Harvesting Quality Forages

Forage quality essential for Hall’s herd health

Cody Hall
Tomah, Wisconsin
Monroe County  
200 cows

Describe your farm and facilities. We milk twice a day in a double-12 parlor. I am the sixth generation. I farm with my dad, Don; my uncle, Dave; and my brother, Jacob. We crop 200 acres of haylage, make 150 big round bales of grassy, dry hay and 140 acres of corn silage. We also cash crop 400 acres of corn and 250 acres of soybeans.

What forages do you harvest? Alfalfa, corn silage and grass which is mostly chopped. We cover crop with oats.

How many acres of crops do you raise? Around 1,000.

Describe the rations for your livestock. Our milk cows get high moisture shelled corn, protein, haylage, corn silage, roasted soybeans, canola meal, and a vitamin and protein mix. The fresh cows get a different protein than the milk cows, corn, haylage and corn silage. Dry cows get dry baled hay, a mineral and protein mix, and corn silage. Heifers get mostly corn silage with some oatlage, haylage and heifer mineral.

What quality and quantity do you harvest of each crop? We harvest around 20 bushels of high-moisture corn at 20%-25% moisture. We try to harvest alfalfa around 60%-65% moisture and corn silage at 65%-70% moisture. We fill seven bunkers of haylage and corn silage.

Describe your harvesting techniques for alfalfa and corn silage. My uncle, Dave, does all the chopping of alfalfa and corn silage with a pull-type New Holland chopper. My brother, Jacob, does the cutting, and I pack with my dad. We use a tractor and front-end loader to pack. I also sometimes haul or merge too. We make hay in four-week intervals and cut right before it buds.

What techniques do you use to store, manage and feed your forages? We store haylage and corn silage in bunkers that measure 30 feet by 100 feet with 12-foot walls. We use a bunker facer and feed a total mixed ration.

Describe a challenge you overcame in reaching your forage quality goals. With corn silage, the timing is always a challenge. It seems to dry down toward the end. I don’t think we have overcome that challenge yet.

How does quality forages play a part in the production goals for your herd? We have to put up good forages to get good health for the cows. Bad feed just causes mastitis and low production.

What are management or harvesting techniques you have changed that have made a notable difference in forage quality? We use an oxygen barrier which is like plastic wrap. It is a lot of extra work, but it’s worth it; because without that, the top 6 inches of feed was scum. We have been using that for about four years now.


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