when he’s not working with his hogs. The grandchildren also have their 4-H projects here and come when they are not in school.

What forages do you harvest? We harvest alfalfa, corn for silage and winter rye.

How many acres of crops do you raise? We raise 1,000 acres between all four of us.

Describe the rations for your livestock. Corn silage, haylage and a protein/corn mix for the cows. The youngstock get grass hay.

What quality and quantity do you harvest of each crop? We raise 70 acres of alfalfa, 70 acres of corn silage and 40 acres of winter rye. We farm one farm organically on 160 acres and grow corn, soybean, wheat, vetch and winter rye. It varies with rotation, but vetch and winter rye are the big crops. We can never raise enough organic vetch.

Describe your harvesting techniques for alfalfa and corn silage. For corn silage, we try to do most of it ourselves, but we do hire some of it done. We cut up to 30 days depending on the weather for alfalfa.

What techniques do you use to store, manage and feed your forages? Bunker silos and one or two bags. On one of the other farms, we have to put up a bag, but on this farm, it’s all bunkers.

Describe a challenge you overcame in reaching your forage quality goals. Getting the alfalfa cut on time. We just learned to cut around the weather. We also buy most of our dry hay. I’ve been getting it from the same farm in South Dakota for seven years.

How do quality forages play a part in the production goals for your herd? You can’t beat good alfalfa; good alfalfa is the key to any production. We can tell as soon as we get poorer quality hay. Quality alfalfa is No. 1.

What are management or harvesting techniques you have changed that have made a notable difference in forage quality? For corn silage, we got a rotary corn head for our chopper. That was one of the biggest improvements we made. It helps get it done on time. I won’t cut silage anymore without a rotary corn head.

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